2019 Is A Big Year For Game Anniversaries

There's nothing quite like a good gaming anniversary, and 2019 has plenty.

We've spoken previously about the golden years of gaming - the late '90s, especially if you were a PC gamer. But in those discussions, there was one year that I deliberately left unmentioned because it had an unfair advantage, a technological advantage over its predecessors that fundamentally affected games ever since.

1998 Was A Great Year For Games

When people say the '90s was the golden age of gaming, they do so with good reason. Especially if you were playing plenty of games in 1998.

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1997 Was Probably The Best Year For Video Games

There's been a lot of anniversaries lately. And whenever people look back at the games of old, the "golden age" often gets mentioned. But if we're being honest, you can arguably distil the golden age down to a single year: 1997.

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The internet existed long before 1999 - the MSN Gaming Zone thrived on turn-based dial-up gaming. But 1999 saw more games built specifically around online multiplayer, like Unreal Tournament and Quake 3: Arena. Both franchises had some form of singleplayer, of course, but the key in 1999 was that they eschewed the traditional ideas of a shooter campaign for a model that was largely a training ground for online multiplayer.

The majority of users around the world didn't have access to broadband internet when Quake, Half-Life et al were released. Some countries and places were fortunate enough - Optus were still operating the legendary cable-powered Netstats service, a vastly superior offer to the artificially capped 1500/256kbit offering you could get through Telstra (or Telstra Wholesale).

So as a result, the experience was hugely limited. The original Quake was never developed exclusively with the online experience in mind, so John Carmack spent a year developing new code that would improve the physics, responsiveness, and other small behaviours that soured the experience once your ping went past 200ms.

"If it looks feasible, I would like to see internet focused gaming become a justifiable biz direction for us. Its definitely cool, but it is uncertain if people can actually make money at it," Carmack wrote in a post outlining Quakeworld's broader design.

1999 was about more than multiplayer-centric titles, of course, although it's difficult to downplay the impact and success games like Quake 3, Team Fortress Classic, the initial release of Counter-Strike, Unreal Tournament and MMOs like Everquest - a major source of inspiration for World of Warcraft - had on the rest of the industry. The codebase for those games, especially Quake 3, would go on to form the bedrock of many shooters over the course of the next decade, too.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg for truly memorable, iconic games enjoying adulthood this year.

RPGs

Image: Beamdog

A fun fact for Aussies: while Baldur's Gate officially launched internationally at the very end of 1998, most Australian stores didn't get it until the start of 1999. Bioware's RPG classic, which Beamdog has since remastered on every platform under the sun, ended up being the best selling PC game in Australia that year.

There's multiple reasons for the sales, but 1999 was a banger of a year for RPGs. Everquest was one thing (as was Asheron's Call), but for people who wanted a more curated narrative experience there was also the outstanding Planescape: Torment. Septerra Core dropped closer to Christmas, and System Shock 2 was so beloved by fans that its re-release proved foundational for Night Dive Studios.

Pokemon Yellow made its way to the West in 1999, and not long after Baldur's Gate hit shelves Aussies were graced with Might and Magic 7. Westwood - better known for the Command & Conquer series - also launched Lands of Lore 3, although finding enjoyment from that series always required a little more effort than most.

Still a soft spot in my heart for those games. But if we're talking volume, the genre that perhaps dominated the end of '90s more than any else was the land of tactics and turns.

Strategy

Image: Supplied

You could make a case for 1999 being the best year for games based on the turn-based, tactics and real-time strategy titles alone. Alpha Centauri is still a masterpiece to this day. But if you think more broadly about the concept of strategy, it's astonishing how many bangers gamers got in a 12 month period.

Imagine, for instance, a world where all of these games had launched and you had to decide where to divide your time: Rollercoaster Tycoon, Warzone 2100, Heroes of Might and Magic 3 (along with its first expansion), Dungeon Keeper 2, Jagged Alliance 2, Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun, Homeworld, Age of Empires 2, Age of Wonders, Battlezone 2, the holy hand grenades of Worms Armageddon, Army Men 3D and Army Men 2, Pokemon Gold and Silver, Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear, and Theme Park World.

And that's just the stuff you can neatly fit into "strategy".

Shenmue, Silent Hill, and the other shooters

This is still the stuff that came out in 99. If you wanted a solid shooter campaign, there was plenty to choose from: the original Medal of Honor, whose team would later go on to make the Call of Duty and Modern Warfare games (with alumni from those breaking off to work on Titanfall and, more recently, Apex Legends).

There were still plenty of high profile point-and-click adventures too: Gabriel Knight made the transition to 3D in 1999, although I still remember the menu music more fondly than the game itself. But Silent Hill sparked a series that would become foundational for horror games, while being made into one of the more successful film adaptations, pulling just under $US100 million at the box office. Not to be forgotten, The Longest Journey,

Discworld Noir, which is sadly stuck in IP limbo, reminded us of how well Terry Pratchett's world and humour could translate to video games. The disappointment of Mechwarrior 3 was quickly followed up by the serviceable Starsiege, and the hugely enjoyable Heavy Gear 2.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Final Fantasy VIII, despite Squall doing his level best to be the most unlikable, aggravating characters to be saddled with in an RPG.

Also: Shane Warne Cricket 99 is still one of the best cricket games ever made. Still worth playing today, if you can find a disc or download somewhere.

Driver, Midtown Madness, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver and Soulcalibur struck a chord with fans, while X-Wing Alliance remains one of the best branded Star Wars space games behind TIE Fighter. The Aliens vs Predator 2000 game that's been given away for free of late, and perhaps the best Aliens game until Alien: Isolation, was actually released in 1999. (It was also a huge hit at my high school in my brother's year - nothing like scaring the shit out of people in IT by dropping from the ceiling.)

And all of this still ignores classics like: Donkey Kong 64, the brilliant Super Smash Bros, Star Wars: Episode 1 Pod Racer, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, Road Rash 64, Pokemon Snap, the Western launch of Mario Party, Crash Team Racing, Grand Theft Auto 2 and Dino Crisis.

But there's also the 10 year anniversaries...

2019 marks the 10th anniversary of games like Bayonetta. Batman: Arkham Asylum and the modern three-button based combat system. A time when DICE took a gamble and made something that wasn't a straight shooter: Mirror's Edge. Burnout Paradise. Dawn of War 2, which marked the rise of simpler, more action-based strategy games. LittleBigPlanet. Still one of the best titles in Ubisoft's tentpole franchise, Assassin's Creed 2. Braid and a new age of indies.

And, of course, Modern Warfare 2, which we'll probably see reappear as a pre-order bonus for whatever this year's Call of Duty is. We'll be hearing more about the next Dragon Age in 2019, which is fitting given that it's the 10th anniversary of Dragon Age: Origins, the Bioware-style RPG from Bioware.

Demon's Souls started the pathway to what would become the Dark Souls games, and the Wipeout franchise was brought into the modern generation with Wipeout HD/Fury, one of the most technically accomplished games of the PS3/360 era and one of the first games to effectively utilise dynamic resolution to maintain frame rate (a technique that is all but essential for video games today, especially those being ported to the Switch).

ArmA 2 would become the platform for not just a long-lasting community around military shooters, but mods like DayZ and the progeny of the battle royale genre with the rise of modders like Brendan Greene. And Microsoft surely won't let the entirety of 2019 pass without some kind of commemoration for the 10th anniversary of Minecraft, which has had all sorts of impacts industry-wide.


You could go on and on. Hell, there's a ton of games turning 30 that shouldn't be forgotten: DuckTales, SimCity, Golden Axe, Super Mario Land, Jordan Mechner's Prince of Persia, Mother (not that we're likely to see a sequel, but you never know), Castlevania, and perhaps the ultimate casual game for anyone with a PC: Minesweeper.

Update: It's also been pointed out to me that World of Warcraft turns 15 this year, and as a result I'd be remiss if I didn't mention these bangers from 2004: GTA San Andreas, Half-Life 2, Fable, Knights of the Old Republic 2, Spider-Man 2 on the PS2, Need for Speed: Underground 2, CS: Source, DOOM 3, Chronicles of Riddick, and Halo 2. Bugger me.

So whatever generation of gaming you grew up with, get ready for some celebrations this year. There's a lot of worthy cake to go around.


Comments

    That year was all N64 for me! Smash Bros, DK64 and I believe Jetforce Gemini.
    I was frothing for FFVIII. but when I played it I had a massive false start (forgot to draw a couple of summons from bosses) and restarted after reaching Disc 3. So it got shelved for a good year because I hated it until I played through the following year.
    I believe I also played Grandia that year, which was amaze.

      The nostalgia is so thick here I could choke up in tears. Diddy Kong Racing was such a great game, dunno whose copy it was but I replayed the single player endlessly. Banjo Kazooie on rentals. Goldeneye everydamn weekend.
      Final Fantasy 8 I remember being aching to play....number 7 is still in my top 5 all time to this day, but it was my graduation year and any cash went to partying naturally.
      After playing the demo at least half a dozen times, I finally completed the full game twice the following year sometime, and enjoyed every minute too.
      Time is a cruel reminder , is it not?

        Oh man, how good was playing Diddy Kong Racing? Why has there never been another hub world with missions and races against Tricky? How did we manage to SURPASS the Mario Kart Formula and then go backwards for the next 20 years?

        Where TF did Tiptup the badger go?

    Thank you for mentioning that underrated gem, Warzone 2100.

    I was gaming solely on the N64 and Gameboy Colour so the big deals for me were things like Pokemon Yellow, Pokemon Snap, Pokemon Stadium 2, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, Jet Force Gemini, and Donkey Kong 64. Not the best year personally but a good year.

    *sigh* UT and the Face to Face maps. I had so much fun on those maps! Absolute classics.

      Same, most of my time was against bots due to 300+ dial-up pings and not being able to hog the phone line, but Facing Worlds is where I learnt to effectively use a sniper rifle haha

      You can get a free version of UT through the Epic games launcher, but it's lost its charm. Nothing can beat the original..except for UT2 of course.

      The 90's saw me sharing time between my various Nintendo systems and the PC. Man games were great back then! (They didn't age so well, but I guess that's what memories are for)

      DM-Morpheus is still one the greatest deathmatch maps of all-time. Never forget.

      Quake 3 Arena on DM17 with instagib. Those were the days.

    Says a lot about the quality of 1999 considering I'm still playing some of those games. Man that was a golden year for gaming.

    But 1999 saw more games built specifically around online multiplayer, like Unreal Tournament and Quake 3: Arena. Both franchises had some form of singleplayer, of course...I think the reason these two stand out for me, is that they were some of the first games to have bots with good enough pathfinding and objective-seeking AI that they could provide a challenging single-player alternative for people who couldn't (or wouldn't) play online.

      Not actually true!

      Eraser bot was made by fans for Quake 2, well before Quake 3 was released. You could enable learning mode, spend 10 minutes running around any new map, and it would permanently save pathfinding files. bots would take advantage of rocket jumping, jumping off tall ledges and railing you in the face mid-air, and was even compatible with CTF.

        Sure, and even before that there was ReaperBot for the original Quake, written by a guy who was then offered a job at Epic to work on Unreal Tournament. :)

        What I meant about UT and Q3A is that the bots were available out of the box, with AI significantly more "human" than anything that had come before.

        I remember at that time there were lots of hobbyist programmers releasing their own bots for Quake and Quake II, but 9 out of 10 sucked balls. Kinda like Doom maps in that regard...

          yeah you are spot on there, out of the box, Q3A and UT probably were the first...

          oh man, i forgot about reaperbot...

          man i miss the 90s...

    Even on a LAN setting you could fill the server with decent bots when you only had a small group of people. UT was an absolute godsend, but the sniper rifle can't hold a candle to the feel and sound of that railgun.

    Still loved Morpheus and Turbine to death, though.

      but but but but.... HEADSHOT! HEADSHOT! HEADSHOT! That UT99 sniper was a headshot magnet.

      Sigh. Now that was love at first Gib...just a normal boy, struggling through a strogg base all by himself,who comes across the sexiest, most sleekest piece of weaponry.

      Its whispers were blue spirals that punctured my heart ( and the heads of my enemies obv) and it is a love affair that would continue...even until this. Very. Day.

      Sorry, but that thing is all time, I get emotional.

    I spent many years just playing against bots in UT99. And the modding scene was amazing. There were so so so sooo many maps, skins, models, mutators, mods out there. Whole websites dedicated to those things.

    The UT99 is the best shock rifle, too.

    There I was thinking all games would have an anniversary this year... aside from the ones released this year. I predict next year will be an even bigger year for anniversaries when you add them in!

    Last edited 06/02/19 5:37 pm

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