Saturday, August 21, 2010

I need to finish this post before the count starts

Not-so-subtle imitation of Paulus. Well Australians are not well known for their originality so I will stop from making more deriding comments. Personally I am predicting a hung parliament; it seems so fashionable these days.

There is a recent resurgence of 8-bit style flash games, especially on sites such as I enjoyed most of them, however they probably mean a lot less to me than they would have to people slightly older than me.

My first personal computer is a 300MHz Celery-A, however before that came along I mostly played with computers at my mom's workplace. She worked in the accounting department and they had hundreds of desktops, mostly of 80486 and Pentium vintage. Most of my family are quite spartan and we never owned a console, hence I skipped the entire 8-bit era into the wonderful 16-bit gaming.

It is amazing how much content people used to be able to pack in a few megabytes: The graphics have certainly improved from 8-bit consoles, however most of the time standout pixels still dominate.

A few of my favourite DOS games revisited in no particular order:

Silent Hunter is the first serious naval simulation game not set in the post-war era (i.e. Harpoon). The game offers a wide range of difficulty to satisfy anybody from diehard military chic to average teenager with too much testosterone. At the end of the day, nothing is better than seeing three well-aimed torpedo rushing to your target.

Unfortunately, Silent Hunter 2 is a much better game and I have not replayed the DOS version since then. Later on the franchise took a different direction and I have not looked back, however someday i definitely will.

12 or 13 years later, I still subconsciously quote phrases from this game in my everyday life. Back then it was probably the best day of PC gaming, when creative and audacious studios like Black Isle and Bullfrog (which incidentally made this game) were still alive and well. Theme Hospital is certainly comedic in its portrayal of various real and fictional diseases (Eating stale pizza will give people bloaty head, nevertheless there is a machine that will reduce the size of your head to normal, seriously), as well as hospital management(apparently sick people like to relieve themselves in public when toilets are lacking, and hospitals routinely perform research on undiagnosable/incurable patients while the world remain calm and carries on), but in the end of the day, it is a great game. Micromanagement is vital, but made much easier than the chore that must be practiced endlessly in RTS games.

Another strategy/simulation type of game. Aerobiz is the game for the plane-crazy, where you manage everything for an emerging airline from aircraft purchase to the amount of MSG in the in flight meals. Not recommended for those with a poor gripe of details, but the silly amount of money you are given in the game really makes you feel more important than you really are.

Like cancer, game localisation is a highly stochastic process, and I don't mean the botched translations such as Zero Wing. Many relatively obscure games, for example, Gemfire, gained a loyal following once introduced to the English-speaking players. (Gemfire/Royal Blood II is really worth commenting, but they are Win32 games and must be left till a future chapter) However, many wonderful titles such as Uncharted Waters 2, never saw the light of the day outside Asia.

Certainly, some will argue that the game is nothing but a beautified 8-bit RPG with a seafarer theme pack thrown on top of it. The addictive formula lies with the high factual accuracy, players with good knowledge of geography are blessed. Seeing the end of storyline is just half of the game, the rest is exploration into uncharted seas. Perfectly suited to an armchair traveler like me, who often lament the fact that humans beings has already probed every inch of the planet's surface that there is little left to be discovered.

At one point I owned an old rig and I remember the specs clearly: It was at one point a high-spec workstation: Pentium Pro, 440FX mobo, 64MB ECC EDORAM, S3 ViRGE VX grahics and a full sized Creative Soundblaster Pro 16. I kept it solely to play DOS games, as support for DOS games is dropping behind in Windows XP. I used it religiously till I discovered DOSBOX, and the aforementioned machine was promptly sold for scrap metal.

I thought my mind is mostly up to date with the latest development in technology, but to be able to perfectly emulate DOS on top of another OS has completely blown me away when I first found this out. Right now, it is even possible to run it on your phone:

Technology has changed so much that I almost come to be a little scared by it, albeit in a good way.