October 24th, 2004

kitten, fhqwagads

Nostalgia doesn't make for good games

Nostalgia doesn't make for good games
Posted to my blog and roleplayers

For the first time in nearly two decades, I rolled up some Classic Traveller characters.

The reason for this is that a while ago, I got involved in a discussion where some grognards were talking about what a joy playing Classic Traveller was, and how they couldn't understand why it wasn't still popular. So, mostly out of a sense of nostalgia, I tried rolling up some Classic Traveller characters.

Classic Traveller, for those who are curious, was one of the first SF games out there, and was some major innovations compared to basic D&D (this was in the late 1970s, well before AD&D). Instead of character classes, Traveller had previous experience consisting of careers in one of six services (Army, Navy, Marines, Scouts, Merchants, Other). That is, one rolled up the character's stats, then rolled to try to enter the desired career (or if the enlistment roll failed, rolled to see what service the character was drafted into). Then each four-year term one rolled for survival, commission or promotion, and reenlistment. This "minigame," the grognards contended was extremely fun in and of itself.

The results I got were:

Character 1: Tried for Scouts, failed enlistment roll, drafted into Merchants. Died in service in the third term.

Character 2: Again tried for Scouts, failed enlistment roll- drafted into Merchants. Died in service in the first term.

Character 3: Succeeded in enlisting in Scouts, died in service in the second term.

Character 4: Succeeded in enlisting in Merchants, died of old age in service at age 50.

Character 5: "Duke". Enlisted in Navy, failed re-enlistment, mustered out. Result:

Navy 1 Term, Age 22
Gunnery 1

To interpret: a character that's pretty smart and well educated, from a good family, but a little weak, and as clumsy as it's possible to be. And his only skill is in starship weapons. Joy.

This all reminded me of why back in 1981 I wrote a nice little BASIC program designed to generate Traveller characters (it took thirty minutes to load from the cassette tape, but it was a huge time saver). It also reminded me why I thought it was bizarre that people didn't consider Megatraveller a huge improvement over Classic Traveller.

My fiance, a very modern gamer whose only been playing a few years, was a bit more succinct: "This is . They thought this was fun? Couldn't they just? 'Cause then they would at least be accomplishing something fun."

So actually, I think I can see why Classic Traveller isn't popular any more. Does anyone else have examples of games that don't hold up to the nostalgicv memories one has of them?