Thursday, June 15, 2006

More on Chris Crawford

Here are a couple of additional Chris Crawford notes.

First, both Balance of Power and Balance of Power: 1990 Edition are abandonware and available for download (including manuals) at Home of the Underdogs. The 1990 edition, in particular, is pretty enticing because it supports Windows 1.0, believe it or not. Here's the page for the game.

There are two issues, unfortunately. The first is that the game isn't displaying in color when I run it in Windows 95 compatibility mode in XP. That's not a big deal, because the shading is distinct enough to identify what's going on. The second, and much more serious issue, is that the mouse isn't working properly. I should be able to double-click on a country on the map and it gains focus, but that's not happening. And playing the game without being able to do that is very awkward, because you have to manually select every country from drop-down menus, and if you better know the name of every country, because they're not labeled on the map. So if anyone has any ideas in reference to that, please let me know.

One other thing to know if you download the 1990 edition: print out the manual. The copy protection scheme is based on page/line/word from the manual (ah, the good old days without disc-based copy protection), and you can't answer the question without a copy of the manual in front of you.

I wanted to play BOP again because I wanted to see how it would stack up against my memories. I read somewhere yesterday that Balance of Power was "admired more than it was enjoyed," and I wanted to see if that seemed true or not today. And I'm still hoping I get to find out.

The other note is that I got a very thoughtful e-mail from one of the fine writers over at Gamers With Jobs, Phil Scuderi. He said that the validity of Chris Crawford's comments shouldn't be evaluated on the basis of shipping games, for if that were true, people who just played games and didn't develop them wouldn't have anything meaningful to say.

Phil makes a great point. Damn logic.

There's a Thoreau quote (which I can't find) where he says something to the effect that while he doesn't make chairs, it doesn't mean that he can't criticize a bad chair. Fair enough. However, I think there's a slight difference here, at least in real terms. Crawford criticizes a class of which he is a member, but even though he is a member, he refuses to participate in the class. The Thoreau version of Chris Crawford would be a carpenter who says every chair made today is shitty, but he refuses to make a chair. Well, he has a leg in pre-alpha that he spent fifteen years making, but that's it.

Crawford makes scathing, blanket indictments of every single gaming developer out there when he says there is no innovation. It's both insulting and not true, and I suspect the reason that Crawford thinks it's true is because he really doesn't play games anymore.

Do I know that to be true? Absolutely not. But I find it very odd that at the same time he makes generalized, severe dismissals of gaming, he never talks about specific games. And people who always make their points without specifics usually do so because they lack them.

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