Thanks for the feedback, I'm never quite sure if I'm alone in my grumpyness!
I guess what a game does is to restrict the player to a specific scenario (a "what-if you played by these rules"). The art is to make the scenario fun and worthy of immersion, and of course taste matters greatly here. I think sometimes game devs are so busy having all the fun coming up with the restrictions fo the scenario (like RPG character classes) that they forget to let the player have a little fun and do the same.
Yeah, the trend towards ridiculous amounts of compartmentalising of skills is something which I loathe. "Want to use a sword at all? You'll need to research swords and then spend 5xp on the skill. Oh, wait, you wanted to use a rapier? Well sure, they're *like* swords, but that'll be another 5xp please, bitch."
Re. Diablo II
I think random generated content is both good and bad. Some might feel like it's pointless if stuff is 'just random', and it is harder to control flow, balance and story-chara development in a randomized environment. I think random seeds are good, because then people can compare approaches to specific scenarios while still having the replay value.
I suspect Diablo II is also popular because of the item collectability (finding a really good random generated weapon or armour piece) and clicking those level up plus buttons is always satisfying. If I ever make an RPG I'll have to include those two features. Diablo II also nice because you have a limited amount of clicks for that magic/skill tree thing, there's no way to max out everything and become über (no Ultimate-state). This increases replay values aswell, as you can always start a new character to explore another part of the tree.
I'm not so sold on Diablo. Random level building generally means "lots of stuff which isn't as good as hand-built stuff". Something very evident when you compare Divine Divinity to its sequel. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule and I loved X-Com with its random maps but then they weren't really built for exploration.
The Middle pic with the color lines is meant to show the map nodes in order of accessibility, green(easy) first, then yellow then red(hard). And yeah, I quite dislike having to scavenge entire maps, I guess it falls under the "To-Do list" point I made. I can be a bit of a perfectionist when playing, I'm so busy optimizing my path that I can't enjoy the game.
I suppose in some ways game design peaked for you with much of Steve Crow's stuff on the Spectrum, then.
I think I'd class map-'em-'ups as just about my favourite type of game, but then that's because I do like the "ultimate state" school of game design. In Castlevania I play until I have every object and have uncovered 100% of the map in a single playthrough.
I suppose one answer to stopping linear progression in explorey games but still allowing plenty of evolution in the core gameplay throughout it is not to give out 1 jetpack, 1 magic key and 1 pair of boots-of-jumping but rather to have LOADS of finite-use resources which accomplish the same effect. Hmm...
I forgot Paradroid 90 on the Amiga fav list. I think Paradroid 64 had
some qualities aswell, but I found it too claustrophobic (tight viewport).
Ooh yes, Paradroid 90 is lovely. Pity that its only vertically scrolling so there's no real exploration in it, but it was one of my fave games on the ST.
Metroid 1 had rather poor boss gameplay :/ Metroid Zero Mission offended me... greatly. Zelda TP too, enough to draw an illustration
of my rage.
Haha, that's one of the things I hate in games, those kind of utterly artificial barriers like a fence with a gate in it where you need a key or that particular rock which you can use to climb over it as opposed to all those other rocks strewn around the landscape.
And those chained-shopping-list bits... BRRR!