Wednesday, October 21, 2009

An Interview with Grettir - Gamer Extraordinaire

I think our readers would like to know a little more about us. In this article I will be interviewing Grettir discussing his gaming origins. If you as readers would like to expand on any of this, please feel free to use the comments sections and fire away.

So, Grettir, can you tell us a little bit about your early experiences with video games? When were you first introduced to video games and what immediate effect did they have on you?

Well, the first video game I remember playing was an old pong machine the Grandparents picked up at an auction when I was around four or five years old. It fascinated me more than any of the other toys that I played with at the time, or remember for that matter. I had played some arcade games (Joust, Donkey Kong, etc) and loved them, but since I was so young, I couldn’t play them with any regularity. My meager allowance didn’t provide enough to supply my developing gaming habits.

However, October 18, 1985 was the date that solidified gaming as a cornerstone part of my life. I was at friend’s house visiting and his cousin showed up with the most amazing machine I had ever seen in my life: The Nintendo Entertainment System.

By the gods, it was so beautiful I was floored. I remember that day so vividly it is uncanny. The best thing about this was that my father was there to witness the glory. You had better believe my excitement mounted when he told his friend he had to have one.

Shortly thereafter, we had the console at my house. The immediate effect: obesity, acne and agoraphobia.

That's funny you remember the date. I remember when you first got the NES. Did you start to develop favorites when it comes to genre or play style? What were some of your favorite games and why?

Actually that is just the US release date for the NES. I would be hard pressed to remember the exact date the revelation occurred. I just know it was shortly after the release as it was fall and cold outside.

When I got the console, we only had the Mario Bros/Duck Hunt cart that came with it. So, until Christmas rolled around a couple of months later, it was pretty much all Mario except on the weekends when we (my little brother and I) were able to rent a game.

The first game we rented was Legend of Zelda which I enjoyed it a lot but since it was a rental, I could only progress so far in the game. I didn’t really get a chance to finish the game until I received it as a gift later that year.

The other game that impressed me was Metroid. It wasn’t your normal side-scrolling space shooter where you were just in a ship mashing the fire button while dodging an insane amount of objects. This game let you explore an alien world while upgrading your abilities and weapons.

So early on, I took a liking to adventure games that only grew when I began to play games such as Dragon Warrior, Final Fantasy, Ultima and Destiny of an Emperor. I enjoyed these because they actually had a story to follow, and seemed to require at least some intelligence as you would need to solve puzzles, etc. This differed from games like Contra where it was a spam fire and dodge bad guys the entire time. Not that there was anything wrong with that game at all. Still a classic in my book.

Well, that leads me to my next question. I already know you have a love for rpg style games. In the early 90's I believe was when you got your first PC. You and I began to surf BBS's ( bulletin board systems) where we were first introduced to text based multiplayer games. We also soon found MUD's ( multi user dungeons). Can you share a little bit about your memories, feelings, and experiences during this part of your gaming career?

Well the first text-based game that I spent exorbitant amounts of time on was Nethack. I always wanted to play the game with other people in the dungeon, so when I found the world of BBSs and MUDs I was insanely happy.

The first MUD I played was Tele-Arena. It was a pretty simple MUD on a local BBS that I enjoyed, but still didn’t have a multitude of players or content. It wasn’t until we ran into a MUD called Ruins (The Land of Ruins) that I knew I had found my niche.

It had a decent user base comprised of mostly good people to interact and run with. There was a pretty good selection of classes that you could play which were decently balanced. The world itself was large enough that you could run it without being too worried about all the zones being overcrowded. Weekly group quests that rewarded the players in gear or in quest potions kept the game exciting and gave the grind to 100 more of a reason other than bragging rights.

One of the parts I enjoyed the most was the clan system which lent the game more of a community feel as I still talk to some of my old clannies to this day.

I ended up playing that game off and on for about eight years until it finally went to the wayside.

Yeah, I'll admit I think I could easily be drawn back into the text based game. There's something about the creativity and thought that made it unique. As a final set of questions, can you tell us why you think those text based games eventually spawned games like The World of Warcraft? How has WoW expanded on text based gaming and where does it fall short if at all?

It was only the natural evolution of the genre. The popularity of MUDs can be easily attributed to the fact that you didn’t need a beefy machine to run it. It only required a telnet client and internet connection. As the internet became more readily available at higher connection rates, and computer prices dropped, more people were able to start playing graphic driven games.

The MUDs were often times user created and driven only through volunteer work. They usually “employed” one or two part time coders and a handful of world builders who were never able to guarantee their 100% devotion to the game. So a lot of the MUDs rose and fell without much notice.

Blizzard has been able to expand upon the old text based games because they have the resources available to create such rich and complex worlds. They also are able to offer the user a much more advanced interface that is user friendly enough that it can attract people instead of deter them as the text based interface did with MUDs. There is extensive lore to draw the players in where MUDs rarely had a decent history written, if anything at all. While most MUDs had an abundance (sometimes too much) of classes and races, they rarely had abilities to match. The MUDs I played didn’t have any kind of a profession system either.

WoW also has a vast user base that provides a lot of opportunity for cooperative game play or versus game play if that is more to your liking. While this is advantageous for a number of reasons, it also can be a hindrance sorting the good eggs from the bad. It also is hard to find the same camaraderie that I had back in the old days.

That pretty much is the only thing I find lacking…

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. I think we'll add a few articles based on what we've discussed here. I think it's important to understand the history of the MMORPG and gaming in general to have a true appreciation for it's current incarnation and it's future possibilities. Thanks again.

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