Blogging Quest – King’s Quest I – Day 0

Welcome to Blogging Quest. This is going to be my attempt to play through all of the Sierra ?Quest? games, one by one, and blogging everything along the way. Where better to start than with King’s Quest I – Quest for the Crown, the very first of the many Quest?s we?ll undertake.

Where to start with Sierra and me? I’ve talked previously about my love of Sierra games, and blogged my memories of playing Kings Quest 4 and Space Quest 3. They were the first games company that I really knew and was a fan of as a kid. I didn’t realize it at first, but my first exposure to Sierra was in the Apple/Commodore lab at my elementary school. Troll’s Tale was what we got to play after finishing up with Oregon Trail, or other educational games. And my next experience was on my grandma’s Apple IIe, with Cranston Manor. These games settled me into an irrational love of adventure games.

My first introduction to King’s Quest must have been around 1985/1986. My nerdy friends and I all played computer games, with only a few of them having a NES, so computer games were the common language of games between us all. A friend, Jeff if I remember right, came to school one day and was going on and on about this game he’d just played. It was great! You could walk around behind things, in front of them. You typed in what you wanted to do. You wanted to open a door? Type “Open Door” and it opened, right there on the screen! It understood you! (You could even type in bad words and it would chastise you.) Sweet!

Of course during the days of old, everyone traded and copied games for each other, so he quickly gave me the disk, which thanks to his IMB PCjr wouldn’t work on my sweet Amstrad 1512. Nevertheless, we played it at his place, and I learned the simple joys of the never ending Sierra deaths, and found to save early, save often was essential when playing a Sierra game (and even then, you could screw up and have to restart!). I began my love of the Sierra adventure game that would last me for many many years to come.

King’s Quest I was originally created to be a showcase piece for IBM’s new PCjr line of computers. It was to take advantage of the great new graphics and sound that the PCjr was offering over the competition. It was amazing at the time for an adventure game. You could see the protagonist. You could walk through the scenes and interact with them, where before they were just static screens. It wasn’t long before the game was ported to other systems, including a wide PC release, along with the Apple II, Amiga and others.

I’ll be playing the 1987 wide release of the game for DOS, it’s essentially the same as the original 1984 release, but made to run on EGA computers, and not just on the Tandy 1000 or PCjr. For a bit more history on the game and other info check out the Wikipedia page on it.

Coming soon! Day 1 of Blogging Quest – King’s Quest I – Quest for the Crown!

Blogging Quest – A Playthrough Blog Of Sierra’s Quest Games?

I’ve been toying with the idea of doing my own Gameplay Blog, but realizing I have limited time and such to do so. I think I’ve got a possible way to pull something together and I think that it could work.

The idea is to play through all of the old classic Sierra On-Line adventure games, in chronological order, starting with King’s Quest – Quest for The Crown and working my way though the Space Quests, Police Quests, Quests for Glory (aka Hero’s Quest), Manhunter and a few other side adventures along the way.

I’ve played through most all of the older games, and a number of the newish ones but I’ve got a lot of remembering and typing and searching ahead of me if this actually all works out. Stay tuned!

Arcade Culture – What Gaming Lost?

I’m working on a bit of original content here for the site, but I saw this and had to post and comment on it.

On they’ve just put up an excellent commentary on Arcade Culture. To briefly summarize, Japan still has an arcade industry that is thriving, unlike the US, and that industry and culture represent more about what games used to be about and in his mind should also still be about.

The issue comes down in many ways to difficulty. Arcade games are supposed to be difficult to make you loose. This way you have to spend more to play more. The difference between us and Japan – we continue, and loose quickly again, where in Japan, you play with one credit, and when you loose, you don’t continue, you start over at the beginning again.

I love this idea. I played with the pocket full of tokens when I was younger, playing just to keep playing and never really getting better at games because I didn’t think I had to. I always had more tokens in my pocket to play with! But with the one credit, no continue way of playing you actually are forced to get better at the game. To master it.

Think of it this way. When life is cheap, you are not focused on becoming better. Think of the Contra Code. 30 lives! And you needed them! Badly! Contra was hard. My wife and I were replaying through this recently (Merry Christmas Jess!) and after playing through it a few times with the 30 lives, both she and I found that we could make it through all of levels 1 and 2 loosing only 1 or 2 men. Contra isn’t so difficult that it cannot be completed without the plethora of extra men, but like many we rely on them with the later stages, but through practice we’d been able to finish levels based on skill, not 30 extra guys.

Many modern console games hold your had way too much. They make things easier, saves are quick and plentiful and truly there isn’t much use for “lives” anymore when you can always just load your game, or use your unlimited continues. This isn’t to say I don’t like that though. With family and work, you don’t always have the time to spend plodding through level 1 just to get to the point you were stuck at yesterday on level 2 again, but at the same time I want my games to be a bit more difficult.

I’ve never beaten Super Mario Brothers. Not even with continues. This is more to do with my skill level in the game, and my not putting the time in to improve. The game starts you from the beginning each and every time you play, and it’s up to you to have the skill to complete it. I’ve completed Super Mario World though. All I had to do with it, was continue from my saves and keep plugging away on the same level I left off at. There is a big difference.

Blogging Games

A new fad in the game blog world seems to be Game Blogging, or taking a series and blogging your experience of playing an entire series all the way through.

I like this approach to game writing, if done well. There are examples out there where the author knows the series well, adds in commentary about gameplay changes, the backstory and coherence of the game world, and it works incredibly well. Others, end up being a walkthrough of the game with little more to add than what you could find on Gamefaqs.

Here’s a listing of a few I’ve found, some are better than others, but all are worth a look:

Blogging Ultima – The first that I found, and so far the best example of what blogging a game should be about. He’s up to Ultima VII already, but he’s played as well the side games along the way like Ultima Underworld, and Savage Empires. He offers less a running commentary on “went here, did this, then did this”, but more of a look at the mechanics, the history of the Ultima world, how they tie together, fun ways of gaming the systems and more all while still progressing you through the story of the game. Done quite well.

Blogging Zelda – The author’s only up to Zelda II so we’re pretty early into it, but already I feel a bit let down by it. He’s done a great job of keeping the tone informal and fun, but I feel like he’s missing opportunities to really explore the lore of the Zelda games (how nerdy does that sound). Zelda II is a perfect game to make connections to others ones with, but while his commenters are helping him out with them, I wish they were there already. Still, it’s a fun read, and he’s got a great writing voice for the games. *Update* – See below.
Blogging Final Fantasy – This one is more for a great fun take on the games, done with humor, and forgetting any stuffy over analyzing of the games. Perfect for a series that has way too much fanboy background to it, and has been done to death over and over and over.

Final Fantasy I – 4 White Wizards – This brave blogger, inspired by the blogs above, has taken on the task of completing FFI using a team consisting entirely of just 4 white wizards, the game’s weakest fighters, but best healers. He’s just getting started but could be worth watching.

Blogging Dragon Quest – Another “walkthrough” style game blog. Here’s a series that has a long history behind it, but unlike Final Fantasy, it hasn’t been done to death by American audiences. Still, like all of the blogs, reading along with an adventure is always fun, I just wish there was a bit more “meat”.

So you want to be an ARCADE Champion? – Concept? Take the Twin Galaxies arcade record book, start at A and play through till Z, and see if you can beat, or even place in the top scores that are in the book. It’s a great ride so far, through obscure games that we’ve all forgotten about in our MAME libraries.

That’s all I’ve found at the moment. I’m sure there are more out there. Drop me a line if you know of another one and we’ll add it on in!

Update 6/20/07 – Blogging Zelda linked back to me, and I think I now understand more where he’s coming from on the blog and appreciate it a lot more. He’s played through a few of the games, but has forgotten a lot of what he’s played and is more re-exploring the games all over again, and making new discoveries along the way. He’s not pretending to be a treasure chest of background information, and frankly I’d rather not have him be that way. Some of the best insights into games, books, movies or music can come from those who don’t have the baggage hanging over them, like the 20+ years of Zelda in this case. I look forward to reading more by him over these next few months as he continues to go places I have not made the journey into yet at all.

Puzzle Quest – Challenge of the Warlords

Puzzle Quest Challenge of the WarlordsPuzzle Quest – Challenge of the Warlords

I heard about this game through a recommendation on Quarter to Three and after hearing the buzz I knew I’d have to get it. It’s a puzzle game, similar to the match three colors of Bejeweled, but it adds a fantasy story and skill system on top to really add another complete level.

You pick from one of four typical medieval classes (Knight, Warrior, Druid, Wizard) and with each having their own special skills that have different effects. You move about the country side doing quests for people (kill the rats in the cellar type things), but what makes it fun is the battles. You fight the rats, orcs or elves by playing a Bejeweled like game, with each side taking turns on the board. You match 3 or more of like gems of different colors to gain magic points so you can use your skills, while matching three skulls causes damage to your opponent. Couple this with the fact that your opponent is trying to do the same to you, and you start having to look moves ahead to try and win.

Filled with numerous variations, like being able to capture enemies so you can either learn their skills or use them as a “horse” and ride them into battle, or sieging the different cities you come across and bringing them under your control, the game is addicting. Jess and I both fight over who gets the DS to play before bed to just play a few more levels, or complete the next quest. Addicting, fun, easy to get into, but a lot of depth and different strategies to take as you progress in the game. The story is nothing to write home about, but then this isn’t about the story! It’s about beating an orc by playing bejeweled! What could be better!

Wii – I finally got one.

So I finally managed to find a Wii.? We’ve been looking for one for a while, and through the magic of the internet, I heard that when Target has the Wii in their Sunday ads, that means they will have it when the store opens on Sunday.

Not too bad, we only had to be there by 7:45, for the store’s 8 o’clock opening.? There were about 20 or so people who were waiting for them to unlock the doors, and the quick walk back to their electronics section, a swipe of the card and I was able to walk out of Target a Wii owning man!

I picked up, using store credit, at Gamestop Wii Play and the extra controller that came with it, so Jess and I could play Wii Sports later on that night.? Setup was a breeze, Ash already loves to play with the controller, and Jess already kicks my butt in Tennis, Baseball and Bowling right off the bat.? Great.? Mii’s are fun.? But I need more.? If you are out there and have a Wii, let me know your friend code in the comments!

Here’s My Wii Friend Code – 3710 3590 4408 3554

Active RBI Baseball and Tecmo Bowl Players has done a great job of seeing who on the rosters of RBI Baseball, Tecmo Bowl and Tecmo Super Bowl are still active and playing professionally.

It’s still amazing to see Rodger Clemens still pitching.

And for those of you who havn’t seen it yet: I present the 10th inning of the 1986 World Series – as recreated in RBI Baseball by a dedicated fan.

Where’s the Indie Games?

It’s a topic that comes up from time to time out there as game development costs contiunue to rise – Why are there no indie video games?.

Good question. With the barrier to entry in the market being so high, the “little guy” has to be all that much better or have deep pockets to be even able to compete! I”ve always been a fan of games made by the small teams, or by just one guy who spent his savings bringing out something of worth. I’ve seen that independant gaming hasn’t died on the PC platform, thanks in no small part to the power of word of mouth on the internet.

Games like Mount and Blade, developed by a couple in Eastern Europe, have built up a small following and brought enough income to the authors to continue to work on and improve their impressive title. Little freeware gems like Cave Story (aka. Doukutsu Monogatari) or Lyle in Cube Sector have also had a small impact in gamers playspace. On a much bigger scale Galactic Civilizations II by independant developer Stardock has seen wide distrobution and mainstream press praise.

On the console side of things, indie developers have had a much harder time until recently. One of the successes from the last generation of consoles was Alien Hominid. A self funded 2D scrolling game that evolved from a simple flash game, and they were able to market it and get it picked up by a publisher to be released on the Playstation 2, Gamecube and Gameboy Advance.

With the “next” generation of consoles on the way, with greater connectivity to the internet, and their own little marketplaces for buying new content the possibility of indie game developers having success has already happened. Take Geometry Wars for the XBOX 360. It’s not in the stores, and can only be downloaded from their XBOX Live Marketplace. For a good many months it was the most played XBOX 360 game. Continued support for small developers by Microsoft and hopefully it’s competition (Nintendo and Sony) could mean that the “little” guy has a chance to have his game seen and make a profit outside the normal retail chain and outside the huge budgets required to make an entry into that world.

Games and Learning

I was looking around the net as usuall, but ended up finding this post on Games and Learning. The author hits his point right on the head. Educational games tend to suck. They beat you over the head with what they are trying to teach you. Math games are some of the worst, but I remember reading and geography games as well.

Thinking back to my childhood and educational games that I’ve played, Oregon Trail stands out as a game that accomplished what it was trying to do. Make learning about how hard it was to cross the country in a wagon train, while having fun.

I think as my son grows I want to make his learning much like this as well. Take things that are normally long lists or excercises in memorization, and create a way that he just knows the answer instead of trying to recall his list in his head. Make his geography and history fun, but also second nature. I think this will be a good challenge for my wife and I as we look to educate him.

Tetris DS – Screenshots Galore

I’ve been tracking the information about Tetris DS, the new re-imagining of Tetris for the Nintendo DS, for a while now. I’ve been looking forward to busting out a few lines against the world in the Wi-Fi mode, but was also interested in how the single player modes would work as well. The plethora of Tetris DS screenshots on the British Gaming Blog has answered many of these questions. Can’t wait till the end of March.