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Dungeon Master and Alternate Reality
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.

Permalink   Filed under: Games, Review

An end run around democracy
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?

Permalink   Filed under: Politics, Guns, Law

Smith & Wesson sells out
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 of guidelines.

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.

Permalink   Filed under: Politics, Guns

The NRA needs to do more
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 that?

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.

Permalink   Filed under: Politics, Guns
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