In the annals of this blog I have made much mention of the Fallout game series (and even devoted an entire article to one of them). It’s one of the inspirations for many aspects of Zombie Ranch that I unapologetically wear on my sleeve.
But Fallout might never have existed were it not for Wasteland, and Wasteland hasn’t gotten nearly as much press from me despite being the first real post-apocalyptic Computer RPG I can remember playing, all the way back in my pimply teenage years of the late 1980s. That’s probably because it was, what, 25 years ago? As the film that arguably birthed this whole genre famously began — “…the vision dims. All that remains are memories…”. On the other blog site I used to regularly contribute to, I had a series of “Low-Rez Recollections” where I talked of the games of my youth and their impact despite the limitations of the technology, but Wasteland was one I never got ’round to. That also meant I never went through my “refresher course” on the game the way I did with others I featured, so all I could truly comment on for sure were the setting, a few memorable moments, and the fact it certainly left its mark on me.
How much of a mark? Enough for me to throw money at a Kickstarter for a sequel involving a lot of the same core team, and compose an article hoping it and projects like it heralded a new era for a gaming industry in danger of collapsing under its own bloated weight. Prior to Wasteland 2 I’d also pledged money to the as-yet-untitled Double Fine adventure game (now known to be Broken Age), and while Broken Age has only released Act I so far, it still for me had all that Tim Shafer magic to it, a magic I was able to share with my wife who missed out on the age of classics like Grim Fandango. I eagerly (but patiently) await the rest, and you know what, even if Tim Shafer blew all the Kickstarter money on drugs and hookers like some forum posters would end up claiming, I can’t really complain after drinking all his beer and getting a free GWAR concert at the Brutal Legend party at SDCC ’09. But nope, he and his team are still hard at work on Act 2.
Wasteland 2 meanwhile has finally released, and while my old-school boxed copy is still in process of being shipped, I’m doing just fine in the meantime playing it through Steam. Is it a perfect game? No. Are there bugs? Yes. But it has me very, very engaged, and has brought up a number of things for me to ponder concerning game and setting design. What was, what is, and what could be again. The Wasteland 2 project raised nearly 3 million dollars on Kickstarter, but the question I always had was, did that 3 million represent everyone who would ever be interested? Some few fanatics aside, I doubt there any many people who would want to buy the game twice, and that’s why hearing that the game had 1.5 million dollars in Steam sales in its first week of release alone was surprising and heartening. It seems to justify Brian Fargo’s bold declaration that he and his team no longer have to answer to Walmart.
But we’ll get to that whole Walmart thing in my next blog, where I’ll speak on the ways Wasteland 2 feels like a breath of fresh air. Although “fresh air” may not be the most apt metaphor for what I’m going to discuss.*
*Hint: cigarettes are involved.