Tuesday, 10 July 2012

What's Your Story? - Canageek

This week's What's Your Story post covers everyone's favourite Canadian geek! There are few who can match Canageek's enthusiasm and he's proven himself to be a valuable part of the community, despite falling outside the typical retro demographic and not having played all that many adventure games. He's currently tearing his way up the CAP leaderboard, so there's no better time to find out who the real Canageek is...

My home country is… Canada

My age is… 24

The first adventure game I played was… Fatty Bear's Birthday Surprise. I will be using all my points to force you to play it in 1993, just FYI. I don’t know how many times I beat it, but it was a lot. I probably have most of it memorized still.


Fatty Bear: Everyone's favourite unfamiliar bear!

My favourite adventure game is… Fatty Bear again, since I played it so many times. I still can remember a bunch of the puzzles, almost 20 years later. Beneath a Steel Sky is the *best* pure adventure game I've played, and the Submachine games are the only ones I’ve beaten without using spoilers (Well, some of them. Others I needed a number of hints on.)

When I'm not playing games I like to... read. I’m a voracious reader, fiction, non-fiction, I consume it all. I went through a period for a few years were I was always on my computer, but then I hurt my wrist and couldn’t use my computer. While my reading speed was a bit slower than it used to be, I realized I’d never stopped reading. I had just switched to reading news, technology articles and forums instead of fiction. I’ve moved back a bit to books, and am currently working on the Complete Sherlock Holmes.

The one TV show I never miss is… I don't watch much TV to be honest. Almost none live. I've watched all of a few series, does that count? Legend of the Galactic Heroes and Cowboy Bebop are the ones I enjoyed the most. I watched most of Auction Hunters on TV, so I guess that would be close. I'm also working my way through Mythbusters as we speak. My brother has gotten me addicted to the new Sherlock series by the BBC. It is amazing.


I'll be watching Sherlock as soon as I finish Dexter and Fringe

The thing I miss about old games is... um, I'm thinking. Some of the genres are kinda weak now: I want a modern X-COM, dammit. Oh wait, that is coming out. I’d have to say, the first is that a lot of new games take too much inspiration from older games, and not enough from books, TV, real life and so on. Go to the Wasteland 2 forums and you see a lot of talk of inspiration from Fallout 1-3, Wasteland 1 and other RPGs, but not much going back to The Road, The Postman, Daybreak 2250 AD, Damnation Ally, etc. Older games I think, while no more original, were less incestuous in the things they stole from.

The best thing about modern games is... The plot. Compare the Mass Effect Series to any of the games on this blog (I don't actually know the plot of ME2, and the ending of ME3 sucked, but the rest of it? Amazing!). Other games: Compare Zelda I and II to say, Twilight Princess or Skyward Sword. Heck, as brute-forced, listen to them talk, as the story of Red Dead Redemption was, I’ve got to say it is still better than any game on and of the retro-gaming blogs I read (Currently: CRPG Addict, this one, Chrontendo, and The RPG Consoler). Older games just didn’t have the space to put in detailed plots, and they weren’t seen as a storytelling medium yet, except in Japan and a few rare exceptions (Portal, 1988).

Second is UI: Even a game with a poor UI like Skyrim beats the pants off say, Dragon Warrior or 90% of the games on the CRPG Addicts blog. X-COM vs UFO:Alien Invasion, the modern open source clone. X-COM is the better game, but UFO:AI has the far, far better interface. There were some games with good interfaces: Castle of Winds: A Question of Vengance had a really cool Windows 3.1 inspired subwindow interface, so you could arrange your inventory however you wanted, a feature lacking from today’s games. Still however, we are in the era of arcane keyboard commands, tiny windows, and looking up weapon stats in the manual.


I don't need much of an excuse to include an image from the wonderful X-Com: UFO Defense

I like my games in (a box, digital format)… I don't really have a preference for how I get my games. CDs are nice as I don't have to remember redownload passwords, and I am confident that I can always reinstall them. However, I hate games that are locked so that you to have the CD: I find I’m much less likely to play them if I have to get up and play them.

If I could see any band live it would be… Any band live? Gotta be Shinedown. They visited Toronto once, but were opening for Nickleback, so the tickets were wayyyy out of my price range.

My favourite movie is... The Dawn Patrol, starring Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone.


The Dawn Patrol: I'll have to add this one to the very long list of movies I want to watch before I die

One interesting thing about me is… I have Asperger's syndrome, an Autism spectrum disorder that means I can't naturally read faces, body language or social cues. I've had to learn social interactions in the same way you would a second language. Is that interesting enough? Oh, and I’m a chemist-in-training whom has worked at a nuclear research facility (though not with anything radioactive), and then at a lab on the west coast monitoring the radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Currently I’m working in a lab making things glow under UV light. (No radiation involved this time either, just lots of chemicals).

43 comments:

  1. Interesting, across the board! I was a tremendous fan of the complete Sherlock Holmes stories as a kid, then again as an adolescent, then again as an adult - I got different things from it each time. One of my big post-bar-exam-study goals is to work through the Annotated Sherlock Holmes my ex-boss gave me. I agree the current Sherlock show is quite good.

    I also love X-COM, a lot, but I have never played the open source version you mention. Is it worth a look? I have too many damn games on my plate right now, hahaha. Endless Space, Diablo 3, Last Express, about 5-10 others. Damn law school.

    I have honestly never, ever heard of Fatty Bear. It sounds like the sequel to the current film Ted.

    Good taste in film, with the Dawn Patrol. I prefer the same year's Adventures of Robin Hood because of the glorious, glorious technicolor and soundtrack by Korngold. I guess the lesson is: It's hard to go wrong with Flynn/Rathbone/late 30s.

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    1. It is worth checking out. They add a lot of things in terms of weapons, movement, and so on, and the US is much better; they draw lines from where you are to the target, and so on. However, it is still incomplete, though rapidly improving, so some features aren't in it quite yet (As of the last time I played), and they've stated that they will not be adding destructible terrign as the engine they use doesn't support it. If that isn't a problem for you, then yes, give it a try. Heck; it is free, so give it a try anyway.

      I suspect most people haven't; You would have had to be just the right age when it came out, as I was.

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    2. I have tried to get into UFO:AI several times in the past but it keeps turning me off for some reason. Last time I installed was pretty recently and I was shocked at the poor framerates in some missions! (we're talking Quake 2 engine here). I'd really like to like it... but then again, this year seems to be the year of turn-based strategy (and X-COM remakes, thank God) so I may not need to.

      I'm a Xenonauts backer from the alpha days too, really looking forward to that one :-)

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  2. The BBC Sherlock is so great, it makes me wonder if the American version coming out called Elementary will be anywhere as good. And as a side note both Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman will both be in the upcoming Hobbit films!

    Canageek if you don't mind me asking, because Aspergers/Autism is quite a wide spectrum, is it just reading faces that your Aspergers manifests itself as? Do you find it easier to determine emotion from written form? What do you think about games such as LA Noire being used as teaching tools to help to people learn these social abilities?

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    1. No, that is just the easiest bit to explain; Basically all social cues have to be learned as a second language. It also often leads to obessions; For example, when I was young I could have described very episode of Thunderbirds to you, and while I was in Elementary school I could have told you the plot of pretty much every Star Wars book every written. Even today, I have to remind myself not to babble on about things I am interested in to other people.

      Teaching tools are probably useful, however I don't think faces are good enough quite yet. It does mean that bad faces are less uncanny-valley for me then other people though.

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  3. Just have to say that the best Sherlock Holmes was Jeremy Brett, I'd highly recommend watching his version (two different Watsons though, and I preferred the first guy). I have really enjoyed the recent TV/film adaptations though (and there's even a new US one which I haven't seen yet).

    As for modern X-COM games, I'm a backer on Xenonauts (and a solder in-game!) and it's already looking like the X-COM sequel I was always looking for.

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    1. I'm also a backer of Xenonauts, though at the lowest level. I've downloaded, but not tried, the beta.

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    2. I've avoided playing the alpha and beta versions (I was a backer pre-kickstarter), I don't really want to play it until it's finished. (Much like other games I backed, like Grim Dawn).

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  4. Also as a comment; If anyone can find me a copy of the Pre-movie code version of The Dawn Patrol, I will be ecstatic.

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    1. Is this the movie you're referring to?
      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0020815/

      If yes I could send you an invitation for a private tracker that seems to have it.

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    2. That seems to be it, yes. Matches Wikipedia anyway.

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    3. Oh, my email is my nickname, at gmail.com.

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    4. Invitation is on its way. Have fun!

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  5. Ahhh... pre-Code movies are something of a specialty of mine... and I really really like Richard Barthelmess (Only Angels Have Wings being his masterwork, although Broken Blossoms, Tol'able David, and Way Down East are fine as well). Not to mention I'm an enormous Howard Hawks fan.

    However, finding a link is proving more difficult than anticipated. I once met a hipster at a party, about 4 years ago, who was an expert in digging up these old movies on the net. He helped me find all the 1920s work of Max Ophuls, which was very impressive. Unfortunately, all the sites he provided for me seem to be long gone.

    I'll keep up the good search in the meantime.

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    1. I saw it once, on a torrent site (I think the copyright is expired). I downloaded it, burned it to DVD, then deleted it, as I needed the HD space.
      Only burnt the first few seconds (Which was all I tested).
      *Sigh*

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    2. Okay, Canageek. You've piqued my interest enough to go to google and look up pre code movies.

      I now know that I've seen quite a few pre-code Horror movies, which means absolutely nothing but interests me nonetheless!

      Hopefully you find the movie.

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  6. I hope you're enjoying working your way through the Sherlock Holmes stories. They're one of my favourites to return to when i don't know what to read next or am looking to read something familiar (The Discworld books also fall under that category).

    And yeah, how amazing is the BBC Sherlock? I want season 3 now dammit! ><

    The American one could be good, but it does sound pretty iffy. Anyway, there already was an American Sherlock Holmes show. It was called House :)

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    1. I actually stopped watching for a bit right after writing this, since I got addicted to Nero Wolfe books and shows (I've read 2 of the novels and finished the entire first season of A Nero Wolfe Mystery on A&E since writing this), but finally watched the first episode tonight-- I'd accidentally watched the pilot instead. I liked the opening more, but must say, I thought the ending was a touch less dramatic.

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  7. I've actually played Fatty Bear once, although I might have been a bit too old to become as enthusiastic about it - one reason for my lack of enthusiasm might have been that after I had played it, I had for a few weeks an earworm of Fatty singing "I am baking a birth day cake, a birth day cake, a birth day cake...".

    I agree with you, Canageek, that at least the games of 80s had generally not so detailed plots - at least if one looks only the games. Often the most interesting plot details were put in the manuals - the first Zork itself had no plot beyond "collect all treasures", but the manual added some depth and history. There are one or two games that have more depth in games also - A mind forever voyaging is a good example.

    And I have to agree with Andy that Jeremy Brett is the one and only Sherlock. Of course, it's mainly because I got used to seeing him in Holmes stories, when I was a kid - I even had a copy of Holmes stories with Brett at its cover. But he is a charismatic actor also.

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    1. And although I said that Brett is best Holmes, I am not implying that the modern Sherlock is bad (actually I haven't seen it yet, but probably will watch it sooner or later).

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    2. I must also chime in to say that Brett was the best Holmes. Those Granada episodes also had absolutely incredible production quality as well.

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  8. Canaman! I never played Fatty Bear (don't think I've ever heard about it either). Looks like it has an original inventory system though. :p

    And contrary to many people here it seems, I think Cumberbatch is amazing as Sherlock Holmes. I'm not dissing Jeremy Brett here, it's just that the new Sherlock series is a bit removed from the old ones. Both people, locations, setting and stories have been modernized from the original books in a way that fits together to make an all-new Sherlock experience. As different as they are from the old Brett series, I don't see why they have to be rated up against each other at all, you can love them both.

    I totally agree with you regarding UI. It's fascinating to see how wrong some game makers still mess UI up though, but on the whole, we've come so far since then.

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  9. Ah, Castle of Winds... that certainly brings some memories. One of the earliest multi-window Windows 3.1 games I remember playing. There was also Mordor, I think.

    Funny that so many of us dig Sherlock Holmes, in any way or another (as long as we don't mention the Robert Downey re-imaginings, I think we're ok). I myself am going through my copy of Complete Annotated Sherlock Holmes, which is a humongous book!

    Re: flimsy plots in old adventure games. I mentioned this before, but keep in mind that these games were breaking new ground in exploiting the graphical medium, and story & plot usually took a backseat compared to spectacle, especially if we put them next to the early text adventures -- not unlike Hollywood's blockbusters vs. modest indies.

    It's a bit quaint to compare King's Quest to a special effects movie, but it's also easy to forget these things happened in a context where having dozens of full-color screens filled with animated monsters, being surprised by Roger Wilco walking suddenly on the roof of the ship or marveling at the Prince of Persia's life-like running animation were jaw-droppers in their own right.

    What modern games have trouble today is in replicating the impact those oldies had through sheer innovation, and unfairly or not, this fact informs much of the "oldies were better" sentiment that you see crop up sometimes in an industry that has grown several orders of magnitude in size.

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    1. So what you are saying is we need to find a Text Adventure Addict?

      That is why I don't like rating games for innovation, but with Chet's way of absolute enjoyment today. I do like it *noted* how innovative they were, but that only matters when they first come out.

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    2. A Text Adventure Addict blog would be great, if not terribly attractive (it would save a lot of time otherwise spent in screenshots, though!). Not to mention that the count of officially released titles is comparatively low. Thankfully we have a very active IF community, complete with annual competitions (www.ifcomp.org) and loads of reviews that scratch that itch nicely.

      I think innovation is a crucial aspect of a game's reception, even modern ones. Old games in general suffer from concept/execution ideas that have been done to death today but were novel back then. I would say that rating old games using exclusively contemporary criteria is arguably as "unfair" as using rose-tinted glasses to overlook their limitations. It's a fine line.

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    3. That is a valid point, however, innovation should lead to a more fun game, thus having a higher rating naturally arising as the result of said innovation.

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    4. Oh, and on the first point; I think there are a fair number of them around; The genre existed for a long time before graphic ones started coming out, and there has been a small community churning out a few a year since then. There might be few enough for the person to actually finish the blog!

      I'd also like to see an FPS gamer, due to how quickly those games have advanced, and how many cool ideas some of them have. I know that single-player isn't really the 'point' anymore, but it would still be cool to see. Possibly as a team effort for the multiplayer ones?

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    5. That is correct, but generally speaking, innovation happens at one point in time; there's depreciation from turning into familiarity and repetition afterwards. You can only laugh so many times at the same joke. That's important depending on whether you're rating a game for its intrinsic value vs. what you get out of it today (my belief is that the best way is a mix of both).

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    6. I started a list of text adventure games for fun, just to see how many there were. The list quickly grew past what Trickster has, and started to rival my own list of games. If someone tackles them all, I wish them luck, especially if they attempt it without walkthroughs.

      Playing through Star Saga: One, I'm reminded that the plot is well written, rewarding, and innovative. I don't have the same memories of the second game (although I didn't get very far), but it's a shame they were never able to finish the trilogy. Now that I've reached the end I need to get back to writing the summary.

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    7. Actually interactive fiction database (http://ifdb.tads.org) lists over 4000 titles, so a text adventure addict should have no fear of getting there too quickly.

      On the topic of innovation, I think that it is rather easy to take into account when you are playing through a history of a game genre. When you face an innovation, you have a fresh memory of games from the same period and so can quite reliably decide how it affects the playing experience - just like you could see the development if you had watched only silent films for two months and then heard Jazz singer. Then again, I might remind that the game that introduced a certain innovation wasn't always the best of this type, even for its own period - for instance, we don't remember Labyrinth, but Maniac Mansion, because the latter just was more memorable.

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    8. Genre mixing also comes into play, as innovation in one is often picked up in another related game.

      I think that's one of the lists I looked at, and they didn't even have everything.

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    9. Ah, I worded it poorly, I meant to say that I didn't think there were that many *commercially* released text adventures out there. Although to be honest I have no clue of how many there are actually.

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    10. Who knows? If no-one else decides to dedicate their souls to interactive fiction, I might just move onto that after I finish the graphic adventure list. Of course there's every chance that I'll never finish the graphical adventure list, particularly if the genre picks up again and they start cranking them out every few weeks.

      And then there's action adventure games....*sigh*...there just aren't enough hours in the day.

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    11. I'm going to dip a toe in it, but probably not venture too far. Console RPGs will keep me going for a long while.

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    12. Even as it is, with kickstarter, you are playing them more quickly then they are being produced. There have been what, 10 successful kickstaters or so? That will take years to turn into games? Some of them will probably fail to finish dev, and in the time it has taken them to get *funded* you've finished at least that many games.

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  10. Someone else who has heard of Legend of Galactic Heroes? Ace.

    I love that damn show. Unfortunately, I find it's hard to recommend to people. The animation is kinda crappy, and there are mild-to-moderate homosexual themes between.. well.. damn near every male character in the show (especially in the Empire). Still, I don't care, that show is -awesome-. I'm a total history/scifi nerd, so something like LoGH was pretty much perfect for me.

    Cowboy Bebop is also a personal favorite. It's "the" anime I recommend that everyone see, regardless of one's feelings for anime. Ever see Samurai Champloo? It's basically the spiritual follow-up to Cowboy Bebop. There's less focus on the story, but it's still quite entertaining.

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    1. heh, the homosexual undercurrent between Kircheis and Reinhard would be a selling point for most people I know, and I also thought it was very well done. However, I didn't notice it with many of the other characters; Yang and Julian was clearly father-son, and there aren't many other 'pairs' of characters.

      I need to get around to watching the various series that came out after the main anime ended.

      I wasn't a fan of Samurai Champloo, it didn't have that same epic feeling of Cowboy Bebop, and I thought the humour was far more lowbrow in most cases. I only watched a few episodes of it though. I did like Wolf's Rain, though I will admit to not being totally sold on the ending.

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    2. Don't get me wrong, I'm not personally uncomfortable with homosexuality or anything. However, the show is sort of weird about it. It seems like almost every scene with Reinhard and another male character has some weird sexual tension, and the show's intros and outtros seem to focus on these elements more than the political space opera. I just feel like most of the people I'd recommend it to would watch some of it and say to themselves, "Killias2 made another weird recommendation." When it comes to my own view, I love that damn show.

      As for Samurai Champloo, I seriously recommend finishing the series. It's not as good as Cowboy Bebop, but it's very entertaining. I initially responded the way you did, but I ended up giving it another try. Macross Plus is also by some of the same talent, and I also recommend it. It's not nearly as good as either, but it's still fun.

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  11. There's a new sci-fi point and click adventure game on GOG called To the Moon. It appears to be an indie game that won quite a few awards in 2011.

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  12. There are just too many good games on GOG!!!! If I gave in to my impulsive nature, I would have failed law school the minute I learned about GOG.com. I wish they would hire a young entry-level lawyer...

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    1. You'd have to move to Europe and go back to law school.

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  13. Sigh. Double the debt, with the collapsing Euro? I'm still tempted. The allure is that strong.

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    1. On the other hand, I'm much more confidant of the Euro's recovery then the USDs, to be honest. There seem to be a lot less people actively making things worse there.

      Course, as a lawyer able to practice in both the US and their nation I'm sure you'd be good at writing contracts between them and US publishers....

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