Archives

All posts for the month June, 2012

“Sabrina dies at dawn.”

Published June 15, 2012 by jcrosland

Let me pose a question.

Who the hell is Sabrina?

*grumbles, shakes her head*

Now that that’s out of the way…take my hand, dear reader, as we journey back to 1982.

PC video games were a curiosity. Few had color. Fewer still had sound. Text-based adventures and edutainment reigned king (and queen). The Apple II–with its stark monochrome display and noisy disk drive–vied for the gnat-ish attention spans of children all across the country.

Okay, so I’m probably exaggerating, but whatevah. The best stories are those that are embellished. -_-

Anywhoo…

A few days ago, I downloaded an Apple II emulator called “AppleWin.” I suppose the “Win” stands for winning. Haha. Get it?  Winning?

*hears crickets*

Come on! You know that was funny. >_<

So, yeah.

Born in 1990, I never got to experience the awesomeness that was/is 80’s tech. No thanks to the Internet, I found out what I was missing. It’s something about those old machines that make my heart sigh with longing. Black and green/orange displays, the click-clackity of floppy disk drives, those cubic graphics…

*wipes a tear from her eye*

Eager to create some memories of my own, I hastily tracked down some ROMs, lamenting the fact that I’ll never have the luxury to use the actual hardware. Twenty minutes later, Ultima was reared up and ready to go. A push of a button had my eyes greeted by an unfamiliar sight.

I created my character (Vishkali, the dark elf mage) and was transported to some nameless world. Trees (at least, I think those are trees) to the west, grassland to the east, and a castle town not far away. Man, this was awesome! 

Five minutes later, I had been gobbled up by a snake, assaulted by an invisible archer, and mauled by a bear. Fuck, this game was hardcore! 

With a lotta luck and some evasive tactics, I managed to make it to Lord British’s castle.

The next ten minutes were wasted as I tried to figure out which stick figure was me. Yeah, I was having the time of my life.

-_-

Eventually, common sense kicked in and I fled to Google for help.

A long story short, Ultima is at best a curiosity and, at worst, a lesson in patience. The enemies hit hard and fast; your character can easily starve if you’re not careful; and healing is a bitch. Seriously, you have to pay somebody to be healed. It’s America’s health care system, minus the insurance bit.

Don’t get me wrong, though. Ultima is worth playing if you’re interested in the roots of WRPGs. For once, I felt like I was being challenged. Hyperaware of my surroundings and stats, I felt restricted to a given area. I couldn’t venture too far from Lord British’s castle without risking a premature death. At first, I found my limitations to be horrid. The game felt clunky and the pace was snail-slow. I didn’t  know where to go. People were useless.

But then, I found myself enjoying Ultima. I liked the emphasis on imagination. Mountains and forests and lakes–they were all present. But you–the player–had to fill in the details yourself. When I died, I was greeted with the crude image of a skull. Much to my surprise, Vishkali was resurrected and her position reset. Huh. And here I thought that death spelt “Game Over.”

My second foray into the Apple II’s gaming infancy was much more successful.

Transylvania is a game reminiscent of B-horror flicks. Plopped down in the middle of a dark forest, I was left to journey on my own with directions given here and there. Despite the graphical limitations, I felt sufficiently spooked. No, not spooked. Amused, with a touch of weariness, and a heavy dose of confusion.

A dropped note reads “Sabrina dies at dawn.”

Chilling!

“A witch cackles in the distance.”

Frightening!

“There is a menacing werewolf!”

*screams*

The programmers really went out of their way to make the game feel unsettling. Kudos to you, Penguin Software. If there was a plot, then I couldn’t find it. Most of my fun came from a) trying to evade the werewolf, and b) explore Dracula’s grounds. I got as far as the attic in an abandoned house. The pistol was within sight. Then that damned werewolf popped up. >_< Furry bugger ate me for dinner.