The other day, I decided to play Planescape: Torment (hereby just referred to as PS:T). I was ill (still partially am actually) and couldn’t do much of anything else. Besides, I’ve heard so much about this RPG (Role-Playing Game). Did you know that the script for this game has about 800,000 words? (Compare that to the Mahabharata, the Indian epic, which has 1.8 million words). There is a lot of story exposition fleshing out the game world and the story behind the protagonist in the form of character dialogue, banter, and in-game books. I can’t say for sure but some have commented that there are very few mandatory combat sequences and that one could play through the *entire* game just by talking your way out.
I installed the version from gog.com and installed the recommended mods that are supposed to enhance my experience. Next, I played until I reached The Hive, the city outside the Mortuary (where the game begins). I took my time and made sure to explore every nook and cranny in the Mortuary. My goal was to learn as much as possible about the story. I stopped playing once I reached the Hive because I had enough. My verdict? I was trying to like the game more than I was actually liking the game.
Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate story telling and I liked what I got so far from my playthrough of PS:T. The problem is, there are technical issues with the game that I just could not overlook. It would be one thing if I played and enjoyed this game back in 1999 (the year it came out). That way, I would have some memory of it to draw on and enjoy the game while ignoring the issues. However, I have no such memories and I have been spoilt by years of innovation in the RPG scene. Before I elaborate on my what issues are, I’d just like to note that back in 1999, most of these would not have been problems. But it’s not 1999 any longer and I think that PS: T has not aged well.
Here’s a really neat tool that was released over 10 years ago: Cheat ‘O Matic. It was created by Nick Shaffner (who worked in 3DRealms). It’s useful for gamers who want to modify any numerical value in their games (e.g., amount of gold or health) and it’s extremely easy to use. Just select the game and search for the value you want to modify. Next, you have to modify the value within game (by spending your gold or some similar action), enter the new value in Cheat ‘O Matic and click on search again. After a few such searches, Cheat ‘O Matic would have figured out which value you’re interested in. Now just set it to whatever you want and enjoy the game. Here’s a post from 1998 about it.
I’ve used it a couple of times to escape the drudgery in some games that were otherwise fun. For example, Freelancer was an especially good game; the controls were good, the action was fast paced, and I remember the story being particularly interesting (although I don’t actually remember what the story was). My only issue was that between bouts of sequences where I was engaged in unfolding the story, the game went into free-roam mode where I can explore any place I want and earn some goal by taking on bounty hunting missions. The gold was required so that I could upgrade my ship and continue the story.
Essentially, in an effort to make the game longer, players were required to upgrade their ships to advance the story line and to upgrade their ships, they were required to grind by doing boring stuff. I just used Cheat-O-Matic, got the grinding out of the way and enjoyed the game.
The best part of Cheat ‘O Matic is that it still works on Windows 7 and on the latest games. At least, that has been the experience in my case. I think it speaks volumes about the team in Microsoft that pays attention to backward compatibility (See Raymond Chen’s post). I’ve archived Cheat O’ Matic so you can download it by clicking here. Note that this program works great only on single-player games. Don’t expect it to work just as well on multiplayer-games.
(For the game developers amongst you, tools like these should demonstrate why you never trust values from the client in a multiplayer game. They can and will modify the memory to cheat!)
I found this resource that seems great for those wanting to learn Computer Science or for those who want to brush up on certain concepts. It’s the ArsDigita University alumni website. ArsDigita apparently used to be a one-year intensive program to bring students up to speed in Computer Science. The program was based on the undergraduate CS curriculum in MIT and all the professors are from MIT, which means the entire program should most likely be good. You can access the courses here or you can visit the page at archive.org.
I just started on the theory of computation course to solidify my knowledge and it seems good so far. I’ll also be reviewing the other courses, such as the one on Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, just to see how it’s different from the course being taught in NUS.
It’s official – I am now a graduate from the National University of Singapore (NUS) with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. It has been an absolutely amazing ride, one that has taken a long enough time to end. I have many to thank for making the ride possible but such acknowledgements belong in a different post. This one is purely reflective.
The point about any endeavour, I think, is that we should have something to show for it in the end; something, whether tangible or intangible, that we can point to and declare proudly as the fruit of our labours. After leaving my pre-university institution, the Singapore Polytechnic where I got a diploma, I spent five years in pursuit of my Bachelor’s degree: the first in NTU (Nanyang Technological University – another local university), and the next four in NUS. Five years to get a Bachelor’s degree. Surely there must be something I have to show for it?