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Retroist on Enchanter

29 December 2010 Leave a comment

Enchanter by Infocom

Retroist has published a short look at Enchanter, including ads. From the site:

Originally intended to be Zork IV, Enchanter, debuted on computer store shelves and in my case some shelves at B. Dalton’s bookstore in 1983. I did not own my beloved Commodore 64 at that point…nor any other computer for that matter but I would always visit the shops and read and then reread the backs of the Infocom games. A couple of years later when I did get the C-64, I decided on a beginner level title, Wishbringer. Thanks to a school chum I was able to get my hands on Zork quickly after that and my devotion to ‘Interactive Fiction’ still burns brightly to this day! Of course how could you not love the little extra details that Infocom included in their titles? True, they were a means of copy protection, but thanks to the Zork Library you can see what I’m crowing about!

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Table-top Coleco

28 November 2010 Leave a comment

I was extremely envious of my friends who had one of these. Almost everyone who had one had only the Pac-Man version. Come to think of it, I don’t know anyone who actually had the Galaxian version.

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More on Ms. Bunten

27 November 2010 Leave a comment

I previously linked to a short write up at Obsolete Gamer where I wrote about the beauty of Seven Cities of Gold, one of my favorite games of all time.

GameSetWatch, a really cool blog I follow regularly (it’s part of the whole Gamasutra family of blogs), has published anarticle about Danny Bunten’s last GDC speech. Bunten was actually the first ever GDC keynote speaker ever.

Categories: classic games

Seven Cities of Gold

13 November 2010 1 comment

Obsolete Gamer has a profile of me and (one of) my favorite games of all time, Danny Bunton’s classic Seven Cities of Gold. Sadly, the video they have up is of the EA remake and not the Atari 8-bit computer version, but anything to promote such an amazing game is alright by me 😀

I’ve been a gamer ever since my mother brought home a classic Coleco Pong console when it was first released. We progressed to the Atari VCS and Colecovision, but my best gaming memories are when we got the steaming hot Atari 800XL 8-bit computer. I spent entire weekends playing Steve Meretsky-designed Infocom games, but my true obsession was with Danny Bunton’s Seven Cities of Gold. This game was absolutely amazing for its time. You are an explorer out to discover the New World and bring back riches to the Queen of Spain. You just can’t sail west and get lucky. The brilliance of this game is the unique quality it had for its time: random maps, but very intelligently done random maps. Rivers would flow from mountains, villages, cities and towns would team on their shores and on coast lines. You can bribe chiefs to get their gold, or enter town swords killing everything in sight, but there was consequence. If you had a bad reputation, natives might not want you around, and getting gold would become increasingly difficult. There was even seasonal changes, and storms that could wreak havoc on your ships when at sea. And the Queen? She was never satisfied. But I always got my promotion. Eventually.

Categories: classic games

100 Game Cupcakes

7 January 2010 1 comment
Categories: classic games

I still suck at Dragon’s Lair

12 December 2009 Leave a comment

In 1983 I was 11 going on 12 and a video game addict. It was not unlike me to swipe laundry-bound quarters to feed my addiction. When Scholastic’s book club paper for our grade came around each month, I’d scour it for any books on video games, and there were a lot of them back in the day (mostly focused on how to beat Pac-Man). It was reading, right?

Word came to me somehow that there was a very new game on the market that was extremely exciting, with art that had never before been seen. Dragon’s Lair took a little while to make it to Ridgewood, Queens, and my friend Rob found it at some corner store on Woodward or Onderdonk a few blocks from our house. Sweet!

It cost 50 cents to play Dragon’s Lair, and Rob always seemed to have the coinage on him. I watched him play a bit, and then put my two quarters up to ensure that I’d get the next round. Not that it was needed: we were the only two kids in the entire deli. But old habits die hard, and spots is a habit I’ll probably have until the day I die.

What I had seen, which was a beautiful work of art, and what I experienced were two different things. The art and sound for Dragon’s Lair is simply amazing courtesy of the expensive laserdisk technology it was using. The game play? Oh my fucking HARD.

You are Dirk Daring out to save Princess Daphne, who’s been kidnapped by a seemingly horny dragon who lives in a castle with lots of clever traps. Your job is to quickly twitch your way around these traps while making yourself useful with nothing but a sword, or, on the coin-op machine, a controller and button.

In most games, both then and now, when you started the game, you were randomly placed in a scene in which a split second choice had to be made. If this was the first time you encountered this scene, you would probably die as you’d make the wrong choice. The same would go for the second and third time, depending upon the number of choices available to you. Timing was of the essence, and as a player you didn’t have to worry about strategy or thinking at all. Thinking was death. Choosing unwisely was death. And many a kid spent a few quarters just trying to get past the first couple of scenes.

That was me: I spent a few quarters trying to get past the first couple of scenes and then I gave up. There was simply no fun in constantly dying because of one bad decision. A lot of people around me felt the same way. Dragon’s Lair wasn’t a game; it was an investment in success. I went back to the older Ms. Pac-Man coin-op and would simply occasionally glance at Dragon’s Lair to see if anyone actually found any success at it. Five minutes with Ms. Pac-Man was four minutes, thirty seconds more than I ever spent with Dirk, and she was a cheaper date, too.

Despite my lack of success at Dragon’s Lair, I always enjoy reading about it in the history books. It’s been ported endlessly to other platforms over the years, most recently to the iPhone. It was with some reluctance that I purchased my own copy of Dragon’s Lair for my phone. I never paid attention to the ports, was never successful at the game. But finally, this morning, I did it.

And what did I find?

Yes, death, my old friend. Each and every decision outside of the initial swing sword at purple things when you fall through the bridge scene met with Dirk’s untimely but well-designed death. This is one game I think I’m simply doomed to suck at.

EDGE on Alpha Centauri

7 December 2009 1 comment

EDGE Magazine has published a fantastic look at one of the more forgotten brilliant games of all time: Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri:

Many games have opened at the end of civilisation, but only Alpha Centauri could open at the end of Civilization – repositioning Civ’s victory condition of manned flight to Alpha Centauri from a conclusion to a prelude. For those who pursued that victory it’s a sobering beginning, proposing that regardless of how enlightened or ruthless your climb to power was, the Earth of 2060 you leave behind is at critical mass: a map that’s been played out, save for the drawn-out bickering over the last exhausted resource tiles. In a case of life imitating turn-based strategy, those who had never touched a Civ title would be likely to find the setting just as plausible.

Alpha Centauri, unlike Colonization or Pirates! screams to be remade, but if I recall correctly (and if I’m wrong, let me know in the comments) Sid Meier has no plans to remake this game. Which is a shame, as it’s an amazing strategy game that is, in many respects, much better than the Civ games.