Chapter 2: A youth dedicated to DOS gaming

MS DOS 6.22
The place where it all started when there haven't been any graphical operating systems.

I grew up in times where gaming studios and publishers like Apogee, Epic Megagames and 3D Realms were at the peak of success. There was no way you could get around titles like Monster Bash, Civilization or Wolfenstein 3D because actually everyone was playing them - at least kids like me who where lucky enough to have a personal computer at home, which wasn't a usual thing in the early 90's.

 

When I didn't know what I was doing

One of my first gaming memory was playing King's Quest 1 from Origin. Not the comfortable point and click version of it, but the very first variant where you had to type your actions to a command line - wow.

I was around 5 years old back then. My father had a job as teacher and he had the particular luck that a personal computer was needed for one of his functions. A brand new 286 with a monochrome monitor on a DOS basis. One of his pupil was, what we consider nowadays, a professional software pirate. On a black 5.25" floppy disc with a handwritten label (very professional indeed), he spent us a game called King's Quest. And even though it had miserable graphics compared to later standards, the whole experience made me goggle: Such a interactive fantasy setting with a small prince running around on a small 12" screen - I was so curious now and I wanted to play this myself the next day when my father was in school. We just had a small problem...

The language was in english, I was 5 years old and I wasn't even in my first year of the elementary school. No problem for my father. He wrote down a set of commands that could be typed in and told me what to do - a step by step instruction. Well, I can remember that I never got past the castle trenches but my passion was ignited in these times, while figuring out how I can prevent Graham from dying (or maybe the opposite for the cool animations, I can't remember the true motivation anymore).

King's Quest 1 - Monochrome

King's Quest with mono-colors mode

The glory Days of DOS Games

I grew up in the information age. The video gaming industry evolved from a 'fringe-group' amusement into a huge industry where developers like id software have been celebrated like rockstars (I mean, c'mon, John Romero even looked like one). And I played almost any single groundbreaking title in my youth. If you want to skip the details, simply skip the slideshow. But for some nostalgy, I suggest you take each single entry - it's still worth playing these gems nowadays. Many of the titles can be found at Good Old Games or Steam, other titles are free to download and with DOSBOX and similar emulators, it's not a science to set them up and play them.

  • Alley Cat
  • Betrayal at Krondor
  • Blake Stone
  • Catacom Abyss
  • Civilization
  • Colonization
  • Commander Keen
  • Crystal Caves
  • Hocus Pocus
  • Indiana Jones
  • King's Quest 5
  • Mortal Kombat
  • Sim City 2000
  • Theme Park
  • Tie Fighter
  • Veil of Darkness
  • Wacky Wheels
  • Wing Commander
  • Alley Cat

    If my memory still works, Alley Cat was the very first computer game that I have ever played: You are a cat, you catch mice, you try to avoid the dog. Simple game, the hard part was to play it if you are only 4 or 5 years old. The controls were awful, sometimes I had the feeling it was more or less a game of luck - at least that's what it still is today if I run it with my DOSBOX. Wasn't fun then, isn't fun now. But hey, it was literally my defloration.

    Video "Let's Play"

  • Betrayal at Krondor

    I have to admit, I am not a reader. I sometimes like books but most of the time I tend to spend my time with computer games, movies, tv shows and photography. So the first time I heard about Raymond E. Feist was not when I read something about the Riftwar Saga but when I played Betrayal at Krondor, a game by Sierra. This role-playing-game is - in my eyes - one of the best games ever been made. The story is thrilling, the world of Midkemia is very authentic and the open-world feeling really made a great job when it came to exploration and leveling up your party. Overall, it's for me a perfect example how to do it right. 20 years later, I got my hands on the book that was written after the game was released and once more, I dived into the world of Midkemia and I really enjoyed every single line of it, even as a person who isn't a passionate reader.

    Video "Let's Play"

  • Blake Stone

    Blake Stone - Aliens of Gold was one of those fancy shareware games that I got my hands on through one of my father's pupils in the middle of the 90's. Actually most of the games I owned were only shareware, because it was pretty hard or even impossible to buy these gems in Germany. So instead of buying all the other 5 episodes, I kept replaying the Star Institute over and over again which was fine to me. My challenge was to find all the secrets and the secret level of the tower, and as far as I can remember, I actually made it. By the way, did I already say that I loved and still love Bobby Prince's tracks in that game?

    Video "Let's Play"

  • Catacom Abyss

    The very first game I played when it comes to the 1st-person-shooter genre wasn't Wolfenstein 3D or Doom but Catacomb Abyss. The game didn't age well actually and even though 16 colors have been enough in the early 90's, it looks terribly awfule nowadays. Though back in my early ages of gaming, Catacomb Abyss was a revelation. A real three-dimensional adventure filled with magic and evil creatures. I really loved the game and it hasn't lost its fascination despite the terrible looks. By the way, if you are interested in playing the game with a more modern approach, you might be interested in this sourceport.

    Video "Let's Play"

  • Civilization

    Guess who always won when he was playing Categories in school? The game was called "Stadt Land Fluss" in Germany and for the categories "city" and "country" it was an easy task for me to find something fitting - thanks to my addiction playing Civilization in my youth. When I first got my hands on the game, I wasn't even able to read, I was 5 years old, I had no idea what I was doing but I somehow managed to understand the game mechanics. I didn't win the game by points until the year 2050 but by simply taking over the world domination. Must be a hidden passion for us germans ... by the way, was it just me or did someone else see a smiling face with a strange hat on the settler icon instead of a covered wagon? Can't unsee that even now.

    Video "Let's Play"

  • Colonization

    The good thing about Sid Meier's Colonization: I was already over 10 years old, when I played it the first time. So instead of learning the mechanics by a try-and-error concept (as in Civilization), I was able to read and understand, what I am doing. Unfortunately, the game was a bit more complex than its predecessor, so it wasn't really easier to play. Colonization was (and still is) a brilliant game placed in the age of discoverers. The combination of politics, trade and battle is perfectly balanced and I really loved the replay value of the game, which made each session totally unique (thanks to the randomizations and the four different nations). From time to time I still listen to the soundtrack of the game, getting me into this special vibe that I had about 26 years ago.

    Video "Let's Play"

  • Commander Keen

    Considering that Commander Keen alias Billy Blaze is not only William Joseph "B.J" Balzkowicz's grandson but also Doomguys father, it somehow ironical that Marooned on Mars was one of my first games I have ever played. I still can remember that my father brought this old 5,25" floppy disc from work. I tried to play the game with around 4 years but it always froze when entering the first level. Kinda frustrating if you could only run around the Bean-with-Bacon Megarocket. Took a few months until my dad got another copy on a 3,5" one that finally worked - I was instantly in love with the 8-bit sidescroller.

    Video "Let's Play"

  • Crystal Caves

    Crystal Caves was another one of these shareware games that I played over and over again, without a single chance of getting my hands on the full version because of the inavailability here in Germany (same goes to Secret Agent by the way, which uses the same engine). It was one of these cool jump & run games which had a very good movement, air control and accessability gameplay wise. In times when most of my friends played Super Mario, I simply stick to the Apogee releases - not being that cool back then, but I liked what I had. By the way, I was pretty thrilled to hear about the Crystal Caves HD remaster... that came out of nothing.

    Video "Let's Play"

  • Hocus Pocus

    Jump & run games have been my favorite games for a very long time. When Hocus Pocus has been released, I didn't bother a lot about it to be honest. From a... certain... source - oh well, let's be honest: In the middle of the 90s, CD writer weren't affordable, and only a handful of people had one. One day, my father brought a custom cdrom from one of his pupil, filled with about a hundred full version games, pirated software actually, that you could directly install to your hard drive from a simple dos prompt menue - the first time in my life that I could play the commercial versions of games that weren't even buyable in Germany (like Heretic and Doom, Blood, Wacky Wheels and also Hocus Pocus). The following weeks have been quite entertaining... especially with the latter one: Colorful graphics, a cool Soundblaster soundtrack, simple but challenging gameplay, and yes, I even made it without cheating through all episodes - wohoo!

    Video "Let's Play"

  • Indiana Jones

    Point & click adventures enjoyed great popularity during the nineties. In this decade, games from LucasArts have been the top-notch realeases in this genre: Sam & Max, Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle and my all-time favorite Indiana Jones & the Fate of Atlantis. Back then, The Last Crusade was the last movie in the series, and I didn't expect the disaster, that happened years later. The Fate of Atlantis is exactly what I would have expected to be a fourth Indiana Jones movie: An exciting story, authentic characters and action all around the world, and mostly focusing on one of the greatest archeologic mysterics of our ancient word. Indy4 had it all, and I'd really wish, games like this would still be produced.

    Video "Let's Play"

  • King's Quest 5

    King's Quest was one of my father's favorite gaming series - he had a very good taste indeed. The fifth part of this series lead the main protagonist Graham through a fantasy world, searching for his castle, his family and the evil Mordack. It was one of those games that I never actively played in my early youth, but that I watched while my father was playing them. You can imagine, how cool something like this can be for a little boy that is into this whole fantasy thing in general. I can't tell if it is the game itself, the memories that I share or simply the love for retro games that I have, but King's Quest 5 is a piece of art to me.

    Video "Let's Play"

  • Mortal Kombat

    Remember the days when everyone was playing Street Fighter II on their SNES/Super Famicom? Well, I played Mortal Kombat back then when I was 8 years old. My father was working as a teacher in the early 90's and he shared the same dedication to computer games as his pupils. Thanks to that we had always the latest games around, even those which weren't easy to get in Germany because of the "Index" (a list of banned video games, like Doom, Wolf or other titles with a excessively hight amount of gore and violence). What a pleasing feeling when I first saw Sub-Zero beheading my opponent the very first time - including ripping off his spine... "Fatality!"

    Video "Let's Play"

  • Sim City 2000

    You can say what you want, but no matter who you ask about the best city simulation, almost everyone says, it's Sim City 2000 (yes, the 2k version, not 3k, not the new games, simply 2000). I can't even imagine how many hours  i spent playing this and how many cities I have built (and destroyed at the end by launching all disasters at once, I am not a good god), but still I use to play it from time to time because no city is like the other, no game is like the other. It is (by the way) that game, that got me into hex editing the very first time. I can remember that I read a tutorial in a german cheat magazine (yes, things like that existed before the Internet) called Mogelpower, and tried it myself then. Well, it made me understand, that FF FF FF is a lot of money in Sim City 2000...

    Video "Let's Play"

  • Theme Park

    When it comes to Theme Park, I have two very specific memories about it. On the one hand, there are crazy rollercoasters, beautiful graphics and an amazing concept being saved on 6-7 floppy discs, that (in most of the cases) didn't perfectly install because of a data error, on the other hand, there was this terrible repeating "puking" sound of your guests, that never ended. Well, at last for me, because I had no idea what to do to make them stop having a nervous belly. The whole game is so well done, and it was a blast back in the 90's. I spent a lot of time trying to create the perfect theme park, and sometimes it worked out well - until the workers wanted more money. I simply wasn't very good at that hand-shaking mini-game.

    Video "Let's Play"

  • Tie Fighter

    Well, I have to admit it, there is no way round: I am a cheater (or just a bad player). Yep. It's out now. Most of the times, I used cheatcodes to play my favorite games and if there were no codes, I tried my hands on editing savegame files with a hex-editor for DOS, and giving me unlimited money (Sim City 2000 in most cases was no match for me). But for Tie Fighter, it was somehow different. Yes, I know, it doesn't make sense to cheat yourself 16.777.215 imperial credits, but for some reasons, the game changed my ambitions and I can remember, finishing it without a single cheat from the beginning to the end, including all tiers and including every single award available. Something I can be proud of and something I didn't do that often afterwards. Tie Fighter has a great story, an amazing gameplay and is really one of the greatest spaceshooters ever being made - especially if you are a big Star Wars fan as I am. Rest in peace, LucasArts...

    Video "Let's Play"

  • Veil of Darkness

    Veil of Darkness is, what I consider, a "secret gem" when it comes to role-playing games. Set in a small town, cut from modern civilization, it features everything you can imagine from a real good horror rpg in times before Resident Evil and Silent Hill: Werewolves, demons and - yes - vampires, a fullfilment to all your stereotype needs. My father and I, we got our hands on this masterpiece in buying a gaming magazine called PC Games in the early 90s. We didn't expect much but we were totally blasted by that game. A thrilling soundtrack, an exciting story and a very good ending. If you have never played it or heard from it, I really suggest taking your time. It still gives me chills, still after all those years.

    Video "Let's Play"

  • Wacky Wheels

    Can you remember the hype around Super Mario Kart when it was released for the Super Nintendo/Famicom around 1992? Everyone was playing and talking about it in the schoolyard and I can remember how the friendship between me and a certain friend with a certain console was growing stronger from that day on. Prostituting myself just to play that game, I was one of the few kids who had no console, never, because "Boy, you can play games on our computer, you don't need a console!" As a replacement, Apogee published Wacky Wheels in 1994 (no, not the HD version from 2017). It was nice, it was fun, but there was no Yoshi.

    Video "Let's Play"

  • Wing Commander

    When thinking about my childhood as a young being, I can still remember talking to my teacher in the elementary school about my father's job: "He is a pilot, and he was joining a lot of operations in his lifetime already, even a few days ago!" The first time my teacher saw my father, she was rather surprised, because he wasn't looking like an active pilot from the german Luftwaffe. Well, they both had quite a laugh when he told her about Wing Commander and that he sometimes plays it and I am sitting behind him, looking over his shoulder, and being his co-pilot. The whole saga from Chris Roberts is one of the greatest space shooter stories that have ever been created in my eyes and I still love to play it from time to time, and kicking those furballs out of their spaceships.

    Video "Let's Play"

C:\INSERT\CLASSIC\GAME.EXE

A the beginning of the 90's I can remember that I collected about four large boxes each filled with around twenty 3.5" floppy discs. Some of them with original shareware episodes of Commander Keen, Monster Bash or Secret Agent, some other floppies with handwritten labels, reading Wing Commander 2 (Disc 4/16), Realms of Arkania or Indiana Jones including a small note explaining how to solve the copy protection puzzle at the beginning - like the famous Monkey Island faces. My father's pupils had always been a good source for hand-labelled games. Software piracy was a peccadillo back then, and I think most of these people weren't even aware, they were doing something they could have been sued for.

On some evenings I was my father's co-pilot fighting Strakhas and defending the Tiger's Claw, sometimes I had my own adventures as Commander Keen on Mars, zapping some Vorticons and sometimes I conquered the whole planet by extinguishing all other 6 civilizations with nuclear missiles. With Sim City 2000 I learned how to use a dos-based hex editor to change my balance to 16.777.215 dollars (or 'FF FF FF'). I will never forget my classmates' faces years later when showing them my city filled with arcologies.

It was a crazy time with a lot of impressions through the years, but it somehow set the ground stones for my future - not only when it comes to the interest in computers, hardware and media, but also in regards of creative work. And then, there came 1993, december to me more precise. And two floppy discs that my father hid in one of his bottom drawers. A shareware game with the title Doom...

Doom on two floppy discs

We use cookies on our website. Some of them are essential for the operation of the site, while others help us to improve this site and the user experience (tracking cookies). You can decide for yourself whether you want to allow cookies or not. Please note that if you reject them, you may not be able to use all the functionalities of the site.