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Elder Scrolls Memories: Oblivion - April 6, 2016

In going over the Elder Scrolls series, I had a lot of fun in Oblivion. My fondest memory of the game was on my second or third play through. I felt I had sufficiently completed the game. I felt my character was tired from years of battle, so I took my character to the bridge just outside the Imperial City, removed all my armor and weapons, put on some comfortable clothes, and threw all my armor and weapons off the bridge and into the sea with the intent of never doing battle again. That is what it is to roleplay a game. That was a good memory. My character kept only a sword, just in case.

My character ready to finally rest from battle.

Categories: Video Game Reviews

Elder Scrolls Memories: Morrowind - April 5, 2016

What is interesting about The Elder Scrolls was that even as Daggerfall was released, Morrowind and Oblivion had already been announced. To be honest, I never gave much though to Oblivion. I saw the name, but all I could think was that Morrowind was years away, so even thinking that Oblivion would ever be part of the series was way too far off to consider. Still, ever since Daggerfall I longed for Morrowind. As neat as Daggerfall was, there was no denying the problems with the game.

A foreboding world!
I pre-ordered the collector’s edition of Morrowind, and as soon as I got it I played it to death. I remember launching the game for the first time and hearing the title screen music. I just sat there looking at the title screen for a few minutes because the music was so good. It was a peaceful tune, yet noble, the music rang of great adventure, and also great tragedy. After starting the game, what I was happiest about was that you started your adventure as a prisoner aboard a ship, much as you began aboard a ship in Daggerfall. Some guy named Jiub began talking to me, and it was amazing, really talking, unlike Daggerfall where the only talking was the guards saying, Halt!. And of course it was fully 3D, and looked absolutely amazing. Well I went through the character creation process and soon found myself standing in the town of Seyda Neen. I did a quest there involving climbing on a lighthouse, and then I followed the directions given to me when I first arrived in the town. I was supposed to go to the town of Balmora. I was kind of disappointed that unlike, Daggerfall there was no option to fast travel there, but unlike Daggerfall there was actually stuff to see in the outside world, and not just a bunch of hills and the occasional dead tree. As I walked on the road to Balmora a man fell from the sky to his death. I found a note on his body, read it, and discovered that it was a very foolish guy. I collected the potions he had on his body and moved on.

I arrived in the town of Balmora. It was nothing like I expected. It was a bunch of sandstone buildings. I had expected more traditional European architecture, but it did not disappoint. There was this river running through town with the one pixel shader in the game, and it looked absolutely amazing. It was the most beautiful town I’d ever seen in a game, and it ran at a whopping fifteen frames per second. Morrowind was like that, it ran at a really low frame-rate in town, out of town was better, and indoors was actually about where it should have been. The game was so amazing that this wasn’t much of a distraction though.

I have fond memories of crossing this huge Dwarven bridge.
I still have fond memories of walking up the Foyada Mamaea for the first time, and discovering that ashland terrain. I remember the feeling as I walked in there. I was a little scared. This area felt much more rugged. I felt that death could come at any moment. It was a harsh environment. There were Dunmer tribes out there, living in the ash, truly rugged elves if ever I saw them. Morrowind was a very diverse nation. There were cities built into trees and mushrooms, there were ancient Dwarven ruins. I still have fond memories of discovering an ancient Dwarven bridge leading to some old ruins. I looked down from the bridge and wonder if there was any way to get to the road below. I’d have a lot of exploring to do. The ruins were equally amazing with all these signs of a civilizations long gone. Dwarves were my favorite. A race long gone, and yet, at one point you discover the last living dwarf, and all I could think was, that this man must be preserved, for an entire nation rests in his mind. Morrowind also featured Daedric Ruins. Purple in color, fear loomed from them. Exploring them was a joy. The best treasure was found there, but you could only carry so much of it back to town to sell.

As soon as the expansions for the game came out I bought them. Tribunal, I admit, was a disappointment at first. Most of the expansion took place in the sewers and I wanted more outdoor regions. But really, it had some good moments, my favorite being finding the corpse of Sotha Sil, a claimed god long dead despite many still worshiping him. Bloodmoon was the expansion I really liked. It added new outdoors areas and the medieval architecture I wanted.

Yes, Morrowind was a long time coming, but the wait was worth it. The joy to be found was immense. Morrowind is one of the best RPGs of all time.

Categories: Video Game Reviews

Elder Scrolls Memories: Battlespire and Redguard - March 26, 2016

In remembering the Elder Scrolls series I want to briefly go over Battlespire and Redguard. After playing Daggerfall, Morrowind was the big thing I was waiting for, but in the meantime I found a few more games in the Elder Scrolls universe. These weren’t RPG games, they weren’t even very good games, but they were Elder Scrolls so I thought they might at least have a hint of what was possible in Morrowind.

Battlespire was a bleak work, a constant reminder of death at every turn.
I first played An Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire around 2001. I can’t really say I have fond memories of this game. I spent a lot of time in it, but never really made it that far. I must have tried with at least three characters, but ever time I got to a point where my character simply wasn’t tough enough. There were seven levels. I made it through three or four and couldn’t get any further. It was a game where if you didn’t create your character absolutely perfectly, you’d end up stuck. Part of me still wants to go back and play finish it. I do remember, though, Daggerfall had nudity, but Battlespire’s was even more titillating. I really did like the sense of despair that the game gave the player. You played a character stuck in this Battlespire thing, and really the only other people you find are dead, and it sort of makes you feel like that, too, will be your fate.

Redguard had terrible combat.
The other weird game in the series is The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard. What I remember most about this game was how frustrating it was. It was basically a never ending supply of guys trying to kill you. And the best way to fight them was to do this weird jump attack, otherwise they’d just parry your sword swings, and the puzzles were absolutely insane. There was this one astronomy puzzle that goes beyond the comprehension of mortal man. The one thing I liked was these old Dwarven ruins that you got to explore, though they also had an insanely difficult puzzle. Luckily cool Dwarven ruins would be brought back in Morrowind and Skyrim and the insane puzzles would be absent.

Categories: Video Game Reviews

Elder Scrolls Memories: Daggerfall - March 25, 2016

I originally wrote this when Skyrim first came out, but I didn’t feel my thoughts were coherent at the time, so I didn’t publish it. Now that I’m going on hiatus from writing the blog I thought I’d finish up some of the thoughts I had lying around in my head.

Daggerfall is a world that expands for miles.
I was first introduced to Daggerfall in PC Gamer Volume 4 Number 1, January 1997, and that’s where my love of The Elder Scrolls began. There were two demos for Daggerfall, one let you explore a dungeon, the other let you explore a whole island, this was the demo included with the issue of PC Gamer. The demo allowed exploration of the island of Betony in the Iliac Bay. The demo included pre-saved characters, so I began with a character just outside of one of the cities on the island of Betony. As I walked into the town my mind was boggled by how big the city was, it stretched for miles, had hundreds of buildings and thousands of people. Literally thousands, it was a very populated world.

The inventory was almost as fun as the rest of the game.
One thing I’ve always liked in RPGs ispaper doll type inventories where you get to dress up your character and see what they look like, and Daggerfall was not lacking in this area. The interface wasn’t as intuitive as drag and drop, but it was there. I remember looking at my character sheet, and clicking on weapons to equip them. You can also use clothing, and change the way it appeared on the character. For example you could wear a cloak with the hood up, the hood down, the cape wrapped around your shoulders or behind your back. Of course playing with equipping and equipping items I found that I could un-equip the clothes my character was wearing, and to my amazement discovering that my character, who happened to be female, was completely naked underneath. My brother was watching me play, and he was equally amazed. I remember having my character walk around topless, and the various townspeople I talked to actually responded to the fact that she wasn’t wearing anything. It truly felt immersive.

I remember fondly seeing a patrol of guards walking around the city walls. This was truly amazing. While most of the population just seemed to walk around at random, here was an actual organized group patrolling the city walls. I just had to know what it was like to talk with them, to see if it would interrupt their patrol, or if they would continue on, well, due to the complex interface that the game had, when I clicked on a guard I was in steal mode so instead of talking to the guard my character attempted to pick-pocket him and being caught I soon found a dozen guards coming after me. Without even knowing what happened I found myself under attack by the guards, and then thrown in jail for thievery, sentenced to years in jail. I served out my time and loaded a different game.

One of the pre-saved characters included with the demo was simply standing out in the middle of nowhere. I remember walking around for a few minutes looking for anything of importance. There was absolutely nothing out there, no matter which direction I wandered. Just a bunch of hills and the occasional dead tree. No monsters, nothing, just a barren empty world. I didn’t know about fast travel at the time, so I loaded a different game, on that was already in a city.

And so the Daggerfall demo came into my life, and I was forever impressed. I wanted the game more than anything, but I was a kid with no money, and on top of that the game wasn’t really well known enough to be carried in the department store nearby. I had one friend that told me his cousin had it, and he said that if you broke into someone’s house at night, sometimes you could walk in on them having sex. That was a lie, but I can see where a rumor like that would come from, since the game was, after all, one of the first games with nudity readily at hand.

Years later I did get a copy of the game for myself, in 2001 I think. I got it looking forward to Morrowind. When I finally was able to fully play it one of the great joys I had was owning my own home. The first time I bought a house I went to the various provinces of the Iliac Bay, borrowed money from the banks, and returned to the province of Daggerfall. You see, each province had it’s own economy so you could borrow lots of money, and so long as you never went back to those provinces no debt collectors would ever ask you about the money you owed. I bought a house in the city of Daggerfall for around 800,000 gold. It was the biggest available. It was also a really badly designed house. It had maybe eleven rooms, but the entrance to each room was on the outside of the house. I couldn’t even go from room to room without going outside. I sold that house and bought a different one. A little smaller, but still two stories high with a balcony. I could actually get around in this house without going outside. I was a lot happier with it. Forever after that, after a long day crawling through a dungeon I would go to my house, take off all my armor, put on some comfortable clothes and sandals and sit by the fire, or go and stand on the balcony and enjoy the rain. I always felt kind of bad about that, though, knowing that I had bought that house with money I’d never pay back. In my second play-through of the game, years later I found legitimate ways of making a lot of money and bought a house with money earned from long days of scavenging and completing guild quests.

As good as Daggerfall was, I have to admit, it had it’s shares of problems. I won’t bother going into details about the problems, since anyone who has played the game knows what they are, but I will sum it up into a single line: Daggerfall was too ambitious, and in doing so it became monotonous. The technology existed to create a big world, but the technology didn’t exist to create a world that was both big and interesting. Even as I played it I awaited Morrowind.

Categories: Video Game Reviews

Baseball Cards, They're Worthless - March 19, 2016

I have a few collection. My most sentimental is my Might and Magic collection, but I also have a substantial Elder Scrolls collection, and a few other minor collections. But one I don’t really speak of is my card collection. The first cards I collected made the most sense to me: Ninja Turtles cards. I don’t have any of them left save one Leonardo card that my mom preserved for me. The rest were destroyed because I played with them and traded them so much.

Baseball held little interest for me until my friend Aaron moved in. He was obsessed with the Texas Rangers and collecting baseball cards. I thought Aaron was the coolest kid ever, so if he liked baseball then I liked it too. I began a collection of baseball cards to emulate him. Really there were only two things I cared about collecting. A Nolan Ryan card, because that was Aaron’s favorite player, and a Hank Aaron card because that guy had the same name as Aaron.

Ricky Adams 1984, my oldest card.
To start off my collection I got a baseball card collecting starter kit from a Scholastic book order. It included a Beckett (a guide to how much various baseball cards are worth), a guide to collecting, and about 10 baseball cards, including one that would be over 20 years old. Naturally at 10 years old, that sounded very impressive to me. So I got my mom to pay for it for me, and eagerly awaited it. It came, and I opened up my baseball cards, hoping for someone famous. After looking through it I found the oldest one. My friend Clint pointed out that the card wasn’t over 20 years old it was like 7 years old. The card was Ricky Adams of the Los Angeles Angels. I looked through the included Beckett to see if my card was worth anything, it wasn’t even listed. Nothing I got was listed. None of them had enough value to be listed in an abridged Beckett, it only listed rare cards, such as Babe Ruth, valued in the twenties of thousands, or so. I fantasized about owning something like that, I guess that was the intent of a Beckett for kids.

After that my collection rapidly expanded. Topps were my favorite. I don’t know why. For some reason I had the impression that they were the more glamorous brand of cards, 1987 was my favorite Topps year (it had the coolest border art). Donruss was my least favorite. Partially because I had been given a pack of Donruss baseball cards, and didn’t get one player I had ever heard of. I also enjoyed the brands of Fleer and Score. Every time I got a new pack of cards I always looked for Nolan Ryan first, and was always disappointed. My brother was lucky enough to get a Nolan Ryan. I was jealous. He tried to make it up to me by taking a picture of it, so that I could have a Nolan Ryan as well.

So there I was trying to get as many baseball cards as possible. Always trying to get a Nolan Ryan. My brother got a Beckett with pretty much every card listed. Most were worth five cents. One time I got a card that was worth a buck, a Don Mattingly error card. (Error cards were when an incorrect stat was published on the card, which were somehow worth more because they were incorrect, go figure.) So there I was with my one card that actually had some value. Don Mattingly. I’d heard of him, so I was happy with the card. Eventually my mom bought me a Nolan Ryan, it came in a little frame, and it was a Topps card.

A year or so into my collecting, my dad took me to a ball game. We didn’t have a major leagues team, but we did have a Triple-A team. It was the most boring experience of my life. And I was like, This is what I was collecting? What is this sport? Nothing happens. I stopped collecting cards after that.

In conclusion, every last one of my cards is now over 20 years old 1993 was the last year I got any... and they are all worthless. My Ricky Adams card is over thirty years old, and they aren’t worth the paper they are printed on. I even have a Sammy Sosa card from his rookie years, you may remember him, the MLB was making a big deal when he was competing with Mark MacGuire for the home runs record. It’s worthless. Oh and I looked, you can get a non-rookie year Hank Aaron card for under $10.00, I don’t even care enough to get one at this point. My dad once told me that investing in the stock market was probably a better investment than baseball cards. I was a kid, so I cared nothing of stocks and bonds, but he was right. In retrospect I should have gotten more Ninja Turtles cards. At least I’m nostalgic for those, but as for baseball... No way.

Categories: 1988-1995 K-6

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