The Systems I Wish I'd Had and When

Matt Barton's picture

Apple II: The mother of invention.Apple II: The mother of invention.They say hindsight is 20/20. (Actually, I think it's more like 10/40, but what can you do?) So, if you found yourself suddenly zapped back to the dawn of the videogame era, what choices would you make? Which systems would you rather have had? And what impact do you think these changes would make on your personality today?

Of course, most of us back then could only afford to support one, maybe two systems (assuming one was older). It would have been nice to have enough money and time to have all of them.

Now that I'm older and hopefully wiser, I've put together a list of the systems I wish I had had, and roughly when. I'd very much like to hear your thoughts and see your lists.

1977-1982: Apple II. There's really no doubt about the importance of this system during this period (and beyond), but it saw the birth of countless genres and franchises. Ideally, I would have been able to expand and keep this system after getting a new computer, since it was still seeing important exclusives well into the 80s, especially the Ultima games and Sierra On-Line adventures.

My second choice for this period would be the Atari 2600, a very capable games console with a respectable lineup and of course immense popularity.

1982-1985. Commodore 64. I did have this computer during this period and beyond, and am very happy about it. While it may not be as impressive to designers (ahem, Romero) as the Apple II, it was (IMO) a superior games machine. Again, the ideal would have been to have this AND an updated Apple II, but if it were one or the other, I'd have switched. The lineup was and remains incredible, with so many brilliant games, such as the Gold Box titles and hits from Lucasfilm Games.

My second choice here would be the Apple IIe. While gradually diminishing in importance, the platform still had lots of exciting exclusives and got most of the important ports.

Amiga 1000: Didn't have an Amiga? I'm sorry.Amiga 1000: Didn't have an Amiga? I'm sorry.1985-1990. Commodore Amiga 1000. This is really a no-brainer. You get almost all of the cool, gee-whiz multimedia stuff of the new Macintosh, plus thousands more games--and it was cheaper. Right out of the gate you had some awesome stuff, such as Defender of the Crown, Mindwalker, plus cool apps like Deluxe Paint and Deluxe Music.

A second choice here is difficult. On the one hand, there are some fairly good computer choices. the Macintosh is an obvious contender, even though the games library is weak. The Atari ST is a closer rival, with more games. On the other hand, the NES was available in 1985, and everybody knows what happened next. So, if I couldn't have the Amiga, I'd go with the NES here.

1990-1995. DOS. I might have been tempted to give the Amiga one more year, but by 1990 DOS gaming was already cooking with games like Wing Commander. Every year saw the DOS star shoot higher, eventually leaving the Amiga in the dust. The action was really great with adventure and RPG titles, some (but not all) of which were ported to the Amiga or cloned. Still, I wouldn't want to miss stuff like Ultima Underworld (1993), Arena (1994), and of course Doom (1993) if I could possibly help it!

I don't really see a viable alternative here, though I suppose you could get by with an SNES (1990) or Amiga 1200 (1992). Given those two choices, the SNES is probably the best choice game-wise.

Windows 95: Boring but popular. Where's Clippy?Windows 95: Boring but popular. Where's Clippy?1995-2001. Windows 95. I know a lot of people resisted the move from DOS to Windows, but I would have happily jumped on the bandwagon in 95. I would have been fine skipping 3.1. A lot of games were becoming Windows only at this point anyway. This is probably the heyday of modern PC gaming during this period, though the consoles were catching up. MMORPGs were heating up, too, with Ultima Online in 1997 and EverQuest in 1999.

A very strong contender here for second place is the Sony PlayStation for the latter half of the decade and a mandatory switch to the PS2 in 1999. The PS2 would have continued to be a good choice really until the next gen, when I would've switched to the 360.

2001-2005. Windows XP. It's very tempting to want to go with a PlayStation2 or an Xbox at this point; it's a tough call. Still, there were plenty of great games exclusive or at least enhanced for this platform, and it's unquestionably far superior to Windows 95 in almost every way. BioWare released Neverwinter Nights in 2002, and Bethesda released Morrowind the same year. There were also (of course) plenty of great shooters and strategy games like Civilization III (2001). Who'd want to miss that?

Second choice: Definitely a PS2.

Xbox 360: If you can't beat'em...Xbox 360: If you can't beat'em...2005-present. Xbox 360. I probably would have waited until 2006 or possibly 2007 to make this move, and of course would want to keep my XP machine around for internet, MMORPGs, and productivity stuff. Still, the really exciting stuff was moving to consoles, and the 360 seems like the best choice.

Looking towards the future, it seems like the next step would be either to go back to the PC to take advantage of the generation gap, or stick around and enjoy the games made by developers who've had plenty of time to optimize their code for the platform. If you're just bored with the 360's lineup, you could always swap it for a PS3.

I'm guessing the next gen will make the PC seem like a more desirable option again, especially if the new consoles are expensive and don't offer as noticeable an improvement as we got from the Xbox to the 360 or PS2 to PS3. Still, that would require developers and publishers to focus on the PC first and then port their games to these consoles, something I don't see happening anytime soon.

In Matt's bizzaro world, the new 360 would run some form of Windows and include a wireless keyboard, and/or perhaps some kind of Kinect-based control scheme. Then the same game you buy for the 360+ would also run on a capable PC. This would allow developers to support both a PC and console market, since all they'd have to do is make sure it could be degraded to run smoothly on the platform. Hey, I said it was bizarro world, didn't I?

Comments

Bill Loguidice
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I have no real regrets, as I

I have no real regrets, as I was lucky enough to have made good system choices, and eventually, over time, I was able to afford all new systems, though there is ONE system I do wish I had, which I'll get to in a moment.

My first computer was a Commodore Vic-20 when I was around 10, which was quickly sold for a C-64. Practically - and considering my parents left me to my own devices with this stuff - I doubt any other computer would have benefited me prior to that age. Around age 7 I got an Atari 2600, which was another great purchase. My last Amiga was my first Amiga, a 500, and, while I wanted to get additional models in the line, I ended up becoming entrenched in the DOS world, so I chose wisely (or was fortuitously directed) there as well. So, yeah, I've been pretty lucky to have made good choices, where I was never particularly wanting, though there were ALWAYS obviously games or items I wish was on the systems I had that were on other systems, which is part of why I collect EVERYTHING today.

Anyway, my ONLY regret was never getting an NES in its prime. I flirted with it, but never pulled the trigger. My first Nintendo system was a Super NES. I resisted the NES due to childhood bitterness over that rising to power at what I saw was the expense of my favored ColecoVision (obviously it didn't work that way). I also had most of my needs filled by C-64, which had easily pirated software and relatively cheap commercial software when I could afford it. By the time I got my Amiga, I forgot all about getting a NES. Anyway, I would have loved to have a NES in its prime simply because I don't have the same love for games like Super Mario Bros. and Zelda that people who lived with those games then did. I'm sure I would have a very different perspective than I do know of mostly tempered interest in all things NES (and even, overall, Nintendo).

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Matt Barton
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The NES, hehe, I knew I was

The NES, hehe, I knew I was forgetting one. Yeah, I hated it because it was an obvious rival to my beloved Amiga (in terms of games, of course), and everybody at school was talking about Mario and Double Dragon, not Great Giana Sisters and Defender of the Crown. Still, I honestly think I had more fun with my Amiga than I would have had with a Nintendo. Also, shiver, I might be just another Final Fantasy nut today...

I'd definitely want to hedge my years a bit, since most systems aren't strong until a couple years after their release, and it'd be painful moving from a heavily supported system like the C-64 to a newcomer like the Amiga right away.

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Bill Loguidice
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An exercise
Matt Barton wrote:

I'd definitely want to hedge my years a bit, since most systems aren't strong until a couple years after their release, and it'd be painful moving from a heavily supported system like the C-64 to a newcomer like the Amiga right away.

It might be an interesting exercise to pick blocks of say, 5 years, starting from 1976, and asking everyone what's the one computer and videogame console they'd want to own (one each) for each block of five years. Here's mine (purely top of my head - hopefully I don't pick something silly from my perspective):

1976 - 1981: Apple II; Atari 2600

1981 - 1986: C-64; ColecoVision

1986 - 1991: Amiga; NES

1991 - 1996: DOS; Genesis

1996 - 2001: Windows; PS1

2001 - 2007: Windows; PS2

2007 - 2012: Windows; Xbox 360

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Matt Barton
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Looks like a very solid list

Looks like a very solid list to me, Bill. At the moment, I don't have much interest in the ColecoVision or Genesis, though I see why you did that. The Genesis/SNES choice would be a hard one for me. Lots of great games on both systems, and the Genesis always seemed more Amiga-like to me for some reason.

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Bill Loguidice
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It's a pick'em between Genesis and SNES
Matt Barton wrote:

Looks like a very solid list to me, Bill. At the moment, I don't have much interest in the ColecoVision or Genesis, though I see why you did that. The Genesis/SNES choice would be a hard one for me. Lots of great games on both systems, and the Genesis always seemed more Amiga-like to me for some reason.

Yeah, I'd have been happy with either the SNES or Genesis on the list. I actually got the TurboGrafx-16 first, then a Genesis, then finally added an SNES to the mix. The SNES is great, really great, but I think overall the Genesis's games appealed to me more. It certainly did have a lot of often-enhanced Amiga conversions due to the similar architectures, and computer conversions in general.

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Rob Daviau
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Great picks!

In fact I will say I can generally agree with your picks and the entire time-line mostly. The only change I would make for my own personal preference is perhaps during the PC DOS era you listed just give me a fully decked out Commodore Amiga 4000!

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Matt Barton
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AGA
Rob Daviau wrote:

In fact I will say I can generally agree with your picks and the entire time-line mostly. The only change I would make for my own personal preference is perhaps during the PC DOS era you listed just give me a fully decked out Commodore Amiga 4000!

I thought about that long and hard, Rob (that's what she said). Still, I just don't see enough really great AGA-based games to make it worth missing out on the DOS era. I'm not saying there weren't any; just saying that there was more new and exciting stuff happening on DOS at that time.

No need to go into it here, but AGA was too little, too late, and Commodore took way too long and bungled making hard drives and CD-ROMs standard. If the 1200/4000 had been released two years earlier, it might have made a difference, especially if both systems had hard drives and CD-ROMs standard. But Commodore quit looking ahead after the 1000 IMO.

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Rob Daviau
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understandable

I certainly can see your point and why you would make that choice. I was just so much into AMIGA (the only time in my life I could not argue if you labeled me a "Fanboy") I just loved everything about it from the OS to the Paint and animation programs and even making simple video titles for my home VHS movies, I really wanted a newer powerful Amiga. The first PC I actually owned myself was a windows 98 machine and from everything I read, all the research I did and the experiences I shared with my friends I am sure I would of still had much more fun sticking with the Amiga I new inside out then fiddling with DOS and trying to configure a PC sound, graphics etc. I recall my friend, one in particular how frustrated he would get trying to over come IRQ conflicts and he always seemed to struggle to get each game running. I do not think I would have missed that at all. Anyway, that's just me and my preference. Certainly early PC gaming was interesting and an adventure in itself.

Oh and trust me you need not convince me of Commodores lack of vision for the Amiga as it remains a sore spot with me to this day!

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Matt Barton
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I was also a fanboy, no doubt

I was also a fanboy, no doubt about it. But looking back, I was an IDIOT for getting the Amiga 3000 when I did, just a few months before Commodore rolled out the AGA models. It was my dad's "Dream Machine," but I really regretted it almost immediately. Of course the 4000s were out of our price range anyway, which makes it somewhat of a moot point. Still, I remember at the time having long discussions about whether we should jump ship and get a DOS machine, but that was no easy decision back then. Like you say, so many different companies, incompatible standards, etc. Plus it's not like a games-capable PC in 1990 was cheap. IIRC, we were looking at over $3,000 for something truly impressive, and of course it would have been worth half that in just a year.

Even today, buying high-end gaming rigs is about the worst investment you can make. I bet you could buy a $5,000 gaming rig today that'd be worth $100. tops, in just five years.

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Chip Hageman
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Amiga
Rob Daviau wrote:

Oh and trust me you need not convince me of Commodores lack of vision for the Amiga as it remains a sore spot with me to this day!

I think the designers had tons of vision.. But the company was just kind of imploding from bad management. It just couldn't survive the loss of Jack Tramiel. Like Apple; Commodore was one of those companies that moved in a unified direction only because it had a bulldog nipping at it's heels.

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