The Midnight Writer: October 1996
by Mike Lloret
The Beast's pretty quiet these days, since I haven't yet managed to solve my sound card problem. Nothing when using the SoundBlaster 16 but the occasional click when running Win95, sound overlayed with constant clicking/thumping in Win3.1, which starts from the moment the system boots. Better than what I get with the AWE32 PNP, though: a black screen without even the BIOS information... it just doesn't start at all. Well, as in much of life, there's good news and bad news. Creative Labs responded very quickly to my internet e-mail to their tech support. They suggested I 1) try the boards in a different computer, 2) try the boards in a computer which has nothing on it but DOS, 3) contact Gateway 2000.
Unfortunately, the only suitable computer I have around is Beauty, and since I can't understand how the (perfectly functioning) soundboard already in it was set up, I'm reluctant to replace it to experiment; I don't have complete confidence that I could put it back the way it was. My favorite scientist/engineer is willing to experiment on her machine, but I'm not.
I don't have any machines lying around that have nothing but DOS on them, either, and I've already contacted Gateway. I'm still waiting for an answer after a week, though their immediate (automatic e-mail) acknowledgment told me that all tech support questions get answered in order of receipt.
On the bright (?) side, Creative's well-meant but basically useless advice message will come in handy as an example to use in one of my technical writing courses. It was sent from Singapore, and appears to have been written by someone who's English ability is just about that of my higher-level trainees'. Understandable enough, but not perfect; it'll make a nice editing exercise.
It did make me wonder a bit about what tech support people's image of the user is, though. Do they imagine that most people have several PCs among which they can switch cards or other components, or that the typical user has a spare DOS-only PC he/she keeps for troubleshooting? Hell, I work for a computer company, and nobody has that much spare gear around outside of the labs and development divisions.
I'm not sure whether it's good or bad news, but my sound card troubles have now coincided with the long-delayed delivery of Bethesda Softworks' new game, their much-talked-about sequel to The Elder Scrolls: Arena, which was a big prize-winner a couple of years ago. The new one's called The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall, and seems to be much bigger and better than the its predecessor.
A first-person medieval-fantasy RPG, it carries on the developers' policy of giving the player a lot of freedom of action. There is a very complex plot line with all sorts of intrigues, betrayals, seductions, madness, and so on, but the player can ignore that and instead choose to play whatever role he/she pleases.
With eight distinct races; 18 character classes (warrior, sorcerer, thief, etc.), plus the ability to custom-make characters — you could conceivably play a lizard-like amphibious spellcasting burglar with the ability to turn into a wereboar, for example — (!); thousands of items of clothing, armor, weaponry, jewelry, books, etc.; innovative gizmos like a spellmaker for concocting homebrewed spells or an item maker for making your own enchanted weapons/armor/rings/etc.; and an enormous "world" in which to explore, buy usable property like ships, houses, horses, or wagons; right wrongs or perpetrate them in any of 16,000 cities, towns, villages, crypts, castles, underwater grottoes, and you-name-its, there are a lot of roles that could be played, for a good long time.
The graphics are really great, too, from what I've seen so far (it installed easily and I spent a couple of hours exploring before duty called). There's some partial frontal nudity and realistically messy gore (the corpse of a monster killed with a war hammer looked it); there's also a ChildGuard filter. Highly recommended, if you're into RPGs.
I understand that the sound effects and music are especially good, too...
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