One of the most interesting experiences in my gamer’s life was a pen&paper mod for Aces of the Deep, released by Dynamix in 1994. The whole idea may sound strange, but it proved to be simple and brilliant. Maybe it was impossible to create a real game modification, or maybe the authors of that un-mod weren’t capable of hacking into the game’s code — in effect, you had to print a dozen of pages from their website and get a couple of D&D dices. Then, whenever you encountered an enemy ship, you had to roll its nationality. Allied vessels, like Finnish were absolute taboo, and if you started your career in the early war, you were required to search a neutral ship for contraband in order to sink it. Again, it all depened on the dice — it could be innocuos cargo, like foodstuffs, or maybe something on the Kriegsmarine’s black list. Hell, I can imagine the cheer of my virtual Viking crew when they discovered that the seemingly innocent Greek freighter was carrying illicit weapons. To the cannon, Jungs!
The print-to-play mod even had difficulty levels, allowing the player to choose how strict he will follow its rules. Generally, on most levels manual saving was disabled. Of course, bugs and sudden crashes happened. The modding team (or was it just a single person?) found a reason to justify this: after all, it would be possible that your U-boot was suddenly sunk by a mine, the captain had a stroke, or was washed away from the deck. And maybe even he could be stabbed in the back by a sailor who thought that a U-boot really is a pirate ship — and desperately needs a new Kaleun.
In other words, if you cannot prevent them, bugs are good!
Twenty years have passed and this particular feature stays with me, at least when I’m playing one of the Bethesda’s cRPGs. Whether it’s Fallout or Skyrim, I rely on locations as savepoints and don’t save manually. But now it seems that I went too far.
Some parts of the Capital Wasteland have become deathtraps. Certain areas, especially underground tunnels, will cause the game to crash immediately. Suddenly I’m cut-off from important locations like Rivet City, forced to lose my precious time trying to find an alternative route to my chosen arms dealer, mechanic, barber, or, most importantly, the Rivet City restaurant.
All this may seem to be extremely frustrating, but, since I’m playing a 30 level character armed to his teeth, it actually makes the game exciting again. Long live the Guru Meditation!