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I credit my high WPM to Sierra

KQ1

It might just look like a blob of blue pixels...but it's clover. Really.

When I type, my fingers dance across the keyboard like a trailblazing cowboy. I didn’t develop mad typing skills in keyboarding class…my Keystroke Kata began well before school required that as a part of the daily curriculum. And I owe it all to Sierra.

The early text-based adventure games like Quest for Glory (originally dubbed Hero’s Quest), King’s Quest, and…ahem…Leisure Suit Larry really helped to shape my typing techniques because this style of game required you to input verb commands in order to progress and complete quests. As the graphics technology of this era were limited (but still awesome), you couldn’t always get an in-depth view of your surroundings. Commands such as “look around” or “look at” followed by what you wanted to examine returned an in game pop-up panel that gave you a literary description of what you were actually looking at.

The early Sierra games really required you to think. You drove the story with your commands, and so you had to think about what or how you wanted to do something, tell the game what you wanted to do, and make it happen (or not – depending on your command). The text parser system within these games translated your command inputs into something the game could understand, making it easier for the player to react to the game’s response. For instance, if you issued the command, “get the gold key”, the game would strip the input and understand “get key”, resulting in your character picking up the key in the game.

The game developers at Sierra had a quirky sense of humor that often coincided with the players themselves. You could enter in some not-so-politically-correct commands and the game would provide humorous admonishments about your lack of manners. I can clearly recall one instance in Quest for Glory where I instructed my character to “pee on bush” (come on…I was 12) and the parser responded with “Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?” Sometimes this would turn into a personal conquest to determine how many insults I could fling at the game and get a response for.

When it comes down to the nitty-gritty, the complexity behind these early adventure games was almost mind-boggling when you stop to think about it. Every interaction, every consequential combination of objects, all of these aspects had to be carefully planned and coordinated by the game’s designer. The designer not only had to plan out the story’s sequence, but how the multitude of players would play the game and interact with the world. At some point, the designers of Quest for Glory anticipated the juvenile requests exploring the possibility of urinating in the woods.

The cool thing about text-based games is that you were really drawn into the game on an interactive level. These games weren’t just about mashing buttons mindlessly. They were about putting together the bits and pieces, unraveling the story one step at a time. You had to apply reason and conscious thought – if you got stuck on a puzzle, you couldn’t just Google the answer. However, on the flip-side of button mashing, if you were at the mercy of a non-intuitive puzzle, oftentimes you would end up typing out every combination of interactions with every item in your inventory. It’s tough to be the only kid in your sixth-grade class with carpal tunnel.

The introduction of mouse-driven game engines saw the decline of the text-based adventure game era. But thanks to games such as the hit titles in the Sierra lineup, it only took me 29.6 seconds to type this blog post.

Paladin’s Picks: Top 5 RPG Games for PC

I love video games. Yes…that does sound like an opening statement only Captain Obvious would use, but it’s true. I am an avid gamer who is fascinated by not only the games themselves, but by the industry itself as well.

Throughout my years as a gamer, I’ve played almost every genre of game available, with the exception of most sports-based games (does MLB Baseball for the original Nintendo count?). From the early text-based adventures, to the shoot-em-up first-person shooters, to the story-rich RPGs, I have masqueraded as a variety of player characters through countless worlds, scenarios, and adventures.

Role-playing games are definitely my preferred stomping ground, and here’s a showcase of my top five RPGs for PC of all time.

  1. Ultima VII: The Black Gate– This game had it all. Groundbreaking graphics, a rich, in-depth story that evolved from a simple murder mystery to the introduction of Britannia’s arch-nemesis, and an advanced inventory system that let you revel in your inner-hoarder. U7 also introduced a fully interactive world. Almost every object could be touched, used, opened, or even eaten, opening up a whole new game experience. The Avatar did not stand alone, as both new and recurring companions shared your trials and hardships with you, and you could tweak the AI controls over respective party members. And thanks to the team at Exult, you can enjoy this timeless classic over and over and over again.
  2. Diablo II – Although not a true RPG in the standard definition, this hack-and-slash dungeon crawler made my list on sheer principle. The Diablo series has spawned numerous imitators, but like the Highlander, there can be only one. In Diablo II, you chose from among five character classes to partake in a battle royale against hordes of enemies and big bad bosses. Many weekends were spent in classic old-school LAN style, fueled by caffeine and scouring endless dungeons for matched epic set pieces.
  3. Baldur’s Gate 2: The Shadows of Ahm – I’m a Baldur’s Gate fan to the core, and the second of the series kept me glued to my keyboard clocking some serious gaming hours. From the moment my character escaped the wicked experimentations of Jon Irenicus all the way to the epic ending battle in the subterranean abyss, I was mesmerized by the in-depth story and and how actions you took in-game affected the way your adventure played out. In addition, BG2 served up some lovable (and some not-so-lovable) characters, including the big, burly berserker Minsc and his miniature, giant space-hamster, Boo. “Go for the eyes, Boo!” was his battle cry, and you will find this phrase popping up with cheeky deference in games such as Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2.
  4. Neverwinter Nights – Neverwinter Nights served up a heaping platter of D&D goodness. Starting with character creation, I’m sure I spent at least an hour custom tailoring my Paladin (of course) with feats, abilities, and appearance options. The game’s story line was great – at the Neverwinter Academy, you rose from the ranks of obscurity to become the city’s champion against the Wailing Death; a mysterious plague that is robbing citizens of their lives. Although the Henchman AI was a little quirky, it was rewarding learning more about your followers through each of their individual quest lines. Another great feature of NWN was the Aurora Toolset, which allowed you to easily create your own campaign modules and share them with your friends or online with the NWN community.
  5. Oblivion – The fourth game in the Elder Scrolls series follows in the great tradition of its predecessors. Take everything you know about traditional RPGs (be a hero, follow a linear line of quests, rescue the princess, save the world) and throw it out the window. This game lets you unearth your own creativity from the get-go with non-standard player characters. Want to be a fireball-flinging warrior who can rock stealth with the best of them? Go for it. Oblivion’s open ended quests, lush graphics, and breathtaking landscapes redefine the RPG genre.

What are your favorite RPG games for the PC? I’d love to know, so drop a line below!

You don’t have to be a social butterfly to enjoy games like World of Warcraft

Kylessa_Elune

Rawr

I’ve been playing World of Warcraft off and on for several years (…and just for the record: yes, I’m a girl and no, I don’t live in my parent’s basement). I resisted the pull of MMOs long before I ever found WoW, largely due to the fact that I do not consider myself a “social” gamer. It’s not that I feel I should be wearing a sign that reads, “Does Not Play Well With Others,” it’s just that when I play video games, I find it difficult to immerse myself within the story that is unfolding on my screen if I’m having to drown out the insipid chatter of 13 year olds yelling, “DOOD, I JUST PWND U!” Okay…maybe I should be wearing a sign…

When I play socially, I like to play with people I know. Maybe I’ve seen Meet the Parents one too many times…you have to be in my circle of trust before I’ll give you gun cover with my AK-47 as you dive through a slavering group of hungry zombies. I’m not an elitist bitch, I swear, but when the smoke clears, I’d rather give that virtual high-five to someone who doesn’t sound like they’ve been playing Russian roulette with the English language.

When I was first introduced to WoW, I expected its gaming community to be filled to the rafters with trite in-your-face commentary, thus ruining my gaming experience. What I didn’t expect is how easy it would be to drown out the background noise and actually become absorbed with the rich story, entertaining quests, and challenging dungeons. And once I did, I was pleasantly surprised when I became acquainted with some real nice folks.

I thought that by playing a MMO, that meant you had to be a social butterfly, join an uber-guild, start speaking l33t, and otherwise act like a giant tool. And while some people choose to play like that, it’s not those people that shape my gaming experience. Multi-player games, at least in my pre-WoW opinion, were games that you could play in co-op or death match modes with a small, select group of friends, thus placing your overall game play in a shiny, protective bubble. But with technologies like XboxLive and other online gaming collaboratives combined with cheap high-speed internet, the art of social gaming has quickly become a standard way to play.

There are over 11.4 million World of Warcraft subscribers – people that open themselves up to one of the largest online gaming experiences currently available. I’m one of them. I can choose to quest solo, or I can dip into the multi-player pool if I want. I can be as social (or anti-social) as I want. I can play with people I know in the Really-Real-World, or join an unknown group of nameless avatars. The great thing is that it’s entirely up to me to play the game however I want.

Remember, all things (including video games) should be taken in moderation. If you’re on a 36-hour straight WoW bender, it might be time to step away from the keyboard and get some fresh air. Ragnaros will still be there when you get back.

The adventure begins…

I promise, this isn’t going to be one of those, “Back in my day, we had to walk 30 miles through the snow to get to school,” kind of posts. But it is going to cover some ancient history. I’ll try to keep my geriatric diatribes to a minimum. 🙂

Adventure for Atari 2600

Wikipedia: Adventure Game Cover

The very first video game I ever remember playing was called Adventure, which was published in 1979 and released for the Atari 2600 console. I was a small child in the early 80’s, but I’ll never forget the sense of wonder I felt when roaming (lost) through an 8-bit kingdom filled with mirror-image mazes, and searching for the Enchanted Chalice (which at that age, might as well have been the Holy Grail for all I knew).

Adventure was the first of its kind. Besides having honorarily popped my proverbial video game cherry, it was also the first action-adventure game, for without which the genre might never have been born, and we might never have had series such as King’s Quest, the Legend of Zelda, or Fable. This game also held a secret – the first ever “Easter Egg” known in video game history. In those early days, Atari did not credit the actual programmers for their work, and because of this, the game’s designer, Warren Robinette created a secret “room” in the game that could only be found by sheer luck and an eye for detail. In the secret room, the words, “Created by Warren Robinette” were displayed vertically across the screen. Another first in the history books was the introduction of an inventory system, in which the player could select one item at a time to carry, without the need to type in a myriad of commands.

Easter Egg from Adventure

Introducing the Easter Egg

This wasn’t a game you played because the graphics were so smokin’ hot, or because the story’s plot was bestselling material that inspired you to do great things. This game was about possibilities – you used your imagination to fill in any of the gaps that technology simply couldn’t cover. As a kid, I had a rampant imagination (and still do to some degree), and could clearly picture the single dot that represented my player character as a sword-wielding battle maiden, with flowing golden hair and eyes that shined like sapphires. It didn’t matter that all the TV screen reflected was a monotone blip…I could see it in my mind and that was good enough for my eight year old self.

I’ve watched the world of video games shift and transform over the years into a definitive art form. From graphics that leave you slack-jawed and drooling, to story lines that are continuously engaging…the technology just keeps getting better and better. But I do like to think about the game that started it all, at least for me. And I can’t help but wonder what the youth of today’s generation would think about playing a game that only used 4KB of ROM, 128 bytes of RAM, and a whole lot of grey matter elbow grease to see the kingdom of Adventure in the same light I saw it in 26 years ago.

Adventure Screenshot

And to the West...a Key!

What was the first video game you ever played? Inquiring minds want to know, so drop a comment below!

A gamer is born…

Gamer

For the love of the Game

Gamers come from all walks of life. Men, women, and children…young, old, or somewhere in between. They are the near-invincible youths that command the leaderboards in FPS games like Call of Duty. They are the suburban soccer moms who pass the time in between loads of laundry harvesting crops in Farmville. They find themselves standing toe-to-toe against the evil king in a heroic quest to rescue the Princess and save the land from oppressive tyranny.

A gamer traverses variegated landscapes of unending imagination, transported to another place in time through a console or PC, handheld or smart phone. Their tools of the trade includes keyboards, controllers, and joysticks, and each wields their weapon of choice with their own unique sense of style.

Every gamer has to start somewhere, as an inexperienced beginner rising through the ranks, awkwardly brandishing their controller and mashing buttons as though their life depended on it. Practice, determination, and the heady taste of victory results in understanding, and with understanding comes enlightenment.

A gamer is born, arising from the pit of noob like a legendary phoenix from the ashes, and on a quest for neverending glory. The path of heroism is long and arduous, and measured in experience points, achievement unlocks, and epic loot drops that lead to shouts of exultation…WOOT!

No matter what type of gamer you are, be it the hardcore fragger, the reigning champion of RPGs, the social player of MMOs, or the casual flinger of Angry Birds…there’s a common bond that unites us all…the passion to play the game.

What type of games do YOU play? I’d love to know, so drop a comment below!

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