In the previous Byte Size, I talked a little about older games that are still out there, ready to be enjoyed all over again, or maybe even discovered for the first time by younger gamers.
One of the games I mentioned was the much-lauded 2002 effort by Larian Studios, “Divine Divinity.”
Well, digital game store Steam just wrapped up their annual summer sale Monday, and I was fortunate enough to grab a rereleased version for less than $5. In reminiscing about this critically-acclaimed role-playing game — fun, engaging and deceptively simple-seeming little thing that it is — I began thinking of another game, cited often by the folks at Larian as their chief inspiration, which also is celebrating a birthday this year.
Twenty years ago, Austin-based game developers Origin Systems Inc., originally a small, family startup founded by now-legendary game designer Richard Garriott, released what is considered one of the greatest games ever developed for PCs, “Ultima VII.”
With a largely non-linear story and an open world, the player was free to roam and explore as they saw fit.
Perhaps most interesting about those features, is many of them are today thought of as hallmarks of the latest generation of games — distinctly modern elements that have advanced games well beyond the left-to-right platform jumping, mushroom-chomping days of yore.
The game's story also is a hilarious, if somewhat biter, send-up of Origin's takeover by mega-developer Electronic Arts. EA remains controversial in the gamer community today because of business practices and decisions that have angered some fans — although they also churn out some fantastic games.
Now, I'm a sucker for PC gaming — and RPGs in particular — so those are the games I remember most from growing up. “Bioware's Baldur's Gate” and “Black Isle's Planescape: Torment” are two I remain particularly fond of for their rich storytelling, the latter especially.
But no game every made such an impression on me as “Ultima VII.” I spent (I suppose some might say wasted) countless hours playing that game and for a while, at least, it was my best friend.
It kept me busy when I didn't have a lot of real friends to hang out with, and probably kept me out of getting into trouble with the ones I did have. Well, sometimes.
I'd like to think everyone has something in their life like that — a sport or a hobby or much-loved book, something that was not only cherished at a certain point in their life, but that also helped shape who they are today.
Then again, maybe it seems silly to feel that way about a video game, but I still do.
If yours — whatever it may be — has fallen by the wayside or been gathering dust somewhere, literally or metaphorically, maybe it's time to brush it off and relive the fun.