Monday, April 10, 2006

Top 5 Gaming Moments

As usual, I'm having a hard time coming up with a gaming post, as all I'm doing is playing Oblivion and I don't think I can write up a whole post about Arcur sitting at his kitchen table making V8 fatigue potions. Maybe I can, we may find out next week. Actually, I haven't been playing too much as we've had family visiting and they tend to frown upon being abandoned for long periods of time while I triapse around the virtual countryside harvesting mushroom caps and fighting the undead. Whenever my sister is visiting and I come up from playing she always asks the same question, "Did you win?" which just goes to show the lack of understanding about how games have progressed. In the past, I've tried to explain what I've been playing and I just get that glassy eyed look my wife gives me during similar discussions, so now I just say "Yes, I won" and move on. I think she thinks I'm downstairs playing Pong or something, when in reality the fate of the world rests in these hands! That and Pong.

Whenever I'm in a bind, useless lists seem to fit the bill for content, so without further ado, here are my Top 5 Gaming Moments. Yay.

#5 - Playing Fallout 2
Techincally this isn't a moment, more like a very long string of moments, but Fallout 2 is the game that got me playing RPGs, and I've never looked back since. I had just heard about Electronic Boutique's policy of buying back PC games, back when they could buy back PC games, so I went into the store with a boatload of games, expecting to get enough credit to get maybe one game, and most likely I'd have to supplement the price with my own fundage. I managed to get enough money to buy 3 games, so flush with cash, I picked 2 games that I knew I'd like (Quake 2 and Sanitarium) and used the rest to try a genre I had never tried before. I picked up the Fallout 2 box and was immediately impressed with the physical weight. Any game that had such a hefty manual had to be good. The box art seemed cool, as did all of the options with character creation. I brought it home, installed it, booted it up and proceeded to play one of the greatest games ever created. So much of what I love about RPG's came from that game and so much about what I expect in an RPG came from that game. The character creation system was amazing. If you wanted to create a drug addicted, medical doctor who also sniped on the side, you could. I should know, because I did. The turn based system could make some battles a little on the long side, but that was pretty much the only thing I could find wrong with the damn thing. To this day, when playing an RPG, my first instinct is to kill the merchants and just take whatever it is they're trying to sell me. Thanks Fallout 2, for making me the homicidal shopper I am today! I still try to branch out into other genres when I have a little extra cash, which has helped me find games I love and normally wouldn't have played, like Burnout and helped me learn that I suck at fighting games.

#4 - Killing a Half-Dragon Single Handedly in Baldur's Gate 2: Throne of Bhaal
I spoke about this last week, but here's what actually went down. In this particular battle, once you beat on this dude long enough, he'd ditch his humanoid form and turn into this huge dragon and proceed to beat you senseless. My party was getting tore up and things weren't working. I took a break from the fighting and came up with a strategy. First, I led my party way out of harm's way and told them to stay put. Utilizing Tipsy's kick ass trap setting ability, I set a boatload of traps down the stairs from where the battle took place. Then, armed with my own gear, as well as a Time Stop scroll and a staff that conferred Invisibility, from one of my party members, I headed up to meet my fate. One of the perks that I had taken as I was leveling up, was the ability to use magical items (although not learn spells myself) which would prove to be essential in this battle. After some witty banter with my nemesis, I cast the Time Stop spell, which allowed me to get in some good thwacks without taking any damage myself. I used my Whirlwind ability to turn into a whirling dervish of damage and hit this dude with a sword that did extra damage to dragons in one hand, and with a sword that reduced your opponent's armor rating with every hit, in another hand. My plan was to get him to his dragon state as quickly as possible. My plan worked, and as soon as the Time Stop spell ended, he switched forms. His first order of business was to use his wings to blow me down the temple steps, which was exactly what I was hoping he'd do. Once I stood up, I equipped the Invisibility staff, and poof, no more Tipsy. The dragon-dude, unable to find me or my party, came down the stairs looking for me and instead found about a dozen explosive traps. They all went off, he died and just like that it was over. As they say, prior planning prevents piss poor performance. For once being a pack rat paid off.

#3 - Playing on Xbox Live for the First Time
It was January of 0f '04. I had purchased an Xbox in the fall after borrowing Andy's to play Knights of the Old Republic and had been content to rock the solo tip. We had been living in the stone ages of dial-up and our cable provider offered this deal where you could get an entire year of broadband via cable modem for something like 35 bucks a month. Seeing how we spent 22 a month on dial-up, this was a no-brainer. Of course, once broadband was "in the house" as the kids would say, Andy was insistant that I get Xbox Live. I did, and the first game I played online was Rainbow Six 3. I absolutely suck at this game, but the fact that I could play either against other people or with folks in a co-op mission without having to invite a bunch of people over and move around furniture was amazing. It also opened up to me an entire group of people who loves gaming as much as I do, and keeps me from having to game with the general public. I've met some great people through this group, and talk to them daily online. While I may not play online as much as others do, being able to via Live has expanded my circle of friends in a way that never would have been possible for a hermit such as myself without Live.

#2 - Playing a GameBoy for the First Time
I am a complete Nintendo handheld whore. If Nintendo comes out with a handheld, chances are I'll buy it. Despite having a DS, and loving it, I'm seriously considering buying a DS Lite, for no other reason that it's a "new" Nintendo handheld. This all started many, many years ago, when my friends and I started hanging out at Joe's house on Friday nights to watch the Mike Tyson fights on HBO. Joe was the only person with HBO and the only person with parents that would let a group of obvious losers such as us in their house. I think it helped that my sister was one of Joe's mom's favorite students (Joe's mom was an art professor), but not by much. As those that watched boxing in the late 80's can remember, Tyson fights were real big on build up and post-fight commentary, but low on fight action as Tyson would usually lay the guy out in two hits. That left a lot of time just hanging around and goofing off. Joe's brother had a GameBoy, which he always left in the basement, so while we were all waiting for Tyson to tear his latest opponent apart, I would play Tetris and Castlevania on the GameBoy, completely ignoring my friends in the process. This beget a long, proud tradition of not only handheld gaming, but ignoring those that are in my midst while I play the latest handheld gaming machine. I had a long lapse between the GameBoy, to the GameBoy Color, back in 99, but I've been going strong ever since. GameBoy Color to GameBoy Advance to GameBoy Advance SP to my current DS. I skipped the Micro, as I'm not into the games as fashion accessories thing, and I briefly strayed from the path and bought a PSP, but that was quickly rectified and I am now firmly esconced in Nintendo's handheld house. All because of Joe's brother, good old whatever his name was.

#1 - Learning that I Could Save My Progress in Space Quest
I don't remember the exact year, but as a young boy, I would spend most of my summer with my mom in upstate New York, and a few weeks with my dad in Annapolis, MD. Dad always had stuff planned, but he also usually had to work for a bunch of days while I was there. He had bought a computer for his home business (he prepared taxes for people on the side) and bought me a copy of Space Quest to play on it during the day. Many the afternoons were spent staring at that orange and black screen, playing Space Quest while I ate my Stouffer's French Bread pizzas and frozen Skor bars. But all was not well in the land of junk food and video gaming. There was a part in the game where you had to drive some hoverbike thingy across this rocky landscape, and I'd always die and then have to start all over from the beginning. One day, after doing this for the billionth time, I thought that there had to be some way for the computer to know what I had been doing and keep my progress. I reread the manual, and there they were, instructions on how to save my game. My computer experience up until that point had been next to nothing, so I had no concept of saving a game, to even think it was possible in the first place. All I knew was that I was pissed at having to do the entire first half of Space Quest again, despite being able to get it done in about 20 minutes flat. I grabbed a floppy, saved my progress and probably got the hoverbike section done on the next try. Since that moment, and probably because of it, poorly designed, or nonexistant save points have been my number one pet peeve in gaming. It is inconceivable to me, that I had the ability to save games back in the day of 2 color gaming, but I can't today just because I'm playing on a console. You can talk all you want about it being a design choice but it's laziness, pure and simple, and because people don't equate saving your progress with consoles, they don't expect it. It drives me nuts. I'm just glad that I found that floppy, because otherwise I'd probably still be sitting there.

5 comments:

Capt Crash 31 said...

good stuff, now I may be inspired to do 5 gaming moments myself...

as always you never disappoint Binky.

suburbanjoe said...

I'm glad you liked it. Can't wait to see your top 5.

Silver said...

Space Quest!!!!! Wo-hoo!!!!

k o w said...

Great post. I'll have to do a similar one.

Just as a preview though...
Beating Dragon Warrior for the NES all by myself is something I will never forget.

suburbanjoe said...

Excellent! That's a hell of an achievement. Can't wait to read all about it.