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~ Indy Games Coverage
Our own way of supporting the indy devs out there...
a new section spotlighting low-profile games.

 
     
 
   
     
 
 
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- Once more into the breech, dear friends, go I.
- > You are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike.
- Technical Update - Part I
- Ideas from the Deep

 
   
Dr. Blob's Organism Review
Return to Wonderland Review
AirStrike II Review
 


 

 
 

 

     
 

MOTD: Once more into the breech, dear friends, go I.

I feel like I’ve just serpentined through a ½ mile of no-man’s-land with Boche shells exploding all around me. I feel like Indiana Jones after a particularly hard day at the Incan temple. I just got off an hour-long excursion on the phone, and you’ll have to excuse my psudeo-bad language but I’m F-ing pissed. It’s not that lost hour that has me so rankled, it’s all the other hours, dozens and dozens of them, that have been flushed down the craphole previously during other attempts. The subject matter of this quest always changes, but the basic question remains the same, and I’m always met with such Byzantine bureaucracy, indifference and ignorance as to make Terry Gilliam’s Brazil seem like an agile, streamlined society. One question, that’s all I’m asking. The question this time is:

“When are you getting Thief: Deadly Shadows for the PC in?”

I called EB. One in Yorkdale, the other closer to my work at Woodbine. I called the BestBuy near my house, and then the Futureshop a bit further away at Wilson. Then I move to my second string retailers, CompuSmart, and the one Compucentre left in T.O., in Scarborough. And every time I get dropped into telephony purgatory, only to be ultimately ejected into the care of a shelf-jockey who has no friggin clue what the heck I’m talking about, and has no answer for me at all.

Big box store like BestBuy and Futureshop are the absolute worst. They are the scourge of modern retail. It's no wonder online retailing has taken off like like a rocket. I don’t know how brick and mortar does any business at all. I call BestBuy, and through their automated directory start ringing the software department. Somebody picks up, and I ask them The Question. They mumble something about “checking the truck”, and then drop me into hold hell. And so I wait. And after about 5 minutes, they drop me right off the line. Great business plan there. When people walk through the front doors of the store, does the greeter slap them in the face and then throw them out onto the curb? Because they just did the exact phone equivalent of that to me. So I call back. And it’s ringing. And ringing. And ringing. At Futureshop, at least the unanswered calls keep getting bounced back to a live person you can pester. But at BestBuy, the system will let you just keep ringing and ringing the same department. I have a speakerphone by my computer, so I just keep ringing, now morbidly curious how long it’s gonna take these monkeys to pick up. This time, someone picks up the phone and immediately hangs it back up again. Now they’re running out into the parking lot and kicking the door of your car shut as you try to exit the vehicle. Nice. So, at this point I’ve moved from annoyance, to anger, to a point where I’m just completely amazed. I’m now conducting a social experiment. The focus of our research is thus: how ignorant can a business be of its customers and still expect to remain solvent? We shall see. I call a third time. Automated answer service, connect to Media department. And it rings. And rings. And rings. I just keep surfing the web, hitting 2 on my phone when the computer says so. I swear that I rang that line for 40 freaking minutes. Finally, an anonymous drone from Sector 7G deigns to pick up the line. The answer I get from my question? "No we don't have it". Any idea when you might get it in? Do you have it on order? "I can't tell. The computer doesn't tell me that". I mean, I even give them the chance to keep a sale possible, by telling me when it will be in, so I can come in and buy it. No dice, apparently nobody keeps track of what the the heck they're ordering and when the heck it's coming in. Quite the way to operate your business. Thanks loads. I just hang up, defeated in my attempts to spend money. Experiement complete, there's no boundary to how much BestBuy and their ilk loathe the people keeping them in business. Note to self: screw shopping local, next time order it from Amazon.ca and save yourself the hassle.

P.S. I phoned EB a bit later and talked to somebody different than I had before and they immediately gave me an answer. Of course, they couldn't resist ending the conversation by helpfully recommending that I take some of my more recent purchases and sell it to them for 1/3 the price I paid, so they can resell it for 10 percent off the current retail price. I love retail. I really do. Now, excuse me while I find some rope and hang myself.

Posted by Ummagumma @ 5:26 pm EST on 5/25/04 - Comments (3)

MOTD: > You are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike.

I'm gonna keep this MotD short, unlike the upcoming weekend :)

But I wanted to touch upon a really unique (at least, these days) and wonderous genre of gaming, which is as deep and expansive as it is easy on the pocketbook, since practically every game is free.

It is an area which we call "Interactive Fiction". Otherwise known as the text adventure, usually represented in most people's minds by Zork, the flagship IF game released to microcomputers in 1980 by the masters of the artform, Infocom. The first text adventure, the apocryphal game Adventure, had been written 8 years earlier by BBN employee Willie Crowther. But Infocom refined the idea, marketed it, and for awhile there in the early 80's, was the biggest thing in PC gaming. They promised to put their graphics "where the sun don't shine"; the human imagination.

And decades after splashy graphics replaced language as the canvas of computer adventure gaming, IF lives on in the efforts of a dedicated group of enthusiasts who still weave deep, compelling, engrossing worlds with mere words. A combination of brilliant game design and literary aplomb, these games do nothing if not serve to typify the age old adage: the play is the thing.

Some links:

The Interactive Fiction Archive
Just what it says, a giant archive of IF games of all stripes.

XYZZYnews
Comprehensive coverage of the entire IF scene.

The INFOCOM Homepage
All things Infocom, including Windows versions of all 3 original Zorks.

The Best of Interactive Fiction
A huge repository of games, split into categories with detailed descriptions and ratings.

Enjoy, and have a great weekend.

Posted by Ummagumma @ 2:54 pm EST on 5/21/04 - Comments (0)

MOTD: Technical Update - Part I

We’ll return to your regularly scheduled Ummagumma MOTDs shortly :)

Just a quick test... we are now officially at the new place. Almost everything HTML is working, I only got the News script up for now, the poll and forum still to go. E-mail should also be working, I set a primary account to pick up all the e-mails but haven't set individual accounts for everyone yet (what's wrong with andrewH? damn it! hehe). As for the forum, don't hold your breath... it looks like it's going to take longer than I thought it would to import it over, but it's not like you guys will miss it that much =) More updates soon.

Posted by Falcon @ 2:10 pm EST on 5/18/04 - Comments (2)

MOTD: Ideas from the Deep

Twelve years ago this month, id Software released Wolfenstein 3D and forever changed the face of PC gaming. Yes, that's 1-2.

I'm old.

You may think them brash, arrogant, out of control. But you cannot possibly overestimate the impact this and id's other contributions to the industry have had over the intervening years; from the origins of the shareware organization with the same name as the above subject line cranking out revolutionary PC side-scrollers like Commander Keen, they evolved into the flagship company in PC gaming, who's every move is a pivot point for the industry, as well as a lightning rod for those who would dictate what we can and can't play. Right now I’m in the middle of reading Masters of Doom, by David Kushner. It’s truly a fascinating read, with a focus on the two key ingredients to id’s success, the Ying and Yang of the company, John Carmack and John Romero. With Carmack the technical genius with laser-like focus and Romero the enthusiastic cheerleader and consummate gamer, their chemistry was volatile. Masters of Doom covers the whole tale, including the split and Romero's subsequent disasterous solo endeavors, and gives a brilliant inside view into the creation of some of gaming’s greatest (and worst) moments. I sometimes think that without id's unrelenting and unflinching hardcore attitude towards viceral gore and violence, we'd be forced farther towards sanitization of PC gaming content.

On the other end of the gaming spectrum is and was Impressions, who are unfortunately no more. They were a quiet, understated, but no less talented company making some of the most compelling strategy games around. There is a nice thread on GoneGold featuring heartfelt eulogies for the studio by former employees, who paint it as a unique element in the genre; a studio that genuinely cared about the quality of its product, and not just how fast it could crank it out to meet the fiscal bottom line. It also sounds like it was a truly wonderful place to work. RIP.

But lo, there is a happy ending to the Impressions saga. Its spirit lives on in the form of Tilted Mill Entertainment, made up of former Impressions personel, who are working on an interesting new version of thier classic "Pharoah", called Children of the Nile.

Posted by Ummagumma @ 2:46 pm EST on 5/16/04 - Comments (1)

 
     
 
 
 
 
 

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