This game could still, at the end of time, end up being the most complex game in history. And it came out on two floppy disks in 1986.
This was a game made when the only people who played computer games were dorks. A true game for dorks, by dorks. Probably less than 1% of the people who owned the game ever finished it.
In truth, all you needed to finish the game was to pick up two bombs from two different planets, and detonate them on two other planets. The problem is that there are over 800 planets, and each planet is so massive that unless you knew the exact coordinates of the artifact in question (in this case a black egg), you would NEVER find it. Seriously, it would take you WEEKS to cover the entire surface of one planet. The universe was HUGE. Not to mention, that at the beginning of the game you would have no clue about what you needed to do to beat the game, let alone how to do it. You could only really figure out what was going on from repeated dialogues with the various alien species and visiting ancient ruins, which all had a small piece of the puzzle.
In the meantime, your crew could go about mining the surface of planets -- all the while dodging nasty weather and aliens -- building up your ship, training your crew (until you have a good communications officer you can't even understand what aliens are saying), and dealing with the 6 or so alien races that inhabit the universe.
Star Control 2
BIG TIME STARFLIGHT RIPOFF. But still a classic because it took a classic game and did it better. Not as big as Starflight, but had very good graphics for the time, and epic storyline, and a fun combat system. Basically what they did when they made this game was to graft the old Star Control 1 combat system into a remake of Starflight, simplifying the resource collection system so it was more "arcadey". The result: a great game.
Quest for Glory
And old adventure series made by Sierra. Sierra made some pretty fun adventure games during this time period. QfG was slightly different in that it was a RPG as well. In the first game, your character is a wimp -- I took a job cleaning the stables every day until I had enough money to buy stuff. By the last game, a paladin can just make enemies run in fear without even lifting a finger. Combined the best elements of adventure games and RPGs.
What are some others?
Ultima 4- a game concept that needs to be revisited desperately. Actual intelligence was required to finish the game, in addition to typical RPG skills (get the thing, go to the place, kill the guy). The development of your character and your party took a back seat to the journey for knowledge. Still play the game to this day on an Apple 2e emulator, tho it's hard, even MoSlo at 99% doesn't slow it down enough.
Original Civ, and Master of Orion. I'd rather play those than the sequels.
X-Com: UFO Defence
Master of Magic
Gary Grigsby's "The War in Russia"
Leather Goddesses of Phobos
Sentinel Worlds for the IBM PC XT
Starflight sounds awesome.
Oh, Xcom kicked mighty ass.
Good lord, Quest for Glory, I remember that game.
It was hard. My friend eventually got to be a paladin, but I never got that far.
Xcom does rock. I play that at least once a month.
Starflight was my first computer game. We bought a Franklin (PC clone) in the mid 80's. My dad got that game for me and it was amazing. It had a map, 2 floppies, fat direction manaul and it was very fun.
Yep, I was a dork....still am.
Just a heads up that you can still download starflight for free from the underdogs site. Am doing it now to see what uts like!
Wing Commander 1-3
The "Star Wars" of computer games. The original was cutting edge space combat flight simulator in 1990. You were a pilot fresh out of the academy on the strike carrier Tiger's Claw on the front line of a war in deep space set up to resemble the Pacific theatre in WW2. Between missions you could hang out in the observation lounge with the other pilots, check out the kill scores rankings, look at your medals. The story followed your performance in the missions -- if you screwed up on key assignments the Tiger's Claw would end up retreating through Vega Sector, although if you performed well near the end the tide could be turned and you could still win the game.
Starting with the expasion packs for the first game, the focus became more on story. Various dramas would unfold between the pilots between missions and you got more and more sucked into how the war against the Kilrathi was going. The 2nd game was particularly strong in this department.
The final game took something like 2.5 years and $3 million, but the result was stunning. I think this was the first flight simulator that used 3D textured polygon models. Truly beautiful to look at. I spent a few hours just flying around the massive capital ships just to look at them. Also the animated cinematics from WC2 had been replaced by full motion video with live actors including Luke Skywalker and Biff from Back to the Future. The ending was excellent and the game was overall a spectacular conclusion to the series.
I'm not including WC4 here, although some may feel it deserves it. WC4 *HAD* to be made with the commercial success of the first three games, and it's your typical sequel -- more of everything except making sense. I enjoyed it but haven't played it since I beat it the first time.
Honorable mention: Privateer
Starflight meets Wing Commander, this game was sort of a predecessor to Vice City. Privateer is a Wing Commander game set in between WC2 and WC3, except you are a Han Solo wannabee in a frontier sector of the galaxy. Build up some money trading commodities, smuggling contraband, making deliveries or being a mercenary for hire. Buy a new ship and pimp it out with more guns, heavier shields, repair droids, electronic countermeasures, sensor suites, the works. There are something like 50+ star systems spread out through the sector. One corner of the sector is the "social" quadrant as it is closest to the human homeworlds where there are a lot of missions and a lot of money to be made. Another quadrant is the frontier where the all the pirates hang out.
The downside: Combat system and the plot. Wing Commander's combat system was always just OK -- fun but not particularly complex. It also had a problem where, except for the 2nd game, fighters were WAYYYY too powerful compared to capital ships, where 1 good fighter could take out an entire fleet of unsupported capital ships single handedly. In Privateer, although you are not piloting a fighter, you will still find yourself dogfighting with light fighters most of the game -- the combat dynamics haven't changed. Would have been nice if turrets were a bigger part of the game and flying a bigger ship could have afforded some advantage in a way. Also maybe since you are out on the frontier and these aren't Confederation Naval ships, they shouldn't have as strong of guns.
This becomes an issue late in the game, because unlike Wing Commander 1,2 & 3, where you'll fly maybe 30-50 missions total per game with the expansion packs, in Privateer you'll fly 100-150 or more, due to the generic missions you'll pick up to make money. Blowing up pirate ships over and over gets repetitive.
Lastly, the plot, while optional, is good -- but completely linear. And there's not enough of it. Would have been nice if there were side quests depending on whether you wanted to be a pirate, a merc, or a trader.
I wouldn't call Privateer a classic but I probably spent more time playing it than any other game.
Wing Commander #1 was the shit. But in the later missions the Kilrathi ships would kill you in about 2 seconds if they got behind you. I eventually got the shits with the game because of that.
Man, back when EA was king shit, of fuck mountain.
Thought I was the only one to play that game, ever...
X-com was great, I ran into it on the PS1, and then got it for the Computer and modded the fuck out of it... Great game... Stories about shit that happens in that game end up sounding like war or paintball stories...
And since no one's mentioned it: Wasteland. Deep, challenging and not so huge that it's impossible.
Highly Underated: Rambo for the Nes and Solomon's key.
"You're now in the Inner Circle of the Secret Order of the Emperor." SWEET!
Man, back when EA was king shit, of fuck mountain.
Thought I was the only one to play that game, ever..."
I still have the game. Plus you can download it off the Internet.