Monday, 16 January 2017

Gaming Flashbacks #2

As a gamer I've been more or less exclusively playing retro stuff for years now. The last 'current' console I was genuinely excited about was the Dreamcast and its quick demise made me sad. Even then, though, I still spent a lot of time with my many older systems. Since then, I've dabbled with the odd newer game of course - a few original Xbox and PS3 games for example - but even then there is one aspect of gaming I have practically no experience in: online gaming.

I'm sure at least most of you reading this, even those who think of yourselves as hardcore retroheads, probably still play modern games as well, and these days that generally means at least some degree of online tomfoolery. Some games like Titanfall and Destiny give you no other option, but I have somehow avoided doing this almost entirely. I'm not quite sure why if I'm honest, I don't hate the idea or anything like that, it's just something I've never gotten around to trying properly.

I say 'properly' as I was recently reminded of my first ever flirtation with the slightly daunting prospect of playing against anonymous players from around the world. This reminder came during my second, and to date most recent online gaming experience which sort of happened involuntarily while playing Test Drive Unlimited 2 on my PS3. It seems that here, while I'm still free to go about my business doing as I please, I have no option to share my game world with other players doing the same.

As I quickly discovered, however, a lot of them spend their time using their ridiculous, pricey hypercars to harass other players like poor me, though I still managed to give most of them the slip, even in my lowly Lotus Esprit. There weren't too many other players around though, really. I imagine most of them have long since deserted this rather old (by modern standards) game for the newer, more bountiful 'horizons' (chortle) of Forza and similar titles. There were still a few buffoons left though, and my encounter with them went a little more smoothly than with my first online gaming experience. This was back in the Dreamcast's brief heyday. Its online abilities were a strong focal point of the advertising campaign that preceded its launch and, while such abilities could not be exploited until a good while after its release, such games did eventually arrive. Reasonably favourable reports came back too.

It wasn't as proficient as the PC which has been doing it for years, of course, but it wasn't bad for a first console attempt. Sega rewarded us patient DC owners (in Europe at least) with a free copy of their frantic puzzle/action game, Chu Chu Rocket, which allowed players to compete against others over the wonder of the internet for the first time (kind of). This wasn't enough to tempt me into dipping my toe into such unfamiliar waters, however, but I gratefully added the game to my collection all the same. Who wouldn't want a cats-chasing-mice game?

More releases followed such as Phantasy Star Online, Starlancer, and Bomberman, and I bought a few of them (and played them in one-player mode, naturally), but I did finally buy one with the intention of trying out its multiplayer aspect, and that game was Quake 3 Arena. I had heard about Quake deathmatches from enthusiastic PC gamers, and indeed Doom deathmatches before them, but the closest I had come to one myself was playing multiplayer Goldeneye on my N64 (and even that I did infrequently). This would be my chance to try though, and try I did.

I managed to get everything up and running surprisingly easily on the supposedly-temperamental DC and chose something called 'CTF', though the meaning of this was lost on me, as were many other aspects of such deathmatches. Nonetheless, I soldiered on and, upon starting the game, proceeded to charge about the place shooting everyone and everything I laid my eyes upon. I thought I was doing quite well at it too - I was at least still going when most others were bloody messes around the arena. It then dawned on me, however, that 'CTF' meant Capture The Flag - a team event - and I had been laying waste to my teammates! My sense of pride soon faded at this realisation. I had little choice but to continue though, which I did a little more cautiously, and it wasn't long before I was cut down by my actual enemies who were no doubt startled to find only one opponent slinking nervously their way.

In retrospect, I imagine this unexpected turn of events actually bought me a few seconds, but my courageous venture had nonetheless come to an end and, for reasons I cannot recall (shame, perhaps), were not repeated for the rest of the Dreamcast's tragically short life. Indeed, aside from the brief (and unintentional) dalliance with Test Drive Unlimited 2, this type of gaming has not been attempted again on my part at all, despite its prevalence in modern gaming.

Who knows, though? Maybe I'll give it another try one day, especially as I make my way through my vast collection of downloaded games (of the Steam variety, not illegal stuff), but at the moment I'm not overly concerned about it. What about you guys though? I'm sure most of you play games online regularly but did you leave it as late as me? And did you have any embarrassing mishaps? I'm sure your stories are more amusing than my pitiful example so let's hear them! :)


  1. I take the approach to online gaming as that I can take or leave it. I'm not 100% against it, but I don't play much online at all anymore. Sure, I played my fair share of Halo 3 online like everyone else, but the attitude of many of the kids I played against...I could do without.

    1. Yeah, I regularly hear about that kind of thing, it does kind of put me off. I should still try a few online games anyway though :P

  2. Maybe it would not fit, but I really like Dreamcast even if most of the games I prefer are from Saturn (that I need in my life like fish needs water).

    I am more of Q2 and UT than Q3 player, but yes that was and still is one of the high points for Dreamcast having that fine piece of online game.

    1. Oh yeah, I forgot about Unreal, I never did get around to playing that one on any system. Oops! :P