Jul 20, 2017


What is...



foobar's glossary for younger gamers


Hello youngsters! Let me put in my dentures. Now, you probably hear all of us old geezers yakking about how different RPGs and computer games in general were back in our age. You know, when the dinosaurs still roamed the land and all that.

In these stories you probably heard a lot of strange and unfamiliar words that you could not make any sense of. Or familiar words that seemed out of context. But fear not, old gramps foobar is here and provides this nifty glossary with the most important words and their explanations.

The List

This does not refer to the thingamabob you get on Steam or Xbox Live for ineptly stumbling through the game. Instead, it simply means “accomplishment”. Having worked for something (can be very rewarding, you should try it some time). The reward came not in form of a blinking score in Big Brother’s file of you but from within the game itself (for instance, a cool new faction armour after having joined a guild).
An addon is kinda like a super-extensive, huge Mega-DLC. But it does not just flange a few carelessly written quests and items onto the game. Or provides elements that should have come with the original game in the first place. No, it really adds content. A lot of it. Think of “play time” times 1.5. It integrates seamlessly into the game and usually comes on DVD (because it’s so huge). Yes, children, stuff like that really existed back in the good old days. Go ask your parents if you don’t believe me.
Cheats were more or less hidden functions that allowed you to make the game work like modern games do right away (see also: Death). Usage of cheats was usually frowned upon by most gamers but if some people wanted it easy, they could have it without ruining the fun for everyone else. Everybody had fun and no one got hurt.
Also known as Party. A group of characters accompanying you. Contrary to current trends, their purpose was not to do all your work while you just stood there and looked cool. Instead, they were meant to both enhance your tactical and strategical gaming options and enrich the social part of the play by providing different opinions and suggestions.
Keys on the keyboard – yes, the big clunky thing – you had to use to control the game. Optimized not for gamepads but for keyboards (or keyboard+mouse), controls were logical and easy to use. And they could be freely configured! From within the game!
Death meant the end of the game. No, really. The end of it. You were done. It was meant as a noticeable consequence of your actions. You were not revived without penalty, you got no achievement for it and did not receive a bag of gold as compensation for your inconvenience. You had to load a savegame. And if you had no recent savegame – well, that taught you to make more use of the “save” function in the future (see: Savegame).
Similar to current games, a setting that provided different difficulties for different types of players. Unlike current games, however, there was at least one setting that turned out to be a real challenge for everyone but the most experienced.
Also known as: “What the heck! It’s that late already?! What happened to the time?!
Immersion was the feeling that you are not playing a game but really are part of the game. It drew you in and let you forget the real world around you. To achieve that goal, good games tried to avoid anything that would remind the player of the fact that this was a computer game. Things like quest markers, mini-maps, floating signs above the heads of NPCs and many other illogical alleged “helpers” were actually considered counter-productive. Help, if necessary, had to come from within the game world (see also: The Comfort Lie). That required some real work for the developers, my dear children. They didn’t just do fancy graphics and cutscenes and console optimisations back in those days!
An integral and mandatory part of prehistoric roleplaying games. You had to build up your character to progress in the story and/or survive in certain areas (see: Death). Used to convey the feeling of “not being ready” and, in time, “having grown into something” (see: Achievement). It was kind of similar to what you do in current roleplaying games. Only that it actually mattered.
A place in the world which you had to find (see: Achievement). Usually by looking at something called a map (see: Map). You were not automatically guided towards it by blinking lights. Good games would help you find locations by means of story telling.
Unlike the thin flyers you find in game boxes nowadays, manuals were extensive and explained everything you needed to know to get right in the game. From some background on the game world to how to control your character to how certain game mechanics (like combat) worked. They were not written in barely readable fine print to save some pages but designed with care and didactically useful.
A virtual piece of paper that showed you a topographical representation of the area and possibly your own location and bearing. It was not magically teleported into your inventory. Instead, you had to find or buy it first. The map did not contain markers for quest objectives or revealed enemy locations and was used as an actual way-finding tool. You had to read it and use basic orientation skills to translate it into travelling directions in the game world (see: Achievement).
A section of the main menu, at first glance quite similar to current games. The difference is that it actually contained stuff called “settings”. Whereas games ported from the console don’t have a lot of those (they don’t need it because all consoles are they same), old PC games usually offered a wide variety of settings to tweak the balance between appearance and performance (because PCs are all different).
Play time
A period of usually at least 50 hours you needed to complete a RPG. Not meant to be tedious. People always had to work, go to school, meet with friends or whatever. But they did not criticise games for taking 50 or 100 hours to play through. Or for the fact that you had to play longer sessions to not loose context. You could not just play them for an hour or two after work when your mind is already half gone, but no one complained about it. People just arranged their schedule accordingly and took the time to play the games. Either they took time and went fishing or they didn’t. But they did not go dynamite-fishing because they did not have the time to wait for something to bite.
Not to be confused with collecting levels, items and gold by repeatedly killing something, real roleplaying meant: to play a role. And not just: do the one thing that the game expects of you right now (as in many games today) but more like: what would I do if I were in his/her shoes? Usually, the game presented you with a problem and then a whole bunch of possible solutions. Your disposition decided your pick.
see: Manual.
A certain playing state conserved in time. A vital function for all wise players, a new savegame was created before anything that could have had consequences. Used correctly, savegames allowed the player to go back to any point in his past play-through and do things differently from there on in case of problems. Gamers who did not make use of this function or simply overwrote the same savegame again and again and thus, manoeuvred themselves into a dead-end did not blame the developer but themselves for being stupid.
A completely different type of game than a RPG. Yes, they were two distinct genres back when your parents still wore flared pants.
Also known as Injury. A loss in health points. Wounds did not close immediately after being inflicted but had to be healed in some way (i.e. potions, spells, etc.). As such, wounds were a critical tactical element in combat. For instance, you had to come prepared (i.e. bring enough potions).

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