If there's anything I will ever regret writing, it'll be this.
Now. As I've mentioned, I've been coding since, oh, birth. Seriously, I don't really remember a time when I wasn't. We had that VIC20, and I wrote crappy BASIC stuff for it. Dad would bring home an Apple II, I'd write crappy BASIC stuff for that too. Then when my brother got his 286, I wrote crappy BASIC stuff for THAT.
Luckily, I managed to salvage two of my most "serious" works -- the stuff that my "company", Capital World Games, was going to release and make millions off of. (Capital World Games was selected as a name because we thought it sounded sophisticated, and it wouldn't immediately tag us as a couple of 11-year-olds. I'm serious.) The first: "Dorkgimp Weinerstink -- They're Out To Suck Your Brains."
I wrote this after playing Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders, loving it, and wanting to make a sequel to it that had absolutely nothing at all to do with the original. When I decided that this game was good enough to release onto the world, I suddenly became wary of copyright violation, and thus changed the name of my character to "Dorkgimp Weinerstink" and added a couple of not-funny jokes about people mispronouncing his name. (Because people mispronouncing complex names are funny! Look at Monkey Island's Guybrush Threepwood!) I also changed him from a tabloid reporter who randomly says funny tabloid headlines to a burger flipper who randomly says funny tabloid headlines. Oh, and I also changed the name of the villain from "The King" (who was an Elvis-impersonating alien in the original) to "The Jack". Try and sue me now, LucasArts! Hah!
(Mystery Easter Egg: Type "PUSH WALL" in the first room to be instantly transported to the end of the game!)
Continuing on. Going "E"ast from your bedroom takes you to your living room, which is richly furnished with a CashCard machine and television set. Trying to put your CashCard into the machine makes you realize that you had forgotten your passcode. Duh, me stupid. The logical solution to this puzzle? "TURN ON TV"! Yes, because TV makes you smarter, you see. Actually, I'm rather sure I didn't think through "logic" or anything like that when "designing" these puzzles; they just kinda happened. Any puzzles that required any form of thought to solve, you're given the exact solution to in explicit detail before you even know it exists. Any puzzles that make absolutely no sense, you are given no hints for whatsoever.
In any case, if you watch TV for long enough, you're shot with a mind-enhancer beam. I wish I was kidding. The TV shoots you with get-smart rays so you remember your CashCard password again. (If you continue watching, The Jack inexplicably comes out of nowhere and kills you, with a nifty "zap" noise. It seemed like a good idea at the time.) So, "PUT CARD IN MACHINE", and hey! You have access to your money!
Now, why I decided to make THIS, out of ALL THINGS, totally generic remains a mystery to this day. You can only do two things -- see your balance, or withdraw money. Obviously, you must withdraw ALL YOUR MONEY. $10000. You don't use anywhere near that much money. But it's there. You can withdraw any amount you feel like. The rest of the code is all a goddamned hardcoded mess of spaghetti crap, but the ATM is completely generic. And GRAPHICAL! I made it SWITCH GRAPHICS MODES AND DRAW A GIANT BOX, with tinytinytiny lettering for your three options. WHY? It astonishes me to this day.
In any case, after you get your $10,000 (which is kind of odd, since you later find that you put in a JOB APPLICATION at the GENERAL STORE, which was TURNED DOWN) you should head "E" again and enter the storage room. There, you see a conveniently-placed turntable, and a "glint of light which appears to be a key." It would be highly appropriate to "GET KEY". Now, to go "W", then "S", and you find yourself outside your place of residence. Hey! Look! A letter! Well, now that you have that key, you can "OPEN MAILBOX" and "GET LETTER". Now apparently, even though this game was originally designed with you already HAVING a job as a tabloid reporter, then changed to have you be a fast-food worker, you STILL decided to put in a job application at the local general store. Why? Because I was 11. Naturally, you got rejected, but they sent you a nifty club card membership so that they'll let you ENTER. Apparently this rather dubious business practice got them a lot of business, because when you go "W" to enter this store, they're cleaned out of everything except Elvis records, computer software, and "$99999999999" super computers. (Like you never did the "$bunch of 9s" thing when you were 11.) Being the Good Little Adventure Gamer you are, you accept this without question and purchase the records and the completely nondescript "computer software."
(Interesting fact -- the last sentence printed before you realize that it's actually a rejection letter was meant to be a song!)
Now, the next logical step in this game is, of course, to enrol in Ye Olde Computer University! Because not only is there a University centred completely around computers, but it's Olde! To do so, you simply go "E", then "E", then "E", then "N", and bam! Now, of course, while in Ye Olde Computer University, you learn absolutely nothing, but you make friends with this random guy (your "pizon", which I thought was Spanish for friend or something at the time) who decides he's going to follow you around like a dog or an inventory item. Now, the logical thing to do, when a creepy guy you just met is stalking you, is to take him back to your place and show him a good time. And since your TV has this nasty habit of either murdering people or making them supersmart, the only real entertainment to be had is on that turntable. So, "W", "W", "W", "N", "E", and "PUT RECORD ON TURNTABLE". For reasons only the 11-year-old mind can fathom, this causes your new "pizon" to tell you that he has permission to go into the back room of the computer store. Let's go! It'll be fun! 'cause it's the back room of a computer store! I guess I figured back rooms of computer stores were filled with geeks having wild geek parties, doing geek things, and just generally being a slightly more rockin' time than dragging people to your house to listen to Elvis records in your storage room. The best part about this is that him suggesting you go there makes even LESS sense when you actually get there and realize what the hell it is.
So, head on down to this computer store. "W", "S", "E", "S". You'll notice that they're selling $5000 laptops. This is so I could approach spending the $10,000 that I inexplicably gave myself. "BUY LAPTOP", not because you have any real immediate need for one, but because laptops are cool, and it's there. (Kinda like why I bought my iBook. But I digress.) In any case, you'll notice that the back room to the computer store happens to be blocked by EIGHT ARMED GUARDS. Eight. Count them. Eight. Now the whole "I got permission to go into the back room!" speech makes SLIGHTLY more sense, because you weren't damn well likely to get back there without it. However, it's one step forward, eight steps back, in terms of coherency.
Curiously enough, if you try to go back there without permission, the guards just kinda go "Stay out, you." If you try to go back there with your "pizon" without first gaining permission, your friend reveals himself to be an alien, says the backroom is their base of operations, and KILLS YOU. Apparently, Elvis somehow makes these aliens go temporarily retarded, because it makes your alien friend there go from "You know too much, you must die," to "Hey, let's INVITE THE MAN WE WERE SENT OUT TO KILL to our secret base of operations, entirely blow our cover, and NOT KILL HIM."
This all made sense in my head at one point, I'm sure.
Anyway, after going "W" to enter this back room, you'll find another one of my brilliantly-done "PAINFULLY FUCKING OBVIOUS PUZZLES." To re-cap: You met this man who dances about to Elvis records (an homage to Zak McKracken where the aliens loved Elvis), and invites you to this secret room which is being guarded by eight armed, burly men. In this room, there is a UFO and a CAN OF "RAID FOR ALIENS". Now, I, after requiring you to watch TV in order to get your CashCard code, decided that this puzzle was TOO SUBTLE, and took it upon myself to add, in large, capital letters, to the room description, "HINT: Remember how, in your dream, aliens want you dead?"
In any case, you, uh, "SPRAY RAID", which causes said alien friend to
shrivel up and die, and reveal himself to be *shock* an ALIEN. Now, the
logical thing to do at this point is, of course, not to flee in terror
because aliens are trying to kill you, and were it not for the druglike
effects of Elvis, probably would have already done so, but to "ENTER
UFO". Now, due to the wonders of seat-of-the-pants game design, it's at
this point that I decide that the computer software you bought at the
store was, in fact, a wonderful little title called "NASA's Little
Helper: Running A Shuttle." What a wonderful piece of cutely-titled
software, because after hooking your laptop up to a piece of alien
technology and simply RUNNING this program, the UFO takes off and takes
you directly to the alien's home planet, wherever that might be. Note
that you don't actually have to hook the laptop up to the UFO; the
various phrases one might try to do that sort of thing were too difficult
to parse with a `
IF INPUT$ = "HOOK LAPTOP UP TO UFO" OR INPUT$ =
"HOOK UP LAPTOP" OR ...'-type statement. No, the game just
magically tells you all the inventory items you might need to pick up if
you haven't already done so, then takes off if you happen to have them in
your inventory. Yet another case of "this might have been remotely
logical, so I'm not going to let you do it."
So, after being whisked away to this planet, the planet decides not to let you off the UFO until you properly state your business being there. And of course, you do this by depositing an inventory item in a slot. Now, what might be a good thing to show these aliens who are trying to kill you? Oh! Of course! A TRANSCRIPT OF THEIR ORDERS TO KILL YOU! Yes! You're so bright! So, you simply tell it, "WRITTEN DOWN DREAM", and presto! You're taken before The Jack, who decides to (surprise!) kill you! And in one of the most clichéd plot twists imaginable, he gives you one last request. Again with the obviousness -- it lists out your inventory items, tells you "There is a turntable sitting here", and asks you, "Well, what could you possibly want to do that might please this alien who loves Elvis?" See, at the time, I thought this was being "clever", because you had already done the same sort of thing before, see? And so this was, like, a recurring theme, see? See?
You don't see.
In any case, after you "PUT RECORD ON TURNTABLE", The Jack jumps up and starts dancing around like an idiot, dropping his laser gun thingy in the process. You, finally gaining some sense of self-preservation, GRAB THE GUN. Then comes what could conceivably be described as the game's only "action sequence" - you hit a key to start it, then you have to hit a key again really quick to shoot him before he shoots you. Why? I don't know.
After that comes the single-most contrived, clichéd, Scooby-Doo-ish, and just plain dumb ending ever conceived in the history of mankind. The Jack turns out to be some guy that was NEVER, EVER, EVER mentioned anywhere else in either game, who got fired from the computer store for doing weird experiments in the back room.
What. The. Fuck.
I saw fit to give this guy a NAME, for Chrissakes. Just some random, made-up-sounding name. It was so stupid, and so pointless, that I have to laugh at it. Very, very hard. The game concludes with "Hit a key to hear your victory song!" which causes it to play a sound file of frogs croaking. It then goes "Oops, wrong one. Hit a key to hear your REAL victory song!" which causes it to play "Pop Goes The Weasel" through your PC speaker. The game finishes with the narrator screwing up your name, because saying "Dorkgimp" wrong is funny.
This is what I did with my childhood instead of having friends, you see.
|I draw good!|
FROM OUTER SPACE! SPACE! SPACE! SPACE! SPACE!
In order to remove this "space pimple", or "martian acne", or, well, "ALIEN ZIT, MUAHAHAHAHAHA NYAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!", you had to apply zit cream to which the species had not yet adapted to. This means obscure zit creams. This means zit creams that didn't rhyme with actual brand-name zit creams. Because if you try "Smearasil" or "Coxy", it'll kill you! No, you have to only use "No-Zittle" (oh god) and "Super Zit Killer" (ohgodohgodohgod).
You know, I didn't even HAVE acne back then. What the hell was I thinking?
Anyway, gameplay consisted entirely of waiting for the text "No-Zittle" or "Super Zit Killer" to appear on the screen, then hitting a key to grab it. That's it. If you accidentally hit a key when Smearasil or Coxy was on the screen, you lost. If you grabbed twenty or so of the unconventional zit creams, you won. The code isn't more than 30 or 40 lines of (ugly-ass) BASIC. It was ridiculously easy. It was ridiculously pointless.
So we added digitized speech.
This added a whole new dimension of cool to our already far-too-fucking-cool-to-live concept. I mean, SPEECH! This was just the kick it needed to make it a worthwhile game. Why speech? Well, because we sure as hell couldn't do graphics. All we had to do for speech was steal the program that came with the Sound Blaster that played VOC files. Too simple.
So me and my friend Roman, who had been helping mould and design the game since its conception earlier that morning, made evil alien zit noises, recorded them, and interspersed them throughout the game. This, in our deepest, evillest 13-year-old voices, is the brilliance that ensued:
INTRO: <Roman> The Alien Zit! MuahahahAHAahahaha,
LOSE: <Roman> I knew I'd win, eh heh heh heh! Try again! If you DAAARRREEE!!
WIN: <Me> You win! Faarrrrrt!
You honestly cannot fathom how excited we were about this. We wrote four pages of documentation which we were going to mail out to people who bought it in which we rambled on and on about how cool it was that this game had digitized speech, and how we'd watched too much Monty Python and eaten too many gingersnaps. We offered, for only a dollar more, to sell you SUPER Alien Zit, which I never actually bothered to finish writing. (I had a really cool sequence in which a triangle moved towards a circle that I wrote during some social event or other, though. I can actually recall someone coming downstairs wondering what the hell I was doing, and I was beaming, BEAMING with pride as I showed him this little retarded pointless animation, and he just kinda looked at me blankly.)
And now, apparently, there's to be an Alien Zit 2000, because my friend tre from Wisconsin got ahold of the original, thought it was cute, and wanted a remake. So it's in the design process right now. I'm sure none of you can wait. I know I can't.
Now, I'm sure you're all just dying to get your grubbly little hands on these. I know I can hardly wait to inflict them upon you. Note that I've even done you folks a favour and updated the games with digitized speech so that they'll use your Windows soundcard instead of only the original 8-bit Sound Blaster. Because you really can't get the full effect without 12-year-olds randomly screaming from your speakers.