I feel this way too (voted for 1990-1995). I wonder whether we have different reasons for tending to prefer that time. To me it was, above all, a fascinating era when technology was still limited, but not as primitive as to be unable to convey intense atmosphere. So we had games that were all about creative struggle - trying to be bigger and better, but all with different technological expressions.
Weren't 1990's great? Adventure games were considered cool. First-person shooters were like happy, naive children who just discovered a whole new world. We got crappy multimedia titles but also some serious drama and cinematic production. Western RPGs had Ultima 7 and Daggerfall and Fallout and Baldur's Gate. Japanese RPGs were about gameplay and subtle emotions, not walking from A to B to trigger overblown cutscenes. Platformers wrapped up a whole era.
Then came the epoch of the absolute reign of 3D, and a lot of that was... well, over. Somehow I feel that during the 1990's games had more soul and cared less for being mainstream, whereas later years became all about catering to the customer, and the 1980's were a bit too preoccupied with keeping a guy stuck with one game for a long time because it was too hard to solve.
I'm not going to decide on a decade because for every great 95-00 game, I can think of an equally great game in the same style from 00-05. Well, except for Baldur's Gate II, but it's right in the center, so!
The past seven years I can't really say that for. There have been a lot of great games, but there have been a lot fewer good games. So many game genres have merged together (every game is an RPG now, and every game is a story game, and every game is an action game) that they don't bother to make as many simple games that can explore facets of the individual genres. Instead we have a sea of averages created by capable people lost in impersonally large development teams and fed by the scourge of the industry: metacritic.
However, I wasn't alive for much of the timespan so I'm viewing it retrospectively, and I very nearly chose 1990-1995 instead, I'm pretty fond of both.
Surely the opinions will be biased as hell. But at least I can provide you with some explanation:
If a person grew up with early consoles and 8-bit computers, surely they'll pick 1980s. I was never into platformers, shooters nor other arcade games, even back when I was a kid.
I've started as PC gamer, and for PC the golden era was early to mid 1990s.
In the 1980s PCs were behind 8-bit computers in terms of audio-visuals. EGA palette surely will hurt your eyes, let alone CGA!
Early 1990s mean such breakthroughs as:
I could go on and on... these are just technical improvements, I didn't start with creative ideas etc. before the industry burn-out.
In 1995-2000 I switched more to PC gaming. Fallout. Tomb Raider. Carmageddon. Need for Speed. Those masterpieces... they just secured my bond with gaming. (Although there's only one PC-exclusive game in this list :)
Me, I think this is the best age of gaming. This, right now, the age we're living today. We have behemoths of AAA corporations that will sink dozens of millions of dollars in massive, Hollywood-style epic-scale full-fledged commercial games like the Mass Effect's or the Call of Duty's; we have mid-range developers with large resources but a more brave spirit that can afford to make a gorgeous game like The Witcher 2 and dare to imbue it with hardcore RPG mechanics, or will take a hallowed IP like Deus Ex and turn it into a modern game with massive success; we have an increasingly thrilling indie scene were the bedroom coders of today have an amazing amount of tools to turn their craziest ideas into reality, and thus we have all the MineCraft's, the Amnesia's, the Dear Esther's and the Lone Survivor's; and then we have the whole Kickstarter thing, that is right at the point where, in a couple years time, it might very well become a paradigm shift for the industry --and even if it ultimately it isn't, the phenomenon has already showed the world that there is plenty of people willing to pay good money for genres that have been largely considered dead and buried for years, and that's a lot.
So I guess what I'm saying is: Screw all that nostalgia nonsense. Never in the history of gaming have we seen such a wide, exciting landscape before us. Just go out and enjoy the beautiful world of today. And by "go out" I of course mean "stay inside and play some games".
We didn't need any bloody indie scene or kickstarters before, because the tools were available for most and there were no AAA corporations afraid to do anything other tha Call of Duty XVIII.
But as far as the state if industry goes, I can't share your view. I take every genre I like and compare its current state with the 1990s. Let's see what we have:
Western RPGs: Getting smaller and more and more restrictive. BioWare stopped making real RPGs and focuses on action space operas. Yes, Skyrim is an exception, but it also proves how good storytelling and large worlds still can't be put together the way Ultima 7 did 20 years ago. And bear in mind: RPGs are still better off today than most other genres.
Japanese RPGs: instead of charm, emotions, and cute little gimmicks we have overblown on-rails boredom with antiquated mechanics.
Adventures: Do I even need to say anything? Doesn't a painful death of a beloved genre speak volumes of what is wrong with games today?
FPSs: Better graphics, yes, but where is all the happy experimentation of the 1990s? Where are all those shooters that try to say a new word in storytelling and level design? Gone. All we have now is a race for blowing up new computers with higher system requirements.
Platformers: Early 2000s were good days for 3d platformer, I agree with that. But now? Ask Ubisoft how many more PoP games they are going to churn before anyone actually moves on onto something.
Sandbox action and driving: Yeah, it was their decade. But how many GTA clones do we really need? Those games are fun, but in a way also very representative of what is wrong now: mass entertainment, recycling of tried-and-true concepts instead of true creativity.
No, there can be no comparison. The 1990s were way better.
I'm not "refusing" anything. I did play many adventure games released after 1998. It's just that they are not good. They are derivative, woefully outdated both in gameplay and technology, and soaking in nostalgia beyond any reasonable limits.
But that's not the point. Even if someone out there thinks they are good, they are "dead" from the point of view of popularity and influence on video games in general. In the 1990s adventure was a leading genre. Now it's forgotten to the point that the word "adventure" is being applied to any action game that involves more than simple shooting. These are, unfortunately, facts.
TotalAnarchy (2525), Jun 22, 2012
European adventure games are my favourites, that's why for me the genre never died. Something like The Longest Journey, Syberia, Perry Rhodan, Dreamfall, The Whispered World is what I'd regard as the real apogee of the adventure genre. This is of course subjective. However it's not like I don't regret some losses, such as probably old Revolution games and Legend Entertainment. As for LucasArts, Telltale took its place, and fans took Sierra's place. Adventure games are still viable commercially, certainly not mainstream. But what does mainstream mean nowadays - four games called Diablo, World of Warcraft, Call of Duty and Uncharted?
Now that's bordering on blasphemy :) Telltale didn't take LucasArts' place, it just developed better fangames than most others.
and fans took Sierra's place.
Again, they didn't take their place, they are just imitating them. That's a huge difference. They are like those pure bebop musicians today who don't deviate one note from Charlie Parker's solos. Fan tributes, even good ones, are miles away from leading the industry.
But what does mainstream mean nowadays - four games called Diablo, World of Warcraft, Call of Duty and Uncharted?
More or less. Which is exactly what I meant saying that today sucks compared to the 1990s. In the 1990s everything was mainstream. You could play Monkey Island and Doom and Castlevania and Zelda and Final Fantasy and Ultima and Civilization and Command & Conquer and Street Fighter and Transport Tycoon and they were all popular and at the top of their game.
I don't get this obsession with the mainstream. Lots of great, original, imaginative games do exist today: Brilliant stuff like Dear Esther or The Stanley Parable or Amnesia or Limbo or Braid or Trine or Bastion or Lone Survivor. The list goes on and on, and it's only getting better as time passes. Why should it matter if they're indies or even mods instead of AAA games, as long as they're as good as they actually are?
AAA games have become way too expensive to dare taking risks anymore, simple as that; so if you really care about "happy experimentation" as you said elsewhere, you need to just not look in the mainstream market.
Of course it matters! Whether the games you mention are really good is debatable; but it cannot be denied that the low budget takes its toll in form of outdated technology, reduced production values, and more often than not short length. Even if everyone agree that those games are the real deal, a situation where the best stuff is made by amateurs highlights the problem I'm talking about in a very unambiguous way.
AAA games have become way too expensive to dare taking risks anymore, simple as that
And there you go. That's precisely what is wrong with the game industry today. I'm surprised you say that in such an indifferent way. "Too expensive" means that you don't have access to the best technology unless you are a multi-million corporation that only cares to release what the majority wants. If you don't have access to the best technology all you can produce are nostalgic reminiscences of genres long gone or, in the best case, experimental games that would certainly lack the necessary impact due to their technological limitations.
Indie devs/modders do have access to enough technology and resources to make their games awesome on the outside as well as the inside. As it turns out, a very large part of the bloated budgets of AAA games go to the most ridiculously tangential aspects, such as pre-rendered cutscenes or those massive, retarded PR stunts they throw all the time.
I mean, sure, they can't even dream of getting Liam Neeson to voice your dad in Wasteland 2, but they do have Chris Avellone and a bunch of tools from Obsidian to build the dialogue trees; and I don't know about you, but I'll happily give up live action trailers or Hollywood voice actors (or indeed voice acting altogether) if that's what's needed to get a product that's faithful to the creator's vision and focuses on the stuff that *really* matters.
Also, are you complaining about games being short now? Come on, what did you do to the real Unicorn Lynx? o_O
And yes, I want games that have Hollywood voice acting, realistic facial animation, cutting-edge technology, and creativity! Why was it ok to want (and get!) that during the 1990's, but it's not ok now? I don't want to settle for a modern game that looks like it was made in 1998 when I want to play a creative platformer, adventure game, or pretty much anything else that is not on-rails shooter-RPG. In 1990's games of all genres pushed the envelope - both technologically and gameplay-wise. They were brimming with creativity and advanced the industry in different directions. No matter with what rose-tinted glasses you are looking at today's situation with, it's fundamentally flawed. When creativity leaves the big stage and finds a shelter by talented amateurs it is time to ring the alarm.
No one has ever been allowed to pick more than two from that list.
Mobygames has been cybersquatted (588), Jun 23, 2012
Exactly. Even the developers that had more-or-less big name publishers behind them back then were pretty much what today constitutes an indie studio, in terms of size and budget. Hell, most of those legendary shooters from the 90s were originally shareware, which is hardly an AAA business model. Even Lucasfilms Games was a small enough endeavor that it wouldn't make a dent in the company at large --George Lucas probably didn't even know he had a bunch of guys making games in the basement :P
"Pushing the envelope" at that time involved rather simple efforts, compared to what you should do today (by "simple" I mean in the sense that you didn't need multi-million investments, of course you still needed some serious uber-nerds working their brains' asses off). The technology geared specifically for making games was new and there was plenty yet to be invented, and -very importantly- there weren't really many legends of gaming to live up to.
In a way, what today is the indie scene was pretty much all there was in the 90s, and the actual new thing is the big studios that play it safe because they work with scary Hollywood-level budgets.
Doom was indeed "coded in a basement", but can you say the same about those "dead" adventures, such as Phantasmagoria or Under a Killing Moon? What we want to be back, is these "dead" genres getting big budgets again. Yes, I do enjoy good voice acting. We want these big publishers try something new once in a while - even storywise (I'm tired of the generic sci-fi and run-of-the-mill fantasy - why do they eschew historical settings other than WW2?).
Nobody eschews nothing. Most of the historical settings have been covered by at least one game.
Where's my "Medal of Honor" in First World War? You know, that minor local conflict without American participation, so nobody remembers it?
Zombies? Oh please, next time you'll say Iron Storm? Or that game where you alter timeline by going back to various epochs?
Apparently you lack either knowledge or imagination to come up with valid game scenarios for this setting (ever heard about the Lost Battalion?) - your comment about Eastern Front only serves as a proof (surprising, as it comes from an Eastern European). Besides, WW1 trench is no worse than D-Day beach landing slaughterhouse, which was done in MOH.
About Necrovision, you asked for a game and I gave you one. My point wasn't about FPSs in the first place. It also tells you what they had to do in order to make WWI a viable setting.
About WWI and FPSs, I'm not going to prove anything, because this discussion has clearly become unrewarding.
Once upon a time graphic adventure games were what you played to test out the limits of your new hardware. King's Quest EGA was the Crysis of its time. The problem is that a good adventure game is more difficult to program than a good shooter, so adventure games that sold as visual spectacles were quickly overrun by other genres. The audience of people who like adventure games because they are adventure games has probably never changed.
Lucas certainly knew that Lucasfilm Games existed; he set up the whole place as a pet project because he loved videogames. He probably intended the studio to be the videogame equivalent of American Zoetrope. The place was also a huge money sink, which is probably why, after the old guard left, they went to just making Star Wars games. Those had a much better turnaround time and better return on investment.
Luasfilm lost a lot of money being too far ahead of their time. In addition to inventing the MMORPG with Habitat in 1986, founding pre-Steve Jobs Pixar was also an investment that took quite a while to pay off 8)
That's amazingly funny, considering that neither Sierra nor Lucasfilm took advantage of anything else than the EGA palette until 1991 or so.
Lain Crowley (5406), Jun 24, 2012
Well, making all things equal is not the point here, rather making stuff more interesting. World War II setting is not boring or overdone, it is the frickin' Western front with Allied soldiers that's become stale.
Donatello stopped giving a shit (375), Jun 21, 2012
And I would actually agree with Von Katze in the sense that NOW is the best time to play - there's the AAA titles, there's the smaller indie games, there's the extremely vibrant modding communities that produce quality work and so on. Also, the so-called trainwrecks of gaming these days are much more playable than their late-80s counterparts. Just because the gazillion Pac-man and other arcade clones are lost in the murky depths of history doesn't mean they weren't there, just like nowadays you have "generic military shooters" all over the place. Unicorn, you also mention that games had soul behind them, and considering that we as gamers can only base it on our own subjective feeling, I can safely say that there were also tons of examples where there was no such thing to be found; look at all those infamous LJN games that were outsourced to Atlus, and the amount of outsourcing going on in general. I at least can't find more soul in a game such as, let's say Back to the Future on NES than Call of Duty Black Ops.
It's time to take those rose-tinted glasses off, gentlemen. Oh, and sorry for the lack of cohesion in the post. I'm quite sleepy.
Daniel Saner (2407), Jun 21, 2012
In terms of PC gaming, which is what I'm most familiar with, it was a golden phase after designers had gained the experience, and technology had progressed enough for games to have great worlds, simulations, atmosphere and storytelling, but before development became so expensive on the tech side that it became impossible to create a blockbuster without dozens of employees and a 7-figure budget. The time when designers with a few great ideas could turn them into a product, on their own or with a few friends, and have it become the next big thing everyone's talking about.
It's not about absolute numbers of good titles, or average quality. I'm really just thinking of the mainstream. Back in the 90s I could walk through a game store, admire the boxes and wanted to have half of them. I read a lot of games magazines that were lovingly written by a bunch of amateur enthusiasts, and covered massive numbers of titles of all types and sizes. And where even trade shows were full of exciting new stuff. Today, I walk through stores and most of the games there I feel ashamed to even look at. Out of the 10 games magazines still cover in a month, 9 are derivative titles or sequels to tired series that have been doing nothing but playing it safe for years. When do you ever still read about a game where you think, wow, I'm excited about that, I can't wait to see/play it? If I browse any store, any news site, any download store front page, 90% of the games there look all the boring same to me.
I'm not claiming there's less good stuff out there than back then, but back then it was the mainstream that was interesting. And it's definitely not because my taste in games changed either. The games business has evolved like the music business, into a place where if something is commercially successful and promoted everywhere, you can be almost certain that it's soulless corporate shit, the gaming equivalent of a mobile ringtone turned hit single. It's true that I play mostly older games these days, but not because I think that there were fewer bad games then, or fewer good games today. I do it for the same reason that I mostly watch older films and read older books: if a couple of years have passed, it becomes easier to see which have real quality to them (i.e., the ones people still talk about favourably). Keeping on top of the new releases has, on average, become very disappointing for me.
Here's a memory from my own wide-eyed younger self: The first time I ever read a game journalist complaining about gaming becoming way too samey and repetitive and all games becoming unoriginal killing simulators and developers wanting to play it safe and cash it fast and not wanting to venture into brave new territories as they did back in the good old golden days of gaming. You know where and when that was? Come on, take a wild guess. No? Well, it was on a magazine called Micro Hobby, a name that might not ring a bell because it was a Spanish magazine, only distributed in Spain, and also because it closed up shop once the ZX Spectrum, the computer they were all about, imploded to give way to the newer gaming machines from THE FUTURE! The year was 1989. And the article was already a couple years old.
It would be really interesting if you scanned that article and shared it with us!
It would be great indeed, but God only knows where those magazines ended up. I guess younger wide-eyed myself didn't think about the future a lot :P
Nothing to do with nostalgia. In 1990s proper I was practicing classical piano and looking for girlfriends. I didn't play games back then.
Daniel Saner (2407), Jun 21, 2012
I know these articles well, and I know for how long they've been written, but I don't think it's comparable to the same ones today. Big-budget games were derivative and commercialised back then, sure. I have no problem with the sameness of some game genres in the 90s, I never had a problem with clones as long as they were still well-designed games that you could spend dozens of hours with. Today's sameness means mostly linear shooters and cutscene RPGs that are over in 5 hours, and aren't even fun for that long, because all they spend their budget on is graphics engines and marketing. Stuff that definitely doesn't make for a long-lasting game remembered fondly for years. IMHO that's also where the whole second-hand games drama comes from. They don't make games anymore that people play for very long, and grow fond of so much that they want to keep them in their collection. That's why they sell them after a month, for 20% of what they originally paid. It's the publishers' own fault.
That's what I tried to convey in my post: that I don't think games back in the day were, generally or on average, better than now, and that I don't think there are fewer good games today. It's just the direction of the mainstream that has shifted. When I take an old magazine, as you did, I'm mainly greeted by lovingly hand-drawn graphics; games of all different genres; from big developers but also small upstart studios; games filling every niche. My tastes didn't change. In those old magazines, the games I didn't yet play I can still get excited about! Take a current magazine, I think you'll agree too that it's 90% military or sci-fi shooters and high-fantasy RPGs, practically only games from the big publishers, and that graphically and stylistically they look very uniform. The other games are still there! But they're not in the magazines anymore. They're on indie websites and download stores. I used to be surprised by what kind of games magazines wrote about every month, but now, I already know before opening it. The surprise has become rare.
So no, it's not that my tastes changed or that I grew jaded or cynical. The same excitement and wonder I felt as a kid when walking through that stores, I very much still feel today when I check out great games on the iPad App Store or some indie developers, and yes, also the occasional AAA title. I don't doubt there are probably more "good games" today than in the 90s. But it's no longer the mainstream, and I miss a little the days when the mainstream was still interesting to me. That's basically how I interpreted the question of "best game period". Back then exciting games were all around. Today, I have to go look for them on my own.
Exactly. In the 1990's you could be sure that a sequel to a hit would be bigger and badder than its predecessor. An adventure sequel would be longer and have more puzzles; a RPG sequel would add features, not subtract them; a platformer sequel would be more polished, less frustrating, with more depth; next-year Doom clone would be surely more advanced than last-year one.
Today, the word "sequel" pretty much means "the same game as before, only with a new well-marketed useless gimmick and less gameplay". You keep hearing the word "streamlined" as if it were something good (in reality it's pure laziness), and get more and more pretty wrapping with less and less inside.
Today's games are fun, sure, but they are to the games of the 1990's what jazz today is to jazz of the 1960's.
Daniel Saner (2407), Jun 21, 2012
This is definitely an understandable effect of an audience that has become so much wider. Back in the 90s, you could be pretty certain that most people who would play your game would belong to the more involved "core gamer" group, who didn't mind investing some time and thinking into a game before it paid off with more depth of gameplay, and who liked to tinker with statistics, or read text that fleshed out the scenario. And this audience was enough to make your game a hit. Today, large parts of your audience will be skipping all your cutscenes instantly, and will not continue playing if they have to read more than a few keywords. And you'll have to make your game accessible to them as well, if you want to have a chance at having a blockbuster. Today, the audience that will play a game that requires reading a manual or introduction before one can do well at it, has become a small niche.
But it's not the only difference I see. Today, if a game does not involve shooting or driving, have gore and a multiplayer deathmatch mode, and belong to one of the standard genres of sci-fi space war, high-fantasy world, or military conflict, it's already a niche game.
Daniel Saner (2407), Jun 22, 2012
It used to be the PC had its own mainstream. The PC market didn't experience the same surge as the console market did, so it became less and less interesting to big publishers. Not because it got smaller or less profitable, but because there was a bigger cake to go for somewhere else. Now we get mostly leftovers.
Daniel Saner (2407), Jun 22, 2012
15+ years ago, I was playing loads of freshly released turn-based strategy games, story-heavy RPGs, tactical shooters, 2D platformers, beat 'em ups, air combat simulators, business simulations, ... and they were all very popular, heavily covered and promoted games. Big boxes in every store, reviews in magazines, multi-page advertisements, every PC gamer knew about them. These genres have all but ceased to exist outside of the indie market.
Just for kicks, I picked up a recent magazine lying around, German GameStar May 2012, and decided to compare it to their first May issue in 1998, as I have a full archive.
I compared the games featured in reviews and previews. The full list of games is here: http://pastebin.com/J2M3Btsa
PC-exclusives: 35 (80%)
Multi-platform/ports: 9 (20%)
Original titles: 31 (70%)
Sequels/franchises: 13 (30%)
PC-exclusives: 6 (40%)
Multi-platform/ports: 9 (60%)
Original titles: 2 (13%)
Sequels/franchises: 13 (87%)
So no, PC gaming was not always a niche that got a few big-budget titles only as an afterthought. It used to be a market on its own, with many publishers and developers that were dedicated to it. Today, the only one that still comes to mind is Paradox.
Does anyone remember the aggresive advertising for EF2000? Billboards with "You'll never date a supermodel", "Your penis will always be the size it is now" (sic!) ...and this game was just a flightsim! Niche product by today's industry standards.
Daniel Saner (2407), Jun 23, 2012
In GameStar's defense, they do tend to feature the more well-known indie titles. One of the reviews in the May 2012 issue was Legend of Grimrock, which got a full 3-page review. Yesterday, which could be considered a niche game for the sole reason of being a point & click adventure, got 2 pages. I also just now remembered a whole section they introduced a while ago: "Freispiel", which focuses exclusively on mods, freeware games and free-to-play titles. I see that as a concession to the fact that the mainstream and full-price games no longer offer (enough of) what many PC gamers are interested in.
I wouldn't have expected the difference in number of titles per month to be as extreme as it is. If all is down to the high production costs and therefore having to minimise risk, then maybe things will change again soon? Although I don't recall the exact numbers I was shocked when I read what percentage of AAA titles fail to ever break even. It's a vast majority, so for most, big-budget productions don't even seem to be such a good idea. Maybe more of them will remember how on the PC, even a moderate budget can produce a big success? In addition, we seem to have reached a technological plateau. I don't see how big-budget productions would become much more expensive than they are now.
Edit: I just took the opportunity to read that GameStar Grimrock review: «[...] might have one of the best fun-per-development-time ratios ever. And will hopefully sell by the millions. And will hopefully, finally, lead to a big change in the thinking of major publishers. We want substance and depth, not lifeless but perversely expensive graphics demos!»
Daniel Saner (2407), Jun 24, 2012
That's also another reason why I think it's bad that PC gaming no longer has a mainstream. Because this is a type of game that is simply not possible to produce with a small team and on a shoestring budget.
Daniel Saner (2407), Jun 25, 2012
While it's quite common to hear from PC gamers that they miss the depth that used to be typical of PC games, I don't often hear the opposite from console gamers. It's usually limited to single conspicuous titles, that were ported too directly from the PC. I am convinced that the negative impact is bigger for PC games, because when you develop for both worlds, your interface and controls have to adhere to the least common denominator, severely limiting what you could otherwise do on the PC. On the other hand, it's hard to think of typically console paradigms that don't port well to the PC (apart from some bad control scheme translations).
On the other hand it's hard to overlook the enthusiasm that flares up whenever someone, indie developer or underdog publisher, releases a product that plays to these old values. Minecraft that has sold like crazy, the kind of money some projects raise on Kickstarter, or Paradox Interactive that slowly and quietly are becoming one of the behemoths of PC gaming by catering to these old markets and qualities. It does feel to me like there's a neglected world somewhere. Even in the mentioned GameStar magazine, who otherwise of course had to adapt to the mainstream market over time—boy, can you feel the child-like joy whenever they get to write about a rock-hard business simulation or an unforgiving strategy title with a 300-page manual again.
... but I'd have to say that for breadth of design ideas, where my tastiest fresh air is to be found, the Apple II / C64 eras tried the hardest to go in the most different directions. There's something to be said sometimes (I likely have said it here before) about needing to get all of the mistakes out of the way before the only path remaining is the valid one, with nowhere to go but up. Admittedly the hit to miss ratio was low, all those dead ends being investigated, but they shed light into corners no one has considered exploring in a game anytime since. If you're lucky, you might easily strike upon an interesting failure of some evolutionary dead end -- today, with the limited genres commercially available most failures are just boring ones, clones aping successful franchises. Even the successes are often boring.
It reminds me of how people remember the (contemporary) '80s music charts as being homogenous and boring, but if you look back you might find the Clash, the Cure, Devo, Talking Heads, Depeche Mode, Queen, Blondie, disco holdovers like Lipps Inc., Dolly Parton, Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, David Bowie, Van Halen, Prince, Genesis... all rubbing shoulders. It was an incredibly varied period, and I find this reflected in its software as well as its music 8)