Tag Archives: Ultima III

The 500 Hour Mark

I saw a question going around Twitter last week asking people to list out video games that they had played for 500+ hours.

Artwork provided by my daughter

This apparently stemmed from the developers of Dying Light II saying that the game would require 20 hours to play through the main story, 80 hours to finish the main story and all side quests, and 500 hours to “max out” the game by going down all possible choices and whatever, which generated some minor controversy and whatever.  Articles have been written, posted, and probably forgotten by this point.

I honestly don’t even know what the game is about.

But, as tends to happen, a side discussion about time spent with games came up with people listing out games they have spent 500+ hours playing.

And that is where I want to go with this.  After playing video games for more than 45 years I have to have more that a few titles with which I have hit the 500 hour mark.

Here is the thing.  I kind of want to be sure about it.  There are a lot of games I have spent a lot of time playing, but have I really spent 500 hours?  That is equal to a full time, 40 hour a week job for about three months.  And people, myself included, often wildly overestimate how much time they really spent with a game.

For example, I figured that Civilization V would make the cut.  I played a ton of that in the last decade.  But Steam clocks me in at just 425 hours played.  That is a lot, but it isn’t 500 hours.

And Civ V is the game I have the most time with on the Steam platform.  I have several games there I feel I have played thoroughly which only have 20-40 hours recorded.

But then there is something like Valheim.  I played that for a few months just a year ago.  I have 280 hours played on it, which still isn’t 500 hours, but is over half way there in under a year.  So it doesn’t have to be a title that I have played for a decade, it can be a title I focused on a lot in a limited time frame.

So I am going to break my titles out into confidence levels.  Some things I have numbers for.  My monthly ManicTime measurements enter into things as well.  I started using that to measure game play time back at the start of 2019, and there are titles I have hit 500 hours with since then.

Verifiably Have 500+ Hours Played

  • TorilMUD

I played this regularly, with a few breaks, from 1993 until late 2004.  The current running version, which represents the third one I have played, shows I have over 100 days played, which gives me 2,400 hours played at least, and that came after the last pwipe in 2002.  So there could easily be more than double that invested in the game.  Would I bet on having played 5,000 hours?  Maybe not, but it seems possible.

  • World of Warcraft

Yeah, pretty easy on this one.  Given all the time spent with the instance group, having played through WotLK from launch until Cataclysm, and time devoted to later expansions like Mists of Pandaria and Legion, I am probably past the 500 hour mark at least four times over, if not more.

  • WoW Classic

I am going to differentiate this from WoW, in part because they have different clients, but also because all of my WoW Classic time has been tracked by ManicTime.  And ManicTime puts me in at 775 hours played.  Yikes.

  • EVE Online

After fifteen years, this is pretty easy.  Once again, even my ManicTime measurement for the last three years puts me past 500 hours, and that is impressive given how much time I spend tabbed out of the game when I play.  I swear I am logged in twice as long as ManicTime tracks.

Almost Assuredly have 500 Hours Played

  • EverQuest II

I could probably get EQII into the above category if I went in and did /played on half a dozen characters.  I played it a lot in the first year and then have come back to it at various times.  I have a lot of alts spread over the few remaining servers at this point.

  • Civilization II

I have absolutely played more Civ II than Civ V, and since I have a benchmark for Civ V via Steam, it stands to reason that I have the hours in for it.

  • Minecraft

Have you seen how much time I spent building roads and rail systems?  Minecraft had the advantage of being something I could play for hours while listening to podcasts or audio books.

Pretty Sure I have 500 Hours Played

  • EverQuest

I mean, come on, I must have 500 hours in for this.  This one gets into the mists of time though.  I did play a lot back in 1999 and 2000.  But  I no longer have the account I used back then and I am fairly confident I haven’t put in that much time with my current account.  So I feel like it is over 500 hours, but I don’t have anything to really anchor it to.

  • Lord of the Rings Online

While I really never get far beyond Moria, I have been back into the game enough times now that I must be well past the 500 hour mark.  I have played through the original content many times at this point.

 

It is Quite Possible I have 500 Hours Played

  • Rift

I wasn’t even thinking about this, then I went back and looked at some old posts about Raptr and the time tracking it did, and I hit Elite in Rift for hours played.  It was the WoW replacement for quite a stretch.  Add in the Rift Classic experiment and I feel pretty sure I am there.

  • Civilization

I played the original pretty obsessively back when it came out.  I never went back after Civ II came out, but it was a few years before that happened.

  • Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri

This came after Civ II and there was quite a stretch between that and Civ III where this was the big strategy game.  I liked this a lot more than Civ III and a bit more than Civ II, but it had problems in the long term as it was locked into a few full screen resolution sizes from the 90s, while Civ II was just a window that even today resizes to the fit my current huge monitor

  • Age of Empires II

I think I make the cut on this one just due to longevity.  I have played this off and on since it came out more than 20 years ago.  It used to be a staple at work on a Friday night back in the day, and Steam say I have about 100 hours played with the HD remaster.

  • Pokemon Go

The math works here for the most part.  My wife and I have been playing for almost five and a half years at this point, so 500 hours requires less than 15 minutes a day on average.  The only thing keeping me from being completely on board with this is figuring out what really constitutes “playing.”  Me tapping on my phone screen, yes.  But how about me going for a walk to get steps?  Does the walk require intent?  Does spinning a Pokestop make the whole duration of the walk count as playing, or just when I have eyes on the screen?

The Mists of Time are Thick, but I think I made 500 Hours

  • Wizardry

Have I mentioned the annotated, hand drawn maps I made of the game back in the day?  I have a couple of Apple II titles that probably make the cut, but this one left behind physical evidence.

  • Ultima III

The last in the Ultima series before Lord British got all moody and introspective.  I played this to death, and then bought an editor that let me make my own modded version of the game, which I then played some more.  Also, my girlfriend at the time wore makeup with the Ultima III brand, completely unrelated.

  • Lode Runner

There are a lot of Apple II games that I played for a bit, and then there are a few that I played for ages.  I played a lot of Lode Runner, solving all those levels and then making my own levels.

  • Stellar Emperor

I spent a lot of time… and money… playing this back in the day.  I won the game once.

  • Klondike

This was the first really good solitaire game that I found on the Mac back in the day.  I used to play it obsessively at times.  It had a scoring system that rewarded smart, efficient play, and I developed a whole philosophy of play to adapt to it.

  • NetHack

Maybe, sort of, if you count the time I spent digging through the code and modifying it to see if I could make the game better… better for me at least.  It was a bit of an obsession for me in the early 90s.

Missing From the List

  • Diablo Series

While I have played all the titles from the Diablo series, often intensely at times, it has tended to be in short bursts.  I might have played them all for a combined total of 500 hours, but no single title has hit that mark.

  • Pokemon

Again, my combined time playing Pokemon, by which I mean the core Pokemon RPG games on the GameBoy, DS, and Switch, no doubt adds up to more than 500 hours.  But I have not spent 500 hours on any single title.  The champion was probably Pokemon SoulSilver, when I caught them all.  My blog post of that shows I invested 243 hours getting there.  Nearly half way to 500, but half way doesn’t count.  I probably spent closer to 50 hours on most of the ones I finished.

  • Atari 2600 Games

From 1977 to 1983 the Atari 2600 was my only real home video game outlet, so I am sure I played many more than 500 hours.  But did I play any one game that much?  Maybe Adventure or the Indiana Jones game… but most likely the Blackjack cartridge.  The fourth game on that was Poker Solitaire, and I could sit and play that for ages.  But that was so long ago, I really can’t commit to saying I have 500 hour into any of those cartridges.  They were not deep games.

So that is my guess at the games I have invested 500 hours into.  But when you’re into the back half of your 50s, you’ve had a lot of time to get there.

Picking on Mr. Garriott

I used to feel a bit bad for Richard Garriott.

I used to think that perhaps the press was emphasizing the whole “Richard Garriott in space!” angle a bit too much.

Every story about the guy in the last five years or so has featured a picture of him in a space suite, regardless of the topic actually being discussed.  It often seemed a bit of a distraction, or an unnecessary implied comment on the man.

The headlines might as well read something like, “Crazy Space Guy is going to make Facebook Games!” or “Garriott to sue NCSoft once he Returns to Planet Earth!”

But then I started to follow him on Twitter.

And, aside from a Twitter feed that is a bit of a yawn fest (nice run there on Sunday, 4.52 miles in an hour is better than I could do these days), he does seem to emphasize the whole space thing quite a bit.

His Twitter pages lists his activities in this order:

  • Space Explorer
  • Game Developer
  • Entrepreneur
  • Philanthropist
  • Visionary
  • Explorer

And, of course, for his avatar, and the background picture of his Twitter page, he has a picture of himself in a space suit.

So every message from him has him in a space suit.

Congratulations Mr. Garriott.  May you and your bride find happiness.

Meanwhile, we’ll all be working out a joke involving you, your wedding night, and a space suit.

Or maybe that is just me.

Maybe the “crazy space guy” angle of things and the “ground control to Maj. Tom” subtexts are all just a product of my own imagination. Maybe it is me projecting these thoughts, and it is not some wry commentary at all when I see a story about his plan to make a poker game on Facebook and it includes the inevitable picture of him ready for outer space.

Am I alone in this?

Anyway, carry on with the space suit pictures.  It seems that this is something important to the man.

Christmas 1983

I don’t know exactly when the Apple IIe computer showed up at Gary’s house.  One day it was just there, set up on the dining room table.

Gary’s house was like that.  Cool, new, or interesting things would suddenly show up without ceremony.  His father was an engineer as well as a car and gadget aficionado, so his house was always an interesting place to be.  And his house was one of the centers of my late teens.  It was the place where we would hang out.  Gary was the guy with the really cool parents.

And one day during the winter in early 1983, that Apple IIe appeared.

It certainly wasn’t the first Apple II that I had ever seen.  Marianni Avenue ran behind my junior high school, and any school that close to Apple got computers handed to them.  My high school and several acquaintances were also so equipped.  So I had been poking at Apple computers for nearly five years when this particular unit showed up at Gary’s.

What was different was the amount of time I had access to it.  That was a rainy winter and Gary and his family saw me a lot. (For which, in hindsight, I apologize profusely.  They were very kind to put up with me.)  And while I knew in a vague way that computers and I needed to come together at some point (I was sold on that years before when I got to play Star Trek on a computer over at HP, a game a friend and I were so enraptured with we went an created a board game version of it), hours of playing Castle Wolfenstein, Epoch, Ultima II, Aztec, and other classics cemented the deal and set my course.

I had to get an Apple II.

The question was how.

Back in 1983 a typical Apple IIe setup could run to $2,500.

Going back to the Measuring Worth site shows that $2,500 in 1983 is the equivalent of $5,000-$7,500 in 2008.

Frankly, $2,500 still seems like a lot of money to me today.  And back in 1983 when I was bagging groceries for $4.50 an hour and paying for college… it was an impossible amount.  I was feeling flush when I had $400 in the bank back then.

And then Christmas came around.  Of course, I was 18 at this point and had no illusions about there being a repeat of the 1977 Christmas miracle that brought me an Atari 2600.  I couldn’t even imagine asking for something as expensive as a computer.  I needed a decent scientific calculator and a new ribbon for my Olivetti portable typewriter.

So when Christmas day came, I expected no happiness to come boxed up and placed under the tree.

And since, 25 years later, I cannot remember a single gift I received that year, I am sure my expectations were met.

But then, after all the presents were open, my grandmother handed out some envelopes.  She said she had received a large dividend payment from an investment and wanted to share it with us.  There was a check made out to me for $1,300.

I am sure my grandmother had any number of good uses in mind for that money when she gave it to me.  In fact, I am quite sure a replacement for my slant-6 powered 1974 Plymouth Duster, my first car, was high on her list.  While generally reliable, putting up with the abuse of a youthful male driver was asking a bit much of the Duster.  It ate starter motors, and somehow the tires wore out quickly.  Then there was the suspension work it needed, caused, I imagine, by driving down Barbara Avenue in Mountain View at high speed so as to get the car airborne over the high crowned cross streets.  I was told by those watching that the sparks off the pavement on landing were quite impressive.  The subsequent suspension issues might also have explained the rapid and rather odd front tire wear.

So when the first thing out of my mouth after “thank you” was “now I can buy a computer,” I could see on my grandmother’s face that this was not at all part of her plan.  Car, college, savings, or any number of other possible items were on her mental list of expected answers.  But a computer?  I might well have been proposing to buy drugs with the money.

Still, despite my reading of her face, she did not immediately grab the check back.  She suggested some of the possibilities I listed, but my mind was elsewhere.

Things were in motion.

Magic was happening at Christmas again.

The stars were in alignment.

First there was the money.

Then there was the connection.

My aunt was present and she had invited along one of her friends who just happened to work for Apple Computer.  And she just happened to have a co-worker who was looking to sell an Apple II+, information she offered up almost immediately.

That was Christmas Eve and before the New Year I was over at this co-worker’s home looking at the computer he had for sale.

He seemed to feel some duty to make sure I was buying the computer for the right reasons.  He wanted to know why I wanted to spend so much money to buy a personal computer.  I spoke about programming, which did not impress him.  I went somewhere with the idea of the future and computers.  I mumbled “it plays games.”  And to each of these statements he had an answer, a more reasonable use for my money that did not involve buying a computer.

And then I just said I was hooked on the whole thing, that I could not explain it, but there was something inside of me that just screamed that I must have a computer, an Apple computer, and that I wasn’t going to be able to silence that voice.

This made him smile.  Perhaps passion spoke to passion.  Whatever it was, it seemed to be the right answer because only a few minutes later I was headed home with $1,300 worth of computer in tow.

For my money I got an Apple II+ with 64K of RAM (it had the 16K language card plugged into slot 0, boosting it up from 48K) with dual floppy drives, an Apple III monitor, some 5.25″ floppy disks, and the ubiquitous (and almost useless, except for Little Brick Out) paddle controllers.

Once home, I set it up immediately, then took a picture.

Apple II+ on Day One

Apple II+ on Day One

After some fiddling, I ended up with a more standard desktop configuration that had the floppy drives stacked, the monitor set back a bit, a fan on the side of the computer to cool the power supply, and a CH Products joystick.

Apple II+ In It's Natural State

Apple II+ In It's Natural State

Eventually I upgraded the main unit to an Apple IIe. (I was promoted to food clerk at the grocery store and was making an astounding $13.48 an hour, fifty cents more between 7pm and 7am, and time and a half on Sunday!)  I remember being disgruntled at having to pay extra because the computer store only had the 80 column card with the extended 64K of RAM. What was I going to do with 128K or RAM?  I also remember I was able to trade in the Apple II+.  Used computers had some value.

An Apple Dot Matrix printer was added so I could print out papers for college, retiring my Olivetti forever.  A 3.5″ disk drive was attached, which stored 400K of data, a huge boost over the 143K of the standard 5.25″ floppy disks.  I even bought a Mockingboard sound card at one point, though I can only ever recall Ultima III supporting it.

And then I got that modem from Potshot.  He was not immune to the siren’s call and ended up with an Apple IIc not too long after I took the plunge.

The modem which, of course, hooked me up to GEnie and Stellar Warrior, Stellar Emperor, and Gemstone.  The modem that got me interested in modems and guided my career path, first to running a BBS (back when that meant a computer with a modem attached), then installing and configuring modems, then working for a company that made modems, then ISDN technology, which lead to telephony, speech recognition, call center applications, VoIP and the middle management cog I am today.  An amazing amount of influence for a beige box with a single green light on the front.

In my mind, the Apple II era was a huge part of my computing past, despite the fact I sold my Apple II setup just over four years later for the same $1,300 I paid for it.  Sure, I spent a lot more on it during the interim, but long gone are the days where a four year old computer will sell for anything.  I put an ad in the local paper and a guy who ran his accounting on Apple II’s came by and bought it without any hesitation.

The era is larger in my mind no doubt because it was my introduction to the technologies that would shape my career and my life.

I look back on the programs… the games of course, but also some of the more mundane applications… AppleWorks for the Apple II was a thing of beauty, though it managed to suck on the Mac… and I am still in awe of the depth and sophistication of so many of the applications created to run on that little 1MHz 6502 processor.

For years I have maintained some form of Apple II emulation so I can go back an revisit the classics of that era.  For all the technology and sophistication modern games have, they have lost some of the charm and, more importantly, the clarity of many of those early games.  Yes, there were stinkers in that era, as there are in any era, but I used to spend hours and hours with games like Autoduel, Seven Cities of Gold, or Wizardry, games that were rather simple, rather raw, but completely engaging.

Today as close as you can come to that early purity, when game play trumped all, is in browser based games.

So it is almost ironic that my friend Scott (of TorilMUD fame) sent me a link recently for a site that emulates the Apple II, where you can go and play some of those classic games.

At Virtual Apple you can see some of the classics that still influence gaming today.

And while I don’t wish for those days to return… I like a lot of modern games and I have grown used to multitasking operating systems and not having to type arcane commands like “PR#6” in order get things running… I do think there is something still to be learned from the simplicity of the time.  Not to mention nostalgia to be mined.  Who owns the rights to Seven Cities of Gold?

For me, all of that started 25 years ago and set me on a path that, in hindsight, seems almost obvious.  But at the time, the future of computing was wild and unknown.  The only fact of which I was sure was that I was going to be a part of it somehow.