Friday, September 27, 2013

DarkSpyre: White Hot Hatred

Good. This world deserves a terrible fate.

Over 100 games into my project, I've met plenty of games I didn't like, plenty that I thought were stupid, plenty that offended me, plenty that I thought were too hard, plenty that wasted my time--but I prior to DarkSpyre, can't honestly say that I've truly hated a game. Now I know what true, blazing hot hatred really feels like. I would honestly rather play all of my lowest-rated games again five times than play another minute of DarkSpyre

About a week ago, when I last posted, I was committed to putting DarkSpyre aside for a bit and trying to play Dragon Lord. But I've been on the road for the week, and every night upon returning to my hotel, I haven't felt the intellectual energy necessary to learn a new game (and Dragon Lord seems complicated). DarkSpyre, loathsome though I came to find it, was a game that I knew how to play. I figured I'd suck it up, push through it, and get past it by this weekend.

I did make progress, though maddeningly slow--maybe a level and a half each evening. Finally, I achieved the last two runes and was rewarded with a level where I could "spend" the runes on advanced equipment, though some of it was the same stuff I'd been finding all along.

Gideona's gear after the "reward" level.

During this process, I came to love the random maze levels. Though they could be long, they didn't involve any stupid lever, pressure plate, door, key, movable wall, teleportation, or inventory puzzles. They only challenge to them was combat, which is essentially this game's only strong suit. It does a reasonably good job adapting the Dungeon Master mechanic of level progression and special weapon attacks to a top-down interface. I'm not saying it's fantastic, but compared to the game's "puzzles," it's brilliant.

Already at my last post, I was annoyed by the nature of the puzzles. Aside from those, the game continued to get annoying in other ways, including:

1. Numerous enemies capable of poisoning the character, plus poison-causing traps. Poison isn't immediately deadly, but it saps hit points every five seconds or so. Lots of CRPGs feature poison, but there's usually some kind of "cure poison" spell. In this game, curing poison requires an "Algit" potion, which you have to find or make from rubies. There are far more occasions that cause poison than Algit potions or rubies available in the game, meaning I spent a lot of the game walking around with uncured poison, waiting to find another potion.

2. A ton of the higher levels feature barrages of fireballs that shoot from the walls and ricochet down the corridors. They're too fast to outrun or evade, so whether you get slammed with seven of them in a row is far more a matter of luck than skill. I only died a few times from enemies and about 30 times from fireballs.

Lots of reloading on this level.

3. It's feast or famine with weapons. On some levels, I'd find six or seven weapons and have to leave some behind. Then a combat-intensive level would come, and all the weapons I'd hauled from the previous levels would shatter in my hands, one by one, ultimately leaving me with a single dagger or nothing at all. Unarmed fighting does nothing to higher-level enemies. This was annoyingly true of magic weapons, too. I got a very powerful sword called Rancor on the "reward" level, and it lasted maybe three combats before it broke.

Gideona "solves" another sequence of "puzzles."

On the puzzles, I don't have a lot to say, except that I've pulled more levers, weighed down more pressure plates, shoved more giant balls, tossed items into more teleporters, and otherwise trialed-and-errored my way through more game levels than I ever want to do again. There were a few I didn't hate. One made me trace a path through a series of pressure plates such that I didn't cross any of them twice, and it made me fondly recollect a time in my childhood when my mother taught me the "barn door" drawing puzzle and I refused to accept there was no way to do it without putting a roof on the barn. I must have drawn thousands of squares and X's before I finally agreed that it couldn't be done. This one, in contrast, was much more easily solvable--the equivalent of that barn door with two caps instead of one.


Anyway, after I got all the runes and passed through the "reward" level, I entered a level called "War." It wasn't very hard, just lots of combat against foes ("musketeers" among them) that left me with only two viable weapons by the end.


I figured the next level would be "Intellect" and the third would be "Magic," and I was right about the "Intellect" level anyway. The level started with an easy riddle--something like "it separates us from the apes," with the two choices being "intellect" and "stupidity." After that came a more difficult riddle:

A three-volume set of books stand together in order on a shelf. Each book is 3 1/4 inches thick. Each cover is exactly 1/8 of an inch thick. A worm bores a hole straight from the first page of Volume 1 to the last page of Volume 3. How far did the worm travel?

Try it.

If you answered 10.25 inches--three full volumes plus two sets of two covers--you're not thinking about how books are actually arrayed on a shelf. Page 1 of Volume 1 would actually be on the book's right, adjacent to Volume 2, as would the "last page" of Volume 3. Thus, the worm only passes through the full width of Volume 2 plus the two sets of covers on either side. The answer is thus 3.25 plus 4/8 or 3.75.

The game, however, insists that the correct answer is 3.5. I don't know where it gets this idea. It's only calculating two covers, but the worm plainly passes through four: the front cover of Volume 1, the rear cover of Volume 2, the front cover of Volume 2, and the rear cover of Volume 3. Some God of Intellect. [Later edit: Okay, fine. The thickness of the book includes the binding, so I was wrong. I still figured out the order-on-the-shelf part.]

Anyway, even if this one was wrong, I was looking forward to more puzzles like this on the level. I settled in for a sequence of them, entered a teleporter, and found myself confronted with more lever/plate/door/rolling ball puzzles.

Lever/plate/door/rolling ball puzzles from Hell.

I hope whoever designed this level faces a level just like it in Hell.

Each lever and plate seemed to do multiple things, but inconsistently. Enemies wandered all over the level triggering things. No matter what I did, I couldn't get one door open that would allow me to exit the level, and I kept getting stuck behind grates and doors with no way to proceed.

After about four hours trying, I broke down and looked at a walkthrough, but it was no help. It basically said yeah, it sucks, there's no step-by-step instructions you can follow because the rolling balls and enemies create total chaos. I kept reloading and trying, though, and on maybe my 20th try, I managed to make it to the end of the level.

Only to find that I needed a Ambrosia Potion to pass. I'd found a diamond on the level, and used it to make an Ambrosia potion, but I drank it. Goddamn this game.

Nine or ten reloads later, I managed to follow the same sequence--but this time with the potion. I joyfully made it to the end, used the "Raido" rune to save the game, and went through the portal. I found myself on the last level, "MAGIC." Some skulls taunted me with the fact that both Borel and Chesschantra had made it this far but had failed the level.


The level's puzzles seemed to be about the right spells, and fortunately it had replenished all my spell points at the beginning. I moved in, solved one puzzle involving the creation of poison, walked down a corridor, stepped on a pressure plate, and was killed by fireballs.

I went to reload my saved game and got only a black screen.

This is apparently a known corruption. You can't save on the last level or at any point on the previous level once you enter the lever/door puzzle area. My only working save is from five levels ago, before I found the last rune, and no way am I going through that horrible "Intellect" level again every time I die on the "Magic" level. Thus, one level from the end of the game, I must declare defeat--my first unfinished game in over a year.

Screw this game and anyone who likes it.

101 comments:

  1. The given thickness includes the two covers of the middle book. You have to add two additional covers from the 1st and 3rd volumes. So it's 3.5...

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  2. "Each book is 3 1/4 inches thick" - This figure includes the covers of that book. Add two 1/8 inch covers on that, and you get 3 and a half inches.

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  3. Well it sucks that your winning streak is going to come to an end, but I guess that it had to at some point and I can't see you getting anything useful in terms of blog material out of the rest of this game apart from the sort of satisfaction you get when you finish your tax return or clean the house, i.e. one of relief, not pleasure. Out of interest, does the ALT-S method of saving that you talked about in your first post cause this corruption as well?

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    1. Yes. ALT-S appears to simply call the script that runs when you use a "Raido" rune. I confess that I used it a few times during the game when I was out of runes and I wanted to quit for the day but not lose all my progress.

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  4. Don't think of it as a game "beat" you, Addict... Have you considered perhaps that the goal of some game designers was pure sadism? Therefore, a victory for them would be for a player to suffer their game through to the end? =)

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    1. That has definitely crossed my mind more than once, though usually with some independently-developed shareware game, not a commercial release on which the company hopes to make a profit.

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  5. I'd also point out that it depends on how you arrange them on the shelf. I've seen books where the spine was upside down compared to normal, so if you want the title to read properly then you have to put the book on the self upside down. I've also had books too tall to put on the shelf properly, so they have to go spine-up, which normally would mean a 90% rotation along the x-axis, but could also be that and a 180 degree along the y-axis, depending on what looks better on the shelf.

    Also what about books where page 1 is after the introduction, which is numbered in Roman numerals (common in textbooks)

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    1. I think you are overthinking this puzzle. :-)

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    2. I have a feeling that if I ever meet you in real life, I'll know immediately that it's you.

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    3. >.> I have no idea what you mean by that. I'm a small creature from planescape with one eye, of course you'd know me. You'd have to dimension travel for that though.

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    4. Planescape... that's what they call Canada nowadays, eh?

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  6. I can imagine having to give up on a game nettles you, but I'm still glad you were kept from spending more time on playing something loathsome to you.

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  7. I predict it eats away at you and you go back and finish this one at some point anyway!

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    1. Unless his save gets corrupted; then he'll never return, although the thought of doing so will result in many sleepless nights playing other games. Any way you look at, it's good for the blog. ;)

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    2. I know that the save works right up to the moment you enter the puzzle section on the "Intellect" level. After that--and even on the next level--it fails to work. So any attempt I make to see the endgame will require me to pass the puzzle section (which took me 20-30 tries before) AGAIN and then successfully navigate the final level without dying. It doesn't seem likely, but Lizard is right that it's going to eat at me.

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    3. Maybe you should use Dosbox save states in parallel with in-game saves (i.e. making a backup state for each "legal" save) in case something like that happens in a future game?

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    4. I don't have a version of DOSBox with save states. The official version doesn't have them. There's apparently one floating about that does, but I've read that it can be buggy.

      In any event, it wouldn't work for this game, I don't think. The writer of the walkthrough I consulted said that his save states stopped working at about the same time my saved games stopped working.

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    5. You could run it in a VM and save/restore the VMs state instead of DOSBox.

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  8. I always hated these puzzle games masquerading as RPGs. Dungeon Master (1, not 2) had an acceptable mix of puzzles. If you want to make a game of Sokoban then just make one! Don't put hit points and spell levels into it!

    Plus, in puzzle RPGs you can usually identify the point at which the level designer became aware of just how big the game was going to be, how much she didn't realize it when she confidently said she could do it, how her wonderfully clever ideas didn't last more than the first few levels, and then she just got mad and decided to make the remaining levels hard for the sake of being hard. Because if it was hard to design, it should be hard to solve.

    I see this now, but I always felt so inadequate back then. There was always this nagging voice that said, "Come on, you're intelligent, aren't you? You play these sorts of games. You can't solve a little puzzle?" And I'd reply hey maybe I can do it, but the puzzle is just so incredibly tedious that it's not worth my effort - either that, or you got inside your own brain so much that the puzzle solution is especially obscure. And the game would reply, "Oh, dear. Oh, dear, dear, dear. We thought a couple of pressure plates and rolling balls were *easy*, darling, but you'll never finish the game at this rate. I see you can't be accepted amongst polite society and will never make it into Stanford. Call security, Jeeves!"

    It's only now, with the presence of years and observations of others, that I can finally see these games for what they were: crap. It's tremendously vindicating.

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    1. The problem with this and similar games is that what they do aren't really puzzles in the traditional sense. In a traditional puzzle you are given a set of rules and then it is up to you to solve it.

      In this game what you are doing is trying to find out about the rules by trial-and-error, but if you knew all rules beforehand the puzzle would not be difficult at all. Add to that that the puzzles aren't self-contained (i.e. enemies screwing up the puzzle) and it becomes maddening.

      Finding the rules of a puzzle can be fun if it involves talking to NPC:s and finding nice clues, etc. but finding the rules by trial-and-error is just an exercise in frustration.

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    2. I'm not saying that's the case with DarkSpyre (I can readily believe the people that played it more than I that it isn't), but navigational puzzles can be immensely fun. The "right" design in my should involve two things:
      1) The goal of the puzzle should be clear from the start (either from a clue or from the very configuration of the elements).
      2) Reaching that goal should require some out-of-the-box thinking (bruteforcing them through trial-and-error shouldn't work)
      There are games that do it right - Anvil of Dawn, Grimrock. Some, like Lands of Lore, even have a welcome addition of having some puzzles have alternative solutions depending on your build.

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    3. *I meant to type "The "right" design in my opinion should involve two things"

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    4. Harland, why do you refer to the hypothetical level designer as "her"? It sounds very weird when you have a male name and most level designers are male.

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    5. Petrus, an emerging solution (used by academics in the U.S., and I suspect elsewhere) to the thorny problem of patriarchal assumptions in English is to use she/her in situations where it is likely to be the less expected referent (like when referring to a level designer). This technique's power as a subversive tool, as well as the pervasive nature of the biases it seeks to redress, are made evident by your own reaction.

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    6. So it's basically politically correct rhetoric to the solution to the "thorny problem of patriarchal assumptions"?
      Not that I understand why it is a problem in the first place. Is it the assumption or the patriarchal that is the problem?
      And if the patriarchal part is the problem wouldn't it be more sensible with action, like women trying harder, instead of redefining (an unpleasant?) reality with words?

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    7. "Like women trying harder." Really?

      Even if there's only a single female game designer, she doesn't deserve to be excluded from every specific example that involves a game designer. Hence, we have three options when discussing a specific example:

      1. Always use "he," defending the practice with the arguments that a) historically, "he" has been a neutral pronoun as well as a male pronoun or b) most of the people to whom the example would apply are male anyway.

      2. Use the tortuous "he or she," which creates its own problems by always putting "he" first.

      3. Alternate between "she" and "he" in our specific examples, thus allowing the possibility that our hypothetical protagonist could be either.

      There's no obviously right or wrong way to do it. Each writer has to make a choice from among several not-completely-satisfying solutions, and it's a bit obnoxious for "calling out" a writer on the choice that he ultimately makes.

      Unless it involves "he/she." Screw people who do that.

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    8. Your assessment is fair. It's political correctness. Whether one views that as worthwhile is another matter; I do, but it's hard to deny I'm in the minority. Action is of course more effective. Doesn't mean that other approaches are wholly invalid. I find these discussions interesting and useful, but the tone of the last two comments suggests that's not what people are about here, so sorry if I rocked the boat.

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    9. Whoops. Ninja'd by Chester while I was writing. Well said, addict. Enjoy this blog a lot!

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    10. People who comment on my blog are generally smart and thoughtful, including Petrus, who probably just got dumped or something. Don't let a few comments discourage you. Anyway, it's my blog, so my opinion is the most important one.

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    11. I think I've seen a few texts where "they" was used as a gender-neutral pronoun. From my point of view of a non-native speaker this looks like a pretty good solution.
      English speakers have a very easy time with gender-neutral language, I must add, as only pronouns are gender-specific. In Russian it's all but impossible, since we have gender inflections for nouns (and also adjectives and even some verb forms), and unlike German there's no easy way to make a feminine noun out of a masculine one.

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    12. ""Like women trying harder." Really?"

      Yes, really.
      My local newspaper recently had a very interesting article - "Why men win more in lotto than women do". It turned out it was not because they were smarter, luckier or because of some patriarchal conspiracy. No, it was because they sacrificed more of their money to try to win.
      Who dares wins, and men generally dare more and win more (but also lose more), while women in general take less chances, and generally chose the safe middle road.

      And for the record, I have no problem with women using "her" about a hypothetical protagonist even in a male dominated field, but when a man does it it just looks weird and forced.

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    13. In English, using "they" as a single-person pronoun is an abomination. It is acceptable, however, to render the entire sentence in the plural. "A game developer must strive for balance when he designs his levels" becomes "Game developers must strive for balance when they design their levels*". But sometimes a writer wants to make the reader think of a specific protagonist rather than "game developers" in general, so this method doesn't always work.


      *Yes, yes, saying "a game developer must strive for balance when designing levels" obviates all concerns in this example. There are other times when that doesn't work. I couldn't think of a good example.

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    14. I figured Harlard chose his pronouns to emphasize the mistakes women make in a field they don't understand. ;P

      You guys read into words too much, or maybe I do it too little.

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    15. Perhaps it was all part of a massive conspiracy to derail the comment section! They may not see it, Harlard, but I'm on to you.

      -BelatedGamer

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    16. In English, using "they" as a single-person pronoun is an abomination.

      That's at best debatable. It's been commonly used as a singular pronoun in English for centuries, including by such notable writers as Mark Twain, Jane Austen, George Bernard Shaw, and William Shakespeare. The view of the singular "they" as ungrammatical is actually of rather recent origin, and perhaps can be laid largely at the feet of Strunk and White, who derided this usage in The Elements of Style, an opinionated writing style guide that became far more influential than it really deserved.

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    17. I personally like hir and sie, since they are extra words (which we add to the existing language all the time) and use existing grammatical structures, the exact same as he/him and she/her.

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    18. In my religion, there is no such thing as men, women, egalitarianism and gender inequality. We are all the same in the eyes of Nyarlothotep (not that It has any).

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    19. I often use s/he.

      CA: "Unless it involves "he/she." Screw people who do that."

      :SINGLEFINGERWAVESBACK:

      @Kenny McCormick: wins discussion!

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  9. This game is even worse than the perma-death in Wizardry 2 where you have to train up your characters in Wizardry 1, hope they survive to level 10 or whatever, then send them through Wizardry 2 to hopefully not get perma-deathed there?

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    1. "White-Hot Hatred" pretty much encapsulates how I feel about Wizardry.

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  10. You are one stubborn RPG player! Although you finally gave up you still want to finish the game even though you hate it with a passion.

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    1. It really feels more like a waste of hours to have played so much and not win. If I knew it would only take me another 4-8 hours, and victory was certain after spending that time, I'd probably do it.

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    2. Textbook example of the Sunken cost fallacy! Though god knows I've fallen prey to that myself enough times.

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    3. I'm not so convinced that it's a fallacy. Which, of course, is probably a fallacy.

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    4. As traditionally constructed, the fallacy is made with regards to economic decisions, and simply states that a project is not more worthwhile simply because we have already put a bunch of money into it. Something which was a bad idea when we put $0 into it will still be a bad idea if we put $10 into it, and if we put $100 into it, and so on and so forth. We feel the naive and irrational notion that after putting so much effort or so many resources into something there should be SOME payoff, but sometimes that is just not true.

      When the expected payoff is "satisfaction," however, the equation shifts a lot. The very fact that putting a lot of effort into something makes it more satisfying to see through will inherently raise the value of your outcome the more effort you put into it so long as the only thing you wanted out of the project in the first place was satisfaction.

      Ignoring the consequences of the sunk costs fallacy when seeking anything besides satisfaction is empirically proven to be a mistake.

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    5. I don't know that I agree with the premise. Something that turns out to be a bad idea to put $1,000 into might still be a good idea to put an extra $25 into to ensure that you get SOMETHING from the process.

      I wish I'd never started my PhD program. It cost me $50,000 to get my ABD and I may never finish my dissertation. If I could do it again, I wouldn't spend the money. But I don't agree that means it would be a waste of money for me to spend another $8,000 to just finish the damned thing given that I've already spent $50,000.

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    6. Once you have spent more than a value of a thing, you need to consider several factors when spending additional time or effort to obtain it. If you spent $500 trying to get something which is worth $500, and you can DEFINITELY get it for $600, it is usually worth spending $100 more (as you reduce your net loss from $500 to $100); but in the majority of situations like this, there is a CHANCE you will get it for $100 more, in which case we tend to overestimate our chances of success and cause ourselves to end up losing $600 (or $1,000, or $20,000) on the deal. So, if you felt finishing DarkSpyre was worth 20 hours of effort, and you had spent 20 hours but had 4 hours left, it MIGHT be worth it; but if you ended up spending those 4 hours and don't succeed, you need to really look at giving up because your probability estimation is off. The other factor is opportunity cost. Every 4 hours sunk into DarkSpyre, is 4 hours not spent on (for example) Wizardry VI. That tradeoff also needs to enter into the equation. Similarly, if you could DEFINITELY pay $8,000 to get your degree, you could simply ask yourself if $8,000 was worth the difference between current state and completion, compared to other purchases or investments you might make; but if the $8,000 only yields an open-ended probability of completion, there is a whole different consideration because that could lead to an endless series of $8,000 expenditures.

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    7. See, I was in basically the same situation regarding my PhD, and reasoned about it largely the same way (though given student loans it was mostly the sunk time I was concerned with rather than the money). Only I never did finish my dissertation, and ended up wishing I'd just left the program a lot sooner (or never started it in the first place).

      Which isn't meant as an argument that you shouldn't finish your PhD; every situation is different. Just an anecdote to be taken for whatever it's worth.

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  11. It's amusing to watch how your attitude towards the game evolves over time ;) You called it "fun so far" in the first posting and gone a long way from there ))

    There's a step-by-step solution to this puzzle in the official cluebook http://mocagh.org/miscgame/darkspyre-cluebook.pdf, but it too states that you might not get it right at first attempt due to changing elements.

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    1. (now this got me thinking if such "hellish" puzzles are just an elaborate scam to sell cluebooks ;))

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    2. Wow. The novelette of Darkspyre won the 1989 L. Ron Hubbard "Writers of the Future" award. Author Scot Noel must have been a scientologist.

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    3. @Harland
      Hubbard was a mediocre pulp-SF author long before he founded his cult, and while the award may well serve as a promotional vehicle for Scientology, it's first and foremost about young and/or struggling SF authors. Many, if not most of the winners and judges likely have no other connection to Scientology.

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    4. Before the puzzles got so obnoxious, it wasn't a bad game. The Dungeon Master-inspired leveling is reasonably good, even. If the game had been less ABOUT its puzzles and much, much shorter (which of course it was when I'd only played three or four levels), I'd have called it good and probably ranked it relatively high.

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    5. Actually, I think you would feel rather differently if the save file worked fine, because this would have been a "WON!" post. XD

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  12. Life is far too short and the hours of your life far too precious to waste them playing games that suck horribly or really that suck at all. I read this post and genuinely felt sorry for you.

    I think the blog is wonderful and I check it often although I rarely post any comments. However, I really don't understand the "need" to play everything to completion or even at all. There are so many good and great cRPGs to play so why waste time out of one's life on the ones that are not worthy of it? Seriously.

    How you have not burned out on this is beyond me and how your wife tolerates the time you devote to it on top of your career is also beyond me. I mean this sincerely and with the best of intentions for you in mind - you might want to reconsider what you are doing here and how you are spending the limited finite hours of your lifetime.

    That said, we all need downtime to recharge our batteries and computer gaming is a wonderful hobby I enjoy often myself. The reality is though that I will not live long enough to play every good game I want to which seems like a ridiculous thing to even say now that I say it. I mean, I am attaching a lot of importance to gaming myself making a statement like that, aren't I? So, in a way I think I kind of get what you are doing but at the same time feel compelled to call you out on it and encourage you to spend less time, a LOT less time on shitty games and instead make the most of your entertainment time playing good ones. Really, those would be the best ones to be writing about and sharing experiences with anyway. Reading about how horrible DarkSpite was might be entertaining for me but at what cost to you? I don't believe it is anywhere near worth it. You don't owe me that and you owe you better than that. Does that many any sense?

    Personally, I would be happy for you if at some point you abandoned ship on playing every cRPG ever made (because probably more than half of them suck badly) and instead cherry picked the fine wines and savored them. This would be much nicer for you and just fine for us your readers. I think cutting the task down to size and for that matter making it less of a task would be a healthy thing. I also think some of the time saved you'd do real well to spend with your wife. Take this from a guy who does not have a wife anymore. You never think it can happen to you until one very sorry day when you wake up and realize you have been out to lunch for many years.

    I hope you don't mind me sharing all of that but again my intentions are good and heartfelt. You seem like a real nice guy and I felt liked I owed it to you to say something instead of quietly going along for the ride at your expense.

    Consider this: If you were to learn you had cancer today and had only several months left to live or perhaps even weeks and not of good quality besides, how would you feel about the time you just wasted on DarkSpyre and did not spend doing at the very least something fun or worthwhile?

    There is an ample supply of good games, games like Dragon Age or Baldur's Gate or the Elder Scrolls series or the Icewind Dales or the Might and Magic series, etc., etc. Playing those over time and in moderation would be a wise and certainly more entertaining choice with plenty of good stuff to share here along the way.

    Just my two coppers.

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    1. Jeez, way to lay a buzzkill on a computer game blog. "Get a life and quit playing games"?

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    2. > Life is far too short and the hours of your life far too precious to waste them playing games that suck horribly or really that suck at all.

      I disagree. Maybe I'm a little selfish but...

      There are plenty of addicts and blogs out there playing the well-known best games. This is the only one I've seen that is actually trying them all - to find those hidden gems! Darkspyre could have turned around and been a great game (ok, maybe "tolerable"). Who else is dedicating so much time to every game to discover that?

      I do think the master games list needs another category for "Won?"
      Yes, No, and *
      * failed to complete due to technical issues

      Having a corrupted save game on the last level definitely counts as *! Maybe even 4 of those: ****!

      If the addict is truly getting burned out, then more use of the 6-hour rule can take him past other DarkSpyres.

      And sorry, but I loved this final line:
      "Screw this game and anyone who likes it."

      You won't see reviews like that anywhere else!

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    3. I'm just calling it like I see it and nowhere did I say, "Get a life and quit playing games." I also did not say what to try out and not try out. I did say it is a waste of one's precious and limited lifetime hours to force oneself to play games that suck. I did call into question whether attempting to play every cRPG ever made is a worthwhile goal considering what doing that actually entails and the personal costs involved.

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    4. Michael, if you don't think I haven't wrestled with these issues constantly in the nearly four years since starting this blog, you haven't read much of it.

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    5. I know I am being mean but...

      "Take this from a guy who does not have a wife anymore."

      I imagine that happened after one too many long winded condescending monologues like the one above.

      Sorry I am an ass but I had to say it.

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    6. Divorce isn't the only way to lose a wife.

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    7. I guess if I inferred that incorrectly from the context I should feel like even more of an ass. I wonder if I understood the context correctly though.

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    8. Well, this thread turned dark fast.

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    9. Okay... taking a couple steps back... that's a couple of obese donut-filled coppers (probably driving a comically small patrol car) you have there, Michael!

      "Reading about how horrible 'DarkSpite' was might be entertaining for me but at what cost to you?"

      Hah! I see what you did there!

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    10. I've grown tired of those "so much better stuff to spend your time on" or "opportunity cost" arguments. There are things one expects from life, career/social setting/work/life balance and the like. But I operate from the assumption that I'll never think about what I missed by playing games in an afterlife. I think that a "stage of regret" either doesn't happen or is useless anyway. As long as those other aspects of life are somewhat fulfilled, the amount of time spent on "frivolous" things doesn't matter in the end. Or in fact, doing the things I enjoy, might actually be the point of life.

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  13. Just curious: If you hadn't been on a winning streak (like suppose you left something unfinished three games ago) would you have quit at the 6-hour mark?

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    1. Maybe not right at 6, but I probably wouldn't have gone as long as I did. It was clear early in the game that there wasn't going to be any real "story" to it, just the framing story. This is the kind of game where you could read the manual, play a few levels, and watch the end on YouTube and feel like you haven't missed anything. Unfortunately, the ending isn't on YouTube.

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    2. Sounds like you must right this wrong, and prevent others from having to tackle the full game just to watch whatever mediocre ending we all anticipate. I'm definitely looking forward to you moving on though, so either way is good.

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  14. The Legend of Zelda games contain much more interesting puzzles, and the nature of the puzzles keep changing from dungeon to dungeon, so they never get old. Too bad most Zelda games don't have any crpg credentials. There are experience points in The Adventure of Link, and you learn spells and new attacks, so maybe it could be considered an action/adventure/rpg hybrid. But then it's mostly action and for the NES.

    This post reminds me of, if I remember correctly, an interview with Shigeru Miyamoto, in which he reveals that Wind Waker would have been longer, but that they cut down the game by taking a dungeon, I think it was the dungeon of pigs, out of the game. He didn't want the game to get too long. Sounds like this game went in the other direction by padding it out with as many puzzles as the game designers could think of, whereas in Zelda the recipe to success seems to be to take stuff out rather than adding more.

    A third approach is to make a game where there is no definitive goal, a sandbox game where you are able to play as much as you want and stop where you deem yourself successful enough according to your own criteria, think Sim City or Minecraft. The question is whether there are any sandbox crpgs. I guess it would have to be a game that's really good at recognizing your progress, some of the early games seem to be bad at that.

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    1. I feel like the last few Elder Scrolls games are pretty sandbox-y. Although there's a main quest, you can keep playing it well beyond it's end--or ignore it entirely. With radiant quests and dungeons that respawn, you could argue that they essentially have no ending.

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    2. Its. Bloody hell, I hate when I do that. It's not like I don't know the difference.

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    3. If it makes you feel any better, I had to reread what you wrote, and look carefully, before I spotted your mistake. I guess I'll have to try out Elder Scrolls some time, that sounds interesting and I didn't know there were such rpgs, thanks for the info.

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  15. Just as books would often benefit from being edited down, so also there are games that would have been much better if they were condensed. It sounds like there are some good parts to the game, but that the game's creators dragged it out and left in too much of the not-good and the annoying.

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  16. Wow, 1990 is off to a pretty wretched start. At least things can only go up from here. Keep at it, Chet!

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    1. Half and half. Champions of Krynn was pretty good.

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    2. You might consider moving Ultima VI (or Dragonflight if you can get it to work) up the queue a bit, since all the upcoming games are long dungeon crawls of different quality (with the exception of Dragon Lord which isn't an rpg), and I guess you're pretty tired of that sort of gameplay.

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    3. I've been toying with declaring Dragon Lord "not an RPG" and skipping it, but I'm wary of playing that card too fast. I think I need to experience it a bit first.

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    4. Oh, I'm sure it won't take you long to come to that decision eventually. From what I remember it's more of a pet sim than anything.

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    5. Well, you were right. Though the game might be short enough that I might as well do a posting anyway.

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  17. So sorry for you! I know exactly how you feel, if I can't complete a game I've put a lot of effort in due to a bug I'm close to throwing the whole rig out of the window.

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  18. If I can be so bold, my advice is to put this one on hold but not score it yet. The end-game bug is crippling and easily worth -5 points, but it's worse because you are frustrated and want it over with. Play something else. You will be on 1990 for a while, so no harm.

    In the meantime, perhaps the board members can help you "fix" the bug. Save states in Dosbox is one method, but that doesn't save disk state. Would an approach such as running it in VMWare or Parallels work better? I don't know, but I bet there are smart people here that can figure it out while you go off and enjoy a new game for a while.

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    1. I think the only technical solution that would help is to have a DOSBox that can not only save the state of the memory (a.k.a. "save state") but also saves the relevant files on disk at that particular moment too.

      I don't know if any such solution exist.

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    2. Run Dosbox in a VM that has savable disk/memory states. They exist for people doing research reverse engineering viruses and stuff as I understand it. However, they are probably rather hard to use and very expensive.

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  19. An option, though not a very good one: The Amiga emulator UAE does offer save state use. This game was released on the Amiga. Is it worth setting up an Amiga environment in which to play through the whole game again just to save-scum the unfair ending? Probably not. (Passage can be expedited with the use of cheats), though I appreciate they violate the spirit of Chester's compact -- though perhaps not for levels which he has already beaten fairly.

    I'm sure there will be several folks gung-ho about getting him comfortable and up to speed with an Amiga emulator anyhow, due to the machine's rich stable of obscure platform exclusive titles (and simply superior-ly presented versions relative to pre-VGA MS-DOS, ugh!) I can't think of any that fall under the mandate here, but I'm sure there are a pile.

    PS, conduct any remaining research you might want to use MobyGames for soon -- the site's entire future is in jeopardy thanks to an unfortunate interest on the part of the site's owners in actively interfering with access to and enjoyment of the data presented there. Don't I feel like I just wasted 9 years there! Still, it was worth it to discover I'd accidentally been trolling Chester, diligently working his way down their list of CRPGs, with Braminar and the Girlfriend Construction Set.

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    1. Mobygames' future is in jeopardy? Do you have pointers to where I can read more about this or is it just from internal conversation between contributors?

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    2. Well, the latter one mostly. You'd have to read the huge stream of posts to see the conequences in their forum. tl;dr: Most contributors are abandoning the site due to the new owners, after the sell-out of MG by its founders 2 years back, having no interest in continuing to maintain the site in the contributor-friendly way it was. A sudden and unexpected redesign took place which is buggy and contributor-unfirendly.

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  20. Hey chet, seems you attracted attention in my country, germany: http://www.spiegel.de/netzwelt/games/computerspiel-blog-chester-bolingbroke-spielt-alle-rollenspiele-a-924304.html I could translate stuff if google translate doesn't give a decent enough read already.

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    1. Dear god. I don't know what's happening, but since this article was published, my in-box has been flooded with hundreds of "requests to share" the files on my Google Drive. Since those files are available to everyone with the link, I have no idea why I'm getting all of these requests--do German readers really think I'm going to open them up for editing?

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    2. Hey Chet, because of that article you have a new follower in me as well! I immediately checked your Starflight I + II entries and was delighted to find you enjoying them -almost- as much as me. Maybe the other germans would like to have sour save files or something?

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    3. Nice article, but it doesn't look like they consulted Chet at all. As for requests to share, can't they just copy/paste the files?

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    4. The two documents they're asking to share are the "Master Game List" and the "Game Ratings." Both are already viewable by anyone with the hyperlink, and if I accept their requests, it defaults to allowing them write-access. I've literally received about 350 requests since the article was published. I have no idea what's going on.

      Anyway, they did consult with me. I answered about 10 interview questions, and some of the language appears in the article. The odd thing is that the little image gallery contains images I didn't supply. I think the article was trying to emphasize how OLD some of these games are.

      Alexander, I'm glad you found the blog thanks to the article, and that you and I share some of the same opinions!

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  21. Could it be that the links in the Spiegel article are the wrong URL (i.e. missing the authKey parameter?) and anyone going there would land on a request page? I can't test it since you've disabled access, but maybe that's the culprit.

    Other than that: Congrats for the exposure!

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    1. That's exactly what happened to me, when I tried earlier. Here is the link from the article that prompted the request:
      https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Ar06A8hYXxv3dEJndGtmX1FPS0JGZjluUk0wVG5oUlE

      Anyway - happy to have found the blog ....

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    2. Thanks for help solving the mystery. I missed them before, but I found the associated links on the Spiegel web site. I've just written to ask that they remove them and let people come to my blog if they want to see my data sheets. I don't know if they'll comply, but either way, I'll put the sheets back up in a few days when the article is no longer fresh.

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    3. You could simply copy the sheets (I think there is a make a copy link) then update the link on your blog to the new one, leaving the links in the article dead.

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    4. Right. I guess that was the obvious solution. Thanks.

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    5. Except that something is broken in Blogger now and it won't allow saving of any of the widgets. Everyone seems to be complaining about it.

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