Games of the Twentieth Century. The year 1999

In comparison with the previous year, 1998, and the following year, 2000, this year can not boast an abundance of revolutions and genre achievements. But it can be rightfully called the year of eSports, thanks to the releases of Quake III, Unreal Tournament and Counter-Strike (officially ended in 2000, but was quite playable from June 1999).

Counter-Strike


  • Genre: FPS
  • Developer: Sierra Studios
  • Publisher: Sierra Studios

This is one of those games that even a person distant from the world of gamers will call it on the fly. CS has successfully migrated from the category of ordinary network shooters to the rank of an icon, to the rank of a sports discipline. For many years, countless competitions are held, ranging from courtyard shootouts in the basement room of an Internet club and ending with the international championships with huge cash prizes. Isn't that a measure of the nation's love?

Counter-Strike Screenshot

It all started with an ordinary modification. In the hit-rich year of 1998 the legendary Half-Life was released, and in the next year the SDK-set with which all mods were created was freely accessible. It was then, in the winter of 1999, that Min Lee and Jess Cliff started working on their new creation - the previous one was a mod for Quake 2, Action Quake2. The name Counter-Strike didn't appear until March, when the project needed to be promoted. The first beta saw the light of day June 19, and so it began. Servers burst from visitors to the game have turned the eyes of thousands of people. Among the latter were the "talent scouts" from Valve. Soon they purchased CS for a sum of money, and Lee and Cliff were immediately enlisted. On November 8, 2000, beta testing was completed, and the game was proudly prefixed with "1.0".

The principles of Counter-Strike are familiar to any player, as they are reflected in one form or another in most modern games. Two teams - terrorists and special forces - fight on a separate map, pursuing different goals, whether it be to plant a bomb or free the hostages. It's like the alphabet, isn't it? And for eleven years these rules have remained the ABCs, the basics for players.

Counter-Strike Screenshot

What Happened Next: patches brought Counter-Strike to perfection - version 1.6 became the benchmark, replacing the non-existent subtitle with stingy numbers. In 2004 came Condition Zero, which included a full-fledged single-player campaign - though it didn't gain any popularity. At the same time with it a true remake of the original appeared: Counter-Strike: Source, based on the engine of the same name, used in Half-Life 2 and a number of other games. CSS was unable to overpower its mighty ancestor, and the people flowed back to the old 1.6. Counter-Strike Online 2008 year turned out to be oriented to Asian clients.


While we were playing Counter-Strike...

  • "Black Monday": Sierra closed many internal divisions and later became a "vassal" of Vivendi Universal, losing its independence.
  • Two teenagers staged a shooting with multiple victims at Columbine High School in Colorado. Jack Thompson blames video games for the violence.





Disciples: Sacred Lands


  • Genre: TBS
  • Developer: Strategy First
  • Publisher: Strategy First

Has it often happened that developers, having abandoned a familiar genre, have managed to score a new victory in a completely different genre? Not really - it's not easy to change your line of work without proper experience.

Strategy First succeeded. Their Jagged Alliance, released in 1994, is considered to be a classic of tactical RPGs and gave birth to the series with the same name. However, at the end of the millennium, the brave Canadians managed to create another long-lived brand, Disciples, this time - a turn-based strategy in a fantasy style.

Disciples: Sacred Lands Screenshot

It's a long time since the Heroes of Might and Magic have not seen such abuse! Disciples use the same principles, but a lot of things are turned inside out. Instead of crowds of all kinds of troops - a maximum of six soldiers in the squad, instead of cannon fodder - planned development of each soldier, instead of running around the battlefield and tactical maneuvers - wall-to-wall fighting. Even the atmosphere of "Heroes" - fantastic, "gingerbread", if you like, turned into the dark Gothic, where there is no place for trust and mercy. Banal in general plot Disciples richly decorated treachery and villainy. This world is ruthless, recognizes no one's merits, knows no mercy and is painfully similar to the real world. Maybe that's why not the best strategy game in the world has gained an army of fans?

Disciples: Sacred Lands Screenshot

What Happened Next: three years later, a sequel appeared on the shelves, which successfully developed the ideas of the original - many people liked the second Disciples much more than the first. The main goal of the sequel was not only the widened branch tree, but also the changes in the stylistics, which made the atmosphere of decadence and depression darker. However, the business of Strategy First did not go in the best way, and in 2005 the Canadian studio went bankrupt. However, this dark horse without experience and proper management failed, and the third part, which was finished only in 2009, failed.






Dungeon Keeper 2


  • Genre: God simulator
  • Developer: Bullfrog Productions
  • Publisher: Electronic Arts

How great must it be to invent an entire genre on your own and then spend a long time selflessly creating within that framework? Ask Peter Molyneux, he has a lot of experience with such feats.

Founded by Molyneux and Le Edgar, Bullfrog Studios was the cradle of the mysterious mutant strategy game "god simulator. The idea of taking direct control away from the player came to Populous in 1989, and a whole concept of the recipient's interaction with the game world was built around it.

Dungeon Keeper 2 Screenshot

Bullfrog's long and successful journey ended with Dungeon Keeper 2. The continuation of the warmly received simulation of the evil dungeon lord brought in some fresh (and working) ideas, while remaining an interesting and caustic game in terms of jokes. The stereotypes of "hero" RPGs and the like in Dungeon Keeper were harshly ridiculed (and punished). If you will, you could consider it the progenitor of "villainous" games, where sabotage and perversion of human nature are at the forefront.

The second Dungeon Keeper turned out to be a predictably excellent sequel with properly applied innovations. The process is still the same: taking over new domains, dealing with pathological and conventionally good heroes, and building a thriving underground evil empire.

Dungeon Keeper 2 Screenshot

What Happened Next: it's unfortunate that Dungeon Keeper 2 turned out to be Bullfrog's last successful game. Several subsequent projects sent the Brits, what they call, around the world. In 2004 the studio became part of the English division of EA. "God simulators" were now produced in Peter Molyneux's new company, Lionhead - that was, for example, Black and White. The fate of "bad" games is not as unenviable as that of their inventors: The Bard's Tale, Evil Genius, Overlord and a number of smaller projects. "The Old Man Dies, the Girl Lives.






EverQuest


  • Genre: MMORPG
  • Developer: Verant Interactive
  • Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment

It's hard to imagine a world of online role-playing games without World of Warcraft, but once upon a time its traditions were all set by an entirely different game. EverQuest used an offline RPG as a model, but the values there were different.

EverQuest Screenshot

Norrath was ruthless but interesting; the death of a character promised more than just a loss of experience. You had to run headlong (without any equipment at all!) to your cold corpse and take off all your belongings - unless a random passerby appropriated them. Later, the conditions were adjusted somewhat, so as not to scare off the newcomers. But the world was still harsh: to restore health and mana you had to meditate, the interface had no reference points (try to find the direction to the north with the clouds!), and many locations at night became impassable because of the infestation of evil spirits there...

Players waited half an hour for twenty minutes to ride the waves to the other continent and spend a long time talking to each other, fishing, passing the time. Maybe that was the highlight of Norrath - the interaction with other players? After all, in many MMOs it is not difficult to reach the highest level alone; in EverQuest it is impossible, the game forces adventurers to act together. And that, after all, is the basic principle of online gaming.

EverQuest Screenshot

What Happened Next: fourteen additions made Norrath almost limitless. Even after eleven (!) years, EverQuest has retained its fans and is clearly not going to retire. Even the second part did not achieve such success. The words of some passionate fans about the "uniqueness of the game world" in this case no longer seem groundless.






Heroes of Might and Magic III


  • Genre: TBS
  • Developer: New World Computing
  • Publisher: 3DO

It's hard to remember a cozier game. You pick a race, load up the map, and you feel right at home... Here is a city that for a long time will be a reliable (and the only) shelter for the lone hero so far. Gather "free", shake gremlins and other Cyclops from their homes, lead a motley crowd - and forward to the adventures ... We took the chests, picked up the artifact, captured the mine, defeated dangerous demons (how helpless they will seem before the power of our divisions!). Chew! An alien banner flashed on the horizon! "Enemy!" This moment was always memorable: the first encounter with the enemy. Then there would be skirmishes, the siege of cities, the constant shortage of resources due to the hired at the triple cost dragons... Sound familiar?

Heroes of Might and Magic III Screenshot

"Heroes" has acquired a very special status. No, not a cult - the inhabitants of Europe may as well call the third "Heroes" a cult. Native - that's what property this no doubt excellent strategy game has acquired.

Maybe the placid style, calm music, and measured gameplay warmed the soul of crisis-weary people? Or a delicate balance, which is easily ruined by any changes? But more likely a hot-seat. In a country where the Internet was still a neologism, and computers could hardly pull Half-Life, HoMM III with its ability to play as many as eight players and ridiculous requirements for resources was bound to become mega-popular. How great it was: to sit with friends, chase all sorts of obscurants, fight against a wall of huge crowds of peasants. If you consider computer games asosocial entertainment, the "Heroes" successfully destroyed the stereotype: their single mode simply paled before the opportunity to play together.

And if you remember that the moment of this game coincided with the rapid growth of personal computers, then to explain its popularity becomes even easier.

Heroes of Might and Magic III Screenshot

What Happened Next: the add-ons did not affect the fate of the hit - a couple of extra campaigns did not change the process, and playing alone in "Heroes" was no fun. The fourth part was ambiguous: the reviews ranged from angry curses to the highest awards. Then New World Computing fell victim to the market, paired with regular publisher 3DO, and all the rights were bought by Ubisoft. The fifth part, forged in our country, stayed true to tradition and was objectively considered excellent. But no one was in a hurry to move on from the cozy third one. Will the upcoming Might & Magic: Heroes VI remedy the situation, or can nothing beat the popular love anymore?


While we were playing Heroes of Might and Magic III...

  • The world's population has reached six billion people.





Homeworld


  • Genre: RTS
  • Developer: Relic Entertainment
  • Publisher: Sierra Entertainment

It's hard to find people who are more hands-on with strategy games than Relic. And they started with Homeworld, which was as groundbreaking as it gets.

Just kidding - late nineties, and these Canadians have already created a fully three-dimensional strategy game! That is, the third dimension was not decorative, but functional: the ships were lined up in battle orders, using the "volume" of the game, and some ships could raise their bows and commit suicide with their own guns. Not only could you fly left and right, but also up and down, with ships "floating" in space like fish in a fishbowl.

Homeworld Screenshot

In essence, Homeworld is a typical strategy game, with a base, resource gathering, and missions, but the similarities to Warcraft or Command & Conquer are out of the question. And what a scale! Hundreds of units on one map, and the AI retains its "sanity" and does not get confused in numerous fleets. Amazing detail of the ships, beautiful space, the ubiquitous attention to detail - from plot twists to research.

Speaking of plot: it was beautiful! Especially for an RTS. The story is about a race of exiles who forgot their roots and then found a way to return to their homeland - against the will of the other inhabitants of the galaxy, against their destiny. A very special atmosphere, the romance of space outcasts, combined with the mesmerizing space rich in colorful nebulae: these helped Homeworld achieve the fame it deserves. And (surprisingly!) a financial success.

Homeworld Screenshot

What Happened Next: the supplement came out so ambiguous that its events are completely ignored in the second part. In fact, it ended with it - the series came to a standstill, unable to find its own way of development. And Relic is still in business: after finishing bloody Warhammer 40000: Dawn of War and a few add-ons, spectacular Company of Heroes, the Vancouver natives are busy developing the first action in their portfolio. Will it work?






Planescape: Torment


  • Genre: RPG
  • Developer: Black Isle Studios
  • Publisher: Interplay Entertainment

Well, who else could rivet true - without reservations and all sorts of "buts" - masterpieces regularly, year after year? Who else but the mighty Interplay-Black Isle-Bioware syndicate? In just five years, their efforts saw the light of a constellation of giants: Fallout 1-2, Baldur's Gate 1-2, Icewind Dale 1-2, Arcanum (by Troika Games, flesh of the aforementioned prolific three-headed Saturn), Neverwinter Nights... Forgotten something? Yes, Planescape: Torment.

Planescape: Torment Screenshot

Among its brethren, Planescape stands out as perhaps the strongest and most elaborate scenario. The number mentioned in the press (1 million words) does not seem to be an exaggeration: Black Isle reduced the number of battles to a minimum, paying more attention to the conversations. There are only four obligatory bloodbaths; the rest are on our conscience.

Whether it has to do with the abundance of dialogues in the game - is not clear, but the fact remains: of all the fiends IBB Planescape - the most serious (the issues it raises are more significant and mature than its predecessors) and cynical. Of course, there is humor in Baldur's Gate and Fallout, but in Planescape the sarcasm on the characters reaches the apogee. A chaste succubus, a knight's armor with a hideous character, a snide flying skull - here's a panopticon of sorts. The protagonist is unconventional, to say the least. He has no name, and he is immortal: after another death of flesh the Nameless One materializes again. That is why during the journey he has to clean up all the mess he made before his last death (according to all the laws of the genre, another death was followed by amnesia).

Planescape: Torment Screenshot

Otherwise, Planescape - a traditional CRPG based on the rules of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, with a team of associates and a tactical break. And, despite some of its secondary nature, it's no less awesome.

What Happened Next: the pipeline didn't stop until late 2003, when Black Isle closed; their remnants formed Obsidian Entertainment, and the other "shipwrecked" found a home at Troika Games and Bioware. Interplay, the publisher, struggled for a long time to survive, but in vain. The current state of the studio ironically resembles the fate of Nameless: rising from the ashes and trying to fix things. Bioware survived the crisis and is still alive today, delighting RPG fans with more and more new games, though more controversial than in its "youth".






Quake III Arena


  • Genre: FPS
  • Developer: id Software
  • Publisher: Activision

All of id Software's history hints unmistakably: we have to change. An era has passed since the time when the pixels were big and John Carmack and Romero created a miracle called Wolfenstein 3D. Standards have changed, preferences have changed, and id Software didn't want to admit it.

Quake III - pure, distilled online action game with a couple of trinkets for those who are here for the first time. The single player campaign is ruthlessly amputated, but everything else - the style, arsenal, game mechanics - is neatly carried over from Quake II with only cosmetic changes.

Quake III Arena Screenshot

Yes, Quake III gained tremendous popularity, but the future of not only the series, but the very idea of Quake was doomed. The savagery and grotesqueness of id Software games will come into conflict with the harsh realism of the new generation of action games. However, the main problem is different. In Quake the player is always a loner, he does not need support and companions, he is independent and autonomous. And a new hero already enters the scene: he works in a team, not chasing "fractions" and is a separate part of the whole.

The same year Counter-Strike was already born and the countdown began. There wasn't much time left: in 2001, Operation Flashpoint rumbled, singing a rapturous hymn to naturalism, even to the detriment of gameplay. The final shot to the back of the head came in 2003. The new blockbuster Call of Duty, which set a lot of trends for the whole industry, hammered the last nail in the coffin. Here's the cynicism of life: the first CoD was released on the engine of the Quake III Arena.

Quake III Arena Screenshot

What Happened Next: It seems that the creators themselves realized that it is time to change the course. Although the latest children of a bygone era, Doom 3 and Quake IV didn't fit into the general picture of the world, they considerably delighted the old generation of gamers and entertained the new one.

...And, of course, there was the touching "homage" when trying to get out of Doom 3: "Dashing away, eh?"






System Shock 2


  • Genre: FPS, RPG, horror
  • Developer: Irrational Games, Looking Glass Studios
  • Publisher: Electronic Arts

It's fun to see familiar faces in something you haven't seen before! How interesting to look at an ancient portrait and find a resemblance to a distant descendant of the portrayed on the canvas... In the game industry, too, there is such a "family" that has not lost the family traits from generation to generation. It has no single name, but for centuries it has been associated with the name of Warren Spector.

System Shock of 1994 was both an action game and a role-playing game. Shooting at aggressive targets was perfectly combined with a first-class story (with intrigue!), a system of skills and perks, as well as a real horror atmosphere - when you want not to shoot at the enemy with all guns, but to take your feet to the nearest church, mosque or synagogue. A unique and successful combination simply did not agree to go to the grave to the delight of detractors - three years later Warren Spector at the head of Looking Glass Studios and Ken Levine with the guys from Irrational Games repeated the successful experience.

System Shock 2 Screenshot

It came out remarkably well. The role-playing actioner turned out not to be a weird freak, but quite a viable mutant. The story of confrontation between human and cold artificial intelligence in the confined spaceship turned out to be not only intriguing, but no less creepy than in System Shock 1. The only thing that scared the shit out of her was Chodan, the successor of HAL-9000 from "2001 Space Odyssey" by Stanley Kubrick, who was not singing a song in her effort to belittle her murderer. It's not for nothing that LKI has already awarded the SS2 climax (when Shodan reveals her cards) the title of one of the scariest game moments in history!

Coupled with such wonderful scenery, the gameplay was even more enjoyable: the three directions of character development - fighter, hacker and psionic - introduced a healthy variety, giving an incentive to repeat the playthrough. Each of them came out unrepeatable - a great achievement for the creators! And that's in addition to the impact on the entire industry: introducing RPG elements into action films became a good tone for many, many years... However, the story of System Shock 2 is interesting not only in itself, but also in the context of the whole "clan".

System Shock 2 Screenshot

What Happened Next: Looking Glass Studios went bust, as they call it: oh, the cruel laws of economics! But at that moment Mr. Spector was already working at Ion Storm, where, together with John Romero, father of Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake, he created one of the pillars of the game industry - Deus Ex (same System Shock with a lot of modifications). Take Two didn't come out. Deus Ex: Invisible War turned out to be a "weak child" and did not enjoy much fame. Meanwhile, Irrational Games came under the wing of Take-Two Interactive, where in 2007 they completed another reincarnation of the ancestor - Bioshock.


While we were playing System Shock 2...

  • Stanley Kubrick, the "#1 parent" of science fiction, died.
  • The euro, the common European currency, appeared.
  • The Wachowski Brothers' "The Matrix" was released.





Unreal Tournament


  • Genre: FPS
  • Developer: Epic Games
  • Publisher: GT Interactive

The success of Unreal Tournament was called into question even before release. First, the cheesy online mode in the original game, Unreal; second, the new action game had to compete with Quake III. A worthy adversary! And UT coped with the assigned duties.

Unreal Tournament Screenshot

Quake III Arena and Unreal Tournament differed little in essence: both were ferocious online action games with a reduced single-player mode and a deathmatch bias. But the latter differed favorably from its dangerous counterpart in its elaborateness and appeal. A short but succinct description of each map, team and weapon, the narrator's comments on the success of a single player (do you still remember the "jamming" shout when someone managed to kill a whole crowd of enemies? "Mo-mo-mo-mo-mo-monster kill!"). And, of course, the extensive vocabulary of bots; computer opponents not only enjoy the "fragging", but also constantly mock the enemy or just swear dirty (this idea will one day inspire Valve, and the characters of their team-based online combat game Team Fortress 2 will not close their mouths at all).

Unreal Tournament Screenshot

Also, Unreal Tournament had a zonal damage system - a hit to the head did more damage. Each weapon had an alternate firing mode, and levels were not only arenas, but team scenarios where one team defended and the other attacked.

What Happened Next: The three sequels successfully replaced each other in all tournaments and championships. Nowadays Unreal Tournament 3 reigns supreme, and it is rather difficult to recognize its distant ancestor. But Epic Games has gone further - and their Gears of War series sets the standard in the third-person action market.