Traveling the Trails - Part Three (The Oregon Trail Deluxe)

I know it’s been quite a while since I last took a journey into the world of the Oregon Trail, and to be quite honest, I took this particular journey a long time ago, and I’m just finally getting around to posting it. For those of you who aren’t aware of what I’m trying to achieve here, I was “inspired” after watching the Oregon Trail 3DS quick look to try and figure out where this series went off the rails. In previous entries I played through the original Apple II version included on educational compilation discs, and the Apple II version that everyone is familiar with from grade school.

Of course, I’m younger than most people that are familiar with the oregon trail, and the first version of the game I ever played was the Oregon Trail Deluxe for DOS, which is what I’ll be playing here today. I know I make comments about the music over and over, and I’m not really sure why, I was a bit enthralled by it perhaps. I found this version of the game much easier to play than any of the previous versions, and while it still seemed a bit too similar to previous versions, they certainly added enough to make it worthwhile. Also, if we’re being honest, there was not a huge group of people looking for reviews of the new Oregon Trail in Computer Gaming World and making sure that it had enough new content to warrant a purchase.

Now that I’ve finally gotten around to posting this one three months after the previous one, I think I’ll keep going, but I will likely switch to a text-only format, where I’m honestly way more comfortable. In addition, getting video of these old games can be a real chore. If there’s enough interest, I’ll keep doing the videos. Don’t get me wrong, I’m going to play through every single one of these damn games, but I might only relay my experiences in text. Anyway, enough of my babbling, here’s the Oregon Trail Deluxe.

Next time, I’ll be taking a look at what is probably the most complex version of the Oregon Trail ever made, Oregon Trail 2. Oregon Trail 2 is also the last game that was published under the MECC name, though many people from that team worked on Oregon Trail 3. See you then!

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Taking my Flight Sim Obsession into Orbit

All this talk about flight sims and flight sticks and related paraphernalia around the site has gotten me into flight sims again. I dusted off the stick and played some DCS A-10C and went back to IL-2, while peppering in something a bit more casual with Microsoft Flight.

I’m not here to talk about boring atmospheric flight simulators though. While going through my Flight Sim revival, I rediscovered Orbiter, a great little spaceflight simulator. Developed by a single person, it has become, over the years, the standard for spaceflight simulation. As soon as you download the sim, you can fly the Space Shuttle Atlantis, or a selection of other made-up ships. The default ships it comes with are built in a very basic way as to make their operation straightforward for anyone who might pick it up, providing extensive autopilot features that flip all the switches for you. In fact, the default space shuttle doesn’t even include a virtual cockpit. These standard ships let you play around in the sandbox without really investing much time or effort.

Landing an unpowered space shuttle is a bit more challenging than landing a plane.

The simulation as it comes in the default package, while fun, is rather lacking. There is no sound, and the lack of realistic control mechanisms for the ships leaves a gaping hole in what is an otherwise near-perfect simulation of spacecraft and zero-g physics. Just about the only extra features included by default are Flight Stick/TrackIR support. Thankfully, the mod community has made up for the standard install’s flaws, and dramatically improved the function of just about everything. The most popular mod of the bunch, OrbiterSound, adds sound to the game, with everything from engine noise to radio chatter. This mod has become so synonymous with Orbiter that most other mods will include additional sound packages for it. Teams of people have developed advanced and highly realistic sims for Project Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo, all with fully functioning virtual cockpits, which you can navigate your way through with full-length checklists, flight procedure manuals, and familiarization guides, all provided by the mod developers The Apollo mod stands above and beyond the others as a perfect example of how to build a new ship for Orbiter. The sound effects and radio chatter are taken directly from era-appropriate sources, the models and virtual cockpits look amazing, and outside the sim, the mod comes with massive amounts of documentation, which alongside a fully fleshed out wiki, gives you everything you need to be able to fly a successful mission.

This is maybe about a fourth of the panels in the Command Module section of the Saturn V.

Of course, along with a thriving mod community comes a slew of unusual problems. Budding space enthusiasts will quickly discover that they have to install both the 2006 and the 2010 versions of Orbiter if they want to be able to run all the mods available, as many of them, including the Project Mercury mod, require an older version of the core software. Even mods that do support the “new” 2010 version of Orbiter, like Project Apollo, don’t run as well as the older 2006 version of the same mods. At the end of the day, most people still run the older, inferior 2006 version, which has far more mod support. However, if you’re willing to deal with weird technical problems though, there’s a really great experience to be had here, a little different from the standard sim fare, but very interesting nevertheless.

The graphics may not be stunning, but they get the job done.

I might write up a more detailed post about my experiences soon, but I’ve really been enjoying my time with this, and with the renewed enthusiasm about sims floating around the site, thought I’d bring it up.

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Traveling the Trails - Part Two (The Oregon Trail - 1985)

It’s been a while since I did the first entry in this series, but I’m back, and its time to continue my search for the point where The Oregon Trail games jumped the sharks. Today, I’m going to play the first ‘real’ Oregon Trail game, the 1985 edition. After the widespread success of the teletype edition of the game, in addition to the simple standalone version I played last time, MECC released a standalone, graphically superior version of the original OREGON software. This version of the game was initially released for the Apple II, and as a result of the widespread use of that computer in classrooms, The Oregon Trail immediately became an educational hit among teachers and students. Over the coming years, The Oregon Trail would not only make massive amounts of money for MECC (the company responsible for its creation), but would also find it’s way into the cultural consciousness of an entire generation of schoolchildren, teachers, and parents. When someone thinks Oregon Trail, this is the version of the game that most people think of. The same rules I used last time still apply here: I can’t restart, and if I lose, I lose the game, no trying again. Again, I am running this inside a Apple II emulator called ApplePC which I’m running inside a DOS emulator, simply because this was the setup that made video capture the easiest.

While I’m happy that I made it to the end of the trail this time, I did play as a banker, which is probably the easiest way to do it. In retrospect, I probably could have afforded to rest just a little bit more than I did, and maybe have averted the deaths that I had, but that's the way it goes. Also, as a side note, I decided to look up the "peperony and chease" gravestone, and apparently, the story behind is that some kid named Andy was rather amused by the Tombstone pizza commercials that asked "What do you want on your tombstone?", which the answer to was a badly spelled "Pepperoni and Cheese". Next time, I’ll be playing the first version of The Oregon Trail that I ever personally played, Oregon Trail Deluxe for DOS.

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Traveling the Trails - Intro & Part One

Just like everyone else of a certain age or older, I played Oregon Trail when I was younger, and watching the Oregon Trail 3DS quick look made me both nostalgic and sort of sad. In my memory, I remember Oregon Trail as a game that required strategy and critical thinking, neither of which the 3DS version had. So, what I’m going to do is attempt to discover where the Oregon Trail series went off the rails (or off the trails, if you want to be snarky about it), and transformed a great edutainment product to a piece of software that only functions to prey on nostalgia. I’m going to do this by playing all of the Oregon Trail titles in consequential order, starting with the earliest version I could find, mostly composed of text, through at least Oregon Trail 5, and perhaps into the Wii/iPhone games if I really want to punish myself.

While I might be excited to jump in, I am not going to try and do this sort of thing without first setting some basic ground rules. For starters, I will not be playing every single remake and repackaging that has been done over the years. Many of the titles were only slight remakes of previous versions, so I’ll be sticking to the core, numbered, titles. While we’re touching on limitations, I will only play each game once. I will try my best to get to the end of the trail, but if I don’t succeed, I am most likely not going to start over. To try and keep my impressions fresh, I am going to refrain from playing any of the games beforehand that I have not played at some point in the past, other than to make sure they work with whatever convoluted emulation process I am using to get it to run and still be able to record video. For full disclosure as far as this is concerned, the only Oregon Trail games I have played are the DOS version of “Oregon Trail Deluxe” and “Oregon Trail II”.

To start us off, I’m going to play a version of Oregon Trail that most people don’t even know exists, and I’m rather lucky I stumbled across it when I was doing initial research to see if this sort of thing would even be feasible. When Oregon Trail was first created, it was a mainframe game, which meant no graphics, and a child would have needed to pay for time on a terminal, or have been fortunate enough to attend a school that paid for main frame access to play it. In this rudimentary version of the game, everything was communicated to you through text, including hunting, which measured how many times you could type “BANG”, “WHAM”, or “POW” into the terminal. Sadly, while I was able to find the source code for this game, I was not able to find a decent way to run it. The version of the game I’ll be playing today instead was the first graphical version of what we now know as The Oregon Trail, seen here simply as “OREGON”. This version of the game was initially featured in a few different educational game compilations, including the one I used, “MECC - Elementary Volume 6”.

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Watching a Galaxy Implode: Day Ten / The End

LUXURY YACHT CRAWL PARTY

There’s not much I can actually write about content wise for my final blog about my experiences in Star Wars Galaxies, since most of you saw it all on the live stream, and if you didn’t, you can see it when the archive goes up. I will say, however, that as much as I have enjoyed pointing out the terrible flaws in this game throughout this series of blogs, I think hiding beneath deeply flawed gameplay, there is something that modern MMOs could certainly learn from. By giving players so much freedom to choose to do whatever they want to do, the game creates a deep sense of community that is extremely hard to replicate elsewhere.

ERP. If you have to look that up... don't.

While Star Wars Galaxies was broken as hell, and certainly not something I would pay a monthly fee to play, there is something to be said for a MMO that offers you that sense of complete freedom. Of course more often than not, this total freedom results in new players being completely lost, and a core player base hostile to the new players who “just don’t get it”. EvE Online is a modern game that you can easily compare to SWG, and I absolutely love EvE. The difference between this game and EvE, of course, is that the core systems of EvE aren’t completely broken.

The end.

Thanks for reading, and coming along on this ride with me. I hope you enjoyed it, because I know I at least enjoyed writing about it. If you're stumbling across this blog post separate of the others, I encourage you to go back and read the others, and experience my dark descent into the madness that was this game.

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Watching a Galaxy Implode: Day Nine

Woooo! More pointless memorabilia!

While I was working on the quest from my last blog, I reached level 14, and doing so popped a class quest for me, from Boba Fett of course. At this point, I’ve just accepted that any quest that is even remotely interesting is going to be given to you by a major character from the Star Wars universe, just to keep people somewhat interested in what they’re doing. HOLY SHIT Boba Fett gave me this quest to kill 10 rats, this must be extremely important.

The hell did you come from?

So anyway, Boba Fett has a bounty for me, and of course I have to jump through a ton of hoops to get to it. Go talk to a whole bunch of people, then go down in a cave and give some guy a flower (which, by the way, I had to physically drag onto the NPC to give it to him, because fuck automation), then find some other guy and give him some spice. While on my way to spice guy, I encountered a magnificent glitch where I was killing random mobs, and all of a sudden one of those Mos Eisley police officers that I mentioned in an earlier post pops out of nowhere, just spawns right on top of me, and does the search thing, walking off at the end, back towards Mos Eisley, which was a good 500ft away. Thankfully, when I got to spice guy, he FINALLY gave me the location of the target.

Right...over...there...

That isn’t to say it became any easier from there. The game refused to tell me anything more than that the target was underground ‘somewhere’ inside a labyrinthine laboratory. I eventually found him, but I had a half dozen mobs trying to kill me by that point, and since there’s no way to run back to your corpse and resurrect, I spawned all the way back in Mos Eisley, with no real desire to run back.

I don't think you understand, Steve. EVERY movie location must be in there.

And again, just like so much of my time spent in this game, I had no idea what to do or where to go from where I was. I decided it might be a good idea to try and find a new ship that wasn’t complete shit in case there was something going in space during the finale. I did some actually poking around on the SWG wiki and found that I was supposed to get a TIE Fighter as part of joining the Imperial Navy, which I didn’t, and it mentioned going to Theed on Naboo to join the Imperial Navy, so I decided to head over there.

Guy should really just stop spawning in.

The first thing you notice in Theed is how broken the Galactic Civil War (the prelude to the endgame event) has made the game. Even though Theed is lore-wise a heavily Imperial city, but because of the GCW, which I hear from general chat (always a reliable source) is heavily biased towards the rebels, the Rebels control Theed. As a result, there are several spots in the city, one of which is just outside the starport, where a Rebel NPC will spawn and get killed immediately by Imperial NPCs that are still hanging around because they are required to be there for quests or something. Then there are spots in the city where the opposite is true, and Imp NPCs instantly die.

Totally the same as a TIE Fighter, right guys?

Then, on my way to where the Imperial Pilot Trainer was, I got stuck inside the ground, not able to move at all. The automatic unstick command didn’t work, and neither did restarting the game. I eventually had to climb into a landspeeder, fly around, and then climb back out. Of course, after going through that crap, it turns out that things changed with the introduction of the NGE, which the wiki apparently has not been updated since. Post-NGE, to put it simply, my terrible looking starter ship is what I get instead of getting a TIE Fighter. Yep, someone thought players would mind having a shitty looking ship no one has ever heard of before instead of a instantly recognizable cultural icon. Excellent job.

On a sort of related note, SOE has officially announced their server shutdown plans, which A) sound incredibly dull, and B) End way earlier than I expected.

  • The Galactic Civil War will end and scoring will be frozen on Wednesday, December 14th, at 9:00 p.m. PST. At this time, all players will be notified who won and who lost.
  • Scheduled restarts will occur on the morning of Thursday, December 15th, and afterward various battles and events will begin. (These are optional, of course.)
  • The servers will close on December 15th at 9:00 p.m. PST (5:00 a.m. GMT).
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    Watching a Galaxy Implode: Day Eight

    Arson is a great theme for guild names.

    I find that now I am compelled to continue playing Star Wars Galaxies, and while I can’t nail down exactly why this is, but I think it may have something to do with the fact that this thing will completely cease to exist next week. There’s this sort of weird feeling that you get, knowing that what you’re doing will be completely inaccessible and before long that an entire game is going to go away. That said, as soon as I logged back on, I realized I had nothing to do. I had exhausted all the initial quest lines, and none of them had led me to anything else, so I started digging around in my inventory like a crazy person. To my surprise, I found an item called “Jabba’s Commlink”, which started a quest. After talking to Bib Fortuna, who was still hanging out where I got the opening quest from, I started a weird little murder mystery quest involving a super solider drug. At first, the quest just hauled me around Tatooine, to places I couldn’t fast travel of course. Flying to those kinds of places in your spaceship works well, you just have to slap it on autopilot and alt-tab out. The autopilot thinks the best way to land at your destination is to nosedive into the ground, so you always know when to tab back in by the clunk of your ship hitting the ground.

    I dunno, I would hate to cheat on my other quest-giver

    A really strange thing I noticed while I worked on this quest chain was the inability to pick up other quests as I ran along. When I play an MMO or just a plain old RPG, I just pick up every single quest that I am offered, so that I end up with a quest log full of stuff to do before I come back to the hub town. However, in Star Wars Galaxies, if you are currently “working for someone” as the NPCs put it, you cannot pick up most other quests. There are some quests you can do simultaneously, but it seems like anything that starts a chain cannot be done at the same time that you are engaged in another chain., To be honest, this feels like an attempt to artificially lengthen the amount of time it takes to level in the game, forcing you to do one line of quests at a time before moving on to the next. The idea, I suppose would be that I would remember where these quests were and come back for them later, but realistically, if I didn’t pick it up the first time I saw it, I’m probably never going to go back and get it again, which means that players lose out on huge swaths of content.

    Ah, Star Wars monster design, so.....inspired.

    After I was done mucking around on Tatooine, the quest started taking me to different planets, which was a pretty nice change of pace, but also showed me how extremely annoying the interplanetary travel system is. Instead of paying double the amount of money to travel to a planet that involves a route through another planet, you have to buy a ticket to go to that one, then get off, run into the station and buy another ticket to go to the next planet. This was exacerbated by the fact that the quests I were doing forced me to go back and forth three or four times, and not spending a very long time on any one planet.

    Yes, please.

    But then, I finally got to the payoff. And oh what a payoff it was… zombies. That’s right, we’re officially mixing in zombies with Star Wars now. Granted, no one actually calls them zombies, they’re just dead people that are being controlled by the super soldier drug. And best of all, their ranks include Mon Calamari zombies. But we’re not even at the most exciting part yet! As soon as I got to the safe zone, the quest suddenly turned from a quest that matched my level to a level 90 quest. Excellent.

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    Watching a Galaxy Implode: Day Seven

    No , no, your costumes are all wonderful.

    Today I finally decided to log on and wander over to the Christmas holiday inside of Star Wars Galaxies. Thankfully, the loading screen told me where the event was being held, or I never would’ve found it. There is not a single NPC in Mos Eisley, one of the most frequented towns in the entire game, telling you were to go for this event. Anyway, lack of direction aside, I bought a ticket to Wayfar, and waited for the loading screen.

    This tree is shedding ornaments.

    I was quite surprised when I arrived at this town and it was covered in snow… still on Tatooine, in the middle of the fucking desert. I can actually walk a few hundred feet in any direction and be back in a giant desert again. Beyond the strange weather, the first thing that really struck me was the fact that there was no one around. I was the only player character in this entire town. You would think that a major world event like this would bring everyone out, but instead they continue to hang out in Mos Eisley, roleplaying and dueling. I started towards the obvious landmark in the area; a terribly textured giant tree that I assumed must be a “life tree”. Under the tree, there was a Santa Claus lookalike named Saun Dann waiting with a quest. He tells me that he had ordered candy from Naboo and that it had never shown up, and that I need to investigate.

    Oddly decent looking...

    I was really looking forward to visiting Naboo, as much as someone can look forward to anything in this game. I was really interested in seeing something new and different after spending the entirety of my playtime on a space station and Tatooine. When I first arrived, I was impressed by how much better the planet looked compared to Tatooine… but then I went inside a building. While the outside of the buildings were new, the insides were 100% the same. The entire city was the same thing with a new, pretty façade instead of the sand-colored exteriors of Tatooine.

    Why hello there, slightly deformed Stormtrooper model.

    Of course, though the marker was in the middle of town, the guy I needed to talk to was right next to where the ship landed. He immediately sent me back to Tatooine, where I was sent to the middle of the desert because the candy was sold to Jawas. The Jawa’s protocol droid let me know that the candy had gone to some little town somewhere else in Tatooine, where a glowing candy trail led me to a fat stormtrooper. Yes, this lengthy, totally pointless quest ended with a heart-to-heart with an overweight stormtrooper. And to top it all off, as soon as I got back to the Santa imposter, he wanted me to go back out and do it all again. Needless to say, I declined.

    The second part of the event depends on what faction you are a member of. As an Imperial, I have to run around the area stomping on presents, since the imperial recruiter claims it is a guise by the Rebels to smuggle in supplies and weapons. The greatest thing about this activity was that the horrible song that replaced Yub Nub in Return of the Jedi was playing while I was stomping presents for “Imperial Propaganda Tokens”. As mind-numbingly boring as clicking on present after present is, apparently the rebel activity involves decorating trees, which sounds absolutely thrilling. I’ve embedded a video that depicts the thrilling process of stomping presents, as well as the event area. Now, as for what I’m going to do in the game from here on out… I might start questing again?

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    Watching a Galaxy Implode: Day Six

    The loading screens continue to become ever stranger.

    While I’ve been mostly preoccupied with the explosion of games over the past month or two, I have been dropping into Star Wars Galaxies every once in a while, since I am apparently way into self-flagellation, and with the end approaching, I figured I’d stop being lazy and write something up. I finally just gave up on any illusion that I was still “playing” the game to see the quest content or anything of that nature, and just started wandering around this weird little world, which I find far more entertaining.

    Someone really let the decorator off the leash, huh?

    I wandered back to Galaxies around Halloween time, which coincides with the in-game festival of the ‘Galactic Moon Festival’, which is of course just a silly Halloween event. Just like any other MMO with holiday events, select cities and towns in the world are decorated, and a few short-term events are activated.

    Yes. He is exactly what you think he is.

    However, instead of making the holiday event at least somewhat fun, SOE manages to make an extremely arduous talk out of what is supposed to be a fun little distraction from the day to day doldrums of RPing in Mos Eisley… or whatever it is you do in this game. To even participate in the event, you have to go up to the event organizer, who just happens to be a Twi’lek vampire (because why not), and get a trick-or-treat kit from him. This kit allows you to, as the name suggests, trick-or-treat. While grabbing the kit, I also asked him for a costume, which resulted in me being turned into a Droideka, complete with a rolling animation instead of walking.

    Something you should NOT say to a destroyer droid.

    To engage in the trick-or-treating activity, you have to walk up to any random NPC in the game and manually type into your chat window “Trick or Treat” while targeting them. Apparently, the idea of making this interaction a simple dialogue prompt never occurred to the designers. From there, they can refuse to give you a treat, in which case you can use your kit to “trick” them, which creates a hologram of something “scary”. If at any point in this process, you succeed, you are given a single coin. You can also completely fail this process, and not get anything from the NPC you are trying to get a reward from. Once you succeed though, you get a single coin, of which you have to have 50 or more to buy anything. A truly entertaining holiday.

    I hear there’s a Christmas event going on right now, I’ll try and get over there to take a look at that soon… and maybe get my thoughts on it up before the game ends… maybe.

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    Watching a Galaxy Implode: Day Five

    First of all, I’m sorry for the lapse in posting. With all the new games coming out, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time playing those and not Star Wars Galaxies. But now I’m back and ready to endure some more of this.

    The majority of my flight time.

    The first thing I did when I got back in was to ditch all of my space quests. By this point, I was really bored of the space quests, which take forever to do, and as far as I can tell, give no XP towards your next level. I quickly realized that without these quests I had nothing to do, since I had dropped off the main line of quest progression long ago to do other things. The only ground based quests that I could find to pick up were from random quest-giving terminals throughout the world, so I picked one of those up. I hopped in my starship… and missile lock. Apparently, in the latest patch, they've added missile turrets to towns, so now you can’t even fly over towns that are controlled by the opposite faction… and the central town for imperial quests is held by rebels at the moment. I understand that all these events are for the players who have been playing this game for years, but you think they could have at least left it playable for noobs. I decided to try and switch to rebel at some point so that I could at least stay alive in major towns for any amount of time, and moved on with the quest I had grabbed.

    THAT FLAG IS A THREAT TO THE STABILITY OF THE EMPIRE

    My instructions were to destroy a hologram duplication center, so I of course expected to find an actual building when I arrived at the coordinates. When I got to the location of the quest, the only thing there were 3 or 4 “thugs” and a flag marked “a gambling camp”. Now I knew that my instructions were to destroy a hologram duplication center, but the giant shiny quest marker told me this was where I was supposed to be. I killed the thugs and then shot the flag for a good 5 minutes before it was destroyed, and got the quest reward. I’ve seen some dumb things in this game, but this certainly takes the grand prize. Not only was the location mislabeled, but to destroy a camp/facility, all I have to do is shoot a flag a lot?

    Deluxe Sarlacc Trash Can. What else is there to say?

    On my way back to the town to grab another quest however, I found a gem that would make the entire day worth it. As I understand it, people can create player run towns in Star Wars Galaxies, fill them with custom items, and so on. However, with the age of the game, there are huge numbers of abandoned ghost towns covering every planet now. I happened to fly over one of these with the name of “MOS POOK POOK” (Caps are the cruise control for cool), and decided to check it out. The majority of the buildings were locked up, row after row of houses, labs, manufacturing centers and hangars, that I assume are only accessible by people who stopped playing the game long ago. There were two still open buildings of interest though. The first was what seemed to be their capitol/throne room, with three Rancors standing guard. The other was a massive “Resource Superstore”, filled with everything but resources, from “Sith-O-Lanterns”, to a life-size statue of Mace Windu, to the glorious “Deluxe Sarlacc Trash Can”. These places, particularly the store, represent what seems to be a collective obsession for the players of this game in getting huge caches of memorabilia, one that the game’s developers fully support. I decided screenshots could not do these things justice, and I’ve uploaded a tour of the two locations, embedded below.

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