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Danarchy

PC Gaming of Yore

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These threads about Wolfenstein and the early days of Id are making me nostalgic. I remember back when PC gaming was an incredibly niche thing. Hell, just owning a PC made you somewhat of an outsider. My dad went to tech school in the 70s, so there was already a Commodore 64 in the house by the time I was born, and we had an IBM PC by the time I was 5. We were one of about 3 households in the neighborhood that had a PC until the late 90s, and my dad set up the PCs in the other two places.

I remember there were no real PC stores in the area. There were a couple little hole-in-the-wall places that had a bunch of parts and some shareware games for sale, but that was about it. One of my classmates' dad owned one of those stores. It's kind of funny because all the PC owners in the area knew each other back then, sort of like how all the Warhammer players these days know each other.

Also, there were these things called "computer shows" which were something like gun shows, where vendors from all over the place would set up booths and sell there wares. It was mostly just hardware, but some places had software demos set up and I'd always seek these out and play them. Hell, I'd even just sit there and watch flying toasters for 10 minutes because that's what passed for entertainment back then. Back in the day, these were the only places to get games aside from driving an hour to Tacoma or spending a night downloading shareware from a BBS.

So I pretty much grew up on games from Id, Epic, and Apogee. These companies were pretty much the gods of their time, though these days they are known as (respectively) That Company that Made the Quake 3 and Doom 3 Engines, That Company That Made the Unreal Engine, and That Company That Took 15 Goddamn Years to Make a Game and Got Fired for It. It's funny that all my friends are console gamers and grew up playing Mario, Zelda, Metroid, and the like, while I grew up playing Doom, Keen, Dune 2, and so forth. We all consider ourselves oldschool gamers, but we have hard times relating our experiences because I never played any of those old console games (aside from some Mario 1+2), and they never played any PC games made before about 2000. That sort of makes me the go-to guy from PC gaming info, though, so that's fun. And we can all relate when it comes to arcade games, since I had them all on my C64 while they all had them on their NESs.

I'm not making this a blog because I'm expecting/hoping for other people to relate their tales of Ye Olde PC Gaming experiences.

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All I want to say is that I grew up with Lucas Arts and some old Gateway with 98 installed that also had Frogger on it. Ah, the speakerless days of old PC gaming. I always skipped Dark Forces and Jedi Knights cutscenes because there was no sound and I didn't know who was who to begin with. (I always imagined that the bearded guy was Jerec the bad guy. I never realized the cutscene and first level were in the same place.)

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Yeah, those were the days. When you would spend a fortune on games that today look so antiquated that kids would rather go play outside than touch those. But it's great that we able to pretty much experience the whole evolution of computers and games almost from the beginning.
I started with a C64 at the age of 5 or so (my brother's), then Amiga, and whatnot. PC only relatively late though, a friend's 486, shortly before Doom was released; my own only after Quake was out. Things went downhill from there.

Interestingly enough, I also believe that having played the 'classics' allows us to return to older games more easily. People who grew up with (more) modern standards will in most cases find it hard, so +1 for nostalgia.

Hmm, for some reason I just remembered Estatica...

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Danarchy said:

Also, there were these things called "computer shows" which were something like gun shows, where vendors from all over the place would set up booths and sell there wares.


I remember those. Been quite a few years since i'd been to one, but boy where those some good times.

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First PC game was some hangman ascii-art thing on an original IBM XT (while visiting someone). Not real exciting compared to the variety of BASIC and text adventure CP/M stuff we had at home.

Next (much later) was some early EGA-mode King's Quest, also at someone's house.

The schools had Apple II or Mac, so no PC games there. I had a NES at home (and often swapped carts with other local kids).

Later on I got an Amiga 500 and Sega Genesis, but my roommate had a 386SX/16 with mostly Sierra games (Space Quest series was my favorite).

It wasn't until Doom came out that I wanted to buy a PC. ;)

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neg!ke said:

Interestingly enough, I also believe that having played the 'classics' allows us to return to older games more easily. People who grew up with (more) modern standards will in most cases find it hard, so +1 for nostalgia.


I disagree. There will be 'classics' for every generation (this doesn't just apply to video games). For instance, people who grew up on Doom may consider it a classic and frown upon Halo. But people who grew up on Halo may consider it a classic and frown upon Doom.

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Lawstiker said:

I remember those. Been quite a few years since i'd been to one, but boy where those some good times.

I remember they used to be big, but as the years went on and more computer shops started opening up they were smaller and smaller affairs. The local one was originally in the big building on the local fairgrounds, but they eventually switched to only using half of it, and later they couldn't even fill half of it. It was kind of sad, but we stopped going to them around this time. Perhaps they just stopped existing. I got the Killer Instinct soundtrack at one of the last ones for $1, though. :P

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This says it all, really:



We had that and some little dungeon raiding type game on a 5ΒΌ" floopy.

//EDIT:

I thought that pic didn't look right, was more like this:

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I went to a computer show once. I only remember a display case filled with motherboards. I remember thinking "I hope I'm never working at a job where I have to make one of those." I still feel that way today, and it's why I'm studying Computer Science instead of Computer Engineering.

I grew up with both computer and console games. I had an Amiga and played some games on that like Lemmings. When we threw the Amiga out I played games like Aces of the Pacific, Loom, and Outlaws. My dad and I LANned the two computers together and played a lot of Hexen co-op. We played with joysticks, which was the hip way to play FPS back then.

As I got older, though, I started to play the console games more.

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I used to go to computer expos all the time! I miss that! It was like a computer shop complete with piles of hardware strewn everywhere, only crammed into a civic center! It was awesome! I wonder if they still have those anywhere, besides the C4 or whatever it's called.

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DuckReconMajor said:

When we threw the Amiga out...


So sad... :(

My A1200 mobo got fried in 1995, only a couple years after I bought the machine. But at that point CBM was going out of business and PCs had really caught up in games-land. There was Doom, Heretic, Descent, BlackThorne, Tyrian, One Must Fall 2097...

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They're a different computer if you plug in a 68030 accelerator with some 32bit RAM.

My first encounter with a PC that wasn't running WordStar, Lotus 1-2-3, a dBASE clone or similar, was at a friends place where I was introduced to Wolf 3D. After dying ignominiously several times I decided to stick with whatever I'd been playing on the Amiga at that time.

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Their were monthly computer shows in my area but they kinda of been tapering off some in the last 7 years or so. the winter ones were busier than the summer ones, like right around the holiday season. but the last couple i went to the turn out wasn't that great.

Late fall and early winter is when the feeling of nostalgia comes on to me the most. i attribute that mainly to the game releases of what i liked to play at the time. like doom, the early need for speed series and quake. before that i would spend so much time downloading games/programs/utils off of bbs's i would never mess with more than just the odd demo or two. though i had a ton of shareware cd's that would keep me more than busy in the gaming dept.

All that earlier stuff was on a 286. one thing i don't miss was my 486, i tredged through years with that thing all the while being aware of the pentium class processor and its floating point unit ability's. i even downloaded a program that would mimic a floating point unit on a 486 so i could play the quake demo when it hit the bbs's.

Due to various factors i was delayed in upgrading my computer for a year and a half until tax time in which i bought myself a pentium 133.
then everything came to life. dooms and quakes pixels danced before me in true fluid brilliance. then the onslaught of the 3dfx cards and lara croft and the rest is history (from that era)

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Back in the day I started with consoles. I had the Atari 2600 and one of my friends had a Intellivision, so we played the hell out of Asteroids, Zaxxon, Berserk, some shitty E.T. game that made no fucking sense, Missile Command, Yar's Revenge, Adventure, Defender and others I can't remember right now. Haha we wore out the controllers (the handle broke on both eventually) and you couldn't buy new ones anymore, so I took a big screw and screwed it into the ball and that worked fine.

Later on I had a Commodore 64, which I used for years. I recall these magazines with programs in them and you had to type in a ton of code just to get some crappy game to work and sometimes it didn't work at all. Meh. I hated the cassette tape drive... it was damned slow and always caused some error, so I stopped using it. Then I got into playing stuff like Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Pool of Radiance and Azure Bonds, which I found in what was the only game store for miles and miles.. I spent countless hours playing that AD&D stuff.. I think I was crazy because I used to map out all the areas on graph paper... wtf.

I used to get this gaming catalog jobby in the snail mail from some joint in Washington DC... they had tons of used C64 games and stuff, which is where I bought the other AD&D games I couldn't find anywhere. I also purchased Microprose games from them like F-19 Stealth Fighter and F-15 Strike Eagle. That was crazy, landing a plane on an aircraft carrier, which looked like a couple jagged lines. Also had Hunt for Red October and some buggy Persian Gulf game. There's a bunch of games I don't recall the names of tho..

After all that it was on to the PC and I haven't played a console since except for the few times when I dusted off the Atari 2600 to play some Asteroids. I remember early on with the PC having a Zip drive and it used to eat the disks and it self-destructed and I got a replacement at no cost and then that one blew up too, so the drive went to the same hell the C64 cassette drive went. haha

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DooMAD said:

This says it all, really:

Heh, I remember that and snake or whatever it was called back in my BASIC class. We'd tweak the code around to make different things. Mostly just making nuclear explosions in Gorillas and making the snake grow ridiculously long whenever it ate a apple or whatever. Each made the games pretty much unplayable, but ridiculously entertaining.

Doom Dude said:

Later on I had a Commodore 64, which I used for years. I recall these magazines with programs in them and you had to type in a ton of code just to get some crappy game to work and sometimes it didn't work at all. Meh. I hated the cassette tape drive... it was damned slow and always caused some error, so I stopped using it. Then I got into playing stuff like Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Pool of Radiance and Azure Bonds, which I found in what was the only game store for miles and miles.. I spent countless hours playing that AD&D stuff.. I think I was crazy because I used to map out all the areas on graph paper... wtf.

I heard that for a lot of old adventure/RPG games people would always map their progress out on graph paper so they wouldn't get lost. I did it in a certain maze in Planescape: Torment, actually. That's just because it was a confusing, randomized dungeon.

I used to get this gaming catalog jobby in the snail mail from some joint in Washington DC... they had tons of used C64 games and stuff, which is where I bought the other AD&D games I couldn't find anywhere. I also purchased Microprose games from them like F-19 Stealth Fighter and F-15 Strike Eagle. That was crazy, landing a plane on an aircraft carrier, which looked like a couple jagged lines. Also had Hunt for Red October and some buggy Persian Gulf game. There's a bunch of games I don't recall the names of tho..

Heh, I had F-15 Strike Eagle 3. It came with our first CD-ROM ever. For some reason it had a half-hour video in it about the history of the aircraft. I guess to show of the capabilities of the CD-ROM. It also came with a golf game called Greens and an awesome point-and-click adventure game called Return of the Phantom. I actually still have the disc, but can't run it 'cause DOS and stuff, and I suck at making DosBox work.

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Doom Dude said:

I spent countless hours playing that AD&D stuff.. I think I was crazy because I used to map out all the areas on graph paper... wtf.

You're not the only one. Maps that didn't conform to a standard sized grid often annoyed the hell out of me when I reached the edge of a sheet before running out of locations to map. I still have several sets of maps in varying states of completion if anyone wants copies.

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Danarchy said:

Also, there were these things called "computer shows"

Yeah I remember them. I went to a couple of small ones near to where I live. Before the internet they were the place to buy cheap(er) PC hardware. The ones I went to also doubled as places for people to trade consoles and console games. They were like dedicated marketplaces for geeks. Good times.

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The first computer I played games on was an XT clone from Samsung. It had a 40 MB HDD so we had a shitload of pirated games my dad got from some guy. It had CGA graphics (yay, four colours!) and best of all it had very well-made volume dial from an old stereo that my dad grafted into the case when mom got sick of that paratrooper arcade game's stupid bleeps.

I never played any games like D&D as a kid, but we found that mapping adventure games for the PC was useful too. In the case of the castle game in the list I made below, we printscreened every screen we could find in the game and taped them all together.

Some games we had (In games with different platforms and graphics modes the correct mode is for my system was CGA with RGB monitor or which-ever runs on a PC):

King's Quest

Paratrooper

Jet

Stargate

Castle Adventure

Night Mission Pinball

Bushido

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Danarchy said:

I remember they used to be big, but as the years went on and more computer shops started opening up they were smaller and smaller affairs. The local one was originally in the big building on the local fairgrounds, but they eventually switched to only using half of it, and later they couldn't even fill half of it. It was kind of sad, but we stopped going to them around this time. Perhaps they just stopped existing. I got the Killer Instinct soundtrack at one of the last ones for $1, though. :P


Sounds about right, always found some pretty cool stuff at those shows, think one I went to back in 2001' I managed to get ahold of Doom II, Final Doom, Quake, Dark Forces, Outlaws, and some jet fighter game all for around 20 bucks.

I know the ones around here where expo sized at one point, usually taking up community centers, and where usually packed with computer parts, etc. Then over the years went to smaller sized buildings, nowhere near the size they use to be, but where still fairly good. Remember I use to make some mean machines for that time from various parts bought at those, was far cheaper to assemble a computer yourself to me than go buy a new one.

Speaking of that I remember picking up a Pentium 286 (some number around there I think) Compaq laptop at one for like 50 dollars back around the same year, and that thing has been with me ever since. Anytime I need to play an older classic game I pop that out.

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Does anybody else here remember the old freeware versions of The Adventures of Captain Comic that played the Marines' Hymn in glorious single-channel PC beeper when it started up? That sound was the defining moment of my childhood, even more so than the Super Mario Bros. theme.

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i miss waiting up to 20 minutes for a game to load before i could play it (c64 ruled.)
i'm not even being sarcastic.
my dad would come home from work with another huge 5iver floppy full of games.

we had a 200 (probably more realistically) page printout (made with c64 printshop) of all the games we had. it was awesome.
space taxi.
dino eggs.
mountain king.
etc.
those were my golden gaming years.
when other people were playing nintendo games i wzs playing c64.
my dad also bought an odyssey2...and that was the main gaming system for awhile.
now, i appreciate growing up in a very much alternate gaming universe.

fun-note: land of zzz's...we tried so many times for that damn game to load...we gave up every time after 2 hours or so.
the disk had to have been corrupted.
eventually, i got to play the game (like 20 years later)...but nothing could erase the wonder of hearing so much about a game that you couldn't play...and couldn't look up screenshots or a speedrun or a let's play on the internet.
cos there was no internet.
/ramble
/old man

edit...and since my post kinda predates "pc" gaming...
am i totally insane for thinking of system shock 2 as the pc's version of super metroid?

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