The best things in life are free…

This kind of falls in line with my little post about savage 2 last day. We’ve hit a wonderful point when it comes to gaming on a PC. I remember growing up and enjoying all the various shareware hits for both Mac and Windows. I’d always want to spend the 15 dollars to make the game longer or unlock more material, but I rarely did. I’d play these shareware games over and over again, to the point where I really should have just caved and spent on the damn things.

I’m not convinced that shareware has improved much. The weird thing is … with the way that open source software and the internet has gone, we have reached the point where freeware games are often *much* better than shareware games. Oh yes… there will be examples.

Cave Story! Okay. This is a one man project of a game that was made over several years by ONE japanese developer in his spare time. It’s free to play… no ads… no money… no unlockables… free. It’s also charming, well made, and on par with everything Nintendo has made. That’s not a shot at Nintendo… Cave Story rules. It has a brilliant soundtrack, good and surprisingly cute graphics, and tight control. The story is quite well written too… although I’ll be honest, I wasn’t completely on board with all of it. Still… play Cave Story… it’ll surprise you.

Our next freeware hit is … oh no… a game that deserves its own post entirely: Dwarf Fortress. This is a game that sacrificed graphics and GUI in favor of superior simulation and gameplay depth. I have noooo problem with that… but it does mean that the barriers to entry are quite high. Basically you run a little fortress full of dwarves and you’re trying to keep everything from going hilariously wrong. This game, which is done entirely in ASCII art, simulates immense variable landscapes, weather patterns, and complicated commands. Unlike Cave Story, this doesn’t need to be seen to be believed… it needs to be played on a 3 hour bender. You’ll struggle at first, but then you’ll be rewarded in the end.

Okay.. so what are the recent shareware offerings? With a few exceptions, including one exception for the guilty pleasure of PopCap Games, most of them are really lame. In the Mac world we are being bombarded by various “run Dot’s Diner!” or “run a hamburger store!” or “run this concept into the ground!” type games that are all made by the same goddamn developer. I don’t really know what’s going on in the windows world of shareware games, but in the research I did for this article I came to the conclusion that they are in a similar state. The casual ones are dominating. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that quality “gamer’s” shareware is a thing of the past.

But that’s okay! Because free things are better anyway! Speaking of awesome free things… you might notice annexd.com in the sidebar. Click that whydon’tcha ?


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