A blog about tabletop hobby and or strategy games, with a side order of electronic turn based goodness here and there. Now with tons of retro gaming content both electronic and tabletop. Also with 20% more self loathing douchebaggery!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Linksception : Or how old golf computer games treated customers like human beings.

  For those not in the know, Links was a long running series of computer golf simulations from Access Software who sublet their work to Microsoft, got bought out, and ended on the X Box original.  Yes, the series of super important electronic golf games that started on 8 bit microcomputers as Leaderboard in the mid 80s ended about 20 years later.  While some of the Leaderboard games had console platform ports, Links itself went from 1990 to 2002 (with a 2003 year date in the game) as a PC series that was famous for the sheer volume of courses released and how amazing the graphics were.

  We are both going to see Links going through five iterations and how a course from the original Links (albeit the CDROM budget rerelease.  In 3 cases my boxed copies of these games were later versions with some bug fixes or CD/Special Edition versions.) is still legal and playable throughout every game I have!

(Click for bigger if you need to and the image permits.  I tried to screencap mostly from my Windows 7 rig but some were on the square monitor 98se machine or photographs.)
While as mentioned the Leaderboard/World Class Leaderboard series is where the Access golf games began, Links is where it got SUPER popular.  Here we are at the white tee at Firestone.  For 1990 this looked amazing.  And it ran on 286 machines with VGA graphics.  

Yes a Windows 98se machine that was originally an XP machine (thus pretty much capable of running all 9x software at top speed if not beyond thanks to its specs as an Athlon 3200 CPU with a decent ATI card for 2004 and the whole ever increasing system hog thing Windows doing not being as big a deal.) is running Dosbox.  I sort of need it to transfer files over thanks to issues in LS 1998 when we get there.

The CD case back showing what they have to say about the game.

The next installment in the franchise was 386 which later became Pro CD.  My version has some Windows 3.1/9x support to the original DOS program which is handy.  Plus golf and golf computer games tend to be things rich older guys care about so not requiring to drop to DOS on their fancy machines was a good feature.  But belying the age, the conversion of old courses required a different program on the disk plus entering text commands.  So you needed the manual to really do it.

And here we have the same course, now converted over and running around twice the resolution.  Cool!  It is still a pain to see the course layout while actively playing but given the technology and resolution size it is kind of understandable.  Kind of.

Yes the attentive will see the included courses are on the Course Libraries.  Meaning two of the volumes they advertise are really four courses.  I guess?  Hooray?

One of the funnier bits of old OSes on newer machines and older software is getting "System Information" screens showing something reliable.  In many cases they have no idea what the hell is even going on and give inaccurate information.    And each time you check you get something DIFFERENT.  Like this time I got the info above.  Next time I got lower, a different time higher.

LS 1998 was a bit nicer having a conversion program within the program itself instead of off on its' own.  It also has absurd resolutions for the time that I am unaware if my old flat CRT monitor can even handle.

Because of the age and era you could even leave courses and other content on the disks.  Now with modern machines and the like space is approaching infinite for old stuff.  (Provided you aren't a pirate or doing massive amounts of audiovisual work on your machine as well anyhow!)

In LS 1998's case, some courses were pre converted on one of the multiple CDs the game came on and merely required the disk to verify you bought the old content.  Or in a case or two it wasn't converted over and you had to go without.  

Firestone keeps getting a bit prettier though!  Sadly I had a bit of a derp moment with tee selection and was at Blue for 98 and 2001.  You get the idea though.  We have evolved to the interface taking up less of the screen.

The last of my "Big Box" era Links games.  This one has more propaganda in the front opening flap but let us just pretend you are a normal lazy person and just look at the back and that is it.  (The same situation will apply to the last two boxes.  I can't be arsed to scan six more images of ad copy.)  Also the front of the box has a foil sticker saying it really does 1800x1440 resolution.  In a game from 97/98.  Yeah.  

2001 is almost a beta version of 2003 so they tend to be very similar though 2001 uses older 2d video styled golfers and hasn't added in the Real Swing form yet though it does have a different analog styled swing mode.  So basically we now have actual course data being imported though we need to take the CRX files from the LS 97-99 days  and get them converted with this program to CRZ.

2001 isn't as good as 03 so I merely installed all 1.5 gigs of it to take a couple screenshots and had to patch and download a NO CD crack because of an issue Microsoft was aware of where the copy protection didn't work with all CDROM drives.

Now it looks more or less like 2003 does although not quite as good.  And finally a nice overhead view of the hole on screen as a default that you can aim on and leave up.  You don't see the maps on the earlier screenshots because it wasn't a default.  In some editions it could be a preset window cutting your view down, or a thing you brought up with a button to look at then closed.  Which is annoying.

There is a joke about YOUR MOM'S BOX here but I can't think of a clever one...

My version of 2001 was a Championship Edition so what I spent 10 bucks shipped for got me lots of good content to bring forwards into 03.  (See I only owned Links, LS 1998, and 2003.  Some dumb idea made me get for 10 shipped and boxed 2001 CE, and PRO CD.  10 each is GOOD VALUE!)

Pre getting 2001 in the mail I had this many courses to play with.  Now including some free courses (and a couple patches from Linkscountryclub.com) I have THIRTY.  30 courses of golfy goodness!

All praise the REAL TIME SWING.  At least on one of the easier modes.  My mouse space isn't that large!  But said patch gives me lovely 1080p resolution.
Obviously courses designed from the ground up for later editions are going to look much better though.  More variations in terrain and all that.   Plus we see the Real Time Swing results.  I kinda hooked it here...

 My skills have gotten better though.  However in the easier mode I am in while swinging the ball isn't quite as sensitive as it is in harder difficulties the AI opponents in the various modes are also not as good either.  I kind of wish I could have slightly better opponents while also having a slightly more lenient swing.

 And the final box back before EA basically became the only real Golf game maker of note.  

Hopefully everyone enjoyed this little trip down Video Golf Memory Lane and can appreciate the fact much of the content from the original Links was able to be played in every game after that.  (Well that I own.  I don't have all the LS year games and I am honestly not sure I need them.  30 courses is a TON of content.)

A shame most game makers don't do things like this when possible.


Anonymous said...

I, for one, appreciated this page! As a huge fan of the original Links, then Links 386, I applied to Access Software in Salt Lake Cit, UT as a software engineer. I got the job and we created Links LS. Fun!

Captain Rufus said...

Thanks for helping to make such a nifty series of games!


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