Monday, November 30, 2009

"You have chosen... wisely."

The year was 1991. Maybe 1990. We had a sweet new computer with one of those speedy 386 processors inside them. It had a whopping 2MB of RAM, twice as much that was considered necessary for people not calculating trajectories of Scud Missiles. A color monitor. 256 colors, about 240 than previous generations of machines. Seething with power.

My father brought home a game that one of his coworkers had given him, copied from the original, as game publishers hadn't yet taken draconian steps to make their games difficult to pirate. It was so graphically intense that it had to be carried on FOUR floppy disks! One whole disk with its vast 1.44MB storage could only contain a fourth of the visual and audio adventure! It was one of those games that was made to capitalize on a recent blockbuster film, before such games were immediately assumed to suck. Indiana Jones, and the Last Crusade!

Indy Game Title Screen

My sister and I sat and stared into the screen for hours trying to puzzle things out. This was made more difficult by the fact that on our first time through the game, we didn't find the Grail Diary left behind. Eventually we figured things out, puzzing through the catacombs, talking our way past the Nazi gaurds that infested castle Brunwald, flying and inevitably crashing the biplane.

The problem was that after we crashed the biplane, we attempted to steal the car (see the movie, its in there), the game itself would crash. The last disk that was copied was corrupted. Disheartened, we moved on with our lives, playing other games, taking up other hobbies. We found the strength to laugh again, even knowing that our quest for the grail was lost.

Over dramatic? Certainly, but if you ever read a book 90% of the way through and found the last 30 pages ripped out, you can imagine what this was like.

Years later, I move to Wyoming, buy a big powerful computer (like, a lot more than 2MB RAM), and when I realize I have to go at least as far as Evanston, maybe Rock Springs to pick up proper games, I discover Steam. Not content with their first game Half Life being the Game of the Year and all, Valve Studios set out to dominate the digital download and distribution of PC games. (yay, alliteration!)

I looked through the offerings of the steam store, and it looks like they acquired quite the back catalog. Even old games, like ones from Interplay and LucasArts... and then I saw it. an almost 20 year old game now only cost $4.99. The price of closure.

I download and install it. A few days later, The Grail is mine. At last, my own digital crusade comes to an end.

Choose Wisely

By the way, I mentioned before that when this game was first published, game developers didn't put layers of copy protection and CD-Keys on their games to prevent piracy. But they DID have measures meant to stop people from passing around copies of their games. Inside those huge textbook sized boxes that were industry standard until about 2000 or so, the publishers dumped all kinds of manuals and supplemental paperwork into those big boxes. Things like maps, histories of the game world, and often, as in the case of The Last Crusade, handwritten "Journals" written in persona of the game's characters.

In this instance, it was half of Henry Jones Sr's Grail Diary. Most of it was fluff, but interesting fluff. But in order to keep pirates at bay (pun unintended, but welcome) the games themselves referenced this documentation in important ways. To find out which grail was the wise choice at the end, I had to read a few pages from the handwritten "Grail Diary" to find out which one it was. I remember playing Battle Chess and Carmen Sandiego and having to type in entries from their paperwork and manuals. the xth Entry on page y. Things like that.

And now, John Williams will play me out:


Tylo said...

I had no idea that the Last Crusade was a LucasArts adventure game. I have only played or heard of The Fate of Atlantis.

Unfortunately, I was shot by a Nazi for mouthing off (as I expected Indiana Jones could get away with such things), and never finished it.

Fuzzy said...

See, when you mouth off to a Nazi guard in Last Crusade,you just begin a fist fight. Sadly, you can only survive one or two of those depending on how good the computer fights.

Tylo said...

Good news. I recently bought these games off Steam and have every intention of finishing them. Hopefully while getting a good ending in the process.