Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wizardry: Dead Means Dead

In my introductory post, speaking about the difficulties of balancing CRPGs with my busy schedule, I wrote, "If my problem was that CRPGs were competing with my to do list, they would become part of my to do list." My success in this area was made manifest over the last few days. Traveling on both pleasure and business, I didn't have any time to play, let alone blog, and (absurdly) I started to worry about how far beind in CRPG playing I was falling. I'm back, thankfully, and continuing to try my hand at Wizardry.

Through some experimentation, I figured out how the game's "save" works. Basically, every time you end your session and leave the game, it saves whatever has happened to your party through that point, including if your entire party is dead. You cannot choose when to save and, therefore, when to reload, so death is more-or-less permanent (more on that in a sec). The really odd thing: Wizardry saves the game even if I force DOSBox to quit instead of leaving through the normal method. How does it do this? Isn't forcing DOSBox to quit essentially like killing the power?

Whatever the mechanism, the only way to preserve your save game, apparently, is to make a copy of the save file before you go adventuring. That way you can restore it if things go ill. That would be cheating, though, and cheating is against my rules.

But here's the thing that makes Wizardry unique among role-playing games: when your characters die, their bodies remain in the dungeon, and another party can "find" them! I discovered this quite by accident when my third party wandered into the room where the second party had been killed, chose to (I)nspect (I thought it was for secret doors) and found their brutalized corpses.

"Let's just check over here and see if there's any treas--....oh, yuck."


Apparently, I can recover these dead characters, get their equipment, and take their bodies up to the temple for resurrection. Unfortunately, this only helps to the extent that your new characters can survive long enough to reach the dead ones. And by that time they're probably about the same level as the dead ones, so you don't need the dead ones anymore anyway.

Still, a strategy becomes clear. I must create double the number of characters as the party will accommodate (6). Every time I leave the dungeon, I'll rotate a few out and a few more in, keeping their experience levels as equal as possible. That way, if one party is slaughtered, the other can go rescue them. Unlike Rogue, I won't need to keep starting over at level 1.

I thought you might be curious what the gameplay looks like, so I took a movie of about 4.5 minutes. When you see the cursor moving around, I'm not actually clicking on anything, of course--the game is all keyboard-driven. I'm just trying to give you a sense of what options I'm choosing.


video

I'll keep playing away at Wizardry and let you know what other cool things I find.

19 comments:

  1. If you happened to view the video when I first posted it, you might have noticed that it was essentially unwatchable. I took another stab at it today, so take a look again.

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  2. I think that character death is written as soon as it happens, and that is why you can't just reboot and skip it.

    Also, you might want to hold onto the characters you end up with. Lots of later Dos-based RPGs had the option to import previous characters and use them again. Bard's Tale, for instance, could import players from all sorts of games (Wizardrys, Ultimas, for instance).

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  3. Thanks for the tip. I'll avoid deleting them all, then.

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    1. Yeah, this may have been covered dozens of times in future postings, but I have had quite a delightful time over the years tracking down all the games that let you import characters from other games. Wizardry definitely turns up on the list the most of all, a clear sign of its relevance. Besides Wizardry itself, you can import into TotUVI: Bard's Tale or Bard's Tale II or III, or Centauri Alliance (though there is no MS-DOS version).

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    2. It didn't make a lot of sense, though, did it? The games take place in completely different worlds and had different logistics to them.

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  5. No problem, Joseph. I appreciate comments on "old" postings. I see them all no matter what. I haven't played Diablo II; that seems like an unusual gameplay feature for a fairly new game.

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  7. That seems a little advanced for games of this era, but I'll remember the tip when I get to Diablo II.

    As for what I do, I work in a professional capacity like you. I'm very aware that every hour I spent playing CRPGs is an hour in which I could be making money doing my job. But..."addicted."

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  8. That's interesting regarding the retrieval of bodies and loot, etc. That's not totally dissimilar to how death worked in Everquest. Well, at least in the earlier version I played.

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  9. I could swear I read somewhere that it could happen that even the temple priests can fail at resurrecting to that a dead person actually can get erased for good. Did that ever happen to you? Apparently you resurrected a lot in the temple, I must admit while playing Wizardry 1-3 I used the save file backup trick. I didn't finish them however, your review inspired me to do that and maybe without the trick just for the original experience.

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    1. Manual, must get through blog posts and put up the manual...

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    2. My characters got turned to ash quite a lot, but I was usually able to resurrect them (at a greater expense) after that. I think playing W1 I "LOST" two characters to failed resurrections.

      In W5, I just reloaded backups when that happened, but in W1 I made new characters. I can't believe how much patience I had back then.

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  10. The save happens before the game tells you the player is dead. It's ingenious, really.

    Think of it like Ozymandias: do you seriously think the game would explain that you were dead if there remained the slightest chance of you affecting it? :)

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  11. Bored day home from work, so reading through your blog post by post.

    I must say, unforgiving as it is, the idea of finding your previous dead party is a nice touch. Not many games have that.

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  12. I love the way Wizardry handles this.

    Finding dead characters and bringing them back is often a fun quest in itself, since the characters looking for them are likely to be right around the same level as the dead characters were, and facing the same risks.

    IIRC, you needed to have empty slots to contain the dead characters, right? I seem to remember maintaining a special EMT party of 4 strong multi-dimensional characters whose only job was to quickly go into the dungeon and pick up dead people. I had as much fun playing them as I did running my main party.

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  13. Yeah, Bridgeburners! Fitting, since they didn't have the best luck in tunnels under cities.

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  14. I like the rotating characters! I did something similar back in the day. Me and my entire tabletop gaming group made up all our D&D characters for Wizardry, and we mixed and matched combos while we took turns on the old Apple II. Those not playing Wizardry would get out the rule books and play a tabletop game. We were extreme gamers indeed!

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