Nuclear War, however, is one of those rare few that hasn't lost any of its shine...and that's pretty impressive considering it's a DOS game. It's even more impressive because it's a more complex game that Pac-Man or Frogger (I think that makes its staying power more remarkable, not less). You can download the original DOS version for free here:
Anyway, it makes me wonder: What makes a game withstand time and innovations this way?
I've decided to attempt applying Nuclear War's basic formula to a new design and expanding from there, so I've already broken down the game into its core elements. Perhaps looking at these will help with the question above. In no particular order:
- 4 oppenents per game; 5 cities per isle-nation; turn-based
- semi-random initial city populations
- goal: annihilate all opponents
- 10 opponents; 5 personality types (propogandist, stockpiler, deceiver, madman, and...umm...something else) which affect the opponent's reception of player actions, as well as determining his/her playstyle
- possible actions: build, propoganda, prepare weapon, fire weapon, prepare defenses
- 6 city sizes, 4 weapon sizes; propoganda can match half the maximum weapon efficiency
- diplomacy icons with 5 degrees (hate, dislike, neutral, like, love); diplomacy web (allies may like your enemies)
- backfires (propoganda backfire, missile duds, wasted missile/propoganda on empty cities)
- random phenomena (stampede, earthquake, alien city abduction, alien or stork population bonus)
- humor (including satire of historical leaders)
- sometimes, nobody wins
So, again, is there any formula or general principles that explain why this DOS game is still fun 17 years (!) after its release? Or do games with such long lifespans just get it right each in their own unique way?