Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Game 43: Star Saga: One - Beyond the Boundary (1987)

Take a look: It's Andrew ("Werdna") Greenberg.

I debated for a while about whether to do a standard entry for this game because I don't really know if I'm going to get to "play" it. Star Saga: One - Beyond the Boundary (yes, that is the appropriate punctuation) is the damnedest game I've encountered so far in this blog. For the last couple of weeks--in relation to Pirates!, mostly--we've been talking about what constitutes a CRPG. Well, here's another one that challenges the definition--but not because of the "role-playing" part. Rather, Star Saga: One might not be a CRPG because it doesn't really satisfy the "computer" part.

Let's deal with the backstory first: the game is set in the year 2815, almost 600 years after the invention of a "dual-axis hyperdrive" made it possible to travel between stars. As a result, humanity colonized eight other planets in an area known as the "Galactic Fringe." In 2490, however, more than half the population of the colonies was killed by an alien virus called the Space Plague. As a result, the governments of Earth and the colonies defined a border around the colonies called the Boundary. Anyone traveling beyond the Boundary would never be able to return. The Space Patrol was established to enforce this law.

Each of the nine colonies is named and has a unique characteristic. Atlantis is a "lush green world protected by strict environmental laws"; Endaur is the seat of the government; Frontier is rugged and sparsely populated, but popular with tourists; Harvard is the colonies' center of learning; Heaven is the most densely populated planet; Leucothea is the religious headquarters (the major religion is The Final Church of Man, which sounds vaguely sinister); Monument is primarily a memorial to the Space Plague; and Norstar is a "grimy, industrial world." While peace and unity reign, and the Space Patrol keeps bad things out of the colonies, humanity "has become a bit stagnant--no new discoveries, no new challenges, and countless opportunities lost."

The game is a weird, possibly unique, hybrid of computer and board game. It originally came in a three-pound box with several floppy disks and a dense package of character booklets, instructions, tokens, a game map, and 888 passages of text. Players--of whom there can be up to six--choose one of six characters to play, each of which has a full biography and set of goals, which you're supposed to keep secret from the other players. (They say a full game takes up to 60 hours, so I guess you're not expected to start a new game every family get-together.) All six characters have recently crossed the boundary, in their own ships, for their own purposes (for instance, Professor Lee Dambroke wants to learn about alien civilizations and Jean G. Clerc is looking for alien technology to build the ultimate spaceship). The characters do not play as a party but instead take turns and, I guess, occasionally encounter each other.

For my introductory game, I chose Professor Dambroke, the xenobiologist from Harvard, and was pleased to see that the picture of my laboratory contains the alien from Aliens plus Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors.

"The Boundary" suddenly makes a lot of sense.

Gameplay progresses something like this. You take off in your ship from your home world, study the game map, and decide where you want to go. You get 7 "phases" per turn, and moving between map sectors takes up one of them. The map sectors are all triangular, and you can travel to adjacent sectors across lines, but not across points.


 
Thus, in the map above, I could travel from sector 116 (the center yellow one) to either 117 or 115, but not to 93 or 94; I'd have to go through 117 or 115 first.

You enter your travel commands into the computer application, and it tells you the results:


 
The game directs me to read two book entries: 348 and 382. Here's a snippet of 348:

Approaching the planet in this system, you instruct your computer to run a geophysical survey as well as scan to see if it has any information in its computer banks on the world known as Moiran.

"I've got some data for you, boss," it says. "The physical characteristics are as follows: climate, warmer than Earth; polar regions, habitable due to minimal axial tilt."

While the computer is busy scanning its memory for any historical data it might have, you take the opportunity to view the planet first hand. From space, Moiran seems somewhat smaller than Earth and not nearly as pretty. The clouds look grey and the oceans have a brownish tint to them. All in all, a dirty-looking planet.

The book goes on to tell me that there are cities, including a busy spaceport, on the planet. It turns out it was an Earth colony, cut off because of the Boundary. I head out of the spaceship and am assailed by the noxious odor of sulphur, meet with the spaceport officials "(who speak a slightly accented Earth Standard)," and head out to explore. At this point, the game gives me five possibilities for further action:

  • Visit a dirty and disgusting part of the city
  • Go to the north pole and investigate the planet's primary industry, Phase Steel
  • Check out the Moiran Interstellar Shipyard for weapons systems
  • Check out rumors about "Tony the Shark," who runs an illegal arms and armor business
  • Visit "Dee's Pleasure Palace," of which the game says, "the less said about the place, the better."

In the next turn, I can choose the action. I go to the commodities market, and the game enters into an exchange screen, in which I can exchange crystals for goods.


 
I should mention at this point that the game is essentially walking me through the first seven turns--it forces you to go a predetermined route, with the book explaining how you play along the way. After this, it has me take off and go to another planet, Wellmeet, where I visit a tavern and talk with the locals.

Just out of curiosity, I started a game with two players and then had them meet on the same planet. I wanted to see if the gamebook had any specific text about the encounter. But all it really does is allows them to trade items to each other.


 
The role of the computer in the game is somewhat minimal. It keeps track of your inventory and status, and lets you know the outcomes of your actions (including those based on probability like, I assume, combat). But the real "gameplay" is in the form of the book and map. The book is highly reminiscent of the Choose Your Own Adventure series in which you read a passage, make a choice, and jump to another passage. The game is thus much more reading than "playing."

Although you can play with up to five other people, it strikes me as a somewhat lonely game for a group. Everyone has his own character, the interactions between them are minimal, and you're not supposed to let them see your character book or storyline. How does it end? One of the players suddenly announces, "Well, I'm done"? (Since I don't have any friends who know about my hobby, I guess the issue is moot.) I'd love to hear from someone who played this in person when it was new.

I should mention that my own playing session so far would not have been possible without the work of one "JJ Sonick," who not only scanned all of the game entries and put them into a searchable browser-based index but also created a brilliant little application that uses the game map and allows you to maneuver your little tokens around the screen. That's some real love there. [Edit: see this comment for more information about the creation of this set.]

I did have some interest in exploring the mysteries of the galaxy and solving Professor Dambroke's quest of returning to Harvard with three alien abilities so cool the rest of humanity will regard them as "magical," so I restarted with him and kept playing for a while. My travels took me to:

  • Wellmet, a frontier planet that used to be the center of exploration for the human colonies before the Boundary. Now a "Ghost World"--one of those abandoned by the nine colonies when they established the Boundary, it comes across as a cross between Australia and Sicily; its rough-but-friendly frontier spirit is an artifact of the convicts that were shipped there by the colonies, but its politics and trade are dominated by the quasi-Mafia Families. It becomes clear here that smuggling across the Boundary is very active (despite the official word from Space Patrol) and is, in fact, a major part of the Wellmet economy. A mysterious man in Wellmet gives me data crystals that greatly expand my star map (the game comes with two maps, one that you open up after getting this information) and warns me about aliens, pirates, and "space walls" where hyperspace doesn't work.

A portion of the larger game map.

  • Crater, a strange planet completely enclosed by space walls. When I get there, I am captured by a tractor beam and interrogated by the locals--more colony expatriates--who are paranoid about alien invasion and have erected essentially a fortress in space. They decide I'm okay and allow me to attend a lecture on combat, after which I am forced to take a test that I fail because the instructions are in old English instead of Earth Standard.
  • Medsun, an agrarian, low-technology planet populated by both humans and strange yellow aliens with three necks (understand this is all described in the book; there are no graphics of this). The low-key attitude of the population seems mysterious until I find that the Medsunians have a natural capability, called Phrmm, to pacify aggression, but it also works to subdue any sense of ambition or adventure. When I am taught the techniques of Phrmm, the Medsunians assume I'm going to stay and start looting my ship, but I stop them and blast off, not sure whether to regard the human populace as unwilling slaves or just stoned and happy. In any event, Phrmm turns out to be one of the "alien abilities" I'm looking for, so my quest is 1/3 done.

I'm just showing this for the heck of it. There aren't a lot of interesting screen shots here.

All of the planets featured robust bartering systems by which I could trade various units of food, medicine, "liquids," munitions, armaments, cultural items, and so forth back and forth. But my inventory was so low to begin with that I hesitated to trade anything. I did hand over one of my medicine units for some munitions, then the munitions for a hand blaster.

Throughout this, the computer on my ship keeps conversing with me directly (in the text, not in the computer part of the game), and I am surprised at its advanced technology, which apparently incorporates a "three-sigma intelligence package" and allows it to understand and answer questions in normal language, and also to volunteer information. Yes, I would like to be shocked at this level of artificial intelligence, but come on, this game is set 800 years in the future.

About this point, I ran out of steam. This is fundamentally not a computer game. I mean, I could take the inventory sheet from the Lone Wolf gamebook series and put it into Microsoft Excel, but that doesn't mean I'll have created a CRPG. The long text entries are very well-written and interesting, but I don't have any sense that I'm really playing anything.

I tried to jump through the entries and see if I could suss out what the ending looked like, but there are just too many of them. Here are some choice quotes that I'd love to know the scenario behind. All of them sound like candidates for the Bulwer-Lytton contest.

  • "You are embarrassed to admit that a four foot tall squirrel is your equal in battle."
  • "You figure the alien ships couldn't be having an easy time tracking your ship, not with the Gironde scattering starlight and glowing infrared behind you."
  • "From up close you can see even better how the serpent's tail segments move together despite the five-meter gaps between them."
  • "Your band of adventurers regroups in the outer orbit of Outpost and confers about the best method for storming the planet."
  • "You plunge right in, narrowly avoiding a marshmallow, and soon find yourself floating serenely in the depths of a liquid that is both warm and supportive."
  • "A familiar sight appears as you shut down the hyperdrive. Yes, sirree, the same asteroid-satellite that blocked your path and shot you up before. It's still right where you left it, broadcasting its cacophonous message."
  • "Focused ever so intently, you prepare for the attack run. Your computer has already laid a course which will take you right over the power generator." (Uh...)
  • "You experience a rather painful eternity of the most extreme torment, as the monster slowly dismembers you and eats the pieces. Fortunately enough, this being a dream, you do eventually wake up. Unfortunately, you are still on Tretiak."

Again, great stuff, but it's a book. I play CRPGs.

94 comments:

  1. Sounds like it may not even qualify as an RPG, anyway, regardless of whether it's a computer game. I mean, choose-your-own-adventure books are great, but they're not RPGs. Are there player stats or anything?

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  2. Stats, as such, no. But in addition to the basic (and special) goods trading that you can perform (the secret to success at trading is to do trades that are 1 for 2 or 3, not 1 for 1), you can acquire alien abilities, equipment, and ship equipment. I found that there was an impressive feeling of exploration to it, as you know literally nothing about the territories outside the boundary at the start of the game, or even very much about how the game works. I also found it was great fun with multiple people because you could share information about things (without giving everything away, of course), trading opportunities especially, and it does ultimately seem to be a cooperative game, despite initial appearances (unfortunately, I've never completed it as one of the people playing was well behind and lost interest).

    I would also say that the computer element is fundamental to the game. Much of the appeal revolves around hidden information that, I suppose, would technically be possible for a player gamemaster to process, but it wouldn't be a role that would be any fun for that person, as it's strictly mechanical and combat would be a pain to adjudicate. (It's not probability based. The various equipment and alien abilities all have set strengths in every "combat" situation and the game will automatically compare the strongest in each category to the required strength to win the encounter.)

    I would encourage you to continue to play it on your own time, but it may not be the most fruitful game for blogging, I will grant you.

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  3. There's something to that, Max. An inventory and a story don't make a CRPG; otherwise, Half Life would be one.

    Malkav, I appreciate the insight from someone who's actually played it. If I wasn't so impatient to get through the current year, I might have lingered longer. Also, as you say, there's the blogging issue. Without any decent screenshots or video, the entries would be large walls of text essentially copied from the gamebook. I think I gave enough of the sense of gameplay in this posting, and I'll let those interested explore the story on their own.

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  4. I am also looking forward to you getting through this year... Pools of Radience beckon!

    When you get to Pool of Radience, would you name a chararter after me? It doesn't actually have to be LameBrain, you could just something that starts with an "L" and something that starts with a "B"

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  5. I bought this game a year or two after it was released. I think I paid something like $10 for it. I think I bought it because I knew who Greenberg was, and I was a Wizardry fan.

    When I found out it was more of a board game than a computer game I didn't even bother to give it a try.

    I also remember buying Sorcerian, but didn't play it much either, too arcadish for me.
    Back in the 80's, I was willing to give almost any game that had any RPG elements in it a try. As a result, I ended up with a huge pile of games I didn't make much progress in.

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  6. Heh. I think I just might have a look at this. Sounds more like an adventure game than a rpg, but I have been fascinated by both adventure games and various choose-your-own-adventure books, when I was younger. :)

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  7. Hey there, this is Josh, aka JJ Sonick, who created the Kit. :) Wanted to mention that I didn't all the work - the person who ran the original Home of the Underdogs site, Sarinee Achavanuntakul, did all the scanning, and another HOTU contributor, Ranger55 (don't know the real name), put them all together into that nifty HTML package. (Originally we wanted all the scans in the Kit program itself, but that ended up being too much content for the capabilities of The Game Factory, which I used to make the Kit. HTML to the rescue!).

    Also, I started blogging about the Apple II version of the game. I'll link to your take on the game in my next post about it. I agree that, given that Star Saga is such a strange hybrid, it would be tough to do a series of blog posts on it within the CRPG-focus of this blog. Probably the most interesting account would be reports on an actual multiplayer session with it, but I'm not even attempting that.

    Anyway, I'm enjoying your project here immensely, and really looking forward to your take on some of the upcoming games, especially the various science-fiction offerings of 1988!

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  8. It's really one of a kind (well... there's a sequel, and another was originally planned but never made), and if you're willing to take it on its terms, a very neat experience.

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  9. I don't know exactly what happened, but I got an e-mail notification that "JJ Sonick" had submitted a comment to this posting, but oddly the comment isn't here. Does Blogger allow you to delete them later? In any event, if it was a technology error (those seem to happen a lot), his words ought to be read, so I'm posting this but leaving out the part that gives his real name (in case that was why he deleted it):

    ****

    Hey there, this is XXXX, aka JJ Sonick, who created the Kit. :) Wanted to mention that I didn't all the work - the person who ran the original Home of the Underdogs site, Sarinee Achavanuntakul, did all the scanning, and another HOTU contributor, Ranger55 (don't know the real name), put them all together into that nifty HTML package. (Originally we wanted all the scans in the Kit program itself, but that ended up being too much content for the capabilities of The Game Factory, which I used to make the Kit. HTML to the rescue!).

    Also, I started blogging about the Apple II version of the game. I'll link to your take on the game in my next post about it. I agree that, given that Star Saga is such a strange hybrid, it would be tough to do a series of blog posts on it within the CRPG-focus of this blog. Probably the most interesting account would be reports on an actual multiplayer session with it, but I'm not even attempting that.

    Anyway, I'm enjoying your project here immensely, and really looking forward to your take on some of the upcoming games, especially the various science-fiction offerings of 1988!

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  10. Actually, Lame Brain, I think your name would be perfect for a barbarian.

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  11. Hi CRPG Addict, this is Josh/JJ Sonick again - I was wondering what happened too. I didn't delete it, so it must have been a technical glitch. Thanks for reposting it.

    And here's the link to my post about the Apple II version, which got eaten in the repost.

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  12. I've started a PBEM of this with two friends. I'll report back later how it goes.

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  13. Please do. I can't imagine it will be quick.

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  14. The game I played, also with two friends, took probably the better part of a month, playing quickly when everyone was free, and sometimes only a turn or two a day when not. And when things fell apart, two of the three of us had reached what appeared to be very nearly the endgame, and the other...hadn't. By probably several dozen turns worth of catching up that we couldn't help with very much due to the limitations of the game. So, yeah. Not quick.

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  15. Your mysterious ellipse makes it sound like you killed your third friend.

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  16. We're up to a full six players now (!) but it doesn't necessarily mean things get slower since the universe is explored faster and we're pretty open on sharing knowledge.

    This crew has done some RPGs over many months so we should be ok, but the drop out-drop in mechanics are pretty flexible if someone has to scoot.

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  17. Awesome. It sounds like that's how it really needs to be played. Do tell me what the mysteries of the universe turn out to be.

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  18. You probably already know this, but just in case... Blogger has automatic spam detection. So sometimes you'll get an email about a comment, but it won't show up at the end of the post, because it's in the "Spam" folder (under the "Comments" tab of your blog). If it's not really spam, you can change it there.

    Re. the game, I bought Star Saga II years ago (used, several years after it was released), and it was very similar to this one, apparently. But I never really played it, because it seemed to be designed for a group of players, rather than just one.

    And as I recall, you couldn't just read the text entries to figure out what happened, because many of them were fake, specifically written to prevent that kind of short-cut.

    I thought the game was a neat idea - I've always been a reader, and I like games with large masses of descriptive text - but as I say, I never got it played.

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  19. I've been getting notice about spam detection, but I didn't put two and two together. Thanks, WCG. I'll check that in the future.

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  20. Update:

    First, a plea for help: if anyone has the original game, the scan of passage 13 seems to be off (it duplicates part of passage 12, although we needed to OCR scan the docs to work that out). Can anyone with the original manual rescan (or at least type out) that section?

    One of our folks converted all the maps with Photoshop and another one made it into a Google Maps application, then integrated the passage reader into it (I should be able to post a link at some point, it's very nice). We've also been keeping a wiki of all our discoveries.

    I definitely would call the feel a "multiplayer adventure game" rather than an RPG. Combat is more of a puzzle (trying to find item X to overcome countermeasure Y) and there are even "straight" puzzles (including a riddle we haven't figured out yet). I also don't think it's possible to "die" in combat, you just may have to spend extra time repairing your ship or lose items.

    Exploration is really quite fast with six players and I would hate to tackle this game alone. It does seem like it'd be a little absurd in person. Lots of our in-between time while waiting for turns has been spent plotting and planning. (We've been having each player do two turns at a time, which seems about right: not too slow but bite-size enough you can fit your move in the 10 minutes before you have to run off to work.)

    Despite the absurdity of the quotes above, the writing is pretty good. The tone swerves between absurdity and poignancy in a way that reminds me of old Dr. Who episodes.

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    1. According to the manual, it is possible to die; however, in all my playing as a kid, I don't remember this ever happening. I'm going to go through the game solo a number of times. The lack of a walkthrough/guide/FAQ seems like an injustice that must be corrected (in fact, it lacks even a listing on GameFAQs).

      I don't know if you check here anymore Jason Dyer, but did you ever finish a write-up of your multi-player game?

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  21. Hope I'm getting the requested passage correct:

    [013]

    "Going to the market" on Ouabain consists of visiting a huge enclosed building where the Ouabainese do all of their shopping and trading. After two days, you come to a conclusion that doesn't surprise you. The people of Ouabain put about 95% of their time and energy into playing. Almost every vendor has half of his inventory tied up in games and puzzles, especially computer games and puzzles.

    You are especially interested in a genre of games that allow the players to play the parts of other beings and live out very exciting adventures. No wonder the Ouabainese are such dedicated players -- with games of this caliber you would be tempted to spend far more time playing on your own computer. As it is, you succumb to the temptation to purchase one of the exploration games to while away the long hours you spend in hyperspace.

    You also note the Ouabainese have a huge inventory of Computers they are willing to trade to you in any of the following combinations:

    2 Computers for 1 Fiber,
    2 Computers for 1 Food,
    2 Computers for 1 Medicine.

    Go now to the CGM. You may select this option again.

    *STOP*

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    1. Thank you for this. I've actually replaced the image of text section 13 with a screenshot of your post. You are forever immortalized in my version of the kit. :)

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  22. That's it, thank you!

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  23. I have a second post up now that includes discussion of some gameplay elements that push Star Saga into being more than a computerized CYOA (but still not really a CRPG).

    Jason, in multiplayer, do you find yourself fully exploring each planet, or do you move on to another more quickly if, say, the current planet doesn't have market goods you know you need? I've been wondering if in multiplayer you feel more pressure to complete your quest before the others. Playing solo, I luxuriously learn each alien language and fully explore each planet.

    Also, how much sharing of info is occurring between players?

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  24. Hm, my comment got eaten again. I'm trying a different browser to see if that makes a difference.

    I now have a second post up which includes discussion of some gameplay elements that I think push Star Saga past being just a computerized CYOA (but still not really a CRPG).

    Jason, when playing multiplayer, do you find yourself fully exploring each planet, even if doesn't have, say, a trade good you know you need. I'm wondering if in multiplayer you feel any time pressure to complete your character goal before the others. Playing solo, I luxuriously burn turns learning each alien language and fully exploring each locale.

    Also, I'm wondering, how much info sharing ends up happening between players?

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  25. Josh,

    FYI, I'm getting your comments in my email (since I've subscribed to the comments here). I suspect that they're not showing up here because Blogger is filtering them out as spam.

    Maybe that's because you've put a link in them, I don't know.

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  26. WCG, ah, thanks - maybe that is it. It's very strange, because the comment appears on this page right after I make it. It's only when I return later that it's gone.

    I'll try one more time, with no link - apologies to those who are subscribed to the comments and are seeing this yet again!

    I have a new post on my Apple II blog (link above in earlier comments) about my second session with Star Saga. It includes discussion of some game elements that I think push Star Saga into being more than just a computerized CYOA (though still not really a CRPG).

    Jason, when playing multiplayer, do you find you are exploring each planet thoroughly, or do you move on if, for example, the current planet doesn't have a trade good you know you need. I'm wondering if there's some time pressure felt in multiplayer of wanting to finish your character goals before the other players. Playing solo, I luxuriously burn turns learning each alien language and exploring all the options at each locale.

    Also, I'm wondering how much information sharing ends up happening between players?

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  27. I just went through the spam filter. Every single comment in there was a real comment. I'll check this every time I post from now on.

    Jason and Josh, I love that you're playing the game and talking about your experiences. If either or both of you wants to write a summary piece when you finish, I'll be happy to post it. Although, in your case, Josh, I guess I'd just link to your blog.

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  28. We started off somewhat shy on information sharing, but we realized fairly quickly there isn't much reason to hold things back; the quests people get are asymmetrical (some are more difficult to complete than others) so even a "I'm going to finish before you do" attitude doesn't make a lot of sense. (Mind you, I could see a group where that happens anyway. I guess if you played it with your regular Diplomacy PBEM group the atmosphere would be different.) I'm also fairly sure based on the plot (which I'll post more detail about sometime) we'll have to be helping each other anyway to get to the endgame.

    We've all been pretty varied in our exploration strategies. It's partly to do with personality and partly to do with how much direction we have in our respective quests. I started with a particular destination I knew I needed to get to but was thorough checking each planet on the way, while another player knew they needed X, Y, and Z items and so made a beeline for the right planet once we learned where one of the items was.

    A summary post sounds fitting to mark the end, thanks for the offer. I would see if any of the rest of the group (all 6 of us still hanging on there) would be willing to chip in their thoughts as well.

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  29. Thanks for that offer, CRPG Addict! I'll let you know when I've finished my play-through and have a final post (I've been distracted from it for quite a while now, sadly).

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  30. I played this game as a kid (years and years ago, it seems now) and fell in love with it. Then a year ago I decided to hunt for it online with what little I remember (namely M.J. Turner and the fact that there were a lot of books) and after about a month I found JJ Sonick and Co.'s nice little computer program and I got to fall in love again.

    What is the copyright status of this game and its sequel?

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  31. Also, is there somewhere I can find all the nifty drawings scattered throughout the books and stuff? I thought there were a lot more pictures in the books than what I can find.

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  32. I posted this on the other site but this seems more active. I have Win7 64 bit machine and this game won't work on it. Should I use dosbox or something? It is kicking up an error about incompatability...

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  33. You should pretty much always use DOSBox for games that were released for DOS. It solves a ton of issues, and I've rarely encountered a game that wouldn't work on it.

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  34. I maintain a second, more cerebral blog that really goes in-depth about CRPG playing.

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  35. Hmm, its not on your Blogger profile and I don't remember seeing a link anywhere in any post. Am I missing something right under my nose or is there no link to your other site on this blog?

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  36. I was kidding, UbAh. I barely have time to maintain this blog, let alone another one. I don't have any idea what Andy was talking about.

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  37. heh, I fell for that one too easily. Letting my excitement about something else to read while on conference calls get the better of me.

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  38. I just realized you namechecked me in the interview! We did actually finish playing this (with all 6 of us!) and I'm prepared to write about it at some point.

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  39. Yes! Please do! As much as I didn't really like the gameplay, I did want to find out of there were any great revelations.

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  40. I grew up with this game and its sequel. I played both with my brother after school for at least 3 months straight, trying out different characters and exploring the whole galaxy. I never beat the second game, as many times my (older) brother would put me into passive mode (skips all a player's turn until you put them back into active) and then play all night.

    Here's what I remember:
    - Definitely more a board game than a computer game.
    - Combat is not random and the outcome depends on abilities and equipment only.
    - Each character's quest will take them around the galaxy, back to Nine Planets (breaking through the boundary requires a certain power level), and then breaking through the defenses on the fringe (again requires a certain power level).
    - The second game gives the choice of loading a character from the first one. I don't remember this being too game breaking even after getting all abilities and equipment I could, although I don't recall why exactly.
    - Planets will change locations (although starting ones remain the same), so on following games you may know what planets you want to visit, but you won't know where they are.
    - This is the best board game I've ever played.

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  41. I also played the first game several times shortly after it came out and remember spending many hours on each quest. I think I played at least once as each character. Reading the text after each move was indeed tedious but the text was so interesting that it didn't detract from the fun.
    I also played many of the Infocom text-only games and enjoyed them a lot as well.

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    1. Maybe the reading is more tedious when playing solo, but I remember playing this with my brother and most often we'd just note the reading passages to look over while the other played out their turn. It worked in most cases unless an immediate response was necessary.

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  42. Here's my summary of the game as you requested. It's hard to summarize the game since there are many side stories and missions to explore (plus I'm working off memories more than 20 years old that have blurred and morphed with age), but I believe the main quest is thus... (rot-13 for those that don't want to spoil it):

    Nyy punenpgref unir n frcnengr znva dhrfg, juvpu vaibyirf gurz svaqvat be qbvat fbzrguvat, naq gura ergheavat ubzr gb gur avar jbeyqf. Abg bayl qbrf guvf erdhver pbzcyrgvat gur znva dhrfg, ohg lbh gura arrq gb vapernfr lbhe punenpgre'f onggyr punaprf gb ohfg guebhtu gur obhaqnel nebhaq gur avar jbeyqf.

    Bapr va gurl ner rvgure onavfurq (sbe xabjvat gbb zhpu) be qrpvqr gurer'f abguvat yrsg sbe gurz gurer naq yrnir sbe arj ubevmbaf. Gur raq tbny sbe nyy punenpgref nsgre guvf cbvag vf gb tnva rabhtu cbjre gb bire gnxr gur svany zbba onfr (V pna'g erpnyy vs vg'f n cvengr onfr, be nabgure obhaqnel gb frcnengr guvf fcnpr sebz na haxabja nyvra sbepr), naq pbagvahr ba gb tnzr 2.

    It really set itself up to be a trilogy of games with one game picking right up from the other ending with very little resolution to the character's journey.

    The best part was exploring all the different worlds, and seeing how they all were connected in some way. In fact, I remember... bar dhrfg yrnqf lbh vagb yrneavat naq orpbzvat cneg bs n frperg fbpvrgl bs fbzr xvaq. Lbh'q unir gb xabj naq glcr bhg pregnva cnff cuenfrf nf cneg bs gur fgbel nepu, naq ng pregnva yriryf lbh'q tnva novyvgvrf. Bar ynfg cuenfr lbh yrnearq jnfa'g hfnoyr hagvy gur frpbaq tnzr jurer gur fgbel pbagvahrq.


    I'm not sure how much you played of the game, but it doesn't seem like you got further than the first area (planets with names already printed on the map).

    Once you start exploring other planets you get random encounters with space pirates, merchant vessels, and other pieces of information. It isn't always a scripted event where you move to x space and event y happens.

    "You are embarrassed to admit that a four foot tall squirrel is your equal in battle." -- V erzrzore trggvat guvf cnffntr va gur tnzr, lbh svaq n gevor bs fdhveery zbaxf naq pna yrnea znegvny negf sebz gurz.

    "Your band of adventurers regroups in the outer orbit of Outpost and confers about the best method for storming the planet." -- Bhgcbfg vf gur svany cynarg. Bire gnxr vgf qrsrafrf naq lbh "jva" gur tnzr. V guvax lbh pna pubbfr gb pbagvahr cynlvat nsgre gnxvat Bhgcbfg.

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    1. Awesome. I really appreciate the rundown. If I'd been thinking about the sequel when I played it the first, time I probably would have tried to win.

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  43. It may be a little early since I'm not done yet, but I've started blogging about this game in hopes to prepare you for Star Saga: Two. It seems you're on the cusp of starting it already, so hopefully I can make some headway on it with July 4th coming up.

    One thing I found that you didn't happen to mention during your review was the colorblind option. Pressing # brings up a sub menu while entering movement commands that will change the color listings while moving between tri-sectors to the number designations instead. Thought that might be helpful for you.

    Here's my introduction: http://sidequestsaga.blogspot.com/2012/06/star-saga-one-beyond-boundary.html

    Very long first post coming soon (I may break it up) of the first 100 turns.

    I'm really enjoying the story at the moment, but the game is proving very easy as I prepared as much as possible (get all equipment possible before exploring unknown planets).

    It seems this post was made before your 2 out of 3 criteria list, so I've evaluated it for you:

    Character Experience and Skills - All skills and abilities are equipment based. Basically you find or purchase abilities and equipment that improve only through upgrades, not use.

    Combat - Completely based on equipment. Also, you're encouraged to purchase all equipment, and the computer automatically selects the best one for a particular combat.

    Inventory - Not puzzle based, and probably the only one with some depth. Managing trading becomes ridiculously easy once you obtain a robot drone to trade for you. I've had to throw extra commodities into space (no other currency). My main problem right now is finding trading markets for the last two commodities, and sources for the rare materials.


    If I recall correctly, you're going to see the same game engine in Star Saga Two.

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    1. Well....hell, man. I was thinking about taking a pass on it, given that it's not really a computer game, but I can't possibly do that after you've put in all this effort.

      Just out of curiosity, since you mention the "first 100 turns," how many turns would you say it takes to actually complete the game?

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    2. Haha, well, I just started exploring the unknown planets. I've looked at 6 out of 32. I'm going for full documentation of the game though, so copious notes that take hours to sort through.

      I remember finishing when I was kid in the 500's.

      As a kid though, I didn't take nearly as careful notes, and probably got lost multiple times. I'm searching the whole galaxy, and all this time as well.

      At a guess, you could probably finish in about 200 to 300 turns by careful note taking and planning. Also, it depends on which character you choose and which planets you find first.

      My first 100 turns, plus note taking, was about 9 hours. I made a couple of posts now. Basic Info and Introduction for the Professor. Working on the extra long story focused update now. Then I'm taking a break from the computer for a while.

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    3. I had a vague idea of surprising everyone by going back to SS1 and blasting through it in a couple of days to prepare myself for SS2, but form your posting, that suggests it'll take like 27 hours, so screw that.

      What I should do is move SS2 down the list a few games until your finish your series of blog postings on the first game.

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    4. You could always play more Nethack too. ;) Honestly, I'm not sure how long it'll take me to finish. With luck, by the end of this coming weekend.

      Spending less time documenting everything (I mean seriously everything, like combat, all page numbers for each option, available market commodities, available equipment purchases, all of this cross referenced in lists for planets, equipment, items, and turn by turn actions I've taken), you could probably get through your turns much quicker. Also, during those 9 hours I was eating, taking breaks, and not in a very good flow with the game.

      Of course, the game itself says that playing could take as long as 60 hours, but that's marketing and probably not too accurate.

      The following characters should be a lot quicker since I'll know nearly everything about the planets (except for special character specific actions of course).

      In any event, just don't jump to Curse of the Azure Bonds or Hero Quest please. I'd like to play those along with you.

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    5. Amusing note, you're the number 2 (second to Wikipedia) authoritative source of all things Star Saga One according to Google.

      Also, I'll have the post finishing up my 100 turns updated tonight hopefully. I've wrote it up, and need to review/edit it a couple of times and add some images. However, I probably won't be playing again until Wednesday; I need to spend some time playing my other game for the other blog. :)

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    6. Tutorial through exploring some of the Ghost Worlds (names printed on the map): http://sidequestsaga.blogspot.com/2012/07/star-saga-one-beyond-boundary-professor_01.html

      Up through turn 100, too lazy to cut it up anymore: http://sidequestsaga.blogspot.com/2012/07/star-saga-one-beyond-boundary-professor_02.html

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    7. Wow, I just noticed the header! Thank you very much for the exposure, but the pressure is sure on now to finish up the project. Four games should be plenty of time though, and I may even get through a few other characters.

      Let me know what you think of the current style of reporting on the game. I'm focusing more on the story as it comes rather than the actual options I get because, honestly, the options don't matter much if I'm exploring everything. Anyone with knowledge of the game should feel free to correct any errors or omissions, as I am summarizing a lot of text into what I hope is a manageable read.

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    8. Sorry, man. It was just that you gave me the perfect excuse to postpone. Don't rush yourself.

      I agree that you can't focus on the computer mechanics or options. My impression of the game is that it's like reading a huge book, and the only real options you get are whether to read all of it or just jump through to selected key parts.

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  44. I ran across a documented playthrough with a group of 6 characters. Not much info given, kind of bare bones, but it's another source to get an idea about the game.

    http://inky.org/wiki/index.php?title=Star_Saga

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    1. Last bit of info from my Google search. The artist (or someone claiming to be the artist) who did the illustrations for the game posted them on deviantart: http://willmclean.deviantart.com/

      The drawings from this game are clever and humorous in such a way that made the manuals fun to browse just for them.

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  45. I want to try this game in a group, but I have some concerns about the lack of player interaction. Would it break the game to have everyone read their adventures aloud? Otherwise it sounds rather lonely, reading in silence while everyone else waits for you to finish.

    An alternative would be to read only the initial description of a world, but never reveal the choices available there or their outcomes. Would that work?

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    1. There's no harm in reading out loud, although you might give away vital information for someone else's quest. That's only a concern if you're competing to see who can finish first.

      My impression is there's no overlap for resources or the quests. If one player gets a rare item, all players can get that rare item. This may not be true though.

      If done right, there's very little waiting unless one person has a lot of interaction with the computer, and another is just flying between planets. Most of the descriptions can be skimmed for pertinent information (usually appears at the end as actions).

      A player's turn is halted if interaction is required after a reading. This allows another player to jump in and take their turn while the other reads. In most cases, you'll jot down the reading material for reference, getting back to it while others plot their turns at the computer.

      The initial descriptions for each world hint at the actions available.

      I can only see this being a problem if you only have one computer for both the interactive portion and the documents.

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    2. In addition to the above, playing as suggested--withholding information except planet names, keeping your quest a secret-- feels like a multi-single player game rather than a multi-player one.

      I think it was meant to encourage more interaction, trading information, playing it close to the vest, giving misinformation, and preventing spoilers as the plot unfolds differently for each character.

      In the end you'll need to work together, so there's not much point in backstabbing (at least according to the inky.org play log above).

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    3. Thanks for the advice. We'll probably read the passages aloud during the tutorial, when players are required to follow preset plots. Once players start planning their own moves, we'll play the game as written for awhile, to see how it goes.

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  46. Next part of Star Saga journey as Professor Lee Dambroke: http://sidequestsaga.blogspot.com/2012/07/star-saga-one-beyond-boundary-from.html

    I've already beaten the game, 364 turns, 4909/5000 score. I figure I'll finish up the recap in two more posts. My initial summary wasn't too far off of the main quest.

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    1. Second to last post: http://sidequestsaga.blogspot.com/2012/07/star-saga-one-beyond-boundary-in-search.html

      Last entry coming by the weekend.

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    2. Last post is up: http://sidequestsaga.blogspot.com/2012/07/star-saga-one-beyond-boundary-going-for.html

      I hope it's helpful in understanding where you start at the beginning of Star Saga: Two. One thing I've noticed that was added are hit points for your ship and personal health. Makes me wonder if the combat is any more robust.

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    3. Thanks, man. I'll review in detail when I get a chance. I didn't expect you to finish so soon!

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    4. Well, it's taken quite a few months of on and off playing, but I'm finally through with this game. Time to get back to my main blog. Also waiting for me is that Hero's Quest review I was going to make back when you played the game, Chet.

      I hope the other characters give some additional background so you can decide which one catches your interest. Or, I suppose you could wait until I get through the sequel and just link to that, haha. I hope not though, as I enjoy reading your reviews since your writing is miles beyond my ability.

      Stoneseeker: http://sidequestsaga.blogspot.com/2012/08/star-saga-one-beyond-boundary-i-am.html

      Clerc: http://sidequestsaga.blogspot.com/2012/11/star-saga-one-beyond-boundary-clerc.html

      Darkwatch: http://sidequestsaga.blogspot.com/2012/12/star-saga-one-beyond-boundary-laran.html

      Turner: http://sidequestsaga.blogspot.com/2013/03/star-saga-one-beyond-boundary-mj-turner.html

      Stewart: http://sidequestsaga.blogspot.com/2013/03/star-saga-one-beyond-boundary-valentine.html

      Some notes on multi-player and random info that could be FAQ in the right format: http://sidequestsaga.blogspot.com/2013/03/star-saga-one-beyond-boundary-multi.html

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    5. Note: Stoneseeker is two parts, I forgot to link to the second: http://sidequestsaga.blogspot.com/2012/10/star-saga-one-beyond-boundary-i-am.html

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    6. I was half hoping you wouldn't finish until I was out of 1989 and then I wouldn't have to worry about SS2. But seriously, thanks. I'll read them over as I figure out what to do about the sequel.

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    7. Well, if you push it to the bottom with Keef, then I might finish my Star Saga Two posts before you get to it. Not sure if that would help you. I wonder which one you're looking forward to least.

      I just noticed you added Phantasy Star II to your list. Good luck with that one; it's currently ranked second to worst console RPG I've played through. Definitely a low point for that series, and not a good representation of console RPGs in my mind.

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  47. You know, I should have realized there would be a Star Saga One if there was a Star Saga II, but somehow I did not quite process that.

    About ten years ago I found a copy of Star Saga II at an auction and picked it up since I had never heard of it. It has to be the single most pristine second-hand game I have ever purchased. It looks like someone took the shrink-wrap off and then put it in a sturdy container for decades until it ended up at Gen-Con where I bought it. CRPGA, if you end up deciding to play the second one through, let us know if your business travels might take you within range of an authentic copy! Haha.

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    1. That's a lucky find. Is it for the Apple II or DOS? If you've played it, I'd like to get your opinion on the game since there are so little reviews around. I'm in the middle of a playthrough and so far I'd say the first is a better experience.

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    2. That is an entirely reasonable question! I do not know the answer; let me get back to you once I go look at it in storage at my parents' house in August, haha.

      (It was probably for DOS since I only collect games I can play on my 1995-era DOS machine for the most part, but considering I had never seen or heard of it before, and that it was in great shape, I might have grabbed it no matter what system it was for)

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  48. I am fortunate to have purchased the games when they came out. I have never written on the maps and they are almost pristine. They are as great as everyone says, and I have replayed them several times with various people. The role playing aspects are there with each of the six characters having a different assignment and goals.

    Yet it all ties in and the multiple players are not really opposed during the quests (but also one winner, by score).

    I typically have a large table with chairs somewhere away from the computer where the board is laid out and everyone plots their moves and key information they read. The booklets are kept there as well. The trips to the computer are quick... enter ones plotted move, get a result and go read about it. One computer is plenty to serve all six players.

    The writing is 85% excellent. The story is deep and involved, as well as very creative. The opposition is real and ones choices matter. Everyone is a winner in the end (unless dead) but there is also a high score among the six (or less). Solitaire play is possible (and fun).

    This game is important historically as a whole branch of creative role playing game that was simply abandoned. The influence of mega toy makers was pretty brutal (still is) and the world wasn't ready for something this deep and creative.

    EE_Worzelle

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    1. I find the writing in the second game took a slight decline with a lot of repetition, and the experience on the whole feels rushed (no real final battle). Maybe they already saw the writing on the wall and need to ship the game.

      It's definitely obscure, but I'd say definitively in the interactive fiction genre and less in the RPG.

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  49. Having played recently, I can add some experiences to the above. Typically a game with skilled players goes about 300 turns. When replaying the planets and options on each planet are all the same, but where all but a few of the planets are changes every game. No single or even few planets give everything you need. It takes time to move across the map so you need to plot your moves carefully and think ahead. Game play can be tricky. While I do not strictly disagree with the reply to my last post, it would be a mistake, I think, to call this game one thing or from one genre. For example it was the first genuinely multiplayer game I ever played on a computer. For those of us who have played multiple times it is much more of a board game and it also matters what character you are playing because progress, beyond a certain point, is stopped unless you play your character well. It is not cut-throat. It is difficult (but possible) to die, and I would recommend waiting enough time between games so you actually choose to read the material. In terms of game play, in addition to the objectives one is working toward, different minerals (which are effectively your money in 12+ varieties) need to be collected in varying amounts to have enough, when you need it, to buy what you require. Space is very limited, so you have to spend and buy things you need in order to make room to acquire what you need to then buy something else you also need. Management of resources by the player can range anywhere from poor to excellent. Definitely the game, by experienced players, is played at the board, figuring out what to do next and how to do it. The computer is the game master, reflects the board in perfect detail and keeps track of every character skill, characteristic and inventory.

    I spoke with Andrew Greenburg (truth) once when Masterplay was still alive and (in describing the Starsaga 2 game I was buying at that time) versus Starsaga I, he indicated that there were fewer planets in 2 than in 1, but there was actually a lot more there in terms of game play. I agree. The second game is much more intricate with stages and intermediate goals, deeply tied with the story. There is also a bit more text in 2 than in 1.

    It is interesting to note that after playing the game so many times that such a simple computer game (it fit entirely on a single 240kB floppy drive) had no flaws I ever detected and never once lost track of where each player was in the game, physically or in terms of inventory, health, accomplishments, etc. As a code developer (by profession - not games) I was very impressed.

    I hope Andrew is proven correct in his vision because, moving into retirement soon, I would love to play more games like this... deep, creative, challenging in a fictional sort of way and fun.

    I call this a role playing game and believe talking about it here, in this forum is very on-topic... because it is all about the character. While there is a deep and interesting Starsaga universe that the player explores, everything that happens is about what happens with the player's character, his or her abilities, equipment and accomplishments. The story, while relatively great, is secondary. This is a game system or rather game philosophy created by Andrew Greenburg and others. It still would work in todays environment of beautiful graphics and hundreds of names in the game credits, and in fact it would work better, but it would not be a click-fest or constant killing. Instead it would be about decisions and choices. Even if I should, I have no moral objections to games that kill almost everything in sight... I simply prefer a game like Starsaga where that is not the only role one must play. Yeah there are weapons and ships with weapons and foes, but that is not all of it, not even close.

    EE_Worzelle

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    1. Can you explain how you can die in Star Saga One? I couldn't find a way, and I tried.

      On genre, character development is not the focus in this game. Your character doesn't get better at things; he or she finds or purchases abilities and equipment. The focus as I see it is on uncovering the plot and meeting your goals.

      You can role-play in many games, some easier than others, but if you want to talk about games that are like one another, then it's best to call this interactive fiction. That's where you're most likely to find similar games. There are some very deep IF games out there that give a lot of choices and options, but you won't find many similar to this if you keep looking for a CRPG. It's just the way the two genres have evolved.

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    2. EE, I really appreciate your recollections in this thread. It's always great to hear from someone passionate about a game.

      Playing the game felt very much like reading one of those old "Choose Your Own Adventure" books to me, with the addition of some basic inventory. I'm afraid it really didn't connect with me at all, and I declined to finish it or to play its sequel.

      We've talked a lot in various forums about how the "role-playing" part of "computer role-playing game" is a bit of a misnomer. The reason that "computer role-playing games" are called that, especially in the early era, is because they adopted the statistics, inventories, and combat mechanics of tabletop RPGs--NOT because it was really possible to "play a role." In consequence, interactive fiction games like this one have more to do with "role-playing" than actual RPGs.

      The problem is that what I'm addicted to is not the idea of living in the skin of Professor Greenberg or Captain McDonald, but rather the inventory, character development, and combat. Thus, I found Star Saga a little tedious. I think I would have rather just read it as a book.

      But ultimately I decided to stop playing simply because it's hard to regard it as a COMPUTER game, since you spend almost all your time off the computer.

      Still, I'm thinking perhaps I should give it another go. Your comments made me realize that there is perhaps more to inventory and combat than I realized, since I didn't make it very far in my first outing.

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    3. CRPG Addict - Thanks, it does take some patience (as an investment richly returned) to actually love this game. It also took some time to love the game mechanics... they are not as simple in practice as they appear at first to be... not if you try to shave off time while accomplishing objectives and winning points, like the other players are doing. Doing something 10 turns faster is key. Skipping some things can save time, but not if you end up needing to return unnecessarily. Some equipment and benefits are one of a kind... these games had it all... but just a little bit of what it could have become if there were 20 more games by Andrew and team following it.

      Yeah, it is not really just a computer game. Unlike most computer games, the computer only does computing, randomization and databasing. It makes a skimpy computer game but a genuinely great board game. Where they found space in the game to manage randomness I don't have a clue. Other games have interface, graphics and all interaction directly with the screen. Those are what take up the space.

      Zenic Reverie - LOL. I realize we see the game differently and you want to classify it as interactive fiction.

      For me, sincerely, it is about the character you play, its abilities... i.e. who and what you are (in the game). A great example is the Gen, Dargen... line of... ordeals. All the really great games, IMHO are about character... just as we are all continually finding out about who and what we are in life. To classify games, there is a fine line, mainly about focus. For example I consider DA Origins to be about character while DA 2 was not so much... mainly more playing time and (not so deep) story. Most games are a mix, but it goes to the heart of what role playing is. I do not see it as pretending, I see it as making the hard-core "real" choices we make in several pretend situations that the game provides. "You are what you do..." Quato. Your capabilities and orientation are part of that, as well as, secondarily, equipment and skills. It could also be said that what you do, and even what you can do are a product of who and what you are. Please do not think I am arguing against or disputing the points you have made. I accept your perspectives and see their genuine validity. My vision sees what is there and also what it could have become... Because of boards like this that might not be lost.

      Oh, (mild spoiler alert) in the first game you die by jumping to the floor (you have to be there in the game to know what I mean). It happened to my buddy the first time he played. There are lots of ways to die in the second.

      EE_Worzelle

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    4. If you're talking about Arthlan, I jumped on the floor and still escaped (no abilities). I cataloged all the passages and options of the first game, and only one suggests you die, but not permanently. Maybe I missed something though, I'll try it soon and ensure I have no equipment.

      I just finished one character through the second game and it does seem more likely the character can die, so I've been playing it a bit more cautiously. Like the first, I'm going through to catalog the experience. It's too bad they never made a third. Apparently they had a name picked out everything. I wonder what kind of notes they had on it.

      I will say that I felt less involved in the Brotherhood line in the second game. The same kind of choices aren't there. The same involvement is not there. It turned into little more than a fetch quest. This in combination with other subtle changes to the mood is why I have the sense the product was on the decline or this was rushed.

      I don't have strong feelings about genre, and the bases for my opinion here is:

      1) The glossary of the second game calls it interactive literature -- I equated that to the more commonplace interactive fiction.
      2) For those interested in finding games like this you're more likely to find them labeled as interactive fiction.

      Like Chet said, the CRPG genre has generally focused on statistics and combat simulation. That's not to say there aren't ones with story, some more interactive than others, it's just the way things have worked out. Games can and often do include many facets, so trying to evenly lump all games into a specific genre won't work. I use genre in hopes to link similar games. So, when I say this game is interactive fiction and not a CRPG, I'm not saying one is better than the other... I'm saying if you want a similar experience, then play more interactive fiction.

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    5. Following up to confirm that you don't die by jumping to the floor on Arthlan. Let me know if it's another planet and how to trigger the sequence of events if you find it.

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    6. If you have levitation or one other ability you do not die... I think it is the one that lets you see a few moments into the future. If you have no extra-ability protection, you die.

      EE_Worzelle

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  50. I do not remember wheter it was Arthlan but the name sounds familiar. If that was the one with the bell, etc., that isn't it. It is the one with the silo and the interrupted pattern of craters.

    Humm, I should have signed up here. I thought I would only be one or two posts of my experience with this game and then go back into "read mode". My views are a bit different than most other gamers and their views are at least as valid as mine. Rpgs, in my view, ane entirely about decisions, not player dexterity or speed of object recognition on a computer screen. I play hybrid action/rpgs because that is all that is being made. Some are pretty fun. There are many places imagination can go... and should go if we as a species are going to become all we are capable of. Sometimes movies stretch us, but rarely and even more rarely in a positive way. Games are not just a competition or a way to stroke our ego. At their best they are a way to share our dreams and they are not and should not be limited to children's toys. The idea of games being toys or competition is incomplete to say the least. As a means of sincerly exploring who and what we are, Starsaga was a valliant early attempt. Games that encrust human jealousies, vengence and other limitations might be fun, but as far as stretching the imagination goes, going beyond being merely a toy, most get a 0. Toys are fine, but ah, the potentialities...

    EE_Worzelle

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    1. I actually agree with most of what you said.

      Except, I just tried it, no abilities (except Confuse Enemy Computers because you can't leave Gironde without it) and my character did not die (you do lose some phases recovering in sick bay). There are a couple pieces of equipment that prevent setting off the bomb: Technology Nulifier and Anti-Energy Field. Whurffle is the ability that lets you see into the future.

      The planet with the bell is in Star Saga Two.

      Also, I'm not sure why Andrew said there were less planets in two. By shear number there are more. I'm going to marathon the game this weekend and see if I can't hammer out a few posts. I'm organizing the second game a little differently by dividing the story more into modules. It seems to fit the style of the game a bit more than it would the first, which had a more open exploration (and less impending doom).

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    2. Not sure what to say about dying in 1. My buddy definitely did die there, no question, and I believe I did early on (shortly after buying the game as well). I remember the store where I bought it. It was a computer SW store, in a mall. I went there a lot and bought it shortly after it came out. I didn't think there were versions of this game but maybe. There was never a patch (nor a need for one that I saw). Neither of us have any motive to lie, so it is simply a fact that the game you have and I have are behaving differently. There is even an article in the book you read, after dying, that talks about starting over with the same or a different character. I never downloaded it off the web. I am using the program that came with the game back in '87. I copied it to 3 1/2" floppy (from 5 1/4" that came with the game) on a computer with both kinds of floppy and then from 3 1/2" in to hard drive later. I was always careful to transfer it to each new computer I got.

      I agree with your assessment, Zenic, about phases. Actually both games seem to go in phases, which makes them more fun (change in goals and strategy mid-game). The games could definitely be improved upon, but they are pretty cool. Have fun this weekend.

      EE_Worzelle

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    3. Maybe there's a difference between DOS and Apple II versions then? I think all versions I've seen say 1.0, but who knows. I know the manual mentions character death and having to start over, but I chalked that up to a planned feature that never made it into the final game. There's even mention of a piece of equipment, E.C.M., which isn't in the game either.

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    4. Hi Worzelle; hope you see this. I've finished my third character in Star Saga Two, and I can't find a way for my character to die. Yes health dips incredibly close (I have a screen shot at 1 ship and 1 personal), but after that point the game forces you to wait and heal up to 20. If you remember how, let me know.

      I'm waiting to post about the game until I've finished everything. Hopefully the reviews will be a little more organized and compact this way. There aren't a lot of interesting screenshots to break up the walls of text.

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  51. Hello, Zenic Reverie,

    I hope you are not upset because you didn't die in the game. One way I died (very minor spoiler alert) in SS2 is to walk into the captain's room without a super space suit (minor because it tells you not to do that... but had to try).

    There is a vast potential for a game system, such as this was an early version of, without dexterity clicking based upon the wisdom (or not) of ones decisions in the game. Between 1 computer, a playing board, an app in everone's cell phone (or tablet) and major events shown on the computer screen, it could all be done visually now, along with tables, charts, status, etc. for each character tracking everything. Even Starsaga could be put into that format. That, in essence, is a great, non-action, rpg with a physical, external plsying board.

    Thank you for the existence of this forum and an opportunity to express love for this wonderful and promising channel of (abandoned) game system development.

    Even as old as it is, if you manage to land a copy, the game is still lots of fun.

    EE_Worzelle

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    Replies
    1. What captain's room? The only one I know of is in SS1 on FLN-1. The DOS version doesn't let you choose that option without the suit.

      More and more I'm getting the sense that the DOS version is a second generation, and the Apple II was a lot harsher.

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    2. It is not between the "DOS version" and the "Apple II" version. The version I have is also DOS, but perhaps it is earlier than yours because I bought SSI off the shelf when first offered and SSII on the day it was released, directly from Masterplay (when I had the honor of briefly speaking with Andrew Greenburg for a few minutes). There may be a different EA version, versus Masterplay version, since both games were re-released by EA after it purchased the dying company remnants from Masterplay. There may also be two Masterplay versions. I am sorry if you have a "softened" version in some sense and didn't want that. I can sense your pain and am sorry if those subsequently "fixing" the game destroyed it to some degree. Toy companies do not understand the appeal of "deep imagination", role-playing games like this to an adult market and do silly things like make Outpost II an action game, etc. Its a relatively untapped market with a high, non-toy, demand, which is why games from as far back as the eighties such as this can still have broad appeal. That is especially a blunder because the appeal of adult games starts at 13 or 14. Movies have figured this out and have stopped making movies like about Batman or Superman silly, for example, but current games (many of which are great in their own way - no criticism) lag far behind and still focus almost entirely on the mindless and shallow (repetition, frantic clicking, shallow stories, lame and trite ethics, etc., as might be appropriate, or sometimes inappropriate, for young children). They attempt to "mature" games by making games ugly or gross rather than deep, which is a wrong direction. I loved the depth of this game (in spite of some silliness in a few places) and recommend it. It is fine wine versus a sea of soda pop.

      EE_Worzelle

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    3. While I'm a bit sad I'm playing on a possibly "easy" version, I'm more curious to know why the difference exists at all. In cataloging the game, I'm not sure if claiming "you can't die" is correct anymore. It's a bit strange that the passages make no mention of any of the deaths though. How were they handled in the game? Do you just get a "you shouldn't have done that" screen? More offensive, if they did change an aspect of the game, they failed to change the version number from 1.0.

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    4. When you die in the game it led to an article for the action that killed you, describing (with some drama) how you, perhaps barely, did yourself in. Then it would lead to another article that said you had died and to suggest starting over, including being able to play the first n turns (up to where the others were at) at once. That was also used when another player was, for example, not at a particular session but the other players played ahead anyway. Then, when he or she had time they could catch up. When my friend and I were playing and he died, we just stopped there. I have never played where some players get out of sync, but it is allowed according to the instructions. There is a disadvantage to a player catching up in that way because any 1 time only items and events are gone, if others did them, but since the planet locations haven't changed that is kind of counterbalance for it.

      EE_Worzelle

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  52. Now that was interesting. I absolutely love CYOA type books and didn't know there exists such a hybrid using the PC. I still play these games today, having collected some of the Fighting Fantasy and Lone Wolf reissues besides some books that "survived" my childhood.

    ReplyDelete

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