Almost four years ago, in my first post, I announced that I would only be playing PC (DOS and Windows) games as part of this project--a rule that, for some dumb reason, you all let me get away with.
Despite some feeble protests on your part, my plan remained unshaken until nearly two years later, in the fall of 2011, when I blogged about the earliest RPGs, got a Cyber1 account, and offered posts on The Dungeon (aka "pedit5") and The Game of Dungeons (aka "dnd"). But even those were just a lark. I didn't get serious about exploring non-DOS games of the 1980s until about one year ago, when I finally got an Apple II emulator working and used it to play some of the earliest commercial RPGs (Beneath Apple Manor, Space, Dungeon Campaign). These efforts, though long overdue, did not result in a permanent change in my master plan despite my announcement in "Past, Present, and Future" that the original PC-only rule had been a mistake.
I could keep moving forward with PC-only titles and make an occasional attempt to reach back into the 1980s and grab a worthy Apple II, Commodore 64, or Amiga game, or I could do what I'm going to do--what I should have done years ago--and change the plan.
From now on, my "play list" consists of all single-player RPGs released in a Latin-alphabet language for any personal computing platform.
Remaining off the play list are a) games released only for consoles or handheld devices; b) multiplayer games; or c) games released only in languages that do not use a Latin alphabet. Most of the games excluded in the latter category will be Japanese, Korean, and Chinese. It's regrettable, but while I'm willing to make some effort to translate foreign games, I have to be able to type the characters into the translator.
Does this mean I'm going to make a u-turn back to 1978 and start from the beginning again? No. I don't want to go quite that far and lose all my momentum. But what it does mean is that for every game I play in the 1990s, I'll play (in chronological order) one that I missed from the 1980s, until I'm caught up. It also means that I will not be skipping non-PC games as I move forward into the 1990s.
For those of you looking for me to make good on the poll and play games like Final Fantasy and Phantasy Star, this new plan does not necessarily mean that I will never play a game that is not on my "play list." But it will be very rare, and a surprise when it happens.
In accordance with this new plan, I have reconstructed my Master Game List with an exhaustive search of Wikipedia, MobyGames, and GameFAQs, among other sources. (Including the comments people have left me over the years.) This new version of the list does not separate games I am playing from those I'm not. Instead, it includes a column called "PlayList" in which I have placed a "Y" if the game meets the criteria for me to play it in my normal chronology. You can easily filter by this or any other column.
The list will only have games through 10 years ago. Rather than try to keep it current right up to the modern era, I'll let the weight of history shake things out before adding them. I'll update the list to include 2003 at the end of 2013.
Some notes on the columns:
Title. Many games go by multiple titles, especially when accounting for translations and remakes. My policy is that the game's "official" title is whatever appears on the title screen of the version I play; hence, the game that everyone calls Wizardry II is actually Wizardry Scenario #2 - The Knight of Diamonds.
Year and Date As before, this is the date of the release of the first version, whatever the release I ultimately ended up playing. I didn't bother to include release dates for games not on my play list, as the only reason I care about the dates is to help order them within a particular year.
Platforms. I did my best, but it's likely that there are a lot of mistakes in here. I don't think Google Docs allows you to use a "contains" filter; you'll probably have to export to Excel if you want to find all games for a particular platform. When you look at the list, my decision to play PC-only games doesn't seem so dumb. It's by far the most popular platform, with 419 released for DOS and 417 released for Windows. But a close third is the popular Japanese PC-98, with 319 games, hardly any of which appear on my play list for translation reasons. The SNES is the most popular console (at least through 2002), with 223.
Country. This took more effort than it was worth, and I still ended up with a bunch of "unknowns." I generally defaulted to the country in which the developer was located; if I couldn't figure that out, I used the country of the first release. Even when I visited the developer's web site directly, though, I often couldn't tell what country they were in. Every "contact us" link defaulted to an e-mail or web form instead of just giving me their damned addresses.
The column produced some interesting results. Japan leads the way by far, with 1,293 titles--but only 26 on the play list, since so few are translated. The U.S. comes next, with 524, followed by the U.K. with 68. There are some surprises (to me, at least), including 45 German games, 11 Russian games, 7 each from Finland and the Czech Republic. All together, developers from 23 nations make up the list.
Developer and Publisher. You don't need to tell me; this is a mess. The same company might appear under multiple variations, and it only includes one of each even though some games have many. The only purpose of these columns are to help distinguish games from each other. Don't try to search or aggregate by it.
Source. This is basically "who says" that it's an RPG. If more than one source lists the game as an RPG, this column has the source that provided the most complete data.
Status. This is my playing status. "Unplayed" means I haven't gotten to it yet (and for games not on the play list, I will almost certainly never get to it). "NP" means it's not playable, usually because it no longer exists. I'll put "Rejected" in here if I decide it's not an RPG under my rules. Played games are distinguished by "Finished" (won, or if the game can't be won, played long enough) and "Unfinished."
For remakes, I read the descriptions and considered whether the remake had fundamentally changed the nature of the game; if so, I created a new entry for it. For expansions, I considered how much content the expansion added and listed it as a separate game if it was a lot. In both areas, I wasn't fastidious if the game wasn't going to appear on my play list anyway.
Reconstituting the list with the additional columns took a ridiculous amount of time, which is largely where I've been for the last few days. A few notes on the process:
- MobyGames contributors are apparently quite upset the site's recent overhaul, and they've protested by changing their user names. Some of those I encountered frequently are "Gamefly is Literally Hitler," "Thomas P. Went into Exile," "Indra is watching it all burn" and "YID YANG has left in protest."
- Speaking of Yid Yang--that bastard. I admire the dedication with which he ensured that every bloody obscure Japanese, Chinese, and Korean RPG ever produced was cataloged in the database, but his fastidiousness added hours to my process of creating the master list.
- Wikipedia's list is a tragic joke. I know how Wikipedia content gets made, so I shouldn't complain unless I'm willing to edit the page myself, but the list should just be taken down until it's more complete. It's missing well over half of western RPGs and yet still--just like our friend Yid--has meticulously cataloged almost every eastern RPG.
- Both the MobyGames and Wikipedia contributors of the long Japanese RPG lists are a little liberal in their definitions of "RPG." Among the entries (which I faithfully copied over), we get every Pokemon and Digimon title, a dozen entries containing the words "super" and "robot," and Mario Tennis. The collection of Hentai games alone is staggering.
- GameFAQs added about 30 games to my list, which I appreciate, but that site has the worst searching options ever.
- The Amiga remained a popular development platform in Europe all the way into the late 1990s, long after most U.S. developers had stopped writing for it. Does anyone know why?
- A lot of games that used to be flagged as RPGs on MobyGames were unflagged as such since the last time I made a master list. In such cases, I generally read the description and added them back if they sounded close. I erred on the side of including them, since some of the ones removed include Times of Lore, The Third Courier, and Sword of Aragon.
The recreation of the list has caused a reordering of the 1990 titles and thus a change in the next few games to be played. Sorry about that if you were looking forward to something on the "upcoming" list.
As always, I welcome your comments and corrections on the Master Game List, specifically:
- Games that aren't on the list but should be
- Games that aren't flagged as part of my "play list" but do meet the requirements
- Games that are flagged as part of my play list but do not meet the requirements
- Incorrect data (particularly dates)
- Duplicate entries
With these changes in mind, I'm going to take a look at one PLATO game before continuing on in 1990 with Legend of Faerghail.