Monday, August 19, 2013

Game 110: Keef the Thief: A Boy and His Lockpick (1989)

"Gee, I wonder in what decade this game was made" -- no one.

Every so often, while going through the games on my blog list, I fire up a new game and get in a bad mood from the opening screen. This is what I'm going to be staring at for the next couple dozen hours?, I think, and start thinking of ways I can avoid it. I can't pretend I have emulator problems, because a dozen of my readers will pipe up and say it works fine for them. Maybe I could just quietly drop it from my list? No, that won't work: I've been mentioning it for the last two postings. I could write one short posting, move on, and hope they don't notice. That worked for Moebius. Then again, I had about one-third of my readership back then. Dammit! I guess I'll just postpone it for several months and hope I die before I get to it.

Everything about Keef the Thief annoys me. The title annoys me. The goofy portrait of the protagonist on the main screen annoys me (but not nearly enough as the box cover). That I have to play as "Keef the Thief" annoys me; would it really have broken the game engine to allow the player to name his own character? The logo for the damned company that makes the game annoys me:

Any company that has the word "dog" in its name generally annoys me.

The copy protection questions that I have to answer when the game starts, forcing me to consult an long and poorly-organized list of possibilities, annoys the hell out of me. The disco music (way to break the fantasy immersion, jackasses) annoys me--I turned it off. The interface annoys me--it's way too easy to click on an unintended thing.

Why didn't they just use an online authentication code or something?

Perhaps what annoys me the most, however, is how clever the game thinks it is. A rumor has it that the game was originally supposed to be a standard, classic high fantasy adventure, but that during development, one of the creators entered a bunch of joke text on each screen as a placeholder. EA liked the joke text so much that it decided to change the game to a comedy. If that's true (and I'm not convinced it is), I hope the EA executive that made that decision was fired. The "comedy" in the game is almost universally horrible.

Ho ho ho. Anachronisms are always a riot.

Can I find a way to argue that it's not an RPG? No, I guess not. It has attributes, and the combat that we're going to have to discuss seems to be based on them; it's got a proper CRPG inventory; and the character does gain experience and levels. It has adventure game trappings, to be sure--another hybrid--but it definitely qualifies as a CRPG.

The game rolls random stats and gold when you first start. You can start-scum to get better values if you want.

Nothing to do but suck it up and play it. But if you grouse about it enough at the beginning of your entry, you'll only have to write a few paragraphs of gameplay. Also, you can spend a bunch of the first entry summarizing the back story. Sigh. Fine. Let's get to it.

The game has you playing in the guise of (duh) Keef, a young thief who has just been kicked out of his home city by the disgusted Town Council after efforts to train him as a priest, a wizard, and a fighter have failed (though not without leaving him with some associated skills). The Eldest One has led him out into the jungle, weaponless and penniless, pointed him in the direction of the city of Same Mercon, and told him never to return, "not even if you conquer the world and become God-King."

The game is set in the remains of a collapsed empire, in an area called "Tri-Cities," a designation that immediately takes me back to 2002, when I spent a night in Kennewick General Hospital, howling in agony, after trying to impress my friends by casually tossing some exotic variety of chili in my mouth and chomping it down. But I digress. These tri-cities used to be ruled by an emperor named Telloc, who disappeared while trying to cast a spell on himself to ward off a prophecy that he would disappear. The city of Same Mercon ("jeweled city") is the old capital; the city of Tel Hande ("emperor's shield") is a walled fortress where the inhabitants live in a "police state" and believe the emperor will return; and the city of Tel Santi ("emperor's roost") is a huge temple where the inhabitants guard some wondrous artifact.

Keef is the fourth adventure-RPG hybrid we've seen this year, and like all but Hero's Quest, the result of the cross-breeding is sterile and deformed. Exploration in the game is an odd mix of static screens (as in B.A.T.) when you explore in towns, and 3D navigation (as in the "Gold Box" games) when outside or in dungeons. As you move around town, the directional perspective frequently changes. A little compass attempts to keep you oriented, but I keep getting confused and going the wrong direction.

You want to call her "lovely," it's up to you.

The game has plenty of characters with whom you can talk; unfortunately, every dialogue option costs money. It's a bit crazy. I only started with 107 gold pieces, and if I want to ask someone about his job, I have to spend 5 of them. If I want to ask a fellow thief about good pickings in town, it'll be 40. I suppose you could "talk-scum" by asking the questions and then re-loading the game (you get a single save slot), but that strikes me as unconscionably lame and against my rules, plus part of me worries that the game needs to "register" the dialogue for certain plot events to unfold. (Even when I know that this isn't true, I'm usually paranoid that it is.) Within a few minutes of exploration, I had spent all my starting money on a couple of dialogue options, a dirk, and a rope.

I'm just glad Ultima V didn't adopt this system.


With some experience with adventure-RPG hybrids under my belt, if you asked me what I must want from such a hybrid, it's "adventure-game style puzzles with RPG-style combat." But like most hybrids, Keef doesn't quite measure up. The combat system, I must admit, is highly original: a real-time mechanic in which you maneuver around a battlefield in 360 degrees (though not continuously scrolling). You can charge up to enemies and attack, or back off and hide behind obstacles to regain your strength.

Fighting some drunken bar patrons.

I absolutely hated it before I realized you could maneuver with the arrow keys and attack with the SPACE bar--a mechanic that makes the process more fluid and exciting (clicking with the mouse in the tiny combat window is an exercise in futility). As you attack, blood spatters appear on the faces of the enemies when you hit.

Though innovative, there are a few problems with it. It's devoid of any tactics beyond maneuverability; the tiny view window (which appears if you're wearing a visored helmet or something) feels confining; and my color-blindness means that I can't really distinguish myself, enemies, and obstacles in the tiny battlefield map at the top of the screen. Still, I started this post ready to absolutely excoriate it, but I've progressed to just not thinking it's very good.
 
Keef is, of course, a thief, and part of the gameplay is theoretically about stealing. You have the option to steal from shops and to break into houses in town, though my pre-game experimentation suggests that I need better attributes before I can hope to be very successful at either. The burglary system is particularly vexing. You stand outside a row of houses and wait patiently for the guard to pass by, then choose a house to enter. No lockpicking or anything.

The guard sidles by as I case the property.

But once inside, every time I try to steal something (provided the house has something worth stealing, which it rarely does), I fumble and hurt myself and fail to get the item. Honestly, how is it even possible to fumble and hurt yourself while trying to steal a goblet? In any event, I'm not sure what purpose it serves to steal stuff since there's no "sell" option at the shops. [Later Edit: Thanks to VK, I now know that you can sell the items in a bar. The command to do so is a little obscure.]

If you time things poorly or spend too long in a house, the guard catches you and attacks, and so far I haven't been able to defeat him. Guards also show up if you repeatedly try and fail to steal things from shops.

This, granted, makes sense when what you're trying to steal is a horse.
 
If there's any main quest thread I'm supposed to have picked up, I haven't found it yet. I've mapped the city of Same Mercon and made notes about things to buy and people to talk to once I have more funds. Honestly, I'm not sure if I'll be able to keep my rule against save-scumming when dialogue options cost money. I have to pay 3,000 gold pieces to hear an ogre's response to "Want hear poem?" in the Pink Dragon bar, and if it doesn't deliver, I'm either re-loading or quitting permanently.

***

I don't know how long this game will take me, but I'd like your comments about what happens after this one. I fired up Rings of Medusa for a couple of hours the other day, and I have to admit it seems like an intriguing game, with some nice graphics and innovative elements, but I can't see it as an RPG, not even a hybrid like Sword of Aragon. I can't find evidence that the main character and his units level, and the "inventory" is of a strategy game style where units either have it or not, which is a little different than I think of it for RPGs, in terms of finding interesting magic items, weapons, potions, scrolls, and such to equip and use. That leaves only one of my core criteria present in the game.

This is something I might forgive if there were authentic role-playing choices in the game (as in Aragon), NPC dialogues (as in Space Rogue), or some other common RPG element, but I don't see these here. Instead, the game seems to offer a primarily logistical challenge as you build finances, field large armies, build mines, engage in trade, and administer conquered cities. These are not the types of things I particularly enjoy in games. I'm also finding the interface very frustrating.

It's not a pure strategy game; it's a hybrid of something. I'm just not sure that "something" is an RPG. But I haven't played it for very long, so perhaps I'm missing something. You have a few days to try to sway me one way or the other.

102 comments:

  1. What the hell?! I scheduled this to post at 02:00 TOMORROW.

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    1. And here I've been thinking you were posting after being up all night slaving through these games. Your ruse is up, knave.

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    2. I actually wrote most of this back in January when it first came up on my list, so I cleaned it up, added some new material and thought I'd scheduled it for posting tomorrow. Now I have to try to get my next posting for Keef done by Wednesday instead of Thursday. Bugger.

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    3. Secretly, the postings for all games up to the end of the 90s are already hidden away in a folder on the hdd of the Addict - only waiting to be fed to an every hungry audience at his behest!

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    4. Do you have your timezone settings correct?

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  2. If a game is crappy enough, I say declare it as crappy and move on. Keef the Thief does not seem worth the time. You've a long list and not all of them can be winners.

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    1. My six-hour rule is there precisely to allow a game to demonstrate that it can rise above its box art and opening screens. I'm not sure that it'll happen here, but it has enough defenders to make me think it's worth a chance.

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    2. If a game is not a 50-hour suffering, I think Chester shouldn't give up. It would be a shame to end his winning streak with a game like Keef. Don't let him defeat you ! :)

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    3. There was never even a chance that was going to happen.

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    4. Sword of Aragon might well have been skipped if that was the case...and look how it turned out! Ya never know what ya gonna get.

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    5. Except this game which you totally know what you're gonna get.

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  3. You sell those items in pub, not in shops.
    Also, there'll be a tad more strategy to the fights once you get spells. For a thievery-centered game Keef has a surprisingly detailed magic system, if not very varied in effects.

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    1. Ah, thanks for the tip. A further complication is that the command to sell the items is "Show," not "Sell."

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    2. Come to think of it, a lot of confusion about Keef's mechanics stem probably from being used to RPGs placing you in the role of a noble hero. But given the criminal theme of the game, it makes much more sense for an illegal deal to be made this way - i.e. under the table. I mean - it's not like a sane fence would put up a shop with a sign "Sell stolen valuables here". And they did call the guy "Collector" to give the player a tip.

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    3. Come to think of it, a game about a magic using thief is a great idea; Has anyone else read Shadow Chaser and Shadow Prowler by Alexey Pehov? That would make a cool adventure/RPG hybrid with lots of theft based puzzles plus RPG combat.

      Oh, the third one is out, must order that.

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    4. That's what Hero-U is all about isn't it?

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    5. Not really. It is very fairy tail, and you don't do very much stealing in it. I want a game where you are a thief, breaking into mansions, and using various small spells and magical knick-knacks to acquire treasure, without the silly tone overlaid on top of it.

      The Garrett, P.I. books I've read have similar bits, though without the stealing, but the first couple have him using similar knik-knacks to get out of or win fights.

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    6. Didn't Thief games have some magic in them? Also, Dishonored is about assassinations, but gameplay-wise the difference isn't that big.
      Other than that, probably the closest you can come to the concept is by completing the Thieves Guild questline in Morrowind/Oblivion with illusion- and alteration-centered mage.

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  4. About Rings of Medusa, I was quite confused to see it on your list, I can´t recall it having any RPG elements like Stats or something and no I don´t think you or your Army somehow "levels".

    No idea if there was any NPC interaction in the game except "RARRRR I FIGHT YOUR CARAWAN NOW!!!"

    Rings of Medusa 2 on the other hand included Dungeon Crawling with a 4? Player Party next to the whole other stuff.
    So yeah, unless I am totally mistaken I wouldn´t call Rings of Medusa a RPG but a quite okayish Strategy / Trading Simulation Game :P

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    1. This is completely unrelated, but I just pulled it up on Mobygames and was amazed to see it has a Commodore 64 port. The system was eight years old by then!

      I can't imagine the amount of derision someone would face while proposing they release a game with 1992 requirements in 2000. I guess it just goes to show how much the pace of technology quickened in the nineties.

      Damn, I feel old now.

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    2. I don't know. I think you have to think of the old PCs of the 1980s like the consoles of today. The C64, the Apple II, the Atari ST...they all had proprietary hardware and software. Buying one was a major investment. You were committing to that particular computer, its software, and its peripherals for a long time.

      The X-Box 360 is 8 years old this year, and they're still releasing games for it.

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    3. Or think of it as an OS analog rather than a hardware analog. You still regularly see software compatible with Windows XP, which is 12 years old.

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    4. I was just about to mention the XBox 360 myself and make the same comparison between 80s PCs and modern consoles as long-term investments :))

      Anyway, by computer hardware standards, the 360 is utterly obsolete, yet it'll still be around for years to come. I hear they plan to release a redesigned version of it at the same time as the new XBox One. I'm sure this means a lot more games will be released for it in the next couple of years, until the new gen consoles gain a proper foothold in the market.

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    5. Coders got so good at wringing the last drop of power out of early systems that there were some amazing conversions, e.g. Bloodwych on the Spectrum. I think probably some of these things were labours of love by the developers.

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    6. The 8-bit era was weird.

      It was a lot harder to kill off formats that used standardized media (tapes\5.25 disks) than it was for Nintendo to cease cartridge production*. The C64 outsold the Amiga for years.

      You had little national markets where the language barrier was a factor. Some formats clung to life due to sheer market share in odd parts of the world well after the USA\Japan had moved on to the next gen.

      *Modern formats use rented dev kits and licenses to control 3rd party development. The 360 will die commerically when Microsoft wants it to.

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    7. People are still forcing the C64 to do things it was never meant to do. It is still the best selling computer of all time, though that is largely because there are more models on the market today.

      But yeah, the XBox 360 has 512 MB of RAM: Even a non-gaming computer has 4 as standard, with 8 being very common and 16 not unusual. That is the easiest number to compare, but I understand everything else in it is pretty good...for 2007.

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  5. So that body builder with make-up and '80s' poodle hair is supposed to be a thief? Looks more like a Motley Crue roadie.

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  6. To put things in perspective (but not much)... CGW did give KTF good reviews. And if it helps, Naughty Dog would go on to create the Uncharted series of games for the Playstation 3.

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    1. To say Naughty Dog (the company) created Uncharted is technically true, but none of the same people worked on both games.

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    2. Can you point me to an issue for a CGW review of Keef? I was looking for one but could only find a three-line publisher's summary in one issue.

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    3. Zenic: None of them? Not one? Was the name stolen by another company or something? It seems odd you wouldn't have some people in common, or at least, the people who did one were trained by the people who did the other.

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    4. A view of the MobyGames credits supports Zenic's assertion. The two games have none of the same names, although Rubin and Gavin (the founders) are given a "thanks" in Uncharted.

      But in a larger sense, I don't get Anonymous's original point. The quality of future games in no way redeems present games. ORIGIN made some of the best and worst games this year.

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    5. The original developers for Keef were basically just two guys (discounting EA folks that didn't actually work for Naughty Dog). After EA, the company shifted focus to releasing platformers like Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter. Those two series (up to the third in each) are more accurately the predecessors of Uncharted. I think it'd be interesting to get Jason Rubin or Andy Gavin here to talk about it, but I think Rings of Power is probably the only Naughty Dog game that historically benefited from Keef. They were both gone from the company by the time Uncharted came out.

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    6. Ah I see. I do think that it is interesting seeing where companies started and what led them to make good games.

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    7. Although it's nothing to do with the quality of Keef the Thief, I do think it's worth pointing out the history, here. Naughty Dog is a pretty big name in console gaming, and it's interesting to see them getting their start with a CRPG, of all things. I've never played a Naughty Dog game I didn't like, but the first Naughty Dog game I played was six years after Keef, so maybe they just got way better. It doesn't surprise me to learn that Uncharted and the Last of Us don't have any of the original team on board anymore. There's a dramatic shift in tone between the first Jak game and the second, so I wouldn't be surprised to hear that the original heads of the company left, and the others ditched the light-hearted Pacific Islander theme they'd had going up until then.

      The flinching away from anachronism is kind of hilarious, though. Fantasy RPGs are stuffed to the brim with anachronism. Anything between 800 and 1500 AD is fair game, which makes about as much sense as treating everything from the Renaissance to the present as being basically the same time period. Seriously, the chronological gap between full plate armor and the viking raids on England is bigger than that between full plate armor and cable television.

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    8. The developers published three games before the release of Keef the Thief and re-branding of their company as Naughty Dog:

      Math Jam 1985 Apple II
      Ski Crazed 1986 Apple II
      Dream Zone 1988 Apple IIGS

      The original heads left around or just after the release of Jak 3, so the shift in tone wasn't due to their departure.

      I've only been using Wikipedia, so there's probably more history I don't know about... and now I want to play the Anachronism board game, thanks.

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  7. Well if you really hate this one too much to bother with the 6 hours minimum, how about you write up the chili incident in your usual depth and style and post that and rate it and everything instead? :)

    Honestly, it sounds like more fun than Keef already :)

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    1. I guarantee you that the word "fun" applies to neither that night nor any further description of it.

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    2. Well, for you maybe :)

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  8. The guy on the title screen looks like he was dropped from a Manowar album cover. :))

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    1. More like Mad Max's and Conan's illegitimate son ;)

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    2. He looks like he was from a Manowar parody band, beacuse as much fun as their music is, Manowar takes themselves far too seriously. This is the bad, that on their Gods Of War album did the entire booklet in norse runes, then gave a translation chart so you could translate the song lyrics. On the same album where most people put down "Recorded by Rush in Toronto at XYZ studio" they wrote down "Recorded by manowar in HELL!" (I think the caps and exclamation mark are original, but I'm at working waiting for a giant vial of toluene, aka the hell solvent, to pump down.)

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  9. What do you have against businesses with "dog" in their name?

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    1. It always seems like they're trying too hard to impart a sense of irreverent whimsy, a certain forced cheekiness, much like the box cover to this game.

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    2. Unless the word is in the title of the game itself, which makes it awesome. Like Sleeping Dogs (http://www.gamespot.com/sleeping-dogs/) and Watch Dogs (http://www.videogamer.com/pc/watch_dogs/news/no_delay_for_pc_version_of_watch_dogs_ubisoft_confirms.html).

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  10. When looking at this game and the company, you have to remember that it was created by two 18-year-olds. They started JAM when they were 15, and renamed the company to Naughty Dog around the time they did Keef the Thief.

    Later, one of the founders went on to get a PhD from MIT, but he was a teenager when they made Keef. Naughty Dog is credited with a number of major games including Jak and Daxter, Crash Bandicoot, and the Uncharted series.

    As for humor, playing a specific Thief character class, and playing a character with a name and somewhat predefined personality in a hybrid adventure/RPG... Hmm, that sounds a lot like our upcoming Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption. Other than that, our game is almost completely unlike Keef the Thief. :-)

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    1. That last part is good to hear, but let me ask you: as a developer, what is the disadvantage to giving the player control over the character name? Is Hero U going to have voiced dialogue that depends on using a single name?

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    2. To add to the history, according to the article below they had 24 hours to come up with a name for their company since JAM Software was trademarked in Australia.

      http://www.gamesradar.com/ask-gr-anything-where-did-naughty-dog-get-its-name/

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    3. On the Hero U home page, the protagonist is introduced as Shawn O'Conner. I'm guessing that's the name you get.

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    4. @Corey - Don't worry. Even your concept sketch of Hero U's interface look hundred times better.

      Good old 80's... a time when big time publishers give free reins on all creative rights to a couple of teenagers.

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    5. If there is voice acting, there is some considerable advantage to a pre-named hero. I suppose some developers feel it adds character too - after all, they wrote a story about Keef the Thief, not Chester the Thief.

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    6. Right, that's one of the few cases in which I can sort-of understand why the hero has to have a fixed name. Even then, developers have done a good job in some cases integrating voice acting with chosen names. Baldur's Gate just went to all text whenever the name came up (not all lines were voice-acted). Mass Effect allows the choice of a first name but has everyone address the player by the last name.

      I frankly don't see how it spoils any of the developers' intentions to allow me to call my thief "Chester." In fact, I'm not sure that the name "Keef" ever comes up during the gameplay.

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    7. In our case, it's about backstory and character development. Shawn O'Conner has a unique family history that is crucial to the story. (Consider, for example, that your character has an Irish name, but Hero University is in the Mediterranean. Not accidental.) The fact that he is a wannabe Thief learning to become a potentially heroic Rogue also ties into other events.

      Shawn has a distinct personality and talks to himself a lot - We use this technique instead of having a neutral Narrator as in Quest for Glory. Shawn is intelligent, cynical, and more innocent than he would like others to believe.

      But, as you say, as long as we avoid voice-over, there is no reason not to let the player name the main character. We are handling this by letting the player choose a nickname (or perhaps an alias), by which other characters will normally call Shawn. Some characters are more formal, so you will be "Herr O'Conner" at times, etc. If we decide to use voice, we'll avoid the nickname.

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  11. The company logo is a bit of a foretelling of Poochy from that Simpsons episode where they decide Itchy & Scratchy needs an extra character, i.e. the obnoxiously cool dog.

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  12. Here are the box and manual of the game.
    Spoiler?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqTI019UTsI

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  13. My first reaction to this blog entry is, "out of all the horrible games the Addict has had to play, this kiddie fluff piece is what fills him with dread?"

    Kudos for taking on a notable piece of video game history anyway. Many of Naughty Dog's later games have received high reviews and widespread praise, so it's interesting to see their more questionable first game re-examined.

    (I still suspect that Keef's GIMLET won't be in the bottom 10%... but we'll see!)

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    1. It definitely won't be that low. But it's not going to score very well.

      The game tries to be too many different things at the same time.

      In the end, it doesn't play like an RPG, an adventure game, an action game and an interactive "funny" comic... but falling short in every area because of it's scattered approach.

      Basically, just like what Birthright tried to do later and what Sid Meier should have learnt prior to making Covert Action.

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    2. True, but it's still one of only two RPG/Adventures outside of Quest for Glory canon, that strike a relatively good balance between the two genres.

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    3. @Kenny McCormick:
      Man, those are fighting words! I still play Birthright and Covert Action today, they're two of my favorite games. I'm surprised to see someone else mention them though, both games seem to have somewhat flown under the radar.

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    4. As you'll see tomorrow, I'm finding the gameplay in Keef growing in tolerability, though the humor is still cringe-worthy.

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    5. I'm glad to hear it's growing on you at least enough to not cause pain to play.

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    6. @Raifield:
      Whoa... chill out, dude.
      I'm not saying those games are bad. Whatever they did, they kept the theme of the games intact. The letdown was more on loss pacing and the ambitiousness vs. technological limitations problem faced by them then.

      Unlike Keef the Thief, which builds up the theme only to tear to it down later with very out-of-place stuff. I classify that as annoyance at a balls-cutting level.

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  14. No one wants to mount a spirited defense of Rings of Medusa? Ragnar?

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    1. It's an Atari ST classic, in that there weren't a lot of Atari ST borne games of its approach and ambition at that time (or ever, really?) and they're fondly remembered for owners of that console because of that exclusivity. Amiga had it's Defender of the Crown, for a slightly similar example. If you play Defender of the Crown today, you'll find it a quite shallow experience, but at the time it was an audiovisual revelation for Amiga users and a great point of pride over their IBM compatible antagonists that they had something so cinematic to play.

      Rings of Medusa is not RPG enough by your measure, and you shouldn't bother playing it unless you like it. Outside the scope of this blog, it was forward thinking in a few aspects of it and it plant a few seeds for later games that the quantum universe Strategy Game Addict would like to note first occur here.

      The sequel seems to have Dungeon Master clone segments, so it's a proper RPG, but I haven't seen it around in English and on PC, not sure if it exists in that form. You could emulate it when the time comes.

      Rings of Medusa would be only useful to this blog for meta-commentary reasons as a companion piece of Sword of the Samurai, which is slightly more of an RPG, but those slight RPG bits that are in that game make it such a significantly more personalized experience that an interesting dialogue could arise on how little or much it really takes to scratch that RPG itch.

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    2. No, I don't want to mount a defense of Rings of Medusa. My interest in the game is more because I don't really remember much of it and want to reremember it. I always thought it to have interesting elements, but I could never get into it in any real depth when I played it a long time ago. What you describe mostly match my memories, although I always thought you could have some sort of missions from cities, but I may have dreamt that up.

      @Helm What do you mean "Atari ST" classic. I played it on Amiga. :) I also played Defender of the Crown on C64 rather than Amiga (my family bought the Amiga in the late 80:s rather than when it first was produced).

      Finally, the eyes of the guy in the top screenshot are positively creepy.

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    3. Eh, even back then Defender of the Crown was crap. Cinemaware? In other words the game is 45 minutes and you can play it 2-3 times before exhausting all the gameplay. All show and no substance. Great to show people to dazzle them but not a good game by any means. The Rocketeer was similarly bad.

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    4. I tried to play it recently and failed miserably. I also failed to find any documentation for it that was not in German. I was hoping you would play it so I could learn how to play it. I see it may not be an RPG but it still looks like what I consider a good game.

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    5. Ryan:
      http://www.atarimania.com/game-atari-st-rings-of-medusa_10397.html

      English docs.

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  15. Dear CRPG,

    Neither Keef nor Medusa seem like true CRPGs to me. A hybrid by its nature is another category altogether. I suppose its arbitrary where you draw the line, but I will say that I agree with you that Keef is a very off-putting looking game.

    Please do what you think best. It is your blog afterall. As your faithful readers, we will understand.

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    1. Keef is definitely an RPG. A hybrid, sure, but hybrids qualify. In the case of Rings of Medusa, it doesn't seem to be an RPG at all. My call for responses is not so much looking for opinions like "I love RoM! Please play it!" as much as looking for someone to explain why I'm wrong and it does have RPG credentials that reveal themselves in later gameplay.

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    2. I love Seymour Butts! Please play it!

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    3. I vaguely remember you mentioning you wanted to give it a go because you will be playing its sequels that have an RPGness to them.

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  16. Don't worry. If you hate the game, simply drop it. I for one would love to see that you only play the major titles, which makes your life easier and my waiting between games shorter.

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    1. I love playing unknown titles just because there might be a hidden gem among them. But I admit they come along rarely.

      However, I'm well past the era that I "drop" games on a whim. Even if Keef was excruciating--which it's not--it's too short not to see the ending.

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    2. I really admire your perseverance. Very eagle to watch you play Champions of Krynn!

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  17. BTW I'm delighted to see that you have included "XuanYuan Jian"(1990) and other Chinese RPGs. But I'm not sure if you can find any English version and whether the rest of the readers find them interesting. Anyway if you indeed decide to play those games I'd be very happy to search for English versions for you and provide assistance.

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    1. Thanks, Markus. That came up in another thread. As they get close, I'll put out a call if I have trouble.

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    2. Sadly, I don't think any Chinese RPGs have been translated into English. There was a partial release (demo)of the 2001 "Xin Xianjian Qixia Zhuan" that's on the master list, and there is a current Project for "Tian Die Jie". That is all I'm personally aware of.
      Sangokushi Sousuden aka Legend of Cao Cao ((1998, not the list it seems) was translated from the Chinese version (and has a Chinese setting), but the original was Japanese.

      Speaking of things that don't exist, I would be very surprised if a PC version of the Lords of Chaos game will turn up. This was probably never released for the platform. The entry at Moby was deleted some time ago.

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    3. I did a search for it as well.

      I even requested for assistance on Chinese forums for English versions but came up mostly empty-handed.

      Also, the actual number of Chinese RPGs is a lot greater than reflected on Wikipedia.

      I've played most of them (including those not listed on Wikipedia) and found that the only publisher that actually have any good ones is Softworld while Panda has some success in producing Chinese versions of Japanese CRPGs (some are basically hardcore anime-erotica).

      Now, the only CRPGs churned out in the Chinese market are all bloody MMORPGs dominated by trolls, grievers, bots and sweatshop gamers.

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    4. http://shinjuforest.blogspot.com/

      This is the person who is said to have translated some of the Chinese RPGs, but the blog is restricted though.

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  18. I'd like to see you complete Keef, if only because my own attempt 20 some years ago was a failure, and I want to see how the game goes.

    Rings of Medusa...I took a look at it via screenshots the other day, and it didn't even look remotely like an rpg to me. I figured I might not be seeing the whole picture, but everyone else here is saying it's not an rpg. So I can't argue for it.

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  19. As for Rings of Medusa, it's borderline, IMO. I can see why someone would claim it's a RPG/Strategy hybrid, but personally I think it's closer to an Adventure/Strategy.

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    1. I agree. For pure Strategy gamers in the '80s/'90s it seems if you had to solve a riddle in your strategy game, it immediately became an RPG/Strategy game and adventure/strategy wasn't a term often used (oddly, perhaps). This vital piece of information explains the confusion with a few games like RoM. If you solve puzzles, then ostensibly, you must be some guy, the general of this army, in the game, occupying a place and playing a role, hence, roleplaying for the grognards.

      Again, compare and contrast with Sword of the Samurai, a game where you being a guy in the game, in an ostensibly strategy game, is not centered in solving puzzles on the side.

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  20. We scoff at the hair-metal hero, but looking at some of these games from the 80s makes me wonder how future generations will see the games of today.

    What will they say when they look back on the heavily distorted fantasy character art? At the clumsy attempts at "addressing" same-sex romances and female lead characters? The many references to militaristic American nationalism?

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    1. What are you talking about, man?

      We're already scoffing at all of them now.

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  21. Addict, while I agree you shouldn't play games you hate, I hope you find something in here that you like, because I bought this game when it was new and never got through it. I'd love to see it played to the end.

    Some things:
    The combat I thought was very unique for the time - it gets better as you get ranged weapons, but I imagine it's harder if you can't distinguish the colors.

    I guess you'd find it annoying, but I always thought it was funny that when you try to load a game, it warns you that you're going to lose your current game and that you should save first. With only one save slot, that would be a dumb idea.

    Keep an eye on the OTHER menu option. I can remember of one instance off-hand, but there are probably several places where an action appears there that's specific to your location and whether you have the right thing in your inventory.

    Anyway, I'm looking forward to another entry, if you can stomach it.

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    1. This thread is full of people going back and forth about whether I should quit this game or not, despite my never having said that I was even contemplating such a thing. I haven't bailed on a game in a YEAR, and only one in 18 months. The ONLY reason I can imagine not finishing a game from now on is if it would take dozens of hours to no purpose. This is a lightweight game. No matter how much I might dislike it, there was never any chance I wasn't going to finish it.

      That is a funny and true point about the save slot. Thanks for the menu tip.

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    2. Oh, actually, I guess I did say something about "quitting permanently" at the end of the post. That was a joke, relating to the pay-to-talk system in particular. I didn't mean it as a serious option.

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    3. Glad you think that way, CRPG Addict.

      I believe that your quest should include all games, even those that you *think* you might hate. Give it a fighting chance or, at least, let it leave a mark in history of the Internet that, yes, it did exist at one point of time and, yes, it sucks sour frog ass.

      Much as I hate fetch side-quests, the completionist in me would force my damned avatar to do them anyway, just to cross it off my freaking journal. I believe you have the same tendency, so, might as well just go for it.

      Also, for every game out there, there's always at least one oddball who'd enjoy it, no matter how bad it is. That person would be very grateful for your good efforts here.

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  22. The anecdote about putting in funny placeholder text and having it stick I've heard in reference to the Monkey Island games.

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    1. That seems unlikely given how silly a lot of the other Lucasarts games coming out before that were. It seems to be a pretty obvious continuation of the trend.

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  23. Actually I think it looks quite interesting, nothing like a bit of failed comedy to spice up a game! :)

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  24. crpaddict, you need a better sense of humor. plenty of people like ace ventura and tyler parry, and the kind of humor in this game. they like highbrow humor too, but there are different types of humor. just because you dont like it doesnt mean its wrong.

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    1. I agree. This isn't a place where I try to tell you what's right and wrong. That's what RPGCodex is for. This is a place where I tell you what I like and don't like.

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    2. Hah! BURN!!!

      Anyway, RPGFreak, what you're doing here is basically an equivalent of submitting a letter to Scorpia in CGW back in the 80s to tell her that M&M2 doesn't suck and that she's wrong.

      What's the point?

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  25. I don't think your colour blindness is harming you here: I think the graphics are just that bad.

    Why do I think that? There isn't any red OR green in any of the screenshots you posted within the main screen. Lots of brown though. SO much brown. Also some blue. I was wondering for a moment if you'd run them through that colourblindess filter, but then I realized that the US around the central screen is in an ugly shade of pink, so if you had it would also be brown.

    Going back and looking again, there are some red bloodstains on your character, the plants in the anachronism screen are green, and lots of red and green are used in the 'lovely' screenshot. However, most things are brown.

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    1. I didn't realize how much color-blindness affects me until I was playing Red Dead Redemption last weekend. I'd get into long-distance shootouts, and I'd have to just aim and fire in the general direction of where I saw the smoke puffs, whereas Irene was telling me that she could clearly see the enemies. I couldn't make them out from the background objects. I wonder how often in gaming and life I've thought things were more camouflaged than they actually were.

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  26. [quote]Keef is the CRPG equivalent of Carrot Top.[unquote]

    Haha.... who on earth said you have no sense of humor?
    This one pretty much nails it and proves the opposite.

    Keep it up... looking forward to the review of 'Fairy Tale Adventure'

    See you

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  27. I remember playing Keef the Thief on my Amiga 500 back in the glory days of my youth. My friend used to come over and play it all the time, or just long enough to cast that spell that would make the barmaids naked.

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  28. http://www.ign.com/articles/2013/10/04/rising-to-greatness-the-history-of-naughty-dog?page=3

    Some talk about Keef The Thief. XD

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    1. Very interesting. It recaps the same story about EA insisting on making it a comedy that I quoted in my final post, but it elaborates on what they meant when they said the effect on sales was "no joke." It sounds like the game did quite well initially but plateaued fairly quickly, causing EA to regret the comedy aspect.

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