BY CLAYTON WALNUM
What exactly makes a good game? What urges us to plunk down big wads of cash for a tiny 3.5-inch disk and a manual? Why is Dungeon Master the best-selling piece of ST software of all time?
To an extent, each person has his own answers to these questions. It all depends upon what kind of game you like, of course. People who are hooked on shoot-'em-ups are not likely to enjoy text adventures—and vice versa. But no matter what kind you're talking about, there is one element that all the great games share: realism.
What do I mean by realism? I certainly don't intend to imply that the game must be set in the "real" world; that would disqualify many, if not most, of the popular titles. What I mean is that the game must be engineered in such a way as to be convincing to the player—the player should be able to immerse himself in the gaming world as if he had actually physically traveled there.
If you think about it, you'll realize that this is true. The best games are all thoroughly convincing. Take Dungeon Master as an example. The carefully drawn graphics and wide range of actions available to the player make it seem as if you are actually in that dungeon. You can almost feel the chill air and smell the dampness.
Computer board games, such as many of the war simulations, have a more abstract kind of reality. They endeavor not to make you feel as if you're in a war, but that you are sitting at a table with a group of friends around a gaming board dotted with hundreds of small playing pieces.
Text adventures, like books, have to create reality through words. It's a dual effort: The author must provide the best descriptions he can, and the player in turn must use his imagination to visualize what the author has written. When this is done successfully, the results can be completely engrossing. You get lost in the game in the same way you get lost in a good novel.
What am I leading up to? Well, this month we asked well-known computer entertainment experts Katz, Kunkel and Worley to do a little research, to evaluate the polls and give us a report on the top games of the year. I won't tell you the results here—you'll have to read the article—but I will tell you that all the games chosen share, in one form or another, that all-important element of realism. They have all succeeded in drawing us in and making us a part of their worlds.
Of course, we've brought along a couple of our own games too. In this issue you'll find Guy Davis's Picture Puzzle, a picture-to-puzzle generator that goes one step beyond the others, allowing you to cut the image into however many pieces you like. Also along for the ride is A. Baggetta's clever Sounds-A-Like, an addicting game if ever there was one.
For those of you who are not inclined toward gaming, we've got a few special treats as well. Frank Cohen gives us his report of November's fall COMDEX, and Ian Chadwick does likewise for the first Canadian Atari show in Toronto. In addition, for those who are interested in graphics, we have the first installment of a multipart article by Step 1 author Maurice Molyneaux on the creation of professional-quality animations.
Does all this sound good? We think so.
In closing, we'd like to ask a favor. If you didn't fill out last month's reader survey, please do so. There's still plenty of time to get them in, and we really would like to hear from you.