Sunday, January 19, 2014

Game 134: Warrior of Ras, Volume One: Dunzhin (1982)


Warrior of Ras, Volume One: Dunzhin
Screenplay (publisher)
Randall D. Masteller (author)
Released 1982 for TRS-80, Apple II, PC Booter; 1983 for Atari 8-Bit, Commodore 64
Date Started: 17 January 2014
Date Ended: 17 January 2014
Total Hours: 3
Difficulty: Moderate (3/5)
Final Rating: 22
Ranking at Time of Posting: 39/134 (29%)

Every once in a while, I play a game and find myself wishing I could force it to breed with another game. The Elder Scrolls: Dungeons of Daggorath would remove the health and fatigue bars and force you to use audio and visual cues to figure out your status. It would also remove markers showing the locations of enemies and force you to listen for them. Meanwhile, enemies like armored knights and fake wizards could be killed with stealth tactics and not by just dropping items in your area for them to pick up. Starflight II: Countdown to Doomsday would replace the blunt action space battles with the tactical battles of Buck Rogers. Hero's Quest: So You Want to Be a Knight of Legend would blend fun adventure gameplay with a combat system where you could target particular parts of your foe and use your "foresight" skill to anticipate his own attacks, so you'll know exactly when to dodge and parry.

Warrior of Ras, Volume One: Dunzhin begs to be bred with some other dungeon crawler of the era, like Temple of Apshai or one of the Robert Clardy or Stuart Smith games. It has some ideas too good to ignore, but it lacks too many RPG elements to fully enjoy as an RPG. If it had featured the room descriptions of the Dunjonquest games, the plot of Ali Baba, or even the inventory system of Rogue, I'd be trumpeting this game as a forgotten gem.

A typical Dunzhin screen. I've explored about 3/4 of this level. The lettered rooms all have treasures on the letters. I'm in the northeast corner, fighting a group of ghouls, about to attack one by swinging at his chest. If I defeat him in this combat, the stairs down to the next level lie a few steps to my east.
 
You play an unnamed hero who enters a randomly-generated five-level dungeon in search of a unique treasure that's randomly assigned just before you enter.

You know what? I don't even want to know.

As in a roguelike, you navigate a maze that is initially dark but opens up as you explore. Commands are entered via text, either fully spelled out (MOVE, SEARCH, HIDE) or by keyboard shortcut (M, S, C, respectively). You fight enemies in various numbers, find treasures, negotiate traps, deal with a variety of random occurrences, and try to keep yourself healthy long enough to retrieve the assigned treasure from the bottom of the dungeon and get back to the entrance.

It sounds a bit like a roguelike, but there's no permadeath (you can save anywhere) and, more importantly, no inventory. You technically have armor and a sword, and both can "break," but this just serves to adjust your attack and defense scores. There's nothing to pick up and use. It's not a very good RPG in lots of other ways: no NPCs, no role-playing encounters, no true economy, no character creation, no magic, no puzzles. And I hate the movement system, in which you have to type commands like MOVE EAST 3 and MOVE NORTH 2 to get around the dungeon. That's like the ninth game to avoid using the Apple II's arrow keys. Was there some kind of stigma?

Moving four squares to the east. At least the game supports abbreviations.
 
Despite what sounds like a lot of faults, the game is more notable for its innovations. These include:

1. A complex system of armor class and damage.  In addition to an overall total of hit points (called "total defense") as well as armor hit points ("armor defense"), both you and your enemies also have individual hit points, and an individual armor class, for each part of the body. If the blow is serious enough to overwhelm that body part's armor class, it subtracts from that body part's individual hit points. If it's not serious enough, it just subtracts from the total armor defense. As you increase in levels, your body part hit points increase in value. If any one of your body part hit points slips to 0, you die.

My character sheet from late in the game. Note that each of my body parts has a separate hit point total and armor class.
 
2. A nice tactical/logistical combat system. You have far more options in combat than in the standard Apple II RPG of the era. First, you can choose whether to make a normal attack, AIM carefully (sacrificing power for accuracy), or use a FORCE attack (sacrificing accuracy for power). In every attack, you specify what part of the enemy you want to try to hit. The game is ridiculously specific about these parts: in a humanoid enemy, you can target the head, neck, chest, abdomen, right arm, left arm, right leg, or left leg. In bestial enemies, your choices change to head, body, left and right forelegs, and left and right hind legs. If you deplete the hit points of any one body part, the creature dies. Areas like heads and chests have fewer hit points but are harder to hit, so you have to decide whether you want to try to wear down the enemy slowly by targeting an easy-to-hit area like the chest, or go for a one-hit kill by targeting the neck (the hardest) or head. Experience with various enemies helps you learn the best practices for each.

A typical combat sequence might go:

>You have encountered 3 minotaurs
>Your action? HIT HEAD
>You are going for the head. Press any key when you feel lucky! SPACE
>You missed
>The minotaur is going for the abdomen
>The minotaur hits the area with 8 points of force
>That area is protected for 4
>You are still alive with 10 points to that area and 48 points overall
>Your action? HIT CHEST
>You hit the chest with 18 points of force
>That area is protected for 6
>The minotaur is defeated!

Getting whacked by an enemy.

Occasionally, you get lucky and strike a critical hit, doing two or three times the normal damage. You can also try to HIDE to escape combat, BRIBE the enemy to make them go away, or use a WAND that instantly kills your foe--but you only have a few charges.

3. Quick time events. Obviously, this isn't what they're called in 1982, but the spirit is the same. When you wander into a trap, get hit by a ghoul (who can paralyze), or get hit by a cockatrice (who can petrify), the game tells you about your predicament and gives you the opportunity to "hit any key" to avoid it. This option only stays on the screen for a second, so you have to be paying attention to the game. If you miss it, you still get kind of a luck-based "saving throw" to minimize damage. Normally, I don't like this kind of dynamic in games--I prefer RPGs to be based on statistics rather than reflexes--but it's still quite innovative, and it keeps your attention throughout the game.

At least it doesn't tell me to press A, B, A, Y, X to avoid danger.
 
4. Relative experience. We see this in a lot of modern games, but I think this might be the earliest example of a game that awards your experience based on the enemy's difficulty relative to your level. You can't grind on skeletons forever if you want to advance rapidly. This brings us to:

5. Call your foes. I guess the idea is that the dungeon is basically swarming with monsters, and you're brushing past them on the way in and out of the rooms. When you engage in combat, you're not so much encountering enemies as encountering a particularly hostile pack of them. Thus, if you have a desire to fight a particular enemy, you just have to type SEARCH [ENEMY NAME], and you'll generally find one within a few moves. I had fun working my way through each of the 18 creatures listed in the manual.

This command has a couple of uses. First, enemies are divided into three groupings: "low-ranked" (e.g., skeletons, fighters, elves), "middle-ranked" (e.g., gargoyles, ogres, harpies), and "high-ranked" (e.g., wyverns, trolls, minotaurs). High-ranked foes are very rare in the game, even on the bottom level, so the only way to ensure that you test your mettle against them (and reap the best experience point rewards) is to deliberately search for them. Second, as you explore you'll occasionally find that your treasure has been stolen by a thief. You have to SEARCH THIEF to find him and get it back.

 
There are some other innovative elements that aren't good or bad. Every few dozen moves, some random event occurs. A ghostly voice whispers "go away!" and teleports you somewhere random. A woman's voice whispers "I like you!" and increases your luck or "I don't like you!" and decreases it.

I'm having flashbacks to high school.
 
Sometimes fog blankets the dungeon for a few rounds. You suddenly get a message that you're feeling confident, and your attack score increases. Perhaps most oddly, occasionally a "crystal ball" that you're supposed to be carrying (the game's way of hand-waving the interface) asks if you're "feeling brave" or if you "think it's wise" to execute whatever command you've just typed in. Answering "right" or "wrong" has effects on your luck, but I could never get a handle on what was right and what was wrong. It's simply because these events are random, and not predicated on any player decisions or skill, that I'm ambivalent about them.

A single game is fairly short. After some time experimenting, it only took me about two hours (and, admittedly, a bit of save-scumming) to get a character up to Level 11 and win the game.

Leveling up after combat.

Each of the "dunzhin's" five levels is subdivided into lettered rooms, and not until you walk on one of the letters do you determine what you're going to find there. Usually, it's a bit of treasure. But there are handful of special rooms scattered throughout the dungeon: one where you can repair armor, one where you can repair weapons, a "regeneration room" that heals you, and a teleport room that takes you to a random place in the dungeon. It's nice when the repair and regeneration rooms occur on lower levels when you really need them, but sometimes they're right next to the entrance.

In this expedition, it was on the last level, just where I needed it.
 
As far as I can tell, there's absolutely no point to the game's treasure. You don't get any kind of score when you leave the game, and the only way to use it in-game is to BRIBE enemies to go away, but this seems to fail far more often than HIDE, which costs nothing.

It takes a while to survive to Level 2, since when you're Level 1, even the lowest monsters can kill you in a single blow. The dangerousness curve evens out as you increase in levels (which happens quite rapidly, at least up to around 10) and get more hit points and higher attack and defense scores. The maximum level in the game is 20, though you'd have to grind a lot to get that high, and nothing anywhere near that level is necessary. The game allows you to save your character as well as the scenario, so you can use the same character in multiple sorties or bring him into later Warrior of Ras games.

A common message until you get a few levels on the board.
 
The quest treasure is located on the fifth level, and it's guarded by a pack of the higher-level monsters in the game (three "lords" in my case). Once you defeat them, you just need to make a beeline for the exit. When you get out of the dungeon, your victory screen is just some white letters on a black background that read:

You have exited the Dunzhin.
Congratulations!!!
You have obtained the item!
WELL DONE!

I think it was the "Freezing Bracer of Tikif" that I was after, but whatever. I'll take it.

I should mention that the game manual, though lacking any production qualities and displaying a curious bent to underline every appearance of the word "Dunzhin," is fairly well-written, and it sets up a more elaborate back story than the game really uses. The player is explicitly given as the son of a duke in a kingdom called Ras, ruled by "Lord Doserror the Inevitable." The manual takes the form of a narrative told by a half-crazed unsuccessful adventurer who has just emerged from the dungeon and is warning the PC about its dangers within while simultaneously instructing him as to the interface (e.g., "Seeing that the skeleton's neck and bones were unprotected, I drew my sword and swung at it, issuing the following command: HIT NECK (Return)").


In a GIMLET, I can only give it 22 points, including a couple of bonus points for its innovations. I give its best scores (4) for brisk, challenging "gameplay," and (4) in the "encounters and foes" section, since all of the enemies are well-described in the manual, are balanced well in difficulty, and offer lots of grinding opportunities. (Unfortunately, it doesn't have any role-playing encounters to go higher in this category.) It loses points no NPCs, no inventory, and barely any economy.

Fortunately, we'll get to find out what this game is like with those elements. Dunzhin is only the first game in a four-game series, and my understanding is the second game, Kaiv, introduces an inventory and spell system, and the third and fourth games, Wylde and Ziggurat, have a combat system in which you can anticipate enemy attacks and react accordingly.

The series was created and programmed by Randall Don Masteller and published by Screenplay of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I exchanged some e-mails with Masteller this week, and he was very eager to stroll down memory lane with the series. He started playing Dungeons & Dragons while in the Navy in the 1970s, but he became disenchanted with some of the rules of the game, so he and a friend developed their own tabletop RPG called The Game: Fantasy Edition. The rules of The Game found their way into Ras, which he began writing in BASIC on  TRS-80 in 1979. "Ras" was originally an acronym, standing for "Random Area Series," alluding to the game's creation of random levels. Basically, Masteller wanted to create a game that he could play and enjoy when he was finished.

An ad for the first two games in the series.

Masteller had already written the first three games and was in the middle of the fourth when Screenplay accepted them for publication. A programmer at Screenplay, William Denman, translated Masteller's BASIC code (which he thought would be too easy to copy) to assembly language. To "maximize exposure," Randall and Screenplay "put it on every machine I could think of"; the games ultimately had releases for the TRS-80, the Apple II, the Atari 8-bit series, the Commodore 64, and the PC (in booter form). The odd spelling of Dunzhin was to avoid any legal problems with TSR, and he just went with the theme for Kaiv and Wylde; as for Ziggurat: "Well, I could not find a way to spell it wrong that looked right, so . . ."

In 1982, there weren't many outlets for marketing computer games, Randall says that the Screenplay team worked hard to get it into toy stores, and they scored a coup when Toys 'R' Us agreed to carry it. Randall made a "very nice amount" from the games for a few years.

He says he had other ideas for RPGs but had trouble finding publishers, so as sales started to drop from the Ras series, he started taking whatever work he could find. He went on to work with MicroProse and Mastertronic, and he has programming credits on at least 25 other games, including Pirates!, Airborne Ranger, and Metropolis. In 1995, with his wife, Bonita, he launched Random Games, which focused on board games and strategy games. They had a few good years, but unfortunately the company went out of business in the early 2000s, while it was in the midst of developing an updated computer version of Talisman: The Magical Quest Game, the popular board game from Games Workshop. Masteller now works at Raleigh-based Kadro Solutions, which makes e-commerce software. 

I look forward to checking out the sequels later this year. For now, we return to 1990 with Vampyr: Talisman of Invocation.

59 comments:

  1. Ooh, a reminder about Vampyr: you really want the 1.2 version (I think that's the number). The older version has some significant bugs, like not being sent back to try again even once when you die.

    If you can't find that newer version, I've still got it handy and can put it up somewhere.

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    1. Update: Sorry, it's version 2.0 that you want. I dug it out of a backup archive on one of my computers.

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    2. Thanks. I had 1.1. I already got a post written using that version, so don't think I didn't take your advice. I'll use 2.0 for all subsequent play. I was able to find it on one site.

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    3. How are you managing without a manual?

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    4. It's not terribly hard to figure out, although I'm having a hard time getting a bead on the second quest. I don't know if the manual would help with that. Do you know where I can get a manual?

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    5. No, there isn't one on the net to my knowledge. I just remember trying to play it without a manual and finding the experience very confusing. Though maybe it was the bugged version.

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    6. I can't wait for screen shots. I think I played this game as a kid. The name certainly looks familiar and I imagine I had a shareware demo or something. I don't recall getting very far. Maybe it was the bugged version. Or I just sucked at it.

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    7. I never got far either, probably because I originally had the older, buggier version that was literally less forgiving - and because I was probably around 12 and had never even played any of the Ultima games.

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    8. A manual scan for this and the other games in the series is available at

      http://mocagh.org/

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    9. We're talking about a manual to Vampyr, not Warriors of Ras. And there isn't one on mocagh. I'm not even sure anyone but the developers has it, given their business model.

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  2. This brought back memories. I still remember the opening title music (a Bach invention). Thanks!

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  3. That ad actually tries to trademark the phrase "ride the dragon"? It doesn't even look like you can ride a dragon in the first game; maybe you can in the second game?

    (This makes me want to log on to World of Warcraft, pay $25 for a golden dragon mount, and ride it around. Oh wait, I already did! :)

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    1. No, I think it's just a line. The manual for the second game doesn't even mention dragons. Though perhaps there's a surprise.

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  4. The description of the combat was pretty cool

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  5. Relative experience. It may sounds a good idea but I have bad experiences about it. Some AD&D 3rd edition game was throwing very much random goblins etc. to my high level party. That's was totally wasting my precious gaming time and add insult to insury,I had not got any experience for it :(

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    1. Was that Icewind Dale II? I agree that it's a problem. Every combat ought to offer SOME experience, even if just a few points. I think that Neverwinter Nights had a minimum of 3 no matter how advanced your character got.

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    2. No experience for mass slaughter?

      http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0439.html

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    3. Order of the Stick reference! OotS is a really good webcomic and I think the Addict would like it too. :)

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  6. RE: "That's like the ninth game to avoid using the Apple II's arrow keys. Was there some kind of stigma?"

    From what I know, early versions of the Apple II didn't have arrow keys, though I'm not sure what version was the first to feature them. Perhaps that's the reason why games also didn't use them.

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    1. I figured that was an answer. I looked up the Apple II keyboard before I said that, and every image I got showed arrow keys, but perhaps they were all later versions.

      I actually asked Randall about that, too. He didn't mention that the keyboards didn't have arrow keys; he just said he "wanted the ability to move more than one step at a time to simulate walking fast or slow."

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    2. I've searched for some images; it seems early Apple II versions only had left/right arrow keys and the first one to have all four arrow keys appears to be the 1983 Apple IIe.

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    3. This is true. My first computer was an Apple II+, and left and right was all we had.

      Incidentally, that's why the early Ultima games utilized left arrow, right arrow, and / as the movement keys. was directly above the two arrows, / directly below.

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    4. ...aaand apparently if you put the word RETURN into angle brackets, Blogspot will be happy to obiliterate it for you.

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    5. It thinks it's HTML code. I don't know how you actually type a bracket. I think you have to type something like "<"

      Delete
  7. It's cool that you talked to the Mr. Masteller. Did he mention if he took inspiration from any other role playing games?

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    1. Sorry, I meant COMPUTER role playing games specifically. I know he mentioned DnD.

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    2. No, he didn't mention any. I think he went right from tabletop playing to computer programming. If you take a quick look at what else was available when he started writing Dunzhin, it's hard to see any connections to any other games.

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  8. Screenplay advertised quite a lot in the 8 bit Atari magazines. I remember being very interested in their games, but I never bought any of their games because the ads I saw never showed even a single screen shot.

    That was a common problem with a lot of computer game ads in the 80's and 90's. Very elaborate ads that made the game sound great, but no screen shots. I seem to recall that the ads for Might & Magic won awards because they actually showed a lot of screen shots.

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  9. Wow, nice writeup that brought back some memories. We had Kaiv on our C-64...it was a pirated copy so we had no manual. Didn't stop me playing it for hours on hours.

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  10. "...put it one every machine I could think of..."

    Probably meant 'on' instead of 'one'.

    As for the lack of screenshots...I'm not sure what there would have been worth seeing for this game. Might & Magic 1 had pretty decent graphics for its time, but monochrome ASCII wouldn't have been worth seeing in an advertisement. Much better to draw a dragon and make everything colorful.

    Let me know when we hit the era of boxes having "screenshots" of scenes that don't actually occur in the game. Sierra Online's Birthright, a personal favorite of mine, is a good example of this, as none of the screenshots on the back of the box depict anything actually available in the game.

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    1. Lands of Lore had some screenshots of some spells you couldn't get in the game.

      -Oth-

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    2. The typo was my error, of course, not his.

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    3. "Let me know when we hit the era of boxes having "screenshots" of scenes that don't actually occur in the game."

      Probably not at the beginning of the era, but the back of my Platinum Hits XBox version of KOTOR 1 is pretty misleading what with a giant rancor on the Rakatan beach ( http://i.neoseeker.com/boxshots/R2FtZXMvWGJveC9Sb2xlLVBsYXlpbmcvU2NpLUZp/star_wars_knights_of_the_old_republic_backcover_large_ic60CiDtgS6kgdg.gif ). Hmm... the other pictures look accurate to the game, so maybe whoever designed the box art memorialized this awesome moment (to be able to take on a REAL rancor with level 20s and maxed pre-Star Forge equipment versus the pathetic grenade insta-kill trick/combo of run and hide blaster fire/all your grenades that took forever) that got cut from the final game.

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    4. I do remember seeing an ad for this series in an old issue of Compute! that had screenshots for each game...unfortunately I got rid of my collection years ago so I can't confirm his memory...

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    5. My understanding is that the advertising has to be done months before the game is finished, and that the final push is when a lot of content gets cut. So in a lot of cases there will be differences between the ads and the game. I saw someone who took a lot of time to analyze the screenshots for Dark Forces, showing how the UI had changed for each version.

      Also: Now we've come full circle, and this beautiful ad http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ialZcLaI17Y (blood, zombies) is the ad for this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJ6RlKh6cQk A generic zombie game where you chose to play as one of several ethnic sterotypes or a drunk driver who killed a little girl.

      A youtuber I like has some commentary on this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnCpSMlUEpo

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  11. THE Talisman?

    Kickass!

    http://store.steampowered.com/app/247000/
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.nomadgames.talismanprologue

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    1. I've never played the board game, but I guess it was pretty popular. Randall's was one of many efforts to get it turned into a video game:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talisman_%28video_game%29

      Looks like this latest version will finally be successful.

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    2. The board game is still popular. The fourth edition is currently available. Have a look here:

      http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/27627/talisman-revised-4th-edition

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    3. It is freaking popular alright... if you want to lose your friends, that is. >:D Assassin FTW!

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    4. I have the 2nd or third edition of the game. Man, it takes a long time to play. Also, gets very unbalanced quickly, as you can easily get into a position where one person can never catch up with the others.

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  12. http://3.bp.blogspot.com/--sXO5eOUv3Q/Th2jdaMqXXI/AAAAAAAAAVQ/gmwUwV_lqbM/s400/dd9.jpg

    Inspiration for the cover art? Elric was a popular character.

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  13. With your intolerance for immersion-breaking goofiness in cRPG's, I would have expected some comment about Lord Doserror, DOS error? :-)

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    1. Ha, and he's Inevitable, of course.

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    2. Good god. It went right over my head. I can't believe it.

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    3. Bloody hell! I didn't even own a computer until like Christmas of '99 (with Windows 95) and somehow I got it instantly (the laughter of someone far too socially inept ensued).

      Slam23 and Raifield, you ninja'd a comment I was hoping to be first to make!

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    4. Sorry Giauz, and to make matters worse, my girlfriend just now heard the name and instantly "got" it without explanation. Although I have to say she's every bit the gamer I am, so it's not as bad as it sounds.... :-)

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    5. I thought Lord Doserror was about as obvious as a joke gets. Then again, I've seen Kaiv written down dozens of times, and until I reread the line about odd spelling and pronunciation regarding Dunzhin and Wylde, I never considered it might reflect a real word. Even knowing that it did, it took me a couple of minutes. I can't see "kai" without thinking it has to rhyme with "eye" instead of "day."

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  14. :-) It would be interesting to know if the game developer intentionally poked fun at Microsoft here, with the release of MS-DOS 1.0 being august 1981, maybe only a half year earlier than this game was released. Offcourse without the MS part it could also point to other 'DOSses', like Apple had already in 1979. A question that the Addict could pose to mr. Masteller? It would be fun to compile a list of baddies that have in-jokes in their names. I couldn't name one now from the top of my head actually, but there are bound to be more. Let's have them!

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  15. As in a roguelike, you navigate a maze that is initially dark but opens up as you explore. Commands are entered via text

    If the concept of a roguelike with text adventure interface intrigues you at all, you owe it to yourself to check out http://ifwiki.org/index.php/Kerkerkruip , which will otherwise take you a dog's age to get to (2011).

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  16. I love the picture in that ad, it looks like it should be adorning somebody's custom conversion van.

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    1. Yeah, not quite my style, but I miss those old crazy art bits. Dragons flying everywhere, long hair, crazy swords.....

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  17. What a pleasant surprise to see William Denman's name. Growing up, our family computer was a Commodore 64. Naturally, it was used almost exclusively for games. :^)

    Anyhow, one of the games we owned was Asylum, which featured Denman not only as the programmer, but also as a crazed in-game character (the antagonist, in fact).

    Asylum is a very wacky graphical adventure game and as a child I could never really think logically and systematically enough to properly beat the game. I wonder how I'd do today.

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  18. Another innovation of the game is that the PC booter version is, as far as I know, is the first PC game with sampled speech output. Only a few phrases ("Welcome to... DUNZHIN!"), but it's pretty cool for 1982... Wasn't Masteller's work, though...

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  19. I actually have a small Facebook community dedicated to this game. One of the users in it actually linked us to this article. Feel free to join, you may find some decent resources there. We too have no idea how to get in touch with the game's authors, but if you track them down send them our praise!

    Here's a link to the community: https://www.facebook.com/groups/vampyr.toi/

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Richard, you seem to have posted this to the wrong game. Do you want to delete it and re-post it to here?

      http://crpgaddict.blogspot.com/2014/01/vampyr-won-with-final-rating.html

      Delete
  20. My recent experience with this game in its C64 incarnation was kind of different from yours. In particular:

    * Player stats/experience seem to fluctuate randomly. At one a point I have super defense and attack, a few fights later I drop back to low scores, then I finally level up and my stats keep oscillating randomly. As a result whenever I fight I experience more or less the same difficulty regardless of the monster level.

    * Down to the 8th dungeon level I haven't found my treasure yet. I think dungeon depth is random, at least in the C64 version.

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    1. That's interesting. This is an era in which ports weren't necessarily faithful, so I'm not surprised. Keep reporting on how your C64 gameplay goes!

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  21. I bought Dunzhin and Kaiv for the Atari. I never saw Wylde or Ziggurat for sale and always assumed they had never been finished.

    I don't know about the other ports, but the Atari version did have a kind of NPC in the form of Mad Marvin. He'd show up and say something like, "You're going to die!" Not much in the way of interaction, but he was a character.

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    1. A true shame that he wasn't included in the other versions.

      Delete

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3. Please don't comment anonymously. It makes it impossible to tell who's who in a thread. Choose the "Name/URL" option, pick a name for yourself, and just leave the URL blank.

Also, Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

NOTE: Spam has gotten so bad lately that I've had to turn on comment moderation for posts older than 10 days. I apologize if it takes a little while for your comment to appear.