Gaming History 101

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Adventure Gaming is Dead

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Ron Gilbert, known mostly through the retro circles as the creator of Maniac Mansion and various other games that ran on the SCUMM (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion) engine, said it best way back in 1989 when he wrote his rant entitled “Why Adventure Games Suck.”  In it Gilbert attacks the myriad of tropes and issues he foresaw with the very genre that made him famous.  It’s quite an impressive read and I suggest you all check it out because there are things he mentions within that piece that are still true today.

mm1All snark aside the point-and-click adventure genre, which saw its largest degree of popularity in the mid-late 80s and early 90s, was always doomed to fail.  Not quite a game, not quite a movie (Gilbert is the apparent father of the term “cutscene” because of script he wrote in Maniac Mansion referring to scenes you were forced to watch as “cut-scene”), and despite its general solid writing definitely not a book.  It spins a yarn and in many cases tosses in some comedy as one of the only gaming genres that can still control timing without forcefully restricting the player.  In concept the genre seems perfectly suited for being a form of interactive fiction and one who hasn’t played these titles may wonder why it performed so poorly and had such a short shelf life in the industry.  This is because you haven’t played an adventure game.  As enticing as the chuckle-filled story may seem, point-and-click adventure titles were still video games and thus had to adhere to certain rules.  No one has quite found the balance and I do believe nostalgia is to blame for the reason anyone still likes these games, because the balance between telling a story and making a game has never found its happy medium.  Before you kill me, let me explain.

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Written by Fred Rojas

January 22, 2013 at 10:36 pm

Day 12

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On the twelfth day of Christmas my memories gave to me…

A Twelve Floppy Disk Game!

In 1994 my father decided that it was high time to replace that old Commodore 64 (which wasn’t even considered a PC anymore) with a brand new Pentium 90 mhz PC.  I remember coming downstairs on Christmas morning and there it was, a beautiful boxy white machine with a VGA monitor, printer, and took up all the space our wide oak desk could spare.  CD-ROM was brand new and this bad boy came equipped with it and a few initial CDs, including Myst and an Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia.  At that time, however, not every game came in the CD version and many PC gamers were selling off their floppy disc versions of games to upgrade.  It was at this time that I became enamoured with PC gaming and began stopping by the used PC game shop near my part-time job and blowing my money on classics.

Aside from the first-person shooters that my mother hated, think Doom and Duke Nukem 3D, I was very interested in any game that had a fantasy setting.  While console games at the time had plenty of variety, true Dungeons & Dragons-style games seemed more fun to me in a point-and-click world.  I first got my hands on Warcraft, which was fun online and all, but real-time strategy (RTS) games just weren’t my style.  Then one of my friends introduced me to a little game called King’s Quest, one of the longest running Sierra point-and-click adventure games.  It looked so cool and seemed to add a depth I had never seen before.  I dropped by the used computer store and the newest game, King’s Quest VII, was available on CD for $40.  That was way too high for my liking, so I looked to see if there were any games used.  To my surprise there was King’s Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow on floppy for like $10, which intrigued me not only in price but with the clever pun.  I bought it and brought it home.

Floppy games that released near the CD age were always huge, many of them taking 9+ floppy discs to install under MS-DOS, an alternative mode to Windows 3.1 on early 586/Pentium PCs.  King’s Quest VI was an enormous 12 floppy discs and took more than 20 minutes to install.  The wait was worth it, though, because the game opened with a fully animated cutscene, complete with voice acting, and the entire game looked to me like Dragon’s Lair in a playable form.  I would also later discover that the writer of the game, the amazing Roberta Williams, also had some horror games including Phantasmagoria, a massive 7 CD title in its own right.  King’s Quest VI wasn’t the only game this large, either, many titles from the early days of PCs were purchased or traded in floppy disk form.  You would always want to back up your disks, twice, because the damn things had a tendency to go bad and that was usually on disk 11 of 12, when you had already wasted so much time.

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Written by Fred Rojas

December 25, 2011 at 11:16 am