Monday, July 2, 2012

The One That Got Away

Apparently my brain is stuck on relationship-related gaming musings. Today's brought to you by a Katy Perry song that's stuck in my head. I have a love/hate relationship with pop music. It just gets in there, I can't help it, and then... then... bah! Not very warlockerly, I know.

On the opposite end of the things-that-stick-in-my-head spectrum is a gaming phenomenon. Tell me if you've ever had this one. It could just be me.

Freshman year of college (almost ten years ago now, holy cow), I had a random-draw roommate. You never know what you're going to get, right? In this case, the guy was pretty cool. I'm a strange hybrid of athletic and nerdy. I love sports and playing sports, always have. And I'm pretty decent at just about any of them in a casual way. Similarly, I've always loved gaming and can sit down to a new game and not be completely awful. I span several worlds, I guess you could say. (Oddly enough, the dichotomy worked against me in most circles as far as acceptance went. To the jocks, I was a nerd. The nerds, I was a jock.)

Random Roomie was completely vested in the burgeoning nerd culture. Yes, this was back before nerds were "cool." He had a tricked-out Alienware laptop that I was insanely jealous of. We shared a passion for the X-files. And more than once I asked him what game he was playing so that I could give it a try.

Back then, I was more of a FPS player than I am now. Halo parties were The Thing, especially when you have 8 floors of dudes in a wing and can run Ethernet cords all over creation. Random Roomie was more into Tactical Fleet Simulations (TFS, a term I didn't know existed until recently). He also wasn't big on the social component of, well, anything. Apart from our nightly X-files marathon sessions, we didn't really hang out. Yet, I would hesitantly call us friends. We certainly got along better than a lot of other roommates.

One of my most vivid memories was of a TFS-like game he was playing one time. I walked in from a Halo session, perhaps after a few bevvies, and saw a whole bunch of really cool looking spaceships on his screen. He was launching some mini-probes and there were lasers, and it looked epic. I watched for a bit before asking him what game he was playing. The answer has since been lost in the sands of time.

Keep in mind, this was before things like Steam and easily downloadable games. Generally, if we wanted a game, we went to the local Best Buy or GameStop or whatever and plunked down $50. As a college student, that's a lot of beer. I mean, money. So, the game got relegated to my "sometime when I have money" list in my brain, where it was promptly drowned by copious amount of alcohol, I'm sure.

Ten years later, I found myself having a sudden craving to FIND THAT GAME. I don't know what it was. A boring Sunday, time on my hands, money no longer the biggest issue in my gaming life... I wanted to play THAT game. Not a similar game, but that one.

So I spent probably 4-8 hours (I lost track of time) wandering the Interwebs, looking for a screenshot to match my memory. I learned what a TFS is. I spent $20 on a Steam game that I played for all of 5 minutes before realizing that it was not the one (it looked similar). The best search term I had to go on was "like Civilization, but in space with cool lasers." I researched the history of 4X, turn-based games. I found a myriad of top ten lists in both genres... but it was all for naught. True Blood came on at 9pm and that effectively ended my search.

This isn't the first time the desire to find the mystery game has struck me. Random Roomie and I have lost touch over the years, but I suppose I could shoot him a Facebook message. "Hey, remember me? How are things? Listen, do you remember that cool spaceship game you were playing that one time? I don't know, I think it was a Tuesday. It had lasers. And celestial bodies. Whaddya mean that doesn't really narrow it down?"

Okay, so I don't really want to go that route. Where's the fun in that? Plus, it seems fruitless and awkward, and I try to avoid fruitless and awkward whenever possible. Instead, I'd rather whittle away countless hours hoping to luck upon it through the wonders of Google. Excuses, excuses.

And before you ask... no, I don't really know any more than this. I know, I can't even describe the screenshot adequately. If I could remember like a faction name or a symbol on the side of the ship, one of you could probably name the game in a heartbeat. But I can't. And the memory only gets fuzzier with each passing year.

Do you have a game that "got away?" Were you able to find it years later? Did it even live up to your rose-colored expectations? (I have a sinking suspicion that even if I found this game it would turn out to suck.)

Maybe in another life, I'd download right away, so I don't have to say you were the one that got away. The one that got away.


  1. I know you said almost 10years ago, but what year would it have been exactly?

    Anyways, I did a rough google search and delimited it to 2001-2005 and came up with these two games. Both have cool lasers in space.

    Did you try looking at Homeworld 2?

    There's also Nexus: The Jupiter Insident (came out in 2005)

  2. 2003.

    I've looked at both of those games, but I can't find the exact screenshot. I think Nexus is the closest, and I almost want to give it a try, but I'm a bit gun-shy after my failed purchase. Also, I don't think it would have been out during this time frame (I was only in the dorms for that first year ('03-'04). Could be Homeworld 2, which is another one I thought of buying, but is that one on Steam? I was specifically looking for something I could just download (instead of run to a store).

    Also, I've found (not only with this search) that sometimes nostalgia makes me remember games that really never existed. I find myself making comments like "surely I have the graphics settings on low." Part of me is afraid to destroy the illusion.

  3. It couldn't have been the Nexus if you were only in those dorms from 03-04.

    But you're right, our memory changes over time and sometimes we will combine a bunch of memories into one.

    That being said, Homeworld 2 looks pretty cool and is still in development with various mods. Of course it's not on Steam.

  4. Another part of my irksome attitude was that it was sort of a one day spurt. With the US holiday this week, I probably won't spend much time playing and then... who knows? So I was hoping to pick up something cheap.

    I was also hankering for city-builders (the press around the new SimCity game had me salivating), and I almost bought Anno2070, but it seemed too expensive. I still have my SimCity4 disk, I should just re-install that an play it.

    All in all, I think I was in a curmudgeonly, get-off-my-lawn kind of mood. I'm not sure a lot of logic and thought was going into my meanderings.

  5. I've got a couple of those; foremost in my mind was that quirky FPS title Shadow Warrior back in 1996 or so. I think the main character's name was Hung Lo or Lo Wang or Hung Wang or something and it was so tongue-in-cheek ... you could rip out hearts and throw ninja stars and all sorts of crazy stuff. Anyways, I used to play it at a local comic book shop/LAN hangout and had completely forgotten about it until about five years ago. Yeah. Wasn't the same. Sorta stupid actually.

    The other one was X-COM and let's face it - there hasn't been a better turn-based game put out since.

  6. Oh, oh! I just thought of one that (as far as I know) doesn't have a modern day analog: Ogre Battle 64! It's sort of a JRPG, but, like, different. It has a more "board gamey" feel to it. I've not been able to find anything like it in later years.

    1. Ogre Battle was indeed excellent, but I was more of (and still am!) a fan of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms style of turn-based!

  7. I never played that, but I loved the story behind Dynasty Warriors. That's the same basic premise, right?

    1. Same basic premise, yep! Romance is much closer to the source material. For my money, RotK 2, 3, 5, 7, and 10 are easily the best. I think Direct2Drive has some of them. Shoot, I know what I'm doing this weekend now.


  8. Star Rangers? Might be a bit older and more of a space flight simulator.

  9. Nah, it was more modern-looking than that. That one reminds me of Starfox... a game I loved.

  10. I don't have a game that got away, but I just wanted to say that I'm happy to "meet" (read?) another X-phile :-D

  11. Ha, yeah. I came late to the party. Used to be scared as a kid, but in college they'd play them back to back from like 11pm until 3am. Was perfect for late night binges. I probably watched every episode of every season over the course of a semester.

  12. I own them all on DVD, how dorky is that? Hehe

  13. He "owned" them as well. And the quotes are meant to look vaguely like an eyepatch, if you catch my drift. Whenever they'd go out of order or skip an ep, we'd throw the disc in to make sure we preserved the proper presentation. :-)

  14. SCULLY: Mulder, these gentlemen have something very important to tell you.

    (The first man in black walks towards Mulder.)

    1ST MAN IN BLACK: Some alien encounters are hoaxes perpetrated by your government to manipulate the public. Some of these hoaxes are intentionally revealed to manipulate the truth-seekers who become discredited if they disclose the deliberately absurd deception.

    (Mulder puts the gun away and walks to the man.)

    MULDER: Similar things are said about the men in black. That they purposely dress and behave strangely so that if anyone tries to describe an encounter with them, they come off sounding like a lunatic.

    1ST MAN IN BLACK: I find absolutely no reason why anyone would think you crazy if you described this meeting of ours.

    (The second man in black puts his hand on Mulder's shoulder. He bears an uncanny resemblance to Alex Trebek.)

    2ND MAN IN BLACK: You're feeling very sleepy, very... relaxed.

    (Chung talks over the scene.)

    JOSE CHUNG: Alex Trebek?

    (Cut to the X-Files office.)

    The game show host?

    SCULLY: Mulder didn't say that it was Alex Trebek. It was just someone that looked incredibly like him.