Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Land of the Lost

Looking up a map of The Land is probably a spoiler, but I figured most fans of the series would already have this at their disposal.

The Land is proving to be a long game, perhaps needlessly long, without much becoming clearer on the main quest. It seems to be shaping up into a series of quests to find the seven "wards of lore" left by Lord Kevin. I tried to look up some of this stuff online, and it sounds like Kevin was Lord of Revelstone who created some kind of horrific magic ritual to destroy Lord Foul and sealed away his knowledge in seven "wards" so it wouldn't be destroyed by the ritual, too. I guess the ritual didn't work, and Kevin ended up dying instead.

I don't know exactly how the plot of the game is following the plot of the books. There's some indication that I'll eventually hook up with Thomas Covenant. I got some lore about him, and there's an icon representing him in the tileset.

What about me?! I'm the one doing all the work!

The first quest, taking me to the dungeons beneath the giant city of Coercri, gave me a peek at the game's approach to dungeons. They're huge (all maps seem to take up all available map space), multi-leveled, and randomly-generated. The game regenerates levels as you go up and down, so every time you want to ascend or descend, you have to go through a process of finding the stairs again. The random generation creates oddities such as doors that go nowhere or doors right next to openings.

Each time you visit or re-visit a level, the game tells you how many experience points are to be found there, which is kind of silly because the number isn't really fixed. If you go up and down again, you'll get a new map with a new experience point total. This does mean, however, that once you "clear" a level, you don't have to worry about enemies regenerating (that is, until you leave and return).

There are multiple creatures to be found in the dungeons, and as you slay them, they drop food, weapons, armor, potions, torches, staffs, scrolls, and gold. You also find these things laying around. The scrolls give you the same types of lore that you might get from people in towns, although there are occasional scrolls that give you an extra spell and Scrolls of Identification. Much like NetHack, potions are color-coded and items are given generic descriptions, but once you identify them once, the identification holds for every subsequent item that you find of that color or class. You need torches to get around and the occasional meal to keep healthy, but these are both so plentiful that you don't need to worry about bringing a stock with you.

Gideon fights a little creature while the detritus of previous battles--a staff, a sword, and a bit of food--lie around him.

Unlike the wilderness areas, combat is all on the main screen. I removed much of the fun and challenge of the game with my casino haul. Because I bought so much gear, I wasn't remotely interested in 90% of what enemies dropped (food and the occasional potions were the exception), and I've only found one enemy who was remotely dangerous to me (see below). Part of me wants to start over and experience the game "straight," but that's kind of like a guy who insists on continuing to work a menial job after winning the lottery.

NPCs show up randomly in dungeons, too, imparting the same sort of lore that they do in towns. In the second dungeon I explored, they included centaurs, but they said the same things that humans did.

Gideon trades "hellos" with an NPC. Note the nonsensical doors all over the place.

Because of the random regeneration every time you leave a dungeon level, there's no point trying to explore everything. In the first dungeon, I reasoned that the quest item would be on the last level, so I just kept moving downward every time I found a set of stairs. Eventually, I mapped the tenth level exhaustively and had found no stairs, so I knew that was the last one.

The tenth level of Coercri was also the only level to feature something other than generic corridors. At first, I thought it was some kind of water, but later I reasoned that it was a barrier. I didn't know what to do with it, but I fired up my lore and started trying all of the "words of power" that I had learned. One of them, MELEN, opened a passageway through the barrier and to the first ward.

After that, I slowly made my way up the 10 levels, having to find the staircases all over again, and returned to Revelstone. There, the lord who had given me the original quest (Lord Mohram) told me to find the second ward.

I think I'm sensing a pattern.

A bit of lore said that the second ward was under Mount Thunder, but I had no idea where that was. I spent a while wandering around The Land trying to find it, and I quickly discovered that time passes very quickly while wandering around the wilderness. My character aged from 20 to 22, I burned a ton of food, and I had to return to Revelstone to perform my "service," which is nothing more than entering the city, hitting "O," and watching as eight months burn away. I really don't understand the purpose of this feature.

Wilderness combats also started presenting me with multiple foes at once.

During my wanderings, I explored the forest city of Revelwood, where I ran into an NPC named Corimini, who asked if I wanted to join the "Loresraat." I said sure, why not, and found myself having changed classes (I had forgotten that Loresraat was a class). It re-started me at 0 experience points, but I kept all my skills and hit points from leveling up as a Warward. One advantage of the change was that I got access to spells; every level-up let me select a new one.

"Know" in the biblical sense?

This is great in theory, but so far I haven't needed to use any of them; my regular attacks and armor defend me fine. Even poison, which some creatures are capable of inflicting, lasts only a few turns.

The icons in the left-center show that my character has cast "Protection," he has quaffed a potion of fire resistance, and he has a torch lit.

In addition to spells, there are supposedly items (Gems of Brightness, Crystal Balls, Staffs of Curing) that work in response to various words of power. I've not been able to get any of them to work, though. If I wield the item and speak a word, nothing happens. If I "use" the item, nothing happens.

Still lacking the location of Mount Thunder, I caved and looked at a map of The Land online that would have been published in one of the Thomas Covenant books. I followed the features to the indicated location, but there was no obvious entrance to a mountain. I tried standing on random squares in the middle of the mountain and hitting the "down" key, and one of them took me into the dungeon. Horrible game design there.

The entrance to the mountain is a couple squares to my southeast. Is it just my colorblindness screwing me again, or am I right that there's nothing there?

As in the previous dungeon, I headed down as quickly as possible, but my explorations of the bottom level didn't turn up the ward--just an NPC named "Drool Rockworm" who I couldn't hit and was capable of killing me in about three hits. None of the other foes in the game have been even remotely dangerous, so this was a bit of a change.

For a little guy, he sure packs a punch.

I ran away from him, started exploring upward, and found the ward on Level 9. I had been previously alerted by an NPC or scroll that "the power of the wards is unlocked by the previous wards," so I tried the word that I had received at the first ward--MELANKURION--and got passage through the barrier to the second. Here, I was relieved to receive a word of power (ABAKAAL) that automatically transports me upward in dungeons. Exploring downward is still a pain in the neck, but at least returning to the surface is a lot faster.

Thank god for the "lore" window because I wouldn't be able to read what that word is otherwise.

Returning to Lord Morham, I received a quest to find--you guessed it--the third ward. (Is the game over when I've found all seven, or is this just a prologue?) A bit of lore suggested that was in a place called Doriendor Corishev, somewhre in the south. Getting there was a bit of a nightmare. Navigating through mountains isn't easy in this game: when standing among mountains, you often can't go certain directions, but there's no graphical indication where the "barriers" are. You have to blindly feel your way through them.

Navigating a path through the mountains.

Once I reached the area where the dungeon should have been, I found that it was just like Mount Thunder: no visible entrance. I had to wander around testing a bunch of random squares of mountain and grass before I finally found it, about a half hour later. I later discovered that the small-scale map (in the lower right) has a little black square where dungeon entrances are, so as long as you have the general area, it's not as hard to find as I've been making it out to be. As I close, I'm working my way down through the levels.

I'd like to get far enough to where I get additional party members. The "party" screen suggests I can have up to five of them, but everyone I ask to join me says "no."

Gideon sits at the head of an empty party.

Again, I'd love to hear from anyone else who has played this game, and any context to this plot from anyone who has read the books. I feel compelled to stick with it for at least a little while longer. It was clearly a labor of love for developer Mike Riley, and there isn't much about the game online except an article at RogueBasin. I'd like to be among the first to show the winning screenshot or post a little gameplay to YouTube. (I might be missing stuff that's out there, but it's hard finding articles for a game with as generic a title as The Land. Nothing came up when I tried to Google the types of terms that would show up in a walkthrough.) I'm just sorry I don't understand more about the context of the game.


  1. "Is it just my colorblindness screwing me again, or am I right that there's nothing there?"

    There's nothing there.

    As a complete aside, I do wonder what you'll do once you hit the Windows 95/98 era, where you'll find most of the games will not work on anything that isn't 95/98. Maybe by then virtualization will be good enough to run games decently. Right now VMware or Virtual PC is no good for that sort of thing.

    1. Yeah, I've had trouble myself running some early Windows games and virtual machines haven't been much help. What's worse, it seems companies offering virtual machines with legacy OS support only do so with minimal features. For example, none of them feature 3D support last time I checked and only one, Virtual PC, has any DirectX support (but only 2D - DirectDraw).

      For a while now I've been thinking about buying a late 90s PC specifically so I can run Windows 95/98 on it for such games... a far less than ideal solution for people who don't actually fancy themselves as hardware collectors and who don't want the hassle of dealing with an old PC.

    2. In my experience, Wine, for Linux, works well for a surprisingly high number of Win 95/98 games. The solution may lie here, don't you think?

    3. Yep. It used to be that you needed a 'DOS Box' before the days of DOSBox.exe. For the past 10 years or so you've needed a Win95 box to play certain things. A Pentium 100 is about perfect. Certainly though, the emu situation is far better now than it was a decade ago. These days you can get the majority of stuff from that era to run OK without too much fuss, else GOG.com has done it themselves.

    4. I do worry about that, but as Tristan points out, I hope GOG saves me from the worst. It's a future concern, in any event.

    5. I think Chet is pretty safe, It'll be a few years before he hits windows compatibility issues and by that point emulation\fan patches\GOG will probably cover most of it.

      Most of them run on XP with a minimum of fiddling. At the very worst Chet could just ask for old hardware donations.

    6. I'd like to point out that it is perfectly possible to get Windows 3.1 installed and running in DOSbox, which will allow access to some games from that nebulous early Windows era, such as Moria and Castle of the Winds. (And you really, really want to be able to play Moria and Castle of the Winds). I'm told there's even unofficial patches or compatibility layers out there that enable 3.1 to play some 32-bit programs, but darn if I can find them in google today.

      Try this link. http://vogons.zetafleet.com/viewtopic.php?t=9405

    7. Yep I have Windows 3.11 currently running under Dosbox and also have an addon installed called Calmira which gives the gui a windows 9x feel, start button and everything. I have over 100 games installed such as Castle of the Winds, Moria, Mordor and many non-rpg games I enjoy. I also dug out a couple machines i plan on setting up Windows 98se and maybe a flavor of dos. Heck I just looked up Calmira and it now has a windows XP theme as well.

    8. Sure, Windows 3.x games aren't an issue. But Sierra games are especially notorious for refusing to run on anything other than the OS for the era in which the software was written. Fortunately I cannot think of many RPGs suffering that limitation, it's just a thought I had.

    9. It's even possible to install Windows 95 or 98 under DOSBox. It's also extremely unstable and mostly useless, other than for the novelty factor. I know, I've tried.

    10. Castle of the Winds runs on Windows XP just fine; that is where I beat it.

      Huh, I'm surprised none of the vitalization solutions offer 3D support; aren't they literally running a copy of the OS? I recall mine said some stuff was restricted as I had the free version, and an unsupported graphics card, are you sure there aren't versions that do that?

      Man, I had a bunch of computers perfect for that in my basement that I took to the old hardware disposal place when I moved out to Vancouver earlier this year. Ah well, it would have cost a fortune to mail them to the US anyway, when they just aren't that hard to find.

    11. I agree, mountain travel in this game does suck. Due to lack of memory space when this game was written, there was no space to have a separate icon for passable vs impassable mountains. I did a better job of this in Unicorn, where there is actually a separate icon for passable mountains.

  2. Ah, but look at the minimap! Methinks there's a black dot just to the south east of the white dot that is you!

    I can see why it's often thought of as a roguelike, even if it has a little more plot than most. A lot of the design seems to be roguelike-oriented.

    Good point about Windows 95, though maybe later DOS is as bad with the hardware tricks they played!

    1. Rogue was my model when I built this game. Actually it was because of Rogue this game got written. I had so thoroughly enjoyed Rogue I wanted to take its concept and try to make something better, more dungeons, a country to travel around in, etc. I believe I succeeded in some areas and accept that I fell short in others, but, what do you expect from a first try at something? :) But undoubtedly Rogue was the inspiration for this game.

  3. Interesting game.

    Couple typos:

    gave me a peak [peek] at the game's approach to dungeons.

    huge (all maps seem to take up all available map space), multi-leveld [leveled] , and randomly-generated.

    MELEN, opened a passageway through the barrier and two [to]the first ward.

    game online except an article at RougeBasin [Rogue].


    Pool of Radiance was similarly broken for me. I would hire heroes and thaumaturgists at the training hall and stab them in the back after a combat. You get their gear.

    Hence everyone had plate +1 ring of prot +1, twohander +1 and an arbitrary amount of cash.

    It was a long time before I cared about treasure. It took away a fair chunk of excitement.

    1. ...that sounds so evil, yet I'm guilty of something similar.

      In Etrian Odyssey and Wizardry, if I desperately needed cash I'd create characters, sell their stuff, and delete them. Which is the equivalent of falsely inviting people to join your guild so you can rob and/or murder them.

      Geez, I think I have to stop doing that when I play Etrian Odyssey 3 and 4...

    2. Does it make it right if you're playing an evil party? ;)

    3. Presumably an evil party would do that a couple dozen times and retire from adventuring life, leaving Phlan to its phate.

    4. Surely a truly evil party would still want to complete the main quest in order to obtain the mystical muguffin for their own nefarious purposes?

      They'd want to minimize personal risk of course. If only there was some way they could create an army of faceless goons....

    5. Back when I gave MUDs a try newbie gear was all set to decay and be worthless for this reason; so you couldn't rob them and get a ton of stuff.

  4. The NPCs refusal to join you is not a matter of you not getting far enough, but of either having too low level and/or charm skill or asking too high-level NPCs. The FAQ says the formula is as follows:
    1. Chance = 25 + (Player.level - NPC.level)*2) + Charm skill
    2. If NPC.level > Player.level + Charm skill then chance is zero
    3. If you already have a mount and you are asking a mount type
    then chance is zero
    4. If random(100) > chance then the ask failed.

    This also implies that it may have sence to ask several times.

    1. (since it's half-roguelike I guess it should be half-fine to use the spoilers, no? ;))

    2. Thanks. I actually think I was experiencing a more fundamental problem: NPCs don't join you if you (T)alk to them first. When I just started wandering up to them and going right to (J)oin, I managed to get a few in my party.

    3. Quite possible. To be honest, I'm really surprised that a game written in TurboPascal actually manages to look somewhat nice and not be a horredous bugfest.

    4. Lots of good games from back then were written in Turbo Pascal... For instance Pool of Radiance (and the other Gold Box games)...

    5. No, PoR was written in assembly http://goldbox.pbworks.com/w/page/8901448/DRAGON%20Magazine%20127

    6. See also: http://www.pcworld.com/article/2033318/black-annex-is-the-best-qbasic-game-youve-ever-seen.html

    7. The devil lies in the system requirements ;)

    8. The PC version of PoR is definitely Turbo Pascal... The TP runtime is in the exe, the embedded text strings are all TP format, and the game is known to crash out with TP runtime errors in certain circumstances. It's likely that other versions were assembly (on the Apple II and C64 there probably wouldn't be much choice -- although the original Wizardry games were in Apple Pascal, that was not commonly used and assembly would have been more likely).

    9. It is also very possible that the game was written in TP, then hand-tweaked in Assembly; that is still common today for video codecs and viruses (Well, C not Pascal)

      What is wrong with Pascal? I thought it was just a failed competitor to C?

  5. First off, this is not in ROT for Chets playthrough as much as it is for future readers of the series.

    1st a general description of the character
    Gubznf Pbiranag. Ur vf abg n aboyr ureb va gur pynffvpny frafr yvxr Orbjhys be Xvat Neguhe, n cbjreshy jvmneq yvxr Zreyva be Tnaqnys, be rira n synjrq nagv-ureb fhpu nf Ryevp, ohg engure n qvfrnfrq naq fcvevghnyyl pevccyrq uhzna pngnchygrq sebz uvf ungrshy rkvfgrapr nf n fuhaarq yrcre va bhe Rnegu vagb n fgenatr naq nyvra jbeyq jvgu juvpu ur vf hacercnerq gb pbcr. Ur vf abg zreryl eryhpgnag gb gnxr cneg va n tenaq nqiragher, nf jrer Ovyob naq Sebqb, ur vf ragveryl hajvyyvat gb cnegvpvcngr be rira oryvrir va gur ernyvgl bs uvf pvephzfgnaprf. Gb fheivir gur yhexvat naq vaphenoyr culfvpny qnatref bs qvfsvthevat yrcebfl ur unf unq gb orpbzr ehguyrffyl pyvavpny naq rzbgvbayrff, pbafgnagyl ivtvynag bs uvf senvy culfvpny pbaqvgvba. Ur'f nonaqbarq gur ubcr bs rire orvat urnygul ntnva, naq uvf jvsr'f naq pbzzhavgl'f erchqvngvba bs uvz unf qravrq be noebtngrq uvf zbfg onfvuhzna arrqf sbe pbzcnavbafuvc, haqrefgnaqvat, npprcgnapr, frkhny shysvyyzrag naq ybir. The importance of the horrific facts about living life with leprosy cannot be under-appreciated here. Life is spent constantly checking whether you have unknowingly bumped a limb, or burned a finger... because it will rot and fall off if you do not notice...

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Orsber gur bppheeraprf va Ybeq Sbhyf Onar gur znva nagntbavfg, Ybeq Sbhy, gevrq gb qrfgebl gur jbeyq.. orpnhfr gung'f whfg jung ur qbrf...( V xabj, V xabj...) Xriva, Gur zbfg cbjreshy crefba nyvir ng gur gvzr, ehyrf jvguva n ynaq bs crnpr naq unezbal. Qhevat guvf gvzr gur Unehpunv, be Oybbqthneq, (jub qb abg fyrrc be ntr) qvfpbire guvf ynaq naq qrpvqr gb gnxr vg sbe gurve bja. Gurl ner nznmrq, ubjrire, ol gur cbjre bs Uvtu Ybeq Xriva naq gur ornhgl bs Eriryfgbar. Frrvat gur vagrafr ornhgl bs Eriryfgbar naq gur vagevafvp cbjre Uvtu Ybeq Xriva jvryqf, gurl qrpvqr gb freir, engure guna qrfgebl gur ynaq. Gurl gura fjrne na bngu bs nyyrtvnapr naq sebz gura ba 500 bs gurve enaxf jvyy nyjnlf fgnaq thneq bire gur Uvtu Ybeqf naq Gur Ynaq juvpu gurl creprvir nf gur rcvgbzr bs ornhgl naq cresrpgvba. Qhevat guvf gvzr Ybeq Sbhy vasvygengrf gur pbhapvy bs gur uvtu ybeqf naq vf gnhtug ol abar bgure guna Xriva.

    Ybeq Sbhy gura pbeehcgf gur fbhgurnfg ertvbaf bs gur Ynaq naq ortvaf oerrqvat zbafgebhf perngherf gb or uvf freinagf naq jneevbef, fgnegvat n frevrf bs vagrearpvar jnef ntnvafg gur Ybeq'f Pbhapvy juvpu erfhygf va jvqrfcernq qrngu naq qrfgehpgvba bs gur Ynaq.

    Frrvat gur ubcryrffarff (juvpu vf n UHTR gurzr va guvf frevrf) bs uvf pnhfr, Xriva qrpvqrf gb tb sbe oebxr. Ur ortvaf gb oryvrir gung Gur Ynaq va ehvaf jvgubhg Ybeq Sbhy vf orggre bss guna Gur Ynaq juvpu vf gjvfgrq naq znyvtarq orpnhfr bs Ybeq Sbhy. Guhf ur fraqf gur Unehpunv ubzr naq gur Enlaula onpx gb gurve vzzbegny cynar orsber ur ranpgf gur Evghny bs Qrfrpengvba, n fcryy fb cbjreshy vg arneyl rkgvathvfurf nyy yvsr sebz gur ynaq. Nyfb, orsber gur evghny, ur frnyf bss gur frpergf ur xarj juvpu znqr uvz gur zbfg cbjreshy crefba va Gur Ynaq hfvat gur 7 jneqf.

  8. Nsgre trggvat rirelbar ur pna njnl sebz gur NbR bs gur evghny ur ortvaf gur fcryy juvpu jvyy qrinfgngr Gur Ynaq. Zbzragf orsber gur evghny vf svavfurq Xriva ernyvmrf gung gur evghny jvyy abg qrfgebl Ybeq Sbhy be uvf zvavbaf. Ungerq naq qrfcvgr pnaabg or inadhvfurq ol rira zber ungerq naq qrfcvgr (n prageny gurzr bs gur frevrf). Gura Xriva qvrf va ntbal ng gur fhzzvg bs Xriva'f Jngpu. Bar gubhfnaq lrnef yngre gur Uvtu Ybeq Zubeunz'f fgnss bs ynj vf fgbyra ol Qebby Ebpxjbez. Fbba nsgre gur fgnss vf fgbyra Pbiranag svaqf uvzfrys genafcbegrq gb guvf fgenatr ynaq juvpu vf sberire grzcgvat uvz gb oryvrir gung uvf yvsr znl abg unir gb or svyyrq jvgu ungr, qrcerffvba, ncngul, naq nyy gur guvatf gung pbzr nybat jvgu orvat n yrcre, bhgpnfg, hapyrna. Jbefr, ur vf fbba gbyq gung ur jvryqf gur zbfg cbjreshy zntvp va gur jbeyq, Whkgncbfvat uvf fgnghf va gur 'erny' jbeyq jvgu gung bs uvf arj sbhaq cbjre va Gur Ynaq.

    Fgvyy oryvrivat gung ur vf qernzvat be va n pbzn ur frgf bhg gb znxr frafr bs vg nyy.

    Ur vf gbyq gung jvgubhg gur cbjre bs Xrivaf byq zntvp ur pnaabg ubcr gb qrsrng Ybeq Sbhy, fb ur ortvaf frnepuvat sbe gur jneqf.

    This is what I remember with help from a very short wiki article.

  9. Please correct me if I left out anything, which I'm sure I did.

    1. Thanks for the background! I'm not sure you needed to ROT-13 it, since it described events leading up to the books, but it was still welcome.

      I don't get the whole leper thing, though. When is the book set? There have been effective treatments for leprosy since the 1940s.

    2. It's, I think, set in the seventies. He does get treated, but as he returns home his wife has left him and taken their son with him and the people in the area shun him. Covenant becomes depressed and neglects treatment.

      Also, relapses are possible, even if rare, so you don't get fully cured in that sense.

      Some heavy spoilers for the first book: Drool Rockworm vf fbeg bs gur znva nagntbavfg bs gur svefg obbx. Ur vavgvnyyl fhzzbaf Pbiranag gb gur Ynaq naq vvep ng gur raq gurl svtug haqre Zbhag Guhaqre.

    3. If I recall correctly Covenant develops the illness while being absorbed in work on a new novel. I think he spends a summer alone or something like that, and doesn't notice a "spot" on his leg or something. No idea if that's realistic in any way, shape, or form. But that's how I recall the explanation.

      So his leprosy is sort of held in check (as long as he is extremely careful not to get hurt), but was advanced enough that it's a constant factor of his life. And then there's the whole social outcast thing because people around him don't understand he isn't a danger to them and so on.

    4. I guess this was before HIPAA.

    5. Think about how AIDS was initially treated in the 1970s and early 1980s:


      It took improved knowledge of the disease, plus education, plus large social effort to not treat the HIV positive like, well, lepers.

      Leprosy also is still not very well understood. It doesn't spread predictably- many doctors have worked alongside patients for decades without catching it, yet there are still new cases cropping up.

      I also don't think they have still managed to actually isolate and grow it in lab samples, so there is no vaccine to prevent it.

    6. Nitpicks on Ryan's summary: In the first book the High Lord is Prothall, not Mhoram. Covenant is told that only the Staff of Law will be able to return him, not Kevin's Lore -- by that point the Lords know that they do not really understand even most of the first ward, and have no expectations of being able to find the others.

      Finding the seven wards would be a significant departure from the books; although the first two wards do end up being recovered from where you found them in the game (sort of -- the first one was given to the giants for safekeeping and they returned it afterwards) they do not then seek the third and such. Each ward requires a great deal of study to understand and must be mastered before it becomes possible to seek the next; they simply don't have the ability to chase after them, Mcguffin-wise.

      Of course, in a game it's hard to turn down a quest sequence like that, so it's understandable that it went that route instead.

  10. I understand the "service" part perfectly fine. The game is simulating aging, something rarely seen in CRPGs. Gold Box games have it, but I don't know if there is any code to kill elderly PCs and anyway that is a lot of haste spells.

    When you're an adventurer of the D&D sort, you are not a full-time professional treasure hunter. You have a life, and obligations, and responsibilities. Your adventuring time represents the time you are able to squeeze out to follow your passion. If you're pledged to some lord or guild, you need to spend most of your time with them.

    Runequest explicitly addressed this, with a rule that said something like "the PCs spend 5% of their time adventuring. The remainder is spent in family life, service to the tribe, farming, selling to traders, and so on."

    It'll be interesting to see if the aging mechanic makes the PCs old and ineffective before the end-game. Sort of a timer, then.

    1. It's not a bad IDEA, exactly; I just don't think the execution (going to down and hitting "O") is very good. I grant you that it is a bit original.

      But I do seem to be on some kind of quest to save the land, not just adventuring for my own glory. I don't know why that wouldn't count as part of my "service."

    2. Look on the bright side Chet;- At least they don't make you play some stupid repetitive mini-game as well.

      Aging in rpgs is a bit hit and miss unless it's used as a control value (like with the haste spell). It's realistic, but if your quest is so long that you can drop dead of old age it's not exactly urgent.

    3. In some games (notably Might and Magic) magical aging occurs due to hostile spells or casting certain powerful spells, so youth becomes another resource to be managed.

    4. That's basically what I meant by 'control value'; It's a (semi)limited resource which prevents the player from using an option excessively and ruining the game balance.

      If there's a a counter (like M&M's shrines), then it's power is short term (i.e. 1 dungeon). If there's no or limited ways to replenish the resource then it's long term (i.e. potential game over).

      The only thing a player really has to lose is time.
      In rpgs you're risking playing a game only to find out you've irreparably screwed it up due to decisions made 10 hours ago (That's even worse than Space quest).

    5. It's for this reason that I don't like aging in games. First, it doesn't make sense in most RPGs that the quests would last a lifetime. Second, to get 90% through the game and have to re-start because your characters are keeling over from old age would be a bit enraging.

      Fortunately, I've yet to play a game with an aging system in which I ever got close to the point of age-related death. But I suppose it could easily happen in the Gold Box series if I over-relied on haste.

    6. It was a possibility in Phantasie due to certain races only living to 45, Sorcarian too I think. Most games run out of content long before your party drops dead.

      M&M4+5 (worlds of xeen) might be the worst offender due to the party transfer option, the inaccessible dungeons, and the years delay between releases.

      In a way, it's actually a little offensive to older gamers - Young players can create characters in their own image without penalty, but older players risk being penalized.

    7. I could see it working in one of those tactical RPGs with a *large* party and a level cap; It would encourage you to spread the XP around, as you know your level 20s will stop being useful sooner or later, so you don't want a bunch of 20s and then a bunch of 1s.

    8. Actually, the aging does make some sense here. In the original trilogy, from the time that Covenant first entered the land until Lord Foul was defeated (Well, reduced) was about 48 or 49 years, this indeed made this a long term ordeal for the inhabitants of the land. If you had started on this quest when you were 20, you would be nearing 70 by the end of it.

      In the books, most inhabitants of the land served some form of oath, The Ramen served the Ranyhyn, the Bloodguard served the Lords, The Lords, Woodhelvenin, and Stonedowners served the land through the Oath of Peace. The giants did not have an oath. I used this vehicle in the game in order to advance time, since serving your oath takes time, it makes you age, and yes, aging does have an affect in this game. At a certain age your stats begin to drop and at a certain age the character will die. I also put in a reward for serving your oath in the form of some bonus that you receive for doing it. If I remember rightly, only the Bloodguard cannot die from old age, this is taken from the books, the Oath the Bloodguard made to the Lords pretty much made them no longer age.

  11. According to the way RPGs actually play out, adventurers rapidly achieve enough independent wealth to acquire an estate and hire a majordomo and requisite other staff.

    A committed adventurer could go on "tours of duty" that last several years and include dozens of dungeon delves.

  12. This game looks very oddly similar to Castle of the Winds in several ways, most notably graphics. If you had told me they were made by the same person I would believe it, but they are stated to have been made by different people.

    I wonder if Rick Saada played The Land or was inspired by it.

    1. Wikipedia still insists that CotW was a 1989 game released for Windows 3.x, which wasn't released until 1992. I thus went with MobyGames's date assessment for 1993 as more likely. Am I missing anything?

    2. Oh, I wasn't questioning the release date, just noting the similar graphics, in my opinion.

    3. I actually didn't mean that as a direct response to your posting, so we're both a little confused. It was just that your mention of CotW caused me to look up the game, at which point I found the discrepancy.

    4. Apparently, Rick actually worked at Microsoft in those early days, and Castle of the Winds was possibly one of the first games made for Windows 3.0, having been created internally (but independently).


      Rick's still around online and probably available for asking questions.

      For 1993, you're going to have much better games to play, but I'll always have a special place in my heart for Castle of the Winds. It's not a hardcore roguelike since you can save and load as much as you like, but I found it very enjoyable.

    5. I sent him an email once, thanking him for the game. He was very nice when he responded. There was even a forum and IRC channel dedicated to it, on MagicStar I think. It seems to have vanished though, but I think the forums are http://cotw.fr.yuku.com/

      Based on the interview it was mostly written in 1989, handed out internally at Microsoft, and then sold commercially in 1992.

      Why not compromise and play part 1 (The shareware release) as the final game of 1989, and part 2 (The longer, then pay, now free) release as the first of 1992? Neither should take you long; probably under 6 hours each. For someone who beat nethack this is going to be a speedbump.

    6. That said, I don't see the similarity, except in the horizontal line heavy art style.

    7. Oh, and the items lying in the hallways. That is very CotW, and something it took a long time for most games to get.

  13. Also: I hate games where I have to sort through a lot of things to find a better item, and it feels very random:

    Nethack: There are always items worth keeping out there. Wands, better armour, healing items, food.

    Baldur's Gate: Gear upgrades aren't common, but are instantly obvious when you find them. Lots of items you find that you want to keep as well.

    Bethesda games: Lots of dross, but you can tell it is dross. Also you want to pick it up, to trade/sell/repair things, and always more potions and ingredients to find. Also: Books and such. Oh, and you get the based non-unique gear long before the end of the game.

    Boarderlands: Picking out the best weapon is a pain, due to ammo capacity, damage, rate of fire, and class bonuses (One does more damage a shot, but fires slowly, one does less damage each second, but I'm going to miss a lot anyway, so more lead in the air is good....) however, when you do change weapons you can *feel* the difference. Freqent periods where you randomly get a realllly great gun early and wind up tossing weapons for multiple maps.

    Torchlite: All attack items feel very similar. Impossible to tell what is best without a spreadsheet and a lot of googling, if at all. DPS number is listed, but doesn't factor in everything, such as duel weapons, gems, etc. All weapons feel almost identical when used. On top of that, every problem with Boarderlands.

  14. This game can actually remember dungeon levels. By adding a /b to the command line the game will save the dungeon levels as you go up and down them. The only restriction is that if you save the game these levels are not saved, so it is best to use this feature when you intend to descend and ascend the dungeon in the same session. If I remember rightly, when returning to a previous level, any remaining monsters will still be there, along with any treasure left behind.

    1. Huh, these days you could bypass that by using a virtual machine and just suspending it when you wanted to go eat or such.

      That is a great feature for games that don't let you save anywhere: a pause and way to save the entire thing to disc when you want to go to bed.


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