25 Years of Baldur’s Gate

Baldur’s Gate was first released 25 years ago today, on 21st December 1998.

In the summer of 1999, it was a Saturday and I was incredibly bored out of my mind. I had some money saved up and having absolutely nothing else to do, I decided that I should go buy a new game for my computer. I took out my stacks of collected game magazines to flip through them for any highly rated games that I had not really paid attention to before. (We did not have internet yet back then.) And one game that stood out for having extremely high ratings in several magazines was Baldur’s Gate, which had come out half a year earlier. It was a fantasy game, and I didn’t play any fantasy games, and it was in the RPG section, and I’ve never actually read any of the articles in the RPG sections. Strategy, Action, Adventures, and Space Sims were the whole game world for me. But Baldur’s Gate was at the top of any recent release rankings and so I did give the reviews a read. I didn’t really understand what kind of game to expect from that, but the reviews were nothing but high praise. And I really was just looking for something to waste some money on and play for a week or so.

So I hopped on my bike right there and then to ride downtown and see of any of the stores had Baldur’s Gate. Grabbed it, got back home, and played it all weekend. At that point, I had read The Lord of the Rings once because it looked interesting on my parent’s bookshelves, and thought it was quite neat, but didn’t think anything more about it. Other than that, all my experience with fantasy had been children’s books and fairy tales, which our parents had read to us a lot. Somehow fantasy had been something that I knew existed but really didn’t care about the least bit. But Baldur’s Gate had me hooked immediately. It got me into playing a lot more fantasy games after that, and got me into picking up Dungeons & Dragons when the 3rd edition came out the next year. All my hobbies and all my creative work for the last 23 years arr because I was really bored that day and desperate for about anything that could keep me entertained for a few hours hopefully.

Since I have the rest of the year off from work, this is now a great time to attempt my probably tenth complete playthrough of the game.

Six Days on Kenshi

(Kenshi has become my gold standard for what a sandbox campaign should be like. I am constantly mining this game for ideas to set up a West Marches campaign.)

Severed from the Hive mind, nobody would speak with Klik anymore, and so he had no choice but to walk out into the desert. A single worker drone with nobody else and no supplied. Looking around him, he saw a pack of Beak Things to the south of the village, and so he headed north with no knowledge of what to expect.

After wandering through the sands for several hours, a gang of Hungry Bandits came running over a dune, charging at Klik swinging their sticks. Running for his life, he spotted what looked like the stone walls of a human hive on a hill nearby, since the human hives hated the Hungry Bandits and always chase them away from their gates. But as he came closer, there was not a single human soldier to be seen. Looking for a place to lose the pursuers or someone to save him, Klik headed for the largest building in the village, but as he reached its gate he spotted the symbol of the Holy Nation. While the soldiers of the Holy Nation hated the Hungry Bandits, they hated Hive drones even more, and Klik immediately headed out through the gate on the other side of the village. With the bandits were still in pursuit, Klik’s path crossed that of a group of human mercenaries, and a big fight broke out between the two groups immediately. Only a single hungry bandit was still chasing after Klik, and even though he didn’t have a stick of his own, he made a courageous attempt to take the stick from the bandit. But the bandit was much stronger than Klik and beat him up, badly injuring his knee. Klik had no food for the hungry bandit to steal. He didn’t even have any pockets or bags where he could have carried any, but the bandit must have been too hungry to think of that.

Once the bandit had left, Klik crawled back to where the bandits had fought with the mercenaries and discovered a pack of bone dogs feeding on the dead. As night fell, he hid in the broken frame of a ruined human hut while waiting for the bone dogs to move on. When it seemed that they had left the area, he crawled over to the bodies and managed to get a stick from one of the bandits and some human clothing from one of the mercenaries. The mercenaries also had bandages with them, with which Klik could finally treat his still bleeding wounds. He even got some raw meat from two bone dogs, as well as two pelts and some teeth that he knew human traders would trade for. Now that he had food and a stick, and his wounds were no longer bleeding, his chances to survive another day had greatly increased.

At the dawn of the second day, Klik continued his journey through the desert, though still with a badly injured leg. After some hours he spotted a few houses in the distance with some fenced in animals. No humans were to be seen, but the risk that they might be of the Holy Nation made Klik keep his distance and continue towards a mountain range in the distance.

As he reached the edge of the mountains, Klik spotted another large human hive nearby. But as soon as he could see the soldiers on the wall, they started shooting at him with arrows and he had to quickly run back towards the mountains. Were he was jumped again by a gang of hungry bandits who viciously beat him and took all his bone dog meat.

Continue reading “Six Days on Kenshi”

Jedi Knight and Fallout are 25 years old today

Both Star Wars: Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight and Fallout came out on 10 October 1997.

Which helps me date when I first really got into videogames. I had played a couple of games before that, but those had all been games that I’ve seen at my friends’ places first and then got for myself. The release of both these games was an event that I was completely oblivious of. A state of things that would be very different a year later.

Video Games 25 Years Ago

I’ve been long of the opinion that videogames really made a giant leap in evolution in the late 90s. There are many games from the early 90s and even mid 90s that are still very well remembered as amazing classics, but I feel that these are games that you can really only enjoy through nostalgia. Just a few years later these had already aged rather poorly and already felt dated at the start of the 2000s. But something changed significantly later in the decade. True 3D graphics being of course a massive milestone that allowed for completely new forms of gameplay, but it seems that at the same time computers also became able to handle a much wider range of colors, allowing for more interesting textures and at least the illusion of lighting that wasn’t completely flat. There also came to be more things on the screen at the same time, which also impact the experience. But I think there also happened to be a giant leap in storytelling, which I think might be just as important as the introduction of 3D engines, and affected also games that still continued to use 2D graphics.

Here’s a few select game that just passed the 25 year mark recently.

  • Duke Nukem 3D: 29 January 1996
  • Resident Evil: 22 March 1996
  • Quake: 22 June 1996
  • Super Mario 64: 23 June 1996
  • Tomb Raider: 25 October 1996
  • C&C: Red Alert: 22 November 1996
  • Diablo: 3 January 1997
  • Final Fantasy 7: 31 January 1997
  • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night: 20 March 1997
  • Star Fox 64: 27 April 1997
  • Dungeon Keeper: 26 June 1997
  • GoldenEye 64: 27 August 1997

Yes, all these games are old as hell, in many ways just as clunky to play, and their graphics look like garbage. But compared to games that came out just before or even many that came out at the same time, these were stunning  leaps forward. And more importantly, these are games that I think would still be a lot of fun for people who started played videogames only many years later, or who might not even have been born yet when these came out.

There are numerous older games that are historically just as significant and that can still be appreciated for their accomplishments. But I think the enjoyment people get from those is more of an academic interest. In 1997, we see the start of a transformation that is just as big as the leap from say Metropolis to Casablanca. Works from before are historic artifacts, but those made after the shift are simply old, but still works of the kind we enjoy today.

Not even a Review: Elite Dangerous

Haven’t reviewed anything for a while. This will barely qualify as a review because I don’t feel like putting a lot of work and efffort into it.

Just like the developers of Elite Dangerous.

This is a game in which you have a startship that you can upgrade with better modules to increase its stats, and you can fly to millions of stars where you can dock at space stations to pick up cargo to drop off at other space stations, collect rocks from asteroids to drop off at space stations, or get into fights with endless numbers of space pirates. Transporting cargo is no challenge, mining asteroids is slow and tedious, and ships handle very poorly in battle.

About 2 hours into the game, I was getting the impression that I’ve seen everything the game has to offer, just copy pasted and randomized over millions of star systems. Some 30 hours later, I now think that early impression was right. Yes, there are various kinds of things that you “can do”, but none of them are fun. And all you get is money to buy ships with better base stats and upgrade that provide better stat boosts. This lets you carry more cargo between stations to make more money, and I guess will make mining and combat less tedious, but then what? I’m a huge fan of Subnautica and Kenshi, two games without real plot or quests, where all you do is to go to new areas to find construction plans and materials to build new equipment. But in those games, new areas are different kinds of environments where you can find new things that create new interactions. In Elite Dangerous, every system is basically the same. In those good games, new equipment allows you to do new things. In Elite Dangerous, they only make the game less tedious.

I’m only some 30 hours into a game that some people have played for thousands, so I’ve not seen all of it. But that’s another crime of the game. It does nothing to indicate that there is anything more to reach later. Nothing that suggests the 500th hour will be different than the 5th. And it’s really bad at explaining its mechanics. You need to look up how some things work, and often people in forums say something to the effect of “yeah, the in-game text is wrong”.

Elite Dangerous is a game where I would say it’s quite an achievement if it was made by four friends in the their spare time over three years. But as an MMO? This is awful. It has average ratings slightly below 80%, but I think that is overrated. 80% generally means “good”. This game isn’t. User scores of 65% seem more appropriate. Because that includes thousands of people who actually love it. I don’t. I would give it a rating of “poor”. There’s just nothing about the game that is fun.

Oh, and also the setting is the most bland sci-fi world imaginable. I don’t think you could make a setting more generic and flavorless if you tried.


I’ve recently mentioned Kenshi a couple of times as a big inspiration for what an RPG sandbox can be and various new quirky elements I’ve added to Planet Kaendor. Kenshi is a sandbox survival city builder RPG videogame (that is: defies typical genre classifications) that was released a few years ago after 12 years of work by mostly one guy, who just wanted to make a little videogame that he thought was fun. Which is why it looks like 20 year old game.

I’ve been wanting to write a proper article about this game for a while, but really explaining what the game is and what makes it such a great and unique experience would be quite an undertaking and I don’t even know how to begin. So I’ve decided to simply link the 30 minute video that first introduced me to Kenshi and let it speak for itself. Anything I could bash on my keyboard would still fall way behind it.

Though now that I think of it, I might actually have watched this only after the hilarious SsethTzeentach video, which has a somewhat different presentation but still portrays the game accurately.

While it’s not D&D and not even fantasy, and it doesn’t have classes or XP, I think Kenshi is by far the closest thing I’ve yet seen to oldschool sandbox D&D translated into videogames.