Thursday, March 29, 2012

RTFM

To probably no one's surprise, Frenchmen Street has proved more alluring than Sentinel Worlds, so I haven't gotten any playing done this week. But I did want to respond, while the idea was fresh in my mind, to an e-mail I got from someone whose anonymity I'll preserve unless he wants to post a comment to this entry.

The writer of this e-mail was so angry at my coverage of The Bard's Tale II and The Bard's Tale III that I wonder if he married one of the developers. 

"You excoriated two excellent games," he begins, "and for no other reason than your own ignorance." He goes on to note that my professed reason for abandoning II was that I didn't realize I had to hit "save" to save my progress, rather than just returning to the Adventurer's Guild, as in the first game. "The only reason you stopped playing was that you didn't want to do the first two dungeons over again."

But his real venom is for III. I repeatedly blogged about having to wait forever for spell points to recharge, and indeed cited it as the primary reason for leaving the game. What I failed to note, however, "is that EVERY dungeon has magic squares that recharge your spell points. You could have just stood in the dungeon for a few minutes, and you would have been back at full strength."

"Thousands of people [ed: Really? Awesome!]," he concludes, "are going to read your blog and conclude that these games have no merit, all because you couldn't be bothered to RTFM."

Challenge accepted! I thought, and immediately opened up the manual for The Bard's Tale III, fully prepared to point out haughtily that there's nothing about spell-recharging squares in it. Except that there is. Bollocks. And having to hit "save" in II? That's in the manual, too. So as much as the e-mail seemed a little strong in its reaction to my write-ups of 30-year-old video games, the author is 100% correct, and I have no leg to stand on. I still didn't like the games, but might I have suffered them long enough to find their better points if I'd been armed with more facts? Probably.

The Bard's Tale sequels are not the only games to have suffered from my overlooking a game play element. Sometimes the effects are only somewhat annoying, as when I didn't realize I could adjust the color in Might & Magic or the horrible game font in Demon's Winter. Other times, they've caused me to prematurely leave the game, as when I thought sleep led inevitably to permanent death in Swords of Glass. There have been times that you've saved me from my ignorance: I might have lambasted Dungeon Master for not offering a "pause" option if commenter Menetekel hadn't set me straight.

I wish I'd had commenters the first time I played Baldur's Gate II and didn't realize that one of the keys (ALT maybe?) highlighted containers that you could open and search. I was hovering my mouse over every likely container on the screen, and I often missed unconventional ones like refuse piles and tree hollows. I believe I didn't discover the "FIX" command until halfway through Curse of the Azure Bonds. And I was several hours into Skyrim before I realized what "favoriting" an item did.

So to the anonymous ranter, I apologize. The Bard's Tales II and III might suck, but clearly not as bad as I originally reviewed them. I shall resolve to read manuals more thoroughly from now on. 

While you're waiting for me to get sick of vodka gimlets and jazz, what are your stories about major gameplay elements you missed until late in the game?

117 comments:

  1. Brave post, appreciated.

    I tried to play the Realms of Arkania games without thoroughly understanding the ruleset (That's right, a whole paper and pencil German dungeons and dragons inspired game is the backbone of that trilogy) thinking 'meh, how different is it going to be to AD&D second edition?'. Big mistake.

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  2. I applaud that you admitted this in public.

    But wow, that guy's kind of a jerkass.

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    1. I originally thought so, but then I thought about how I'd have reacted if some blogger had said that he hated Ultima IV because there was no way to cure poison except to go to a healer, and you were likely to die before you reached one.

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    2. Well this is basically true for a while. I remember getting so frustrated getting to the shrine nearest Britain (compassion?) before I was able to cure myself. This brought back a very funny memory of my first few hours with this game.

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  3. I played several hours of Spells of Gold (2002, so it's going to be a long time before you get to it) unable to work out how to acquire and cast spells. It turns out that this is not documented, which is a ludicrous oversight.

    In case you dimly remember this by the time you get to the game, I quote from Dave Brine (aka Windshear):

    "In order to buy spells, and thus become a mage, go to a magic school [...] and click on the STUDY button. Then push the TAB button to access the available spells. Click on them to buy them. When you get outside a town, push the S button, select the spell you want and click on it. To cast a spell, aim at an enemy, and right click on them."

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    1. I'm sure you just saved me a load of frustration. I added a note to my master game list to return to this comment when I get to it.

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    2. We could add a rule that before quitting games you have to reread the manual-- Such time should count towards your 6 hours, but would save you such embarrassment in the future.

      I really don't think it would have changed the outcome in either case though.

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    3. That's actually a really good idea. The manual, and the introduction of a walkthrough or something.

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    4. Sounds good; If you aren't going to keep playing it, you could even read through the walkthrough and use it in your rating.

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    5. Spells of gold will probably earn 'worst game of 2002'.

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  4. I had a tough time checking my statuses in Skyrim for a long long time. The manual didn't even clear it up very much, but it's pretty much only a warranty card stapled to a map of the controls.

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  5. I'm actually playing Baldur's Gate for the first time right now and I... I didn't know you could highlight containers.

    Thanks CRPG Addict!

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  6. Highlighting of containers and such isn't available in straight Baldurs Gate 2, it's added in the Throne of Bhaal expansion (via the TAB key)

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  7. Considering the games you are playing - old school RPGs - many of them from DOS, reading the manual is ESSENTIAL. I honestly assumed you were doing so for all the games you were playing. I know that when I first played these games when they released I had to pour over the manuals to figure things out.

    You've probably been spoiled by modern gaming like the rest of us. I know I assume when I play old games now that the game should be TELLING me things, or what buttons to hit. In reality, for the era you are covering, developers assumed the gamer had read their big fancy manual before starting the game up. That is why so many of those manuals were written in awesome or in-universe ways.

    It is always embarrassing to realize you screwed up because you simply didn't read the instructions, but good on you for admitting to messing up in public. It's probably best to make a point of thoroughly reading the manuals for each game from now on - after all, they were a part of the experience of the game at that time with stories, maps, and world-building, plus tips usually.

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    1. Of course I read the manuals. But until you start playing, you don't know what half the stuff in the manuals means, and by the time it's important, you've forgotten a lot of it.

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    2. Ah. Okay. I kind of figured you did. Most of the old DOS games are impossible to figure out otherwise.

      You just aren't doing the geeky thing we all did back when we were playing these for the first time - read the manual cover to back once before playing, then take the manual to school to read during the day everyday until we got bored of the game!

      You're right about stuff not making sense the first time - reading the manual again after you've played awhile was usually necessary.

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  8. Another thing you might do is ask for help. What I mean is, if you reach your six hours and think the game is impossible or too difficult, consider doing a post calling for folks to give you helpful hints. Explain why you aren't finishing and see if anyone can offer any aid that might change your mind. If they can't, then you are fully justified.

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    1. This didn't seem to help with the many posts on BTIII, and he's just now receiving an email regarding magic regenerating spaces. I can't imagine it'd be any more helpful once he gets to more obscure games.

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    2. Trickster over at The Adventure Gamer gives us points when we sucessfully help him, and keeps a running tally in the sidebar. I have a few for DOSBOX and blog related help, but it basically got him through a few of the worst games.

      But yeah, I think people have proven they are willing to help; Why don't you have an "I'm about to leave the game for X reasons" post 5 hours in, then leave it for 24 hours, let people try and help you out, give it another hour and then make your decision?

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    3. I think this would be the best thing to do: delegate. You could include a section in each of your articles, listing the things that you find frustrating, someone who knows the game well could then help (And get points. And goodies).

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  9. I always read the manual twice. The first just to get an overview and basic understanding, and the second time after I've played for an hour or so. That way I refresh my knowledge based on experience. I often find the second time it makes a lot more sense.

    Most of the DOS games relied on the player having the manual as a reference. Some games become unplayable without the manual.

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    1. That's the key: once at the beginning, and once more after you've got some playing experience.

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    2. I just managed to repeat exactly what you said while contributing nothing.

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    3. You just repeated exactly what he said while contributing nothing.

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    4. Yes, but you said much more succinctly.

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    5. I just got a call from the department of redundancy department. They said to tell you that they called. So now I'm telling you that they called.

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    6. The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy. There is now a redundant redundancy department.

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  10. Did those magic regeneration squares in BTIII REALLY recharge you "in a few minutes"? I clearly remember the regen squares in BTII simply doubling your rate of magic regeneration. So if that's what they did in BTIII, then it probably would've reduced your waiting by one half, which still would have been an inordinately long time given that you were spending an hour away from the game simply to recharge.

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    1. Can't speak for BT3 but in BT2 it was definitely the case.

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  11. I just finished Darklands, then watched some videos on youtube and found out that DOSBox can be configured to make the game run twice as fast as the (what I now see as) terribly slow speed I was playing it at. I also made the exact same mistake with Elder Scrolls 1, both after probably 50+ hours of gameplay >.>

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  12. As others have pointed out, the manuals back then were necessary (and occasionally fun)... not so much nowadays, especially since so many games don't even come with much of a manual anymore -- who has time to READ?! My opinion, though, is that if a game is bad enough to give up on, I doubt regenerating magic tiles would have been enough to make it worth your time on...

    But back to your question... Major gameplay elements that I missed on? One I can remember is not necessarily late in the game, but I was simply too excited to play Ultima VII to read the manual first... then when the copyright control questions came up, I finally took a look... And I'm glad I did, sheesh! Some of the controls were non-intuitive to me back then. (I do have a vague memory of reading the installation guide and having a tough time saving 30k more of RAM. Aggggh).

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  13. The first few times I played Magic: The Gathering (the collectible card game), I interpreted the rules so that you could only cast one spell during your turn and only attack with one creature per turn (and also that you could attack monsters). Now this probably says nothing if you aren't familiar with MtG (you can cast as many spells as you have mana, and you can attack once, but with as many creatures as you have, and you attack players, not their creatures.)

    The game lasted for hours and hours. I think we had five players or so in the same game as well (typically, it's a two player game). Good times. Kind of. The actual rules turned out to be much more fun to play.

    --Eino

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    1. The first few times I played Magic I thought tapped mana stayed tapped. I was about 8 at the time.

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  14. As a fellow blogger, I totally feel your pain. I regularly complain about the adventure games I'm playing being illogical, or a particular puzzle not making any sense at all, only for one of the readers to point out that I missed something vital in the game. Sometimes this is due to the game not making this piece of critical information readily available to the player, but other times there's no-one to blame but myself.

    I don't think there has been a case though where no-one has pointed out my ignorance until after I've ripped the game a new one. Given how long you spent on the Bard's Tale games, I'm surprised someone didn't help you out earlier.

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    1. I first heard about spell-point-recharging squares in one of the comments to my final posting, where it was a bit late. Judging by what some of the other people are saying here, maybe they're not as helpful as my e-mail ranter suggests.

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  15. I only read manuals in the the toilet, thus is there's no printed manual, there's no chance to read it.

    CRPG Addict, i applaud you for being so nice to a rabid fanboy. And i loved the [ed:] interjection. Reminded me of Amiga Power magazine

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    1. That's one of the only usage I could find for my Ipad: read pdfs in the toilet.
      The other one is reading in the dark when my significant other is sleeping (it also does a nice job at destroying my eyesight).

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    2. I was just thinking "I wonder if people will be reading on their iPads in the toilet in the future", when I was reading the OP.

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  16. When first playing "The Worlds Greatest CRPG" (Wizardry 8), I was almost 1/3 through the game before I realized my bard was not going to gain magician spells, but rather, they had weaponized his instruments. Oh, the deaths I could have avoided on the Arnika road if only I realized I had a fireball generator on hand!

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    1. Ha! I had the same experience.

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    2. Is Wizardry 8 really that good? Or do the quotes more that it's thought of, or hyped as, the greatest CRPG, but perhaps isn't...?

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    3. *mean* more that it's thought of...

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    4. Wiz 8 is definitely worth a play. It is also definitely NOT the world's greatest CRPG (even if you "adjust for tech inflation"). On an adjusted basis, BG2:Shadows of Amn or Ultima IV are probably the winners. More recently, Fallout 3 and Mass Effect 2 are in the absolute "don't miss these" category. Even people who don't like "space games" should play Mass Effect 2.

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    5. I really loved Wizardy 8 ... a very rich, huge world, with good implementation of the "faction" element found in so many games. I liked the weird steampunk aspects (missles, guns, spells, enchanted musical instruments, etc.) ... lots of hidden little things around the game world. Some very good dialog. Great game engine for its time, still pretty fun to play. Some builds seemed incredibly broken though.

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    6. Wizardry 8 was a great mix of strategic battles and standard, old-school RPG elements. I think the classes were fairly well balanced, the world was fun to explore and the challenge level was fairly high. It's definitely in my top 5 for all time on the PC.

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    7. Wiz 8 was the best Wizardry by a mile, with vastly improved graphics and class development. However it wasn't perfect: endless battles with new enemy mobs coming in were perhaps its worst feature. Nevertheless, one of the *fairest* CRPGs in terms of combat -tough but you always felt that playing it ironman was a realistic option except for bugs and the rare action sequence.

      An excellent game, and I'll rebuy it if GOG ever get around to licensing it.

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    8. I wasn't kidding; IMHO Wiz 8 is the absolute peak of the CRPG pyramid. Not without it's flaws (that damned Rapax castle is the worst grind I've ever encountered!) But I just paid for it a second time, having worn out my origninal disks AND lost my HDD backup to corruption. Used copies in the US are way overpriced, but the game still sells in Europe and EBAY has many reasonably priced copies for sale from England.

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    9. Thanks for all the info, guys. :)

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    10. I LOVE Wiz 8! Still playing it over 10 years later. But man, that Arnika Road...

      "Yo Dog, I heard you like encounters, so here's an encounter while you're having an encounter!"

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    11. I'm another fan of Wizardry 8. It's old school without being annoyingly obtuse. The game setting doesn't really make sense, being a weird mix of sci-fi and fantasy elements, but the gameplay and character building is so much fun that I'm willing to excuse the strangeness of the gameworld.

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  17. For what it's worth, I played BT3 through to the end and I don't remember SP regen squares! Waiting for minutes sounds less annoying than waiting for hours...but still annoying.

    In BT3 I would hammer the "walk forward" key repeatedly to make SP regenerate more quickly. There are places where you can keep running forever without having to turn - the overworld wraps around, or you can kick in and out of buildings in town.

    Or, when I went up or down a *portal* (the kind you need levitation for), that never triggered combat, but it did count as time passing for regenerating spell points (if Rhyme of Duotime is going). So I would repeatedly go up and down and up and down to regenerate faster than just waiting.

    This was all on the (emulated) C64 version, which also seemed to have more plentiful harmonic gems than what you experienced in the DOS version.

    More recently...in Demon's Souls, it took me *ages* to find the people in the Nexus who sell spells!

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  18. The (F)ix command in the later (after PoR) gold box games, I think it was Dragonlance, But I went through 1/4 of the game healing the "Old Fashioned" way, 1 char at a time, sleep and repeat.. :)

    -So great to have you back

    -Atom

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  19. BT 3 for the record was seriously bugged.
    The Amiga version had the best sound/color, but lacked some of the animations(weak port), The PC version lacked both sound and GFX, and also had the harmonic Gem + specials Bug. The ST version Had a bug that cost you Epic XP (in a boss fight thing.

    Only the C64 version got the gameplay right, and included animations (less colorful then Amiga/ST, But Animated!!) in 4 frames of awesome!

    Bottom line for Retro replay go C64 (or Amiga, for colorful but non-animated gameplay)

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    1. Over in the Adventurer's Guild forum under Developer's Heaven), someone calling himself "drifting" has recently posted patched versions of BT3 for DOS that reportedly fix most of the bugs (including the low drop rate of harmonic gems).

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  20. I read an interview with the developer of Bard's Tale I and III, she basically stated that Bard's Tale is the result of one of the designers ripping off the source code for BT1 and slapping his own graphics on it.

    The interview is/was on Gamasutra, but I don't have a link handy. So whatever scorn is heaped upon Bard's Tale II is probably richly deserved.

    "I wish I'd had commenters the first time I played Baldur's Gate II and didn't realize that one of the keys (ALT maybe?) highlighted containers that you could open and search."

    Oh...oh god. :(

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    1. I think I read this interview. It was with Burger Bill: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rebecca_Heineman

      Here is the interview: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/6243/the_burger_speaks_an_interview_.php

      I think the reference you're looking for is on page 4.

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  21. Another RTFM thing in Dungeon Master: you complained a lot about how you take damage from walking into walls but "had" to do so in order to find illusionary walls.

    You can just click on them. Clicking on a wall "knocks" it to see if it's real, in all versions of DM except the very earliest Atari ST release.

    (You could also throw objects at walls, but that's tedious. Gives ninja levels though.)

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    1. Initially, you couldn't bang on the walls in the Amiga version either. They didn't implement this until v3.6. Ditto for drinking from fountains. You couldn't directly drink from them until 3.6 (or at all on Atari ST), you had to fill a water skin at the fountain and then drink that. I'm pretty sure that all versions for PC (if there were multiple versions for that platform) included the wall banging though.

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    2. No, I'm not taking a hit on this one. I DID learn about clicking on the walls, but in order to do so, you had to a) turn and face the wall, which took an extra keystroke; b) transfer control from keyboard to mouse; and c) trust that the sound system on your emulator wouldn't choose that moment to glitch.

      Taking damage from bumping into walls was still a dumb gameplay element even if there was an alternative.

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    3. >b) transfer control from keyboard to mouse

      ...Do what on the who? Are you playing a primarily mouse-controlled game with a keyboard or something? No wonder you bashed the UI. Can't you just play one hand on the WASD and the other on the mouse like everyone else?

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    4. Anonymous, this predates WASD standardization by almost half a decade. The gameplay was designed primarily for mouse control, with large buttons on the screen to perform actions. But having to click on a button for every single step and turn you want to take gets tedious, it is much easier to use the arrow keys on the keyboard for movement. But I don't think there was much for keyboard shortcuts for most of the rest of the interface.

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    5. >Anonymous, this predates WASD standardization by almost half a decade.

      I know, but it's clearly meant to be played the same way, one hand always on keyboard, the other always on mouse. You're not supposed to use only one or the other, and I can't imagine why anyone would even try that except if they only have one working hand.

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    6. That's the way I play because I'm a righty. The arrow keys are on the right side, and so is my mouse. I could remap the keys, but never bothered to. So for me, it's either mouse or keyboard as well. :P

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    7. Why not just move the keyboard a little bit to the left?

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    8. It's on a keyboard tray. I managed to beat DM and CSB many times regardless.

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    9. I guess in my case it was more an issue of I play these old games on two monitors--one for the game, one for my Excel sheet in which I create the maps. So I usually have the mouse over on the Excel side. When I have to stop to click in the game window, I've got to move the pointer over a full screen.

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    10. Checking for illusionary walls was not really required in Dungeon Master, but it will be in Chaos Strikes Back, though.
      That game is a mapper's dream/nightmare. I just hope for Chet's sake that the modern PC version has included the Magic Map. The Amiga version had it, but the original Atari ST version on which the PC version is based, didn't.
      The game is hard enough with the Magic Map; I can only imagine how hard is must be without.
      Anyway, CSB is still one of my all time favourites even after replaying it (Amiga version) some months ago. Eye of the Beholder OTOH bored me rather quickly.

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  22. Heh, learning things about old games.

    http://xkcd.com/667/

    And for me personally, 2 things come to mind. First, Star Command. When we first got the game(I must of been around 8 years old), I went through the whole create characters, buying equipment, putting together a ship, and then got completely stuck. There was the menu option to leave the starport, but it did some sort of error message that I didn't catch and wouldn't let me leave. (The message speed was prob. because the default time delay was too low, so it displayed and vanished quickly). Finally, I gave up on the game for a year or so. Then, coming back, I discovered that the newly purchased ship didn't come with fuel, and had to be fueled up first(which doesn't cost anything in the starport anyway, why not just spawn the new ship fully fueled, but that's seperate).

    Second thought was Zork. My dad started with it first, none of us had any familiarity. He got to the front of the house, and spent 5 minutes trying to do anything with the nailed shut front door before giving up. I managed to walk around the house(he hadn't realized the travel directions were available when the text didn't say so). Then I was stymied until finding the hints in the game. I probably didn't get through much of that game without the hints.

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    1. There's a relevant XKCD for everything.

      Thanks for the tips; I'm about to play Star Command.

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    2. I had included some previous information/gameplay tips before and it sounds like you avoided the fueling one already.

      Oh yes, considering where you left off in Star Command:
      - don't underestimate hand weapons, at least against the insects. Pirates always have guns, and can do decent damage to your squad. But the crews on Insect Scoutships only have claw attacks(2 square reach vs. your adjacent melee range), but are slow enough to be easy to run away from or chase down.
      - Grenades are cheap and don't require much skill to be accurate. They make decent backup weapons in case your normal ranged gun gets broken.
      - And burst weapons(ROCKETS, grenades, flamers) can hit entire groups of enemies; they are much more efficient. But leave at least one person with a single target weapon to help cleanup a lone survivor in a group.

      Have you noticed what the character stats primarily affect?
      - Strength mostly is carrying capacity(if you want good armor AND heavy weapons, you need to carry at least 25-30kg). It also helps limit fatigue buildup(where you lose the ability to attack that round).
      - Speed divided by a constant(can't remember 4 or 6) is the number of squares you can move; your group can move at the pace of its slowest member. Being overloaded with weight slows you down.
      - Courage/Accuracy help boost accuracy; if you buy sights for your characters and take a turn to aim it cuts down how often you miss.

      Also, terrain advantage. Certain squares make it easier to hit and be hit, others are protected and reduce chance to hit or be hit. You could start in a defensive square to aim, then move to an offensive one to fire.

      Sorry about the repeated info dumps, but this is the game I've probably gone back to the most often.

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  23. Honestly, there was a key in Baldur's Gate 2 that highlighted containers?! Oh my, this information would have saved me quite some time... :-/

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    1. To be fair, this function wasn't added until the Throne of Bhaal expansion (which also had a fair more disposable manual that many players probably wouldn't have paid much attention to if they were veterans of the unexpanded game).

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    2. I'm not sure you're right about that. The original Baldur's Gate didn't get this functionality until the Tales of the Sword Coast expansion, but I think BGII had it from the beginning.

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  24. BT3 is a good game, but the slow sp regen is so annoying that I programmed my own trainer program for solve the problem.

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  25. OH MY GOD YOU DIDNT READ TEH MANUAL GEEZ ADDICT YOU ARE THE--

    Nah, nah, I'm just kidding. I don't think any of this stuff would've made a damn difference. Maybe realizing this would've merited a small mention, but it wouldn't have changed the score by more than a few points. Don't sweat it man. You beat Rogue. You beat Wizardry. You beat Bard's Tale. You beat Might and Magic. People have right to shit on you.

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    1. Hahaha, that should say "People have -no- right to shit on you."

      My bad.

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    2. Thanks. I don't see it that way, though. I am putting reviews of games on public web site for everyone, now and to some indefinite point in the future, to read. If it seems that my game experience was influenced by my own mistake, I can see where someone would get upset if he or she particularly likes that game.

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  26. Please don't start giving people points. Canageek would start posting even more inane comments.

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    1. I don't know if you're kidding, but I don't find his comments inane.

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    2. Me neither. Don't pick on our Canageek. If you are kidding, then I guess it's all good.

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    3. Yes, I defend Canageek's knowledge and rousing arguments of steampunkery and anti-mecha.... ness. So get away before I thrust my lance and knife combo into you!

      Seriously, though. This came out of nowhere.

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    4. Now that I think about that mech vs tank debate, it strikes me that Terminator(!), yes terminator (*cool stuff have to be repeated at least twice*) that cool thing is actually some kind of mech, except there's no human inside. I guess there's a human outside, all that skin and stuff. Yeah there was a heated argument a while back, but heated arguments are quite usual online, I wouldn't call it "inane".

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  27. This anon wants to chime in by saying that I don't care what anybody says about Canageek; he's good people. :)

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    1. Oops, this anon forgot to hit the reply button to the appropriate message. *smacks forehead*

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  28. A response with class. Nicely done.

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  29. Most of the games I play are either strategy games or action adventure, I can't think of a game where I've missed something like that. Maybe obscure game mechanics is a relic from the past, when games were less clear. Modern games come with tutorials and such. One example that comes to mind is from Civilization, I was a few years into that game when I discovered the "We Love the President Day" under republic or democracy, it makes your cities grow much faster which enables you to research modern technology much faster, it was considered such an exploit that they had to remove it from Civilization 3, which had bigger issues anyway. But that's not a game play mechanic that makes Civilization unplayable if you don't know about it, just a little bit harder.

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  30. I always read the game manual for games. Drives me mad otherwise. Generally, if any game crpg or other) does not come with a manual, I do not play the game. There is just so much that has to be known! Otherwise you end up in situations that our dear Addict ended up in and I HATE that.

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  31. I'm obsessive when it comes to manuals. I absolutely must read them to get a sense of a game. The one exception, perhaps is the Gold Box SSI manuals. God were those manuals a bore -- they just described to you what the different menu options were.

    But yes, it was almost a ritual with me with these older games. I absolutely had to have the background story before I played. This was the days before voice-acted cinematic introductions, which started to come in the 90s.

    (Also, I had to have my desk cleaned, my room cleaned, the lights off, and perhaps rub my nose a couple times and rub the corners of my desk before I turned on a new game for the first time.)

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  32. I remember renting Unlimited SaGa for the PS2 many years ago, and, because of the lack of a manual, thinking that there was no way to heal outside of battle, which, even though I was corrected after I'd already returned it, has left me with a negative impression of that game.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are many other reasons to have a negative impression of this game. I remember renting Nobunaga's Ambition, and not being able to figure out how to play without the manual.

      Delete
    2. ....one of the most complex games ever on a console, and you tried to play it without a manual?

      Delete
    3. Rented games hardly ever came with manuals. Had I a choice, I would have liked to have the manual.

      Delete
  33. Missed gameplay elements come mind time when I played Wing Commander Prophecy and about half-way through before noticing it had similar "match speed" capability as was introduced in TIE Fighter.

    About playing without manual - Battlecruiser 3000AD which came as freeware with some computer magazine. PDF manual just seemed to be made completely some other game so it was next to useless and without one there wasn't any sense in game by outguessing innovative abbreviations and trying out which button did what on each screen.

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  34. I was level 60 in Skyrim before I realized you could use absorbed Dragon Souls to unlock found Shouts. And no, that's not in the manual.

    JS

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What did you imagine was happening every time you visited a word wall?

      Delete
  35. Sometimes it also pays to DTLFP. Like when I found out that in the latest patch of Diablo 2 Blizzard had removed the incredibly annoying 'Iron Maiden' curse spell from Oblivion Knights, after playing on the old patch and dying to it so many times.

    -Dupre

    ReplyDelete
  36. Well, it took me watching a Let's Play of Morrowind to realize there was a hotkeys option.

    let's not even discuss all the stuff in Dwarf Fortress I didn't know about until I'd lost several forts!

    ReplyDelete
  37. Just so everyone knows, the original Fallout is free on http://www.gog.com/en/gamecard/fallout for the next 48 hours as of when I'm posting this (roughly)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for the tip! Downloaded!

      Delete
    2. Great! another great game I will probably never finish (it's 5 am right now and reading those documents for FO scares me with how little sleep I will be on).

      Anyway thanks for a game that I might be able to finish after I hit retirement in about 36 years.

      No, seriously, thanks, Canageek!

      Delete
    3. The hole Might and Magic universe, both the RPGs and TBS games are on sale this weekend as well: http://www.gog.com/promo/might_magic_universe_2

      Delete
    4. Might as well add to ads that friends of indie crpgs should have a look at Gamersgate's Indiefort bundle 1 collection.

      Delete
  38. Is this still active? No game posts in 2 weeks? Uh-oh....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No this is normal for someone who is not payed to be your blogging entertainment. He will post when whatever else he has going on gives him time to do so.

      Delete
    2. No, I haven't gone into rehab again. Just insanely busy with work & travel these last few weeks. Should have something on Sentinel Worlds soon.

      Delete
    3. That sounds like a good sign, that you are busy doing work :D

      Delete
  39. jesus is a retard, just ignore him

    ReplyDelete
  40. This is the first time I've commented on this blog, but I have to say thank you for writing it. I'm about half way through, reading a post or two every day, and enjoying every minute of it. In 1996 I began my own quest to beat every RPG made, console and pc. 16 Years and over 550 rpgs beaten later, I ran across this blog and realized I'm not the only man crazy enough to set out on a journey like this. Thanks for the read and good luck from your brother in arms.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad to have you with me, Jay. If you'd started your own blog back in 1996, I probably wouldn't be here!

      How did you find the early console games compared to the PC games? People keep encouraging me to play them, but I can't imagine that the emulators offer the same experience.

      Delete
    2. I've found the earlier console games simpler when compared to the pc older pc games, whether comparing different games of the time (dragon quest vs. might & magic) or the same game with pc and console versions (pool of radiance). It can be nice to kick back with a nice old school console rpg when I just want to solve everything through violence and if something is too hard just grind a couple of levels, but at the same time it makes a lot of the games feel pretty similiar, so I try and switch between older and newer games whenever I beat one.

      Delete
  41. Incidently, I've been going through my old computer documentation and came across my "Adventures of Willy Beamish" and "Island of Dr.Brain" manuals. The Willy Beamish manual is a small spiral-bound book, entirely drawn as if a 10 year old (the character) was doodling in it. The Island of Dr.Brain manual was more educational than six school textbooks and about forty times more interesting. Great stuff.

    ReplyDelete
  42. CRPG Addict,

    I'm curious if you have any thoughts on the dearth of properties being revived via Kickstarter.

    Wasteland 2 & Shadowrun being the most recent. Are you excited for "old school rpg", my quote, not your, being adapted to modern times?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. I'm excited for the gamers, anyway. It's unlikely I'll get to play them for a long time. I would love to see some of my old favorites re-made or continued with better graphics, sound, disk storage, and processing power.

      Delete
  43. Gotta be playing "legend of grimrock".,...,.. heyyo... oldschoolers, it's an up to date dungeon crawl. well worth your 10-15$! it really will bring back ultima underworld, Dungeon Madster and EOTB. Even offers a "hardcore" mode with no automap!

    LLAP

    ReplyDelete
  44. When I played Mass Effect I loved the Mako sections, where you had the APC with the cannon and drove around. It seems a lot of people rather vocally hated them. It turns out on reading forum threads, that a lot of people didn't realize you could zoom in with the cannon to aim, as it wasn't stated in the game you could do that. I didn't read the manual (as frankly, those images of the controller and what each button do just make my eyes cross), but I did sit down and push each button to find out what they did when I started the first tank section.

    Even more annoying: They took those sections out of ME2 and ME3, making me wonder if I missed out due to other people being dumb.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Gothic 1. Bloody interface is so damn confusing which could be easily simplified... I only learned how to Hotkey about 3/4 into the game. Good thing it's possible to save-scum or I'd never have gave the game a chance.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Hey, I just found one of these moments in a game I have had for years! For one of my birthdays I bought Final Fantasy 6 Advance for the Gameboy Advance. It was used, so it had no manual (in my defense).

    Anyway, I decided to try and find a replacement .pdf of the manual online because of Final Fantasy's 25th anniversary (so that I could play this old favorite from the beginning like it should have been; turns out Nintendo's site provided the manual free for download). So, I'm leafing through it (even electronically it still fits in my hand on my Kindle fire) and come to find out that I can see every equipped item on the entire four-man party at once just by either selecting Equipment or Relics and pressing left (marking all party members) before I make a selection. This will make managing equipment accross my twelve party members A LOT! faster and easier on my next play.

    ReplyDelete

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