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  • Why so few turn-based games for handhelds?

    I've always liked compact, portable, multipurpose gadgets, but it was only recently that I finally bought a Palm PDA. I got it mainly so I could play a game of chess on my lunch break.

    Around the same time, I bought my wife a Nintendo DS Lite (a handheld game console) and several game cartridges. (The only one she uses is Brain Age.)

    Well, these gizmos work fine for what we're using them for. But I'm dismayed when I go looking for new game software. There are very few turn-based games available for my Palm (other than classics like chess, checkers, and backgammon). And my wife finds that everything available for her DS is juvenile-looking and real-time.

    Since handhelds generally don't have the power to run complex real-time games very well, you'd think there would be lots of turn-based games for them. But for some reason, it ain't happening.

    Maybe it's just changing times. I recently read a post from a young man who was trying a TBS game (Medieval Total War II) for the first time in his life. And he just didn't get it. It seemed very strange to him, and he couldn't understand what people see in turn-based games. As far as he was concerned, it was a big step backward. He wondered why anyone would create or play a new turn-based game in this real-time age.

    Meanwhile, I'm pretty much thinking the opposite. I've enjoyed real-time games now and then as a quick diversion, but that's it. I was impressed with Sid Meier's Gettysburg (pausable real-time) when it was new, but I didn't play it much; and I shrugged it off when it no longer ran on my system. Seemed too much like the game was playing itself. I used to have fun with Red Baron and Wolfenstein 3D, but to me they were just brief respites from strategy gaming.

    So, what's the story? Are turn-based games becoming obsolete?
    --Patrick Carroll


    "Do all you have agreed to do, and do not encroach on other persons or their property." (Richard Maybury)

  • #2
    Originally posted by Patrick Carroll View Post
    Maybe it's just changing times. I recently read a post from a young man who was trying a TBS game (Medieval Total War II) for the first time in his life. And he just didn't get it. It seemed very strange to him, and he couldn't understand what people see in turn-based games. As far as he was concerned, it was a big step backward. He wondered why anyone would create or play a new turn-based game in this real-time age.
    Hey Patrick. I think you just answered your own question with the above statement. The hand held market just isnt a market for turn based games like the PC is. While people like us would by them, the lions share of the market in games for hand helds goes to other genre types. To the game makers, there just isnt a market for them. The whole thing is aimed at the younger generation now and most of them are not interested in turn based games.
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    Kampfgruppe - A Wargaming Clan Since 1998

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Patrick Carroll View Post
      Maybe it's just changing times. I recently read a post from a young man who was trying a TBS game (Medieval Total War II) for the first time in his life. And he just didn't get it.
      I have friends my age (born in the 70's) who are exactly the same way. They grew up on Ataris, arcades, and so forth so they aren't averse to games at all. However, they just don't "get" the appeal of turn-based gaming. I think this is pretty typical and I wouldn't read too much into it. We are a niche within a niche, and it will always be that way.

      As for turn-based games on the DS, there are a few (Matrix has one, and another company has a wargame as well...possibly CDV?). Doctor Sinister has a DS and might have some insights if you ask him. Handhelds are more like the old style arcade games - more about dexterity or point and click than true strategy. This is mainly a function of not having a keyboard/mouse for a more complex interface. Also a result of as you say, not enough of us to get game companies to invest R&D into bringing these games to the handhelds. They are all out researching new Nintendogs!
      Our forefathers died to give us freedom, not free stuff.

      I write books about zombies as E.E. Isherwood. Check me out at ZombieBooks.net.

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      • #4
        Get Age of Empires Age of Kings for the DS. I am currently quite pleased with it.

        Panzer Tactics is due out soon, and totally turn using.

        Steel Horizon just came out, and it is a great turn based WW2 naval warfare game.

        Club House games might be really well liked by your wife too. 42 classic board and or card games.
        Life is change. Built models for decades.
        Not sure anyone here actually knows the real me.
        I didn't for a long time either.

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        • #5
          Speaking as the owner of two DS machines and a plethora of Gameboys, I agree that there could be more TB games out there - it would be perfect to be able to play a few moves, save and snap the machine shut as you get off the bus/tube/whatever. I think though that designers these days are either looking for new ways to play or jumping on franchise bandwagons.

          I'll have to check my GB/GBA/DS library to see what I have that might be suitable...

          Dr. S.
          Imagine a ball of iron, the size of the sun. And once a year a tiny sparrow brushes its surface with the tip of its wing. And when that ball of iron, the size of the sun, is worn away to nothing, your punishment will barely have begun.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Patrick Carroll View Post
            He wondered why anyone would create or play a new turn-based game in this real-time age.
            I think that's basically it -- not so much a question as to why they're not hugely popular on portable devices; but rather, why they're less popular overall.

            A few things play into that, in my opinion. And so I'll use this thread to spew them out. Muahahahahaha!

            - The culture that uses technology as entertainment is perpetually in a hurry. Thus, entertainment is in a hurry. (This is why we have portable game units in the first place!) Somehow it probably feels like a waste of time if you play a game for half an hour and only complete two turns. Compare it to several dozen rounds of play in a flashy, reflex-driven game, and it feels like the flashy one is much more productive -- more bang for your entertainment buck.

            - Computers are much more accessible. No longer the realm of nerds and geeks who play wargames and RPGs for fun -- people with other interests are able to sit down, install a game, and get going without much tech savvy. By contrast, I notice a lot of TBS games for linux; perhaps this is still an area where the geeks rule, and they write the games they like.

            - Technology for sound and graphics has come a long way. In the same way that some folks probably cringed when we switched from Zork to CGA games, we keep getting higher-res screens and louder speakers. In general, TBS games don't really exploit sights and sounds as fully as, say, FPS or other action/blow-stuff-up games. Sure, you can replace a unit marker with a graphic of 200 individual footsoldiers, each with different facial appearances and haircuts, and each having a gun that makes a slightly different sound when fired... but gameplay would be the same.

            Bright, loud, and fast are what sells games these days. TBS games, at least the ones I am familiar with, don't really push the envelope in any of those areas.

            (For any RPG fans out there, this is also a common lament on RPG-focused websites such as rpgcodex.com -- story-driven RPGs are becoming less popular in mainstream markets, because most of the people who buy something called an RPG really want a fantasy-themed hack-n-slash game that looks s00p3r k3wl!!!1!!1!)

            Eh, that's all for now. You get the drift. Not sure if I answered the handheld/portable question specifically, but I think the root cause is somewhere in all that.
            "I am not an atomic playboy."
            Vice Admiral William P. Blandy

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            • #7
              Originally posted by mirrorshades View Post
              I think that's basically it -- not so much a question as to why they're not hugely popular on portable devices; but rather, why they're less popular overall.
              Good point. I was motivated to write a blog entry about this yesterday. If you care to read my rant, it's at:
              http://p55carroll.livejournal.com/
              --Patrick Carroll


              "Do all you have agreed to do, and do not encroach on other persons or their property." (Richard Maybury)

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              • #8
                Your Blog post was an interesting read Patrick. I concur with alot of what you say about the youger generation and what they see in a TBS game and how they dont get them or if they do, dont like them. They are from the "gotta have it fast, gotta have it now" generation and dont have the time or patience for a game like Combat Mission BO, BB, AK, which i play or the games that you play. To this day im still suprised that the first Playstation put out the Panzer General Series on it. {Which i have and still play BTW}

                I like you came into the world of TBS PC games through the world of War Boardgaming. As a youngin' in the 70's i started out on simple games like Sub Seach and Chopper & Carrier Strike. As i got older i gravitated to Avalon Hill and Victory Games games. I started playing Squad Leader at the tender age of 10 in 1979. I still have and play about 25 different war board games with some local friends of mine and love them more than any PC game ive ever owned. There is something special about the smell of all that cardboard, once that gets in your blood it never leaves you. The only reason i "PC" is because we dont have the time to game like we used to. We get together like 4 times a year if we are lucky. But i also enjoyed sports too. Ive hunted and fished my whole life and excelled in several sports when i was younger and even coached at my local high school for a while but that never kept me from enjoying my favorite pastime, Wargaming in its many forms.
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                Kampfgruppe - A Wargaming Clan Since 1998

                NorbertSnyderJr.com

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by mirrorshades View Post
                  I think that's basically it -- not so much a question as to why they're not hugely popular on portable devices; but rather, why they're less popular overall.

                  A few things play into that, in my opinion. And so I'll use this thread to spew them out. Muahahahahaha!

                  - The culture that uses technology as entertainment is perpetually in a hurry. Thus, entertainment is in a hurry. (This is why we have portable game units in the first place!) . . .
                  Is that why we have portable game units? Because we're in a hurry? Hmm.

                  I bought a portable game unit because it affords me more freedom; I'm not tied down to a particular spot, so I can enjoy my favorite games anywhere, anytime.

                  Long before anyone had ever heard of a PC, I loved "portable game units" in the form of decks of cards, pairs of dice, boxes of dominoes, and so forth. It had nothing to do with being in a hurry; it had to do with not wanting to be tied down to a place where I could set up a big board wargame or whatever. I wanted to be able to take favorite games along on a camping trip or anywhere.


                  - Computers are much more accessible. No longer the realm of nerds and geeks who play wargames and RPGs for fun -- people with other interests are able to sit down, install a game, and get going without much tech savvy. By contrast, I notice a lot of TBS games for linux; perhaps this is still an area where the geeks rule, and they write the games they like.
                  Guess I'm an oddball there too. I've never been a computer geek; on the contrary, I'm kind of a low-tech kind of guy. I need a good reason to resort to using a computer. I'm not even drawn in by the greater accessibility of computers; I'd still prefer to do without them altogether.

                  However, I also happen to be very fond of single-player games. To me, that's the main benefit of computers--the only benefit I'm really interested in. Thanks to computers, I no longer have to talk anybody else into playing a game; I can play one anytime, anyplace, at my own pace. This morning I arrived at work early and was able to enjoy a couple games of gin rummy and a game of chess on my Palm, while I sat alone in the lobby. Now, that's progress!

                  If only I'd been able to enjoy a good turn-based wargame; then it'd be heaven.


                  - Technology for sound and graphics has come a long way. . . .

                  Bright, loud, and fast are what sells games these days. TBS games, at least the ones I am familiar with, don't really push the envelope in any of those areas.
                  True enough, but once again I find myself completely out of sync with the rest of the world. I hate it when a game looks and sounds too realistic. My wife bought me a copy of Medieval Total War II for Christmas, and I only played at it a few times. I was immediately turned off by the real-time tactical battles. They were far too detailed for my liking; I didn't want that kind of view of the battle. So after that I stuck to the turn-based strategic game and resolved the tactical battles automatically. But I was still annoyed by the 3D human figures traipsing around on the map of Europe. I'd have been much happier with unit-counters or abstract symbols.

                  Guess it's a matter of what you grow up with. My wife, who's six years younger than me, used to really like arcade games in the 1980s--games like Centipede and Space Invaders or maybe Pac Man. But she lost all interest in them when the graphics and sound got to where video games looked like real people fighting each other or real vehicles racing about. I could never get into that either. I did like the arcade version of Red Baron way back when it was an unfilled-polygon game. And I can still enjoy a good flight sim as a change of pace. But to me that's not real gaming; it's just a quick diversion to kill a bit of time.

                  Real gaming is more like chess--something that makes you stop and think. Something that works your mind and can offer the satisfaction of a well engineered victory. It's fine with me if it's abstract, though I'm happier if it has a military theme. But I don't want it to look and sound like real warfare. When I want that, I watch a movie. Games are not movies.
                  --Patrick Carroll


                  "Do all you have agreed to do, and do not encroach on other persons or their property." (Richard Maybury)

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by KGPanzerschrecK View Post
                    Your Blog post was an interesting read Patrick. I concur with alot of what you say about the youger generation and what they see in a TBS game and how they dont get them or if they do, dont like them. They are from the "gotta have it fast, gotta have it now" generation and dont have the time or patience for a game like . . . i play or the games that you play. . . .
                    Since I don't have kids, this phenomenon is especially interesting to me. If I had kids, it'd probably be boring; I'd have seen them growing up and going through their phases, and I'd know just where they're coming from.

                    Instead, I feel kinda like Rip van Winkle, who fell asleep and woke up 25 years later to a whole new world.

                    Now I'm thinking back to what my dad (born in 1915) used to say about the games I (born in 1955) played when I was a kid. He was into gambling games like blackjack, craps, and sometimes poker, and he could always beat me at checkers. He played rummy and dominoes with the family now and then. But when I got into board games like Monopoly, Clue, and Risk, he wasn't at all interested; the fact that these games had themes struck him as silly or juvenile, I think.

                    Later, when I got into board wargames, he was interested at first. But like me, he expected them to be serious, scientifically sound studies of military history in game form--i.e., impeccably accurate and true-to-life. One day I got him to play a game of AH's Battle of the Bulge with me. (He'd been in the 101st Airborne and fought in that battle, so the game really caught his interest at first.) But the moment he saw the die, the game lost all credibility for him. "Combat has nothing to do with dice," he said. He humored me by playing the game, but he obviously didn't enjoy it.

                    So, the impression I got was that games are meant to be taken seriously. Sure they're fun, but they shouldn't devolve into silliness. If you're playing checkers, you ought to be thinking hard and working at it. If you're shooting craps, you ought to be intent on winning some money. And if you're playing a wargame, you ought to be seriously experimenting with strategy & tactics. Otherwise you're just stimulating yourself, wasting time on something frivolous.

                    I guess that impression is still with me. When I see all the eye and ear candy in today's real-time games, it all looks like frivolous, self-stimulating indulgence to me. I always want to get beneath all the sounds and graphics and find out if there's a real game under there somewhere.

                    Yet, OTOH, I'm not much good at strategy & tactics. I'm a lifelong dabbler, I guess. I've dabbled at chess for some forty years, and you'd think I could play a decent game by now, but actually I'm still a novice (with an estimated rating of 1300 or so). I just don't have the kind of mind it takes to be good at wargames or other strategy games. I get distracted and play them impulsively or self-indulgently, without thinking hard enough.

                    Still, playing a game is, to me, a completely different thing than watching a movie. So it's hard for me to understand why so many people seem to think games ought to be "cinematic." The cinematic aspects of games are just mindless illusion as far as I'm concerned.
                    --Patrick Carroll


                    "Do all you have agreed to do, and do not encroach on other persons or their property." (Richard Maybury)

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                    • #11
                      I'm stuck in that time warp also...

                      I absolutely loved Panzer General and Alled General. And have been hoping for improved ai, simple to use; updates of them ever since. Now granted my searching has become more sporadic; but I haven't found them. I hated the interfaces on the PGII and PGIII games, etc.

                      So now I'm back to chess and backgammon on the computer. Recently, for whatever reason; my 7 year old son has become interested in the German/Russian battles of WWII. Maybe I'll download a copy of PG and let him go at it.

                      Does anyone run PG on XP? Can I even do that? And is there any new turn based game for a dinosaur like me?
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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Patrick Carroll View Post
                        Long before anyone had ever heard of a PC, I loved "portable game units" in the form of decks of cards, pairs of dice, boxes of dominoes, and so forth.
                        Ah, that's just portable packaging. You still have to spread out a bit to play the game.

                        Originally posted by Patrick Carroll View Post
                        I'm not even drawn in by the greater accessibility of computers; I'd still prefer to do without them altogether.
                        Blasphemy!

                        Originally posted by Patrick Carroll View Post
                        I'd have been much happier with unit-counters or abstract symbols.

                        ...

                        But she lost all interest in them when the graphics and sound got to where video games looked like real people fighting each other or real vehicles racing about. I could never get into that either.
                        It would seem that you and your wife are not the demographic that computer game makers these days are targeting -- either the "whiny high school kid whose parents will get him stuff so they don't have to deal with him" or the "recent college grad with disposable income and few expenses" ones.

                        Originally posted by Patrick Carroll View Post
                        So, the impression I got was that games are meant to be taken seriously. Sure they're fun, but they shouldn't devolve into silliness.

                        ...

                        Otherwise you're just stimulating yourself, wasting time on something frivolous.
                        Either view is equally as valid, I think -- it just comes down to what the individual is looking to get out of it. I started playing wargames to help get my brain in the habit of thinking through the "big picture" stuff; it's still fun, but I'm attempting to get something out of it. I also, though, have had fun playing Unreal Tournament and just running around trying to blow stuff up. No redeeming social value there.

                        Aaaaaanyway, I think we drifted off track a bit. As far as portable devices, if you can make one run linux, you open up a number of doors for software. I don't get much more portable than a laptop, and even then I don't normally use them in "portable" mode.
                        "I am not an atomic playboy."
                        Vice Admiral William P. Blandy

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Patrick Carroll View Post
                          Does anyone run PG on XP? Can I even do that?
                          Quick answer -- yes, using a program called DOSBox.

                          Long answer -- feel free to PM me for more detail.
                          "I am not an atomic playboy."
                          Vice Admiral William P. Blandy

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                          • #14
                            "So, the impression I got was that games are meant to be taken seriously. Sure they're fun, but they shouldn't devolve into silliness."

                            It all depends on what the game can do, and what you expect to get out of it.

                            Risk, one of the more crappy dice chucking crocks of a game, can be easily played seriously for money. I've done it. You set a monetary sum for defeating an army unit, If you lose an army unit, you put into the pot that sum. At the end of the game, one person has all the money. So it can be a penny or a dollar a unit, whatever. And with that, the game becomes damned serious too

                            The idea that a game using dice is not credible, is the comment of a person simply not interested, nothing more. Life is uncertain, and dice are uncertain. And the men who fought the second war, were rolling dice with their life every step of the way. On VE day, you rolled the dice just getting into bed with a French gal to celebrate the end of the war.
                            In a moment of relieved passion for the war being over, you discover the woman is married, and her husband, just returned from being a French servicemen POW, gets angry you just diddled his wife and shoots you in her bed. Unlikely event. Certainly numerically easier to get shot assaulting Omaha beach of course. But all the same, each is possible.

                            Dice keeps a game honest, and prevents if from being a history book with weird pages (counters).

                            Objections to most wargames, usually is more about personal experiences that touch a nerve. I went through the cold war. It's not a history book topic that ended before I was born. When I was in the army, my life was genuinely at risk of dying in Europe staring down the Warsaw Pact forces. I don't like Nato vs Warsaw Pact based wargames, reminds me of the most stressful moments of my life. WW3 was a too real possibility for my liking.

                            I am sure most people that have and and still are serving in Iraq, will have as fond of memories of Iraq, as a lot of guys theat saw Vietnam, have of that experience too. And I suspect, they understand why a survivor of many classic battles of WW2, don't particular have an easy time make light of that portion of their life.

                            It's a logical response. "War is not a game", is really a person making it clear, they didn't particularly enjoy their encounter with it.
                            Life is change. Built models for decades.
                            Not sure anyone here actually knows the real me.
                            I didn't for a long time either.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by mirrorshades View Post
                              Quick answer -- yes, using a program called DOSBox.

                              Long answer -- feel free to PM me for more detail.
                              Actually, there is a version of PG that is called Win 95 PG that runs ok on WinXP without helper software programs.

                              As well, AG also runs ok in XP, but you need to employ Win XP compatibility functions, and you need to manually insert a specific Win32.dll file into System 32 in your Windows folder.
                              Life is change. Built models for decades.
                              Not sure anyone here actually knows the real me.
                              I didn't for a long time either.

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