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Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: A Failure in Five Fits
lokimotive
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July 13, 2009 - 7:34 pm
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Fit the First

 

I alighted on an ingenious idea when I first played Monkey Island 2: LeChucks Revenge. When I got stuck, I could simply write a letter to LucasArts describing my situation and, within about two weeks, they would write back, describing a solution. Calling a hintline, with its exorbitant fees, was obviously out of the question for me. My parents certainly wouldn’t hear of it, and it was well out of an 11 year old’s price range. So, when I couldn’t figure out how to turn off the waterfall. And then I couldn’t figure it out some more. And then finally when I really couldn’t figure it out, I would type up a nice note on the word processer, print it out, fold it up and mail it off. Two weeks later I would have a letter about a monkey wrench. And if I hadn’t already figured it out (which I hadn’t) I would say oh! I see. I would follow the solution written out, and I’d move on my merry way.

 

Of course, two weeks has always been a long time. Probably longer for an 11 year old. I was very cognizant of this and would use my hint method sparingly. It really only made practical sense if I was completely stuck on a puzzle. Writing away for any slight hiccup would be a waste of paper and a waste of time. It was only after repeatedly running into brick walls that I would resort to writing away. As a result adventure games were long, endlessly frustrating and indescribably satisfying. Even absurd solutions, if found by oneself, became Eureka moments. All of the frustrations would be forgiven. When you solved a puzzle, you would commune with the designer. You’d say, “Oh, I see what you did there,” and they’d wink and smile behind the façade of your screen. And you’d move on to the next torturous impossibility.

 

Fit the Second

 

That was the old paradigm.

 

Now I gobble up games in a weekend. If I can’t figure something out, I ask for help. Oftentimes games just offer it up without question. As a result one can move quickly through games and move on to a new one. Besides the availability of GameFAQs and online walkthroughs, games themselves have changed. Adventure games are rare. The idea of getting stuck, absolutely STUCK, because of a lapse in logic is antiquated. We can blast our way through. We can hack our way through with timed puzzles. If all else fails, we can ask for some help. And we can do all of this within the span of a few moments.

 

This is not a bad thing. Moving slow and absurdly is not always enjoyable. Games that gently nudge you along when you need it can be far more immersive. Any time you stare blankly at a locked door, or run through various combinations of speeches or inventory combinations, you have to step back from the game itself. You start to consider ways that you, as a human being, would approach the situation if you could only go in there and wring your stupid avatar’s neck. But you can’t. So you go through the game and you curse your stupid game vocabulary and its inadequacy in convey ideas. Roger! You say, Just freakin’ jump over the root monster’s tentacles!

 

Fit the Third

 

But I can’t help missing those Eureka moments borne on waves and waves of frustration. So when LucasArts rereleased their adventure games last week (and some other crap) and could not wait to download the one game I had yet to fully experience Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I had played through some of it before. I got stuck in the castle. I couldn’t get past an enormous fellow. But it didn’t matter (I think), I was having too much fun with the danger and the exploration.

 

I didn’t get to Brunwald on my own this time. I slunk head down to a walkthrough when I couldn’t figure out how to operate a torch. Within the first twenty screens. Then I realized I had missed several key items. Then I realized I couldn’t get them anymore. Then, and this is key, I realized I wouldn’t have even bothered to get them in the first place. Ever.

 

This game is unfair! I declared. It’s oblique! It’s impossible! I can’t subject myself to the waves and waves of frustration inherent in the completion of this game. How could I know of these two key pieces of information hidden in small rooms that I’d need in the end? What would I do when I got to the end and realized the error of my ways?

 

I didn’t want to find out. Instead I played through the game windowed, with the walkthrough behind it. I finished it in little over an hour, scoffing every step of the way. How, I kept thinking, would I have ever thought of that?

 

Fit the Fourth

 

I would have. I don’t know how. But I would. I would restart the game. I would invite a friend over. I would lend it to them. They would install it on their computer. Then we’d play it at the same time. Then they would get frustrated. And I’d be left on my own. Then I’d figure it out and call them excitedly. And they probably wouldn’t care.

 

And it would take months.

 

This play through took less than a weekend. A weekend where I also played Loom, finished the third episode of Sam and Max, started Tales of Monkey Island, flirted with The Pandora Directive, and probably delved into Oblivion for awhile.

 

I failed. I rushed. I moved on. I didn’t dwell. I didn’t give myself enough credit. I went with the easy path. And yet… And yet…

 

Fit the Fifth

 

And yet I found illumination.

 

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is a dinosaur. Scratch that. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade will never be made again. Like its contemporary brethren, it does not forgive. If you screw up, well you better start over then. Or better yet, go back to a save point and try something different. You may find something new. Or you may find a more elaborate path to a dead end. This is a Sierra mentality. This is before LucasArts went against that. This is a transitional game.

 

More than that, though, this is one of the most interesting movie-tie-in games likely to be released. If Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was released like this, the game industry would implode. It does not matter if you have seen the movie or not. It doesn’t even seem to care if you do see the movie. Seeing the movie helps you understand some jokes, some elisions, but it doesn’t matter in the long run. Seeing the movie, you presume to know how the game will go. It only touches on that. When it starts out you can parrot the dialogue you remember from the theater. But then you find X does not mark the spot and everything goes to hell. Indy starts offering fine leather jackets. He dresses up as a Nazi, or a servant. He steals pigs. He beats up drunken large men. He doesn’t give the Nazi’s the grail diary. Or he does.

 

And then there’s the manual. More research went into this than some entire franchises. It is a testament to the love of the programmers that they share the passion of the character they are crafting. They researched their subject… or hell they seem like they did. There are tiny in jokes involving Dante and Freud.

 

And there are absurd jokes: Nazi banners on a dog’s house, “Die Overture von Krieg der Sterne.” And there’s dramatic irony, Indy declares that there’s nothing Donovan can do to make him help him right before Indy’s father is shot. “Except that,” Indy responds. And Indy slumps around in an almost Byronic fashion. Part of that is due to the limitations at the time, but part, I feel is a reflection of the character in this game. It is as if he is trapped in this puppet game. He knows he’s going to fail and fail and fail.

 

I don’t know what changed. I can’t play these games “right” anymore. I’m too caught up in moving ineluctably on. But I can play these games “wrong,” and thankfully I can appreciate that. Maybe I have nostalgia for a bygone era of naiveté, where I could play and play for months and months. I don’t know if games will ever offer that again. Eureka’s are quiet now and more frequent. Games want you to cuddle with them, occasionally tugging; they do not stand menacingly over you, hands in vest pockets.

 

Adventure gaming, in the 1990s sense, in the Sierra sense, the LucasArts sense, is gone. It cannot be made in the same way The Odyssey cannot be written again.  At least least for me, I can appreciate these games as cultural artifacts. They represent something, something good that cannot be attained again. This is the definition of classic to me.

 

Apparently it took an archeologist to reveal that to me.

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Yapette
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July 13, 2009 - 11:23 pm
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[Image Can Not Be Found] to your post writing skills. This effort belongs on the front page.

(btw, I'm stealing your idea of a windowed game played over a full-screen walkthrough)

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Toger
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July 14, 2009 - 10:17 am
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fab post loki! Yap's right, this belongs on the front page. And if Steerpike doesn't move it there, I will - with your permission. You have walked through my frantic brain and eloquently said what I feel when I play classic adventure games. 

[Image Can Not Be Found]

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Steerpike
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July 14, 2009 - 4:56 pm
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That was awesome, Loki. If you're okay with the superstardom of appearing on our front page (we have MADE and DESTROYED careers with our front page!), I'd love to put it on there.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

lokimotive
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July 14, 2009 - 6:04 pm
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Well, I'd be honored to be on the front page, so yes you have my permission.

Yapette, I have to warn you that having a walkthrough in the background, besides increasing the temptation to use it also exacerbates another major difference between games of old and games of new: sometimes walkthroughs are not enough.

 

LucasArts’ liberation of their back catalog sparked a overflowing of adventure game nostalgia for me. I spent a great deal of time bouncing around the Internet reading various Interviews with adventure game luminaries old and new. I noticed that several designers, usually the ones who honed their skills with text based adventures, pointed out that some of their more elaborate puzzles were viewed unexpectedly harshly. These were usually puzzles that required note taking, or, to put it better scratch paper. They pointed out that, in their Infocom days (for example) such a puzzle would be totally acceptable.

 

Another, older paradigm, it seems.

 

I point this out because Indy had several puzzles that the walkthroughs could not help with: I can only describe this to you, they would say, you must experience it for yourself. I do not know if this was because the resources were in the game, and it seemed redundant in the walkthrough author’s mind to repeat it, or if the puzzles were unique to each play through. It was probably a bit of both. However, puzzles that required a book in the game were not integrated in a friendly, dare I say, logical manner. You could not actually access the resources at the time you needed to use them. For instance, a book describes how to start a bi-plane… an incredibly convoluted process I assure you. However, when you got into the cockpit you could not look at the book. It wouldn’t matter if you could anyway: you had to do it fast. Nazis were on the way.

 

As a result you either had to memorize the eight steps to ignition plus the diagram that explained where the buttons were. Or, more likely, you had to write the whole thing down, cockpit diagram and all. Needless to say, I had to pull out the ol’ notebook.

 

The ol’ notebook is not something I see very often anymore. It’s simply not necessary. If there is a piece of information gained at a previous point in the game, it will usually be available to you later… at the right time. I think, in part this is an attempt at more immersion… but it also makes me lament the lost physicality of games. But I think I’ll have to save that for another time.

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Yapette
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Loki, I own both Indianas. Crusade on 5.25"s & Atlantis on cd. I was already an oldster when I started gaming in '99 (that is, 1999 not 1899)). So many games to catch up on, so little time.

Looking at screenshots, I must have started the Last Crusade as the shelves of books (library?) look familiar. I'm pretty sure that soon thereafter a sudden, unexpected, and deemed by me to be utterly unfair death convinced me to move on. Knowing from bitter experience that a talkie version of Fate of Atlantis was going to involve major hassles with config.sys & autoexec.bat to get enough virtual memory, I'm guessing I decided to pass this one too. Plus 100x[Image Can Not Be Found] seemed unfun.

Now, with a walkthrough as wallpaper, I'd like to try a lurching speedrun through Atlantis...if I don't die too suddenly, unexpectedly, unfairly and often.  If I die a lot, it's gamesover---> forever. [Image Can Not Be Found]

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Toger
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I never had issues with dying in adventure games - I started playing PC games with Sierra's Perils of Rosella (whichever KQ that may be), but I'd been playing NES games prior to that so dying was never an issue for me. It made sense - screw up, you die. I've never understood that whole "you shouldn't die in adventure games!", prior to Myst, you always died in some fashion in adventure games. Even getting to the end game and sudeenly realizing I was missing some vital inventory item didn't bother me as it was all part of the experience.

My sister and I would play side by side because it usually took both of us to figure out the puzzles and we weren't kids when we started playing games - I was 30 and she was19 back then - plus the exorbitant cost of calling the hint line made us try to work through the games. It wasn't until my workplace got wired that I was able to go online for hints... during lunch. [Image Can Not Be Found]

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Steerpike
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July 14, 2009 - 9:28 pm
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Well, I'd be honored to be on the front page, so yes you have my permission.

Done and done. Now once you're famous we can say we knew you when. Thanks for contributing, Loki!

we weren't kids when we started playing games - I was 30 and she was19 back then

Now, this would be 1899, not 1999, correct? [Image Can Not Be Found]

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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Toger
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July 14, 2009 - 10:38 pm
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If you notice a crazy woman lurking around your house, that would be me. Coming to smack you upside the head! [Image Can Not Be Found]

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Yapette
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July 14, 2009 - 10:46 pm
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Well, that explains it. My first game was Myst. Where I learned that one is not supposed to die. Ever. [Image Can Not Be Found]

Got that? [Image Can Not Be Found]

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Toger
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July 15, 2009 - 10:02 am
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Dying in adventure games makes me giggle, especially if the deaths are imaginiative and varied - the Nancy Drew series comes to mind. I'm currently playing the second Mysterious Island and I killed off Mina during the first 5 minutes! Oops! [Image Can Not Be Found]

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lokimotive
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July 15, 2009 - 11:48 am
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Yapette said:

Now, with a walkthrough as wallpaper, I'd like to try a lurching speedrun through Atlantis…if I don't die too suddenly, unexpectedly, unfairly and often.  If I die a lot, it's gamesover—> forever. [Image Can Not Be Found]


You won't die that much in Atlantis... unless you really want to. I know you can, but you almost have to try. 

I have a strange relationship with dying in adventure games. I feel like I had more fun in non-dying games, but I was more engaged in games where there was a constant threat of death. Walking into an area in Space Quest or Kings Quest that you knew was dangerous was thrilling and frightening. You knew you were going to screw up and have to start over. You knew you were going to get caught by someone.

In contrast, even though I should be scared going into Klack's castle in The Longest Journey, I knew wasn't going to die. I might get confused, but I wasn't going to die. It kinda takes the thrill out of it.

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Yapette
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July 15, 2009 - 1:15 pm
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It could be that one's attitude toward dying in games depends upon where one resides on the RL Timeline.

Just sayin'. 🙂

Now off to spend more hours troubleshooting husband's computer. Seven hrs. last night (= no gaming for me) = 347 f'ing infections & trojans removed. Currently experiencing google redirect along with a(t least one) rootkit.

After warning him about irresponsible computer maintenance for months….my patience is gone! with the wind! to the same place where resides any personal satisfaction with overcoming conundrums & deaths in oldtime adventure games.

No, we don't share computers. Ever.

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Toger
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So, your husband's the one who's propagating all those virii and trojans? [Image Can Not Be Found]

Oh, and I will download the special edition Monkey Island tonight when I get home. I ain't afeared o' dying nor dead ends.

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lokimotive
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July 15, 2009 - 5:12 pm
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I just downloaded that. It's good, I really do appreciate the ability to switch between the old and the new.

The new graphics are quite artistically beautiful, but the animation is strange. They've maintained the old jerky movements, rather than updating them and, when juxtaposed with the high definition backgrounds and character models... it looks weird.

I've never really been a fan of the actor used for Guybrush, and he doesn't change my mind here. The rest of the voice acting seems pretty appropriate, but I will admit that the game looses some of its charm because of the full voice cast. That was unavoidable without completely redoing the game.

All of that being said, it's very nice that LucasArts has finally utilized their classic properties here. I hope that this sells like hotcakes and we get a re-release of Monkey Island 2. I've bought some stamps so I can write to the hint department again.

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Toger
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lokimotive said:

All of that being said, it's very nice that LucasArts has finally utilized their classic properties here. I hope that this sells like hotcakes and we get a re-release of Monkey Island 2. I've bought some stamps so I can write to the hint department again.


You know, they have this new-fangled thing call electronic mail? It's all the rage now. And it doesn't require stamps!

I'm trying to decide if I want it for my PC - 2+ Gig download - or pick it up on XBLA so I can play it on my HDTV while sitting in my comfy chair with my feet up. I'm learning towards PC only because I know the controls will be multi-layered to adjust to the 360's controller. foo

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