1997: A New Beginning

Egypt 1156 B.C. has proved unplayable. For one thing, lines of dialogue frequently cut out prematurely — something that I’ve seen happen on other Cryo/Dreamcatcher games. The standard solution for sound problems is to turn off DirectX hardware acceleration, but that didn’t help here. Suspecting that the system speed was the problem, I also used Turbo to turn it down to 1%. This seemed to help somewhat, but there were still a lot of skipped lines.

I could probably work around sound problems in dialogue if necessary, by turning voice off and subtitles on, but that’s just the start of the problems. Opening a piece of papyrus in my inventory, I found there was no way to close it. Certain controls would blur it a little, as if it were going out of focus as part of a going-away animation, but it didn’t go away. Possibly relatedly, when I tell it to exit the game, it sits there playing music and doing nothing until I press Esc. I recall that other games by the same company behave similarly, except that instead of an empty screen, they display the credits. So it looks like there’s some sort of graphics glitch here.

Someday, I’m going to put together a bunch of obsolete hardware and install Windows 98 on it for all these recalcitrant late-1990s games. If I were smart, I would have done this already, in preparation for this stage of the chronological run-through. As it is, I wanted to play an adventure game for 1997 in the hope that I could finish it in a single week, and instead, I’ve spent a full week exhausting my supply of them without getting started.

For my next attempt, I’ve chosen Evolution: The Game of Intelligent Life, an educational strategy game sponsored by the Discovery Channel and designed by none other than indie game icon Greg Costikyan. After a couple of false starts — running Egypt seems to make my system forget how DirectX works until reboot — it installs and runs successfully. That’s as far as I’ve gotten, and I probably won’t be getting any gaming in tonight, but we’ll see how it goes. It seems to be designed more or less in the general mold of Civilization, which gives me hope that I can get in a complete session over the next few days.

1997: The Final Revelation

So, I did a sweep of my records, updating everything with its release date as reported by mobygames. 1Except Wizardry III, which I’m already committed to treating like it was released in 1986. The year listed with mobygames search results generally seems to be the date of the earliest release on any platform, so quite a few items on the Stack have been shifted back on that basis alone. But there were also quite a few outright errors in my listings, both forward and backward. There was never any good reason to list Dust as 1997, for example: even the specific edition I have isn’t a 1997 release. (Its readme gives instructions for installing it under Windows 98, which really should have made me realize this sooner.)

This done, I had two adventure games listed for 1997: Tex Murphy: Overseer, the last of a series that really epitomizes the 90’s FMV genre, and Egypt 1156 B.C.: Tomb of the Pharaoh, one of Dreamcatcher Interactive’s numerous ancient-civilization-themed pixel-hunts. I chose the former.

Overseer is unusual in that it shipped on CD-ROM and DVD together. The original packaging contained a double-width jewel case containing four CDs, and a single-width case containing a single DVD (and a fifth CD). I still haven’t removed the shrink-wrap from the double-width case, as the DVD version is just the obvious way to go here, both for the superior video quality and for simply not needing to swap discs during play. Unfortunately, it also depends on the same the lost technology as Tender Loving Care did: the MPEG2 decoder card, or at least a software driver capable of acting like one. Fortunately, unlike TLC, the Tex Murphy games have a fanbase. There are websites and message boards, some with fresh activity now that the CD version of the game is available on GOG. There were links to patches and DVD drivers, and after some looking, I eventually found ones that weren’t broken. The Overseer intro movie, if nothing else, has successfully played on my system.

But in the process of looking, I found claims that Overseer was released in 1998. Checking mobygames again, I saw that, although the search results list it as 1997, the detailed game description says March 1998. So I don’t know what’s up with that. They’re at least consistent about Egypt, so let’s try that tonight.

1 Except Wizardry III, which I’m already committed to treating like it was released in 1986.