Now that I’ve managed to get all of the files on my old 5.25 inch disks off onto my computer and have set up a handy VirtualPC with MSDOS 6.22 installed on it, I’m starting to go through and weed out the wheat from the chaff. One of the first things I found was a game that I remember with great fondness – Prince of Persia. I fired it up and as soon as the game started, I remembered that Prince of Persia was written by the same guy who wrote one of my most favorite Apple ][ games, Karateka. What was interesting was that I had completely forgotten the author’s name, but his visual style was so distinctive that it took me less than 10 seconds to remember that they’d been written by the same person.
What made both games such classics was the use of incredible attention to detail to convey more meaning than really seemed possible given the primitive graphics and sound of the time. All of the characters in the game just moved incredibly realistically and in a way that conveyed personality and emotion. Contrast that with a game like Deus Ex, which was light-years ahead in terms of audio and video capabilities yet had such wooden and dead characterizations that I finally gave up playing half way through when I decided that I didn’t give a crap if the protagonist lived or died. But even with crappy little pixellated animations and tinny audio music, I found myself getting concerned about the princess in Karateka and genuinely worried about having to face the evil boss. Once again, the feeling of the game is as important as the whizzy bang features. (Of course, when you get both as in a game like Half Life, whooo…)