Archive for August, 2008

The first time I found myself agreeing with former Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern, I joked that it was a sign of the impending apocalypse.  Now he’s gone and said something else sensible.

The third time is generally taken as a sign of enemy action.  If he does this again I’ll have to wonder if the GOP kidnapped his dog.

Here, for no particular reason, is a list of some random fond memories I have from playing computer games over the last twenty years or so. These were shaken lose by a thread on Usenet, and I figured why not share them here as well. I’m actually surprised in retrospect how significant a value computer gaming has been to me.

  • Playing Wizardry I on the Apple 2 with a friend. We reached the wizard at the end of the game, only to be told “You meet a friendly Werdna. F)ight or L)eave?” Naturally, we left, which we thought was hilarious until we discovered we were stuck at the bottom of the dungeon with no way out. D’oh! I think that’s the first quest bug I ever encountered in a computer game.
  • Finishing Ultima IV the day before an Ultima panel at a local science-fiction convention, only to discover that I was the only person in the room (including the panelists) who had finished the game. Much advice was given.
  • Ultima V. When I found out how Blackthorn had perverted the virtues and oppressed the citizens of Britannia, I got angry. That was the first time a computer game’s storyline evoked a significant emotional reaction in me. In those days, Origin’s slogan (“We Create Worlds”) wasn’t just marketing hype. (Their game Autoduel deserves an honorable mention. Getting as close as they did to a Car Wars computer game, with the technology they had at their disposal, was an act of genius.)
  • Finishing the original Quest For Glory with a different friend at college. The ending of that game, which showed you the impact your choices in the game had on various NPCs and the world, was one of the best I’ve ever seen. The personalization made it far more satisfying than any pre-rendered cutscene ending I can recall, even though the graphics were primitive.
  • The original System Shock. The antagonist, Shodan, had killed everybody on the space station where the game was set. But when I found out she left the muzak playing in the elevators — that’s when I knew she was truly evil. But really the whole game is one entire favorite gaming memory. I wish there were a way to play it again for the first time.
  • Lemmings. The way the game ratcheted up the difficulty was seductive and brilliant. You’d do a level using all the lemmings they gave you and swear that it couldn’t be done with any fewer. Then you’d get the same level with fewer lemmings, and curse, and experiment for hours, and finally figure it out, and feel really clever for a while — until they gave you that level again with even fewer lemmings. And they repeated this cycle many more times than you’d think possible. I still have the theme song stuck in my brain almost two decades later.
  • Getting stuck at the very beginning of Sorcerer, figuring out the puzzle on Friday afternoon and then solving the whole adventure in a single 12-hour marathon gaming session.
  • Solving the infamous “Babel fish” puzzle from Hitchiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Without assistance.
  • Writing a character and item editor for the original Bard’s Tale, just because I could.
  • Boot-trace cracking the original Might & Magic. (Not something I would do today, but I was much younger then and my grasp of property rights was shaky to say the least. It’s still a fond memory because the technical problem was interesting and my ‘crack’ required changing literally a single bit of the code. That’s elegant.)
  • Having my roommate ask me for help in a combat in Ultima Underworld II. As I recall, the conversation went something like this.  Roommate: “Hey, Kyle. I’m having trouble kicking Dorstag’s ass. Any advice?”  Me: “Sure. It’s a simple two-step process. You go up to him, and you kick his ass.”  To this day, I find the “simple two-step process” a useful locution for giving useless advice.
  • “Ward Bwitish? I have a cwose personal fwiend, a wuler fwom Bwitannia named Ward Bwitish.” (This will probably only be funny to people who have detailed memories of both Ultima VII: Serpent Isle *and* Monty Python’s LIFE OF BRIAN, but at the time it was hilarious.)
  • The interactive cutscenes in Mass Effect. Sometimes I fire the game up just to give alternative versions of the “pep speech” prior to taking command of the Normandy, because I love the cinematic nature of the experience so much.
  • The entirety of Deus Ex and Baldur’s Gate 2. As with the more recent Portal, the only complaint I have about those games is that they ended.