My life, for the most have been about gaming in one way or another. My fascination with computers started when I was just a young man (an annoying brat to be more precise). I saw the magic of computers when I saw my first Star Trek Episode, which was around 1972 or 1973 (Dutch Television). Computers were magic from that point onwards. You, the reader will not believe or imagine this, but in those days, computers were massive, there were actual career sessions on becoming a Computer Operator. I would not get my fingers on a computer until 1981, but it was more than just love at first sight. Whilst everyone around me was looking at it, if it were a dragon that needed to be carefully prodded with a stick, my journey started in earnest. I could go around the systems in mere minutes. Where sergeants were destroying their own work by not remembering the difference between the ‘write in’ and ‘write out’ buttons on their text processor (Oce), I was circumventing the Defence servers by entering specific parts of the entire logistical system giving the ‘MDETnnnn’ commands at the system prompt. Whilst some were sitting at their desk with their ‘bankgirocent’, holding on to ‘keys’ for their keyboard, so that no one could start certain programs. I was going around the entire system with the entire defence logistical system to explore. But it was not all me, often I was sitting in a corner, listening to a Colonel, who was at that point working on a project called ‘VAB3’. I was helping out, his sergeant; a rather pretty woman thought I was after her. If only (she was really good looking). No, the colonel was the first person where I ACTUALLY learned from, the man had insight and was brilliant, It took me a few days, but then I had a clear grasp of the entire Defence payment system, the codes, the settings and the individual programs, the microfiches taught me the rest.
There was no want for money, for wealth. It was simple learning and exploration. We all learn and grasp in our own ways. Do not worry; it is all still linked to gaming!
My weakness is that I never had any commercial inspiration; I never cared too much about money (other than paying my bills). I was always interested in the Puzzle! In my time I have designed my applications, I made them for friends, I made them as assignments, to make a little cash. I once had the option to automate cinemas, but after one afternoon I dropped it. Not because I could not do it, but because it was too easy. I had solved all parts in less than three hours but I did not write it as it had become a mere exercise. It was my only real flaw and to the smallest extent it still is.
I did actually also do other things (like actual work) with mainframes and at times, with those dinky weird contraptions called PC’s. The IBM PC was bulky, and had two boxes the size of the Google OUYA flat side forward, one slot was for the 360Kb floppy the other slot was for the 10 Mb disk drive, which was priced at $2999. Yes, I did say 10 Megabyte! On the disk was a program called Lotus Symphony version 1.1, which I used to create a program to manage the numbers and information of dangerous cargo on container ships (in those days the fines for too much IMCO 5.1, whilst entering Singapore were truly massive). It took me 3 days to work it out and after that they could find the information in minutes, which before that moment took hours and sometimes up to 2 days to check the containers of a carrier at times having a load of almost 1750 containers. So, I did achieve plenty, but it was always the puzzle that pushed me forward.
|So, how does this relate to gaming? To get this, you have to consider the days of non-graphics, where a game like Elite was high resolution graphics (in those days).|
It was the first game I actually played for some time on the BBC micro B computer (which was not mine), but I was hooked ever since. I moved from Vic-20 (second hand) to a Commodore 64 and from there on, whatever work I did, it was the console at home that satisfied my need for ‘puzzles’ and exploration.
This now comes back to the game we see getting more and more attention. The game is called ‘No man’s sky’ and the person giving it the visibility it deserves (and more) is Danny O’Dwyer (at http://www.gamespot.com/no-mans-sky/). This game takes me back to several games. First, there was Elite, where we travelled the cosmos, trading and shooting wars from Harmless to Elite. The game is at times mindless get through it, simple, but the trades, the encounters, the jumps to a new place and especially in the beginning, docking with a station, had me and many like me glued to the screen. Later on the Commodore Amiga, some German person made something that looked like a Star Trek simulator, where we could fly to planets, get into orbit and (that was it at the time, the game was not complete). After that Origin (the people behind Ultima and Wing Commander) give is a higher graphics version of Elite and they called it Privateer. Later still Peter Molyneux gave us Black and White, a god creation game. I could go into a lot more detail, but I do not want to bore the reader with my gaming life.
There is one reference that is missing. In the 80’s, there was a comic strip in a magazine called ‘Computer and Video Games (CVG)’ about a ‘god-creation simulator’. Here we have the elements of the puzzle. Here we see the elements of No Mans Sky united. The exploration of a planet, from there we can see and visit the planets in the cosmos and grow in wealth, menace and trade as we find larger and better means for travelling. This game has all the elements of gaming I always loved and this game is close to giving us the almost perfect exploration game, where we are mere travellers in all the freedoms we ever wanted. We are not limited by the confines of Tamriel or Sosaria. This game is close to promising a journey where our own imagination is slowly becoming the only remaining limit in gaming.
That would make this game the most enticing form of gaming we are ever likely to meet and see. It is quite literally Minecraft on an epic scale!
We will always want our Scribble Shooter (or its smoother brother Halo), but gaming is more than a race, a fire fight or even a quest. No Man’s Sky is trying to meet the promise some of the older gamers have waited for, for a lifetime. Will we get that experience? I truly hope so!
I have had good days, even great days in many of the games on nearly all of the platforms. Even today, as we see new games trying to fend for the ‘top’ spot of gaming, some gamers are still yearning back to the games that actually delivered a sense of wonder. Whether it was one of the Ultima games, a Metal Gear Solid, the original thief or even a game like System Shock (both one and two) delivering that sense of joy. Some will desire the days of Mass Effect and would want to walk around the Citadel beyond the few levels we saw. No Man’s land is currently implying that it will offer all of that. That makes the days of Danny O’Dwyer one of the sweetest jobs around, because he could be sitting on the hottest gaming potato of an entire generation of gaming.
Time will tell whether Sean Murray ends up being the greatest marketeer or the greatest game developer. I am hoping for the second one. The only critical view I have (for now) is that it is good to know that it is coming, the fact that the game is still more than a year away is less interesting if we get to see too much of the game so far in advance.