Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Wizardry VI: Temple of Doom

The game produced some...interesting...enemies.
When I first started playing Wizardry VI, it felt like a very different game than its predecessors, and I cynically thought that it only kept the title to cash in on the franchise's established name. But now that I'm some distance into the game, I can see how well it evolves, rather than revolutionizes, the earlier game's approaches.

Consider, for instance, how Wizardry I and V offered a town at the top of the dungeon, where you could occasionally rest, buy equipment, and recharge your spell points. At the beginning of VI, it seemed that it offered no comparable "home." However, the more I play, the more I realize the castle serves that purposes. All roads eventually lead back to it, and it has a couple of NPCs who sell and buy equipment and a selection of healing fountains.

The early Wizardry games (aside from IV, which I'll leave out of the discussion for obvious purposes) offered dungeons of 10 or so levels, each subsequent level deeper into the earth. But instead of always insisting that your progress through the dungeon took you farther and farther from safety, the games offered elevators, portals, secret stairs, and other shortcuts to return quickly from lower levels. Similarly, VI keeps offering shortcuts to return back to the main castle. The result is that after a series of expeditions that took me farther and farther from my origin point, I found that I'd ultimately come full circle, and that the next pathway open to me was back where I'd started.

We see the similarities in a lot of small ways: the first-person exploration, the six-character party, the variety of equipment. Its graphics are marginally better, but it essentially replaces monotonous wireframe dungeon walls with monotonous brick dungeon walls. Even some of this game's novelties, like the new races and classes, are just extensions of the themes established in earlier games.

This game's debt to its predecessors is also clear in combat. In broad strokes, it hasn't changed much at all. Enemies can attack in multiple groups of multiple enemies each. Each character chooses whether to fight, parry, use an item, cast a spell, equip a different item, or flee. After each character has made a selection, you execute the combat round and watch the results.

Analogous screens from Wizardry VI and the original Wizardry.

Small things nonetheless make the quality of combat a bit different from the earlier games:

  • The spell system is entirely re-vamped (a subject I'll cover at length in the next posts).
  • The skill system imparts some additional tactics associated with developing weapon skills and choosing the best weapon for a particular combat.
  • The ability to dual-wield weapons introduces another tactical consideration.
  • There are different classes of weapons, some of which work at short range and some of which work at longer ranges. With the right party order and selection of weapons, every member can theoretically attack in a single round.
  • The multiple-attacks-per-round system is different. In earlier games, as the character developed and you got multiple attacks per round, you executed them all at once. In this one, second and subsequent attacks execute later in the combat round from the primary attack.
  • There are far more items of different types to use in combat.

Perhaps the most important difference, however, is the way that the game's approach to saving and death completely changes the tactical nature of dungeon exploration. Any long-time reader has heard me cover this issue ad nauseum in posts on Wizardry, Might & Magic, and similar games, but I'm nonetheless going to cover it again here, because the way a game approaches combat in many ways defines its challenges and, consequently, how fun it is to play.

Though they're all first-person, multi-character dungeon crawlers with turn-based combat systems, Wizardry I, Wizardry VI, and Might & Magic are all distinguished by slightly different approaches to combat based on three factors:

  1. The method by which characters can restore hit points and spell points
  2. The circumstances under which the player can save.
  3. The consequences of death

(There are of course many other facets of combat that distinguish these games from, say, Pool of Radiance or Dungeon Master, but we'll have to leave such a complex discussion for another time.)

The first Wizardry had the harshest approach to all of these considerations. You could only restore spell points (and, thus, hit points) by returning to the surface. This was also the only way you could really "save," but saving was a bit meaningless in the game since death was permanent. This meant that the player had to think in terms of the expedition rather than just individual fights. You had to carefully decide how long to extend yourself in the dungeon before returning to the safety of the castle to heal, restore spells, train, and rest. It wasn't enough to just win a single battle and throw all your resources into it; you had to be worried about the battle that came next. A party on Level 7 that was victorious but exhausted and wounded was a party that would soon be dead. And then you'd have to restart with new characters at Level 1. Dungeon exploration was mildly terrifying.

Might & Magic's approach was less harsh. Although you could only save by returning to an inn--imparting some of the same considerations as to how far to extend yourself--death was not permanent. Moreover, you could restore hit points and spell points by simply sleeping wherever you wanted, usually with no risk of attack. To compensate for the relative ease that this approach offered, the game made individual encounters and combats much more deadly. You might have thought you were doing well after winning six battles with orcs and elves, but suddenly you'd hit a square with seven dragons and lose 45 minutes of progress. The player learned to ask "how much do I want to risk the next step?" But if he could survive a single combat, he could restore all his hit points and spell points immediately and get himself to relative safety. The game thus became about the difficulty of individual encounters rather than the accumulation of encounters, and the worst you faced was the loss of some adventuring time rather than the entire character.

Now we come to Wizardry VI. You can save literally anywhere and without much effort. Death of an individual character means the use of a "resurrect" scroll or an Amulet of Life, neither of which is scarce, with no penalty. Death of the entire party means a reload from the last save, likely only minutes before. Restoring hit points and spell points is a matter of sleeping. Although it doesn't restore both instantly as in Might & Magic, there's no penalty to sleeping multiple times, and generally speaking if you can survive a battle, you can heal yourself to full strength afterwards. Thus, like Might & Magic, the game's combat challenges are about individual combats and not the accumulation of combats, but unlike Might & Magic, there's no penalty for losing even individual combats. Every new combat against a boss-level creature or unfamiliar enemy can be regarded as essentially a practice round.

The end result is to make Wizardry VI's combat, for all its additional tactical considerations, a bit boring. When encountering a party of 6 undead pharaohs, I can meticulously plan my tactics, carefully selecting the right combination of attacks and spells, or I can just hold down the ENTER key and breeze through default attacks. The difference might mean that I end the combat with 33% of my hit points instead of 50%, but since restoring them is just a matter of casting and resting, that's no difference at all. I would never have dreamed of holding down the ENTER key in the first Wizardry.

When I last blogged, I was stuck on a couple puzzles in the mountain area, but they didn't last long. I freed the wizard Xorphitus from his diamond prison with a few strikes of the miner's chisel from the right locations. Upon achieving his freedom, he went into a long speech before expiring from old age.

The gist of his speech was that the titular "bane" of the Cosmic Forge (a magic pen) is a curse placed upon anyone who uses it while not standing within the "blessed altar" from which Xorphitus and the king stole it. Xorphitus used the pen to write of himself, the wizard who would "know all things in the universe," including how to defeat the bane. The universe responded by granting what Xorphitus wrote, but then rent him into two beings, each with partial knowledge. As this Xorphitus's spirit departed the world, he told me of his insane other half who would know the "where and when" of the pen, and he bade me seek him out.

Nearby, Xorphitus's apprentice, Mystaphaphas, lurked in a caged room. He had accidentally turned himself into a giant snake by using the Cosmic Forge to turn himself into someone who would be "dashing" and "attractive" to the queen. Little did he know that the queen had a fetish for snakes. He also had written that he'd be "safe" from the queen's wrath, a prophecy that worked itself out when the wizard locked his new "pet" in the room for 120 years. I fiddled around with various things to see if I could dispel his form, but I couldn't figure it out.

Based on clues form Mystaphaphas, I was able to use the Wizard's Ring--I found it somewhere in the caves--to open yet another door back in the castle, into an area full of treasure, which ultimately re-connected to the caves. Lots of short cuts like this open up as you play the game. I had to fight a "Demonic Hellcat" to get through, and it provided one of the more interesting animations in the game as well as one of the more challenging combats. He was capable of spitting fireballs and "blinking" in and out of attack range.

The wizard's lair in the castle also held his journal and a "spire key." Reading the journal filled in more of the back story associated with the castle's denizens. Apparently, the castle's vicar fell in love with the king's mistress, Annie, engaged in an affair with her, and fathered a child named Rebecca. I'd previously found a message that the king and queen had purchased the child for 100 gold pieces. Anyway, things apparently didn't end well for the lovers because the wizard's journal discusses his experiments on their bodies. He was able to reanimate Annie's corpse, and he locked it in one of the spire rooms. I had killed it ages ago, so it was interesting to know more of the story. With the vicar, he was able to capture his spirit and imprison it in another spire room, which the spire key opened.

When I opened the door, the vicar's demented spirit launched into a long speech to Annie, expressing remorse for breaking his vows and engaging in the affair. He indicated that he thought that the daughter was evil because she was "conceived from sin." At the end, he blew a horn around his neck and entered "the light," leaving a "Horn of Souls" behind.

This was a little sad.

The next major adventure took me to the pyramid of the Amazulus, the vaguely-African women whose portrait leads this post. The pyramid consisted of three upper levels and two dungeon levels and a whole mess of buttons and pits to navigate. The amazulus themselves came in several classes and they were pretty tough, using poisoned spears and arrows and casting fireballs and other high-level spells.  

The women were the same "black women" I'd seen earlier from a distance. I don't know quite what to say about them. The nudity was a little unexpected (or would have been, if commenters hadn't spoiled it), but the graphics aren't good enough for anyone--not even the most Internet-deprived teenager of 1990--to find them seriously titillating.

Judge for yourself.

There were some discussions of racism in another post, but I can't really find them offensive. As a fusion of Amazons and Zulus, they don't really embody any particular world culture, and it would be absurd to argue that any depiction of non-Caucasians in a game is inherently racist. But I admit if the graphics were better, it would be vaguely uncomfortable, for role-playing reasons, to slaughter a bunch of nude women.

An encounter in the lower level of the pyramid drew from Raiders of the Lost Ark, the second-best of the trilogy, with a stone idol on an altar. Knowing my pop culture, I realized that I needed something to replace it with when I snatched it. I'd found an empty sack somewhere in the pyramid, and I remembered an area of corridor that ended in a pile of sand. Returning there, I filled the sack with sand, went back to the idol, and was able to deftly exchange it for the sack.

This worked out better for me than Indiana Jones.

The idol opened the way to the top of the pyramid, where I encountered the Amazulu queen and her high priestess. The first time, they immediately asked me if I was there to take the rock, just like the guardian at the top of the mountain. I said "yes," the queen demanded that I be sacrificed, and I entered combat with her, the high priestess (named Kuwali Kobona), and a bunch of other Amazulus.

I won the combat, but the queen's poisoned spear left half of my characters dead. Poison is odd in this game. It seems to have different levels of potency depending on what delivers it. That potency affects both the number of hit points you lose per round and how long it takes to wear off. In this case, I couldn't get it to wear off no matter how long I waited, and I didn't have any "cure poison" spells.

So I reloaded and tried the encounter again, this time saying "no" in response to the queen. The next question she asked is whether I'd brought her an offering, and I said "no" again--and was again attacked! But this time it was just the queen. I defeated her without taking more poison damage and took her spear for myself.

A moment when the priestess's shield does its own censoring.

Her high priestess, meanwhile, showed up as an NPC after the queen was dead. That was awfully understanding of her. She had a few things to trade and treated me with a little conversation.

ME: Who are you?
KUWALI KUBONA: I am Kuwali Kubona, high priestess of Mau-mu-mu!
M: Sorry about the queen.
K: That's very interesting...
M: Tell me of Mau-mu-mu.
K: Mau-mu-mu lives in the pool of fire!
M: Fire? Yikes.
K: But first you must prove yourself!
M: Prove ourselves how?
K: By entering the pool of fire!
M: Put some clothes on.
K: I don't know about that...

Behind her was a long platform extending out over an abyss. It was full of fire, but some "foot powder" sold by Kuwali Kubona protected me. I reached the end and killed Mau-mu-mu on the other side, ultimately getting away with a ruby gem.

This is the same game series that produced the god "La-La-Moo-Moo" in the last edition.

At this point, I had two gems and I returned to the skull door in the basement of the castle. The gems opened it and led me to a new area with a horribly-animated river.

What do you bet the Horn of Souls comes in handy soon?

A few more notes:

  • I found a chest at the top of the mountain. When I opened it, I found a note from Queequeg indicating that he'd already been there (following my instructions) and cleaned it out.
  • My characters are now Levels 9 and 10 and I'm starting to think about changing their classes.

Still struggling to find adequate time this month, but I hope my postings pick up after this coming weekend.


  1. Your experience with resting is different from mine.
    I found that resting had a fairly high likelihood of causing a combat, which could be very dangerous with half my characters still asleep (they don't all wake instantly) and the others low on HP.

    I definitely found it dangerous to proceed too far from healing fountains because I could never count on resting (yes - I could save, rest, and load if it was a disaster - but that gets tedious).

    1. That's odd. I find that I hardly ever get interrupted sleeping. Platform differences, maybe?

    2. I had the same experience as the anon, playing the DOS version. As a result I hardly rested at all, but used fountains instead. I also played the Amiga version a long time ago, but I don't recall much of that (except saving right in a fireball trap).

      Regarding the Amazulu encounter, you seem to have missed a bit of fun dialogue there. There is an item you can offer as gift.

      Regarding multiple attacks, eventually you get both multiple attacks per round as well as multiple swings per attack. IIRC you need 14 in Dex and Spd respectively to "qualify" and the number of extra attacks/swings are dependent on level (and probably class as well).

    3. Same here, especially in the Amazon Pyramid I usually lost more health than I gained by resting there due to the random encounter while resting.
      Not to mention I usually fought with half manpower since most kept on sleeping for the first 1-2 Combat Rounds ... not fun.

      Not to mention it felt like it takes AGES for spellpoints to restore, I was glad when I found the trainer to speed up the regen speed for my LP, can´t keep resting 10 times after every battle while recording it :P

      Though apparently certain INT / WIS scores affect your regen rate but only the ones you had at the beginning of the game? ... not 100% sure though, I think I read it in a guide.

    4. By Trainer I mean a 3rd Party software, not a trainer ingame xD So I didn´t post a spoiler there :P

    5. I played the true DOS version but I think what is more important is WHERE you rest. Even the manual states that you'll have better success resting in an enclosed or hidden area more than resting out in the open. I did find in the pyramid though that resting a second time almost always caused an encounter which usually led to a reset due to players still sleeping and getting whooped on.

      Instead of the foot powder (which I did not find because I think I killed the person you got it from) a Levitation spell also works to get over the hot coals.

      As far as changing professions, I had a pure Mage and a pure Priest and had them swap roles. The Mage that became a Priest was a spell MACHINE (almost 200 MP in each spell book!) while the new Mage was only so-so.

      If you change levels, I recommend going back to the hallway with the Wizard's chamber and the Skull door and fighting monsters there until you're at least level 4 or 5. Remember, when you change classes your spell casters won't be able to cast a spell with more power than level 1 until they raise levels... which in some areas is suicide.

      I am playing Wizardry VII now and I am happy to say they included a TERMINATE GAME option during fighting so you can go right out to the main menu without having to reset and look up copy protection codes every single time. I'm in the first real "area" of the game (NEW CITY) and it's honestly taken me at least 6 hours just to explore this one city... crazy. I am enjoying the graphical updates tho...

  2. There's a minor error after the picture of the Amazon/Zulu people. Raiders of the Lost Ark is the best movie of the trilogy. You accidentally put "second-best." :)

    1. I was just trying to stir trouble.

    2. It's a Quadrilogy, surely!

    3. Mission accomplished, addict! :) And yes, let's leave it at a trilogy.

    4. I preferred Indiana Jones and the Goblet of Fire

    5. "Leave it at a trilogy?" Guys, what's wrong with Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis?

    6. Or Indiana Jones and the The Heart of China?

    7. Heart of China? Is that a reference to an obscure adventure game? I never got far in there, but it looked beautiful.

    8. Yes, it's beautiful... like a naked dryad.

  3. Resurrection actually costs a point of Vitality, which, given the random nature of level-ups, can take a while to get back.

    1. Woah, this explains why my Samurai had VERY low Vitality at the end. I couldn't figure it out, but he was always dying.... as he was a Faerie and couldn't use ANY equipment! Very annoying...

    2. Yeah, faeries are really only suited to hands&feet combat (Ninja/Monk) or spellcaster roles.

  4. Hi!

    Long time no comment, life's been busy, but don't worry, I'm still following with great interest, especially as Wizardry 7 is on my top 10 list and I've never played Wizardry 6.

    I've always said to myself I would play it with you when you get to it, but my "rpg gaming" time now has to go towards the development of my own dungeon crawler if the project is to see the light of day sometime.

    Anyway, great coverage up to now. Resurection did cause loss of vitality in W7, so it might be the same here. As of sleeping, the next game took an interesting approach in not making you the only adventurer in the world on the quest, and if you waited too long, someone else could get to key items or treasures before you. Imagine, after defeating 5 levels of dungeons, the boss fight and all, getting an "empty chest"! So you had to be careful with sleeping.

    1. That's an interesting mechanic, but what's the boss still doing alive?

    2. There's a lot of things that didn't make sense with this, like also why all puzzles, doors, switches, etc. were intact, keys in their original places... But the mechanic did make the world feel a bit more alive, and not centered around the player, and gave a sense of urgency.

      Hey, later on, you could even meet by chance another unique NPC adventurer on the road, kill him and get the key quest item off him, letting you skip an entire dungeon. (But obviously you probably wouldn't know where he took it from, unless you already played the game. And you'd need the items and experience anyway.)

    3. I remember that! There were lots of spacecrafts, robots and other stuff like that.

      I believe the NPCs are able to "talk their way through" unlike PCs who answers everything with swords and spells. That's why the bosses are alive and traps/doors remain untriggered/locked since they have friendly escorts to show them around the place. XD

      But it was really fun when you have finished every dungeon and yet still had to go on a worldwide manhunt to take out every artifact-bearing party. Sweet!

  5. Only very few games handle death and save-scumming well. For example, real rogue-likes have perma-death, and saving is only a convenience function so you don't have to play through it in one sitting. This results in a game with actual tension, but at the cost of being very hard for beginners to get into, and the issue that you sometimes "waste" 10 hours on a character that died stupidly.

    Perma-death works okay for rogue-likes, and even better for shorter games, such as Binding of Isaac, where a full successful run-through takes about one hour.

    Then we have modern games like Skyrim, where Death happens somewhat frequently, but it's as if this wasn't intended, because the only way to continue is to re-load. The games are way too long to restart on death, and offer no alternative. In the end, if you are asked to save-scum, the game loses most of its tension and difficulty.

    Then there is a rare example of a game getting it right, Dark Souls. You can die, the game is very hard at first, but you just respawn in front of a "level". There are significant consequences when getting killed, which cannot be undone by reloading, but at the same time, you don't have to start over and rarely feel like you "wasted time replaying the same content", because at the point where it stops being dangerous, it also stops taking any time.

    Wizardry from this point on falls into the Skyrim category: You can die, and you will, and it is inconsequential, because you can reload at any time. If you give the player the power to turn back time, he doesn't really need a magical sword. It's annoying that only very few current games get this crucial design right.

    1. Sadly the 'Skyrim' method aka 'Tardis \ PCgamer \ I-win-buttons' method isn't going anywhere because it's a method that can pander to the players feeling of superiority and avoids punishing them for their incompetence. Players will save-scum their little hearts out if it means they can claim an 'achievement'. Woe betide the developer who tries to tell any player how to play their game.

      Personally, I think the pandering save-culture is complete horseshit that takes the fear (and thus tension, excitement, and atmosphere) out of a game, but that doesn't stop it being the dominant design method because 'it's optional'.

      The level of freedom is a major factor though;- In a smaller, scenario focused encounter games it's easier to control the player by limiting their range of actions and prevent game-killing mistakes.

      In reality, with most methods the only thing a player has to lose is time. The greater the window between saves the greater the potential loss, and thus the greater the tension. However the loss has to be acceptable to the player and has to avoid creating a walking dead scenario.

      I actually think that the best way forward is to introduce positive gameplay elements (i.e rewards\quests\content) that only occur if the player accepts natural failures - randomly occuring several hours later to avoid 'guidedamnit' and savescum.

      or to introduce a adaptive difficulty setting that ties all your actions - too much success causes the game to ramp up the difficultly of all actions until you fail enough to balance things out - and saving the game counts as a success.

    2. Games with great save mechanics:

      Goldeneye (N64) No saves. Missions were 2 - 20 minutes long and were played in order. FPS have exactly the same save issues as RPGs

      Binding of Isaac/FTL (PC) No saves. Permadeath is awesome, but building games with permadeath in mind doesn't result in building something the size of NetHack.

      Torment (PC). You can save anywhere, but you actually needn't. Death is not much of an obstacle and is sometimes important to experience. There is only one location where death is permanent? Apparently the new Torment game is going to handle death similarly.

      Fallout: Tactics, Ironman mode (PC) You could only save between missions.


      I try to play games permadeath, or if permadeath is totally unsuitable, at least divide the game into regions and save at the beginning of a region only. ie I save when I enter Klamath or Tattooine or UNATCO HQ.

      Sometimes I permadeath with caveats, eg The game is great for hardcore play, but features traps that randomly kill you, or NPCs that can be made aggro by fairly innocuous events, or dialogue choices that insta-kill you. In those games I reload from non-combat deaths.

    3. All the awful, frustrating, game killing elements (snipers, land mines, insta-kill traps, roll X not to die events) are born out of the desire to challenge players who can reload at will. - Apparently the 'challenge' is a combination of patience and save discipline. It's like comparing IWDs encounters to BG2s.

      Where you can save, and how what you can do directly afterwards has a huge effect on how the game plays. Saving only in safe locations only really works IF you can't gamble, steal, or otherwise abuse the RNG.

      Slightly more on topic: I do like the Sirtech solution of fixing loot rolls in advance. By increasing the delay between the action and the payoff they discouraged savescumming to an extent.

    4. For me having a save to fall back on is nice. I don't get enough time to keep starting over if I get killed. Besides, just because the option is there, doesn't mean you have to use it, right?

    5. True rogue-likes are, like true Scotsmen, in the eye of the beholder.

      I find perma-death just as lazy a design decision as inconsequential death (in a CRPG). I prefer a middle ground, where death has significant adverse consequences but is not game-ending.

    6. I can see why RLs use permadeath, and while I love Nethack it is about the only game I like that feature in.

      I also don't like gamest that make dying too inconsequential (Halo 3) because I can just charge in and keep fighting, wearing the enemies down with death after death; and don't think I didn't notice you secretly refilling my health meter when I died, Space Marine.

      The one I like is the chance to do a fight over, with no consequences. If I die an have to walk hours back to that spot I usually put the game down and go do something else; half the time I won't pick it back up, as playing the same boring section over again, is well, boring. There are *so* many games on my shelf I haven't played that I will just go play one of them.

      The right choice for a game, in my opinion, is let you do the fight as many times as you want, but you have to start over each time; You still have the full tactical experience of the fight, which is the interesting and fun part. There are fights I had to do a dozen times in Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale until I got the exact right strategy. That isn't EASY, it just means I don't have to spend an hour walking across an empty landscape being bored before getting back into the action (However, loading those games off CD often FELT like an hour on my old PIII 500 MHz)

    7. I didn't like that, in Torment, death was inconsequential. Previous incarnations lost their memory, and since memory in this game is symbolized by XP you should have lost XP with each death. That's the mechanism World of Warcraft uses (or used?). But it only matters during the leveling process. And well, you can always grind your XP back. But I think a significant XP penalty is the way to go today.

  6. M: Put some clothes on.
    K: I don't know about that...


    Speaking of, sorry about the spoilers on that. To me, it wasn't a spoiler, but I will be more careful of my words in the future.

    As to the racism thing, not really racist to me, per se, but I try to be sensitive to the fact that some people might find it so, especially since it seems more often these days someone pops up with "That's so racist!" over the most unexpected things.

    Wow. That Queen was one creepy you know what. Without getting spoilery, keep that in mind.

  7. Titillate the ocelot.

    Oscillate the ti...

  8. Not to open a can of worms or anything, but re "Amazulus" and the way they "don't really embody any particular world culture"--well, no, they embody a kind of generalized notion of tribal negro savagery, which...well, is pretty obviously problematic, it seems to me. I mean, I'm not saying anyone making the game had malign or consciously racist intent, and I'm not saying I would angrily boycott the game over it, but it makes me...a little bit uncomfortable, in the same way that the cannibals in Might & Magic VI (a game I love) do. Given western civilization's uncomfortable history of colonial exploitation, I would strongly suggest that it would be a good idea for developers to steer clear of this kind of thing altogether.

    1. Yeah, not racism per se, but pigeonholing. It gets a bit tiring when every Native American is a mystic, every Italian America a mafioso, every old Asian man either a Confucius or Fu Manchu clone.

      In a fantasy world, there's every opportunity to challenge such crap.

    2. The stereotypes you present are certainly all racist.

    3. Everything is racist these days.
      As a Norwegian I'm especially offended by vikings constantly being portrayed with horned helmets.

    4. I propose we replace all character designs with nameless faceless non-gender specific mutes rendered in #808080 grey on a #808080 grey background, refered to only as 'the pc' or 'npc number x'.

    5. Yes, by all means, let's put our fingers in our ears, shout LA LA LA, and refuse to even consider any of these issues. Dammit, we don't WANT to think critically or have our preconceptions challenged or ever learn anything ever!

    6. Good comments in this thread. "Racist" doesn't have to mean blatantly offensive or deliberately designed to be hateful. An artist creating a game, book, television show, or film needs to ask himself whether he's creating realistic characters or simply perpetuating stereotypes--and if the latter, if there's an artistic reason for it.

  9. This is slightly offtopic, but I wanted to add my voice to your chorus - love the blog. Stumbled upon it two months ago, read it all and check in daily in the hope of another update. Commenting as anonymous since there seems no site-specific registration.

    Anyway, I follow you religiously and enjoy seeing you work through many a game I never finished. It's like youtoube LPs/playthroughs, but with text! Personally I have become hung up on the "current" nethack version, and play morrowind, MMVI and freecol on the side. Recent retro-games I played will fall outside of the RPG category, so let me finish this inspired rambling with complementing you on your work once more. Keep it up.

    An inebriated and enchanted follower

    1. Good to have you with us. Try a gimlet next time.

  10. Dear Crpg addict,

    For me, the save scumming is the band of Bane. I wish Bradley had keep the permanent death of the earlier series. I suppose there was a market reason for changing this to something more user friendly.

    1. Permanent death might be a little extreme, but I wish it had found some way to limit saving. I could do that myself, of course, but sometimes it's easy to succumb to temptation.

  11. More games need to have difficulty toggles that affect how often you can save. Some people want to blow through a game using nothing but the power of the mystical quicksave button, sure, but it is *really* easy to add in a toggle for "only save in towns" or "only save once per X minutes of gameplay" or whatever.

    Although that wouldn't work for games that are built around players saving between every encounter. With ubiquitous saving, developers have a nasty habit of building in more irritating gotcha deaths, so much so that a good measure of a modern game's quality is whether or not someone who'd never played that particular game before could beat it without dying once on their first playthrough. Not if it's very likely, mind you, just if it's a thing that could plausibly happen. Like, they're great at this type of game, and the enemies are all beatable the first time if you're good enough as opposed to requiring you to know what they're going to do before they do it, and there's no insta-gib dialogue options or invisible deathtraps or other things where the only possible way to avoid death is to already know exactly how the level is set up.

    1. Yes, I fully agree. I said something like this in an earlier posting. I'd appreciate the option to set save regularity when starting a game. I've literally never seen that as an option.

    2. I think an important consideration is how the makers of the game balanced the game with respect to the intended save system. The easier it is to save the harder it should be to survive everything, and vice versa, but you can't assume the creators built it that way. If you take game in which you can save anywhere, anytime and consequently the designers put in lots of arbitrary deaths then greatly limiting your saves wouldnt make the game better, just more time-consuming and more a pain in the ass.

      For example, I'm very slowly playing through BG1 for the first time and there are many level appropriate fights that I don't win until the 5th, 10th, 20th attempt due to die rolls. I don't see the game being more fun if I save at the start of a dungeon instead of right before the penultimate battle, just more tedious.

      Therefore I think a good game is one that balances its difficulty with the ability to save and that artificially restricting your ability to save on your own would only improve a game if they messed up the balance and you knew better how to fix it. Just blindly making it harder to save in every game won't necessarily make it better.

      Did that make sense?

    3. Yes, I agree. A game that allows limited saving needs to be fair in between those points. I'd still rather have limited saves and a moderately-difficult game than save anywhere and an extraordinarily difficult game. I think there needs to be more consequence to death than simply hitting reload.

  12. So it seems I save a lot more then the rest of you, but enforce a lot stricter in game rules. For example; no one in my party dies if there is a non-trivial consequence to it. So in Baldur's Gate, if one person in the party dies, I reload the combat right then and start over. The challenge should be in the fight, the interesting tactical choices. Not in if I get bored before walking the 30 minutes between the fight and the edge of the area.

    Also all this talk of limited saving assumes a perfect game with no bugs and a computer that never crashes. Half the reason I saved in Baldur's gate so much is that the unpatched version would crash randomly; turning weather effects off helped this a lot, but it would still often crash when changing areas, if I looked at it funny, or so on. This isn't to mention Skyrim, Oblivion and Fallout 3: You jumped wrong, and are now stuck on some geometry. You don't have a recent save? SUCKS TO BE YOU. Not to mention FO3's habit of corrupting save files means I never use the same one twice, just make more and more of them.

    1. Indeed, modern games have become so complex it would be very cruel not to allow liberal saving. NPC followers get lost, you are stuck in a place surrounded by steep mountains, for whatever reason your character falls through the ground into a nether dimension... a tile-based turn-based rpg with iconic perspective didn't even create these problems.

    2. I also like to play without needing to ressurect. I don't know, it feels bad and I know some fights get harder this way. The one and only I accepted a character death was the final battle with the Baldur's Gate 2 mod Ascension, with Jan Jansen dying, but it was so hard that I guessed I could not get a better outcome.

      I also like to save when I want to because a) I don't want to play parts of the game over and over again, b) I don't need the tension, I am playing for fun and relaxation, not the opposite and c) although after many RPGs I am not the best player, I guess, but I think I have kind of a right to get on in the game, too.
      The pros are free to limit themselves, as Chet does by e.g. only saving at the start of an area.


  13. Don't know if this has been mentioned already or if it is obvious, but Queequeg is the native guy from Moby Dick!


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