Beyond the Mind's Eye - Thoughts & Insights from Marriott_GuyBeyond the Mind's Eye - Thoughts & Insights from Marriott_Guy

Posted on Oct 27th 2010 at 07:27:40 PM by (Marriott_Guy)
Posted under MGs Game Take, MGs Gaming Take, PC Gaming

Gaming Flashback
Vintage PC Gaming & Memory Management

After enduring countless badgering sessions from my lady friend, I finally relented this past weekend and agreed to clean up her computer.  Mind you I am not a selfish person, but she is rather "download" happy and I was relatively sure this stint was not going to be a quick enema of the Startup menu.  Sad to say, I was not disappointed.

After adjusting her desk chair for normal human use (she is only 5' tall), I proceeded to fire up her PC and was greeted (after 5 minutes of boot time) with a plethora of system tray icons - 18 in total!  Her system was so crippled and memory starved that ToolTips displayed after a 20 second delay.  Needless to say I was disgusted by this mess, but at the same time rather invigorated by the challenge of freeing up precious RAM for this abused Compaq Presario.  The task at hand reminded me of the old days when memory management and PC gaming went hand-in-hand.

I bought my first personal computer back in 1989, an IBM PC compatible Packard Bell 386. This set me back $1,689 and truly had me living on white bread and generic peanut butter for the entire 12 month financing period. I didn't care - PC Gaming (at that time) blew away anything that was available on the consoles. I assumed that software for this new device would be basically like their console counterparts (plug-n-play), just with vastly superior graphics and game play.  I dove into this technological pool head first with eager anticipation.  My exuberance quickly changed to one of confusion after installing my first game, Quest for Glory I: So You Want To Be A Hero.  Upon typing in the executable command (there were no menus back then), I was greeted with the DOS text message: "Insufficient memory to perform requested operation", quickly followed by:

Just like a blank Word document is to an author with writer's block, this flashing prompt was intimidating to say the least.  To this computing nubile, this was the modern day equivalent of the Windows Blue Screen of Death.  I had no idea how to respond to that relentless blinking cursor.  A lesson was quickly learned while I blankly stared at the monochrome display: a certain proficiency in the abstruse DOS language would be required if I wanted to partake in PC Gaming.

You have to remember that Windows (or Mac/Linux/etc.) was not a standard in 1989 - it was basically DOS. There were no memory optimization programs at the time. You were left to your own devices to configure the allocation of this precious resource known as RAM.  There was but one method available to monitor this critical component - the beloved MEM command (sample shown below).

The key for early PC Gaming was to free as much Conventional Memory as possible, while ensuring that you still loaded your various device drivers (mouse, CD drive, sound card, etc.).  This was accomplished by the editing of two critical system files - Autoexec.bat and Config.sys.  Let me tell you, this was not an easy task and was basically a trial and error procedure.  I won't bore you with the details, but for nostalgic purposes and as a tribute to us old farts here is a sample screen shot.

Basically it became a game of Tetris while you juggled various commands/drivers into the High Memory Area to relieve the strain on the core resources of the system for applications.  This "Quest for Memory" became almost an obsession during the era of vintage PC gaming.  I vividly remember the first time I was able to get my Conventional Memory above the magical 600KB threshold - man was I stoked!!

Though it is true that managing RAM is just as important in today's modern age of PC Gaming, I can't really say that I received the same level of satisfaction once I got done lobotomizing my lady friend's computer.  Sure, I was happy with the end result but it did not resonate the pure joy that accompanied like accomplishments back in the day.

After this past weekend, I am glad that this mundane task is not as arduous as it once was.  That being said, the pure adrenaline rush that I experienced in finally being able to fire up Quest for Glory will always hold a special place in my heart. 

Thanks for taking a trip down the PC Gaming memory lane with me.


What are your fond memories of vintage PC Gaming?

Posted on Jun 21st 2010 at 08:27:53 PM by (Marriott_Guy)
Posted under MGs Game Take, MGs Gaming Take

No Soup For You!!!

As I grow more experienced in life (a.k.a. get old), I find myself becoming less patient and accommodating for daily idiocies that I once blew off without a moment's thought. I'm a pretty easy going guy, but there are quite a few things that are truly beginning to torque me off.

   o Clueless dolts talking on their cell phone in the check-out line at CVS
   o The Fire Sauce Gestapo at the Taco Bell drive through window
   o Two foot long receipt for my $0.99 Tic-Tacs purchase
   o Idiots taking up three spots because they don't know how to parallel park
   o My lady friend for making me sit through the Housewives of New York City

When it comes to video gaming, there is one specific pet peeve of mine that is really starting to get my BP fluctuating as of late - the "No Soup For You!!" attitude of game developers. Let me explain.

Like most gamers, I follow certain series and can't wait for the next release. I'd like to think of myself as an investor in these franchises - without forking down my hard-earned coin for their games there would never be any sequel.  So what do I get in return for my loyalty, financial backing and continued support? You guessed it - usually NOTTA.

There are some exceptions to the rule, but for the most part very few titles in the post 16-bit era allow you to import data from your previous adventure/season/etc. I am not necessarily looking to start off a new gaming venture with my super-human character from a last installment - that would basically ruin the new game experience/fun. But I admit I do want a little "sumthin-sumthin". Give me some bad-ass sword, first pick in the draft, a special mission, whatever. Recognize that I am a loyal follower of your series (as well as a suido-shareholder).

I am happy to see new game releases like Mass Effect 2 that will actually take notice and compensate me for beefing up my Shephard in ME1.  In my humble opinion, the employment of this "thanks for your loyalty" programming strategy should be the rule rather than the exception.

There is no excuse why developers can't show us some love for our continued patronage of their respective gaming series. With today's technology and expanded media formats, they can surely squeeze in a few 0's and 1's to at least recognize our past efforts. It's bad enough that my wallet is getting brutalized like a contestant on Hell's Kitchen for DLC and the like. Throw me a bone (extra lives, cool outfit, a retro car, etc.) - I have earned it!!!

Give me my soup!!

The Quest For Glory series allowed me to import and grow Gabriel, my Paladin who dished out more pain than a 24 hour dentist.

Suikoden II did it the best (regarding importing data), rewarding players by being able to welcome back old friends.

Is my point of view coming from left field?  What are your thoughts?

Posted on Feb 23rd 2010 at 08:13:41 PM by (Marriott_Guy)
Posted under Site News, MGs Gaming Take

The Diversity of Gamer Breeds


The level of enjoyment of any multi-player gaming experience is heavily dependant upon your fellow gamers.  Whether it be teaming with a bud in a co-op couch game of Contra or joining an online bout with hundreds of unnamed souls in Worlds of Warcraft, it still boils down to the same  - are the people you are interacting with cool?

This was never so evident to me after the massacre I stomached during my recent online gaming experience (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2).   Gamers come in all shapes and sizes as well as dispositions.  This mirrors the varied communal landscapes that we respectively reside within.  The diversity of the players truly make the gaming experience, but let's face it - they are those that we would be A-OK to never see or hear from again.

The following pokes a little fun at the each of these types by describing the pros/cons of playing with them.

The BFF-Wannabee
a.k.a. Overly Friendly Dude
The Gaming Posse / Clan
a.k.a. Brothers Fo' Eva'

o Pretty affable and easy to get along with
o They are always encouraging even if you suck


o Their good teamwork can really rock the score
o Sometimes their bantering can be humorous


o Tend to get on your nerves rather quickly
o Talks way too much during a gaming session


o Can have a self-driven, elitist mentality
o Slow to make a decision - no alpha wolf present

The Overly Charged
a.k.a. The Cry Baby

The Night of the Living Dead
a.k.a. Catatonics 'R Us


o They'll definitely keep the team objective focused
o No question as to what they are thinking/feeling


o Good team players and receives direction well
o Doesn't clutter the airwaves with useless musings


o Easy to throw off their game with a little goading
o Constant whining is akin to that of a 9 year old


o Hard to tell if they are even alive and breathing
o They are about as much fun as a 24-hour Dentist

The Serious Joe
a.k.a. Too Smart For My Own Good
The Big Easy
a.k.a. Laisser-faire United

o These achievement whores will carry your team
o Will take 'point' on difficult tasks/objectives


o Goes with the flow - never makes waves
o Open for any variation of the game, at any time


o I Am An Island (they don't really care about you)
o Most are basically egocentrically a-holes


o Sloooow player... this isn't chess holmes!
o Easily loses focus while admiring game scenery

The Flirt
a.k.a. Anonymity Rocks!!
The Drunk & Stoned
a.k.a. Pass The Cheetos Dude!

o Always nice hearing a sexy sounding female voice
o Gets imagination thinking it might be Jessica Alba


o This guy is a riot to play with when not puking
o Easy to send in as the sacrificial guinea pig


o Unnecessarily distracts your hard-up teammates
o Jessica Alba is NEVER on the other end of the mic


o Leaves the game every 5 minutes for munchies
o Asks many questions; forgets own name allot

The Unfocused Multi-Tasker
a.k.a. ADD Sufferers
The Hater
a.k.a. Mad At The World Guy

o Juggles multiple team assignments well
o Pretty OK when changing games


o Fun to rile them up - easy target for verbal abuse
o Hmmm... I honestly can't think of anything else


o Usually never knows what the heck is going on
o Spends time dicking around instead of playing


o Always making excuses and blaming others
o Basically they are a pain in the ass

The Legend
a.k.a. The Old Fart
The Child Prodigy
a.k.a. The Most Hated of All Gamer Types

None, unless you are are looking for...
o ...a history lesson on games like PONG
o ...a true Alpha Wolf to make decisions (j/k pups)


None, unless they are your kid and can have them...
o ...fetch your favorite beverage during a session
o ...set you up for life by winning game tourneys


o Leaves game every 5 minutes for the bathroom
o They ARE the 24-Hour dentist
o Basically sum of Cons above, just a bit different


o They don't even have to try to beat you
o You will never be as good as they are at age 10
o Trash talk, show-boating, etc.  Need I go on???

What Other Gaming Types Did I Miss??
Which One(s) Would You Consider Yourself?


Obviously this writing plays upon some common stereotypes and associated personality quirks.  We all have our unique peccadilloes and probably can honestly pick a few of the Pros / Cons from the various types depicted above. Special thanks to the anonymous pictured in the above public domain pictures featured in this article for allowing us to have a little fun.

Posted on Feb 16th 2010 at 09:05:25 PM by (Marriott_Guy)
Posted under MGs Game Take, MGs Gaming Take

The Online Gaming Leveler
The Answer To Being Competitive in Today's Virtual World

My little brother (age 35) has been pestering me for months to get with the times and pick up a copy of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. I was extremely hesitant - getting beat on like a piñata by a group of 'any' year olds is not my idea of a fun time. He promised that I could ease into it with the help of his online posse (team CoDa). I reluctantly agreed and picked up a copy this past weekend.

Picture courtesy of GameSpy

Once logging in and becoming acquainted with my new 'squad', I have to admit that I was feeling rather stoked! "I love the smell of napalm in the morning...  Smells like...  victory" kept playing over and over in my head. With my newly found confidence, I marched proudly alongside my Band of Brothers onto the virtual battlefield. The action was furious, explosions were breathtaking and the adrenaline rush I experienced was one of the best I have had in quite some time. The end result:

Marriott_Guy --> 0 Kills, 1 Assist, 19 Deaths

Of course I knew the upcoming verbal assault I was about to endure would dwarf the shellacking that ‘earned’ me those numbers. They did not disappoint – the comments were fired out at a rate to rival the M240 machine gun. My personal favorite: "Dude, no offense, but are you 'special' or something?". After taking my medicine like a man (much like the round after round of head shots I recently absorbed), I quietly exited the PS3 playground to console myself. I am no match at all for today's gamers.

Being an older gamer (43), I fully accept and understand that I will not be able to master any of the newer titles due to my limited time resources. However, I would like to think that I could at least be somewhat competitive and not be viewed as 'dead money' every time I enter the virtual arena. There has to be a way to level the playing field for the old guard.

I am extremely analytical and attempted to statistically dissect this (a.k.a. my own futility). Here are the results:


Statistical Sample Size = 1 (me)

As is clearly evident from the above, I just can not keep up with the ever increasing number of Controller Action Buttons (and associated combos). This button escalation mirrors the expansion of the general obligations and responsibilities in my life. The net result of these two corresponding phenomenon equates to less time for gaming for us old farts. I don't know about you, but being the glutton of punishment every time I venture into an online gaming session is not my Cup o' Joe. Fear not grey beards, a solution does exist - the Online Gaming Leveler (OGL). Here is how it works:


Total Hours Gaming Per Week




(Age) X (# of Controller Buttons)

The OGL is a percentage that is used as a multiplier against the maximum level for a certain game statistic (i.e. Health Points).  Basically, this provides a handicap for the less experienced player (blue hairs and casual gamers).  The following table will demonstrate this in action:

Sample OGL Demonstration

Game Information

Game Name

Name of your game

Platform \ System

Microsoft Xbox 360

# of Controller Buttons


Player Information



Da' Old






Hours Gaming Per Week










Leveling the Field  - The OGL Modified Statistic

Max Health Points





Less OGL





Net Health Points





I arbitrarily chose 1,000 as the being the Maximum Health Points for the example in the table above.  I used a variety of ages to compare the control group (me) to show how the OGL formula works.  I am sure you will agree that the advantage of having 16.42% more Health Points than the Young Buck would have at least assisted me in being more competitive.  On the other hand, I should give a bit to Da' Old Man since he doesn't play that often and he truly is older than dirt.

This same OGL modifier can be applied to a variety of game statistics to further even the playing field:

  • +/- Amount of Gold achieved from victories (Action RPGs)

  • +/- Experience gained per kill (RPGs)

  • +/- Number of bullets in your standard ammo clip (FPS)

  • +/- Rate of speed of incoming objects (all genres)

  • +/- Number of Ships\Lives (Shmups)

  • +/- Time to make a play call (sports)

Here is what the sample game screenshot would look like with OGL being implemented:

Yes, this article is somewhat of parody and just my way of venting a bit after the trouncing I recently endured.  But then again, go ahead and try out the formula - it does work with most scenarios.  Click Here for the worksheet for you to play around with. 

I am a normal guy.  I don't kid myself thinking I am the sharpest pair of skates on the ice, but on the other hand I know that I am not a dullard (contrary to the comments made after my CoD MF 2 debacle).  I have responsibilities and the like that severely deters the time I can invest in my passion (gaming).  If the OGL system were in place, I might have been a playa this past weekend instead of the beaten farm animal.

But in all honestly, I think my lady friend hit the nail on the head after she read this article prior to being published.  She said that OGL was not really an abbreviation for the Online Gaming Leveler.  It was really just my way of coping with middle age - Old Guy Logic.

I always knew there was something I didn't like about her.

Let's have some fun with this (albeit at my expense).

What do my fellow grey beards think of this idea?
What other game statistics would you have modified if the OGL System were in place??
Is this really just Old Guy Logic??


Posted on Jan 19th 2010 at 06:07:18 PM by (Marriott_Guy)
Posted under Site News, MGs Gaming Take

Humorous Gaming Lessons:
The Results of Lending

Like any other gamer or collector, I take great pride in the preservation of the spoils of war that reside in my Room of Doom. I do not loan out my games to just anyone. I made the unfortunate mistake of including my brother in my extremely limited 'circle of trust'.

Halo: Combat Evolved was our game of choice when it came to head-to head battle. After years of beating on him like a farm animal, I reluctantly lent him my copy to allow him time to refine his skills. Three years later while celebrating my niece's birthday at his home this past month, he presented to me the following:


Brutal, just plain brutal - that is all I have to say about the above picture, though it is still CIB in a somewhat masochistic way.  Of course my brother apologized for the condition, albeit chuckling heavily during the entire time of his 'remorseful' delivery. I present to you now the villains (both of whom reek of guilt), who happened to be sitting just to the right of us during this exchange:


I have to admit that my brother used his time wisely when he basically annexed this game from my collection. We eventually fired this up that evening and I received the beating of a lifetime. The can of 'whop-ass' he released on me dwarfed the abuse that I had once imparted upon him.

Lesson 1 --> Don't lend your games out to people who share a household with the villains (or like) pictured above.
Lesson 2 --> Beating on your little brother is always fun. Why risk losing that opportunity and loan him a game?

What Have You Got??

Pictures really enhance your story - please include if you can.

Posted on Mar 15th 2009 at 06:49:34 PM by (Marriott_Guy)
Posted under Historical Viewpoint, MGs Gaming Take

Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A

I glance up at the two ready-for-action commandos displayed on the title screen, hoping for some type of manly 'grunt' of acknowledgement for my efforts - I am awarded with nothing but silence.  With apprehension I take a quick look down at the crumpled code page from Electronic Gamer straddling my lap.  "Try pressing the 'Start' button after the code like we told you" the text lectured back to me. OK, point made.  I proceed as directed and again wait patiently for what seemed to be an eternity (in reality it was about three seconds) for the magic to now happen. 

Yahtzee!!  I see my freedom fighter start off on level 1 with 30 lives instead of the rather measly, standard allotment of 3!  Time to go dole out some pain and punishment to the heathens!!!

I can still vividly remember the extreme rush I felt when activating that legendary Konami cheat code while playing Contra on my Nintendo Entertainment System as described above.  This article focuses on just that - extraordinary video gaming moments you will never forget.  All gamers have experienced them, each being unique with different drivers.

As some of you may know, I am an old school gamer - literally.  I had the pleasure of growing up during the advent of the video game console and have experienced first hand each new technological breakthrough in this arena.  This doesn't make me an expert - far from it.  It just means that I am old.

The following are just a few of my more memorable gaming moments that I remember to this day as though it just happened yesterday evening.  Some describe the pure excitement derived from solving an exceptionally difficult levelboss to simply being blown away by the technology.  I chose 'adrenaline' moments for each era, listed chronologically.

1975 - Atari PONG

A standard December gathering at my Uncle Glenn's home? Not!  A steady stream from 'Aqualung' by Jethro Tull was the replacement for the more traditional, tranquil holiday offerings (much to my Grandmother Alice's dismay).  The showstopper occurred when he fired up his newly acquired Atari PONG system.  Though I was quite young, I remember being amazed by what I eventually saw on his 19" black and white television screen - PONG.  The adults pretty much monopolized the gaming that evening, but my cousin Rob and I finally got our chance just before we had to leave.  We basically stunk and it was a miracle when we could manage a total of three consecutive volleys.  Still, it was pure joy and heaven for us.

1977 - Atari 2600 : Air-Sea Battle

My friend Steve (a.k.a. P-Man) was the first to have access to the new line of cartridge based systems - the Atari 2600.  Drago (another neighborhood crony) and I were pumped about this and itching to play.  Now Steve screwed up somehow on the home front very soon after this acquisition.  He was not allowed to have any of us mates over at all for one entire month - plus the 2600 was off limits to him as well.  Talk about cruel and unusual punishment!  The day finally arrived when 'our' sentence was over and we could hunker down and experience this new technology.  We were not disappointed.  The graphics for us were astonishing and when the time counter started to blink in those last 16 seconds of the round - pure adrenaline!

1987 - Nintendo Entertainment System : Castlevania II Simon's Quest

This classic is either loved or hated by Castlevania fans.  More of an RPG (role playing game) than the standard actionadventure fair the series is known for, tackling this game is not an easy task.  One particularly frustrating section for me was being stuck in front of a death-inviting lake with no where to go.  I starting chucking holy water and just about everything else I had in my sack into that cesspool to no avail.  Trial and error button combinations were then deployed at this despised location.  By a stroke of pure luck I finally issued the 'Kneel Down' command at the left hand side of this pool - a magical walkway under the raging current miraculously appeared!  Thank the heavens for this since I was really getting sick of beating through those werewolves and goblins every time 'Day' turned into 'Night' (which seemed to happen every 4 minutes or so).

1992 - Nintendo Super Entertainment System : Super Star Wars

This game is extraordinarily difficult, to the point of being frustrating at times.  One poorly timed jump and it was instant death for my Jedi hero.  Thank goodness it contained one of the best Easter Eggs in the history of video games (in my humble opinion) - "The Cave of 99 Free Lukes".  Following the directions as outlined in my Game Informer magazine, I bravely stepped off the specified cliff and furiously cranked on the Left directional button as my Padawan plummeted downward.  At the last moment before it was 'goodbye Luke', I spotted the ledge to the secret cave entrance, barely making it to safe ground.  I would not be disappointed.  With proton blaster in hand, I unleashed the weapon's fury into the blank recesses of this grotto and 'Free Lukes' starting appearing everywhere!!  To this very day that is one of the best rushes I have ever had.

1994 - Panasonic 3DO : Shock Wave

I admit it - I was the first in line at my local Electronics Boutique to buy this system for $699 upon its launch back in 1993.  Not a good move, I know.  But when I first fired up Shock Wave, I was completely blown away!  Yes, FMV (Full Motion Video) had already been introduced in earlier systems, but the Panasonic 3DO did take it to the next level back in the day.  The intro alone was impressive, making me feel like I was the star protagonist in an actual movie.  When my star fighter absorbed its first 'neon-green proton' hit, my squad Commander promptly appeared in my HUD (Heads Up Display) and barked at me "This is not a game Lieutenant!!".  At that point I was hooked. (Side note: Does anyone else think that Commander was kind of hot?)

1994 - Panasonic 3DO : Out of this World

Though I did not want to include two 3DO games in this listing, I would be remiss if I did not include this experience in this article.  From the moment the artistic polygon animations were displayed in the intro, I was roped in.  In gaming sessions with my buddies Drago and Cola, we collectively beat through this game until we hit the wall.  Our Lester, in a prone position, was presented in a domed room and was subjected to an almost instantaneously electrocution. Almost two hours later, despite all the running, blaster fire, throwing up force fields, etc. we were still getting fried in this room of pain.  Cola's turn was up and we were prepared for more of the same, except Drago uttered two words in an almost inquisitive voice - "crawl backwards".  Yessss!!  Our Lester finally avoided the lethal charge and was gratefully free to exit from this living hell. 

1996 - Sony Playstation : King's Field

I admit to being somewhat of a fanboy of this series, but this game truly rocks.  The Playstation has been recently released in the US and King's Field was one of the first to exploit the true power of this fledgling console.  Upon firing up this FP (First Person) RPG game I was greeted with dark, ominous music that appropriately set the tone for my upcoming adventure.  After a so-so intro the screen fades from black to reveal the brooding island that I have been shipwrecked upon.  I was amazed as I maneuvered my viewpoint to check out my local surroundings.  This was one of my first experiences with FP technology (to this degree) and I have been a fan ever since.  This was truly a treat for all of my senses, right up until the point where I took my first three steps and plunged to my death in the icy cold waters of Melanat.

2001 - Sony Playstation 2 : Grand Theft Auto III

Everyone knows this game so I won't spend any time prefacing this classic.  Sure, I had run over old ladies with walkers in Road Rash and had my share fair of fun decapitating foes in Mortal Kombat, but this was nothing compared to the mayhem that awaited me in Grand Theft Auto III.  Sniping innocent civilians was a blast, but what I remember most was being astonished by the size of the gaming arena known as Liberty City - it was HUGE and mine to exploreexploit as I saw fit.  Thank goodness I enjoy this explorative aspect of video gaming since I frequently found myself completely lost in this sprawling city navigating my 'Stallion' without any real type of plan. (I do admit that my favorite part of this game is still taking off the limbs of pedestrians with my Sniper rifle.)

2006 - Microsoft Xbox 360 : The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

From the very moment I was able to control my paladin in the dark dungeon recesses at the very onset of this game, pure ecstasy is the only way I can describe it.  Though I rather prefer the surreal atmosphere of its predecessor (Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind) to the 'Sound of Music' environment now presented to me, I can't help but to find myself almost being able to smell the dandelions as I make my way through the foothills of Cyrodiil.  Now this is what 'Next Gen' is all about!



The preceding blurbs depict just a few of my most prized gaming experiences and recollections.  As stated earlier, the trigger to these can be almost anything - success with a cheat code, the thrill at dispelling a nasty Boss to even your combatant's demise during an online session of Halo.  The drivers change from individual to individual.  There is one commonalty though - let these gems keep on happening!

Let's hear about your standout moments in gaming!

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Welcome RFG Friends!!

You have stumbled upon my little piece of the RFG universe where you will find my published articles and various other writings / rantings. Having first hand experience through the evolution of the video gaming field (fancy way of me just telling you that I am old), the topics vary greatly.

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