Wasteland of Radiance

I occasionally spend time playing video games. There are those who would exuberantly exaggerate the amount of time I spend playing video games with statements like, “he always plays video games,” “he never does anything other than play video games,” et cetera. But in truth I spend about an hour or two every day playing video games – although admittedly when I’m involved with an engrossing game the time commitment can grow considerably.

However, I honestly feel as though my best gaming days are now behind me. The problem is that I fell in love with video games back in a different time. When I was quite young I had a friend named Brad. (By ‘quite young’ I mean like nine or ten). Brad had a Commodore 128, which was a very simple early home computer – the kind that uses your TV as a monitor. Brad used to play a lot of CRPGs, or computer role-playing games. Which is natural – we used to play D&D and other pencil-and-paper role-playing games, so when similar games became available on computers of course we gravitated towards them.

Back then the best CRPGs were games like Wizardry, Might and Magic, The Bard’s Tale, and Ultima. Within a few years some of the slightly more technologically advanced CRPGs like Pool of Radiance came out, but around 1984 video games were awfully basic by today’s standards. It would be difficult to convey in words what it meant for me to sit there watching Brad play Exodus: Ultima III. And yes, I just sat and watched. These weren’t multi-player games; the only game at the time that was multi-player was Pong. (Slight exaggeration there – I’m sure there were others but they certainly weren’t CRPGs). In short, I fell in love.

My family finally got a computer worth the name when my Dad brought home a Phillips x286 PC. I’m pretty sure Phillips didn’t stay in the PC market very long, but all in all that was a decent computer. 45 megabyte hard drive, which we thought was so large we partitioned it into one 25 megabyte drive and one 20 megabyte. Nowadays you’d be hard pressed to find a drive smaller than 500 gigabytes. In any event, once we had a real computer I was finally, after years of watching Brad, going to be able to play my own CRPGs. I started out with Pool of Radiance, which was an amazing game in its own right, but also had the distinction of being a licensed D&D product, so I was playing a CRPG and playing Dungeons & Dragons at the same time! I started to realize that these CRPGs made the annoying necessity of having friends basically obsolete.

To this day, my favorite video games of all time are older games. If I was to list my top 10 favorite games of all time, in no particular order, they would be Pool of Radiance, Wasteland, Ultima VI, Civilization, Darklands, Deus Ex, Baldur’s Gate, Jagged Alliance 2, X-COM, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. I know that last one is actually a pretty recent game, but out of my top 10 only one game was made after the year 2000.

These days, what they call “role-playing games” to me are basically action games. I don’t mind giving a nod of the head to the Elder Scrolls series for its involved world, storyline, and technical values, and I really did enjoy Morrowwind, although I thought Oblivion was a bit of a disappointment, but really – that sort of first-person running around hopping over rocks and dodging arrows makes it more of an action game than a true role-playing game.

Tomorrow I’ll spend some time outlining what I would do if I was allowed to design a video game. (Software studios all over the world are breathing a sigh of relief that I’m not, but nonetheless I will wax philosophically on what I would do, given the chance).


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