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Games that you can't quite believe were possible

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I think Deus Ex was one for me. I remember reading previews and thinking that everything seemed so ambitious beyond anything I'd ever seen or played before. A true "immersive sim" where you had a huge amount of freedom and customisation, as well as having genuine agency in the world you were in. Do you want to build your stats towards being the best hacker, or becoming someone who can use heavy objects and explosives? Do you want to shoot your way out of a problem, or influence people through dialogue options? It was the kind of game I never realised I wanted until I knew that it was possible.

 

I'm secretly hoping that Cyberpunk rekindles a little bit of that excitement for me, but I don't want to let hype get the better of me!

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It’s an obvious choice but GTA 3 when it first came out. I don’t think I’d seen that level of freedom and interaction before in something that wasn’t just text or an RPG.

 

The bit that really amazed me was driving a boat across the water to the second island (I think it was a boat) and you realise those buildings over there, in the background, actually aren’t the background because you can get to them.

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The first game I ever played on my first home PC was this

 

 

 

Last night I was doing this at 4k/60

 

 

We've come a long way.

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Devil May Cry 3 is always astounding to me. The astonishing ways the game could be played by an expert always had me questioning if that could possibly have been the developer's actual intention and not just a happy accident. What kind of genius could plan the use of frame cancels and weapon switching to allow infinite aerial combos, for example?

 

Obligatory mention of VR as well, but to make it more relevant to the topic (because the wow factor wears off) - you've got titles like Gran Turismo and Ace Combat which have stunning VR modes that are very insubstantial, and then you've got Wipeout Omega which does the whole game in flawless VR. How did they pull that off?

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Dwarf Fortress.

 

My experience of attempting to play it is minimal. But every time I read more about the level of detail of its simulation, I'm astonished. (The famous drunk cats story, for example.) Every time I read a story about someone's epic victories or hilarious losses, I'm amazed at how it could be possible for any user interface to convey all those incidents to the player. (In fact I'm not sure how much the game explicitly tells players directly, how much you have to infer, and how much is embellishment by the storytellers.)

 

EVE Online is similar: the impressive thing about all those stories of cooperation, lies, and betrayal is that they only exist because of a unique combination of in-game economic and combat systems, user interface, and external player communications.

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MGS V was the first thing I thought of when I saw the title. So many times in that game I came up with some kind of plan and found that it worked exactly as I'd hoped. The humour as well though - tons of moments of slapstick that seem perfectly timed even though they aren't scripted. I still can't believe it was really that good.

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I'm always having these moments. 

 

The first time I saw a game on my old Spectrum using parallax scrolling was pretty amazing (god knows what game it was though). 

 

Monkey Island 2 was another game that at the time I just thought was incredible - it looked like a full on cartoon to my eyes, but I was playing it! Awesome times!

 

More recently, the city of Novigrad in Witcher 3 has never failed to astonish me in terms of the atmosphere a properly populated city can achieve - it's a wonderful creation indeed.

 

Properly up to date, I have to say that Gears 5 has left me blown away at the fidelity of the cut-scene work going on...there are moments that I have a hard time believing that what's going on is all done in real-time. I know full well it is, but it's still unbelievable to me how smooth and lovely they are!

 

Finally - in the middle of all this is my beloved Crysis. It's not the best game I've ever played, but it is the one that every time I upgrade my PC, I can get enormous amounts of pleasure with just by seeing how smooth it continues to get...well, most of it. Character animation is still fantastic, the levels of freedom offered in the first half of the thing was so far ahead of the game (and as far as I can see never appreciated as much as it should have been), and I never seem to have things play out the same way twice. Of course, it goes to shit right at the end with an end boss so damn interminably appalling and an ending sequence which is one of the worst I've ever played :p . However, the journey is the important thing I guess, and it's quite a journey!

 

Too many titles I could mention though - I'm just happy I still get excited about games after 40+ years of playing 'em :) 

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Not played a flight sim for many years and it’s probably a bit niche, but networked flight sim communities with people being real air traffic control and the like. 

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I don't think anything will ever beat the original Elite for me. At the time it was absolutely mind-blowing, and it seems more impressive as time goes on that they managed to create something so expansive with the limitations they had to work with. I can't even begin to appreciate the tricks they must have had to use to get that running.

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The sheer amount of content on Pokemon Silver, Gold and Crystal on the humble GBC blew my mind as a kid, before I even usually considered technical feats in games. 

 

Mario Sunshine's puddles were similarly impressive.

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17 minutes ago, Garwoofoo said:

I don't think anything will ever beat the original Elite for me. At the time it was absolutely mind-blowing, and it seems more impressive as time goes on that they managed to create something so expansive with the limitations they had to work with. I can't even begin to appreciate the tricks they must have had to use to get that running.

 

Yeah, having never played the original (born in 1990), Elite: Dangerous/ Erectile: Dysfunction did this for me a hundred times. Did the tutorials and was like ok, this is a game where you fly a spaceship, and then starting the game and just fucking appearing in a sidewinder on Baker’s Prospect blew my mind. Off you go! Go and have a look! Then my mind was blown pulling away from the planet and using the camera suite to watch it disappear behind me until it was a bright speck. Then I opened the galaxy map and zoomed out and saw the whole Milky Way and zoomed in on random well-known constellations and was like good fucking grief I can go anywhere I want!

 

Then I made my first hyperspace jump 

 

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King's Field on the PS. As someone who went from Amiga to PS, those three-dimensional graphics and the ability to look around in the 360 degrees space blew my mind. Sure I had seen images of 3D games in gaming magazines, but King's Field made me experience it.

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Many game moments like that. Playing The Immortal on the Amiga, Zelda on the NES, IK+, Deus Ex, Resident Evil... Lately I have to say Witcher 3 for its sheer scale and attention to detail in everything and Red Dead Redemption 2. When I play it occasionally on the X I still can't understand how these graphics are possible.

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4 hours ago, Rob Rule said:

The sheer amount of content on Pokemon Silver, Gold and Crystal on the humble GBC blew my mind as a kid, before I even usually considered technical feats in games. 

 

Mostly Iwata's doing.

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Ridge Racer on PS1 was the one that did it for me. I remember walking into my local import shop and seeing it, the feeling in the shop was absolutely electric. Everyone was buzzing, big crowd in the shop that day.

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Soul Calibur on the Dreamcast springs to mind. God of War 2 as well. Driver: San Francisco always breaks my head, too. The way it has FMV split screen with in game models and the ability to jump into any car at any time... Amazing achievement.

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On 15/09/2019 at 23:59, Darwock said:

Devil May Cry 3 is always astounding to me. The astonishing ways the game could be played by an expert always had me questioning if that could possibly have been the developer's actual intention and not just a happy accident. What kind of genius could plan the use of frame cancels and weapon switching to allow infinite aerial combos, for example?

 

This, but then all over again for Bayonetta, times one hundred.

 

I'm convinced the developers took 'flow state' ("in the zone") thinking which generally occurs at the higher levels of playing these games and intertwined surface-level triggers to these meditative states within the actual base mechanics for Bayonetta. As you play deeper into the advanced tech you're always discovering new hooks.

 

Here's a very interesting talk on flow state, and will explain by itself why these games are so very addictive and rewarding:

 

 

DMC3 was of course the primer to all of this.

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Mario 64 for me. I was 25 when it came out and had been playing games since I was a nipper but this just seemed like witchcraft. How could they make a game that was so more polished and controlled so well than anything else that existed at the time. It was just amazing and still is one of my favourite games.

 

Then Rogue Squadron on the Gamecube. The space fight from Return of the Jedi in that was ridiculous. Loads of ships, all the music, all the sound, no slowdown, almost a perfect recreation in my eyes at the time. Not sure how it would hold up now but it was the bit of a game that I always showed to people to showcase what the Gamecube could do.

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Battle Arena Toshinden was the first truly arcade quality 3D game I ever saw and it blew my mind. Followed by Wipeout which looked unbelievable (hard to imagine these days) and had incredible CD quality sound that was actual music rather than plinky-plonky sound processor tunes that had existed for the decades previously. Tomb Raider next with it’s epic, enormous caverns and Resi with it’s photo-realistic backgrounds. Finally FFVII with it’s summons, which I’d get people over to witness, and its FMV blended into the gameplay.

 

The early days of PlayStation had such a host of new gaming experiences in quick succession that the anticipation of what was possible next was akin to how the Victorians must have felt when electricity was introduced. To me anyway.

 

Since then the only WTF moment has been VR, Wipeout in particular. You’re there. You’re fucking there! Cannot wait to see what that technology has in store in the future.

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I remember chancing on a demo of Ultima Underworld in a games shop and being blown away by the full 3D environment, where previous dungeon crawlers had all been stepwise affairs.

 

"Why is there a ball on the floor?" picks up ball. Throws it. Ball bounces off wall and down stairs. "Whoah!"

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Mario 64 is the obvious one as it was my first experience of 3D but Ocarina of Time is where it really hit home. Being able to explore a fully realised world with what felt like an endless horizon. No matter where you went it always seemed there was more to see. Magical and still stands out as one of those defining moments in gaming for me.

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Final Fantasy XI on PS2.

 

A huge, sprawling MMO that is still played today and fondly thought of. To think it released back in 2002 when I still had dial up internet and on a damned PS2. Mind blowing.

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Borderlands 2 on the Vita. 

 

I know people will complain about slowdown and FPS drops and what have you. But I really enjoyed it and couldn't quite wrap my head around playing something like that on a handheld. 

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