Saturday, December 15, 2012

Drakkhen: Baffling, Frustrating, Intriguing

The taverns of this land are a little unfriendly.

Drakkhen is probably the strangest game that I've played since Le Maitre des Ames, which was actually in French. It is at once innovative and incomprehensible, intriguing and infuriating. It is unthinkable that I would quit a game with so many good features, and equally unthinkable that I'd play to the end a game with so many bad features.

There have been many times during the course of this blog in which I have listed two "active" games at the same time, but I can't think of any other times in which I have literally played two games at the same time--as in, I have a NetHack window open next to the Drakkhen window, and I switch to the former when I just can't take the latter any more (or when I have to wait for hit points to regenerate).

Consider:

  • The game's approach to night and day is more sophisticated than any other so far, even Hero's Quest, which kept track of time fairly well and did interesting things with the day/night cycle. In Drakkhen, you palpably experience daybreak, morning, noon, afternoon, sunset, midnight, and all the stages in between. You can actually see the sun rise, move across the sky, and set over the mountains. They even include these cycles while you're indoors, so you can see it get darker or lighter through the castle's windows. At night, the stars form very pretty constellations, and at dawn and dusk, even I can tell that they've done some impressive stuff with the colors in the sky.

The sun sets on another day of adventuring.

  • Sometimes, those constellations turn into monsters, fly out of the sky, and kill you instantly.
  • The game has one of the largest outdoor worlds of any game I've played so far, and you explore it in a continuously-scrolling 3-D interface not a million miles removed from The Elder Scrolls: Arena, which won't be out for another five years.
  • While you're walking through this outdoor world, you'd better take care not to accidentally bump into any grave markers, because a demon dog's head will erupt from the ground and destroy you.


  • The game manual tells an interesting story of a mysterious island continent of dragon folk (Drakkhen) discovered just after the last dragon is slain in the human world, and magic starts to fail because of it.
  • Once the game starts, no references are made to the back story in the manual (at least not for me, so far), and the plot seems to involve dragon folk of different elements at war with each other.

Something is amiss in Drakkhen-land.

  • Enemies you encounter in the wilderness are unnamed but interesting and varied, including things that look like lizard men, orcs, alligators, bats, scorpions, spiders, and of course dragons.

This one almost looks friendly.

  • And when you encounter them, they come sliding onto the screen like Tom Cruise about to sing "Old Time Rock & Roll."

Da-da-da-da-da-dun-DUN.

  • Then, when combat begins, it...well, let's just say that if you ever meet someone who doesn't speak English, and he's confused about what the term "cluster#$@" means, you need only show him a few seconds of this GIF:


  • The landscape is dotted with houses and taverns, where you get clues from various local folk about affairs political, magical, and martial.
  • And you also get clues from some mysterious old man who suddenly appears in the middle of the road to spout nonsense.

Helpful. Thanks.

  • Every time I leave a main road, I die.
  • There's a north-south line of flashing arrows in one part of the map. Half the time I try to cross it (and you have to cross it to get between key areas), I'm attacked and slaughtered by a dragon.

A beautifully-rendered dragon, I should add.

  • My healing spells actually work about 1/6 of the time. Because of this, I have to spend a lot of time standing around waiting to heal. But regeneration is like the watched pot that never boils. Half an hour might go by in which my health bar doesn't move at all. Then, suddenly, when I wasn't looking, it'll be back to full.

As I said, a strange game.

Plotwise, I haven't advanced considerably since the first posting. My all-female party got locked in a loop of endless death with one of the constellation demon-dragon things, so I had to start anew. Since my female party had fared so poorly, I made my new party composed of all males--Ferdinand the Fighter, Berowne the Scout, Longaville the Priest, and Dumaine the Magician--four comrades who have sworn off the company of females for the duration of their adventure.

This is a man's job.

They assailed the Drakkhen Prince of Earth's fortress and did better than the previous party. Thanks to some hints on my first posting, I found a suit of armor in the dragon prince's room, and I returned and got it twice (it respawns when you leave and return), only to find that only my fighter and scout could wear the cuirass, and my mage couldn't wear any of it.

Why the enormous dragon prince is displaying human-sized armor is left unexplained.

Everyone got some weapon and armor upgrades, though, including swords found in the castle and various other items--helms, shirts, shields, and such--looted from enemies post-battle. Different pieces of armor aren't necessarily mutually exclusive. Ferndiand is wearing a shirt, a jacket, and a cuirass, and getting some armor benefit from all three pieces.

My scout and some of his gear.

I should mention that the character who strikes the killing blow against each enemy gets loaded up with that enemy's gear, which is almost always worse than anything the character already has. This means I have to spend a minute or so after each combat dropping the unneeded bucklers, daggers, and other junk gear I automatically pick up. (The game manual makes a big deal that you're dropping the item "down a bottomless pit" instead of just saying that you discarded it. This seems a little excessive. I didn't want to carry the extra dagger; I didn't hate it.)

The four guys were also able to successfully take on the east wing of the palace, where they killed a couple more of the prince's minions and got a sceptre which bestows the "Understanding" ability on the wielder. The manuals I have don't have anything to say about "abilities," so I don't know what that does.

I apologize for the dark image; I visited at night.
 
With the map helpfully linked by Rob, and shankao's advice to watch the sun, I was able to find east and--after several attempts in which I got killed--visit the Princess of Earth in her palace. Unfortunately, it had recently been destroyed and ransacked, apparently by the forces of the Prince of Fire, and she asked me to convey this back to the Prince, which I did. In saying stuff like this, you have to understand that I'm eliding long stretches of time in which I attempted to get from one place to the other but was killed or got so lost I had to reload.

The Prince of Earth was unhappy, and asked me to pay a visit to the Prince of Water, for no reason that I could understand.
 
Wait...in what way, exactly, are you helping me?
 
I thought my party was here to stop the Drakkhen from taking over the world, so I'm not sure why I'm running errands for them. Anyway, when I got to the Prince of Water's castle (again, multiple tries, deaths, etc.), I found a trap worse than the shark in the Prince of Earth's moat: every time I tried to cross the drawbridge, it slammed shut, crushing whatever characters happened to be on it.
 
Note the blood splatter at the top.
 
Nothing I tried would work, so I wandered away dejectedly. At a nearby house, though, I found a recently-dismissed former servant of the Prince of Water who was all too happy to tell me that "only magic may keep the dragon's jaws open." If he was referring to a spell, none of my existing ones--heal, lightning bolt, cure--seemed to be good candidates, so I figured I'd better explore and grind until I had a larger selection.

This would be a good time to mention the huge disparity in experience and leveling that I'm experiencing. As I write, my fighter is Level 4 and my scout is Level 5. My priest and magician? Both still Level 1. This is because of the way experience is rewarded for combat, with at least most (if not all) going to the character that struck the killing blow. I really dislike when games do this. If I want to level the weaker characters specifically, I need to have them fight individually in combat, but my combat survival rate is already low enough with all my characters attacking at once. Maybe it's something I can try later.

Anyway, in an attempt to grind, I explored the rest of the road network in the starting section of the island. The various sections of the island are differentiated by color, and there's a sharp divide (and a brief load) when you cross from one to the other. The initial zone, which I'm probably-incorrectly going to call "green" (Irene is asleep and can't verify) had a succession of houses in which the occupants offered a cryptic word or two. And as I mentioned above, some weird old guy with a beard and cane keeps popping up to comment on the action.

This might be a clue to getting across the shark-infested moat.

Eventually, I exhausted my exploration abilities in the green zone, encountering a number of outdoor monsters along the way, and I spent some time grinding in a more traditional way. The Prince of Earth's castle has this foyer where you have to touch the right rune to dissolve the entrance barriers. If you touch the wrong room, two hunchback-looking guys appear and fight you. From what I can tell, you can get unlimited experience just hitting the wrong rune repeatedly, killing the hunchbacks, and saving if you don't die.

So that's where I remain at the end of this posting, unsure how to cross the drawbridge or where to go next. I'll keep at it. The difficulty doesn't bother me that much. In some ways, it's not dissimilar to Might & Magic, another game that didn't give you much idea where to go, but also didn't hesitate to be mercilessly lethal if you went off the beaten track. I just wish I had a clearer idea of...I don't know...what this game's "deal" is. It feels like it was designed by some guys who had a lot of good ideas, but only when they were drunk.

****

As you can see, I've been experimenting a little bit with GIFs in my entries as a median between static shots and actual video (which I'm not ditching; I'll still do one or two per game). I'm not always going to go nuts with them, like I did here, but I figured if there was going to be any problems, they'd more likely occur with multiple GIFs than just one. As far as I can tell, they work well, but I don't know what weird ways you're all getting my entries. (I seem to be the only person left in the world who reads blog postings by actually visiting the blogs.) Let me know what does or doesn't work for you.

94 comments:

  1. "I don't know...what this game's "deal" is. It feels like it was designed by some guys who had a lot of good ideas but were drunk a lot."

    It's French.

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    1. This qualifies as a WTF. "Weird Thing from France".

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    2. Glad I'm not the only one who was thinking that :D :D

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  2. Right hand tooth... could that be a reference to the right hand chain that holds the drawbridge? Shoot a lightning bolt on it or hack it with a sword or something?

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    1. It's possible. I wasn't clear on this, but that encounter happens at a house very close to the FIRST castle, so I assumed the message must apply to it, but I suppose anything's possible. Tomorrow, I'll unleash every spell I have at every part of the drawbridge and see if anything works.

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    2. For the water prince's castle, you have to use the Unlock magic... your Scout should have it. I only figured this out because the SNES version, the door actually closes whenever you approach the moat. Using Unlock unlocks it. In this version... the Unlock magic... keeps the moat.. unlocked?

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  3. Kudos for staying with a game like this. Interface problems like the ones you mentioned immediately kill a game for me. I don't mind a headless scramble for combat, but if that means my mages don't level and I keep dying because of it, I'm out. Heck, the inventory in Oblivion was one of the main reasons I quit before the end.

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    1. Back in the day, the combination of poor interface and stupid combat system encouraged me to abandon this game. I think it is the older game I abandoned and never went back to.

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  4. And when you encounter them, they come sliding onto the screen like Tom Cruise about to sing "Old Time Rock & Roll."

    "my combat survival rate is already low enough with all my characters attacking at once."

    Soooo, combat in this game looks like risky business.

    Sorry.

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  5. I like the animated GIFs. Also, I am another who doesn't use a feed or reader.

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    1. I concur with Amy, I think you've done a good job with the GIFs!

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  6. Feed or reader? What is that? :)
    The animated gifs are good and this is a very interesting post as always, thanks.

    Lord Hienmitey

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  7. I'm following the blog on Google Reader and about half the time click right through to the blog itself, to get a better experience. Animated GIFs are working well on both mediums.

    However, in my experience, they might not work on some older smartphones. Eg. they didn't on my Samsung Galaxy S before the ROM update. Just saying.

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    1. I click through for the comments alone. It's nice to follow a blog where a discussion actually forms among the readers.

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  8. Nah, I still actually visit blogs. It seems more "personal" this way.

    BTW, you've got a small typo at the beginning. My French is a bit rusty, but I'm pretty sure the name of that game is "Le maitre des ames" (Master of Souls).

    My, admittedly not vast, experience with French games is that they tend to have some very interesting ideas and certain great features, but also a very unpolished feel which sometimes renders them difficult to play. Of course, I'm talking about the time when "French" games actually meant they were made by French people and not by a giant multinational like Ubisoft.

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    1. You have a point. I think the most famous classic RPG made by a French team was the Ishar series. Once again, it was technically advanced for its days, not only on the gfx department but also on the unique (until today!) party interface.
      However, combat is clumsy and each game is full of death traps (forgot to pick item X at moment Y? Can't finish game anymore) and dubious hints, making them somewhat frustrating.

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    2. Fixed, thank you.

      Your experience jives with my own (admittedly not vast) experience with games like Maitre and Tera.

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    3. I've realized that there's another French game that you could add to your list - Ubik. Personally I don't think of it as a role-playing game - I'd say it's more akin to real-time tactics, but it does meet all your three criteria: the characters improve in stats as they progress through the game, combat is, as far as I can gather, purely attribute derived and the characters have inventories that go beyond a weapon or two. It even has NPCs and character interaction, where you select what lines you want to use. So there are definitely some RPG elements in it.

      The reason I got into it was because the story was based on a Phillip K. Dick novel - Ubik. I don't know if you're familiar with him, but many of his books and short stories were made into films: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Blade Runner), We Can Remember It for You Wholesale (Total Recall), The Minority Report, A Scanner Darkly, Adjustment Team (2011's The Adjustment Bureau), plus a few more obscure ones.

      So I thought it would be great to try a game based on a strong Science-Fiction novel. Unfortunately I couldn't get it to work properly. It's 1998 Windows game that uses some sort of CPU cycles based timing (I don't know the technical word for it), just like many old DOS games, which normally renders it completely unplayable on modern systems. In the Windows era, this is clearly a sign of lazy programming. I managed to get it working, more or less, under Windows XP with an app called CPU Killer. However the game still stuttered which, combined with some pretty shoddy action sequences, made it extremely frustrating to play. I gave up on it after a couple of missions.

      It was rather unfortunate, because it had some nicely done cut-scenes, full English voice acting and the promise of an interesting story. But as with many things French, it was not meant to be.

      I still hope that some day I'll get back to it, either if I build/buy late 90s vintage PC, or if more advanced virtual machine software is developed; something that has Direct3D support under a Windows 95/98 environment (which no VM that I know of does) AND gives you the ability to emulate a CPU with a preset speed (like DOSbox can).

      Perhaps if you add it to your list of games to check out, by the time you reach 1998 there will be some easier way to deal with Ubik and other games like this. Otherwise you WILL have trouble once you start hitting the early Windows era. If you think playing with self-contained emulators is finicky, just wait 'til you have to start messing with custom drivers, glide wrappers or, God forbid, virtual machines. Early Windows games can be a pain in the ass to play on modern systems.

      Since the Elder Scrolls: Redguard is on your list, as an example, look at what you have to do to get it working today. It works, I tried, but it does mean an extra effort; and I doubt you'll find such detailed guides for every game that will require it.

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    4. Sounds like a bit of a nightmare, but I added it to the list for 1998 in the event that I ever get there.

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    5. If it sounds like a bit of a nightmare, it's because it is. Never have I been so frustrated in the pursuit of making an old Windows game work, a frustration which was confounded by my stubbornness; when I get in my head that something HAS to work, I can be quite obsessive about MAKING it work.

      I sincerely hope you make it there. Besides, I somehow have the impression that this blog isn't as much about the destination - playing every PC RPG ever made, as it is about the journey through the history of RPGs. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's what I'm getting.

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    6. Actually, a VM seems the easiest solution for most of those windows games. I've got a couple set up now, and they are surprisingly painless. You remove most hardware issues, can fiddle with the CPU and RAM available to the system, and so on.

      Thomas Gellhaus is quite adept with them, installing a couple OSes in them a week.

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    7. Do you know what VM software allows you to set a custom CPU speed for your virtual machine? I've tried 3 or 4 of them and they all use the host CPU; you can't choose, for example, to have a 200MHz CPU. The only one that gives you some CPU speed flexibility is DOSbox, but Windows (95 or 98) is extremely unstable, practically unusable, under DOSbox.

      Also... who's Thomas Gellhaus? Google tells me he's an OB/GYN. :P

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    8. I haven't looked into it, but there has to be one out there. Thomas is a poster on here from time to time. I'll email him to drop by and see if he knows of anything useful.

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    9. The only virtual machine I have really used a lot is Virtualbox, and I am not a great expert in it. I prefer it because it's fairly simple to use, and is a cross platform solution.

      I will say that for DOS based games, DBGL is a front end for DOSbox which I strongly recommend, and I am pretty sure it lets you adjust CPU settings.


      - Thomas Gellhaus (NOT the Ob/Gyn)

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    10. Thanks for the DBGL tip, I'll look into it.

      For me the Holy Grail of emulation is a stable virtual machine with 3D support in Windows 95 or 98 and the ability to set custom CPU frequencies.

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    11. Giuseppe, look at the Machine tab when adding a new game profile in DBGL. It will let you adjust the CPU type, core, # cycles, memory size, XMS/EMS and a few other useful things.

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    12. It was published (in the UK at least) by Infogrammes and added to their growing reputation for games that were original and stylish but strange and rough around the edges. I recall an earlier Amiga release of theirs called Captain Blood, a loopy sci-fi adventure-RPG thing with extraordinary organic-metallic Geiger-esque graphics and a soundtrack by Jean Michel Jarre.

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    13. This makes so much sense now! Here is Trickster's writings on Captain Blood. The resemblance should be immediately obvious: http://advgamer.blogspot.ca/search/label/Captain%20Blood

      Chet: I recommend you read this. It will explain a lot.

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    14. If you look on Mobygames, though, the games were developed by entirely different teams of people. Not saying that they're good games, just that I don't think there's any meaningful connection here.

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    15. Infogrames also made Starshot -- http://www.mobygames.com/game/starshot-space-circus-fever -- another weird game. Especially the ending, which left me thinking I'd run into a bad vs. good ending scenario, but never ended up finding a way to change it.

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    16. Oh my god, Captain Blood! Thank you for this! I've wanted to revisit that game for years, but had forgotten the name... I think I failed to solve one of the final riddles... But I was so proud of the progress I had already made.

      The French still cling to their own interpretation of modern civilization, which I admire. Most of Western culture is anglo-saxon... the music, the books, the movies, the games... There's not much of a "german" interpretation left. We happily assimilate english words, we look at american television with jealousy, the audience of the "native" german pop music starts at age 50, the rest is an imitation of anglo-saxon pop/rock.
      The French however still "do it their way". It shows in the games, too. They didn't simply accept anglo-saxon standards, they did their own and that's why their games seem so baffling to us. The Japanese also do this, only even more.

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  9. I'm actually surprised at Drakkhen's graphics. I remember playing this when I was younger from a... hmmmm... not-originally-boxed source and it had EGA graphics and pc speaker sounds.

    The story did seem interesting and so did the world but yes, the interface was a headache.

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    1. These are the graphics I remember: http://www.abandonia.com/en/games/1048/Drakkhen.html

      Clearly EGA, although undoubtedly very nicely looking.

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    2. Drakkhen looks better in EGA. There's something to be said about how the new VGA adapter gave pixel artists of the time too many colors than they knew what to do with. The separations in the EGA frames make the game look much more arcane and interesting. The VGA color ramps are regretably bland.

      But I realize my tastes are mutated because I am interested in pixel art in itself.

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  10. I do read it, I just subscribe to the RSS feed with Akregator, KDE's feed reader.

    What is KDE? The best desktop environment for the best operating system in the world - GNU/Linux. I'd suggest you try it out and experience what free as in freedom (http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw) means. I'd recommend the Kubuntu (http://kubuntu.org/) distribution, which is a bit bland in its default look but is easily customisable, much more so than Windows (because Microsoft hates your freedom in all aspects).

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    1. Don't troll the zealot, don't troll the zealot... Crap!

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    2. Unless you are using a totally vegan distro you just are just aren't 'FREE' enough.

      -Chris

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    3. No, I'm with him, KDE is the best, though I prefer KDE 3.X to KDE 4.X.

      I also subscribe in Sage, a Firefox extension, which lets me know when there is a new post, and gives me the title, and when I click the link it takes me to your blog.

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    4. Trukk, vegan is so last century. The new thing is roadkill diets, its all about the carrion now.

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  11. That dragon's pose looks like it is thrusting in direction of the problem.

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  12. I think the best way to level the mage and priest is to have them spam magic attacks, which is silly IMO. Games that apply the 'only the killer gets the XP' mechanic irritate me.

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  13. So you're saying is that this game suffers from cheap deaths and one hit kills?

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  14. I visit blogs to read them :)

    Also, unless memory seriously fails me, there's an Open spell or some such that can work on the drawbridge, but I don't know when you get it. Not a terribly high level spell. I might be wrong, though

    Nyxalinth

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    1. All characters should start with the Strength spell. Use that before combat and it greatly increases your chances of getting the killing blow. You need to get your mage up a level or two and you'll get some new spells that help you move on. Eventually you should find some bows, which again should help you survive longer.

      I'm speaking from my experience with the SNES game though, which is admittedly easier. Just comparing the first part, hitting the wrong mark in the first castle only spawns a single enemy, and the shark doesn't appear in the moat until after visiting the princess. The water castle is also not instant death... the castle gate is just closed shut until you have the right spell.

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  15. "Sometimes, those constellations turn into monsters, fly out of the sky, and kill you instantly."

    What the hell? Just random TPK by astrological intervention? You're walking down the street when all of a sudden Capricorn shows up and impales you?

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    1. Chet, there's a pattern to their appearance. It's not random. Take direction and time of night into consideration when traveling and you should be able to avoid them. Once again, this is from the perspective of the SNES game, but it seems very similar.

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    2. Now the stars, they are all angled wrong...
      And the sun and the moon refuse to burn

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  16. I don't like RSS, I don't like feeds and feedreaders, I don't like all this fancy-dancy future heading technology hanky-panky. I visit my blogs when I read them, damn it. And I always will. Call me old fashioned, call me a curmudgeon, call me Nancy and beat me while wearing the leather bunny suit, it's just on the shelf there, I'll just change here in- Well, too much info there.

    Anyway, I read your blog, Chet, by actually coming to your blog and reading the bloody thing. And I always will.

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    1. I think RSS is good for knowing when there is something new. For me, if i enjoy a blog i try to come to read it in a website, but i don`t want to miss new posts so RSS is awesome in this aspect.

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    2. In all honesty, I really should check it out. It would save me a lot of trips to pages that haven't been updated lately.

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    3. The Firefox extension Sage is quite good for that.

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    4. I started using Google Reader precisely because I was sick and tired of cycling through and reloading dozens of tabs every few minutes to check for new content.

      Now I can follow a hundred sites and keep track of which individual postings I've read, even if I have to click-through to read them (which I dislike having to do, especially when reading from the Google Reader app on my Android phone). I can also flag things when I want to revisit them later (say, to watch a video linked in an article when I'm not at work).

      I really don't understand why everyone doesn't use RSS readers (especially since Google Reader, for example, is free and browser-based). It equally annoys me when sites use Twitter and such as a place to robotically post links to every article they put up, as Twitter is a horrible, sorry excuse for an RSS reader.

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    5. Google Reader is a terrible reader. It traps the content in its own window, costing the host side bandwidth without giving anything back, and strips out any formatting.

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    6. I use Google Reader. The RSS feed for up to the minute (5 - 10 really) posts really helps. I always follow the posts to read on the blogs, but will usually read comments through the reader unless the conversation sounds interesting (which the Reader doesn't handle well). Overall it's not bad, but it's the first I haven't bothered checking out others since it's simple enough to link through my Google account.

      Delete
  17. Hi Chet,

    I'm reading this blog since you played Might & Magic I but never commented here. So let me say first your blog is amazing and frequently wins the Internet.

    Animated GIFs: They work for me in Google Reader and the website, on my PC as well as my Android tablet. Plus, they're a GREAT IDEA.

    Healing in Drakkhen:
    I'm ignorant of the game, but did some googling after people in the comments who played it didn't seemed to have that a strong handle on the subject. Thing is, I could only find three POTENTIAL explanations:

    a) Might healing only work in combat?
    A German review of the Amiga version says, roughly translated: "It's helpful for your priest or mage to have the healing spell as their combat setting; then any injured character gets healed instantly until the magic points run out."

    b) Outside of combat, might you experience slow auto-healing and mistake it for your spell only working once in a while?
    According to a walkthrough for SNES, out of combat the party gets slowly healed as long as it's visible on the screen.

    c) Might the level 1 healing spells be extra crappy?
    The same SNES walkthrough identifies "Heal Minor" as a spell the priest can learn on level 2 and the mage on level 5.

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    1. On healing: when it doesn't work, the game doesn't give you any reaction, and when it does, the status text says "{Character} was healed 4 hit points" or something. Thus, I definitely know that it occasionally works outside of combat and that it's the spell, not regular regeneration, causing it to happen.

      I think the most likely explanation is (c): that it's purposefully designed not to work every time at low levels.

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  18. Now that I've tried the game again I have more respect for your dedication. I forgot how hard it is at the beginning.
    But at the end you can kill almost everything (perhaps even the constellation beast.)

    I was wrong about Healing. The spell can just fizzle, and will at early level (I think Fireball and lighting also can fizzle). Eventually it will work every time and be more and more effective.

    Someone told you on the other post to buy a Bow. Go for it. I think monster can hurt you only when you're close to them (you can even avoid their spell if you avoid the actual representation of it) . They will eventually came to touch your character but with a bow you'll survive longer.

    I could not manage to flee fight either. I'm pretty sure I could on the original with the Enter key (the same way you can avoid drowning by hitting Enter and going backward, or perhaps I erroneously mix the two)

    Once you got every one with a bow. You can stay near the 1st castle . Have your members far apart and far from the middle (where monster spend most off their time) . Turn the dosbox CPU up. And let random encounter level up your dudes while you play the more rewarding Nethack.

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    1. I haven't found any place to buy anything yet, let alone bows, but thanks for the tips: I'll load up on them when I find it.

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  19. I sometimes come to the blog through my web browser. Other times I read it through the RSS reader in Thunderbird. The animated gifs work just great in Thunderbird, so no problems there.

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  20. Like many others here, I played Drakken on the SNES, when I was rather young.

    The only memory I have of the game is walking around aimlessly, bumping a grave, and then that giant dog head shot out of the ground and one-shot two of my party.

    I screamed. Then I turned the game off. Then I had nightmares.

    I can only imagine how I would've reacted to the constellations.

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  21. "Notable because Gary Gygax helped to write the plot"
    Gary + french programmers = explains everything

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    1. If Gygax indeed helped write the "plot," I hope his check wasn't very big.

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  22. Of all the "features" mentioned in this post, the hellhound-guarded gravestones LITERALLY IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD WHERE ANYBODY COULD WALK INTO THEM baffle and infuriate me the most. Why would anybody do this?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hence, the "baffling" and "frustrating" parts in the title. I'm wondering if it'll ever get to the point where I can defeat said demon dog heads, because that'll be an occasion for some fantastic grinding.

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    2. You will if you persevere - the dogs aren't all that difficult in the grand scheme of things. I remember feeling that character power in Drakkhen increases very jerkily; you spend ages on plateaux of difficulty but there are certain items (in particular weapons) that will suddenly transform your capabilities. But of course by then grinding is less use.

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    3. Yep. I just killed (or drove off) my first one. I don't think I got any experience for it, though, so they're not grinding material.

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  23. Sounds like no one's having problems with the GIFs. This leads me to wonder why I waited 3 years to occasionally include them. There are plenty of short sequences in these games that a little animation would clarify.

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    1. The GIF format is older then I am, though not by much. I'd be amazed if there wasn't pretty good support for it. Now, if you want something modern that doesn't suck, good luck. APNG has the most support, but doesn't work on IE. MNPNG has even less support.

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  24. Hi Chet!

    Thanks again for this very interesting blog! Also, it is on your advice that I started reading Steven Erikson, the first tome of the Malazan Book of the Fallen. You did not oversell it!

    Three small remarks:
    - The gifs work well for me.
    - I visit the blog myself, I don't go through a reader. Part of the pleasure is the surprise of seeing a new post :) (and checking whether, by chance, there would not be two of them!)
    - As a French guy, I found the commentaries on french games pretty funny :) (and I think rather accurate). Might it be that French developers do not deem it worthy to work on a game if both the game world and gameplay aren't totally new? "Orks? so cliché..." It can give Dishonored, and it can give crap. I have to say that I am not a fan at all of Eric Chahi's work, for example...

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    Replies
    1. I'm thrilled I got another Malazan convert. Best of luck getting through all of the books.

      To be honest, I don't know if the "outré" feel of so many French games is some inherent "Frenchiness" or, more likely, the result of imperfect translations. Then again, y'all did invent Impressionist Cinema...

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    2. Based on my experience with the French, I think it is reasonable to expect that they invented something new and then declared it to be the best because it was French. Anyone who claimed it was not the best was declared stupid. Then, before anyone could prove it was not the best, the French developers most likely lost interest in computer games altogether and cast their derision on anyone banal enough to still play them.

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    3. and mimes. dont forget they invented mimes.

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    4. But they also gave us Charles Trenet and Edith Piaf and Maurice Chevalier, cognac, the phrases je ne sais quoi and deja vu, and a good part of the culture of New Orleans. Lest Leonhard feel unwelcome.

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  25. Pedro is correct that right hand tooth is a clue for the drawbridge, but the solution is frustratingly simpler that the ones he suggests.

    The dragon jaws hint is for a different castle - you'll know it when you get there.

    BTW - please let me know if you consider these tips too much on the spoiler side of things. I figure I owe it to ease your pain after requesting that you see this one through.

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    Replies
    1. Sorry Chet - ignore these two tips (hope they didn't waste your time). I've just played through to this point and it looks like my memory from 20 years ago is not as clear as I thought.

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    2. I guess I don't consider them spoilers, then.

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  26. Also, I've been running your blog through a colour-blind filter to get an idea of what you're seeing (assuming you're red/green colour blind) and the results were quite eye-opening (ugh... pun not intended).

    Thought it might be interesting to the rest of your readers seeing a side-by-side comparison of some of the screenshots that cause you trouble as a result.

    Here's the site I'm using:

    http://colorfilter.wickline.org/

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    Replies
    1. Wow, those symbols in the first castle really do become nearly invisible. You'll run across those types of symbols a few times, so keep your eyes peeled. Also, the symbols are meaningful as they do actually stand for something. I hope you can make them out as it'll make later puzzles very difficult.

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    2. Holy cow, no kidding. They just totally disappear.

      Hey, chet, how well does that site work? I mean, you should see no differences in the images once filtered if it is working right, right? So let us know, as I think I'll start glancing at things through it from time to time.

      Anyone here code-inclined enough to make us a 'Chet-o-vision' button for my bookmark bar?

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    3. Well, you successfully made Irene cry. I showed her the filter site and went through, "this is the original image" and "this is what the image looks like to me." She's convinced I'm missing half the beauty in the world or something. Anyway, yes, when set to the first red-green option, the images look the same.

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    4. That's awesome. Not colorblindness, of course, but that there's a website for simulating such. I've had old CRT monitors lose a color before, and it basically looks just like this (as you would expect, I suppose). It's nice to have a reference point.

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    5. Here it is in Javascript (untested) if Chet wants to add it to his blog:

      Tags removed to post the comment

      SCRIPT LANGUAGE="JavaScript"
      document.write('a href="http://colorfilter.wickline.org/?a=1;r="' + location.href + '";l=0;j=1;u="' + location.href + '";t=p" target="_blank"');
      document.write('Color-blind Mode (red/green)');
      document.write('/a');
      /SCRIPT

      Add tags (greater than and less than signs) around SCRIPT lines, before 'a and /a and after blank" and /a to make this work.

      Here's a link just to the blog itself, so you'll always get the first few posts: http://colorfilter.wickline.org/?a=1;r=crpgaddict.blogspot.com;l=0;j=1;u=crpgaddict.blogspot.com;t=p

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    6. Zenic: Any chance you could make that into a bookletmark?

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    7. Aside from the straight like, I don't know how that'd translate into a bookmark without a redirect site. Sorry.

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    8. Addict, I now imagine your wife as a sweet innocent girl full of love, puppies, and flowers. Kind of like a Care Bear.

      So what is a dirty old bastard like you doing with such a gentle creature?

      ;-p

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  27. Wow, just had a peek at this page through the filter, and I feel for ya Chet! all those brilliant lush greens turn to ugly olive drab. The beautiful magenta dusk and dawn sky (I love games that model day/night cycles) becomes a washed out blue/grey/olive. and your inventory.. I see what you mean about the red letters.. they all turn grey.

    Looking forward to "Curse of the Azure bonds"
    -at least Azure looks about the same through the filter.. so that name still works!
    -Cheers

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    Replies
    1. Man, you must be a lot of fun around people who are actually blind. "Oh, man, that sucks. You can't even imagine how cool the world is if you could see it. Sunsets, and fall colors, and Christina Hendricks--all things that you'll never know. At least you have music to listen to--not that you'll ever enjoy the fun of a live stage performance. Welp, gotta go."

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  28. Hey if you're still reading this, Might I suggest you just go play the SNES version that got ported over? Things that make your life easier include you can sell things at the hidden inn in the earth realm, the dragons that drop from the middle strip no longer kill you (they just mutter something stupid now), the shark only appears AFTER a certain point in the game, and that stupid gate doesn't kill party members anymore, it's just shut when you get there. By the way, you need the unlock spell to keep it open.

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    Replies
    1. If you'll look ahead, you'll see that I finished the game in its DOS version. You're mad if you think I'm going to play it again on another platform. But thanks for the info on the SNES port.

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  29. Oh holy crap, I almost forgot something REALLY important. Jade is shared among all party members, so no more "your character has no more jade you can't revive!" and THE HEALER DOESN'T CHARGE YOU TO HEAL/REVIVE ANYMORE! You are still stuck with living character's inventory though so make sure everyone has a heart in their inventory.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Your side comment about the excessive nature of dropping things down an endless pit ("I didn't -hate- it") made me laugh so hard I nearly woke the baby. But the baby is also the reason I have endless hours pinned to one spot to catch up on your work (which I have had open in a tab on a phone browser at all times since 2013; no feeds for me), so I cannot be too upset.

    ReplyDelete

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