Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Land: Won!

Perhaps now that you have some free time, you can come up with a better name for your country than "The Land."

NetHack was probably the most satisfying game to win in terms of challenge, but The Land was most satisfying in terms of process. I won honestly, and as the only player who gets to play his own custom version of the game...

....while in correspondence with an extremely friendly developer, and in a way that helps improve the game for future players. I'm now glad that The Land is my real 100th game (inserting a game called The Quest to Solve Chester's Problem with Counting between 11 and 13 was easier than renumbering everything by the time I realized I'd skipped a number).

In correspondence with Mike Riley, I learned that:

1. I hadn't done anything wrong in my final battle with Lord Foul. Thomas Covenant was supposed to be using "Wild Magic" in the battle to keep himself alive, and something in the game's code was preventing him. When Mike made a few tweaks to the .exe (in less than 24 hours!), I won quite easily.

2. This is the only battle that Thomas Covenant will fight in.

3. This isn't the only way to defeat Lord Foul, but the alternative--using the Talisman of Earthpower--is much harder and requires a Loresraat (which I did happen to be).

4. Most of the other options I could have wished for with the Seventh Ward would have backfired on me in some way. There is a warning from Amok in the books that is a clue about this.

5. If I hadn't wished to "Destroy Lord Foul," I could have returned to the surface for two more quests from Lord Morham, one of which would have led me to Foul's lair ultimately.

6. The un-killable monsters roaming the hallways of Foul's Creche are called "Ravers." There are some lore bits about them, but I didn't put two and two together. I was meant to do what I did: evade them by putting obstacles in their paths. Apparently, I could have been using "Create Forbidding" for that, but what I actually did was use the Krill of Loric Vilesilencer to summon iterations of Lord Amok in their paths.

7. Regarding my problem finding dungeon entrances: the "(S)earch" command would have worked. I mostly forgot about that command. It also helps you find random items in the wilderness, like torches and herbs.

8. The game originally had a lot more documentation, released when the player paid the shareware fee. But Mike lost the files some time ago.

9. The version I've been playing is actually from 2009. The RogueBasin article that Mike wrote is a little out of date.

The actual process of winning with the new version just took a couple of minutes. Covenant took on Lord Foul while I and the other party members dealt with his minions.

I'm not just standing off to the side and watching. I'm casting spells!

Unfortunately, my other party members died in the process (farewell, noble pegasus!). When I left the combat screen, I found myself returned to Revelstone with the message that Covenant had disappeared. 

I spoke to Lord Morham, who congratulated me on destroying Lord Foul. The game let me continue playing at this point.

So my winning streak remains unbroken, and Mike is working on a patch for the next edition. (He removed gambling from the one he gave me, but I encouraged him to put it back in, just with worse odds and a betting cap.) All together, a good day.

And yet that leper-rapist Covenant gets all the credit. I think Gideon should be in the next book.

A little adjustment of the final rating is in order, and not just because I'm feeling kindly toward the developer. First, now that I know the game allows multiple paths to the end, that's worth a point in "Gameplay." Second, knowing there's a developer so willing to talk about the game and fix its problems leads me to return one of the points I subtracted for bugginess and poor documentation. That leaves it at 32. I guess I should explicitly say, though, that this rating applies to the next release.

If you missed the edited bit at the end of my last posting, I decided to postpone Rance. I'm doing my playing this week on a hotel terrace, and the last thing I need is my fellow guests and staff wandering by while a naked 1980s anime character is on my screen. Mines of Titan coming up next.


Further reading: Check out my series of posts on Quest for the Unicorn, Mike Riley's second RPG, in the winter of 2015.


  1. PetrusOctavianusJune 27, 2013 at 5:37 PM

    Congratulations on being the first(?) one to win this game!

    1. The first to post about it online, anyway.

    2. To my knowledge, second to actually complete it. I completed version 1.9. I never played the game to conclusion on any of the remaining versions, which sadly allowed that Wild Magic bug to slip in unnoticed.

      But as far as somebody completing it who did not know the internals of the game, you are the first I know of! Congratulations!

    3. Mike, I have to admit: if in 20 years no one had told me that they'd played the game to the end, I'm not sure I'd find the interest in continuing to update it. I really admire your persistence.

      When you release the next version, let me know and I'll see if I can help drum up some interest in it. I think with that list of fixes you discussed below, it could be an honestly engaging game.

  2. This was a pleasure to see and read. Thanks, Chet. And thanks, Mike Riley.

  3. So, was the alternative ending not bugged in the old version? I suppose that's how this issue was never reported.

  4. Nice job! This is one of the many reasons I love your blog. There are loads of blogs I could be reading about people playing Fallout or Icewind Dale or whatever, but how many are going to offer a story like this?

  5. This is without a doubt the biggest success story of the blog to date, methinks. Taking an extreme niche game with a game breaking flaw and just casually getting it fixed throughout the course of twenty four hours? Only you, Chester. :)

    1. Well, Mike deserves the credit for most of that, of course. But I'm glad it all came together.

  6. This is a milestone not only in the quantity of games played, but in that this may be the first time that a game was actively improved upon as a result of your blog. Just another reason why this blog is simply the best thing going on the Internet.

  7. I look forward to Mines of Titan. I tried to play it before, but I stalled out because I wasn't sure on what the heck I was doing.

    It's a shame, because I love the Sci-Fi RPGs done in that era.

  8. So is the game still regularly updated and/or where can we get our hands on this most recent version?

    1. Yes, I still maintain the game and after I incorporate fixes for problems Chet ran into, I will be releasing a new version.

    2. Sounds great thanks! Where can I find your website?

    3. I do not have a website for this game. Best place to look will be on Rogue Basin. "Quest for the Unicorn" has its own page, sort of, which is located at:

  9. Chet - great work. This was a fascinating series of postings. Your persistence is legendary. Thanks for documenting this interesting game.

    Mike - now is the time to open source the project. Get the code out there, there's now an interested fan base to maintain and improve it.

    1. I certainly have no issues releasing the source code for this, and anybody who is interested may contact me and I will provide the source code.

      The biggest problem with the source tho is that it is for Turbo Pascal 5. Most people will have a difficult time being able to compile it. I have tried to get it to compile in Free Pascal without much luck, if somebody wants to get it to compile in Free Pascal I will help in whatever way I can in their efforts.

      My more preferred way of open sourcing this game is to port the dataset to my Unicorn engine, which is already open source. Unicorn was written after The Land using a lot of what I learned from writing The Land, as such it was a lot more stable, especially the version that I ultimately ported to c.

    2. Would you feel comfortable putting it up on Github or such under the GPL or a similar license? It seems a shame that all this work should be buried on an obscure website and only linked to from outdated articles.

  10. With regards to Rance... if you're going to play amateur made games (as in The Land), and you're going to play foreign games (as in Tera: La Cité des Crânes), and you're not ruling out games on moral reasons (as in Rance) then at some point you're going to end up having to play the huge pile of terrible Japanese RPGMaker games that exists. I mean, vile stories, terrible cookiecutter gameplay, and hideous amateur art. Maybe make some kind of an exception here? No one wants to watch you slog through hours of unfulfilling porn games, I'm fairly sure. (Not to say there may not be some diamonds in the rough with RPGMaker games, but there is an awful, awful lot of rough to search through.)

    Also, RE Rance, it's actually a spin off from an earlier game trilogy that isn't a porn series (Sarawareta Miki-chan, Little Princess, Little Vampire); but that earlier triology are adventure games, rather than RPGs.

    1. I'd like to see him suffer through one or two Ka18 games. But then I could just be a horrible, evil, bastard.

      That said, I do think that trying to play every RPGMaker game out there is a bit silly, as most of them aren't finished, and steal their graphics from other games. Luckily that era is far enough off we can deal with it as it comes I suspect. Or, by the time we get there, no one will be able to find the downloads for most of them --I suspect a lot are lost already.

  11. There might be a certain logic in ruling out anything made with an RPGMaker-type program.

    No doubt there are some gems among the dross, but at least programming a game in a conventional language raises some kind of bar, and probably indicates a capacity to at least develop reasonable game mechanics etc.

    1. I agree. The RPGMaker games are a little like Eamon. I'm sure Chet will try out the base game and possibly a few of the better reviewed, but not really dive into them as full games before moving on.

    2. Yeah, it would definately make sense to look at RPGMaker as a creation tool and do a post or two on its effect on rpgs rather than treating each game as its own individual entry.

      On my own list of rpgs to beat I have included just the rpgmaker games that have been commercially released and that alone is well over a hundred different games and I'm probably missing some. Not to mention there are a few hundred free games I've come across in my browsing. We probably don't want this blog to become the RPGMaker addict.

    3. Only over a hundred? Searching dlsite (which is where most commerically released RPGMaker games seem to be listed) there are 736 games listed as RPGs in the all ages section, and 653 in the adult section. And that's the English dlsite. The Japanese version has... over 4300 in the over 18 section alone.

    4. I think Zenic's plan is the most likely one I'll pursue. It'll be a while before I get there.

    5. We could also add an anything with significantly interesting mechanics, as I've heard there are occasional gems amongst the dross.

  12. After rereading all the blog entries I have come up with a laundry list of fixes to do to the game. I just wanted to run the list by everybody here to see if I managed to get all the issues and look for any other suggestions people would like to see in the next release:
    Issues to fix for 5.0.2
    * - Fix fight with Lord Foul so that Covenant uses the Wild Magic
    * - Remove or revamp gambling to remove its player edge (currently removed)
    * - Teleport to bottom should not go below the bottom
    - Add command line switch for user definable dungeon depth
    - Add command line switch for user definalbe monsters per level
    - Add command line switch to allow for smaller than 100x100 dungeon levels
    - Check all words/items to be sure they work
    - Check oath/time to make sure it does not roll
    - Check map extents so that map cannot be positioned where edges beyond map
    are on screen
    - Check sprite selection to make sure non-sprites cannot be painted
    - Iventory screen, make sure items cannot be lost
    - Amok should not be summonable after the Seventh ward is activated
    - Make sure library shows search results instead of blank screen
    - Give a little more latitude for AI movment to move around obstacles
    - Make sure when Amok is summoned no other monsters in dungeon are affected
    - Make so no friendly npcs end up in monster groups
    - Fix bug where fire resistance not allowing to cross lava
    - Check bug where entering dungeons did not show map
    - Check all events which can cuase oath to become evil
    - Check crash when modifying party member actions
    - Posssibly change skill increases to be like Unicorn, skills increase with
    usage rather than random roll at level-up
    - All dungeons should have the same depth, none should be deeper
    - Monster groups. If the lead monster is killed in dungeon mode, next monster
    becomes group leader rather than the full group dieing
    - Monsters should be able to move over any tile (traps, gold. etc)
    Although, originally monsters would not move over a trap, giving a clue to
    the player there was something with up with thesquare, will have to think
    about this one.
    - Make sure party members level correctly
    - Enemies should be able to shoot player if there is a clear path, even if the
    monster is off the screen
    - Do not allow monsters to move until they have los with player. This would
    help prevent the mobbing that often occurs upon first entering a level
    Possible allow them to move if within hearing range
    - Make sure monster status attacks work, unless player has some form of immunity
    to them

    Items to add to documentation
    - Info on the Ravers
    - Info on how to activate multifunction artifacts
    - Info on how to find the dungeons
    - Info concering Drool Rockworm and the 2nd Ward quest, the ward is one
    level up from the bottom to prevent a normally low leveled (at this point)
    character from having to confront the much stronger Drool Rockworm
    - Better document dungeon level saving so that players know it is possible
    for the game to save the leves going down the dungeon and have them the
    same when travelling back up
    - Explain the Oath

    1. What about NPCs not joining if talked to first? And maybe there's some way to change the dialog font to make them more readable?

    2. I will look at changing the font. I agree, that Gothic font did not port well to the vga. It worked better on the cga/ega. I am used to reading it, but certainly understand it is a hard font for most people to read.

      Will also modify the NPCs to allow them to join even if talked to first.

    3. It seems reasonable to me for there to be different numbers of levels in the dungeons -- that can help them feel somewhat different rather than all the same.

      It's a minor thing, but it nags at me disproportionately: Please add correcting the spelling of "Coercri" to the list.

    4. I will certainly fix any misspellings. Where is Coercri misspelled? I have looked through all the messages and dungeon names and cannot find where it is wrong.

    5. I figured it out. I had fixed the spelling of Coercri in the program that generates the data files, but apparently did not generate a new set of files for the 5.0.1 distribution. I will be sure the new release has the newer files.

    6. Sorry I didn't get back here sooner. By now, you and the other commenters have identified everything that I could think of.

      I really like your idea of changing the skill system to level them based on what's actually used. I didn't talk about this much in my playing because I basically broke the skill system by just paying to train up the ones I wanted.

    7. A quick question concerning party experience. Currently whoever makes the kill gets the xp. I am thinking about dividing the xp amongst all living party members instead. Mainly this would be for the multi-monster combats. But what about for even single monster (in the dungeon map) combats also divide xp? This would make it possible to level lower level party members more safely since in these types of combats they are not really at risk.


      And one other thing. Mentioned somewhere in the blog there was the mention that party members did not appear to gain in level. I looked at the code and did some experimenting, and looks like they are levelling like they should. It might not have been so noticable since at the moment only the one who made the killing shot actually got xp. If I change the system above, then levelling will certainly be more apparant.

    8. What if you divide it evenly, except the party member who makes the kill gets twice as many points as everyone else? In other words, divide the XP by the number of party members + 1, and the player who makes the kill gets the extra, leftover share.

    9. I think PK's suggestion is a good one, though I don't know how hard it is to code.

      To clarify: I think I did notice the party members gaining level, but I don't think their hit points increased in conjunction with that. Perhaps that's what you intended.

    10. Even division is pretty easy, the extra for the killing shot might be a little more difficult, but I will investigate it.

      The hp should go up when they level. 5 hp per level, so for example, a level 20 npc should have 100 hp. At the end of combat they should also be fully recovering their hp.

    11. I just loaded up your Gideon save file and see where the confusion may lie. Lords always have 400hp, no matter level, bloodguard always have 200hp no matter their level, these type of characters are considered stronger than your average npc and therefore are given a higher hp pool to begin with that then does not increase. 400hp would normally require a level 80 npc (and 200 hp would normally require level 40), which is something you would likely never see. Your pegasus follows the normal pattern, at level 13 it would have 65 hp, which it does.

    12. Ah, yes. That explains it, thanks.

      I did find that the NPCs were much more capable of standing face-to-face with enemies, even though they had fewer hit points than me.

    13. $PMLS=$party_members_left_standing

      $exp/($PMLS + 1) = $EXPSHARE

      call exp routine to give exp as follows

    14. Something like that should work. Sorry if the pseudocode is ugly.

    15. Actually, I already implemented it. It was not hard at all to spread the xp amongst the party in this way.

      Just a quick update on my progress. I have fixed half the things on my list, plus a few more that I found while testing. In about another week I hope to have 5.0.2 ready for release.

    16. Gotta love that turn around time.

      Are you usually this motivated or is the renewed attention fueling you?

    17. Actually yes, I am this way with all my projects. If people find problems in them, I strive to get them fixed as quickly as I can. All my projects mean a lot to me, even these ancient ones. So long as I can still compile them, I will fix and make new releases. Too bad so few other developers/companies do that with their products.

    18. I may not be a fan of the covenant series but I am a fan of your work ethic and professionalism.

  13. I always like to read you. Continue too play.

  14. I love this "story". It's things like this that make this blog so interesting. The "human aspect" if you will. Where else would the developer be active in the discussion and actually patch the game!

    I think it was discussed a long time ago, but the story behind Chet playing the games is just as interesting as the game being played imho.

    I guess this sort of relationship wouldn't happen with modern games with them being created by committee etc and makes the old games so much more interesting.

  15. Here is a quick update on the update. I have finished all the issues on the list, as well as another list of about the same size of other things I ran into while fixing the first list. I am going to spend the week doing some play-testing and if all is good then I will release 5.0.2 this coming weekend.

    Thanks for all your support!

  16. Well, after two weeks of testing I have not had the game crash nor unexpected weirdness happen, so I think I have all the issues resolved. Before posting the update I would however like to make two improvements, first to replace the map generator to give more sensical maps than what the game currently generates and I also want to add some rudimentary path finding to npcs and mobs so that they can move around obstacles. I hope to be done with this in a day or two and then will post the update to Rogue Basin as well as announcing it there.

    As a thank you for the encouragement that I received from this site, anybody who would like a personalized copy of this game, please email me directly with the name you would like on your copy.

    Thanks all!

    1. I really appreciate your dedication to the game and your continued updates.

      I would like to point out that the bad pathfinding of the enemies was the only thing that kept me alive for the last 1/4 of the game, so I'd encourage you to think about toning down enemy difficulty if you're going to make them smarter about moving.

  17. Sorry about the long delay in getting the updated version of this posted, but I have had some bad things going on in my life recently that have distracted me. I have posted the current version (5.0.2) of the game to Rogue Basin. A complete list of changes is included in the document file accompanying the game. I got everything from the original list plus a bunch more.

    I improved mob/npc pathing just a little, now they will at least move around each other and around small obstacles. Until I get to a rebalance of the game (Which needs me to do a full play through) I improved pathing just a little. I did not get to the map generator but will deal with it in the next version.

    So, planned for the next version (5.1.0):
    - Redo the map generator
    - Allow more complex mob/npc pathing
    - Rebalance game. I am thinking of leaving monster strengths as is and scaling up equipment. I am thinking of doing this as the equipment needed to survive dungeon 5 would be found in dungeon 4, etc.
    - Fix any other bugs that anybody finds that got missed in this version.

    The correct version when downloaded should be v5.0.2. As a special thanks to all the feedback I got from here, I will gladly provide personalized version to anybody who contacts me and mentions CRPG Addict. Source code is also available to anybody who wants it, just note that it requires Turbo Pascal 5.0 to compile.

    1. Mike! Thanks for keeping us updated. For everyone who wants to download it, here's the direct link:

      To download it, click on "Official Site of the Land" to the right.

  18. I know the length of this game got mentioned a few times, but in reality, there is only 1 actual dungeon required to complete the game, the one containing Lord Foul. The entire game world (including all dungeons) is available from the start, however dungeons are given specific levels and if your character is not high enough level or geared well enough you will not survive.

    The only real effect completing dungeons has is what things npcs tell you. Many of the messages will only be shown after a certain quest is completed, but if you already know the words of power to unlock the artifacts you want and you know where they are then there is actually no reason to go after the wards since they grant you no additional combat capability. The other artifacts however are still worth going after.

    Same thing for Quest for the Unicorn (For those who would like to pay it), which is a much much bigger game, there are over 60 dungeons in it and 12 times the upland area, and if you follow the recommended quest line you will visit them all, but there are really only 5 dungeons needed to complete the game, lore messages in the game provide all the information to know what 5 dungeons are needed and why, the rest can be skipped, some are worth skipping (like the temples) which have fairly minor rewards, others have very powerful weapons/armor/artifacts that are most definitely worth retrieving. A lot of it comes down to being the right level to enter the necessary dungeons and having the equipment to survive them. The Land is similar, you can go straight to Foul's Creche, but do you have enough levels and equipment to survive? Unlike games like Oblivion (Which can actually be completed at level 1!) or Skyrim, monster levels are preset, they do not scale with you.

    The other main aspect of dungeons is to provide the combat opportunities to level your character to the levels necessary to complete the final dungeon. I tried to make it possible to play through the game without really needing to grind, you to a greater degree gain enough of levels just working your way down each dungeon 1 time to be at a level that would give you a chance of survival in the next dungeon. Of course staying and grinding in a dungeon can certainly be done for extra money, or extra levels etc, but in general it is not necessary to grind.

  19. That was a lot of fun to read.

    Kudos to Mike Riley. That was some top-notch interaction between a user and a developer. Even commercial games don't have responses like that.

    1. From what I gathered from reading his posts, he's doing it not because he wants to please people but because he is genuinely passionate about his creation and how to make them even better.


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