Before I get stuck into explaining the title… first of all, a very good review indeed over at Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review, which was followed up with an interview by said reviewer. The Gildar Rift is pretty much officially ‘out there’ now: I received a text from my dad last week that simply said ‘seen it in Waterstones‘. I presumed he meant my book. I think he was proud. Actually, so was I when I went into the Waterstones in Durham yesterday and there it was on the shelf.
Not, as you might think, (given the time of year) a reference to advent calendars or the countdown to Christmas in general. Instead, it’s one of those words that always evokes great memories for me. ‘Advent’ was the command line on my dad’s ancient TRS-80 to run ‘Adventureland’, the text-based adventure game written by Scott Adams about a bajillion years ago.
I loved those games and would devour them. I would oust my dad from the computer (bear in mind I was probably seven years old or something at the time) and would work my way through them with an intensity bordering on insanity. Imagine the thrill of this:-
You’re in a forest.
Obvious exits: North, South, East, West, Up.
You can also see: trees
There was such undiluted charm to those text-based adventure games. And you had to map your own version of it. And you had to struggle desperately with your computer to get it to understand what you wanted it to do. LIGHT LAMP. UNLIGHT LAMP. You wouldn’t believe how damn long it took me to get the latter one.
Here’s an utter joy, then. You can play all the Scott Adams adventures via Java online now. I’ve had so much fun and STILL struggle on occasion to find the right phrasing!
Then, a few years later, along came Prestel. And with Prestel came Micronet. And with Micronet came Shades, the first MUG/MUD I ever played. There I was, playing a text-based adventure game all over again, but this time, there were ACTUAL PEOPLE. People to whom I could speak. People with whom I could fight, win, lose, steal treasure… have quiz nights on a Thursday, throw snowballs at over the Christmas period…
It was a constant race to get from Novice to Witch/Wizard (depending upon your chosen gender… this was also my first slow discovery that men-played-women-and-vice-versa-on-online-games) in as fast a time as possible. This was before the days of anything remotely resembling broadband. Most people connected to Shades on a 1200/75 baud modem. Then there were the REALLY IT-savvy folks who had Atari ST’s and a piece of custom software called Ripper, which allowed you to create macros which essentially played Shades for you. And they all connected at twice the speed of everyone else.
Everyone hated those poeple.
And then there were the opportunities to meet up with these folks in Real Life at Shades meets… These things frequently took place at a pub on the top end of the Tottenham Court Road – The Sol’s Arms. I have no idea if it’s still even there, but I bet it heaved a sigh of relief when Micronet folded. Most of those people are still my friends today.
>w, w, w, s, grab girl, turn, n, w, n, e, dr t
Guess what? Yep. You can still play Shades online, too. Some things just never die. Despite my best efforts.
So from the humble beginnings of Scott Adams and his text-based adventure games, I’ve played a lot of these things. The Hobbit on the Amstrad CPC-464 had, y’know, GRAPHICS. This was amazing to a pleb like me. Can you believe it? Yes. You can still play all these games online now, too!
(An aside… Dearly Beloved recently invested in ‘The Ultimate Sega Megadrive Collection’. For his PS3. Seriously. A few hundred quid’s worth of equipment to be nostalgic on? Mind, I bought Lemmings for the PC not so long ago).
I graduated from the text-based school of adventure into graphic RPGs with games like Zak McKraken and the Alien Mindbenders. And then the Monkey Island series. And Sam & Max. And Grim Fandango. And all the other Lucasarts point-and-click wonders that will never, ever be beaten. Then… then, along came Myst. Which plain creeped me out with its ambient sound effects and the sense that ANY MOMENT NOW something was going to leap out of a bush and eat your face. I had many, many sleepless nights around that game and it wasn’t all because of staying up until stupid o’clock playing it.
So in time, it was almost inevitable that I would fall to the charms of World of Warcrack… craft. It’s been particularly fun for me because I enjoy the roleplaying element of it. It’s only a mediocre game to play in many ways… after all, you can only kill so many wolves in the woods (none of whom EVER appear to have nostrils, or whatever random body part you’ve agreed to find), but the RP element and the various Extra Things That Happen when you reach level 85 kind of make up for it. Kind of. My lingering problem with WoW is that my time is sort of limited really and so I ‘ve never actually learned the more intense element of the game. I hate going into random dungeons with Unknown People, because if you don’t respond to the barked ‘buff now noob’ command that is suddenly issued within 0.4 milliseconds, you’re kicked out of the dungeon.
But I’ve lapsed. I’ve not been on WoW for a couple of weeks. That’s because I’ve been fortunate enough to be beta-testing Star Wars: The Old Republic. And oh, I’ve been enjoying it. In terms of gameplay, it’s a lot like WoW. But for me, the best thing so far has been the random groups I’ve joined to do various flashpoints with. Without fail they’ve all been pleasant, fun, cooperative and a damn good laugh. And that makes things so much more enjoyable.
The quests are more engaging because the storylines are ongoing and pull you in. I think the fact that it’s voice acting is better than being able to skip through the text. There are so many quests in WoW where I’ve only ever gone quick precis, please, and skipped to the end, as it were. And… well, it’s VERY pretty. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed beta-testing it and now that the testing phase is over, genuinely feel bereft.
Well worth a play in my opinion, but in the meantime, go and play some of those fiendish Scott Adams adventures. Remember, kids. This was once the pinnacle of technology.
Now where did I put my bus pass?