Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Reboot: Legend of Faerghail


Getting Legend of Faerghail to work in an Amiga emulator was an annoying experience, and I'm not sure whether to blame the emulator, the game files, or the overall platform. Essentially, no matter what configuration options I tried, the emulator just presented me with the image of a disk, as if I hadn't just told it where to find the ADF files. I tried downloading other versions and was confused to find that they, despite being ostensibly for the Amiga, didn't have any of the file extensions the emulator was looking for.

The solution was to shell out $30 for the "Amiga Forever" package, which I guess--and I admit I'm slightly confused about this--uses WinUAE as its engine, but offers a nice front-end to help you with the settings. Its built-in search feature helped me find a new set of the files, and in no time, it had created a tidy package of the three game disks and figured out the configuration. It seems like a great product.

I suppose that, to the extent that it's worth playing this game at all, it was worth the effort to set up the Amiga version. DOS versions usually underperform Amiga versions in graphics and sound in any game, but this one takes it to an extreme, with no sound in the DOS version. I was pleased to hear some nice music when I loaded the Amiga files, not so different in quality from what we might hear in a game created in the last few years. The sound is also quite nice, with background audio like wind howling, crickets chirping, birds squawking, and water dripping in the dungeons. These are, in fact, the first "background sounds" that I remember hearing in an RPG (with perhaps the exception of Ultima V's waterfalls and ticking clocks), though it's probable that another game did it first and I just didn't play the Amiga version of that one.

The graphics, of course, are also much better, and include touches not found in the DOS version, such as a sun that passes overhead during the day and different lighting levels for different times of day.

A comparison of Amiga graphics (left) and DOS EGA graphics (right).

The Amiga version lacks most of the bugs that I complained about in the DOS version. Character creation doesn't allow you to subvert the intended restrictions on race, sex, and class. I haven't had any negative experience points, and there are enemies in the dwarven mines. Dungeons are dark and require "light" spells or torches to properly navigate.
 
The Amiga version does have at least one bug of its own: when you go to (E)quip items, the key that works is "D" despite the game clearly suggesting that it's "E." Also, the ghostly figures that indicate a monster party don't show up all the time; sometimes you just stumble into combats in what looks like a blank square.
 
Gameplay overall is also better. Experience rewards seem to be better balanced (Siegurd takes only about 35% instead of 75%). Both gold and rations are more plentiful--in fact, my rations do nothing but increase. Spells succeed more often, and combats aren't quite as deadly. Treasure chests have something in them--multiple items, usually. Traps are less deadly, and walking into a wall doesn't cause damage unless you do it repeatedly. Time doesn't pass as fast (which may account for the plentiful rations), though this might have been an issue of my having DOSBox jacked up too high.
 
The game notifies me as to the presence of traps more often than in the DOS version.
 
In this version, Siegurd has the ability to resurrect slain characters, though he'll only do it a limited number of times.


My one complaint has to do with the loading times. Even with the emulator set to not use era-authentic speeds, it still takes 10 seconds for character and monster portraits to load and about 30 seconds to change between locations. I realize this is nothing compared to what the original players had to endure, but I'm used to things being essentially instantaneous in DOSBox.
 
Since I already had the maps of the east valley and the mines, my initial gameplay involved retracing my steps, collecting treasures, and fighting combats. Unlike in the DOS version, I never had to leave the mines to restock on food once I entered, since it didn't deplete very fast and I kept finding more on slain foes. I did leave once to sell excess equipment (it encumbers you and you eventually run out of room), but my gold started racking up so fast that I ultimately stopped bothering to collect all the miscellaneous weapons and armor after combat. My characters got significant weapon and armor upgrades in less than an hour without much effort.

Most of the content-related mysteries remain the same between the versions. The dwarven mines had several encounters with quasi-NPCs, including the dwarven king...


...but there didn't seem to be any way to actually interact with them. Just before the treasury, there's this guy, who seems to be asking some kind of riddle...

I have no idea what this means.

 ...but I can't figure out what he wants, and in any case you can just walk past him.

Speaking of the treasury, I was surprised to find that chests re-appear when you leave a dungeon and return. I don't know if this was true in the DOS version or not; I never checked. This essentially breaks the economy, and renders haggling over expensive items (every character has a "negotiate" skill) rather useless.

The monsters on Level 4 became too hard, so I left and went to Cyldane, where I reached the point I had reached at the end of the DOS version by visiting the Count. He promised to send additional troops to help Thyn, which I guess means that I've technically won the game, since that was my primary mission. But the Count also suggested that I visit the Library of Sagacita to learn more about the elves and why they might have suddenly turned hostile. Siegurd automatically left my group when we reached the city, so I guess I'm on my own.


While I was exploring the wilderness, one of my characters (the game didn't specify) relayed a dream that he or she had in which armies of the humanoid races battled armies of dragons, led by one particularly evil dragon. He or she also dreamed of a sword, an axe, and a bow with dragon's head iconography. I don't know how this dream will work into the plot.

As I finished my explorations, all of my characters had risen to Level 2. Leveling produces increases to two skills, and I think these skills are randomly chosen (though limited by the character's class). The game's skills are negotiating ability, attack ability, defense ability, concentration (chance of successfully casting spells in combat), pocketpicking, stalking, trap detection, trap disarming, and lock picking. I've seen "negotiating" increase in stores, but I haven't seen any of the others increase from usage. Perhaps they do behind the scenes. I'll record the present values and check.

Chalke levels up.

I'm liking the game a bit better on this new platform, but there are still a few things I don't like:

  • Navigation visuals continue to bother me. You don't see walls, trees, doors, and other objects to your right and left when they're in your current square or even (for some objects) one square ahead of you. This makes it very hard to properly map, and it goes in contrast to any other 3-D game I've experienced

Not only is there a wall immediately to my left in this picture, there's a tree one square ahead and tot the left.

  • Armor and weapons get damaged slowly over time, and you have to stop and repair them. If you have a smith, repairing is essentially instantaneous and uses items that the smith comes with. Because it's so easy to fix, the presence of the dynamic seems rather pointless.
  • Regular combat, in which you watch every blow in a little animated sequence, is fun exactly once. After that, it's "quick" combat all the way--which makes it annoying when I accidentally hit (A) on the wrong screen and have to ENTER through all of the individual combat actions.

One of the more interesting enemies I faced.

  • Other parties are occasionally friendly, but there's no rhyme or reason to it. Some of the dwarves in the mines would talk to me, others wanted to fight. Tradesmen, whom you'd expect to always be friendly, are sometimes inexplicably hostile. Even when they talk, there's  not much you can do with them. Sometimes they offer things for sale, but never anything I want. I wish they would buy my stuff instead. In any event, the character who establishes successful contact gets a handful of experience points. It's a potentially-interesting dynamic that was never fleshed out.

A suicidal tradesman approaches me.

  • When leveling, a single character must have all the gold necessary to pay for the training, but depending on how much stuff you're carrying, it may not be possible for one character to carry the weight of that much gold. There's no way to "pool" gold and just let all your characters draw from a pool.

These negatives are all balanced by some positives, and it's in no way an unpleasant experience, but as I said in the first post, Legend of Faerghail mostly feels like a rehash of other games rather than anything truly original.

In my next post, I'll have more on the combat, equipment, and magic systems.

***

Further Reading: My first, second, and third posts on Legend of Faerghail, plus coverage of the game on "CRPG Revisiting old classics."


65 comments:

  1. The Europen boxed Amiga version has a bug that prevent you to complete the game. We faced it on the English Amiga Board Forum, and at last we found a working copy.

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  2. I'm curious - will you GIMLET DOS or Amiga version of the game?

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    1. Good question, I guess they would get different scores, so I assume it would be whatever platform he finishes it on. This era, late 80's early 90's.. is dominated by Amiga and Atari ST, no other choice if you want to review the "best" versions.

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    2. I'll GIMLET the version I finished with.

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. Your complaints about load times reminds me of playing games on my friend's Amiga 500. I remember every step in Ultima 6 taking up to 20s and when we played Realms of Arkania: Blade of Destiny (9 disks!) we had to change disks every time we changed map. Or wanted to make a character. Or level up.

    Yeah, Amiga was pretty, but unless you had one of the higher end machines it could be tortuous.

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    1. I remember playing Ultima 6 on the A500 - don't remember any problems - nor, indeed, do I recall speed problems in games in general. Towards the end of the Amiga's run, some games came out with a lot of disks, since the Amiga didn't have a hard drive as standard. Another issue which nudged it towards its demise, I guess.

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    2. Those late multi-disk games were meant to be played at least with a HD. Even the first Gold Box conversions and Legend of Faerghail already had installers for it.

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    4. Yes and IMHO floppies had not much to do with Amiga disappearing from mainstream gaming market since natively IDE hardrive capable Amiga 1200 and Amiga 4000(T) models still sold quite well and so did some Amiga games released by the same time. Amiga demised, if it is even correct to say so, (since they still design and manufacture bunch of new hardware for it), only after they marketed poorly their Amiga engined CD32 console. So one could blame their effort to go to CDs more than staying in floppies. :)

      Amiga's equipped with external floppy drives also could have 4 floppies inserted simultaneously to reduce disk swap and/or to speed up harddisk install. That is still pretty unique and something PC cannot do since it always has maximum of A: and B: drives only.

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    5. Well, for me it always died in 1995 because of DOOM (can't do with bitplanes and a 16 MHz processor, though valiant attempts were made), and Windows 95 (finally, pre-emptive multitasking. Sure, it crashed a lot. But let's be honest, the Amiga crashed even more...)




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    6. Amiga hardware was just too expensive (and still is) to reach the market of power hungry games. I used 50MHz 68060 Amiga with 3D card before buying first Windows 98 system and I moved to PC because of game support and not because of the lack of hardware power. By following IBM path and supporting cloning of Amigas and making it standard for other manufacturers they could have reached more users with cheaper prices and thus made a market field for games too.

      Windows 95 was very unstable (I used it in work). Nowhere near in stability compared to normal condition Amiga which was long used by NASA just because it was so stable. Makes me wonder what was the setup and condition of your Amiga or what did you do with it, if you say it crashed more. The only way I could make it crash was to run old incompatible software in it, which too was made compatible only later with by WHDLoad or some degrader software).

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    7. To speed the game up I think you'll need to install it to a hard disc image, or find a WHDLoad version, if one exists. A comment above says it comes with an installer so I would set up a HD image in WinUAE and use the installer. That should result in a massive speedup.

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    8. WHDLoad version exists as many of us have already stated and I also tested it on earlier comment.

      WHDLoad installers are made with the principle of making the game compatible with later and faster Amiga models also. Original HD installers, when they exist with the game, force you to use old Amiga models and usually with old kicstart ROMs.

      All in all Amiga emulator set up to high performance and WHDLoad installed to .hdf file is much more impressive than just playing with .adf images. For some games it also changes disk based savegames as harddisk based and adds saved highscore tables for some games.

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  5. re: enemy encounter ghosts not appearing for some encounters, could it be a byproduct of the way this game renders its pseudo 3d step world? Like, if these ghosts take a step whenever you take a step, could it be that they're running into your square from 90 degrees to your left or right, hence you don't see them?

    As to Amiga load times, I'm afraid the safest way to get over that is to learn how to use WHDLoad and find loaders (unofficial, most of them) for all the games you'll have to try. They make a huge difference, there's not much of a drawback left on a WHDLoad, well-calibrated Amiga emulator to anything Dosbox can do, but as you've experienced, WinUAE is not an easy emulator to get a handle on.

    I'm happy to see that the cumulative effect of better presentation and less bugs makes this game more worthwhile to play. If you go the extra step and WHDLoad it, you might enjoy it more, but then, you would not be getting the authentic experience Amiga users did in the time this game came out.

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    1. It's possible. Sometimes I don't see them down a straight corridor, but perhaps in those cases they're coming up behind me.

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  6. Regarding the performance issue. When I ran the game under WinUAE I set the disk drive emulation speed as high as possible (400%?). Also I think I emulated Amiga 1200 with a 68020 CPU which made things going faster.

    Another solution is to turn off the icon graphics in the games menu. Especially when meeting the same type of foes all the time.

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    1. I figured it out based on Hanzu's comment. It looks like all the options available in WinUAE aren't available through the Amiga Forever front-end, or at least I can't find them. When I went to the WinUAE configuration, I found the settings to make things faster.

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  7. Press F12
    Click Floppy drives
    Increase Floppy Emulation Speed slider from 100% to 800% for faster loading times. If compatibility compromises, slide back to 100%.

    With the game WHDLoad installed loading is done from hardisk image and not floppy disk image and those graphics load in one second. You can also use your Amiga Forever system profile of Amiga 4000 + 68040 + more RAM to make the game to play more flawless. It surely works with WHDLoad installed game, but not sure if it boots with unpatched .ADF floppy image version - but it is fast and worth it to test that out.

    (E)quip with (D)isequipped D-key bug exists also in WHDLoad installed

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    1. http://whdload.de/games/LegendOfFaerghail.html

      Last version seems to be 2.0b

      As I said before I could write down and howto/guide on how to configure all this stuff on a Amiga emulator.

      In any case, if you need already pre-packaged version of games with WHDload you can look up on google a site aptly named "WHDownload".

      Not sure how "legal" it is, but it has all you need.

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    2. Thanks. That worked after I figured out how to enable the F12 key in the Amiga Forever package.

      Everything's working at this point, so I think I'll leave it alone for now.

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  8. Thanks for doing this. The game looks much improved over the DOS version and more interesting than it did in your previous posts. I think when I tackle these older games I'm going to have to try the Amiga versions over the others.

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  9. Some of you could make some noise here to make it more likely for them to repair "Dequip-bug" at some point:
    http://mantis.whdload.de/view.php?id=2867

    In another WHDLoad only related issue there is a nice to know quote from the original programmer of the game:
    http://mantis.whdload.de/view.php?id=2512

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  10. "These are, in fact, the first "background sounds" that I remember hearing in an RPG (with perhaps the exception of Ultima V's waterfalls and ticking clocks),"

    Ooh, you'll definitely want to have a look at the Amiga-version of Quest for Glory 1. It sounds so much better than the PC-version, and the sound effects are really atmospheric.

    The Amiga can be a bit hard to get into, partly since it is a proper computer and not just a console and partly because there were so many variations that weren't 100% compatible with each other. And the loading time from floppy disks (adf files) doesn't make it easier, which means you'll really want to get a harddisk and WHDLoad setup - but of course, that extra step makes it even harder unless you know the platform.

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  11. Interestingly enough, when I was using an Amiga IRL my spells also succeeded more often.

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  12. Congratulations for finally entering the Amiga world! From 1988-92 the Amiga is inescapable. Moreover its games are simply better than other platforms, particularly PC.

    For some games Amiga is the definitive platform while all others are ports. By this I mean first the developers got it working on Amiga, made the game they wanted, and then and only then worried about porting it to other platforms. I'm not talking about the techical details of being able to compile code under different architectures, I'm talking about look and design decisions like sound effects and music. On some games the DOS port is very good, like Dungeon Master. Others, like this one, not so much.

    An exhortation to the CRPG Addict to study and become the world's foremost expert on every kind of emulator under the sun!

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  13. That picture of the dwarf Siegurd looked very familiar, and I looked up an old D&D book to confirm a suspicion...

    Yep! It's a direct copy of Larry Elmore's drawing of a dwarf in the 1983 Basic D&D Set (the "Red Box"). Here is a link to a small version of it I found on Google Images: http://paratime.ca/d20/d_and_d/35/pics/dwarf_elmore.jpg

    Sorry I may be the only person interested in this, but I just had to point it out :D

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    1. Good catch, I loved the art used in BECMI D&D as a kid.

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    2. I, also. BECMI is still my favorite edition due to its ease of use and surprising depth. That thief picture holding the bag also looks suspiciously familiar from TSR days of old.

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    3. Well, I wouldn't say it's a direct copy... I mean they did change the helmet and belt... slightly.

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    4. Ha! That's great. We have a much greater ability to identify such plagiarism in the modern age.

      Incidentally, that image is not of Siegurd, but a dwarf that I was fighting (the game uses that image for all dwarves). Siegurd just happened to pipe up in the middle of combat.

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    5. Many of the other illustrations are rips from Elmore and other D&D artists, by the way.

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    6. Intellectual property was literally just a concept back then. So, since the developers are gonna get ripped off by pirates, they might as well rip off some artists of their hard work too. XP

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    7. Ha! I didn't notice that thief, Deuce Traveler! Yes, it looks like it was also "lifted" from the same artist, from the same book. Here's a link to the original drawing: http://i48.photobucket.com/albums/f213/5tephe/from%20the%20web/theif_basic_dnd.jpg

      I suppose that if you flip it horizontally, it's not copying then? ;)

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  14. Just a heads-up - the $30 you paid for Amiga Forever is the fee to use Amiga BIOS files (Kickstart ROMS) legally (and that frontend+preconfigured setups for a bunch of games, I guess)

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    1. Also, and this is rather counterintuitive, the fastest floppy speed under WinUAE is the one to the [b]left[/b] of the 100% (compatible) option. It's called Turbo or some such I believe.

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  15. There are some websites that provide pre-configured hard-drive installed packages. I would advise these ones:

    http://thecompany.pl/
    http://hobring.esero.net/
    http://kg.whdownload.com/

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  16. "chests re-appear when you leave a dungeon and return"

    Yes, the DOS version has this "feature" too. I used it extensively :)
    Thank you trying this game on the Amiga, I may try playing it again.

    You are right about the "don't see objects", it annoyed the hell out of me.

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  17. At the risk of having this entire comment removed, I HAVE to post this and hope it stays. There is a website, http://www.rpgcodex.net/forums/index.php?threads/amiga-dungeoneering-collection.84467/ where they have collected SIXTY Amiga dungeon type games for download- just download, unzip, and press the game icon. The winUAE and .hwa EVERYTHING is pre-set up, one click and perfection. This does include the current 'Legend of Faerghail ', including maps, walkthroughs, manuals, box scans, etc for every game. It's
    A S T O N I S H I N G
    the amount of work put into it. You should dload it, Chet old man, and give it a look see. Please let people see the url and get some dloading in before you remove the comment, old boy :)

    Williamoso

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    1. Thanks for sharing this info :)

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    2. I was unable to get ambermoon to work with my own, legit amiga forever package - the link you listed contained ambermoon, LoF AND Black Crypt, all working fine! Thanks so much :)

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    3. So very glad to help! I was mega-sad when, back in approx. 1995, my A500 with a 50 meg HD died! :( Since then I've been a PC man and the games have made the switch worth it, but the tears were many and I miss the old boy so terribly.

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    4. Thanks for sharing this! I am really interested in starting up Black Crypt or Ambermoon now.

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  18. Based on this experience, what is your plan for future multiplatform games? Do you intend to stick with DOS/Win as your "default", and only use other versions if the default doesn't work; or will you attempt to find the "best" version (best gfx, sound, least bugs, etc.) and play that one? Just cuirious as what to expect.

    (Interestingly but annoyingly, you've only got a few years between the time this question becomes irrelevant due to the end of the PC wars and when it starts being relevant again due to the rise of console ports.)

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  19. As posted before, I love this game - thank you for giving the amiga version a try despite the DOSBOX failure!

    A few others have already offered their help, so let me just add the general fact that there are TONS of amiga 'let's play'/playthrough videos on yourtube, including dungeon master, but of course also many non-RPGs like speedball 2 and many many more.

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  20. Glad to see you trying the Amiga Chet. I was getting worried you would blow through the late 80's and 90's on MSDOS alone, and thus miss the Amiga at it's best! I hope you review more games on the Amiga in the future. Also, don't miss "Black Crypt" one of the best "crawlers" on the Amiga.

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  21. Okay, everyone, I'm sorry I have to say this, but you are overwhelming the living hell out of me with Amiga stuff. Between people commenting on the blog and sending me personal e-mails, I have dozens of pages to wade through.

    I appreciate everyone's willingness to help, and the enthusiasm that generates it, but really, I have what I need at this point. The game is running, and fast enough. I don't need any more links to files, suggestions for alternate emulators, or anything else. I will be sure in the future not to complain about emulator problems unless I really want/need a specific solution.

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    1. You're probably going to have some "fun" with Mac emulation. I was briefly pondering to offer you a general emulation package covering almost all of the relevant platforms, but I figure you're inclined to seek out whatever is needed by yourself first.

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    2. @Chet - If we were in an alternate universe where Amiga won, we'd be talking about using DosBox now. XD

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    3. Hehe, just one more tip: you can skip the loading times in the WinUAE emulator by pressing End + Pause/Break. This toggles the turbo mode on, where the display isn't updated. Press End + Pause/Break again to return to normal speed.

      This way you never have to wait more than about 2 seconds.

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    4. You said "Amiga" on a gaming blog and thus the Horde was summoned.

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    5. ......For some reason I'm now seeing the Amiga hord as a bunch of highland Scots led by a bagpiper.

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    6. I shudder to ask what that reason is.

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  22. Regarding AmigaForever, does anyone know if it is "DRM-free"? In other words, if I buy it, can I install it on all my computers? I agree with Chet that WinUAE is surprisingly clunky. I evilly searched out the roms to test it out before shelling out $30 for AF, and I found WinUAE really hard to use, especially for a non-Amiga user (but proud C64 user) back in the day.

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    1. Yeah, no DRM, you are really only paying for the kickstart roms.

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  23. The big irony about using an Amiga emulator now is that you are on the very virge of when PC games became equal to or better than Amiga, where for the past few years before this was reversed with Amiga being superior. Play Ultima VI and you will know the PC has arrived!

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    1. He wrote he is going to go back to the start of the playlist every now and then. So only before 1989 those that are with playlist status and unplayed status, there is 2 Amiga only games, 5 games with Amiga version but no DOS version and 11 games that have both versions. So this was a good move which will verify itself if you play Roadwar series and Hired Guns Amiga versions. Yes Ultima VI Amiga version is bad port with no reprogramming (code optimization) thus making it sluggish. However putting emulator to A4000 full speed, it is faster like it was with Amigas with accelerator cards. Anyway in playlist it is still long way to 1991, 1992 or 1993 where most people who have seem both versions of those games say PC versions became generally better than Amiga versions.

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    2. We should also remember that the PC:s superiority in the early 90s mainly was with simulators etc where numbercrunching is important. Regarding pure action graphics like Shadow of the Beast etc it took until the 3d-graphics cards arrived to compete against the Amiga. Soundwise, the Amiga soundchip was superior to the PCs soundcards in the beginning of the 90s as well.

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  24. By the way, regarding this point - [When leveling, a single character must have all the gold necessary to pay for the training, but depending on how much stuff you're carrying, it may not be possible for one character to carry the weight of that much gold. There's no way to "pool" gold and just let all your characters draw from a pool.], does Strength affect the amount of stuff each character can carry?

    If that's the case, wouldn't that mean that Strength also limits the amount of total Gold one character can carry and, thus, limit the level he/she/it can go to?

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    1. No, because the character that's leveling doesn't have to pay for the training himself or herself. As long as any character is carrying enough gold, he or she can pay for someone else.

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    2. Ah... that's good then. Some games only allow the person who has that gold to pay for him/herself but they don't count encumbrance for gold.

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