Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Solution is Only Mostly Unattainable

Hangover seems mostly gone to-day. Some scrambled eggs at Denny's did seem to help.

I seem to have been on another nostalgia kick over the past several days. A couple days ago, I installed and played a bit of Space Quest 3, a game that devoured many hours of my youth with gameplay of not exactly magnificent quality.

I used to play it on a computer with a 286 processor and a cga monitor. It seemed incredible to find, when I installed it a couple days ago, that the entire game is no more than two megabytes. I think one of the reasons it seemed so massive was its text parser gameplay, which, in retrospect, is pretty silly. Sure, in theory it sounds like a more interactive experience to simply be able to type in commands for your character in simple English. But this was inevitably limited by the scope of the programmers' imaginations and the time and resources they had available to them. As I recall, it took more than a year for me and some other kids to figure out the specific thread of activities the player character was supposed to follow. It must have taken an extremely long time for the writers to plot as many of the different possible commands a player inputs, too, in the futile hopes of creating an open ended experience.

To give you an example, in one screen your character walks in a tube past of bunch of wires. There's no immediate indication that the wires have any more significance than the rest of the random debris and mechanical junk in the garbage vessel in which you begin the game. If you get it into your head for some reason to try taking the wires, if your character is not standing directly next to the wires, typing "Get wires" or "Take wires" merely results in the game reporting back to you something like, "There are no suitable wires nearby to take."

The wires, of course, end up being vital to your progress in the game, as you need them to repair a small ship in order to escape the garbage vessel. Naturally, you can't pick up wires you're not standing right next to, and naturally "Get wires" would certainly not imply taking a few steps towards the wires in order to take them. Right?

But, for some reason, I continued playing the game for years in the early 90s. And I remember all the steps one needs to take in order to get past the first scene, in much the way Guy Pearce's character remembered things in Memento; repetition. When you've actually taken the time to find a needle in a haystack, you remember damn well where it was you eventually found that needle. For good or ill, the path to defeating the Pirate of Pestulon is hardwired into my brain.

I watched the second season premiere of Battlestar Galactica last night. I loved how the tension never let up--I liked the gun battle on Kobol, and I really loved the space battle, especially when there were so many dogfights at the Galactica's 11 o'clock that the big ship was almost totalled obscured by the multitude of small explosions. I found myself wishing people were a little more patient with the Sharon clones. I know everyone's supposed to be profoundly angry at the Cylons for destroying the human race, but is it so much to ask for someone to keep their head? I would enjoy it.

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