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Origins:  Unplugging Games

By Justin Hall

The color, glass and light games we play today are rooted firmly in the paper, dice and card games the proceeded them and surround us still. The world of Dungeons and Dragons spawned the popular AD&D Gold Box series of personal computer games including classic PC role playing games like Pool of Radiance, and recent releases like Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale. Sid Meier's Civilization was descended from the Avalon Hill game by the same name. The popular Mechwarrrior series of games is directly descended from FASA's world of fighting robots, the miniatures role-playing game Battletech. Origin's early computer game of car combat AutoDuel was based on Steve Jackson Games' Car Wars.

Nyeh Nyeh - In the Tomb Raider card game, Lara has to earn her pistols.These computer versions of board games make it possible to play alone, or against far flung foes at a moment's notice. Many of those elements of role play that had been left up to the imagination are now flashing and glowing up on the screen complete with explicit graphics and vivid sound effects. Much as television and movie theatres have diminished the popularity of live community theatre, these electronic games have come to overshadow their pen and paper ancestors.

But sometimes it works the other way; electronic games are fashioned into "unplugged games." Does the largely single player experience of an electronic game make for fun away from the screen? And why would anyone want to take a game backwards into older media anyways? Will video gamers still enjoy their electronic experiences when they require other living gamers?

Most designers keep the story, themes and characters from another medium when they remake a game. In Tomb Raider the collectible card game, they've taken that to the extreme, keeping the buttons and memory cards from the PlayStation experience intact.

Save Point - Just in case Tomb Raider card gamers feel oppressed, they can make their game as easy as a video game.The designers wanted to remain faithful to the video game while attempting to make the Tomb Raider experience competative and social. Up to five players bring a deck of obstacles and items and special moves (though like the electronic game, you can play only with yourself). They move little Lara Croft tokens around a tomb or cave or other unexplored realm by laying down level cards. Hideous beasties and fabulous treasures lie after you explore a new area and roll dice to see how your Lara will fare. If you draw the right card you can end up with a "save point" - much like a video game, you now have a place in the dungeon where your progress is recorded. Then if you die, you are magically regenerated from that spot (otherwise, at the end of your turn you can "press the reset button" and start the level over). A Tomb Raider fan might be glad that they can hurl themselves against a giant bear repeatedly without loosing their big guns and their leather jacket - much as you can in the videogame. It almost seems like player mollycoddling, if you're used to the kind of ruthless vitrol in other card games like Spite and Malice or Mille Bornes. But video games are generally designed to encourage players to succeed (excluding occasional frustrating exceptions) and Tomb Raider the card game has that similar comforting feeling to it.

Tomb Raider was a great opportunity for a small game design company to make it big because they can attract multiple audiences: the people who enjoy card game after card game, and the people who can't get enough of Lara Croft. Lara Croft is a popular heroine in Europe and Asia - the card game is selling better overseas than in the states. It's currently being translated into Chinese.

The Tomb Raider game was unique - not all games translate smoothly from one medium to another. SimCity the computer game was a breakthrough nonviolent resource management simulation that stood out in a marketplace crowded with combat based titles. SimCity the collectible card game brought a similar ethic to gameplay and wasn't able to maintain sales.



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Table of Contents
A View from the News Bunker
Unplugging Games
The Next Generation of Bearded Men
The Species of Origins
History of Origins
History of Miniatures


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