Sunday, December 2, 2012

Hero's Quest: Final Rating

In-game, the saurus didn't look quite that big.

Hero's Quest: So You Want to Be a Hero
Sierra On-Line
Lori Ann Cole, Corey Cole
Released 1989 for DOS, 1990 for Amiga and Atari ST
Date Started: 20 November 2012
Date Won: 24 November 2012
Total Hours: 12 (two wins)
Difficulty: Easy (2/5)
Final Rating: 53
Ranking at Time of Posting: 62/71 (87%)


Blogging about Hero's Quest has been a unique experience. Every other game I've played for this blog, my postings were just behind my playings, and when I won the game, I wrote my last posting and gratefully moved on to the next one. But with Hero's Quest, I won the game in my first 8-hour marathon session and it took me six postings to catch up in text what I'd done already in gameplay.

As you all saw, my first ending wasn't quite satisfactory, so I played a second time with a similar character and did much better. After that, I spent a lot of time just screwing around, compiling material for screen shots and the two amateur "montage" videos I put on YouTube.

Part of the reason for drawing out the game was that I was supposed to be playing in tandem with Trickster at The Adventure Gamer. But more important, I didn't really have any incentive to move on; I was enjoying myself. Hero's Quest isn't my favorite game, or even the game I've liked most since starting this blog, but more than any other game so far, I really felt like I was "playing." I don't mean "playing" as in "playing a CRPG." I mean "playing," like a kid playing with a toy. I can't remember the last time I fired up a game and thought, "Let's try to kill every creature in the game without saving in between" (that video never made it to production) or "let's figure out all the ways that we can die."

This was clearly the inspiration for "Once More, With Feeling." (Charles won't get this reference because he doesn't know who Willow is, if you can believe such a thing.)

One of the things I didn't really cover during my in-game postings was all the fun and creative ways that you can die in the game (or otherwise get the game to come to an end), other than simply being killed by monsters. The ones I experienced include:

  • Getting caught while burglarizing houses
  • Trying to kill the thieves in the alley or Bruno at the gate (they use poison daggers)
  • Trying to kill the castle guards
  • Falling off a variety of things while your hit points are too low
  • Sleeping in an unsafe area (you get eaten by a "night gaunt," this game's version of a grue)
  • Trying to harm the fairies in the mushroom circle at night (they dance you to death)
  • Trying to kill the white stag, then visiting the dryad (she turns you into a stag)


  • Going to Baba Yaga's place and saying "HUT OF BROWN NOW SIT DOWN" while standing under it
  • "PICK NOSE" when lockpicking skill is low
  • Ringing the bell on the front gate of the bandit fortress
  • Falling in any of the numerous traps in the bandit fortress, or failing to negotiate the action bit in the dining hall
  • Trying to kill the giant
  • Walking too close to Barnard when he's in bear form

 
  • Not responding to Baba Yaga after she's turned you into a frog (or saying "no" to her mandrake quest)
  • Being too slow with the dispel potion when encountering Elsa in the fortress
  • Eating mushrooms more than once
  • Visiting the graveyard at night without protection
  • Falling into the open grave in the graveyard
  • Buying and drinking "Dragon's Breath" at the tavern

Each of these deaths is accompanied by some humorous end-game text that describes what you did wrong (if it wasn't obvious).


A YouTube user named "MrWhitman" has collected all of the ways to die in all of the games, although he uses the Quest for Glory VGA remake. I tried my own hand at another montage video, but I screwed it up a bit. I didn't realize it was capturing the system sound during the first minute or so, and DOSBox had gotten stuck on something, so there's this constant drone in the background until the music starts. Nonetheless, I don't feel like remaking it, so here it is if you want to watch [Edit: no it's not. I had copyrighted music in the video, which caused problems.]

The different ways that you can die in the game are simply a microcosm for the huge amount of effort that the developers clearly put into thinking of everything the player might do (and screw up). Rarely did I encounter any kind of message saying "I don't know what you mean." The developers seemed to have looked at each screen and thought "What are all the things that the player will try to do here?" and then created scripts for them. There's even a series of humorous messages when you swear.


Let's get on to the GIMLET:

1. Game World. Well done. You don't have much of a sense of the world outside of Spielburg Valley, but the Valley itself, and all the characters, are original, thematically consistent, memorable, and interesting. There's a solid history behind the current troubles, and it's fun to slowly unravel the history as you solve the quests. Nothing is very deep or serious, of course, which I generally regard as a negative, but the whimsy seemed to work okay here. As in most adventure games, the game world is persistent: actions you take leave a mark on the valley, sometimes in ways that come back to haunt you (hint: don't try to kill the white stag or the spore-spitting plants). I have to save perfect scores for the games that really go deep with their lore, but this game deserves a relatively high score of 7.

2. Character Creation and Development. One of the stronger parts of the game, and where it really gets its CRPG credentials. The initial choice between fighter, mage, and thief has more serious consequences than the average game (partly because it's single-player), and you have extensive customization abilities with attributes and skills. I loved the skill-development part of the game. We've had games that base their skill development on use before (Dungeon Master, Wasteland, The Magic Candle), but I think this game has the most useful selection of skills so far, and the most variety in how you can grind and develop them. You can get your weapon use skill pretty high, for instance, without having to kill a single foe: just play Dag-Nab-It, use the archery range, or practice with the weapon master. Similarly, you can develop strength and vitality through actions as diverse as climbing, running, and heaving a stone door open and closed. It's shockingly quick to get your character up to some pretty high values, but the game itself is pretty short, so it doesn't seem like an unfair advantage. I can see why Andy_Panthro wanted to go for a "perfect 100" game; I was tempted myself.

My winning character. I like the way the thief dramatically cloaks himself.


I particularly like the way different classes have different natural approaches to encounters. Need to get a key from a kobold wizard? You can attack him (fighter), sneak up to him (thief), or cast a "fetch" spell on it (mage). I don't want to oversell this because there are a lot of puzzles (Baba Yaga, the fairies, the dryad) that seem to only have one solution, but it's just enough to make me want to play the game again as different characters. And I can't think of many CRPGs that you can end without having killed anyone, and yet attributes still make a difference.
 

There are a couple of drawbacks. The thief's burglary missions seem out of touch with the "hero" theme of the game. The game could have offered a straight "evil" option (i.e., join the bandits and become the "Scourge of Spielburg") or given you the ability to burglarize truly odious people (instead of the nice sheriff and the old woman), and I would have appreciated some more diversity in character options, like sex and basic appearance (I don't know why, but I hate playing characters with long blond hair). But all in all, you have more options for development and role-playing here than in many straight CRPGs. Score: 7.

3. NPC Interaction. It's very Ultima-esque with its keywords, and I actually prefer this version, where you have to read the dialogue and ask about the right things, to the VGA remake, where all the terms are given for you to click on. The NPCs are memorable, with unique personalities, so much so that when some of them show up again in later games, you're actually glad to see them.

Not this guy, though. This guy was a jerk.

Most important, you have to talk with NPCs to understand the lore of the game and the details of your quest (not to mention to get a perfect score at the end). I suppose you could blow through the game without asking Wolfgang about every head on the wall, but what kind of player does that? That said, the conversations are also a little shallow on the hero's end, with essentially no dialogue options or possibilities for role-playing. Score: 6.

Interactions like this are a lot of fun,and important to understand the game's story.

4. Encounters. Lots to talk about here. The "encounters" in this game, like most adventure games, take the form of puzzles. You could blaze through a lot of them--the giant, the minotaur, the troll in the secret passage--by just pulling out a sword and fighting, but to get full credit, you have to approach them with a little finesse.

As I noted previously, you have a series of options to most of them that depend on your character class. This category has an element that says "game features scripted encounters with opportunities for role-playing," and I didn't realize until now that I've always thought of such role-playing as alignment-specific, not class-specific. This game offers a lot of opportunities for the latter but not the former. I suppose I can't complain: right on the box it says, "So you want to be a hero."

There are two ways to resolve this.

The puzzles, I must say, tend on the easy side. I don't play a lot of adventure games, so I don't know how they compare to the average, but in Hero's Quest you have a limited enough selection of items and options that you almost always know what to do. The only times I got tripped up involved a) puzzles that you have to revisit a screen at a particular time to activate, or b) timed encounters. I didn't like the timed encounters. The bit with the three stooges in the bandit fortress is the most egregious, but there are a few others. In Baba Yaga's hut, for instance, you have to answer her in a brief window of time or she cooks you. When you knock on the door of 'Enry the 'Ermit, you have a few seconds to get out of the way or get knocked off his ledge. The problem with these encounters is that it's not always clear when the game is waiting for your input. And of course the bandit fortress is only solvable through trial-and-error.

On the monsters, they're interesting and well-described, and many of them are original (I particularly like the cheetaur), but in practice they're distinguished mostly by their graphics and how hard they hit. None of them behave differently from the others once combat is actually joined.

A timely use of my dagger makes baby antwerps out of the one large one.
 
This category also has a bit about respawning, of which I'm pleased to say there's plenty in this game. You never lack opportunities for grinding. This is rare for both adventure games and hybrids. (Beyond Zork, for instance, had a fixed number of enemies.) Score: 5.

5. Magic and Combat. As a hybrid, the game doesn't do so well in this important CRPG category. Even a character with skills in everything has a very limited selection of activities in the game's action combat system: attack, dodge, parry, cast a spell, or escape. Some characters might only have two of these actions. Parry and dodge don't work very well, so combat generally comes down to thrusting at the enemy until he dies. Since every enemy pretty much acts the same in combat, there are no "tactics" to speak of.


I do give it some credit for allowing you to toss rocks and daggers, or cast flame dart spells, at enemies when they first approach, but that's all that I can say about combat that's really good. The ability to drink potions while in combat would have been much appreciated.

Solving the puzzle in Erana's Peace to get the spell scroll hidden beneath.
 
I didn't play as a mage, so it's hard to comment directly on the magic system, but I messed around with it enough to realize that it's not very complicated. There are seven spells in the game--zap, flame dart, open, fetch, calm, trigger, and dazzle. [Later edit: Whoops! I forgot about one: "detect magic." Thanks, Zenic.] You get "zap" automatically if you choose a mage; flame dart, open, and fetch can be purchased from Zara; the last three are obtained as puzzle rewards. Except for "zap" and "flame dart," the spells are generally about solving puzzles. The spells are treated like separate skills, so your skill with them increases with use, as does your maximum mana pool. I hear that "flame dart" performs pretty well at high levels. Score: 3.

Chester the mage "fetches" the nest.

6. Equipment. Another CRPG staple where this game falls a little short. You have a very small selection of non-puzzle equipment: rations, potions, and daggers and rocks to throw. Everything else is the solution to a puzzle. You have no opportunity to upgrade your beginning weapon (the thief never gets anything better than a dagger; the fighter keeps his first broadsword), and your armor upgrade is limited to replacing your leather with chainmail. I forgot to mention food during my posting: the game forces you to eat a meal every day, but you start with 5 rations and food is otherwise plentiful enough that it's essentially a non-issue. Score: 2.

Chester's final inventory.

7. Economy. The game does have an economy, unlike most adventure games and even a few CRPGs, and there are things to buy, including the aforementioned chainmail upgrade, a thief's tool kit, rations, spells, and potions (if nothing else, healing and vigor potions are always useful). The weapon master takes a gold piece for each training session if you want to develop your skills that way. You're rewarded with gold and silver for solving quests, and for the time you're saving up for that chainmail upgrade, each pile of silver pieces you find on a corpse (or get from the thieves' giuldmaster when you beat him at Dag-Nab-It) is pretty sweet. Once you rescue Barnard, though, you're pretty set economically. I wouldn't have minded if there was more stuff to buy. On the other hand, the game is over quickly enough that you don't notice the effects of the limited economy. Score: 4.

Looting a bandit corpse.

8. Quests. As with Pool of Radiance, I like how you're not trying to save the world here, but rather just solve a series of local problems and...well, become a hero. Rescuing Elsa seems to be the "main quest" in the sense that it triggers the end-game sequence. In this sense, the main quest has only one outcome. But there are a few side quests (rescuing Barnard, driving off Baba Yaga, collecting the healer's reagents, finding the healer's ring) that contribute to the overall score and the end-game text. I like that they're not mandatory. Many adventure games feel like a huge Rube Goldberg device, where some instigating event leads you predictably down a path to a fixed end, but Hero's Quest (within a limited game world) seems more flexible than most. Score: 6.

9. Graphics, Sound, and Interface. I continue to find the EGA era my graphically least favorite. In the CGA and monochrome eras, things were less graphically advanced, but at least you could see distinct objects. When VGA came along, it created much sharper images. EGA, stuck between the two, creates screens in which I have a lot of trouble seeing objects, or making out what certain objects are supposed to be, or distinguishing between objects and shadows. My colorblindness is undoubtedly a factor here. Still, I could see why the developers felt a VGA remake was in order.

The music in this game was a lot of fun. The main theme is composed and memorable, and throughout the game, you get variations on the theme as you visit different locations: slow, pizzicato, and creepy when you visit Baba Yaga, triumphant and major-scale when you solve the main quest. There's even a little Arabian version at the very end, serving as a preview for the next game. There are leitmotifs throughout the game, including wandering through the forest, fighting combats, visiting Erana's Peace, and committing burglary.

The other sound effects are less compelling. They are rare and scattered, and absent in places that you would expect them, such as delivering and receiving blows. I had constant emulator issues (not the developers' faults, of course) in which DOSBox would get stuck on the last note played while leaving an area, and in which the sound volume varied considerably between areas, so even though I liked the music, I generally played with the sound off.

The commands are intuitive and easy to memorize. There's a menu at the top of the screen that pops up when you hit ESC, but the developers gave everything an easy-to-remember keyboard shortcut. I did have a few interface issues, though. Sometimes the game would refuse to allow me to leave a screen or enter a building unless I toggled my mode (sneak, walk, run). It's way too easy when walking to hit some single pixel of a bush or stalactite and be unable to continue (particularly annoying when you're being chased). There's one combat sequence in which the game mysteriously departs from the regular combat interface and creates some confusion. Other little quirks along these lines sometimes inhibited smooth playing.

Balancing some of these problems, I give a lot of credit to the attention given to the text-based inputs.
There's nothing more frustrating, when playing a text-based game, than when you know what to do but you can't get the game to understand you. But here, the developers accounted for almost every contingency. When you're charging the bandit fortress while arrows are raining down on you, you don't want a parser that makes a lot of distinctions between CLIMB LOGS and CLIMB OVER LOGS. In this case, they both work, as do CLIMB TREE, JUMP OVER TREE, VAULT, and other combinations of these verbs, prepositions, and nouns. If you're on a screen with an enemy and type THROW DAGGER, it assumes (sensibly) that you want to throw it at the enemy. This was very refreshing. Score: 5.

10. Gameplay. Here's where Hero's Quest really shines. The game bucks a lot of adventure games by being mostly non-linear in between a fixed start position and a scripted endgame. It is extremely replayable thanks to this non-linearity, the differences in character classes, and the "scoring" system that encourages you to explore every facet of the game. (Evidence of this is that it's the only game so far in this blog that I have immediately and enjoyably replayed after winning.) I might fault it for being a little too short. I say this because the character development is so satisfying that I wish there was more to do with the skills I've spent so much time developing (but, of course, there's a sequel!). Because of the lack of combat tactics and the lack of complexity to the puzzles, I also have to fault it for being a little too easy. But both "too short" and "too easy" are significantly preferable to "overstays its welcome" and "frustrating," which I find myself writing about a lot of games. Score: 8.

As I suspected, the final score of 53 is a bit lower than what is reflective of my actual enjoyment of the game (a fate that also befell Pirates! with a score of 48), but it's still a good score, tying the game with Ultima IV, Starflight, Wasteland, and several others. If it still seems low, keep inmind that the GIMILET is meant to rank CRPGs specifically and not "enjoyment" in general. If combat tactics, gold, and equipment are your bread and butter, it is inescapable that you will find Hero's Quest wanting.

If you don't care so much about these traditional CRPG elements, forget the score and just listen to my textual "final rating": Hero's Quest is a near-perfect CRPG-adventure game hybrid, and the beginning of a series that only gets better. If it sounds like you would like this kind of game at all, don't miss out on the chance to play it.

You might, however, want to play the VGA remake, under it's new name, instead. The graphics and sound are inescapably better, there are a few additions, and the only reasons I can think to prefer Hero's Quest are that (like me) you prefer the text parser to clicking on things, or you don't want to be jarred when you go from the VGA Quest for Glory to the EGA Quest for Glory II.

The first screens from the two versions.

With all that I've said about the game, is it any surprise that its reviews have been universally positive? In the January 1990 Computer Gaming World, Scorpia called it "a cute little gem that combines role-playing and adventuring with a healthy dose of humor to produce a game that is extremely fun to play" (she also noted that the puzzles are a bit easy). In September 1990, it got CGW's award for "Adventure Game of the Year" for its "interesting story, fascinating encounters, and intriguing puzzles." They revisited the game in November 1996  as one of the "150 Best Games of All Time." Every single review on MobyGames is deliriously positive: "The best Sierra game, period"; "The first and quite possibly best game I've ever played"; "A solid opening for a great adventure/RPG."

The game's notable wit and humor continues all the way through the end credits.

Fortunately, there's plenty to look forward to. There are four sequels, starting with Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire in 1990. I'll visit the VGA remake of Hero's Quest in 1992, around the same time I play Quest for Glory III: The Wages of War. Without remembering much about it, I remember Quest for Glory IV: Shadows of Darkness (1993) to be my favorite of the series. But even after I wrap up with Quest for Glory V: Dragon Fire in 1998, I can anticipate a Quest for Glory II remake 10 years later and, of course, the Coles' newest project: Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption, which made its Kickstarter goal just as I was getting started with Hero's Quest.

I'm also intrigued to try 1991's HeroQuest, based on the Milton-Bradley board game that forced Hero's Quest to change its name to Quest for Glory.

Oh, after all this, I still want to play a little more. What kind of end-game message do you get if  you rescue Elsa but you didn't free Barnard? If you kill Barnard? What if you go to Baba Yaga's hut with the magic mirror without doing the mandrake quest the first time? If you eat the dryad's magic acorn does it create a "walking dead" scenario? Wasn't there anything unique to do at the lake, the guard barracks, or the forest area with the hidden goblins? But alas, I must move on to the intriguingly-titled Don't Go Alone.

64 comments:

  1. Well, that was a refreshing change of pace. I like my schnapps, but an amaretto sour is nice everyone once and a while. (Yes, I like girly drinks. I learned to drink at a time when all my close Friends were women....soo.....yeah. Moving along).

    I do like the amount of detail you put into this post, and would like to see some of it (Such as details of enemies, a bit more on dungeons, etc) in your future posts. Pretty please? With sugar on top? :D

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    1. It's funny you say that because I was recently reviewing some postings I made on other games, and I was annoyed with myself. "Why didn't I mention X?" I kept saying.

      So I've made myself a bit of a checklist to help with future postings and make sure I don't overlook anything that might be interesting. That will probably translate into more detail, although probably not of the narrative variety.

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    2. Sweet. It would also be cool to see you do a post relating things you missed in old reviews.

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  2. I like to think of Hero's Quest as kind of a proto-sandbox game: The non-linearity of an adventure game, the different ways to develop your character and the class-specific solutions to most challenges, the absence of harder puzzles or a time limit (*cough* QfG2 *cough*) - all this combines to make the player feel that this is really 'his' vale, where he can do pretty much whatever he wants.

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  3. A very good read, and a good summary of the game. It's well worth it's place in any lists of top games.

    As for your final questions:
    1+2. Not sure, will have to give that a go.
    3. So long as you have the magic mirror (and use it), Baba Yaga is defeated (she tries to turn you into a frog on your first meeting too, and the first time I completed it I never got the mandrake)
    4. I'm pretty sure there's no way to complete the game if you don't have the acorn (no dispel potion, no rescuing elsa). You can also drop quest specific items, so can cause yourself problems that way. I've also run into the problem of throwing my last dagger before a fight, which leaves you defenceless! (even if you have magic, it's an instant death, later games separated your normal dagger from throwing ones)
    5. Lake: Nope. Barracks: Nope. Goblin forest: you can fight the goblins, and there's one more each time you fight. Good way to grind for money/stats.

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    1. In the VGA version, you're forced to fetch the mandrake.

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    2. The mandrake quest seemed a little pointless since you don't actually "get" anything from it, except perhaps points plus an idea of how Baba Yaga operates, so you know to have the mirror ready.

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    3. Goblin forest - Each time you fight there is one extra goblin to take on. But they are finite. You can actually clear the screen. Perhaps the source of your missing points?

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    4. @Rob:

      I don't think even the fighter gets points for killing all the goblins (just one for killing his first goblin). I've never cleared out the goblin camp though, I'll have to do that on my next go!

      For my max playthrough, I was a Thief, because that's the only way to get all the skills. The thief doesn't get points for combat, and my points were lost by things like not saying "hiden goseke" to get past Fred the cave Troll (I fought him instead).

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    5. After studying it exhaustively, I think maybe the missing four points might be just not turning in the troll's beard or cheeataur claws to the healer, each of which gets you 2 points. I remember doing that for my first character, but in my haste to figure out what I did wrong and improve the endgame for Chester 2, I might have forgotten to do that.

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  4. What Quest for Glory is, is a very tight design. There's almost no fat to the point where the few screens on which there's not much to do stand out as weird. Many videogames of this vintage have systems in place that do not work well or sometimes at all and it was considered part of the charm of these games for the player to learn through experience which those are and disregard them. Compare B.A.T. to Quest for Glory and it's clear to see what I'm talking about.

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    1. "Tight design" is a perfect phrase. Even the random forest areas occur in small batches and serve as just-large-enough buffers between key areas.

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  5. The lake serves as a set-up for an Operation: Iceman plug/joke/reference, which was a concurrent Sierra adventure game. Not much else that I know of.

    The Goblins are there to be defeated, if you defeat all of them, the hero strikes a pose. Then when you search each goblin for valuables, there's an amusing notion that the goblins were playing poker and one of them won the big pot.

    No idea what the Barracks are there for!

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  6. You should have tried a version of dosbox with mt32 emulation... The mt32 music on this game is very fine.

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    1. I'm pretty sure I *did* set it to Roland MT32. What makes you think I was using something else?

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    2. First, you need the MT32 roms to properly emulate it - at least I haven't noticed you mentioning this in previous posts, so I also have assumed that you don't have them.

      You will probably get music out of dosbox also without the roms, but it is quite different from the actual MT32 tunes. (Neither the emulator is perfect compared to the authentic MT32, but it's quite close)

      IMO Quest for Glory series has the most memorable themes of the era, so I think these links are worth checking:

      Introduction music:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIi0YxriapY
      Erana's peace music:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHhpbE1zOys

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    3. It seems impossible to find legit copies of the MT32 ROMs. In the end I had to resort to torrenting them.
      But it was worth the trouble, since Ultima Underworld sounds much better with Roland sound effects than the weak Soundblaster effects.
      But it seems different ROMs work for different systems. The method recommended in the Ultima forum at GOG didn't work for me, and the method I used didn't work for others.
      If you are serious about getting Roland sound check out this link:
      http://www.gog.com/forum/ultima_series/sound_in_ultima_underworld_is_playing_music/page1

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    4. Wow, I dloaded the MT32 roms, followed the steps in the GOG forum, and WOWZERS does UW1+2 sound A_W_E_S_O_M_E! I guess with MUNT that means ANY midi is going to sent through to awesomeville and that is mega cool. Mega.

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    5. Judging by the brief in-game music in that death compilation video... ouch, the music was all wrong. You obviously tried to play the MT-32 music using a General MIDI synth (probably the crappy windows default driver to boot).

      MT-32 MIDI and General MIDI are incompatible. For one thing, the instrument list is completely different (instrument #59 is a harp in MT-32 and a tuba in General MIDI), so wrong instruments will play. Furthermore, the MT-32 was programmable, meaning you could arbitrarily replace existing instruments with custom ones - making a simple instrument remap for MT-32 compatibility impossible.

      The only real solution to get proper MT-32 playback is to either aquire a real Roland MT-32 or download an emulator + ROMs.

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    6. Okay. I'll keep that in mind next time.

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  7. I agree completely with Andy_Panthro - good read/good summary!

    For my money, I also enjoy QFG4 the most. With some great luck and perhaps karma, I've never had any of the famous bugs/glitches that are known to exist in the fourth game - all my playthroughs (of which there are many) have been butter smooth.

    I am also curious as to Final Questions 1+2. And I clearly remember the "Use your last dagger" problem!

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    1. I never came across the dagger thing. I just kept track of how many I had and didn't throw the last one!

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    2. In the VGA version you throw the dagger by selecting it from your inventory, and then clicking somewhere on the screen. I found this out by using my only dagger to try to cut some fruit at Erana's Peace. Bye bye dagger.

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  8. Nice writeup! I was worried about HQ's GIMLET rating since I knew we would get a low score on equipment, and likely on the limited combat options. We ended up using a slightly different combat system in each game, none was perfect. In QfG1, I tried to simulate weapon speeds by limiting your ability to attack again quickly - You're supposed to Dodge or Parry between attacks - but it ended up feeling non-responsive, so I think I cut out that "feature" before shipping. In QfG2, your attack accuracy is affected by your tactics - If you mix in some defensive maneuvers, or simply attack less often, you score more hits (i.e. your hit probability goes up slightly each 0.1 second you delay the next attack). That system felt more responsive, but I'm not sure how many players understood why. :-)

    You are correct about the relative easiness of the adventure game puzzles compared to other adventures. Lori and I felt that most adventure games had too many frustrating and unfair puzzles. We tried to make all of ours solvable solely with clues you could get in the game. Due to the limited scope, that means they were necessarily easier than puzzles requiring outside knowledge.

    Ref the Goblin screen. This was a compromise when we realized that we were running over the development and disk space budgets. (Developing a graphic adventure game that had to work on 5.25" disks on systems with *no* hard drive was crazy - Management was not pleased with our Cost of Goods on HQ and QG2.)

    Anyway, the original plan was for a hidden passage to an underground cave system, culminating in a meeting with the Goblin King. This might be particularly timely now as the idea was inspired by the Goblin sequence in The Hobbit. We undoubtedly would have thrown in some "magic ring" references.

    But at that point we had to cut several rooms, and the only "fat" in the game was the goblin area. So we kept the "goblin training grounds". Larry Scott programmed them, and had a lot of fun with the scripting. I think he came up with the poker line.

    Developing for floppies was one reason most adventure games of the era are linear; you didn't want to make players swap disks more often than necessary. Hero's Quest shipped with 14 disks - ten 360K 5.25" disks and four 720K 3.5" disks. Critical code and animation had to be repeated on every disk, so only 150-200K of space was available for new content.

    Sierra gave up on 360K floppies after HQ, but Quest for Glory 2: Trial By Fire still had 13 disks in the box - nine 720K 3.5" disks and four high-density 1.2M 5.25" disks. A *lot* of planning and compromises went into allowing the games to be played without hard disk installation.

    Ref Anonymous's comment on MT32 music - 100% agree! You did not want to play Hero's Quest (or any Sierra game of the period) on less than a Sound Blaster, and the music and sounds were optimized for the Roland MT32. The four-voice sound cards on the Tandy 1000, Atari ST, and Amiga were reasonable compromises, but if you want to hear the music the way the composers wrote it, use MT32 emulation.

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    1. Corey, thanks for commenting throughout my exploration of HQ. That's particularly good to know about combat in QfG2.

      Even though I talked about it a little in my comments to the previous posting, I often forget how the liimtations of the era affected development. I think I often subconsciously assume that the games aren't larger or more advanced because the programming languages were new or something. I forget how much consideration had to go into memory, disk space, and disk swapping. I trust you'll have a lot more fun developing Hero-U without those considerations.

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    2. Corey, thank you for the historical anecdotes in this post, and scattered elsewhere. I've found it all to be rather fascinating. It was almost like having a commentary track play while I was exploring the game.

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  9. As I understand it there are a few other differences that make some purists prefer the original EGA release of Quest for Glory 1, though I can't recall exactly what off the top of my head. Being jarred by going back to EGA for the second game is no longer an issue though now that there's that excellent fan VGA remake of II.

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    1. I think the conversation system is the main reason why many prefer the EGA-games, because it feels much more natural and satisfying to find info when you have to think of what to ask.

      I also prefer the graphics style. Sierra never got to grips with VGA, their games look muddy and ugly. There are some exceptions, but compare a typical Sierra game from the VGA era with a Westwood game, for instance, and Sierra's lack of skill with VGA becomes really obvious.

      In the nineties, they also had a nasty tendency to make the NPCs into silly looking caricatures. That's evident just from the comparison at the bottom of the article. I'm finding it extremely grating in QfG 4, which is supposedly serious, but filled with people that are so stupid-looking that it just feels embarrassing. Though QfG 4 is full of stupid things that do their best to ruin the mood of the game, like Dr. Cranium's lab (what. were. they. thinking?), were-rabbits, Igor and so on.

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    2. For me it's mainly nostalgia. I played QFG1(EGA) many times, and only got the VGA version much later when I bought the anthology.

      Also I guess the differences in style between EGA and VGA bother me a bit. Some of the characters and locations look very different in VGA (it's been a while, but I think Erasmus' house is fairly different, and maybe the brigand fortress?).

      However to contrast with Joe above, I really like the QFG3+4 art style. I'd suggest they did a very good job, limited perhaps by the technology of the time. The series always had it's oddities and comedy, and I've always found that part of the charm.

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    3. I'm actually one of the people that Joe cites who prefers the dialogue system in the EGA version. But I have to disagre on the graphics: I far prefer the VGA version. Again, it might be my colorblindness having trouble with EGA, but with the VGA version I can actually figure out what's going on. I think the portraits are just as cartoonish in the EGA version as VGA; the graphic quality is just so bad in EGA that you can't tell they were trying to be cartoonish.

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    4. Joe - We were inspired by Young Frankenstein and Abbot and Costello meet Frankenstein, as well as by more serious Victorian horror, when we wrote QfG4. A mad scientist was mandatory, so we put in a little Castle of Dr. Brain action.

      It's always a tough balance - Comedy is hard. I think the balance will shift a little more to the serious side in Hero-U, but we'll still have a lot of comedy elements and dialogue.

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    5. Thanks for replying to my (maybe somewhat harsh) post, Corey. I generally liked the elements of humor in the games, it's just it sometimes went a bit overboard. I can't actually remember so much about Dr. Cranium himself, but I remember his lab, the computer, et.c., and feeling as if I was suddenly playing a completely different game.

      Anyway, I loved most of the QfG-games, and Shannara too (which has one of the saddest moments in any game I've ever played), so I'm definitely looking forward to Hero-U!

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  10. as an rpg it sucks. as an adevnture game its pretty good for Sierra. Up there with Colonels Bequest for sluething things out with different ways to solve things.

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    1. I have to disagree that it "sucks" as a CRPG. I think people who say that have a particular template of a CRPG in mind, so the best you can really say is that it sucks as a CRPG under your definition of what a CRPG is.

      Under my definition, the game need only have character development, attribute-derived combat rolls, and non-puzzle-based inventory, and HQ certainly has all three. Its approach to character development--an important staple of RPGs under almost anyone's definition--is almost unique, and that alone makes it (in my opinion) a good RPG.

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    2. Its like saying Zork is an RPG because you fight a troll with a sword under the house and the outcome is not fixed. Yah it does not fit my template. Its shoe horned into Sierra's mold with fixed screens and puzzles to solve on each one and random deaths and a parser. Its like a lot of other SCI games. Tho, I could not imagine writing QfG in LISP ugh.. sci lisp was nasty looking.

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    3. No, it's not like that at all. There were no attributes in Zork, and the outcome of the troll battle (which was one of only two potential battles in the game) was entirely based on luck. There was no way to "develop" your character to do better in the battle.

      Hero's Quest is a hybrid, sure. No one's claiming otherwise. If that's not your cup of tea, no problem. We're all entitled to our preferences. But the developers did make an honest effort to include CRPG elements here and make a true hybrid (unlike, say, B.A.T.), and they deserve credit for that.

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  11. There are 8 spells. Looks like you're missing Detect Magic, which I believe is the only way to get the Trigger spell.

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    1. Missed that one. I guess you get it from the Meeps. I didn't play as a mage, but a walkthrough I read said that you can get Trigger just by asking 'Enry about magic.

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    2. Yes, it comes from the Meeps, just ask about magic or a scroll. Detect magic or Trigger are the only way to make the ladder appear without throwing or climbing, and Trigger resides with 'Enry. Once again, yes, you just ask for it and he gives it to you.

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    3. Ah. I forgot that the mage doesn't start (unless you spend the points) with "climb" OR "throw."

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  12. "If it still seems low, keep inmind that the GIMILET is meant to rank CRPGs specifically and not "enjoyment" in general."

    I know very, very little of this game outside of what I've read in your blog, but this game appears to be maybe 80% adventure, 20% RPG (if that much). I wonder if you have any thoughts about a (largely) adventure game ranking the same as many of the best CRPGs out there on a scoring system specifically built to rank CRPGs. Do you think that it is fair to say that HQ is as good of a CRPG as Ultima IV?

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    1. Yes, I think it's fair. Ultima IV has superior combat tactics, magic, and economy. It also has the edge on the story and setting, but Hero's Quest does pretty well here. Hero's Quest is a better game for character development, pacing, and replayability.

      I've I'd been doing the whole "bonus points" thing back when I ranked U5, I probably would have given it a few more for the star originality of its quest, but I had about as much fun playing both, so I'm glad they were ranked equally.

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  13. Fair enough. Keep up the good work!

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  14. Much prefer the look of the VGA games, although there is a certain nostalgic charm to EGA. After QFG1 VGA I went directly to QFG2 EGA. The lack of flashy graphics didn't diminish my enjoyment of it at all. now as I start QFG3 I've realized something. So far I found QFG2 the most enjoyable of the 3. And it has nothing to do with story or content. It's all about the text based interface I really miss it! in the later games it's all point and click. you click on an NPC and everything you could ever need to ask is instantly displayed, it's disappointing, there is no mystery keywords that would traditionally take a little observation, poking about or puzzle solving to discover. It's too bad the parser system went extinct about the same time VGA came into being, I would love to have both.

    Really enjoying QFG3 now, I think the apothecary is my favorite location yet! The music is so groovy man, pull up a cushion take a hit off his bong (moderation kids) and chat that tree hugger up!

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    1. I haven't played it yet, but I think the AGDI VGA remake of QFG2 gives you the opportunity to type in the keywords in conversations (just like the "ask about" command in the original.)

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  15. huh... I actually never heard of that game before

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  16. Next time you make a video, press ALT-ENTER to make Dosbox fullscreen. It's just sort of distracting looking at the window and breaks the immersion.

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    1. I might be wrong, but I think that's a function of the game resolution, which would be the same even if I went full-screen. Anyway, I can't do that because I'm constantly dancing in and out of the window during my recording to consult notes, filddle with the settings in the recorder, and so on.

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    2. I just realized I misunderstood what you were complaining about. You mean the window borders and title. I can make that go away by choosing to define my own recording area instead of recording the entire window.

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  17. I enjoyed the section on the many ways to die. It's getting a bit off-topic for this blog, but I've noticed that it's popular today to laud the Lucasarts adventure games as the greatest because they didn't kill the player, but this misses that part of the fun of Sierra games back then was experimenting and finding various ways to kill yourself.

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  18. A little late to the party, but I've been documenting my Spielburg experience here:

    http://playedbypanthro.blogspot.co.uk/

    It's perhaps a little rough, but I'll be using the blog to chart my Quest for Glory adventures, as well as writing a bit about other games I'm playing and Kickstarter stuff too.

    Comments are welcome!

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    1. I'm glad you included "Mage's Maze" in your postings, since neither Trickster or I could play that. I had forgotten what it looked like.

      Your inclusion of the occasional GIF is fantastic. Is there any drawback to this? Why haven't I been doing it all along?

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    2. My thoughts exactly Chet! Makes me want to go back and add GIFs to all my old posts (who has time for that though).

      What's the secret Andy? I'll throw in some CAPs for information!

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  19. I've just finished the game, but it will take a week until all the videos are up. I really enjoyed this one, and I'm looking forward to playing the sequel along with you. I'll be playing the VGA remake by AGD Interactive, though. Yes, you can import your character from QFG1 into that game. I might try to get a head-start on you next time, though.

    Your posts were excellent as always. I don't care what the naysayers have to say. The narrative in these entries was very good indeed.

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    1. Thanks, Amy. I'm looking forward to QfGII, too. I'll try to get a chance to watch more of your videos.

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  20. I could have sworn I played this game before, but in reading your playthrough doesn't strike any chord of familiarity with me. I know at the last I've played 3-5. Maybe I simply played the VGA version of this, probably as a mage, so it's not quite similar enough to get my memory going.

    I do love this series, however. I might pick this up after I get through the Ultima games, as I'm intending to finish the series (sans 1 and 2). I'll be picking a mage, as a lover of all things arcane in games, and will probably post my experiences here to contrast your burglar.

    Adventure games being my second favorite genre after RPGs, it's always been a shame to me there aren't more. I wish I had seen the kickstarter program you mentioned here before it was over so I could contribute. It seems you said they failed, but when I checked their page it looked like they reached their minimum? Perhaps I'm confusing myself somehow. Regardless, if they ARE making it, I look forward to it.

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    1. Hiya! If you want a quick look at what the VGA mage game is like, I've played through it here: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLUgr6zVzebDNrxZGqWyB8PLaAFDovhBjC

      I usually play a mage in games as well. I love using magic.

      Hero-U has been funded, and they are working on it: http://www.hero-u.net/leaders/

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    2. It's good to hear it got funded. From your videos, that is indeed the version I played. I'll get around to watching the videos fully once I finish my own play through of the first one. Still have that DLC and those Ultima games in the way first.

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    3. Hey, take your time, and thanks in advance. Have fun!

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  21. I try to read every word and comment on this blog, but I've done that very superficially with this game. It looks far too interesting to spoil myself. The breadth of the gameplay is astonishing for its time. The modern trifecta of fighter-caster-thief, and their separate ways to solve problems, apparently begins here.
    I grew up with LucasArts games, so the Scumm engine spoiled me. Only a little later did I take a look at the Sierra adventure games. I think I tried Space Quest and Leisure Suit Larry. But as a young person with rudimentary english skills, the Sierra games were too complicated. The Scumm engine tells you exactly which words to use (and which words require translation). The text parser was too complicated for a non-english speaker. I might actually have to try them all again. I think I'd enjoy them much more now.

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  22. In Regards to QFG2, whilst very enjoyable the repetition of streets all looking the same ground me right down in regards to this (it could of also done with a remake.

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  23. As someone who has often had long blond hair, I have to say I have found it offputting instead to see the evolution of every default male protagonist being a brunette with a chiseled jawline and stubble. But perhaps this fits your real-life description better, and explains your disdain for Axl Rose PCs?

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