Friday, January 2, 2015

Mad Maze, Prodigy, 1989

Welcome back, everybody! On Jan 31st I noticed I was approaching a milestone in regards to this site's traffic, and encouraged visitors to stop by to push me over 40,000 views for the New Year. By midnight we were about 30 short, but as of 11 pm tonight on January 1st I can see our views have totalled 40K + 1, which is good enough for me. Greetings, Google Images visitors! You will never see any of these words. Why, it's almost enough to inspire me to watermark my images! Well, no.

As last year wound up, a onetime epilepsy sufferer communicated to me that they always hated the name of this blog. I thought, yes, well, the incident inspiring it was certainly a regrettable one, but the conversation progressed to the point of inspiring me to take up a new, somewhat less self-deprecating name for the blog, better pointing to where I expect it might go in the future. (Sadly, our increasingly irrelevant URL is static, but I suppose I could always pack up and resume elsewhere if needed.) I said that we'd have a new name as of January 1st, but... despite frantic hivemind crowdsourcing over on Facebook, the hunt continues. Soon, soon we'll have a new name here.

Today's entry is not about an advertisement for a game, but for a gallery of beautiful old art from an old game that by all rights ought to have ended up un-viewable to a modern audience. MadMaze was a phenomenon on the '90s online service Prodigy (the first online game to hit a million plays?), and boasted striking NAPLPS vector graphics. It ran from '89 to '99, and typically that's all she wrote. MadMaze author Greg Costikyan even slammed it in an essay entitled Why Online Games Suck.

Somehow, it was ported, or re-implemented in some way, in 2001, and through a series of loopholes could be made to be played online again under very restrictive circumstances (only in Internet Explorer, and only certain versions of it.) Benj Edwards of Vintage Computing and Gaming hyped it up, and ultimately I believe ended up hosting it after the apparent death of the convertor. I played a pile of it in a marathon sitting, gathering screen shots in hopes to document this coelacanth before it disappeared once more into the fossil record. I did get an entry together for it up at MobyGames, but I had accumulated rather more shots than they need or want. What was I to do, throw out the other shots? Hell no, I could get a good blog post out of them here! If you want to see it in "action", you can enjoy this "Let's Play" video someone has put together of the MadMaze experience, but after that, please enjoy my dump of piles of shots enshrining the splendid and strange hirez graphics of the onetime online game, also including a good deal of the game's pseudo-Arthurian linking story segments. I'm going to go full Tumblr-style here, eschewing my house style of painstakingly telling you what you're looking at. Instead you have this umbrella context, and hopefully the individual screens can tell you the rest themselves.

One note -- virtually the whole game looks like the below shot. Levels consist of maddening mazes each containing three or four special squares where some interesting illustrated plot or puzzle elapses, and the whole rest of the map is just samey-crossroads such as you see. If one shot was kept to show you what typical gameplay was like this would be that shot. But I liked all the extraordinary ones, so you get a heap of those, too.
Thanks for stopping by, and have a great 2015! Come again soon!