Friday, December 20, 2013

Peripherals: The Dex Drive

I think I focus on the Playstation 1 so much because that was the era when I was making decent money babysitting, but I wasn't old enough to drive or have a real job.

Basically, my $40 a week would turn into a massive PS1 shopping spree once a month.

Saying that, I also had one of those high capacity, off brand memory cards for the PS1 that had the tendency to corrupt saves ever few months.

The summer of 1999 was particularly brutal. I spent most days in front of the PS1 while my parents were at work. One day, I tried to load my Metal Gear Solid save and the PS1 kept saying it couldnt' find it. When I went into the memory card utility, there was nothing there. Empty. Much like my heart.

I lost some incredibly important files.

  • Resident Evil save that had Hunk and Tofu unlocked. 
  • Resident Evil 3 play through that had the costumes and epilogues unlocked.
  • Armored Core save on the last mission that I never beat. 
  • Metal Gear Solid clear game with the tuxedo and bandanna unlocked. 
  • And probably the most important, my 35 hour's of Legend of Legaia. 

There's no more depressing (yet oddly liberating) feeling of knowing hours of your summer just vanished because of corrupt memory blocks.

Enter, the DexDrive. The DexDrive could connect to your computer so you could backup saves. I bought one, sold my high capacity memory card, and just used one standard 128 KB card.

I just swapped files on and off of my PC, since my incredibly large 40 GB hard drive could essentially hold unlimited amounts of PS1 saves.

I was already in full support of the DexDrive until I also realized that I could download other people's saves from the internet. I spent hours scouring message boards and GameFAQs trying to find save files that most resembled the ones I lost. There were even some hacked saves, unlocking items that never made it to the final game and levels never meant to see.

I was able to mostly restore my lost saves with a little perseverance and Yahoo! searches. And thus, the DexDrive saved my summer.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Editorial: Doom's 20th Anniversary

Doom turned 20 this week. TWENTY!!! (Oh GOD I'M GETTING SO OLD)

I actually liked Doom 2 a bit better than the original Doom, but the original Doom was the first time, father and son sat down, and said, "Wow, there might be something more to this gaming thing."

Side note: This is also the last first person shooter my dad could play. Once things went to 3D, it was game over.

Doom was the first game that I can remember sitting in my windowless basement office, on a gorgeous Saturday, and just playing for 8 hours straight with my buddy Spencer.

I started typing this on Tuesday and have had to just leave and come back and try to figure out where I wanted to focus the post. This game just means so much to my childhood.

  1. Wolfenstein 3D was impressive and great in it's own right, but Doom hit the culture so hard, it was the first computer game I remember talking about on the playground. Mario, Sonic, and if you were a hardcore gamer, Doom, were subjects of, "Oh I found this secret in level 1-3" or had that one kid claiming to have an uncle that worked at ID. That's how you knew the game was good, everyone's uncle somehow worked at ID after they left their gig at Nintendo.
  2. This was the first time I remember hearing someone refer to "hardcore gamers." 
  3. Any FPS that came after this had to set their weapon number toggles the same way as Doom. If the number 3 did not give me a shotgun or their equivalent of a shotgun, I just didn't understand. 4 was always going to be a machine gun. And 5 through the end was always the rocket launches, plasma guns, and explosives. 
  4. Doom was the first time I realized that I loved horror games. I didn't know that's why I liked Doom so much until I played Resident Evil a few years later, but nowadays a game in the horror genre gets my money about 90% of the time.  
  5. Doom is also the first time I started thinking about level design. To this day, when I boot up Doom, I can remember things about each map. "Oh, this one has that huge outdoor space." Or "Damn, this is the one with the dark area where the Imps will keep jumping out." 
  6. And damn the enemy design. So creative. Most of those enemies were inspired by Dungeons and Dragons, but it was Doom that made most of those architects standard in any Sci-Fi/Horror game. 
  7. Doom was the first time I bought a game on multiple platforms and didn't feel dirty about it. I had it on floppy, CD, and Playstation as a kid. And now I own it on CD, Steam, and Android. 
20 years later, Doom is still a mainstay in my collection. I generally play through the first three Resident Evils, Super Mario World, and Doom every year. 

IGN probably did the coolest thing for the Doom anniversary, Ryan McCaffery played Episode 1 with John "Make You His Bitch" Romero. The 90 minute video is worth every minute.

Also, if you love Doom, you should read "Masters of Doom" which tells the history of ID Games up until the early 2000s. This book makes you realize how much genius got together to create Doom.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Grand Theft Auto

I started playing Grand Theft Auto 5, and although its impressive, I always think back to the top down versions I played as a kid. 

When I was in 8th grade, someone sneaked a demo copy of Grand Theft Auto in and installed it on all of the computer lab machines. (Along with Commandos) We took advantage of the aloof keyboarding teacher, who would plan keyboarding lessons to last an hour, when most of us could complete them in 15 minutes.

The 10 minute demo of GTA was some of the best fun I remember having at school. I wanted to bring this fun home with me. I couldn't figure out how to transport the demo on a floppy disk like I did with Scorched Earth, so when I went home, I started what would become a regular occurance in my adulthood.

I waited for everyone to go to bed, booted up the ole Hewlett Packard, fired up Netscape, and began searching for Grand Theft Auto. 

After several hours, I found a site that would give you Grand Theft Auto in 10 Zip files as long as you clicked on a certain amount of advertisements from their site. 

I did it, signing my Yahoo address up for a butt-ton of spam in the process, but I had Grand Theft Auto, the full version, for free. 

I never got far in the game, because of a tradition of side tracking and exploration that carries forth in current Grand Theft Auto games. Inevitably, I would do 5 or so missions and then see how much chaos I could create. 

When Grand Theft Auto 3 launched, I was impressed, but the 3D version of Liberty City just didn't hold me like the top down. I could watch someone play the game for hours and be perfectly happy. But when I had the controller in my hand, I just didn't get sucked in.

The same holds true for the current ones. But I persist and finish them as some sort of gaming flog I force upon myself. After all, Grant Theft Auto will be the talk of the gaming town for months after release and in 10 years, I'm sure some misty eyed middle-aged friend of mine will stare off into space and want to remember our time in GTA IV's party mode fondly as we smoke pipes and get our shoes shined.