Monday, February 12, 2018

Everything Is Everything Else

As David Byrne once said, well... how did I get here?

I remember I was doing what I do most nights, right before I go to sleep. Typing semi-random words into YouTube. Following whichever link looks interesting. The name of a band. A song title. Something I've never heard. Or heard of.

Nothing like Transvision Vamp. I have heard of Transvision Vamp. I have heard Transvision Vamp. Of course I have. I remember them very well. Early 90s outfit. Fronted by shockheaded blonde Wendy James. Made a thinnish glam racket. Had a couple of minor hits. Media loved to love to hate them.

I never thought much of them at the time. Hadn't thought about them at all in at least twenty years. Still, I clicked, out of some dim nostalgic curiosity.

A couple of things happened.

They were a lot better than I remembered. That thin sound had filled out. It aged well. I watched a few live performances. Wendy James seemed fierce and funny. A good deal more self-aware than I imagined. And then, among the titles that filtered down the right of the screen, one leaped right out and smacked me in the heart.  

Where did she go? Out. What did she do? Everything
There is, sadly, no live take of Hanging Out With Halo Jones on YouTube or anywhere else. As others have said, this will have to do.

Halo Jones is possibly my favorite British comic series of all time. If it's not Alan Moore's best work ever it's damn close and Ian Gibson certainly never drew better. I have the originals in my piles of 2000AD up in the loft and I have the three graphic novels somewhere closer to hand. I'm going to read the whole sequence again although it scares me a little to think about doing it.

So, anyway, here I am at Halo Jones via Transvision Vamp and I'm reading the comments because yes, I am one of the people who not only reads the comments on YouTube but finds them interesting and often revealing.

There aren't many but in the last one someone says "There was a Halo Jones play too." There was? Did I know that? The faintest bell chiming somewhere far away...

Which is how I came across this piece of pure magic:

Eight and a half minutes of utter genius. When I saw it was a fringe performance I didn't expect much. How wrong I was. I just wish someone would post the entire thing. I just wish I'd been there.

I looked for more but that's all there is. Oh, and a few scraps of another production at the Leeds Thought Bubble. They don't have anything of the power of this performance.

And what does this have to do with MMORPGs, anyone still reading may well be asking themselves? Patience. I'm getting there.

I'm getting there but I can't tell you how. All I know is that somehow, from  Transvision Vamp and Halo Jones I found my way to what was lost, by way of the  latest Game Archeologist piece on MassivelyOP. Although it turns out I could just have checked my own back pages...

Syp's piece has absolutely nothing to do with any of this except as a catalyst. It's all about BBS gaming. I never saw a Bulletin Board in my life, much less played a game on one. As I read, though, my mind slipped to which forgotten MMOs might still be out there, waiting for Syp to (dis)cover them.

My list of most fondly-rememberd MMOs includes several that are no longer running. Vanguard and Free Realms, obviously. Rubies of Eventide, which I often mention. Endless Ages, which was there so early on and broke so much ground (and which appears still to exist in some form or another...I'm on that right now...but one thing at a time).

There's also one that Mrs Bhagpuss and I played in beta and liked a lot for no very good reason. I was under the impression that it never launched. I seem to remember the client just stopped connecting to the server one day and I thought I'd read that whoever was behind it decided not to release it in the West after all.

I haven't been able to come up with the name for a long time. I don't have it in my old log-in records. No-one ever mentions it anywhere to jog my memory. And this is where the chain breaks yet holds.

Somewhere along the way, reading about BBS games, listening to Transvision Vamp, watching Halo Jones, all the  while thinking about dead MMOs and googling all of it, I came across a mention of the Ferengi, those gnomelike aliens from Star Trek. It wasn't even anything about them, really. Just a play or a song that used their name.

I have no clue where or what it was even though it was only a day or two ago. Whatever it was triggered a flash of insight that blanked everything else. The name of the forgotten MMO was Ferentus

All the many other times I've seen the Ferengi mentioned, that never happened. It took that particular set of circumstances to create the necessary neural connections. So it seems.

It turns out that Ferentus never did launch but it lived long enough in open beta to develop quite a following all the same. It was known under three different names. Ferentus in North America, Herrcot in Germany and Xiones in South Korea. Even now there are people hoping for an emulator. That's never going to happen but someone has come up with a text-based homage. I played it. It works.

All of which just proves what a wonderful new world it is that we all live in. Any day we can wake up and ask ourselves how we got here and have no idea and it's still all good. As Rodice says, "No matter how far you get, they'll fetch you back here and bust you to pieces".

Pieces are all we're made of. But what pieces!

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