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About GameSetWatch is the game weblog and sister site of It is dedicated to collecting curious links and media for offbeat and oft-ignored games from consoles old and new, as well as from the digital download, iOS, and indie spaces.

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Column: Pixel Journeys

COLUMN: Pixel Journeys: 'Corewar - The Ultimate Game?'

March 18, 2009 8:00 AM |

Pixel Journeys thumbnail['Pixel Journeys' is a monthly GameSetWatch-exclusive column by John Harris discussing games with unusual design attributes that have lessons to teach modern game designers. This month covers the competitive programming game of Corewar.]

When we think of computer games, what is the image that comes to mind?

Often, these days, it is something that involves a control pad or analog stick. It might instead have a keyboard and a mouse. There’s usually some kind of 3D graphics involved and some kind of soundtrack, and to facilitate those you’d need a monitor and some speakers.

At a deeper level, there’s the presumption of interactivity, that something you do is countered by the machine, and then you do something to counter it, back and forth in an iterative fashion. And after all that, many people then go on to claim that the game requires some degree of something called immersion.

But how many of those things is actually necessary? This month, we talk about an essentially computer-oriented game that relies upon absolutely none of these things: the awesome and unique game of Corewar.

COLUMN: Pixel Journeys: Sugoro Quest, Smooth as Dice

January 26, 2009 4:00 PM |

Pixel Journeys thumbnail['Pixel Journeys' is a mammoth GameSetWatch-exclusive monthly column by @Play creator John Harris, discussing games with unusual design attributes that have lessons to teach modern game designers. In this column, he looks at obscure Japan-only dice-based RPG Sugoro Quest - and why not?]

These are the two great trends for CRPG development:

The first, focused upon by western developers, is towards greater freedom of player choice. Originating from Dungeons & Dragons, it has found fullest fruit in the Fallout games, the Elder Scrolls games, and in the roguelike games. But even the more linear RPGs usually feature some degree of player exploration and decision-making.

The second trend is towards depth of storytelling, which is the direction that most Japanese developers went. Taking more from the story tropes of D&D than its gameplay, it tends to focus more on storytelling than player decision-making.

The two branches of the tree have, in the years since 1974, grown far from each other. Eternal Sonata bears little in common with Fallout III. This month, we take a look at a game from a time when the two families weren't anywhere near so estranged.

Let's examine the unexpectedly awesome Japanese game Sugoro Quest.

COLUMN: Pixel Journeys: The Magic Of dnd5

December 19, 2008 8:00 AM |

Pixel Journeys thumbnail['Pixel Journeys' is a new GameSetWatch-exclusive monthly column by @Play creator John Harris, discussing games with unusual design attributes that have lessons to teach modern game designers.]

Subject: dnd, a.k.a. "The Game of Dungeons," a remarkably devious game that also happens to be one of the first computer RPGs made.

Welcome class, if you'll be seated....

dnd2.pngBefore we discuss the game of dnd, allow me to describe the old networked computer system known as PLATO. It's strange, really, how little-known it is today*. While UNIX systems, buoyed by the strength of its foremost ambassadors Linux and FreeBSD, are, numerically-speaking, more popular than they've ever been, its early contemporary PLATO lies mostly forgotten except by those who used the system in the day.

PLATO systems did many things that most PC users didn't get until 1993 or later. Online bulletin boards? Had them, in the form of notesfiles. Email? Personal notes. Chat? Talk-o-Matic. Instant messages? Term-Talk. MMORPGs? Surprisingly many, most of them older than MUD.

Our focus this month is not a MMORPG, but it is an RPG, one of the first computer RPGs ever created. It is called dnd, and if its title seems a little generic, it should be remembered that, at the latest, its first version was created in 1974, the same year Dungeons & Dragons itself saw publication.