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The Platinum Age of CRPGs

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the my-favorite-coin-denomination dept.

Role Playing (Games) 112

Matt Barton writes "I've just posted my third (and final) installment on CRPG history at GamaSutra: The Platinum and Modern Ages. This article covers the many classics released between 1994 and 2004, including Fallout, Planescape: Torment, Ultima Underworld, and of course Baldur's Gate, Diablo, and The Elder Scrolls. It also discusses why WoW and other MMORPGs aren't descended from these CRPGs (but rather MUDs). The Platinum Age produced the finest CRPGs ever made — but the future of the stand-alone, single-player CRPG looks grim."

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Nethack (3, Insightful)

mandelbr0t (1015855) | more than 7 years ago | (#18703375)

Bah. The single-player CRPG is not dead, and it never will be. I've only ascended 3 of the total classes, now working on Monk :)

Re:Nethack (1)

Wylfing (144940) | more than 7 years ago | (#18703981)

I don't think know if nethack qualifies as an RPG, does it? I don't think Diablo does either, because Diablo is essentially graphical nethack (well, maybe not nethack, but rogue-alike anyway). Rogue and all its descendants are...something else.

Re:Nethack (3, Insightful)

Cheapy (809643) | more than 7 years ago | (#18704413)

Nethack is what you make it. Most players choose the "homicidal kleptomaniac" role however. Play a Knight, and you have a code to follow. Same for Monks and Samurai (to a lesser extent).

So there are some roles to play...but it'd be hard to justify it as a CRPG. However, RPGs have taken a different meaning from role-playing games. An RPG is more of a 'hack'n'slash' if anything else now.

Re:Nethack (2, Insightful)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 7 years ago | (#18711343)

"An RPG is more of a 'hack'n'slash' if anything else now."

Give me a break, RPG's were based on old war miniature board games and the like. Go look at one of the most famous games of all time, a text game - Legend of the red dragon from the BBS days, a text game based heavily on combat, stats and humorously written one liners. The thing is because of the lack of graphics the text was input for the hugest creativity engine in existence: Your brain. You fill in the gaps and imagine things while playing the game simply based on the text output, you imagine it in your head just the way you want it. Such complexity is "Not here yet" (tm)

RPG's do not have to be complicated to the nth degree with too much social or other scaffolding that gets in the way of the core elements of roleplaying games ** to be engaged in interesting activities ** that are *enjoyable*. What seperates the real game developers out there from what I like to call "western computer RPG purists", is that they understand that games must ENTERTAIN and be fun above all most of the time a vast audience or they make no money. Myself, as primarily an action oriented gamer, I get frustrated when I am doing things that are boring and tedious where I am taken out of the game to watch some lengthly B-rated cutscene... or in which I am not in control of the activity. I find Navigating the world for 3-5 minutes straight or more with me doing nothing but being a passive observer (being taken out of the game) boring as hell. This is why I always have had a huge love-hate relationship with modern MMO's the time required to travel from place to place is enormous and MMO's waste countless hours of real engagement simply floating or running around the map (A waste of my valuable time IMHO). When games like Diablo and Diablo 2 Understood the value of TOWN PORTAL. MMO's basically take the best gaming conventions learned by trial and error and gut them completely. MMO developers make standard features (like town portal) broken or unavailable to the point where it is just bordering on limits of player annoyance just to make sure you dont "go through the content too fast". Which IMHO is working against what game making should be about: Making great games, not breaking the immersion and reducing their fun factor for profit.

So MMO's and their ilk breed generations of passive gamers (i.e. TV watchers) rather then real 'game players' (i.e. where you are directly involved in controlling or skilllfully mastering a character and making decisions that effect outcomes).

Re:Nethack (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 7 years ago | (#18715715)

RPGs have taken a different meaning from role-playing games.

Huh? RPGs are roleplaying games. I think you mean CRPGs here. They tend to be a completely different animal, focusing much more on combat and combat prowess than real RPGs. The only exception ofcourse being Torment.

Re:Nethack (1)

Vintermann (400722) | more than 7 years ago | (#18715369)

The Diablo makers apparently cited nethack as their main inspiration, so you could call it that, but I suspect it has more in common with other roguelikes, with mostly random magical artifacts and so on, and of course it doesn't even come close to nethack on the attention to silly detail.

I'm still holding out.. (1)

zyl0x (987342) | more than 7 years ago | (#18703385)

..for Fallout 3.

Bethesdasoft + original Fallout universe, atmosphere, and dark humor = cannot possibly fail.

At least that's what I'm desperately hoping for.

Re:I'm still holding out.. (1)

remembertomorrow (959064) | more than 7 years ago | (#18703611)

Unfortunately, with Bethesda at the helm, Fallout 3 stands to have more bugs than Fallout 2 did.

http://games.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/04/11/ 1629209 [slashdot.org]

Not trolling, I've just been burned too many times by stupid bugs that have slipped through QA.

Re:I'm still holding out.. (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 7 years ago | (#18704119)

Meh. Such a pedestrian bug, and easily fixable. Fallout II had a lot of bugs worse than that.

Re:I'm still holding out.. (1)

Zantetsuken (935350) | more than 7 years ago | (#18703731)

but just think of the ESRB rating its gonna get - I mean it was cool enough (read: comically gory) in plain, isometric 2d - but to have that in full 3d? Jack Thompson sure ain't gonna be happy about this with peoples ribcages getting shot out...

Re:I'm still holding out.. (1)

Lightwarrior (73124) | more than 7 years ago | (#18703793)

Jacko's not going to care if it doesn't make the Top 10 Bestsellers list. Its not like he's gone after *any* of the really gory, exploitive games - just the ones that had extremely deep pockets and met his narrow view of "what's bad".

Re:I'm still holding out.. (0, Troll)

pNutz (45478) | more than 7 years ago | (#18703891)

Bethesda + non-fantasy, turn-based RPG = Total fucking failure. Or rather, Oblivion with guns, which is the same thing.

Re:I'm still holding out.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18704633)

Bethesda can make some nice open-ended worlds, but they're pretty terrible when it comes to some of the fundamental game mechanics.

Thinks like character leveling, skill progression and combat mechanics were never Bethesda's specialty.

As an example, just look at how unbalanced birthsigns are in Oblivion (lol @ "the Lord"), and how many opportunities they've had to fix them.

Hopefully Bethesda will attempt to overhaul their system for Fallout3- but it seems like they'll probably just end up "sticking to what they know" and make Oblivion w/ guns.

Re:I'm still holding out.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18707575)

As an example, just look at how unbalanced birthsigns are in Oblivion (lol @ "the Lord"), and how many opportunities they've had to fix them.
May I introduce you to a concept called "roleplaying"? It's where, instead of perfect balance, you try to make a game interesting by making player choices have consequences, and allowing people to build a flawed or weak character if that's the role they want to play.

If you want to complain about Oblivion game mechanics, complain about the stupid way the world levels up with you, making character progression totally pointless.

Re:I'm still holding out.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18708165)

(Same A/C as above)

I definitely agree that choices should have interesting consequences. But really, I'd hardly call a free low-level healing spell that you can use once/day an "interesting consequence" for chosing a weakness to fire. A much better consequence would have been constant hp regeneration, for example.

Really, if you want to roleplay a "flawed" character, just turn up the difficulty, wear cloth armor, and play the game with your eyes closed or something. Don't mistake a lack-of-game-balancing on Bethesda's part for intentional "extra roleplaying opportunities"

Re:I'm still holding out.. (0, Troll)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 7 years ago | (#18704835)

"Oblivion with guns" is what we'll get, and that is semantically equivalent to a steaming pile of bloody dog shit.

Bethesda has made exactly nothing worth a damn since Daggerfall. Oblivion was the first game in a LONG time I uninstalled without beating it.

Leonard Boyarsky isn't involved. Tim Cain isn't involved. Even Chris frigging Avellone isn't. It's like someone making Pulp Fiction II without Quentin Tarantino or any of the actors related to the first one. Pulp Fiction II would suck anyway, but it has zero chance without its original creator involved.

Re:I'm still holding out.. (1)

zyl0x (987342) | more than 7 years ago | (#18706097)

Hey now, Morrowwind was a pretty in-depth and expansive game. But I agree with you about Oblivion: they went for shiny instead of interesting.

Re:I'm still holding out.. (1)

Nasarius (593729) | more than 7 years ago | (#18706147)

A-fucking-men. Oblivion is highly-polished garbage compared to the kind of potential Daggerfall hinted at. Granted, it's got some nice *content*, but it's bolted on top of the worst game system I've ever encountered in an RPG. Diablo II has more character customization depth. I don't know how anyone can trust Bethsoft to make a decent game. Expect another Monkey Island 4.

Re:I'm still holding out.. (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 7 years ago | (#18706347)

Bethesda has made exactly nothing worth a damn since Daggerfall.

I would disagree, I quite enjoyed Magic and Mayhem: The Art of Magic as well as the original Magic and Mayhem.

Re:I'm still holding out.. (0, Troll)

crossmr (957846) | more than 7 years ago | (#18707135)

Are you kidding me?
Do they let you on the internet with that kind of brain damage?
I seriously hope you were being sarcastic, because Bethesda is going to bend Fallout over whatever piece of office furniture is close enough and violate it repeatedly while laughing all the way to the bank on the backs of those who did not learn last time.

The trouble with Platinum (4, Funny)

Bloke down the pub (861787) | more than 7 years ago | (#18703425)

The trouble with Platinum is, where do you go from there? It's like an amp that only goes up to 10.

Re:The trouble with Platinum (1)

legallyillegal (889865) | more than 7 years ago | (#18703679)

my amp actually goes to TWELVE. that's higher than ELEVEN.

Re:The trouble with Platinum (1)

Bloke down the pub (861787) | more than 7 years ago | (#18703755)

Is it for people who don't get metric?

Re:The trouble with Platinum (1)

analogheretic (968969) | more than 7 years ago | (#18706111)

Probably not. I'll bet it's a Fender.

Re:The trouble with Platinum (1)

Daverd (641119) | more than 7 years ago | (#18703763)

The Double Platinum Age of CRPGs?

Re:The trouble with Platinum (1)

yada21 (1042762) | more than 7 years ago | (#18704015)

The Platinum 2.0 Age?

Re:The trouble with Platinum (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18703967)

Uranium

Re:The trouble with Platinum (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18715199)

Diamond. It's the hardest metal known to man, with a hardness of over NINE THOUSSAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAND!

Re:The trouble with Platinum (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18703991)

you must think you're really witty but the truth is that you're just a tard

Re:The trouble with Platinum (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18704163)

Orichalcum or Mithril +2

Re:The trouble with Platinum (1)

king-manic (409855) | more than 7 years ago | (#18704855)

The trouble with Platinum is, where do you go from there? It's like an amp that only goes up to 10.

Californium? Plutonium? there are so many more valuable metals. Maybe natural diamond?

Re:The trouble with Platinum (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18705109)

In RPG's there's Eternium too! And mithril!

Re:The trouble with Platinum (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18705165)

I wondered about that too, but then I went to Harrahs and saw that they had a diamond card.

Re:The trouble with Platinum (1)

digdogger (460799) | more than 7 years ago | (#18705181)

The trouble with Platinum is, where do you go from there? It's like an amp that only goes up to 10.
Rhodium!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhodium [wikipedia.org]

Re:The trouble with Platinum (2, Funny)

Gr8Apes (679165) | more than 7 years ago | (#18705185)

Iridium, then Einsteinium. Bonus!: they both make you glow.

After that, you move towards man-made chemicals such as Xalatan [TM], a glaucoma eye medicine that costs $70 for 5ml. (My dog is getting a might expensive these days....):

Re:The trouble with Platinum (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 7 years ago | (#18705431)

The Diamond Age of course...

Re:The trouble with Platinum (1)

sa1lnr (669048) | more than 7 years ago | (#18706007)

Two words.

Spinal Tap. ;)

Re:The trouble with Platinum (2, Funny)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 7 years ago | (#18706729)

Based on D&D games you go to diamond then to adimantium?

The X-Games has faced this too. They'll soon have the XX-Games then the Super-XX-Games. They can't go to XXX-Games for obvious reasons.

Re:The trouble with Platinum (1)

revengebomber (1080189) | more than 7 years ago | (#18712081)

They can't go to XXX-Games for obvious reasons.
Pfft. Yes they can.

Re:The trouble with Platinum (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18707009)

Wrong! TURBONIUM!

All RPGS for the rest of this decade will be radioactive green.

V Dub in your rig!

Neverwinter Nights went Diamond after Gold & P (1)

wikthemighty (524325) | more than 7 years ago | (#18709503)

...and for $20 [amazon.com] all the NWN packs on one DVD offer a hell of a lot of game, not mentioning all of the good stuff you can download [ign.com] and add to it...

He Forgot One... (1)

Plekto (1018050) | more than 7 years ago | (#18710281)

I bring this up because it's a biggie - quite possibly the very first 2.5D CRPG. Alternate Reality. Back a decade before his article starts out, this game had most of the same thngs that the modern games in the early 90s had.

It's well worth checking out if you have an emulator installed. The Atari ST version is probably the best. Be warned, though - it's tough. Don't stay out after dark.

Truth! (5, Interesting)

Friedrich Psitalon (777927) | more than 7 years ago | (#18703481)

Part of the reason for the rise and decline of these games can be traced to the computing power of the eras. RPGs were getting better and better because the ability to make them more appealing - graphically, sound (voice quality, etc) were improving. It became easier to develop a more immersive environment, and so more and more attention went to writing a story that could show off the quality that was possible.

Unfortunately, with the rise of greater and easier connectivity, the ability to play RPG's with more friends came - and thus we saw the rise of the MMORPG. Although they might have first envisioned being more RPG than MUD, the popularity of the games erased Role-Playing very quickly. (Joe Sixpack likes killing monsters, but doesn't give a damn about "Thou and thee.")

What would it take for a great single-player RPG now? A game so enjoyable that it overshadows the enjoyment factor of playing a similar game with hundreds of others. Humans are social creatures, by and large, so that will be very tough to do. It won't be a hack-and-slash dungeon crawler in any case; that genre is utterly oversaturated in MMORPGs.

If another great RPG series is developed, my money is on a Fallout/Shadowrun-genre RPG; it's about the only genre not super-satured (ignoring the embarassing Matrix attempt at it) in the MMO world. (Though, in all honesty, the idea of playing a Shadowrun MMORPG....whew. I'm in, chummers.)

Re:Truth! (1)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 7 years ago | (#18703927)

What would it take for a great single-player RPG now? A game so enjoyable that it overshadows the enjoyment factor of playing a similar game with hundreds of others.


Oblivion?

Layne

Re:Truth! (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 7 years ago | (#18704193)

Or Final Fantasy XII, if you count the occasional console game.

Single player isn't dead, but the days of mediocre single player are gone. You need a kicking story, excellent voice talent (or writing talent), and a good interface. Otherwise it's just not going to cut it in a competitive market.

Re:Truth! (1)

pla (258480) | more than 7 years ago | (#18704431)

RPGs were getting better and better because the ability to make them more appealing - graphically, sound (voice quality, etc) were improving.

Yes and no...

As a point of reference, I would guess that we can probably agree that FF7 represented the high-point of console RPGs, for which it owes an enormous debt to the graphics capabilities of the PSX. At the same time, though, it had quite a powerful story behind it that would have made it still turn out a huge success even if Square had made it for the SNES using mere sprite-based graphics.

Which we can compare with earlier and later works... Although Square didn't release most of the best SNES FFs in the US, they did show off their art at the time with a US release of Chrono Trigger, arguably the best 2d console RPG ever made in English (though I'll grant that a few of the Japanese-only releases match it - Thank god for the likes of DeJap and Aeon Genesis!). On the other side of the coin, even before the end of the original PSX era, later RPGs had already started to focus on graphics at the expense of plot - I'd point to FF9 as perhaps the best example of this. Although it had an okay story as the backdrop, most of the actual gameplay either railroaded the player to the point of frustration or left everything so wide open that I actually had to consult a strategy guide more than once to figure out what the hell to do to advance the plot (and I tend to play in a manner such that I have practically written a strategy guide by the end, so that says something).



I do agree with you that MMORPGs seem to have taken over as a sort of cop-out to coming up with a good plot, but I don't even blame them for striking the first blow. Pretty graphics killed gameplay long before the first "M" in "MMORPG" became practical.



What would it take for a great single-player RPG now? A game so enjoyable that it overshadows the enjoyment factor of playing a similar game with hundreds of others. Humans are social creatures, by and large, so that will be very tough to do.

Social creatures, yes, but don't leave out the "G" part of "RPG". I believe the difference rests in the idea of "role playing" vs "interactive fiction". I can go to a Renny Faire and role-play (by which I mean assuming a role, not playing D&D); But I don't get to play out an escapist fantasy story as the hero.

Re:Truth! (1)

the phantom (107624) | more than 7 years ago | (#18705317)

You forgot Star Ocean 2. Far better than anything Square ever made.

Re:Truth! (2, Insightful)

servognome (738846) | more than 7 years ago | (#18714419)

Pretty graphics killed gameplay long before the first "M" in "MMORPG" became practical
That argument has been used and reused since the introduction of graphics. Pretty graphics and a boring game were a problem almost 20 years ago. The landscape of games hasn't changed, there always has been 10 bad games for every great game, it's just our memories filter out the bad when we reflect on the past
 
"When everything is put together, Legend of Blacksilver is
somewhat disappointing. The game is fine on a technical
level, but on an artistic level it seems to be a rehash of a
thousand other games, with nothing new or interesting for
experienced players. Certainly, anyone who is bored with the
old "Go Kill the Evil Magician" plot should stay away." - CGW 3/1989 [vintagegaming.org]
 

Re:Truth! (1)

RootsLINUX (854452) | more than 7 years ago | (#18704865)

In my humble opinion, the best console RPGs were developed during the SNES and PSX eras. I actually think that with all this technological advancement since then, the typical game designer is focusing less and less on story and gameplay, and more on making their game a glorified multimedia presentation. It was with that thought in mind that I began developing my own RPG, reminiscent of "the old days" that I miss so dearly. I quickly learned that developing a game (especially in your spare time) is an incredibly arduous process, but its still (slowly) coming along.

But, I would love to see more great single-player RPGs come into existence. One thing that I've learned is that when you are actually making the game instead of only playing it, some of the fun factor is kind of dissolved as a result. :(

Re:Truth! (1)

pragma_x (644215) | more than 7 years ago | (#18706785)

What would it take for a great single-player RPG now?

Honestly, I think it just takes a highly driven creative team to sit down and go: "let's recapture the experience that Fallout/Diablo/Final Fantasy" brough to the table. Ya know, before cutscenes and poly counts became so important."

Ultimately, it's just another form of narrative just like all other genres of gaming, but it's not equal to others. If anything it superceeds the requirements for action and puzzle titles by a landslide. It's a richer design format, that requires the interaction between avatar and world to be far more than "repeatedly mash the X button to break things." Also, you can't just sit down and codify your favorite pen-and-paper RPG rulebook - now you need art assets to back all that stuff up. So ultimately they're just harder to make, and will become ever more so in the future.

Now a Shadowrun MMORPG would be nice - provided that people can wash the foul taste of Matrix Online out of their mouths in time. Honestly, just about any old FASA franchise would work: Earthdawn and Battletech* would each be fantastic as completely open-ended online games. ;)

(*Ya know, focus on the guys inside the cockpit for a change.)

I'm waiting for... (1)

dudeX (78272) | more than 7 years ago | (#18703483)

the Palladium Age of CRPGS to come.

That is a CRPG where the single player story is good with a good engine to go with it. And it has multiplayer that allows you to play the campaign with friends, and better of all you don't need to pay a monthly subscription.

Sort of like Neverwinter Nights, but prettier, more flexible. Also ideally, I would like a game where you don't have to churn through combat to earn level advancements, sort of like some of the Ultima games (Ultima 7) but have enough activity to satisfy younger players with oodles of time.

Parts I and II (5, Informative)

Mortanius (225192) | more than 7 years ago | (#18703509)

FYI, here's Part I (The Early Years 1980-1983) [gamasutra.com] and Part II (The Golden Age 1985-1993) [gamasutra.com] .

Might save you a little digging as for some reason part I doesn't show up on his bio.

Re:Parts I and II (1)

guspasho (941623) | more than 7 years ago | (#18711823)

So the Golden Age, a period of 8 years, is seperated from the Platinum Age, a period of 10 years, by a boundary of 0-1 years? Why no love for December 31st, 1993 to January 1st, 1994?

what does CRPG stand for? (1)

darkeye (199616) | more than 7 years ago | (#18703543)

forgive my ignorance, but what does CRPG stand for? Is this some new phrase used instead of RPG?

Re:what does CRPG stand for? (1)

dave1g (680091) | more than 7 years ago | (#18703577)

computer or console RPG according to wikipedia. I had to look it up too. I've never heard that one before.

Re:what does CRPG stand for? (1)

penp (1072374) | more than 7 years ago | (#18703693)

The title of the article is "The History of Computer Role-Playing Games Part III: The Platinum and Modern Ages (1994-2004)."

What's to miss?

Re:what does CRPG stand for? (1)

dave1g (680091) | more than 7 years ago | (#18703859)

You RTFA?????? It doesn't appear in the summary is the point.

Re:what does CRPG stand for? (1)

revlayle (964221) | more than 7 years ago | (#18703901)

pfft... Must be young-uns or something incomprehensible about thems peoples. I have been using the term CRPG since the 80s.

CRPG vs RPG (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 7 years ago | (#18715831)

I have been using the term CRPG since the 80s.

And rightly so, considering the huge difference between the media. I'm still hoping for a real single-player RPG for the computer, but I fear that'll never happen. So far, for roleplaying on the computer, email seems to work best (although some prefer IMs).

Re:what does CRPG stand for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18704627)

No, it's a rather old term for Computer Roleplaying game. This is a useful distinction from Pen and Paper Roleplaying games, which came first.

Ultima Underworld (1)

Xtense (1075847) | more than 7 years ago | (#18703593)

Ahh, the sole reason I was learning english at the age of 8, perhaps 9, I don't remember it quite well. My best gaming memories revolve around this game, the perfect mix of gameplay, graphics, sound (the intro music is literally burnt into my mind) and plot, and, considering not only games, but also computer hardware was quite hard to get where I live at that time, I'd say I'm quite lucky to know it. I even have my old notebook, where I wrote down all the mantras and runespells I've discovered. It's the little memories like this that make me happy... Which reminds me, I've got to play it again some time :) .

TREACHERY AND DOOM! MY BROTHER WOULD UNLEASH A GREAT EVIL... BRITTANIA IS IN PERIL!

Re:Ultima Underworld (1)

Gr8Apes (679165) | more than 7 years ago | (#18705223)

and it brings up other memories too, of running special boot disks with custom configurations to squeeze out every ounce of potential non-performance from that creaking old system....

Muds were better."Platinum age is only hindsight" (4, Insightful)

kinglink (195330) | more than 7 years ago | (#18703917)

Ok Might and magic 6-8 are personal favorites, and morrowind is amazing, but when I want to really "RPG" I spent my time on different MUDs, because they gave the player freedom to do what they want and play in which world they wanted. It was a great and different experience every time you logged onto a different mud. Interconnected worlds where you could chat with people, unique monsters you could never find anywhere else. I worked on a mud and the best part is a week of code could create something radically different, versus working in the game industry where it will take at least a month of code + animators to even implement simple thoughts.

But calling something the ______ age always makes me think that the people can't remember crap. You know how the NES was the "golden age of games" Heaven forbid we remember that most games used odd passwords (Willow, river city ransom) for saves, there was at least 10 games that were clones of the "classics" we cherish now. Games were unbelievably hard to the point that they made the game genie and so on. We can still play the "classics" but wishing us back into that hell where crap piled up faster then the gems would only make the masochist happy.

I loved Diablo, I didn't love Nox, and the other 5 or 6 clones of Diablo that came out right after Diablo. We can complain about games now but then 10 years from now people will be talking about how great oblivion and World of Warcraft is compared to the "crap" they have then.

It's great that this guy believes that the 1994 to 2004 is the "best time for RPGs" but hell, World of Warcraft is a fun game too. But bitching about the fact that games now are more similar to MUDs than CRPGs ignores the real fact of the industry.

THE PC IS DYING! He approaches this thought but seems to miss it. PC game sales have decreased over the years to the point where the industry is writing it off. A great game on the PC sells less than half what it would if it is on a console. Hell a MODERATE game on the console still outsells the best games on the PC and the industry knows this. The reason is up to the reader to figure out but KOTOR was ported to the XBOX. There's many more CRPGs taking that path (morrowind, oblivion, fable). CRPGs are just appearing in different places than just the PC.

I have been finding Gamasutra to be the rantings and whining of game industry's past heros. Guys who have been there, done that, but never got their name out there. There's good articles but this isn't changing my opinion that in general the articles there are either agenda pieces or rantings.

Re:Muds were better."Platinum age is only hindsigh (1)

Friedrich Psitalon (777927) | more than 7 years ago | (#18704729)

"THE PC IS DYING".... ...hmm. You uh, miss that whole "World of Warcraft" thing, amigo?

Re:Muds were better."Platinum age is only hindsigh (1)

kinglink (195330) | more than 7 years ago | (#18705877)

Except you seem to miss where 1 game means it's thriving. I said dying. It's far from dead. The world of Warcraft thing though is very different than 99 percent of other games out there.

PC games are thriving in a couple areas, one of those being MMORPG, or games based on a pay to play style where the player is paying for the service rather then the game. I hardly think that means PC games are still viable as anyone who isn't doing a MMO will be selling the game. MMOs sell the service (of playing a game) and they thrive because you have to pay to play and they can easily detect people who aren't paying (they run the servers and payment systems after all).

This doesn't change the fact that outside of the world of warcraft "thing" or MMOs in general (of which Battlefield and guild wars fit) it's bleeding badly. I'm hopeful certain games always have PC components (Elder Scrolls for one) because mods are a great way to liven a game up, but at the same time I can't fault them for jumping on the console bandwagon when they can easily double or triple sales with just that move.

The PC is dying? (2, Interesting)

fotbr (855184) | more than 7 years ago | (#18705863)

Show me ONE flight sim for consoles that sold as well as ANY of the MS Flight Simulator series. Hell, show me one flight sim for consoles, period. They don't exist. The closest you can come are arcade shoot-em-ups that involve shooting from a plane, but there's NO emphasis on accuracy of the flight models, or physics, or anything else except making the explosions look good.

Same goes for racing simulations. Many arcade "racing" games, no real emphasis on being an accurate simulation. Sadly, in the case of racing simulations, the PC world has abandoned simulations for the most part as well.

I won't even get into the MMORPG issue, but again, no comparison. You're right though, some CRPGs are being ported to consoles. But it doesn't change the fact that they were, are, and will be available for the PC, and if not released before the console version, released at the same time.

Until the Wii came along, the ONLY place to find games the casual gamer liked was on the PC. The Wii may steal that market, it may not. Only time will tell there.

And as soon as they start allowing PC vs console gaming (I believe the 360 is planning on doing this via their Live service) the console world is going to get spanked as those that swear by FPSs on consoles find out that the PC truely does have the superior control system.

PC game popularity runs in cycles, almost exactly opposite console popularity. Every time a new round of consoles comes out, PC gaming drops off. After a year or two, it comes right back, as all the graphics whores realize that their precious console looks like shit compared to bleeding edge PC graphics, which kept moving, instead of becoming fixed when the console reached production. In the mean time, the PC faithful still keep buying and playing games, knowing that neither consoles or PC gaming is going away.

Re:The PC is dying? (2, Interesting)

kinglink (195330) | more than 7 years ago | (#18706117)

Keep believing that because sales continue to drop, not rise.

Flight Sim? MS Flight Sim sells VERY well, do you think we will never see a MS Flight Sim on the 360? There's a number of flight games that have combat in them (Ace combat has semi realism while maintaining a combat atmosphere) however at the same time the MS Flight Simulator is the ONLY Flight Simulator that sells pretty much anywhere. There's one for a Apple computer but that's about it. So claiming that consoles don't have a flight simulator invalids this argument is a joke.

Racing sims, let's see, Gran Turismo and Forza are both smoking most others. The only game coming close is GTR and the sales just arn't that high, but again feel free to compare "quality" when sales are what has always mattered.

MMORPG I think we can guarentee will be making it's way over to the console at some point, FFXI has, Phantasy Star Online and Universe are both there. I think the big hold up was the hard drive, they fixed that. But again this isn't the same as a normal game. These are "Service" games. You're paying to play the game rather then buying a game and playing that. A little different than most games.

As for CRPGs that's why Jade empire, Fable, KOTOR all came out before their XBOX components? Hell the PC just GOT jade empire almost 3 years late? CRPGS are being ported. The only ones actively supporting the PC are stuff like Elder scrolls where mods are as important as the game itself.

I'm sure the PC gamer population is pretty big, but when you see 1 million gamers playing a game and only 600 thousand buying your game, companies look for alternatives and the console development are giving it to them. The best RTSes couldn't come to consoles right? FPSes never would sell on consoles right? CRPGs suck on consoles right? All three of these have been proven wrong in this generation and last generation.

But Flight sims wouldn't work on Consoles.

Nor would World of Warcraft? Could it?

Re:The PC is dying? (1)

Knara (9377) | more than 7 years ago | (#18706677)

I think that the PC will remain king for games that require a highly customizable/customized interface. MMOs and flight sims fall into that category. It's a weakness of the console world that any game control system that isn't able to be distilled down to 6-8 buttons and 2 analog joysticks will require some pretty clever contextual interfaces in order to be usable. And those that can't, better be appealing to a wide range of players or it'll flop (see Guitar Hero and Steel Battalion for opposite ends on that one).

Re:Muds were better."Platinum age is only hindsigh (1)

celest (100606) | more than 7 years ago | (#18707191)

It's true. I have yet to see /any/ environment that provides the same role play environment that classic muds have to offer.

I started mudding in the BBS days, and still actively play today. The immersion factor is surprising to many people who know roleplaying either only as a table-top thing, with a lot of Mountain Dew, or as something that involves graphics.

[shameless plug] MudConnector (http://www.mudconnect.com/top10.html [mudconnect.com] ) currently ranks Dark and Shattered Lands (DSL)(http://www.dsl-mud.org/ [dsl-mud.org] - telnet dsl-mud.org port 4000) as the number one roleplaying mud. I've played there for 8 years, and would encourage you to try it out if you're looking for a good roleplaying environment.[/shameless plug]

Re:Muds were better."Platinum age is only hindsigh (1)

tabby (592506) | more than 7 years ago | (#18708425)

KOTOR was ported to the PC from the XBox.

I find it amusing that the article makes no mention of Final Fantasy, ChronoTrigger or the Mana series to name a few. Actually nothing except 'western-developed' PC games. Just a little myopic.

Re:Muds were better."Platinum age is only hindsigh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18710347)

you're such a dimwit. console sales have always outstripped PC sales. it's not a recent development. I'll grant you that consoles are reaching more people than PCs, but for obvious reasons. A total moron can set up a console and use it. To put together a PC, even if you order a gaming PC, takes a little more know-how. And consoles are trying to reach out to the non-gamer market, so their target audience is much, much larger than PCs. The PC will never die, because there's so much that can be done on it.

As for the rantings of a group of never heard of developers...at least they've been there, done that. They have the right to bitch and whine because they've done the work...what have you done? I don't know you.

They get to write articles for gamasutra because they are respected in the industry...just because you haven't heard of them doesn't mean they are good at what they do. Game developers, for the most part, are not like actors in a movie. 95% of all the games you play are made by people you have never heard of, and wouldn't recognize passing them on the street. A few people have distinguished themselves, yes, but they are few and far between.

A few more things:
the tech ( and storage ) wasn't there for save games for most of the "golden age", that's why they used passwords.
there's just as much crap being made now as back then, but it's all covered up by gorgeous eye candy, so most people don't notice.
i don't know about you, but I never had to use the game genie...games were challenging ( but playable ) back then, unlike most games today that cater to the complete inept n00b (the same people that bought game genies).
there's nothing wrong with MMO's being like MUDs....MUDs are just text based MMORPGs
Oh and KOTOR was released on the XBOX first...

Fallout! (1)

john_woo (1006213) | more than 7 years ago | (#18703957)

Maybe you don't know but there's a Free Open Source project to revive the wonderful RPG game Fallout under modern OS's:
http://www.fifengine.de/ [fifengine.de]
and they need your help too.

Re:Fallout! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18704449)

It's ran by people who can't code, they only know LUA. The project has been stale for years and the project leader needs to move on. I don't see any reason to advertise this junk.

Re:Fallout! (1)

revlayle (964221) | more than 7 years ago | (#18705251)

I've followed this for some time. Unfortunately, I have to agree, it's just been stagnant with minute releases over time. Once in a while (once or twice?) they got fed up and "redid the engine", effectively destroying what work they had done. :(

Re:Fallout! (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 7 years ago | (#18705595)

There are so many great open source ports of old games. The Ur-Quan Masters, lots of stuff for ScummVM, source ports of doom, I wonder if there's a list compiled somewhere?

Re:Fallout! (1)

pNutz (45478) | more than 7 years ago | (#18707447)

Eh? Fallout and Fallout2 run fine under WinXP, dontchaknow? Fallout 1 only takes a little .ini file meddling to get it to install properly. The map editor was even released before interplay when into cryogenic stasis. This project looks stagnant as well, so what's the point?

Grim Future (1)

umbrellasd (876984) | more than 7 years ago | (#18704009)

Grim for us all as well as the games. I've played most of the MMOG's, and even when I'm playing them, I still miss the experience of games like PlanetScape: Torment and Icewind Dale. Elder Scrolls is decent, but I think the best hope for CRPG's is in the console market. Some excellent titles have been released.

My prediction is that we will see a resurgence of the genre after the MMOG furor subsides and virtual economies work themselves out. Then stand-alone RPG's will be seen as a pleasant retro or "getting away from it all" diversion from the mainstream "Online! Online! Online!".

That's what I think, anyway. I frequently find online games totally annoying and go looking for a quality RPG experience that doesn't require 5-25 random people with varying levels of maturity from 6 to 45.

Re:Grim Future (1)

Xtense (1075847) | more than 7 years ago | (#18704263)

It is a grim future, with lots of explosions and partial nudity.

Re:Grim Future (1)

jfodale (1032534) | more than 7 years ago | (#18705311)

"In the grim darkness of the far future there is only war", so screw computer games anyhow.

I have to disagree with you though. The industry is pushing deeper and deeper into online play and there's no evidence that it's going to let up. Part of the problem is that the MMO genre attracts a lot of players that are playing the game for purposes other than roleplaying. There's nothing really wrong with that, but if you pick up World of Warcraft expecting to bring glory and honor to the Horde, expect to play with a lot of people that just want The Sword of 1000 Truths and couldn't give two craps about the game's lore.

Re:Grim Future (1)

pNutz (45478) | more than 7 years ago | (#18707911)

NO! Do not tarry into the forbidden desert of Console! All ways look alike, and you will die without dialog!

Seriously there's several RPGs on the PC worth looking forward to, several of which should come out within the next year (clipped from one of my earlier posts):

The Black Hound [googlepages.com] - Originally was in production at Black Isle as Baldur's Gate 3 (though it has nothing to do with BG1 or BG2) but was canned when it was nearly complete. Josh Sawyer, the original game's Lead Designer who's now working at Obsidian, is recreating the game as a mod for NWN2.

The Planescape Trilogy [roguedao.com] - Three large campaigns for NWN2 in the Planescape setting that look promising, despite the obvious titles (from the Divine Comedy, CLEVER!). The first part, Purgatorio, is almost done.

Dragon Age [bioware.com] - Bioware's mystary PC RPG based on original IP is, well, a mystery. All previous work has been scrapped, a couple of times, and the project started anew, but some hints by Dave Gaider lend some hope to this maybe possibly turning out decent. Unlike Mass Effect.

The Broken Hourglass [planewalkergames.com] - An infinity engine RPG by the best infinity engine modders out there. Whether that means that they will be making a great RPG with the engine remains to be seen. Based on original, non-DnD setting and rules.

Age of Decadence [irontowerstudio.com] - An "isometric, turn-based, single-player 3D role-playing game set in a low magic, post-apocalyptic fantasy world, inspired by the fall of the Roman Empire." Currently under development by an asshole. He's also a purist, though, so it may turn out respectably, if it ever turns out.

The Alien RPG [sega.com] - I know virtually nothing about other than Obsidian is making it and they say it's an RPG. Probably won't be out until 2008. Or later.

And of course...

Fallout 3 - Bethesda has it. They say it won't be "Oblivion with guns", but they lie frequently. I still have a sliver of hope, though. We'll see if it's still there when they release some concrete info/screenshots.

Lastly, The Witcher looks interesting as well. A lot of actual "Role Playing" for an Action RPG, which can only help.

Give a mouse a cookie... (1)

MMaestro (585010) | more than 7 years ago | (#18704171)

and he'll come back with all his friends demanding a bigger, sweeter, better cookie each time.

Most CRPG developer simply couldn't keep up or implement user made content. Ultima, Wizardry and basically any Sierra adventure game all failed in this manner. Games like Nethack, Neverwinter Nights 1 (2 is a buggy mess) and the Elder Scrolls succeeded and continue to enjoy success as traditional CRPGs.

There was a point in gaming history when the CRPG was viewed as the "hard" genre; the genre that required the largest investment in time and energy but which offered the greatest rewards.

Yeah, and that point passed by years ago. Nowadays console RPGs require almost 50+ hours of gameplay just to beat the main storyline start to finish without working on side-quests. They also reward you with Hollywood-style cinemas, fully orchestrated music and a profound sense of accomplishment. Last time I checked, Nethack was still offering a silent, static screen of text as an ending with nothing else to do but play again as a different class.

Re:Give a mouse a cookie... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18704607)

>>Neverwinter Nights 1 (2 is a buggy mess)

Patch 1.04 of NWN2 nailed pretty much all the major problems. v1.05 came out last night. This is just like NWN1. Lots of problems at the beginning but Obsidian seems to be giving the same level of support as Bioware did for NWN1.

Re:Give a mouse a cookie... (0, Troll)

Etyenne (4915) | more than 7 years ago | (#18705951)

Have they finally released a Linux port ? If not, NWN2 remain insignificant as far as I am concerned.

Re:Give a mouse a cookie... (1)

revengebomber (1080189) | more than 7 years ago | (#18712205)

Last time I checked, Nethack was still offering a silent, static screen of text as an ending with nothing else to do but play again as a different class.
Yeah, but there's a certain sense of accomplishment in knowing that you're now the nerdiest person in a 100-mile radius.

Re:Give a mouse a cookie... (1)

Vintermann (400722) | more than 7 years ago | (#18715523)

Nethack has source avaliable, but isn't really extensible. Most things in the game, from monster stats to T-shirt messages are hard-coded in C, and not very pretty C either. There are some attempts at scripting dungeon layout, but if you change the dungeon.des script, don't count on things to work just because they should.

If you try to modify the hard-coded stuff, you're very likely to get a buggy mess. All of the spin-offs are much, much buggier than vanilla because of the monstrously entangled complexity + everything hardcoded - design.

The obfuscation of nethack is probably a reason for its success, though: A standard version exists, which people have come to learn and love, despite its annoyances, in fact they defend it's annoyances. There is an interface (mis)feature that if you press esc when zapping a wand, it uses the direction from last time, a great way of zapping yourself. It came up on the nethack newsgroup, and of course the regulars defended it as intended behavior, the right thing for nethack etc. "Typos occasionally kill you in nethack, that's the way it should be." That's how conservative they are.

If nethack was better coded, it would probably have forked off into dozens of personal variants by now. I hear that's actually what has happened to ADOM-roguelikes.

Ahhh, those were the days (1)

arkham6 (24514) | more than 7 years ago | (#18704243)

Of all the games I played back then (and i played a LOT), the one i have a great fondness for was Autoduel.

Not because the game was great (it was merely good) but because the game came with a packet of small tools.

Which were very useful in doing computer repairs. I cursed when I lost that tool packet a few years ago during a move.

Oblivion Was Largely A Letdown... (1)

morari (1080535) | more than 7 years ago | (#18704521)

Vampire: the Masquerade - Bloodlines was great though, despite requiring an unofficial mod at times to get around the occasional bug. It's just too bad that the plot fizzled out at the very end. Troika obviously didn't have enough time (or resources, considering their abrupt bankruptcy shortly after) to properly polish the game, or even branch out the later parts of the story. It's sad to know that true roleplaying experiences are getting rarer and rarer (from already having been rather rare), and all because the majority or so-called gamers would rather play some Final Fantasy-esque J-RPG which requires no interaction and is more like just watching a film, or worse yet, wants to pay a ridiculous monthly fee to kill the same five types of monsters over and over with their friends online while waiting to pay even more for the next expansion pack.

Re:Oblivion Was Largely A Letdown... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18704965)

Troika/Obsidan, the people resposible for Planescape: Torment and Fallout would still make the best rpgs if they just had the damn time to make them. Almost all their games are rushed to the point where they have way too many bugs such as Star Wars: KOTOR II or too unbalanced such as Arcanum. Arcanum's melee fighters were way too strong in that game and you didn't get enough experience points when one followed less violent paths. Obsidan would make amazing games if they just had the time to make them. At least Bioware (the company that makes games the most similar to Obsidan)unlike Obsidan seems to realize that having the time for the games is more important since Mass Effect still doesn't have a release date.

Re:Oblivion Was Largely A Letdown... (1)

revlayle (964221) | more than 7 years ago | (#18705373)

Plus I think Bioware is in way more control of their title's publishing. They can afford to put $$ into their own productions making only themselves (primarily) as a factor in deadlines. Obsidian still has to have other companies to bankroll their projects and distribute their good, and thus, must answer to their bankroller involving direction and deadlines. Bioware USED to be that way (think the glory days of Interplay, when Bioware made BG I + II and MDK2 for Interplay - for starters).

Re:Oblivion Was Largely A Letdown... (1)

morari (1080535) | more than 7 years ago | (#18712259)

I remember dying pretty early on in Arcumun when I played as an ex-pit fighter Ogre. However, shortly afterwards, my half-elf débutante made it rather far, seducing everyone over to her side...

This guy needs an editor (2, Informative)

eviloverlordx (99809) | more than 7 years ago | (#18705099)

Apparently, he thinks that Dante wrote Paradise Lost. While I think that he meant The Divine Comedy, he really needs someone to check his work.

Re:This guy needs an editor (3, Funny)

the phantom (107624) | more than 7 years ago | (#18705381)

Nonono! You have it all wrong. Dante did write Paradise Lost. The Divine Comedy was written by Dickens. As an aside, Dickens often gets credit for Tale of Two Cities, but that was actually written by Milton.

Re:This guy needs an editor (2, Funny)

Vintermann (400722) | more than 7 years ago | (#18715545)

Are you by any chance a wikipedia admin?

Something seems wrong here (3, Interesting)

kalirion (728907) | more than 7 years ago | (#18705823)

FTA:

To my mind, the games that really represent the best of the genre appeared during the period I've termed the "Platinum Age," which begins in 1996 with the publication of three very important games, Origin's Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss (1992), Blizzard's Diablo, and Bethesda's Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall (both 1996)....

So the Platinum Age began in 1996 with the publication of a game from 1992?

Completely miss the point of Neverwinter Nights (4, Insightful)

Etyenne (4915) | more than 7 years ago | (#18705889)

The guy completely miss the point of Neverwinter Nights. He talked only about the original campaign (OC), the scenario that came "in the box", which is IMHO pretty average. The real genius of NWN is that it's more than a game, it's a platform for CRPG development. It created a development community around the game that is not entirely different than what you would find around an Open-Source development platform such as PHP or Ruby on Rail. From modules to custom content (such as artwork, monster, etc) to hackpak that modified the game engine behavior, everything was open to the community. I cannot think of a single game that had as much fan content made and distributed. You could play NWN for years using just the highest rated modules from the community, all distributed for free. Not only that, but Bioware embraced the community, incorporated community developed material back into the product and still actively encourage development to this day.

Forget the OC. Go buy NWN Planitinium from the nearest bargain bin, and play the Dreamcatcher, Shadowlord, Kosigan and Penultimate series of modules. There are hundreds of hours of gameplay to be had from what the community developed, with some of the most engrossing storyline in the CRPG genre. Neglecting to acknowledge this is the the most glaring overlook from this Gamasutra article.

Did I mention it have a native Linux port ?

Re:Completely miss the point of Neverwinter Nights (1)

Etyenne (4915) | more than 7 years ago | (#18706099)

I got carried away and totally forgot to mention the great networked multiplayer capabilities of NWN. Basically, with NWN, anybody could start a so-called "persistent world" and run its very own MMORPG. And many did.

Also, AFAIK, this is the only CRPG that integrate the notion of a game master, which make it the closest you can get to the real pen-and-paper RPG.

Again, the Gamasutra article completely failed to acknowledge these.

Ahh, the good ol' days... (2, Interesting)

P-38Jbird (1087601) | more than 7 years ago | (#18706127)

For me, it's too much eye candy today. The driving force behind RPG's was to use one's imagination. You couldn't see the six foot flaming sword in the iron golem's hand. And this was true of the CRPG's that we reminisce about. Ultima series, TSR's Gold box series, Wizardry series and the likes. You only saw a static low res pic of what was going on. You had to imagine that the pitiful sound comming out of the PC speaker was the crack of a high-powered round. And they usually had a good story line that kept you interested. I recently cranked up the C64 emulator and played my favs Wizard's Crown, Eternal Dagger, and Wasteland. Still great fun after 15 years. Nowdays, there is very little to imagine. Just eye candy in 'real time'.

Freedom Force is a Diablo clone? (1)

kalirion (728907) | more than 7 years ago | (#18706481)

FTA:

Better known Diablo clones include Gathering's Darkstone (1999), Electronic Art's Nox (2001), Irrational Games' Freedom Force (2002) ...|snip|... Freedom Force introduced comic book style superheroes and is probably the best of the bunch. It offered a viable alternative to the "dark" fantasy of Diablo and more tactical combat. Vivendi published the sequel in 2005, Freedom Force vs The 3rd Reich.

Seriously, since when has Freedom Force been considered a Diablo clone?

Revivals (1)

Avatar8 (748465) | more than 7 years ago | (#18709045)

Still reading TFA, but I thought I'd throw this thought out.


So many games have made major steps forward or backward in the genre of CRPGs. The Ultima series stands out on both of those counts (F U EA!). What I find truly interesting is that some games are so good or at least make such an impression on someone that it gets resurrected in some form or fashion.

At some point Ultima IV was re-written for Windows and released on a PC Gamer (?) CD.

Dedicated fans of Ultima V have released an excellent Dungeon Siege mod where you can replay Ultima V (for the most part) in a 3D world. http://lazarus.planetdungeonsiege.gamespy.com/ [gamespy.com]

My point is that if these games were so great there is hope we may see them again. Unless of course the corporate idiots and lawyers make it impossible. Oh Master of Magic 2, where art thou?

Re:Revivals (1)

Vintermann (400722) | more than 7 years ago | (#18715559)

There may still be hope. There was a guy at fundable.org who solicted funds for developing a clone of an old CRPG which I never had heard of. Apparently he did raise the money and publish the game. Perhaps it can be scaled up?
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