|Dungeon Master and Alternate Reality
Monday, April 3, 2000 3:18 PM
I spent a lot of time today scouring the web for information on the
original Dungeon Master and Alternate Reality games for the Atari ST and
8-bit repectively. In my view, these two games were the grandfathers of
modern first-person perspective games, whether they be role-playing
games (like DM and AR) or shooters. My interest in them was sparked by
an Atari emulator I got from a player at the recently ended Free Range Action Gaming v6.0
What Dungeon Master lacked in depth, it more than made up for in its
atmosphere, graphics, and joy of playing. There was a single goal;
destroy the evil wizard at the bottom of the dungeon. Getting there was
the trick... and it helped to yoink all the powerful magic items you
would find along the way. This isn't one of those games that addresses
the question "Why would a wizard leave all this powerful equipment lying
around for you to find?" because back then we didn't ask such questions!
Infidel! Blasphemy! No, this was a pure and simple dungeon crawl and
you loved it. Along the way you could pick up spiffy matching sets of
plate armor (two complete sets, if I recall correctly), wicked magical
blades, and a snazzy assortment of wands, potions, and other stuff.
Dungeon Master actually had a system that improved the skills you used.
If you fought hand-to-hand a lot, your warrior level would increase,
pumping up your Strength and Hit Points. However, if you relied on the
bow or thrown weapons, you would rise through the ninja levels, raising
your Dexterity in the process. Wizard spells would raise your wizard
level and mana, while priestly spells, such as healing, would increase
your priest level (and mana). Along the way, clever puzzles, tricks,
and traps slowed your progress. The only serious drawback to Dungeon
Master was the static nature of the dungeon... it never changed. You
had to wait for a sequel, such as Chaos Strike Back and the poorly
designed Dungeon Master II.
Alternate Reality blew me away in its immersive environment. The intro
to The City may have seemed cheezy to some (a huge alien saucer
"beaming" up hapless victims to transport to a distant world), but the
following theme song and star field were mind blowing at the time.
Though the designers of AR had an ambitious 8 or so installments of
Alternate Reality mapped out, only The City and The Dungeon were ever
completed. The City, though well done, could not compare to the vastly
superior and much larger Dungeon. Plus, in The Dungeon you actually
stood a chance of surviving (in The City everyone is much tougher than
you, finding money is nearly impossible, and killed enemies never drop
their weapons behind for you to use). The (under)world of The Dungeon
was incredibly complex with numerous minor quests beside the main one
(which isn't really known to you at the beginning, and completing it
does not prevent you from still playing the game).
It's hard not to think back on these games and get glassy eyed with fond
nostalgia. Does memory view the past through rose-colored glasses?
Hopefully I'll find out, because I'm going to try very hard to find a
way to play those games again.
|An end run around democracy
Friday, March 24, 2000 5:15 PM
To me, the message of lawsuits against gun makers is simply "When
democracy doesn't get you what you want, cheat." The constitutionally
elected representatives of the American people aren't doing what Bill
Clinton and his fellow gun grabbers want, so they've decided to simply
disregard them. Believe it or not, there are even supporters of gun
control who find the idea distasteful.
When people tell you that the people want gun control, ask them why the
elected representatives of the people aren't passing it? When those
people claim that the National Rifle Association is too powerful, ask
them if it isn't true that the NRA derives all of its power from its
members and supporters among the American people? When those people
claim that they are only trying to push "common sense" gun control, ask
them how they can claim the issue to be so cut and dry when so many many
many people vehemently diagree?
|Smith & Wesson sells out
Friday, March 24, 2000 3:39 PM
Naturally, I'm very disappointed to hear the exact details of Smith &
Wesson's deal with Clinton and his anti-gun buddies. I was surprised to
learn that what I saw as an all-American business is actually owned and
run by a British corporation. This, many say, is why Smith & Wesson
conceded to the terms in order to avoid the majority of legal tangles
facing it and other gun manufacturers.
Most of the terms I read and shrugged. They do not represent a real
burden to shooters, dealers, or buyers: including a second "hidden"
serial number, including an external trigger lock with each gun,
integrating an internal lock into every gun, devoting money to
researching "smart" guns, loaded chamber indicator, storage warnings.
But the troubling details are the ones that the media isn't talking
about: a vague rule about making the gun so that it "cannot be readily
operated by a child under the age of 6", a minimum barrel length of 3"
unless it has proven poor accuracy, minimum overall sizes for pistols,
restriction on any gun "that can be readily converted to an illegal
firearm" (like, say, chopping down the barrel on a shotgun or rifle),
and requiring all S&W dealers and distributors to follow a certain set
This last condition is arguably the worst when you actually read the
terms that dealers have to abide by. They are not allowed to sell any
perfectly legal large capacity magazines or semiautomatic
firearms that are grandfathered by the "Crime" bill, no matter who made
it. They cannot, in fact, sell any firearm that does not conform to the
"design criteria" laid out in the agreement (including, I assume,
minimum barrel size, minimum overall size, hidden serial number). The
dealers cannot sell a gun without receiving notice from the National
Instant Check System, even if the mandated maximum time limit for the
check has passed (meaning that to eliminate gun purchases completely,
all the FBI has to do is be slow in responding). They can't sell any
firearm unless the purchaser has passed a safety training course, no
matter what the local or state laws say or whether or not such a course
is even available in the area. In addition, there are a whole bunch of
conditions that already reflect federal law for licensed dealers, so
their inclusion seems rather strange.
Anyone who didn't foresee that dealers would no longer want to deal with
Smith & Wesson is an idiot. And why should they? Basically, this
agreement says that they can sell S&W guns and no other. Not
surprisingly, dealers and buyers are starting to boycott this great
company that has been making firearms in America for almost 150 years.
I think it's a terrible shame, but no doubt it's what gun-control
advocates were hoping for when they proposed it. With this agreement, I
think Smith & Wesson has basically put itself out of the firearms
business and I'm sure the gun grabbers are jumping for joy.
|The NRA needs to do more
Monday, March 20, 2000 12:09 PM
I'm a member of the National Rifle Association and support the
organization. I don't think that its leaders are out of touch with its
members, as some anti-gun groups contend in an attempt to discredit the
leadership. However, I do believe that the leadership is blind to the
fact that its message is not getting out effectively. While I have
great respect for Charlton Heston and Wayne LaPierre for all the work
they've done to support the cause, neither has responded properly in
live debates. Though "prosecution" may be the answer to gun crime, it
is not the answer to every question. Too often it is given as such,
however, like in this morning's Today show discussion between Charlton
Heston and Maria Shriver. It's not as though we have any reason to
dodge these questions; we simply need a skilled spokesperson to give the
right answers to the questions being posed.
For example, the "Youth Crime Bill": the NRA agreed to almost all of the
President's demands, except for the 72 hour maximum for "instant"
background checks, and still Maria Shriver attacked the NRA's position.
Apparently the gun lobby is the only side that should compromise!
And the reason the NRA remains steadfast on that issue? Because with a
single Executive Order, the President could kill the American gun show.
The great majority of gun shows are one or two day events. From start
to close they run maybe 30 hours. People come together at them from
long distances to compare prices at a single location and increase their
chances of finding what they're looking for without having to travel all
over the place. Even a maximum of 24 hours means that some purchases
will be impossible because the seller or buyer will no longer be around
by the time the background check goes through. The show will have been
long over. A maximum time limit of 72 hours for an "instant" check not
only makes this problem even worse, but leaves Bill Clinton the option
of instating a "minimum" time limit upon the instant check system
through the use of an Executive Order. He's always pushed for a fixed
waiting period and not only would he accomplish that, but he would
completely eliminate the ability of people to make transactions at gun
shows. Even a 48 hour waiting period would outlive a 30 hour gun show.
The result is that the gun show would basically cease to exist...
something that Clinton and his anti-gun allies would just love to see.
And Clinton's insistence that gun prosecutions are up? You'll note that
he often points to state and local prosecutions. Excuse me? What does
that have to do with the federal government? How can Clinton take
responsibility for something he has no authority often? And let's not
forget that not only do federal laws apply in addition to most
state and local charges, but they are often harsher. The point
the NRA is making is that we have these tough laws at the federal level,
they're almost completely being ignored, and yet we want to pass even
more federal laws to address the same problem! Where's the sense in
Unfortunately, this simple information is not clearly being explained.
Instead we're hearing the same thing over and over again: prosecution,
prosecution, prosecution. While I have to agree with the basic idea, I
don't think it's being said in the most persuasive manner. The gun
lobby needs a spokesperson who isn't afraid to answer the questions and
isn't afraid to stray from the line of "prosecution" in order to do so.
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