Clues on the Interwebs

Syp’s nostalgia tour with Quest for Glory had me itching for a replay.

There are a few childhood memories that sit with me still, those of just pure joy.  I can clearly remember opening a Christmas gift and looking at a dragon, trying to figure out what was going on.  Turning the box around, I saw it was a computer game and read every inch of that manual before getting home.


So old school it’s a different name now.

There’s a special place in my brain for Sierra adventure games.  King’s Quest’s pass or die mechanics were not exactly attractive, but QfG’s skill-based checks were amazing!  1989 brought the concept that repeated skill use meant you got better at the skill.  Completely novel at the time.

I still remember getting lost in the game and having to resort to those really cheap “red screen on red text” guides to help me through the tough bits.  Not because the individual quests were hard, but because of the interdependence of those quests.  (Incidentally learning of the benefits of black box testing.)

I played the 2nd one when it came out, and having to draw my own complicated map of the city.  Dying in the desert to pretty much anything that looked at me.  Trying to figure out how to become a paladin.  Back again to the red-screen books.

The 3rd one I bought with my own money, and I can still recall my mouse driver not working for 6 months.  Every play a click adventure without a mouse?  Wow!  This is the game that taught me that you need to go everywhere, at least twice, and at all times of the day.  Without finding the thief at night in Tarna on day 3, you couldn’t beat the final boss on day 20.

The 4th (same as Syp is on now) was a rightful mess of A-B-C quests that all started near the same time, could overlap, and then ended at different times.  It looked and sounded cool but was insanely buggy.  The Mad Monk swamp quest would remain incomplete for 10 years (and the end battle) due to non-stop computer crashes.  It’s ironic that everything but the mechanics of the game were amazing.  But the SCII engine was clearly pushed beyond it’s limits.

The 5th and final entry was bought on nostalgia more than anything else.  First foray in 3d, the mechanics worked decent enough for the time.  The issue was the quests – in particular the Iblis portion.  It was entirely possible to paint yourself into a corner, with no way out unless you completely restarted the game and put in different skill points.  The puzzles themselves were quite fun, and not really needing much of a guide at that point (well, maybe cause I was older).  Then ending did cap the overall story, and was pretty much the end of the adventure-RPG genre in my eyes.

Finding Help

The adventure genre (Sierra in particular) was notorious for obtuse puzzles, and puns that were supposedly clues.  One in the 4th told you about throwing something that’s not a bird, and a yellow one on the ground.  Apparently that means throwing a rock and leaving a rubber chicken on the ground.  That said, one of the novelties was the multiple solution quests, where each class could bring a new approach.  So where the warrior would through stones, the mage could cast force bolt, and then fetch their goal.  That added flexibility/complexity really came into it’s own in the 4th entry.

Still, there were some pretty big brain stumpers.  And those red-screen guides were my go-to well before the interwebs.  Prima Guides didn’t really exist for much more that stat books (great for RPGs), especially if you only wanted partial spoilers.  I would never have killed a single Dark Aeon in FFX without gamefaqs.

Nowdays, I get spoilers for everything before the game has even launched.  It is a rare occasion that the gameplay has some sort of puzzle that cannot be solved with a quick google/discord search.  And it’s not like we’re forced to look these things up, it’s just that they are so damn accessible.  Heck, I’ve written my share of guides.  It’s an interesting shift, where there’s a general lack of mystery and gumption to get through rough spots.  I still very much enjoy the learning aspect, the trial by error.  The Room series on mobile is a great example of puzzle games, without major fail conditions.

Dunno, maybe it’s the competitive nature of gaming.  Maybe it’s the sheer amount of games that release. A combination of other things.  Right now, it feels like a buffet and I’m asking for instructions on how to get through it efficiently, rather than truly taking the time to enjoy the meal.

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