Kids Can't Handle Old-School RPGs Anymore

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I think we got to remember when we start approaching our history with thoughts of idealising the classics that we can't be like other media. Where classic books, music, paintings and even movies are still viable and almost enjoyable, our classic video games are mostly just terrible, slow and boring compared to the new. Most gamers arn't pretentious enough to waste time just because its a classic.

So when it comes to classics they should be engraved into their rightful medals and then locked away in cabinets.

Also, when i buy a new game I usually read the manual unless it's overly large like with Galatic Civ., Starcraft etc in which I read speciffic segments as I reach them.

Really?

What did the manual actually tell you to do? I just can't imagine the game being that hard without it.

This isn't an article about Ultima IV.
Its an article about how people hate reading PDF files.

I'm sorry, but is that even news? I mean, seriously.

Sylocat:
It's not limited to kids, or gamers. All consumers are spoiled brats who refuse to read instructions. You can put "READ THIS" in fifteen-inch-high letters on the front cover, and people still won't read it. Half of the tech support calls in existence wouldn't take place if people would just read the goddamn manual that comes with their stuff.

As an IT technician I can confirm that this is all too true. Come to think of it did I read the WoW manual when I originally bought the game? Hmm I think I read a bit of it and then skimmed the rest.

Abbott believes the "gap separating today's generation of gamers from those of us who once drew maps on grid paper is nearly unbridgeable."

This is absolutely true when it comes to World of Warcraft. The game forces you through all kinds of in-game tutorials, with the cost being that the manual tells you almost nothing useful about gameplay or controls.

Also, while there are tons of after-market add-ons that clever programmers have made, simply searching for a useful MAP of a dungeon is incredibly frustrating. Seems nobody has bothered to draw their own maps and share them. Everything is just copy-pasted from the game itself. Guess what - if the in-game map didn't suck so bad, I wouldn't be looking online for another one!! A little grid-paper and pencil work would be appreciated here.

You have to remember that these games had a pre-mouse interface. Every single alphabet key had a function, in addition to the keys one used for movement; many required a series of keys to perform a function. Ultima III even had an "Other" command (O) which then had the player type in what they wanted to do ("BRIBE" guard...)

So, yeah, I can see how catching on to such an interface would prove difficult to someone who was raised on a ten-button joypad.

However, it needs to be said that "difficult" does not mean "not worthwhile", and while long hand-holding tutorial stages and pop-up help screens have become the norm, that doesn't make a game that didn't have them (and predates them) "poorly designed". In part, it's not having such things and requiring the player to actually- gasp!- read that allowed the games their depth and complexity in an age where the typical computer had less memory to cram everything into than most people today have in their cell phones.

It's also probably worth pointing out that those manuals and maps and so forth that came with the Ultimas also served as a form of copy protection in the days before e-mail.

I can't help but notice a certain amount of elitism in this thread. From both sides. On the one hand, you have the old-school gamers saying, "These kids nowadays are so stupid because they can't handle a game which is essentially D&D without the Dungeon Master." On the other, you have the new-school gamers saying, "Today's games are far better because you don't need a college degree and clairvoyance to play them." I think it should be somewhere in the middle. Yes, games that encourage exploration and are somewhat complex are fun, but games shouldn't be written just for people who have played PnP games. Having to futz around with the controller for ten minutes trying to figure out how to make your character move is not fun. Likewise, games shouldn't be designed for just twitchy, epileptic slaughterfests. In other words, games can be complex, but it's nice to have some direction as to where to go or what to do.

Yeah, but you can say the same thing about the times back then compared to now as well. Like kids these days couldn't handle walking 5 miles to school back in the days. They couldn't handle "parenting" back then either. Social services back then? That was when if your parents weren't there to paddle your ass, the principal of the school got the honor to do that. Many of things change not just RPGs that probably couldn't be handled by the kids these days.

Yikes, the oldest RPG I've ever played was BG 2. But even then I waded through the instruction manual. It's probably a holdover from back in the day when you couldn't even install the bloody game without first reading the manual to figure out how to reconfig your Dos autoexec.

Sigh, those were the halcyon days of glory when elves were ELVES and graphics were monochrome!

im sorry thats just complete bullshit my borther is 12 and he has finished many old school rpgs and adventure games

Wow Ultima IV... I loved that game! That and King's Quest VIII and D&D: Death Knights of Krynn were the shit back on my old PC (by old I mean a 386 with an *upgraded* video card running windows 95.) People don't appreciate good games anymore. This is why I get so mad when idiot kids half my age tell my Oblivion is a better RPG than the ones I play. It's fun and all, but it doesn't beat Dragon Warrior IV, Final Fatasy III, Illusions of Gaia or even Zelda: The Adventures of Link! (Screw you, it was a good game!)

It's all true. Games just aren't what they used to be, they're way too easy nowadays. They should start writing games that are fun and difficult again, games that require hand-drawn maps and note-taking and reading large manuals and cryptic messages and using your fucking brain, that's the kind of game I want to play. I think I'll pick up an Apple ][ emulator or something, try out this Ultima IV ...

JaredXE:
Am I the only person who ever reads the manual? I love reading the fluff that comes with videogames, and when it comes to CRPG's, you often NEED to read the manual.

Stupid children.

EDIT: Then again, it might be because I'm so damned old. 29 isn't exactly a spring chicken anymore.

I'm with ya! I read them as well. Comes from being older than the generations that depend on hand holding in-game to teach you how to play.

I don't think that it has to do with the fact that new gamers are "lazy", it's just that the nature of games have changed. I do believe that although manuals are nice, they shouldn't be absolutely vital to understanding a game, at least not with the memory capacity we have nowadays. Some games do hold your hand, but that doesn't mean that all tutorials are bad. They're just a way to make it easier to know how to play the damn game, which should be a simple learning experience.

That said, maybe I see it this way because I'm a newer gamer. In fact, I don't see the appeal in things a lot of older gamers consider fun. I don't like exploring in video games, I like doing things. Killing enemies, talking to monsters, rearranging the stuff in my attache case so it all fits, it's all fun, and it's what I enjoy in a game. Exploring? "Oh hey, look, there's some trees. And there's a rock. A cave, how exciting! Oh, look, a deer!"

If I wanted that, I'd take a walk in the woods.

You know, I actually like reading manuals. I read them when I'm bored sometimes, and it was the first thing I did when I got a new game. I'm a younger gamer, my first was the 64, and instruction booklets are an important part of gaming. Imagine my suprise when I open up my brothers Resistance FOM case, and find a barely folded couple of pieces of paper that barely even tell the controls. "Wheres the story? Wheres the items page?" I thought to myself. These days, only the Nintendo games have instruction booklets, and occasionally psp games, but I haven't played enough psp games to know for sure. I'm 15 years old, and I like retro games. I look back over old ones through emulators, and I enjoy roguelikes. These people who don't know what to do unless they have a big arrow and a keyboard shortcuts screen is depressing for me to hear. I can say as a young gamer, in this demographic, that if I can enjoy MUDs and other old rpgs, that it's truly bad to hear, with most young gamers crying when they don't get halo reach and L4D2 on it's launch day. Oh well.

Oh, and you should check out etrian oddysey for the ds. That things old school and tough as nails. One of it's mechanics is the fat that you have to draw your own grid map on the lower screen. Quite fun.

Perhaps gamers (or, more correctly put, students, since there's no guarantee that all of his students are 'hardcore' gamers or even like RPGs) are just a little bit lazier these days. Or a little less patient. Perhaps that's not entirely their fault either - I mean, if studios release games that are more 'pick up and play', or more usually, have an in-game interactive tutorial that renders the manual superfluous, then people are going to get used to that.

Is this such a bad thing? Granted, we shouldn't accept substanceless, too-easy fluff (certinaly not for the price you pay for games these days), but at the same time, some older games were more obtuse than they needed to be, because the audience was smaller and expected different things. Newer games might be more intuitive (or less complex, or more hand-holdy, or however you like to see it), but that doesn't make them *bad* games. That's like saying that things are only good if they're difficult. These days games are accessible to more people, and I think that's great. We're never going to shake the negative connotations of gaming if the pastime doesn't expand to appeal to more people.

Old school?
Hell most of them cant even handle modern RPGs.
I tryed to get my friend mike to play Dragon Age, and he spent 20 minutes wondering around before asking me what to do.

he skipped through every conversation and didnt listen to a single word anyone said.
:/ his favorite game his halo.

To be honest, I don't think its that people are stupider or anything. Its just that we think about them differently.

Back when Ultima IV was new (some 18 months before I was born) people were still very much in the stage of 'HOLY CRAP ITS A GAME!!!!'. Thats what grabbed the attention, and since games were far less numerous, and particularly there weren't really many RPGs, if you had actually paid out for one, then you sure as hell were going to play it through to the end, no matter how much work that implied.

By the time the novelty wore off, you had a tight grip of the rules and the story. Nowerdays, we've seen amazing graphics, breathtaking stories and so on. Its been said a lot by Yahtzee that if a game doesn't keep hold of your attention, it doesn't matter how good it gets after twenty hours.

If it doesn't grab you and make you want to keep playing its not doing its job. Thats not to say the Ultima IV is bad, its just that it was made for a different time, when people had way lower expectations of video games, no other option other than to keep playing it, and they had never seen the conveniences of pre-drawn maps and immediately available resources, so dealing without them was no big deal. You did what you do in a pen and paper game. You make a note, or draw it out.

Once you've used those resources and are used to having them, going back to a time without them just makes you feel lost and cheated (that feeling of there being no way of knowing what you were supposed to do until afterwards).

Personally, when I have gone back to older games, I have been really unimpressed. Once upon a time, I played RPGs HARD. Shining Force 3 was a game that never left my saturn for maybe 6 months. I didn't just play to the end, I spent weeks getting every characters levels up high and getting their special attacks and gear just perfect. Nowerdays, that kinda grinding really puts me off. I hate it a lot. But when there was no other way to play, you just did it.

mjc0961:

Also, those students seem a bit silly. Sure, I'd probably try to play first without the manual too, but once I was confused as all hell, I'd go back to the manual and read it instead of just giving up.

This is pretty much my stance.
I still have a lot of my NES and SNES manuals from back in the day. A lot of them had a lot of backstory and interesting stuff in them outside of controls. Even today, I often don't read the manual cover to cover, but I will browse for interesting information.

I guess those students weren't up to the task Lord British had offered them.

LostAlone:
To be honest, I don't think its that people are stupider or anything. Its just that we think about them differently.

If it doesn't grab you and make you want to keep playing its not doing its job. Thats not to say the Ultima IV is bad, its just that it was made for a different time, when people had way lower expectations of video games, no other option other than to keep playing it, and they had never seen the conveniences of pre-drawn maps and immediately available resources, so dealing without them was no big deal. You did what you do in a pen and paper game. You make a note, or draw it out.

Once you've used those resources and are used to having them, going back to a time without them just makes you feel lost and cheated (that feeling of there being no way of knowing what you were supposed to do until afterwards).

I don't know about you, but I actually get a bit of enjoyment out of figuring things out like that. Don't forget that things were limited due to limited technology. These games were on old floppy disks, and had very little computing power to work with. Had they been able to make a minimap or other kind of in-game map, they would've done so.

I also think its somewhat condescending to say that gamers back then had lower expectations. A game like Ultima had a story just as expansive as any Final Fantasy (quality is up to opinion, but I like them). People bought this game for the sake of experiencing an expansive adventure, even if the game didn't hold their hands and take care of all the hard stuff for them.

I understand where you're coming from, but I don't agree.

Isnt this also the teachers fault for not letting the student play the other ultima games first? It gets weird when you suddenly meet a NPC you're supposed to know and it says things like: "Hey Avatar to be! remember me?" that can crush a persons immersion.

Its like watching "star wars the clone wars" the first time you see anything starwars.

So when the kids had no desire to see where the story went they just gave up.

Phoenixlight:
What did the manual actually tell you to do? I just can't imagine the game being that hard without it.

Although I played Ultima IV back when it came out I don't remember much about it (except being obsessed with it), but I do remember the later Pools of Radiance gold box SSI games for Dungeons & Dragons...you had to have the manuals, as they contained the interesting text bits in the game (you'd go to area X and it would have an NPC who directed you to a certain paragraph of text or description in the manual, using a funky code reader). Ultima IV may have had something similar, but I can't recall.

All I know is, I am glad that the days of manually typing in the latest computer game in to my old Trash 80 by hand is long gone. Seriously: there was a time when a PC Magazine would include a new game adventure inside; not on disk, but written out in BASIC for you to type in manually. That was the same time when purchased adventure games came on a spooled tape.

I have no nostalgia for those years....I have fond memories of good times with the games, but refused to go back and play anything before about 1995; the pain of realizing what a disgusting mess those early years were is too much for me, and I prefer my pristine memories of how awesome Wasteland, Pool of Radiance, Ultima, Lode Runner and even Zork were untarnished by the realities of what I was actually suffering through to enjoy those games!

I'm 20 and I've tried Ultima IV, it's definitely not a user friendly game but I did manage to explore and kill some Orcs. However saying kids can't handle oldschool RPG's isn't really fair, as I'm sure many kids in 1985 were either unaware of its existence or were baffled by it too.

Lukeje:
PDF format? The best part about manuals was that they were books that you could read outside of the game. Having to alt-tab out every thirty seconds before you learn how to play the game properly is frustrating as hell. ...and yes, I am aware that you can print it off yourself, but it's never quite the same; manuals in those days were often works of art by themselves.

They could always print it off,

sooperman:
Honestly, I don't think that kids not reading the manual is an excuse for the game being hard to get into. If you can't explain yourself in-game, then how well can you possible explain the rules in the manual? And if you simply feel like not explaining how to play inside of the game, you are being lazy.

Having a manual is fine, requiring a manual is bullshit. What if you lost it? The game would have been nigh unplayable at the time, right?

Because back when Dinosaurs roamed the earth, you couldn't stick an infinite amount of crap onto the game disk. There literally wasn't space. So a lot of early games would use the manual to contain large chunks of text, because it was simply impossible to to include that in the game.

I tried to play Ultima 4 once. I hated it. Having to behave in a certain way to maintain my virtues was annoying as hell. Oh, look, I've been attacked by mosquitos AGAIN. Do I spend five minutes hacking at them or just leave the battlefield so I can get on with the game? Oh, wait, if I leave, I'll lose Courage points for having run away.

Ultima 6, on the other hand, I enjoyed a lot. None of that crap, just travel around trying to solve the plot's main problem.

7 was rubbish.

Has anyone who complains about the spoiled gaming youth of today even played Ultima IV?

Even "back in the day", it was inaccessible to anyone new to the genre and I've never known anyone who got very far without some guide.
After all, the game forced you to talk to pretty much every single NPC, running from town to town in the hopes of getting some clue, which was more often than not, in vain. Or take the moongates, an aspect solely based on trial and error. The manual only helped you so much gameplay-wise, it's not like it gave you more than the very basics of your quest. For the Avatar.

Now, i'm not saying it was bad or anything (Side note: why do you always have to add this just to avoid fanboys getting all angry? I mean, shouldn't it be obvious that just because I disliked a few aspects, I don't actually hate the entire game?), but it got a heavy (or rather total) focus on exploration, which is something not everyone can get his head around.

So Ultima IV is inaccessible to players new to that particular brand of RPGs?
It always was.

On another note, I really liked thick, detailed manuals.

Edit: I should probably clarify that my knowledge about how Ultima IV was percieved upon release is based mostly on hearsay, I myself played it (with a walktrough) in 2004. So maybe I'm just talking out of my ass, but from my personal experience and from what I gathered, I'd say it was never an accessible game. Feel free to correct me if everyone in '85 without prior experience in RPGs was able to just pick it up and roll with it.

I remember reading the paper manual for many games as a kid (mid 80's), and ohthe anticipation! On the way home from the store in the back of my mom's car, or during lunch after opening Christmas presents. I just couldn't wait to play the game! "Wow, pressing B B A to call down a nuke on the aliens will be SOOO awesome!"

These days, I buy more games than back then, but I rarely even have a paper manual. If I do, I don't read it. A game that didn't tech you how to play it would be shunned. If I can't figure out how to do something, well that's what the browser window on my other monitor is for, right?

There's certainly a nostalgia factor to games with complex rules that require a veritable book to explain them, and unboxing the game in the car on the way home surely doesn't build the anticipation the way it once did. Maybe that's me getting older though. I can't honestly decide if it was better "back in the day", or just a case of rose-tinted glasses.

theshadavid:
I'm 16 I feel a little shafted not getting being able to play some of these awesome old games (I just can't get a grasp on Mega Man).

Technically you've not been shafted, it's like not knowing how milk tastes if you're allergic to dairy. You're just inferior :P

I jest (mainly), but it's interesting. I wonder which way round it happened though, did games get dumber or did gamers? Presumably it's a self-perpetuating cycle but how do we bring it back? World of Planescape. That's how.

Interesting study, I'm 16 but ever since I played Fallout 3 I at least read through the controls before starting the game. I've also been able to almost beat FF5, (last dungeon). Don't know what to take from this, maybe that the rest of my age group is filled with pansies (maybe not).

The only RPGs which i have not read the manual cover to cover before playing are Diablo 1 and 2, partially because i dont have those

really, not reading the manual is lazy and asking to get fucked over if you arent playing an FPS

jpwoody:
I'm 20 and I've tried Ultima IV, it's definitely not a user friendly game but I did manage to explore and kill some Orcs. However saying kids can't handle oldschool RPG's isn't really fair, as I'm sure many kids in 1985 were either unaware of its existence or were baffled by it too.

Lukeje:
PDF format? The best part about manuals was that they were books that you could read outside of the game. Having to alt-tab out every thirty seconds before you learn how to play the game properly is frustrating as hell. ...and yes, I am aware that you can print it off yourself, but it's never quite the same; manuals in those days were often works of art by themselves.

They could always print it off,

As I said in the statement you quoted, yes. Did you read it?

Edit: My statement, not the manual.

I'm 19 so when games like ultima and all those really complicated point and click games were around I was playing things like math blaster and big thinkers. I used to read the manual too. back when games almost never told you how to use the controls. croc the legend of the gobbos I had to read it's manual to find out what certain objects do and some of my controls. Dynasty warriors for the same reason. Even now I teach my young friends the controls and they still don't get the whole press triangle in the middle of a sqaure sequence to get a different special move. Heck when spyro came out they started teaching you how to play the game and what the game was about in the cutscenes and dialouge. So after awhile it became obsolete.

Personally I see nothing wrong with no longer having to hunt for basic information like "what am I supposed to do?" Or "How do I use the controls?" Because that should be information that is the easiest to obtain. All that fervent hunting to just figure out what to do was like a wall between a normal or lower comprehension person and a geek with much high levels of understanding such things. I heard about ultima four from spoony's retrospective but a game like that is just too much. And don't we buy our games used for the most part? How many used games do you get with manuals these days?

So the game was bad?

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