TIME Video Games

5 Great No-Fuss Sites for Finding Classic Computer Games

You could sit there at your desk pretending to work all day or you could play some of your favorite old-school computer games instead.

Actually, pro tip: a lot of these sites contain old adventure games that require you to do a lot of typing. And typing sounds just like work. You’re now pretending to work by playing old-school computer games. Everyone wins! Except your company, but it’s not like you’re employee of the year anyway.

Let’s move on. Here are five sites that remind us all of simpler times.

GOG.com

GOG
GOG.com

The “GOG” in GOG.com stands for good old games, and the site delivers. With more than 700 retro titles, you’re bound to feel the warm tickle of nostalgia coursing through your now-withered veins. This site is your childhood, in web form. And now you have money.

Games generally run between $5 and $20 or so, depending upon their popularity and year of release. Everything you buy is kept in a library you can access whenever you like, and games can be easily downloaded and installed on any of your computers.

Steam

Classic games on
Steam

Like GOG.com, Steam’s classic games section sports a bunch of blasts from the past. Keep an eye out for sales, as they happen often: Some games can dip as low as a few bucks, while collectors editions and multi-packs can run upwards of $30 in some cases. You’ll need to download and install the Steam app in order to access your games, too, but they’ll all be there waiting for you when you’re ready to play.

Web-Adventures.org

Web Adventures  Full Games List
Web-Adventures.org

The half hour I spent playing Zork while researching this piece? Not the worst half hour of my life. I forgot how hard it is to try to retain a mental map, though. That’s the challenge of text-based games where your imagination processes all the graphics. Web-Adventures.org houses just shy of 20 old-timey text-based adventure games, all playable right from within your browser.

Sarien.net

Sarien  Instant adventure gaming
Sarien.net

Speaking of browser-based adventure games, if you ever got hooked on Sierra games as a kid (like I did, repeatedly), Sarien.net is a must-visit site. It’s home to seven versions of classic Sierra games (King’s Quest I to III, Police Quest, Space Quest I and II, and more), all of which are playable from within your browser. You can create save points and everything, and the kicker is that you can see other people’s characters wandering around if a bunch of you are playing the same game at the same time.

AGD Interactive

Adventure Game Downloads
AGD Interactive

If you can’t get enough Sierra (obviously I can’t) but you wonder what some of your favorites would feel like as more modern-day reboots, you should absolutely check out AGD Interactive’s site. This game studio has painstakingly recreated the first three King’s Quest games and the second Quest for Glory game — with completely overhauled graphics, music and all-new voice tracks. They’re all free, too, which is insane.

Bonus Level

If you’ve somehow managed to play your way through the five sites mentioned above, make sure to also check out Abandonia. The site houses almost 1,400 old-school titles, some of which are available to download if they’ve been deemed “abandoned” by their creators, and others that contain links to where you can purchase them. Even if you don’t play a single game, the site itself is a blast, with screenshots and writeups of all the old classics.

If you do decide to get your hands dirty by downloading some old titles, you’ll need to use emulation software to run them. In that case, the gold standard for most old games is DOSBox. If you’ve never used DOS, DOSBox can get a little tricky but it’s worth learning — see a good how-to here. It’s an excellent life skill to have, like knowing how to golf or being able to French-roll your jeans. I don’t have to tell you that the conversation at every dinner party invariably ends up being about DOSBox once everyone gets a few drinks in them, so you might as well know what you’re talking about.

And if you really want to do some digging, the Internet Archive has a collection of more than 5,700 classic games, many available for download or playable in-browser. It’s a lot to wade through, but there are some real gems if you’re patient.

TIME Video Games

Unreal Tournament Is Coming Back, and It Won’t Cost You a Dime

Epic Games

Does this mean the Unreal vs. Quake rivalry is back on?

If you were a PC gamer at the turn of the century, there’s a good chance you remember Unreal Tournament. Perhaps it was your gateway drug to online multiplayer, or the game of choice for LAN parties in your college dorm.

Fifteen years later, Epic Games is bringing back the classic first-person shooter for Windows, Mac and Linux. But instead of selling the new Unreal Tournament on store shelves, Epic will offer it for free.

Epic promises that this won’t be a typical free-to-play scheme, riddled with microtransactions and premium subscriptions. Instead, Epic will make money through a couple of unorthodox methods:

  • The game’s code and content will be available to anyone with an Unreal Engine 4 subscription, which costs $20 per month. Epic says that it will turn to Unreal Engine 4 developers from outside the company for input on the game.
  • Developers will eventually be able to create mods and other custom content, and sell them to players through a controlled marketplace. Epic will take a cut of the sales.

Essentially, Epic is using its position as a maker of game development tools to circumvent the usual (sometimes exploitative) free-to-play business model. Unreal Tournament won’t just be a free game, but a marketing hook for Epic’s lucrative game engine business. It’s a smart tactic, at least in theory.

There’s a lot we still don’t know. The game is nothing more than a promise at the moment–Epic says it’s involving outside developers from “the very first line of code”–so all we have to go on is nostalgia until Epic has something to show. Also, we don’t really know the extent to which outside developers will influence the game, and how well their participation will work in practice. Project lead Steve Polge told Polygon that a playable alpha will take “several months” to create.

But as a concept and a business model, it sounds more promising than Quake Live, which has been around for five years but has languished in recent years under its freemium business model. As someone who remembers the old Unreal Tournament vs. Quake III Arena rivalry, and preferred the former, part of me hopes Epic can get the last laugh.

MORE: The History of Video Game Consoles – Full

TIME Video Games

Nintendo Says No to Gay Weddings in Upcoming Game

By trying to avoid controversy, the company has generated just the opposite.

In Nintendo’s new social simulation game Tomodachi Life, you can do just about anything… but if you’re gay, you can’t get married.

The most recent simulation game from Nintendo allows users the chance to participate in all kinds of activities, from watching the sunset, to raising a baby, but one gamer pushed back on the opposite-sex limitations in the game by launching a social media campaign to persuade the company to change its mind.

Nintendo responded by saying it “never intended to make any form of social commentary,” but the statement has done nothing to quell the growing backlash from users.

TIME Innovation

Fly like an Eagle with Oculus Rift and This Funky Contraption

'Birdy' bills itself as an attempt to fly using virtual reality and a weird-looking table

Want to play a virtual reality version of Flappy Bird? This bizarre-looking Oculus Rift meets massage table meets Rube Goldberg mashup won’t do that yet, but it probably could — and while you’re waiting, it’ll let you fly like an actual bird by flapping your arms and sticking your face in front of a fan.

The table thing is something called Birdly, which describes itself as “an attempt to fly.” Like a bird, that is, not Superman: specifically the Red Kite, a bird of prey in the same class as eagles and hawks. The folks behind Birdly devised a platform on which you lay flat, stomach down, your arms resting on movable panel sections and your hands slipped beneath straps that let you raise and lower the panels like a pair of wings, rolling, nicking or heaving as you go.

Strap on Oculus VR’s Rift virtual reality headset and you’re transported to a virtual landscape (or rather, suspended above it), enjoying a bird’s perspective on the world. And in addition to the fan (which provides wind feedback that changes based on your speed in the simulation), Birdly provides smells and sounds, so if you’re flapping through a forest, you’ll also be able to smell the trees, or the dirt.

[Engadget]

TIME Video Games

Nintendo’s Wii U Will Boot Even Faster This Summer

There's a system update in the offing that'll add a quick boot menu and faster application load times.

It’s not clear when exactly Nintendo plans to unleash this little speed-related Wii U boon — Joystiq says it’s heard this summer — but the video above indicates the benefits could be considerable: a system update that delivers a quick start menu that appears the moment you tap the Wii U GamePad’s power button.

Better still, the applications you can launch now load notably faster. Joystiq notes the original simulated demonstration showed New Super Mario Bros. U loading in about 19 seconds, whereas in the the demo above, it takes just 14 seconds.

[Joystiq]

TIME Nintendo

Nintendo Planning ‘Completely New’ Systems for Emerging Markets

The company's planning to dive into the figurine market dominated by Skylanders and Disney Infinity, too

On the heels of alarming fiscal figures and plummeting Wii U sales, Nintendo says it plans to design and market entirely new game systems which it hopes to sell in emerging markets, Bloomberg reports.

The idea, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata revealed in a new interview, is to bring new gaming concepts to those markets instead of following competitors’ leads and selling less expensive versions of existing platforms.

“We want to make new things, with new thinking rather than a cheaper version of what we currently have,” said Iwata. “The product and price balance must be made from scratch.”

Iwata also indicated that Nintendo hopes to make headway in the highly popular figurine market, currently dominated by Activision’s Skylanders and Disney’s Infinity series, by selling figures based on Nintendo’s stable of iconic characters, like Mario, Zelda and Donkey Kong. The figurines would communicate with Nintendo’s devices using the near field communications (NFC) technology used by the company’s Wii U games console.Nintendo recently announced an NFC device for its portable 3DS system that allows gamers to scan objects with the device and transfer them to the Wii U.

Under pressure by analysts and pundits to engage the smart device market, Iwata also reiterated Nintendo’s position on smartphones. “We have had a console business for 30 years, and I don’t think we can just transfer that over onto a smartphone model,” he said. Iwata also expressed concern that trying to sell games designed for smartphones might harm other aspects of Nintendo’s business, adding that depending on revenue from smart devices “cannot be a pillar” for the company.

[Bloomberg]

MORE: The History of Video Game Consoles – Full

TIME Video Games

Nintendo Says No to Gay Weddings in Upcoming Game

General Nintendo Imagery As The Company Reports Earnings
A statue of Nintendo Co.'s video-game character Mario stands at the company's showroom in Tokyo on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Tomohiro Ohsumi—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Nintendo delicately rebuffed requests from gay gamers and rights advocates to simulate same-sex weddings in its upcoming release, Tomodachi Life, saying that they "never intended to make any form of social commentary"

Dozens of countries across the globe now allow gay marriage, but it’s still verboten in some virtual worlds. Nintendo has resisted calls from gay rights advocates to allow avatars in same sex relationships to marry in its new life simulator game.

A Nintendo representative told the Associated Press that the company “never intended to make any form of social commentary” with its upcoming release, Tomodachi Life. In the game, an avatar called a “Mii” can go shopping, visit amusement parks and do just about anything other than marry another avatar of the same sex.

That design feature irked Tye Marini, a 23-year-old gamer who’s in the process of arranging his own real-life gay marriage. “I want to be able to marry my real-life fiancé’s Mii,” he says.

Marini launched a social media campaign to pressure the company into creating a same-sex marriage option. Nintendo declined, saying, “The relationship options in the game represent a playful alternate world rather than a real-life simulation.”

 

[AP]

TIME Opinion

Nintendo Probably Can’t Save the Wii U

Nintendo

Let's hope it can save Nintendo

The headlines aren’t wrong: Nintendo’s had a very bad run of it lately. Wii U sales are down year-on-year, and its last year figures were already way down from its original projections. The fiscal 2013 figures Nintendo just released are kicking a company that was already on the curb, in other words. Even the 3DS, which enjoyed something of a sales renaissance after Nintendo slashed its price in August 2011, was off significantly in year-on-year sales. That’s culminated in the company taking a net loss for its fiscal year of $228 million—an improvement over last year’s negative $358 million pummeling, but a shiner just the same.

By comparison, Sony’s PlayStation 4 has been selling at rates unheard of in console-dom, and you can boil that down to three reasons: specs, price and the PlayStation 2. No one disputes that the machine Mark Cerny helped architect is blisteringly powerful under its deceptively slender hood. And no one disputes that $400 is a steal for what’s in the box. Indeed, price comparisons involving homebrew PS4-like systems suggest Sony’s offering gamers considerably more for their money. And let’s talk about the PlayStation 2, because with that console Sony proved lighting could strike twice (and with twice the voltage). Sony’s base may have balked at the company’s initial price tag, its architectural missteps and its apparent apathy to Microsoft hoovering up all the major content deals during the PlayStation 3’s tenure, but I’m not sure it ever abandoned the company.

Nintendo’s Wii U, in contrast, lacks compelling specs, a sweetheart price or a historical PlayStation 2-equivalent to build on. It’s in the same ballpark as the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, oomph-wise, but that’s not what gamers who’ve lived with Sony and Microsoft’s systems for the past six or seven years were looking for in November 2012, nor what seems to be moving them now. The Wii U’s price hasn’t helped matters: $350 at launch, for the only version you’d care to own, the sticker probably forced up by Nintendo’s pricey pseudo-tablet pack-in. The message Nintendo seemed to be sending was this: spend more than you would for an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3—each of those systems sporting massive libraries flush with acclaimed titles—on a backwards-looking system without a game-changing system-seller. The Wii U has yet to find its Super Mario 64 or Wii Sports.

Worse still, the company’s failed to ramp up software production or woo third-party developers, leaving the Wii U’s cupboards bare, or filled with I.O.U.’s for repeatedly delayed first-party games. Is it any wonder the sort of enthusiasts presently driving this Sony-Microsoft console sales renaissance aren’t biting?

While the original Wii outsold the Xbox 360 and PS3, it appealed most to that ficklest of fickle demographics: casual gamers. $250 was sufficiently low to fuel novelty sales at first, but once the bloom was off that rose, sales plummeted, and anecdotes about unplayed Wiis have become a games industry aphorism. The Wii U, by contrast, has little of the Wii’s novelty, and the Wii U GamePad feels increasingly like a creative miss—something that would have worked better as an optional peripheral, leaving Nintendo price headroom to amp up the specs and instead take a swing at the demographic Sony and Microsoft have been so successfully re-wooing.

But Nintendo thinks in holistic terms, and that’s arguably what people, casual or core, love most about the company’s products. Even the Nintendo 64, Nintendo’s most powerful console relative to its competition at the time, was as much about its funky three-pronged controller and middle thumbstick as its silicon graphics-hyped processor. It’s that stubborn reluctance to play it safe that’s occasionally led the company to headline games industry breakthroughs.

The flip side is that those relentless attempts to innovate—including ones that might involve rejiggering the very notion of “platform”—can break a company, however much they have in the bank. It’s survivable if you’re the Virtual Boy and your followup’s the Nintendo 64, but the Wii U’s probably going to be with us for a while, and while Nintendo’s tried repeatedly to make its case by claiming its next breakthrough game’s finally here (or just around the corner), it’s not at all clear the likes of upcoming games like Mario Kart 8 or Bayonetta 2 or Super Smash Bros. are going to be enough to arrest the Wii U’s tailspin—or the arrival of Tomodachi Life, however novel, the 3DS’ backwards sales motion.

I won’t waste your time armchair-CEO’ing Nintendo by suggesting what I think the company should do. Most of what you’ll hear about Nintendo taking its intellectual property mobile, or getting out of the hardware business entirely (like Sega) is just wishful thinking. Price cuts never hurt, unless they so sabotage the company’s profit margins that any sales boom becomes Pyrrhic. Selling a version of the system without the Wii U GamePad has the ring of wisdom to it, but wouldn’t be without its challenges, namely the reduction of the system’s already meager library by the number of titles that depend on (or simply benefit from) the controller.

Nintendo’s problem is that it’s in that deadliest of platform catch-22s, where you need a slew of standout, signature games to make your case, leveraged by third-party support for all of the triple-A multi-platform titles. The company has too few of the former and a shrinking dearth of the latter at this point. Third parties have either abandoned the system or failed to sign up for duty in the first place, their worries doubtless confirmed for the second cycle running with these latest fiscal results.

And that’s why people aren’t buying the Wii U. Enthusiasts view it as anemic, casual gamers see it as overpriced and there simply aren’t enough diehards loyal to the beloved Nintendo brand to make up those deficiencies. The proof is in those figures.

TIME Mobile Gaming

Candy Crush Maker Diversifies, but Profits Take a Dip

King Digital leans less on its biggest game, but profits drop from $159 million in the fourth quarter of 2013 to $127 million in the first three months of 2014

Candy Crush Saga maker King Digital has an answer for critics who’ve called the company a one-hit wonder.

In the first quarter of 2014, King’s revenue stream was more diverse than ever, with 67% of its earnings coming from Candy Crush. That’s down from 78% in the last quarter of 2013, as King pushes new games like Farm Heroes Saga. King now has three of the 10 top-grossing games in both the iOS App Store and the Google Play Store, with Pet Rescue Saga rounding out King’s list of hits.

King also notched record revenues of $607 million, for a year-over-year increase of 195%.

It wasn’t all good news though. Profits are down sequentially, from $159 million in the final quarter of 2013 to $127 million in the first three months of the year. King said the lower profits are due to an increased headcount and the launch of Farm Heroes Saga, according to Business Insider.

The number of “unique payers”–that is, people paying for in-app power-ups–dropped to 11.9 million last quarter, down from 12.2 million in Q4 2013, and down from a peak of 13 million in Q3 2013.

That may explain why King’s stock is taking a dive today. At the time of publication, it was currently trading at $16.61 per share, compared to its IPO pricing of $22.50 per share. The company’s March IPO flopped badly, with shares falling 16% on the day of release.

[WSJ]

TIME Nintendo

Here Are the Most Alarming Numbers From Nintendo’s Earnings

Not-so-super Nintendo

Nintendo had another rough fiscal year in 2013, with declining Wii U and 3DS sales making for the company’s third annual operating loss.

Here’s a quick rundown of Nintendo’s numbers for last fiscal year:

  • For the Wii U, Nintendo sold 2.72 million units worldwide, down from 3.45 million units last year. Nintendo had originally projected to sell 9 million Wii U units in 2013. Even Nintendo’s revised estimate of 2.8 million unit sales didn’t pan out.
  • Nintendo 3DS (and 2DS) sales look more impressive, at 12.26 million units combined. But those sales are also down from 13.95 million units in 2012.
  • On the bright side, Nintendo 3DS software sales are way up year-over-year, from 36 million in 2012 to 67.89 million in 2013. The launch of Pokemon X/Y last October was a huge factor, pulling in 12.26 million units worldwide.
  • Overall, Nintendo posted a net loss of 23.2 billion yen (about $228 million) last fiscal year. That’s better, at least, than 2012’s losses of 36.4 billion yen.

Nintendo expects profits of 40 billion yen this year, with help from games like Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U, Tomodachi Life for the Nintendo 3DS and Super Smash Bros. for both platforms. Time will tell if Nintendo ends up revising those 2014 estimates sharply downward as it did last year.

MORE: The History of Video Game Consoles – Full

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