We have a “yours, mine and ours” set of computers at home. My system started out as a Compaq Presario in 1994 and has been upgraded piecemeal over the past decade, Katie replaced her Power Mac with a G4 last year, and we picked up an eMachine to use as a dial-up server when we moved in together. (I was going to cobble something together out of the leftover bits from my computer, but it was cheap and saved me the effort of figuring out what was working and what needed to be replaced. Plus it gave us an extra Windows system.)

I’ve been dual-booting Linux and Windows for about 5 years, and spent most of my last year in college using Linux almost exclusively. (Student housing with Ethernet. Having worked in a college computer lab for several years, I didn’t trust Windows 95 to be safe on the network.) Well, a few months after we got the eMachine, hardware problems corrupted my Windows installation. I didn’t want to “borrow” a Windows 98 install CD, I didn’t want to buy Windows Me (piece of ****), Windows 2000 was too expensive, and I really didn’t want the licensing nightmare that is XP. So I delayed, using Linux exclusively, and eventually came to the conclusion I didn’t need to reinstall Windows at all.

Unfortunately, there are very few commercial games written for Linux. Now I’m not much of a gamer, but I do enjoy RPGs, turn-based strategy, and the occasional FPS, and No Windows meant No Might and Magic.

The upshot is that the eMachine, despite starting out as a dial-up and file server, now serves as a gaming system. I’ve upgraded the disk, memory, and processor, we’ve got a funky mix of monitor switches to allow either of us to use it while the other is on his/her own computer, and we now have an actual router handling the DSL connection, and this setup has served us well. Until now.

Enter this weekend. Having finished Might and Magic IX, I want something new to play. I tried to pick up Heretic II again – the same problems which trashed Windows had also corrupted my saved games, so I stopped playing over a year ago – but it wouldn’t use my 3D acceleration, and the software renderer was just too slow on anything with mist or other particle effects. So I thought I’d check the bargain bins at Micro Center and Fry’s for a copy of the Windows version, as well as looking for some recent RPGs and the expansion packs for Heroes IV.

We made an event of it, hitting both computer stores and then heading over to pick up Harry Potter, and I think Katie actually found more games than I did. I didn’t find Heretic II, although I did figure out the problem with the video card. (There were two versions of the driver, and it was using the wrong one.) One thing I did pick up was Arcanum. It had looked very interesting, and had great reviews, and since it had been out for a couple of years, the price was down to $20.

Last night, after reading the manual (which is written in a tongue-in-cheek pseudo-Victorian style), I was ready to start playing. I decided to use one of their pre-built characters, at least to start with, went through the intro… and once the game proper started, the entire map area was filled with black triangles. It looked as if the screen were made up of triangular tiles, and only half of them were actually displayed. People and objects were complete, but on black backgrounds. I pulled up the README, which suggested running it without 3D acceleration, which I tried, but the program wouldn’t start up. Meanwhile the @%*^ auto-run kept trying to bring up the CD’s splash screen. I had to hard-boot twice (thank you, Windows Me), and used the time it was running Scandisk to look on the Sierra support site.

It was there that I noticed it required a minimum of 8 MB on the video card. So I waited for Scandisk to finish, pulled up the control panel, and checked on the video driver: 4 MB. So now I need to add a new video card to a system with integrated video and too few expansion slots. Either that or bite the bullet and buy XP for my own system.

I embarked on a very therapeutic hack-and-slash session of Heretic.

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