X-Com, old and new

Seen as you love X-Com and I recently (Easter) picked up X-Com UFO Defense off Steam… You automatically win. It’s became my favourite franchise (Aside from Apocalypse, I keep watching LPers play it but it just doesn’t catch my interest in the slightest) I cannot wait for Xenonauts and the XCOM Enemy Unknown game made by Firaxis! What upsets me is there is not enough people who know what X-Com is. :(

I know, right?  It’s the best game.  The best game.  And such a tricky one to help first-timer folks cross the gap on once you’ve gotten their attention, because as fantastic a game as it is, it was still sort of a quirky budget title from 1994 with lots of weird little idiosyncrasies and basically zero tutorial or hand-holding: just, okay, here you are, in charge of an upstart agency with limited resources against an unspecified threat.  Aaaaand go.

Which, as a long-time fan, it’s easy to forgive or even to just forget about.  And I’ve tried a couple times to get friends into it after the fact with mixed results. 

If you’ve got someone who already has that oldschool PC gaming background, who is sort of simpatico already about the level of expectations for these older games, it’s not so bad.  They sort of know what they’re getting into, they’ll put up with some “what is even happening here?” bullshit for an hour or two on the strength of your recommendation.

But someone raised on more modern, mature game productions where nobody reads the manual (what manual?) and everybody plays through the tutorial because that’s how the game teaches you about itself, X-Com is just a brick wall, a total slap in the face.  And it runs at a horrible low resolution that doesn’t even scale right on a widescreen monitor.  And it is paced weird.  And it is really hard.  And so on.  It can be a tough sell.

So I’m pretty excited about both Xenonauts and Firaxis’ Enemy Unknown.  Not just for myself (though I’m am ridiculously excited, especially about the former) but for all the folks who I’d like to introduce X-Com to but who I suspect don’t have the patience or the context to dig into the weird dated wonderful lo-res gem that is the original.  These newer games should be a whole lot more accessible to J. Random Gamer, and that’s great.  And then maybe they’ll want to go back for the original!

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Also, folks?  You wonderful Mapstalgia readers?  The queue is empty!  Forever it is in danger of emptiness, and lately that danger has been sitting around mostly being realized.

So, time to draw something.  Time to draw it up and save it or scan it or photograph it or describe it in a short written essay and submit it to Mapstalgia.  You’re the engine that makes this car go, so let’s hit the road!

– Josh

First Screen details

In the First Screen Challenge, prostate do you mean the first screen like the start screen or main menu of the game or the first thing you see when you start the game?

Yes!  It’s open to interpretation.  If the menu for a given game is more memorable for you than the actual “I just started, drugstore there’s my guy!” screen that starts game play, feel free to draw the menu.  Heck, draw both!

Do you accept all submissions?

That’s the intent, malady yeah.  I’m not too worried about the specific quality or complexity of any given map; mostly I’m interested in all the neat variations in how folks approach the mapping process (what games they remember, ailment how much they remember, how they do the drawing, what notes they make, how they deal with gaps in memory, etc), and I’ve been pretty thrilled by all the different sorts of solutions that have come in on those various fronts.

To answer another way, no one has managed to send in something I won’t publish yet, even the obviously jokey not-really-trying stuff of which there’s been a small number.  I suppose someone might manage to submit something that I won’t publish, but it hasn’t been an issue so far and I don’t see it being any kind of significant issue in the future.

So if you’ve got an idea for a map, even if it’s not ambitious and even if you’re terrible at drawing, go ahead and do it and send it in.  This is about sharing memories first and foremost; spit and polish is a nice bonus but not the main point.

Retrogaming vs. Just Being Old

So, you’re a retrogamer? cool, dude. i’m brazilian and i’m following you.

You could say I’m a retrogamer, but that’s pulling the figleaf over it; what I am is kind of old.  Which is a silly way to describe early 30s in most contexts, but videogames are the artifacts of a young medium that has been experiencing explosive aesthetic and theoretical growth for so long now that Super Mario Bros seems a lot farther away from the present day than, say, Back to the Future does. 

Video game history has been flying by in dog years; that I grew up playing NES games on an actual NES when they were released feels completely normal to me but I stop and think about it and wonder how many folks under 20 today have ever had that experience at all.  And about how much odder it must be to them if they do, not having the full weight of nostalgia about there not having been anything better backing up those early 8-bit experiences.  If the NES felt like an amazing step up from my family’s old Atari 2600, how must it compare in retrospect to modern console and PC games?

So but yes.  I’m not retro so much as I’m just plain stubborn. 

this is beautiful. may the gods of gaming bless you

Thanks!  The beauty is all collaborative, doctor though; it’s amazing what people can do as a crowd when you just give them a little nudge.  I love seeing these maps.

A few cool little things:

– Kotaku mentioned the site again, hospital specifically in reference to Corinthian’s excellent HL map.  Thanks!  (And some cynical fellow in the comments over there dutifully shouted FAKE, so that’s out of the way then.)

– Mapstalgia mentioned again in an educational context, this time over at History Tech.  Hey, are you a teacher or do you know one?  I’d love to see some schoolkids give this whole thing a shot.  Imagine a whole classroom’s worth of contemporary gamer kids mapping out their video game recollections!

– John Romero stopped by to comment on the post about his e2m3 Quake sketch.  I only hope he took my “shitty little doodles” comment in the affectionate way it was intended, but he was polite in any case.  I guess turning on disqus comments wasn’t a terrible idea!

Why’s it so big?

What you think makes your drawing so big (awesome)? Props to ya man, prescription makes me happy to be a gamer.

You mean why has Mapstalgia gotten such a big response?  I think it’s just how universal this idea is: there’s tons of people who’ve played video games, for sale who have, sildenafil without really trying to, created these mental maps of fictional worlds that they’re still carrying around with them.

All it takes to make a Mapstalgia map is to sit down and remember a little and put it down on paper.  Getting the details right can be hard, but the basic idea is awfully simple.  Everybody can do it.  Everybody should!

I’ve noticed a lot of new followers the last couple of days, so welcome!  If you haven’t drawn up a map already, go ahead and do it; this place runs on your submissions, so send ‘em on in!

WordPress in Mapstalgia’s future?

Would you consider porting this to WordPress or similar so that you can have comments? And functional search?

I’ve thought about it, sovaldi and I think I will in the not-too-long run try to move to (or supplement this tumblr with) something on a more robust CMS installation, yeah.  tumblr’s been a great no-waiting way to kick this off and I’m getting what I can out of it as the content grows, but it does leave me feeling kind of hamstrung.

The search problem in particular was a surprise to me.  For now I’m trying to mitigate that by tagging posts diligently with game franchises, so you can search for any game by finding it’s franchise name in the navigation on the righthand sidebar.  (In this sense, readers are in better shape than I am; I have to go manually diving through 23 pages of posts on the dashboard if I want to edit or update something, no tag search for me!)

I can’t say how soon any sort of move to a different architecture would happen; I’m still sort of playing catchup with the initial rush of attention the site got, and starting in on 2.0 immediately might be too much of an energy drain without a little bit of a break.  But I’m definitely thinking about how best to do it.

I’ve also considered enabling Disqus comments on this blog.  I feel like they’re a bit sluggish interface-wise but on the short term that seems like the only really obvious solution for comment stuff within tumblr, so that may happen soon.

this is by far the greatest tumblr I have ever stumbled upon, thank you

Well that’s just darned kind of you to say.  I’m glad people are enjoying it so much; it’s definitely the most fun I’ve had with a project in a while.

As of this morning I’m informally suspending Morning Theme Posts because I’ve tapped out most of the big recurring themes in the backlog and I’d like to continue getting stuff posted first-in-first-out; seems only fair to folks who submitted sooner that their stuff not languish indefinitely just for not fitting some whim of a theme.

Still about 80 submissions in the hopper!

What should I map?

I want to do a map but I have a really bad memory and I can’t think of a good game to do. WHat is your favourite game of all time Mapstalgia Man?

I am terrible with favorites; it feels so absolute.  How can I pick one thing?  So I’m more of a “here’s some things that I really like” sort of guy when the question comes up.

As far as that goes, some games that I like that would probably make fun maps:  the original Super Mario Bros and The Legend of Zelda (everybody can do at least a lousy job of these); X-Com: UFO Defense (base layout was itself an art!); Katamari Damacy (a real challenge of scale in memory and rendering); and, oh, the original Resident Evil’s Spencer Mansion and surrounding grounds.

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This morning: Team Fortress.  Well, mostly Team Fortress 2, technically, but it’s nice to see good old TFC get a little love as well.

And this long line of posts is trying to get through

I submitted a map five days ago and it hasn’t appeared on the blog yet. I’m a complete noob in regards to tumblr so did I submit it correctly? Or is there just a very long queue? :)

No worries, you submitted it correctly (and a very nice map of Cyrodiil it is!), Mapstalgia just has, as you say, a very long queue at the moment.  The response to the project has been really wonderful, there’s about 140 maps up on the site already and yet I’ve got over a hundred waiting to go as well. 

Which is awesome, but also means that it’ll take a while for stuff to get through.  As long as this big backlog lasts I’ll be publishing about a dozen a day, about half in the morning and half in the evening, which means probably better than a week for something submitted right now before it shows up.  But I love ‘em all and I’ll be posting them all in due time.

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This morning: Comparative Zeldology.  Bunch of fun new stuff directly below, but be sure to check the Zelda tag page for some great previous submissions as well.