Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite winter sport(s) video game? This is mine.
Archive for the 'Computer Games' Category
Twenty years ago this week, id Software launched one of the most important and influential PC games of all time: Doom. It started as a modest shareware download but grew to change the entire video game industry. To explain how, here's 2009 Benj writing about the title for a PC World slideshow:
Id's archetypical first-person shooter triggered a sea change in the PC game industry, which had formerly been dominated by slow, plodding strategy turn fests, brainy simulations, and stilted PC action titles of yore.
In contrast, Doom was the first of a new generation of fast-paced, smooth action titles that utilized new visual techniques to push PC hardware to its limits. With Doom, PC gamers could experience fluid gameplay, graphics, and sound that easily topped what was found on home game consoles of the day — an uncommon achievement at that point.
Moreover, it introduced exciting new network multiplayer options that are widely imitated to this day, coining the term "deathmatch" in the process.
From its lowly roots as a MS-DOS shareware title, Doom spread like a weed to other platforms, including game consoles, which now count first-person shooters as one of their best-selling genres.
"Doom defined the 3D shooter genre and made multiplayer gaming mainstream," says Tim Sweeney (founder of Epic Games and creator of the Unreal Engine), "And it did them with such incredible polish, artistry, and foresight that it created an industry."
Considering that Doom launched in 1993 via shareware channels, I'm not aware of when or in what publication the first advertisement for Doom appeared. (I believe GT Interactive became distributor for the full, boxed PC version of Doom much later, but I could be mistaken.)
So instead, I found this nifty November 1994 scan for the Atari Jaguar version of Doom. I received this version of the game for Christmas in 1994, and it was an amazing gift.
Pushing the PC Limits, Jaguar Relief
Most people don't remember how much horsepower Doom required in a PC at the time — at least 4 MB of RAM, a mid-range 486 CPU, and a sound card to run passably well. So I had trouble running the game on any PC up to that point.
In 1993, we had one 486 in the household with exactly 4 MB of RAM (to contrast, my personal PC sported a 16 MHz 386 and 2MB RAM), and I had to make a special 5.25″ boot disk that loaded fewer resident DOS drivers, etc. so I could run Doom on that 486 at all. If I recall correctly, I didn't have enough spare RAM to load the SoundBlaster drivers at boot, so the experience was limited. My friend had to run Doom on his mom's 486 the same way. Even then, the game didn't run at full frame rate. Doom pushed the limits.
So coming from that environment, it was an amazing convenience to just plug a Doom cartridge into the Jaguar and play, full-speed, full-screen, with glorious sound and no hiccups. My brother and I played a lot of Doom on that console well into 1996 — until I got a more powerful PC that could run Doom with ease.
Until the PlayStation port of Doom came out (late 1995), the Jaguar port was widely considered the best port of the game (in terms of screen window size, lighting effects, monster interaction, sound, controls, and frame rate) available on consoles. Its biggest drawback was lack of a soundtrack during gameplay. I think that's because John Carmack used the Jag's DSP co-processor to handle graphics routines instead of music, which was unconventional on that platform.
But I digress. What a great game. I still play Doom regularly via modern source ports on the PC — most recently on my new 1080p big screen TV set. Add on Xbox 360 controller support via ZDoom, and you've got Doom heaven. It's a game that never seems to get old for me, even 20 years on. That's the mark of a true classic in my book.
Discussion Topic of the Week: How did you feel when you first played Doom? What are your memories of the occasion?
Internet Archive's Historical Software Collection is the Best Thing That Has Ever Happened to Software PreservationTuesday, November 26th, 2013
The collection puts dozens of vintage computer games and applications at your fingertips by allowing you to run them, emulated, from a browser window. It's a huge step forward for preserving the heritage of our software culture. Here, ease-of-access is key.
I've been horribly remiss by not mentioning this earlier — but better late than never for something this important.
During the Choose Your Own Adventure (RSOTW, 2008) book craze in the early 1980s, interactive fiction meisters Infocom decided to get in on the act by publishing a series of Zork-themed "What-Do-I-Do-Now" titles through TOR Books.
Here is one of them, formally titled Zork #4: Conquest at Quendor. It was written by none other than Infocom legend Steve Meretzky, whom I met briefly in person back in 2008. He is a very personable fellow. (FYI: Back in 2007, Meretzky made a cameo in Jason Scott's video for the Zork-themed "It Is Pitch Dark" by MC Frontalot, which I love.)
As for the book, I haven't read it in ages, so I am not equipped at present to tell you if it's any good. I just recently found it in a box of my brother's old computer game boxes at my parents' house (which seems to be how a lot of these scans originate these days). My brother is and was a huge Zork fan, which reminds me that we need to play Zork Nemesis together again sometime.
I will add that the cover art featuring a translucent, floating fuzzy tiger-snake with squidlike suction cups on its body always freaked me out a bit as a kid.
Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite entry in the Zork game series?
The Gothic fantasy atmosphere of Heretic excited me when id Software first published it as shareware episode in 1994. Either someone uploaded the game to my BBS or I downloaded it from another, but either way, I quickly found myself enveloped in a modem-to-modem online co-op Heretic session with a friend.
Fast forward 18 years later, and I played Heretic again — this time, the entire game (and again, co-op). The first episode is OK, but the level design for the others is incredibly tedious and disappointing. I can see now that it is a very mediocre game. But when first released, following hot on the heels of Doom, people loved it.
Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite Doom engine game?
I've never played either of these Atari ST games by Microdeal, but they look like fun. "Look" being the operative word. That's because, as we all know, a screenshot alone is a poor judge of a game.
In fact, I recall being burned by screenshots many times back in the day. While browsing at Babbage's or Software Etc. (former software retail chains), my brother and I would flip over various game boxes and ogle amazing, colorful in-game shots that would make us want to buy everything on the shelf.
If we did buy a game, we'd rush home and load it up. Nine times out of ten, those glorious box screenshots turned out to be the only pretty graphical scenes (often static) in the game. Or — even worse — the screenshots were from the uber-colorful Amiga / VGA / etc. version when in fact we were buying the Apple II version of the game (or we only had an EGA graphics card). Doh.
Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you ever buy a game based on graphics alone — then come to regret it later?
I was a huge fan of Mega Man X when it first came out on the Super NES in 1993.
…Well, I rented it, anyway, and I played it more than any other side-scrolling Mega Man game before or since. I loved finding the secret Hadoken fireball power up, which I read about in Nintendo Power.
Much to my present-day surprise (even though I owned this magazine when it was new), Capcom produced a version of Mega Man X for the PC, and on a CD-ROM no less. Has anyone out there played it? I'm wondering if the adaptation was any good.
[ P.S. Shortly after writing this entry, I tracked down a warez copy of Mega Man X for the PC, and it's surprisingly well done. However, its utilization of MIDI music provides for a pretty surreal Mega Man experience — surreal in the sense that the tunes generally sound horrible compared to MM games that are famous for their music. ]
Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite Mega Man game of all time?
As a kid, The Halley Project blew my mind.
I remember flying through the solar system, first person, in what seemed like a real-time simulation of space flight. All the distances between and positions of the planets were accurate, and you could visit each one by traversing the vast gulfs between them. It was one of the most awe-inspiring games on the Atari 800.
I haven't sat down and played The Halley Project in at least a decade, so I'm kinda fuzzy about the point of the game. I believe you're trying to track down Halley's Comet. On the way, I think you have to make stops at each of the planets in our real solar system. And, if I'm not mistaken, there's something special about the comet itself (once you actually find it) that I won't spoil for you guys.
The real Halley's Comet made a famous fly-by of our planet back in 1986. I still have vague memories of being awakened in the middle of the night when I was 5 so our family could drive out to a local school field and catch of glimpse of the comet. I remember seeing a fuzzy dot, perhaps through binoculars or a simple telescope. That real life celestial visit inspired a sort of frenzy in the media and popular consciousness here in the US, and I'm guessing this game played off of that.
I know I could look up the real plot / purpose / gameplay of The Halley Project online, complete with screenshots and analysis, but I don't want to. My warm memories are good enough.
Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you see Halley's Comet in 1986? Tell us about it.