Fond Memories – Ogre

Fond memories - ogre - 5.25" disk tray
You could use a hole punch (or a kitchen knife) to turn the disks double sided, saving money & inventory slots.

I recently read that Ogre, a game based on an old Steve Jackson board game, is getting a new release 35 years later. The $20,000 kickstarter goal was exceeded by $880K. Ogre for the Commodore 64 was roughly the 10,000th game I owned and the first one I bought legally. We got the commodore in the early 80’s. Very quickly it seemed like every kid had a treasured 5.25″ disk tray to hold all their pirated games. Might seem odd now but there was no other option (not that I had any money even if there was). The one computer store in town didn’t sell games.

Once I moved to Canada I was exposed to the novel idea that games were a commercial enterprise. But I was still a kid with no allowance so I kept up my disk tray and added BBSs as a source of ill gotten digital booty. Then, months before my 13th birthday, my older brothers told me they would buy me a game. I obsessed over the decision. I quickly read every magazine review before store owners shood me out. If Chapters/Indigo had existed back then I would become the Phantom and moved into the rafters. Every game ad was studied to try and divine through the marketing haze how many hours of joy I would gain.

Finally I decided. It was a forgettable martial arts affair. I was deep into my Bruce Lee phase and the tiny pixel kung-fu men kicking each other in the face were what I imagined Michelangelo would have done if he had wisely decided to focus on more worthwhile subjects . I showed my brothers the ad (in the back of a well worn Dragon magazine) and was crushed by their lack of enthusiasm. “What about this?” one of them said and showed me drivel named Ogre, some static, black and white game without a single ruptured solar plexus.

fond memories - ogre - shogun game board
In truth, I let them sway me because I wanted to play with all those wonderful tiny plastic samurai and ninja.

I grew despondent and suspicious. They had done this to me the previous birthday, promising any board game I wanted from Toys ‘R’ US. When I made my pick they Jedi mind tricked me into buying Shogun instead. It didn’t matter that I ended up absolutely loving Shogun, I suspected they were using my birthday as a way to double up on their own presents. I was determined to see my own pick through this year. Come birthday time I would be entrails deep in kung-fu goodness and they could use their own birthdays to feed their own needs.

They wore me down, as older brothers do. I was a stubborn kid so too much force would have made me intractable. But I hated looking foolish and they played on the growing fear that I would waste their largess on a dud. They were right about Shogun after all. At the last moment, in the store, both game boxes in my hands, I relented. I put down the colorful, glossy box full of images of artistic palm strikes shattering noses and walked to the cash register with my disappointing black and white ugly duckling, full of hexes and adorned with a tank that looked like a mole rat. In a moment of Faustian folly I traded months of joy for a chance to say “I told you so”.

fond memories - ogre - c64 version
Look at this piece of shit. God it was so good.

I wanted to hate that game so badly. Never in the history of gaming has a game faced a harsher critic. I wanted to sulk and be so unhappy that not only would they be forced to buy me another game, they would never question my wisdom again. But Ogre was just too good. And deep. I played it so much that my brothers’ own mocking “I told you so’s” turned from instructive to gleeful. I didn’t care, it was such a sublimely designed game with bold design decisions that all worked. The game pits the titular Ogre, an advanced battle tank bristling with weapons, against a much larger group of conventional units. The balanced but asynchronous sides would still be novel today and the local multiplayer kept the disks in the drive for months after I figured out the (initially competent) AI.

I never got to play that kung-fu game. It never made an appearance on the pirated circuits. I remember it got middling reviews and then disappeared. We lament the number of poor games released on Steam it’s never matched the torrent of trash created for the commodore in its heyday. The current archive holds over 25K and there’s no way to ever recover the tens of thousands of amateur games released into a pre-internet void. I’m sure it wouldn’t have made an impact.

I consider Sid Meier a paragon of game design but when I trace back a lot of my favorite things I just as often end up with Steve Jackson. Judging by his wildly successful kickstarter I’m not the only one.

<Update – by a weird quirk of internet magic I ended up playing a beta of the new Ogre a day after writing this. You can find my first impressions here.>

Fond memories - ogre - c64 box
I really do remember the box as black and white. The sadness must have leached all the color from my memories.

 

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13 Comments
  1. K-Slacker 8 months ago
    Reply

    I had the Canada Cup edition. What year would that have been?

    • Galp 8 months ago
      Reply

      I didn’t know that series had a Canada Cup. I have some distant memory of a Wayne Gretzky hockey game with CC in the title. Don’t tell other Canadians but I always preferred football.

  2. K-Slacker 8 months ago
    Reply

    I’ve got a preview copy of the new Ogre game too. Maybe I’ll see you on multiplayer?

    Not sure how I missed the original game in the stores. ’86 would have been the right time for me to be getting into computers, but I don’t recall ever seeing it in the stores.

    • Galp 8 months ago
      Reply

      I’m sure you will 🙂 I’ll finish whatever the single player campaign will be if it’s good but the multi I’m fairly certain I’ll enjoy. I like 1v1. I wonder if everyone will want to play as just the ogre – that’s what happened locally when we used to play the 80’s game.

      I’d love to know how game distribution worked back then – each store had a tiny fraction of the available games and it was almost a random assortment from store to store. We had a chain of computer stores in the 90’s and even by then each store just sort of ordered whatever software they thought they could sell. I remember everyone fought over limited copies of NHL 95 because in Canada you were guaranteed to sell as many copies as you could stock. We’d order 2 of each popular game and 30xNHL 95 🙂

  3. OgreMkV 8 months ago
    Reply

    I don’t know if it was functional. I left it next to my uranium ore for a long time. Either it was a very low quality ore or it wasn’t a very good rad sticker. But that was the claim.

    • Galp 8 months ago
      Reply

      I was curious if having uranium ore could be dangerous exposure wise but apparently it’s as radioactive as 10 bananas. Then I googled to see if anyone else maybe tried with reliably radioactive material but no luck. This will occupy a portion of my brain now…

      • K-Slacker 8 months ago
        Reply

        Maybe the americium-241 from a smoke detector?

        • Galp 8 months ago
          Reply

          I checked on ebay to see if anyone was maybe selling an old copy of the game with the rad sticker still inside. No luck!

  4. Spencer Graham 8 months ago
    Reply

    A new iteration of the OGRE computer game is being released on Steam 5 October….

  5. Galp 8 months ago
    Reply

    Like it was a functional RADsticker? Brilliant! Well damn that shady store and their photocopied product. I would have definitely tested my sticker in the microwave (I assumed it worked through radiation as a kid) and kept my ID card as well.

  6. OgreMkV 8 months ago
    Reply

    The real box came with 1 of 4 different “ID” Cards and a slick radiation counter sticker that would turn black if you happened to be standing too close to a nuclear explosion.

    Mine was the 2033rd Armored Division. I had that card in my wallet until roughly 2002… I still have it, just in a drawer instead of actually in my wallet.

  7. Anonymous 8 months ago
    Reply

    I remember Ogre. I even remember the box cover. I think back then he stores created their own pirated copies to sell and photocopied the covers.

    • Galp 8 months ago
      Reply

      You know what, now that you say that, I’m sure I bought a copy like that. The memory of the box being black and white and shoddy looking is too distinct. Could you imagine Gamestop doing that nowadays?

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