Saturday, June 11, 2005

Trip Down Memory Game

I had a pretty odd moment today. I bought one of those Atari 10-in-1 Joystick Games. It is a Atari 2600 joystick with 10 classic games for that system built right in. I’m sitting there playing Adventure right next to my wife who is playing World of Warcraft. The television in our computer room is between our two desks so her monitor is right next to the TV screen.

So right there I had ‘THE’ original graphic action/adventure game right next to the latest technological massively multi-player role-playing action/adventure masterpiece. I am having trouble describing the feeling of looking at both those games at once. Adventure was inspired by the text game Adventure (a.k.a. Colossal Cave Adventure) by Will Crowther and Don Woods. But this was the first time that such a game had been done with graphics. The first time where you moved your character around on the screen, picked up the sword, and actually used it via the joystick to kill the dragon.

Now we are playing game like World of Warcraft with friends who are literally on the other side of the planet, some of whom we have never even met in person. The graphics have gone from a simple square that represented your character to a fully developed and stylized 3D persona.

I remember standing at that department store counter for hours playing Adventure and lying awake at night dreaming up exactly the kind of MMORPGs we have today. Can you imagine what we will be playing in the next 25 years? My imagination is running wild and I am so giddy with anticipation I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep tonight.

Unfortunately after playing the Atari 10-in-1 version of Adventure for awhile longer I found out they screwed it up. Grundle, the green dragon, is purple. There have been a few times where I would be playing and suddenly find myself back in front of the yellow castle where you start. There is something up with Rhindle, the red dragon, where he doesn’t want to die when you hit him with the sword. Sometimes the dragons will turn into their dead graphic frame while they are chasing you and sometimes they stay in their normal graphic frame when you kill them. I was playing one game where they kept coming back from the dead.

They also screwed with the easter egg. I should say ‘THE’ easter egg. Adventure, besides being the first graphic action/adventure game also had the first easter egg (hidden secret) in a video game. Back then there were no credits either in the manual or the game so Warren Robinett hid his name in the game. There were other cases before where programmers had hidden their initials in the game but nothing like this.

There is a dot hidden in the black castle that you could only get to with the bridge which allowed you to pass through walls of the dungeon maze. The dot was just one pixel and it was grey just like the background so it was just about invisible. If you took to the room just below and to the right of the yellow castle when there was at least one other item in that room you could pass through the far right wall and into a secret room. In that secret room the message “Created by Warren Robinett” written vertically down the center of the room.

In this version they made the ‘dot’ 4 pixels and now it glows. The rest of it still works except when you get into the secret room instead of the expected Warren Robinett credit there is just the word “text?” written in a small font on the top of the screen.

Actually the whole game system doesn’t work on the TV out in my living room. It’s really washed out and you can hardly see anything. I bought it and the Namco game one at the same time and the Namco one works fine. I took the Atari one back and exchanged it but the new one has the same problem.

So anyway, what started as a cool trip down memory lane turned into me sobbing in despair that they screwed up one of my favorite childhood video gaming memories. I still have a 2600 and an Adventure cartridge in a storage bin back in Vegas so all is not lost.

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