Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Magic Candle: Re-Lit

The party hits the road.

I've accomplished so little in The Magic Candle that I probably shouldn't even be posting, but I wanted to assure you that, having come down from the height of my business season, I am still playing.

When I returned to the game, I could remember so little that I thought it would be best if I started over. Also, I had The Book of Flame and Wax that I wanted to populate with notes from the characters in the Royal Castle and Port Azur. I'm actually glad that I restarted because I found a bunch more characters. I made about six loops through the Royal Castle and encountered different people each time. Some of them appear for only very short time frames.

Depending on the time of day, there might be 0, 1, 3, or 12 people in this room. Unlike Ultima V, they can't be found elsewhere when they're gone; they just disappear.
In restarting, I also did something kind of lame: I chose the easy mode. I had been following your conversation in my last posting, and it appears that the mode only affects the number of days you have to complete the main quest. Since it is my wont to explore and exhaustively document things--for both myself and my readers--I felt I was justified in giving myself the most time possible. Later, I encountered a woman in the castle who promised me an extra 60 days in an emergency:

I assume this is a one-time offer, or it would render the time limit useless.

After revisiting the two towns, I have a long "to do" list and a few mysteries. The major mystery involves a dungeon called Meardom, which is said to lie beneath the Royal Castle. I read about it in the Port Avur library. The previous king, Ongar, had a son named Aslan (current-king Rebnard's older brother) who wandered down there and was killed by gnolls. In response, Ongar had the dungeon sealed and made everyone swear an oath not to speak of it. Ongar's brother Banas apparently decided I needed to know about it because he gave me just enough to ask the right questions in Port Avur without betraying his oath. The problem is, I don't know what to do with any of this. I've asked every NPC I can find about MEARDOM and ASLAN and no one wants to tell me anything. Wandering around the lowest explorable level of the castle doesn't seem to produce a dungeon. Maybe I'll find something later.

The second mystery has to do with the queen, Rebnard's wife. I haven't been able to find her. I've heard from her servants that she's in a foul mood and unhealthy, but I don't see her anywhere.

The final mystery has to do with a servant in the castle named Beratt. He's rumored to be hiding a secret. There are whispers that some of the servants are spies. Unfortunately, he won't speak to me until I visit a halfling trainer and increase my charisma.

Awfully haughty for a servant.

My to do list has most of its items in Soldain, a dwarven town just south of where I am now, and Keof, an island town to which I need to take a ship's passage from Port Avur. The items involve asking different NPCs about different bits of game lore, including one monk who knows something about the vault holding the Zirvanad, the document I need to find that explains how to refresh the Magic Candle. I thought I'd go to the place I can walk first (Soldain), using the experience to learn a bit about overland travel. I have to burn a day hanging around Port Avur, though, because apparently you can't just buy armor like you can buy weapons; you have to wait a day or so for the armorsmith to make it.

I'm still in that stage of the game where I'm confused by many things and uncertain about the best logistical tactics, such as how much food, how many arrows, and how many mushrooms I should carry (especially since, other than Port Avur, I don't know where to buy them), the best way to allocate training funds, and how many bits of equipment I should buy. I got a blanket for everyone, but do I need more than one rope, shovel, or pick?

Does this mean I'll need multiple picks but just one shovel?

I did cast my first spell, giving an energy boost to Giauz after he'd been wandering around talking to people all night. Since I realized belatedly that every spell drains energy from the spellcaster, I'm probably better off just eating a Sermin mushroom, which seems to be cheap and accomplishes the same thing.

Why, Giauz gets an energy boost!

Just like the last time I started, I've had one battle against orcs on the road. I'm looking forward to exploring the combat a bit more, as it seems to have something of the tactical complexity of the Ultima series. Even this brief introductory combat took a long time, though, and I've heard rumors of 30+ minute combats in this game. Right now, my wizard has nothing to do; none of his spells are offensive. I have notes on where to buy other spellbooks.

Eflun just hangs back and watches. He's good for other stuff.

Sorry for the short posting, but I plan to invest some serious hours tomorrow, so we'll see what happens. In the meantime, if you see anything obvious I'm doing wrong at the introductory stages, please let me know.


  1. Jebus, I'm so close to firing it up and giving it a go but a small voice in my head tells me I'll only love it for a few hours. I think that I would prefer to do this one vicariously and enjoy your fond memories instead. :)

  2. Good to see you're back.

    You need more than one rope and one pick, but I don't think you need more than one shovel.

    The game has some red herrings (or else I never figured some things out) and some things mentioned early don't come into play for a very long time.

    The combat is more tactical and more fun than the Ultima games, IMO. Don't forget that both monsters and your own characters can sidestep if they there is room on both their sides. So a "sandwiched" enemy is a sitting duck. And you can improve chances of hitting with bows if there are several enemies on the same line.

    The enemies cheat, though. They can move diagonally, while your poor sods can only move horizontally or diagonally.

    1. Duh! That last "diagonally" should of course be "vertically".

      Also, another advantage to fire at enemies in a row is that if you kill one you may still have more attacks left to hurt or kill another one.

    2. I realized belatedly that "pick" is a lockpick, not a pick-axe.

  3. I was looking at the screenshots and... please tell me you're not playing the game on the native 320x200 resolution.

    If so, here's a suggestion, assuming you're using DOSBox: set the game window to your monitor resolution (or as close as you want), and set your scaling to hq3x. The game will look very very good without big pixels.
    If you use the D-Fend frontend, it gets even easier to configure.

    Here's Ultima 7 as example:

    1. I found 2x a touch better then 3x myself. Also try each algorithem on the list until you find one that works for you; Some people like hq3x, otheres like SuperEagle3x.

    2. Thanks for the tip. Of all I've tried, hq3x seemed the best, but I'll check those two to be sure.

      Either way, it's definitely better than playing the game at 320x200, I think.

    3. I gave SuperEagle a try, it does look very nice. It is a bit blurry so I think I still prefer the more "pixelated" hq3x.

      I can't see much of a difference between hq3x and hq2x, to be honest.

      This was tested with Ultima 7, so it's possible other games are different.

    4. Pedro, I tried your suggestions. I really would prefer to play on a slightly higher resolution. But no matter what I do, the image looks screwed up. Right now, the resoultion I use fits almost perfectly in a quarter of my laptop's screen, allowing me to arrange my map and notepad around it.

    5. For what it's worth, I've found that the aspect ratio gets stretched in full screen on any display mode other than OpenGL. Could just be my system somehow.

    6. The correct aspect ratio is in fact 4:3, i.e. not what is seen in the screenshots on this blog. 320x200 gives a 16:10 ratio, but on an old, low-res display, that would have been stretched to the standard 4:3. This made pixels taller than they were wide, with the idea being that text was more readable that way.

    7. I always play on windowed mode as, yes, aspect ratio may get stretched. 1920x1080 seems to look fine.

      I use ddraw though and not opengl

    8. Using modern-day modifications to improve visuals is hardly grounds for a fair comparison of these games.

      And pixel art looks better in its full naked glory anyway. Filters just make everything look like molten crayons.

    9. I am one who prefers preserving the aspect ratio over filling my screen. I have a friend who can't tell the difference, but I can't avoid noticing it when it stretches!

      I always get angry, too, that distorting the aspect ratio is usually the default full-screen mode for so many emulators.

    10. Anon: Well, you also have the problem that pixels aren't square anymore, so you'd want to use some algorithem to make them larger and more square anyway:
      normal2x or normal3x just make each original pixel into 4 or 9 pixels so you will get the same art, just bigger. It may actually look more like the original art, since pixels are far smaller today then originally.

      There are also 'scan' and 'tv' which add black lines to simulate playing it on an old scanning monitor or tv.

      rgb apparently uses the smaller pixels today to simulate a dot trio on an old CRT; no idea what it looks like.

      So those are all to make the game look MORE like it did originally, without you having to squint at it in a tiny box. Probably not a problem on Chet's laptop, but I have a 23" 1600x900 monitor. Sprites made of pixils for a 14" 800x600 (or even 480x360) monitor just aren't going to look the same.

      Now, yes, advmame2x | advmame3x | advinterp2x | advinterp3x | 2xsai | super2xsai | supereagle | hq2x | hq3x are all designed to make things look less blocky on modern monitors. They do this by blending things into one another as they scale the image up. I advise people to try each one, as they will remove effects that you wouldn't get on a 14" CRT anyway. Which one is best is purely asthetic choice, and may very well be different from game to game due to the art changing.

    11. Also: rotgrub: You are right, aspect correction defaults to false. You can set this by adding
      aspect = true
      to dosbox.conf

    12. I'm not sure if anyone is still reading this conversation, but just to be clear: These games are actually intended to be stretched. The unstretched screenshots are the wrong aspect ratio. 320 x 200 is not 320 x 240 (what you would need to get 4:3). So those 200 vertical pixels are supposed to be stretched.

    13. Ah, I think we meant that the original was getting stretched horizontally from what the original image looked like. That is, it needs to be compressed horizontally to match the original.

  4. GOG has 24h Gem Promo for "To The Moon". Regardless looking like JRPG is more adventure than RPG, but don't care - It's still wonderful little indie game worth experiencing.

    And speaking of indie games, there's lot of nice sales going on - Humble Bundle has set up "Humble Indie Bundle 6" and Indie Royale "Back To School Bundle", not to forget Gamersgate's "IndieFort Championship".

    1. To The Moon isn't an adventure game either, it's fully linear and has almost no puzzles, "gameplay" is mostly just moving from cutscene to cutscene. It's a visual novel more than anything else.

      I found it neat but hopelessly overpriced for the short, linear story it was. One dollar might be about right.

  5. It's great to have you back! But, Aslan killed by gnolls? What an ignominious defeat.

  6. Addict,

    I too am new to the game (been playing a week) and I'm a bit farther than you. Here are a few things I figured out thru trial and error:

    1. When battle starts, move all your guys into place and draw their weapons and recall any spells you may want to use. Then hit BEGIN. Took me a while to figure this out. Also, I've found that Eflun is actually a pretty good fighter, get him a short sword. It never hurts.

    2. MAGIC SHIELD is a crucial spell, memorize a lot of them. Cast it on each player... essentially it protects against Zorlims/Jerrahs (and other magic users) attacks. It lasts until it gets blasted away, its not just there for battle. There is physical damage and magic damage in this game.

    (Example: If MIN has a magic shield of 75 and a Zorlim blasts him for 25 points damage, his magic shield will be down to 50, but his energy and stamina will NOT be affected. You can cast Magic shield over another magic shield spell for each guy up to 99).

    3. I picked Ziyx as opposed to a halfling. There are TOUGH battles and I can't see the halfling really helping. At first I couldn't really talk to anybody, but I found where I can raise my charisma in another town - after fighting at least 7 tough combats to get there! Ziyx's SHATTER spell is imperative I've found, especially for magic casters that are all the way across the screen.

    4. Watch the wear and tear (W-T) on Nehor's bow. Mine breaks A LOT. Get him a short sword too for when this happens so he doesn't just stand around doing nothing. Also, have other guys carry arrows that they can transfer to him when he runs out, as he can only carry 99.

    5. So far I've mainly used Sermin and Gonshi mushrooms, and A LOT of them. Don't run out of these. I haven't really tested Luffins, Migrets, Nifts or Drelins yet.

    6. When camping outside, have one person WATCH. Being ambushed really really sucks.

    I haven't done anything with picks or shovels yet. I did buy a rope and I suspect that more than 1 rope will be needed. I also bought blankets, not really sure if they've helped me or not?

    I'll let you know of any other "tips" I encounter thru trial and error, which is mostly what my game has been. I've fought about 20-25 battles so far tho, so I'm getting better. Glad you're back at it...

    1. 4. After battle you may want to set up camp to repair weapons. IIRC Sakar is excellent at repairing stuff. The mage(s) will also have time to memorize a spell or two, while Nehor hunts for food and the one remaining guy with most stamina stands guard.

      All this talk about Magic Candle has tempted me to make another go at Magic Candle 2. I didn't like the even larger, emptier city (lots of permanently unoccupied buidlings)and even harder to find NPCs in that game. The first game was more "compact" in this regard.

    2. After I've won a battle and taken the coins off of the bodies, I can camp on that screen??? Interesting...

    3. I don't think you can camp on the combat screen, at least not in the wilderness.

    4. I'm grateful for the tips. I assumed the magic shield spell was just for a single battle, so that is MUCH appreciated.

      I like having Min around for role-playing reasons, but I'll se how tough the battles get. I bought him a bow, and he's scored a few hits, so it's not like he's completely useless. Also, he's the only guy I have who can work a trade.

      I thought I stocked up pretty well, but I still had a lot of gold left over, so I figured why not spend it. I went back to Port Avur and loaded up on mushrooms, food, and arrows just like you suggested.

    5. 5: Nifts are like shields, they absorb attacks, if I recall its 3 attacks per nifts and they last until they're used. Very useful!

    6. I am currently fighting a "fixed attack" right now and I used some Nifts before going into battle. They do indeed protect your player for 3 rounds from physical attack. You can't eat two Nifts and expect to be protected for 6 rounds though. Also, for difficult battles it is good to use a Mirget and a Luffin in conjunction with each other. The Migret will give you super strength (max out your damage on your weapon) and the Luffin will ensure you land a blow so you haven't wasted your Mirget.

      Also, remember that you can play your guy's turns out of order, i.e. have Min go first and then Nehor and then your Hero... simply press their corresponding number when it's your turn and you can mix it up. This has saved me a few times with being able to cast an ENERGY or MAGIC SHIELD just when I needed it.

      Excellent idea giving MIN a bow... perhaps give him some archery classes too. I was thinking about buying my hero a Brom Bow... some of these battles it takes too long to trek across the battlefield. (Perhaps a Gonshi mushroom helps this?) Either way, I've found that when fighting Cyclops (and some other projectile throwing monsters), they rarely are able to avoid an arrow and you need to take them out quickly because they throw LARGE rocks that do huge damage.

      I am currently in the city of Delkona and finally got my wizards Steel Plate armor, which may be a first. Wizards (or mages/clerics/bishops etc.) generally can't wear anything but robes. There seems to be no class restrictions on armor or weapons in this game. The only restriction on weapons is you have to be a certain strength to use them. I am still looking for a way to increase my strength/stamina.

      I am loving the idea that your guys can work in this game. While I waited for my armor to be made (6 days - another first, you can't just buy armor on the spot, they custom make it for each player and it takes time!) I had Dalin working his trade (metal smith) and earning me some huge coin while my wizards learned a ton of spells.

      Bridge battles also bring in good money because whoever is guarding the bridge generally charges people to pass. I think it's funny that slimes and some of these other stranger monsters (Bargs?!) carry coins on them.

      As stated previously, if nothing else this game certainly has a great deal of charm and difficulty to it. It may help get me thru the harsh Cleveland winter!

    7. I gave Lukas both a Broom Bow and a Sword. He's the jack-of-all-trades of the party, being about equally good at melee fighting, archery and spell casting.

      To increase Strength, Stamina and other stats you need divine favour.

    8. I'm having so many problems with gold (losing 1000 at gambling didn't help) that I'm thinking about heading back to the castle, temporarily assembling an all-working party, and putting them to work in Port Avur for about two weeks.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Wow!! All the hints for this game.... is it that tough?

  9. Also keep some money on hand while travelling. Wandering dwarves will sell gems that you can re-sell in town at a large profit. If you're need Port Avur and have a lot of gemes in your inventor its worth temporarily adding one of the character's who's a gem cutter to your party. If I recall correctly it adds %33 or so to the sell price.


    This issue has a really nice write up about the game... also a few tips for playing.

    1. Thanks! I'll probably wait until the end to review it, though. Scorpia sprinkled her reviews with significant spoilers.

  11. I've never played the game but it sounds like a micromanager's dream. And some of these things, for example, the professions, were years, if not decades ahead of their time.


I welcome all comments about the material in this blog, and I generally do not censor them. However, please follow these rules:

1. Do not link to any commercial entities, including Kickstarter campaigns, unless they're directly relevant to the material in the associated blog posting. (For instance, that GOG is selling the particular game I'm playing is relevant; that Steam is having a sale this week on other games is not.) This also includes user names that link to advertising.

2. Please avoid profanity and vulgar language. I don't want my blog flagged by too many filters. I will delete comments containing profanity on a case-by-case basis.

3. NO ANONYMOUS COMMENTS. It makes it impossible to tell who's who in a thread. If you don't want to log in to Google to comment, either a) choose the "Name/URL" option, pick a name for yourself, and just leave the URL blank, or b) sign your anonymous comment with a preferred user name in the text of the comment itself.

4. I appreciate if you use ROT13 for explicit spoilers for the current game and upcoming games. Please at least mention "ROT13" in the comment so we don't get a lot of replies saying "what is that gibberish?"

5. Comments on my blog are not a place for slurs against any race, sex, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or mental or physical disability. I will delete these on a case-by-case basis depending on my interpretation of what constitutes a "slur."

Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

I read all comments, no matter how old the entry. So do many of my subscribers. Reader comments on "old" games continue to supplement our understanding of them. As such, all comment threads on this blog are live and active unless I specifically turn them off. There is no such thing as "necro-posting" on this blog, and thus no need to use that term.

I will delete any comments that simply point out typos. If you want to use the commenting system to alert me to them, great, I appreciate it, but there's no reason to leave such comments preserved for posterity.

I'm sorry for any difficulty commenting. I turn moderation on and off and "word verification" on and off frequently depending on the volume of spam I'm receiving. I only use either when spam gets out of control, so I appreciate your patience with both moderation tools.