Things we miss
We don’t often get misty-eyed with nostalgia here on PC Gamer, because the future of PC gaming is always so exciting. But sometimes it’s fun to look back and reminisce about simpler times, when boxes were big, manuals were thick, and voice acting was bad. Here are some of the things we miss about PC gaming’s past.
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Remember when you could test almost any game before spending £40 on it? Some developers still release them, but the humble demo’s glory days are over. For the young or penniless, demo-stuffed PC Gamer cover discs were essential.
Before the internet ruined everything, games used to be mysterious and filled with secrets. But now, days after one has been released, people have ripped every texture and model out of them and exposed all their mysteries on Reddit.
Game manuals used to be weighty tomes. Games like Civilization IV, Baldur’s Gate 2, and pretty much every flight sim came with thick, information-packed manuals the size of novels. Now they’re slips of paper with a Steam key printed on them.
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We still have bad games, but no real stinkers. Games are expensive, and publishers are increasingly risk averse. This is the age of the pedestrian 7/10, and games like the awful, but charmingly ambitious, Boiling Point are few and far between.
There was a time when you’d buy a game and that was it. But now there’s Steam Early Access, free-to-play, DLC, season passes, expansions, and all manner of other extras trying to squeeze money out of you after that initial transaction.
Today’s games are filled with intrusive tutorial messages, characters shouting in your ear, and objective markers. But many games of yesteryear used to trust you, letting you figure things out for yourself and actually use your brain.
Endearingly bad acting
There’s plenty of bad acting around today, but I mean really bad acting. Not just someone half-heartedly reading through a script, but the kind that sounds like a guy from the accounts department was roped in at the last minute.
Most of you will be in the position now, whether it’s Steam sales or having a job, where you can afford most games. But I sometimes miss having so little money that I’d be forced to wring every moment of enjoyment out of the few games I had.
With the rise of voice acting, dialogue has suffered. Games like Planescape: Torment, with its pages of vivid, rich writing, are few and far between, because of the limitations of having to have someone record every single line of dialogue.
Things we don’t miss
But now it’s time to take those rose-tinted goggles off, because the past was also pretty rubbish. As much as there is to get nostalgic about from the relatively short history of PC gaming, there’s also a lot of stuff that we’re happy to forget: from floppy disks and Games For Windows Live to terrible movie tie-in games.
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Movie tie-in games
You still get the odd stinker like the abysmal Star Trek, but the days when dozens of half-arsed movie tie-ins were released every year are, thankfully, over. There have been a few exceptions, but the majority were lazy, cynical cash-ins.
I actually like manual saving in certain games. It adds an extra layer of tension to Resident Evil or Alien: Isolation, for example. But the dawn of auto-saving and frequent checkpoints made PC gaming a whole lot less frustrating in general.
If you were ever stuck in a LucasArts adventure game—which was incredibly likely considering how obscure some of the puzzles were—you could call their premium hint line for help, at great expense. Thank god for GameFAQs.
Games For Windows Live
“You know what PC gaming needs?” said the man at Microsoft. “A really flaky, infuriating piece of software that forces people to log onto an unreliable server to save their game.” And then Games For Windows Live was born.
There’s something alluring about the lo-fi aesthetic of a CRT monitor, but they were giant, beige, bulky things that would take up most of your desk space. Today’s gossamer-thin flatscreens are better in every conceivable way.
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Everyone loves old adventure games—until they reach a puzzle where the solution involves locating and clicking on some tiny pixel-sized object buried in the background. These puzzles resulted in hours of angry, soul-destroying clicking.
The Secret of Monkey Island came on seven floppy disks. Quest For Glory came on /ten/. There are some dead formats that people get nostalgic about—vinyl, cassette tapes, VHS—but no one misses the slow, low-capacity floppy disk.
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Everyone has a version of Windows they hate, but Vista is arguably one of the worst operating systems Microsoft have ever released. It was slow, it devoured memory, it had problems with older drivers, and the UI was fairly hideous.
Some games are still guilty of this, but there was a time when you’d see the entire game world popping in around you. Some games masked it with fog, but that looked even worse. Thank the lord for high-speed streaming technology.