Thursday, January 23, 2014

Vampyr: Draft Two

The opening screen of the second version. That's some awful verse. Dalagash better stick to raising vampires.

Within the last 48 hours, either I or Blogspot have managed to completely lose two entire posts I typed about Vampyr. The two posts took me right up to the final battle with Vampyr and chronicled my rapid descent into absolutely hating the game.

Nothing like this has happened in four years of using Blogspot as my blog host, and I can't begin to account for it. One post is simply completely missing from my drafts. Another somehow got overwritten with notes from a different post. The trust I'd developed with the service is now broken, and I'll have to type my posts in some application on my computer first. I don't know if I use Word whether encoding issues will screw things up when I paste the text to Blogger. I guess we'll see.

In any event, I don't have the heart or stomach to type everything again, so I'm just going to have to provide a summary. This is really depressing. I had channeled a lot of rage and frustration into those two postings. I had a nice discussion of iconographic, tile-based games, some thoughts on game music, and some good examples about the differences between games that are challenging and games that are just difficult. I can't seem to re-conjure any of it now.

To start, thanks to HunterZ's comment, I sought out the second version of the game, which fixed many of the bugs I discussed in my first post. In addition to this, it offered a slightly different opening screen, naming the game's villain, and some additional music. (The first version opens with a PC speaker version of Bach's toccata and fugue in D-minor for organ; the second adds the first couple dozen measures of Beethoven's fifth symphony.)

When I finished my first post, I had completed the first quest and had received a second one to find out who Dalagash is. No other help. I used the excuse to explore the land, discovering that it occupies about 80 squares north-south and 100 east-west, plus some additional islands. The land doesn't wrap on itself; instead, the north, east, and west borders have impassable mountains and the south is blocked by the ocean. You can hire boats to take you to the islands but there's no way to sail on the ocean yourself.

Arriving at one of the island towns.

The towns are all very similar, offering weapons, armor, transport, and training. The training is the big difference among them, as different trainers allow development in different skills. The town of Myron, however, allowed training in all the skills, so I generally tried to go there when I could level up. You get 45 skill points to distribute with each level-up, except a couple of times when I got 12 or 0, and I think this was a game bug.

Purchasing some armor.

The game is a lot like Ultima II and Ultima III in that you can steal chests in the towns, kill NPCs, and massacre guards, and not only do you suffer no permanent karma, the towns completely re-set when you leave and return. As with those games, such crimes are a legitimate way to grind for both experience and gold.

The quests were as follows:

1. Find out about Dalagash. I accomplished this by learning about someone called "The Bard" who was being held in the town of Zachul. I found him in a locked area guarded by an evil cleric and a vampire. He told me that Dalagash is a powerful mage who has discovered the location of the tomb of Vampyr (note that this is a proper name) and plans to raise him.

Perhaps the most verbose NPC in the game.

2. Free the town of Myron, which had been invaded by evil clerics. The developers created a new map for the town in which all the town's NPCs were huddled in hiding spaces and secret areas, and evil clerics were wandering around proclaiming their victory. (One shouted "I'm the new mayor!" while the real mayor hid nearby in a secret area.) I tried but failed to defeat every single group of evil clerics in battle--their magic missiles were quite deadly--but it turned out that all I had to do was kill their leader, a vampire, in the northwest corner. NPCs directed me to his location.

A town resident hides while I do the dirty work.

I confront the invasion's leader.

3. King Tevon discovered that Dalagash would need the Talisman of Invocation to raise Vampyr. He told me to retrieve it from a dragon's lair "up north." I hadn't found any other dungeons "up north," but I checked again and realized that one of the mountain tiles had a tiny hole indicating an opening in it.

Would you have noticed that?

I was unable to get anywhere in the dungeon with my Level 8 character, so I settled in for a long grinding session. Because I wanted to train in Myron, I decided to do it there, but as an island, enemies spawn rarely. Instead, I grinded myself against guards. There's no penalty for killing them in the game, they provide decent experience, and once you leave the town and return, they come back to life and have forgotten your previous massacre. You'll have to imagine all of this couched in jokes about Ultima and Questron and such.

Killing NPCs for profit.

Even with my new level--13--the dragon's dungeon was extremely hard, and I lost my character multiple times while just trying to find my way around. Rust monsters kept destroying my armor, and other enemies pounded down my hit points in single combat. At some point, I accepted death, went to Heaven, and bought a +3 weapon and armor there, as they're the best in the game. (In this version, the "gods" occasionally send you back, and they did for me.) This barely helped.

An entire floor, with an obvious path to something significant, requiring me to walk through lava, turned out to be a red herring. It might have been a funny joke if it wasn't so annoying to get there.

I hate you.

I ultimately found the dragon in a secret area on the second level. He was capable of breathing fireballs that did devastating damage, but the "Protection from Spells" spell helped a little. After a few tries in which he killed me, I was able to defeat him and return the talisman to the king.

The dragon looks a bit like a dog to me.

4. The king then asked me to find a sage who had gone missing. He gave me no hints where to find him, but I only had one dungeon I hadn't explored. It was full of parties of giants who pounded me to goo. I returned to grinding but found that the game has a level cap at 15, so I didn't get far. Getting through the dungeon was an enormously frustrating process helped only by the "Exit to Land" spell which would whisk me out of there when my hit points got too low. In the end, I just barely made it to the sage alive and got his information: Vampyr's tomb is on the island of Calatiki but I need to get a "keystone" from Dalagash before I can enter his tomb.

Note the two giants--cleverly dressed in one-strap green togas like the Green Giant--poised to attack me as soon as I'm done with the conversation. Fortunately, I saved just enough spell points for the "Exit to Land" spell.

5. When I returned to the king, he told me that Dalagash's minions had raided the castle and stolen the talisman (seriously?! You had one job to do. It would have been safer with the dragon!), so he gave me the final quest to go to Calatiki and stop Dalagash. I knew how to get there from some NPC dialogue: hire a captain named Marsus in the city of Maninox.

I should have sent it to the Marx Brothers.

I'll cover the final dungeon (or what I assume is the final dungeon) in a moment, but let's deal with my frustrations with the game, which are legion:

  • The monsters are ridiculously hard, particularly the giants, evil clerics, and vampires. One group of them was capable of killing my maxed-level character with the best equipment in the game, and you have to fight dozens of groups in each dungeon.

10% of my hit points blasted away--just the sort of message you want when you're trying to get through a dungeon to the boss.

  • The combat system doesn't offer any tactics to help compensate for this difficulty. Your sole advantage is bad pathfinding, so if you face a group, you can run to the far left or far right, and they'll reliably line up and take you on one at a time. This isn't enough to save you.
  • There's no way to save, rest, or restore magic points in dungeons, so you've got to get through them with the magic and spell points you had at the beginning. They also reset when you leave. You could easily spend hours exploring a dungeon only to die, or have to flee, and find that you've made no progress.
  • There are a number of spells in the game that are potentially helpful, but you soon find that it's irresponsible to spend spell points on anything but healing. For instance, a useful mass-damage spell called "disintegrate" can clear the battlefield--but at a cost of 16 spell points, or more than a quarter of what I had at my highest level. This same number could cast five "cure light wounds" spells. You face too many groups of enemies for the ability to kill one of them to be consequential.
  • There are no inventory items, like potions or scrolls, to help you, either.
  • Given all the above, the level cap is unforgivable. With no items or tactics to mitigate the difficulty, increased hit points and spell points are all you have going for you besides blind luck.

It's not "the" Vampyr, it's just "Vampyr." And I'm trying.

  • In dungeons, enemies spawn by just literally appearing in your path. You might think you have three empty squares between you and your goal, but these could easily hold three combats with creatures that don't even show up until you take a step forward. It makes it extremely frustrating to navigate through dungeons.
  • Monsters can move on the diagonal, but you can't. That means there's essentially no way to outrun them.

There were NPCs who warned me about the bite of rust monsters and the touch of vampires. What did they warn me for? There's no way to avoid them, no way to outrun them, and no way to sneak by them. In combat, you could theoretically get a couple of missile weapon shots at them before they come into melee range, but swapping weapons wastes a round, so you don't gain much. You basically just have to hope for lucky combat rolls.

I didn't get one here.

When you enter Vampyr's castle, you're greeted with a sign welcoming you to your "dome." This didn't bode well.


The Vampyr's lair consists of three levels. You first have to go from the ground floor to the second level to confront Dalagash in his chambers. He laughs and disappears the moment you show up, but until you confront him, he doesn't use his "keystone" to open the walls to the lower level.

Dalagash vanishes while one of his evil clerics approaches from the west.

The lower level consists of a series of caves with bats, evil clerics, vampires, and giants spiders. It's not very long, but the creatures wear you down quite quickly, and there are a couple of places where you have to waste hit points walking through lava.

Healing myself after wading through molten rock.

If you're lucky, you have enough spell points available for a "Protection from Spells" spell when you confront Dalagash. He shoots fireballs that can wipe out a third of your hit points in a single attack. The spell mitigates this a bit, but I still lost to him seven or eight times before I was able to defeat him.


Unfortunately, defeating him doesn't stop the resurrection of Vampyr, who you must now face with your crippled hit point and spell point total. He'd be a hard enough foe no matter what, but what's worse is his attacks are capable of killing you instantly, and they succeed almost all the time.

Can anyone figure out what "merika sheree vee geia favi uri seputa kree hyce xiz" is supposed to mean?

I've been in the castle about 30 times now. Only 12 times did I make it to Dalagash and Vampyr--the rest of the times, I was slain by random enemies or it became clear before I got to the end that I'd never make it, and I just reloaded. Eight times, I was defeated by Dalagash. The other four times, I engaged Vampyr but was killed within three rounds by his instant-death melee attack.

I took out my rage on the angels. It wasn't a good idea.

Late in the process of writing this updated post, I think I solved the final piece of the puzzle. Commenter Nate Subra offered a "semi-spoiler" about a "blue rose" that you find in Heaven. I thought I had searched everywhere and talked to everyone without finding it, so I didn't pay much attention, but it later occurred to me that this might be important. I returned to Heaven and found a previously-overlooked NPC selling it. I purchased it and got the "gods" to send me back to the mortal coil. I can't imagine the rose does anything but protect against Vampyr's attacks, but to find out, I first have to navigate back to him and survive the battle with Dalagash again. Either way, my next post will be my final.

61 comments:

  1. You, sir, have inspired me to do my own project. However, I don't know if I can be as inclusive as you, because I plan to play all games on my list to completion.

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    1. Welcome to the herd. This blog inspired my own Elder Scrolls trilogy blog which I've been doing for about two years now. It's turned out to be a lot more fun than I figured it would be.

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    2. Many have been inspired by CRPGAddict. I was going to play through my own list without blogging until I came across this blog. Good luck with your project. What game list do you plan to play through?

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    3. I want to play through a list of JRPGs that have gotten an official US release. I'm making the list now; it's hard to find NA release dates in order for some of these games.

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    4. Funnily enough, Zenic Reverie is basically doing the same thing. You might want to check his blog out: http://allconsolerpgs.blogspot.com/

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    5. Well imagine that. Here's the list: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Ai5kQ-T8y0x4dGd2amZLVE4tSTBLdWN2S2VEbGtfbnc&usp=drive_web

      Let me know if you find anything missing. I've hidden lines containing games I've excluded. I'm not very far in (about 20 games), so if you have more time than myself I predict you'll pass me within a year. Maybe you can take over the burden of blogging. ;)

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    6. You may also like http://inconsolablenung.blogspot.com/. He's playing through all turn based console RPGs. I'm guest blogging (or trying to) on the adventure gamer blog, so my own progress is slower than I had hoped this month. I'm starting up Ultima IV next.

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    7. I don't believe I'm going to play *every* console RPG.

      Some of them (such as Zelda II and Castlevania II) are the only ones listed in their series. Same goes for some games (Ultima III and IV) that are ports of a larger CRPG series.

      My OCD would require me to play the whole series for each to completion.

      However, a lot of the early console RPGs released in North America seem to be a RPG-platformer hybrid. Deadly Towers, Faxanadu, Legacy of the Wizard, etc. Perhaps they were inspired by more action/platformer RPG titles like Zelda and Castlevania.

      Anyway, currently I'm making my list for the 80s. Does anyone know of good sites for release dates other than MobyGames?

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    8. I'd say they were easier to translate, but I'm just guessing. Looking over the games I've played it's about 50%. I expect that to taper down a bit, but turn-based on console seems to have declined quite a bit in recent years. Would be interesting to see a chart.

      As for playing the full series, Zelda II and Castlevania II are as connected to the rest of the series as Final Fantasy games (very loosely).

      Here's an official list of Nintendo release dates (only month/year) that has since been removed from their website (thank goodness for the way back machine): https://web.archive.org/web/20090421122931/http://www.nintendo.com/consumer/gameslist/manuals/completeoldgameslist.pdf

      Digital Press Library: http://www.digitpress.com/library/

      I mainly got my data from game pages on wikipedia, gamefaqs, rpgamer.com, and mobygames.

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    9. Best of luck, WbL. I have a lot of fun with it. Drop a link when you have your first post up.

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    10. @Raifield: It's not a trilogy - you just decided to skip the first two games :(

      I actually managed to play through Arena and Daggerfall a couple of years ago, because I'm too OCD to earnestly start a series in the middle like that.

      Sometimes I even feel like I should give Battlespire yet another chance, although I've never bothered to touch Redguard because I'm still annoyed about the fact that it used Glide instead of Direct3D.

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    11. Yeah, I know about Arena and Daggerfall, but I could not figure out a way to describe the endings of Daggerfall, all of which happen simultaneously in the lore, in a way I would have been happy with.

      Plus, I have played Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim to their ends, so I know I can and will complete them. I can say the same for Daggerfall, but not Arena. I wanted to give my blog a decent chance of successful completion.

      All five games do work, chronologically, but playing three games is a large enough commitment, I'm not sure if I could manage playing through five.

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    12. Arena actually isn't a super-long game, but it turns into a slog once you realize that it follows a repeating pattern (go to dungeon A to find the location of dungeon B, go to dungeon B to get an artifact, rinse, repeat).

      I had more fun with Daggerfall, although the fully-3D dungeons with nonsensical mazelike layouts can get a bit maddening. I ended up losing enough patience to "rush" through the main quest halfway through, bypassing a lot of the neat side stuff like guilds (with whom you can only advance by doing repetitive random side quests like killing a bear in someone's house or a specific NPC in a random dungeon), buying your own house/boat (not much practical value since you can use a horse cart as secondary inventory), etc. The ending dungeon also seemed a bit surreal, showing you a lot of weird things without much explanation of what was going on (the whole of Battlespire feels the same way to me too).

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    13. Battlespire is a great idea marred by atrocious execution. Bethesda has a really mixed record and a ton of puzzling design decisions in all of their games prior to Morrowind. It's the first of their RPG games where the game-play elements seemed cohesive rather than engaged in low-grade conflict with each other, like in most of their prior role-playing games.

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    14. Yeah, I think it may have been that before Morrowind they were fascinated with making their own game engines with interesting games on top of those engines. It seems that they gave up that fascination when Windows came along, however, and decided to license someone else's engine instead (GameBryo) so that they could just focus on making great games; it turns out that that was the best decision they could have made, both because it focused them on making the game (instead of a game and an engine) and opened up the option of an Xbox port.

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    15. At the time I rated Daggerfall as when they really hit their stride. The loss of randomness was something I really missed in Morrowind. But going back to it gives me a headache due to the 2D sprite 3D hybrid that was better viewed on CRT. If someone comes up with a procedurally generated mod for any of the later scrolls I may be lost for months.

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    16. Daggerfall used their XnGine engine, which they had already used for their Terminator Future Shock and SkyNet games. XnGine was really impressive, being technologically on-par with Quake while also beating it to market. Terminator: Future Shock was actually the first FPS to feature mouselook, which was considered to be a completely alien thing at the time. I actually played though those two Terminator games (and Daggerfall) a couple years ago, and was impressed at how playable they still were due to their modern FPS control style.

      As for the sprite thing in Daggerfall, the engine was capable of full-3D models, but I heard that they used sprites because of the size and complexity of the game. I was glad at the time because Daggerfall ran significantly better than Quake on my 486DX4-120, and I'm glad now becuase the 3D model graphics of that era have not aged well in general.

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    17. I'm also inspired to write a blog chronicling every Adult/Hentai game ever made but already getting pretty sick at the abhorrent lack of gameplay values. XD

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    18. I could skip the gameplay and blog through the cathouses in Nevada.

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    19. Kenny: ..............I......I can't figure out if that is a joke or not. I'm also torn as to if I want to read that. On one hand, I'm curious about if there are any good games, and what one actually DOES in a hentai game. On the other, I get the feeling I'm going to need brainbleach if I read the blog.

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  2. I haven't had a post eaten by Blogger yet, but I still write my posts in Notepad first, then copy them into Blogger and add whatever images I want. I'm not sure if it's a Blogger feature or a Google Chrome feature, but I've found using the "Paste as Plain Text" option when copying into Blogger makes formatting very easy.

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    1. I KNOW if I do that, I'll forget to apply half the formatting that I want to apply. But it still might be the best solution.

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    2. Notepad? Might I recommend http://notepad-plus-plus.org/ ? It ads quite a lot of features, even for plain text writing, such as tabs, saving backup copies, autosave, and so on.

      Also, why not just write the formatting in as HTML? I write my work in LaTeX and after a little bit typing codes is second nature.

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  3. Sorry about the lost posts, but this was a good read anyway. THe developers of wizardry got all their friends in college to play test their game. The devs of this game seem to have play tested it themselves only. When devs get bored of programming they put silly jokes and red herrings into their games, it's a bad habit:)
    Working on a game for a long period of time does send you a little crazy.

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  4. I wouldn't touch a game like this unless I could save-state it and reload at any step along the way. Hey, it works for beating absurdly difficult action games on Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection.

    Nah, I probably still wouldn't touch a game like this. It's much more fun to read your blog.

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    1. I get where you're coming from, but the ability to use save states goes so far in the other direction that it scares me. I don't have any sense of moderation. First I'd be saving "now and then" in dungeon levels, then before every battle, and pretty soon before every combat roll.

      I abuse save states significantly in the old Apple II games I'm reviewing now. I'm rather glad that DOSBox doesn't offer the feature.

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    2. What is crazy, is a lot of games from a certain era expected you to save-state. Quick save/Quick load buttons were a staple of FPS for a long time, with the expectation that after a hard section you'd save, and if you were doing badly you'd make a new save so you didn't get stuck with your last save having 3 health. (This also relegates to why regenerating health is so big in FPS)

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  5. Sorry about your post problems - also sounds like your game has been a painful slog. Thanks again for doing this for us.

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  6. Hello fellow adventurers! I guess I am either old or played a lot of games back then. How I found this site is rather a mystery to me. But I am here for a while at least.

    For all practical purposes I beat vampyre. But you will have to understand, that was a looong time ago. (In a galaxy far far away... Sorry) My memory of the game is more about the concept. They had actually built a home brew Ultima Exodus clone with tile based graphics, it was playable, and they were just high school kids like I was. They just created their own backstory. Completing the game wasn't really important to me. More on that later.

    To speak on the game version 1.1. I remember that I was in the same place at one point staring at the game and wondering if there was a bug and it couldn't be won. I think that version 1 isn’t possible to complete. I had to also get version 2 to continue playing.

    I wrote a longer post about Vampyr. But after reading your current post as you have actually already gotten past most of the game it is no longer needed. Yes the blue rose, and yes the +3 heaven items are a necessity. (+3 mace?) I believe that the blue rose was the requirement for “being worthy” to return. I remember thieving a lot in the game and perhaps that was to fund my need for heaven items because the rust monsters always took them away…

    As I remember the solution to the game was extraordinarily unintuitive. Again these were not professional designers but just students learning programming for the first time. Its an incredible feat that they actually published it! There seemed to be no linearity between one part and the other. You had to “bump you head” in order to progress. A process that gets old quickly. And don’t get me started about the cave in the mountains to the north… that little booger of a black spot was a bad design. It would be like waking up to the Statue of liberty and accidentally crushing it with your foot because it was only 2 inches tall. (as in “Really?”) The game does really give insight on how designers can be caught up in their own reality and not realize simple changes could make the world of difference for over all game play.

    I remember I wrote a case study on this as I had also created a Exodus clone, but wrote mine in Turbo Pascal 3.0 on a 286. It was using rogue like ascii character graphics. If I can find it in the dust and cobwebs I will write more probably.

    I won’t give away the ending as you will get more satisfaction from having beat it yourself in all your pain and suffering. But just remember “they were kids” and give them the review that is just and due.

    -a voice from beyond
    p.s. *wonders if his presence has cause a disturbance in the force*

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    1. Thanks, voice. I won the game earlier today, so don't worry about spoilers. I appreciate your recollections, and I agree that the developers deserve credit for producing something playable so young. I can admire the story without liking the gameplay.

      As far as I can tell, your recollections are wrong on two points: first, while you do need the rose to win, you don't need it to return from Heaven. That seems to be a function of how many quests you've achieved. New characters get less consideration than veterans. Second, you don't absolutely NEED the +3 weapons and armor from Heaven, although they are the best in the game. Functionally, there was only a couple points difference in damage between a two-handed sword +1 and a two-handed sword +3, and not enough to make a big difference in survival.

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  7. Had you found the you tube posts that actually show the ending sequence?

    Spolier alert!
    /watch?v=SX5rYKYl7G0

    There also seems to be a facebook page(s) dedicated to the game. And as I am reading the posts.. I am wondering if I had used a hex editor at the last point to cheat as well.. Again I didn't care about winning so much as understanding the game.

    Now I am wondering if it has something to do with the talisman, rose, and a spell... As in you couldn't just attack the Vampyr without doing something additionally. I remember in the Kings Quest series if you missed a clue and didn't do activities in the right order you have to redo the game with the right sequence... Humm, I wonder where my notes went.

    -a voice from beyond

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    1. Interesting that the video is from the 1.1 version. Of course, it doesn't help Chet to watch that except spoil the ending because the guys used a hex editor to go way beyond max level.

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    2. I actually wrapped up the game earlier and looked at that video, which I plan to reference in the final post. It's literally the only testimonial I could find of someone winning the game, and he had to hex-edit the hell out of his characters to do it.

      The game isn't complicated enough to allow the "use" of objects. But you do need the blue rose in your possession to avoid the vampire's instant-death attacks.

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  8. I haven't had issues with Blogger eating my posts, and keep a few drafts as templates that are still around. Those do sounds like interesting posts, and I hope you're able to revisit the topics at a future point. Good luck on completing the game. Maybe pure combat isn't the answer?

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  9. Now I'm sad I'm not going to read your discussion on iconographic, tile-based games and the discussion on challenging vs difficult.

    I hope you will reveist these topics later though.

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    1. The ideas are still in there. They'll come out sooner or later.

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    2. But what if he never plays another iconographic or hard, for the sake of it, game?

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    3. We all love iconographic and hard, for the sake of it, games. Sadly, there aren't enough iconographic and hard, for the sake of it, games. I hope there will be more iconographic and hard, for the sake of it, games in the future. With Kickstarter, I believe there will definitely be more iconographic and hard, for the sake of it, games. Maybe I should stop harping on iconographic and hard, for the sake of it, games. Probably because I like how the words "iconographic and hard, for the sake of it, games" rolls off my tongue?

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    4. I kind-of cover what I said about tile-based games in my MMX posting today. The whole style went out of vogue about now--even Origin abandoned it in U6--and there's no reason that had to happen. I find this kind of interface very intuitive and pleasant, and I reject the idea that continuous movement is a clear "evolution" from tile-based games.

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    5. Kenny, you almost made me spill my whiskey while laughing.

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    6. Really? I was never a fan of iconographic games. Isometric just seemed better in every way to me, or that style where you have the environment on one scale, and the people on another (Like Dragon Warrior/Quest)

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  10. This seems like a good time to revisit whether shareware games should count at all. They tend to be of significantly lower quality and you cannot possibly play or even know about all of them, as once you get to the era of the internet the number of shareware games made and subsequently forgotten explodes. Plus, Super Columbine Massacre RPG! is creeping closer with every completed game and I'm hoping to talk you out of playing that one before it comes up. An entire blog post just dedicated to how it's an artless portrayal of a realworld massacre that doesn't particularly have anything to say would be dull, because I managed to squeeze everything there is to say on the subject into the first half of this sentence. Plus, a shorter list makes for better odds of catching up.

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    1. It is a good question. I suppose the related question is why do some shareware titles appear on a database like MobyGames, and some don't? And what is really the difference between a "shareware" game and an "independent" game?

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    2. "Independant" mostly means "Not made by an established studio, either on an individual basis or a new company". This is a modern definition, as this was standard practice in the early days.

      "Shareware" means that you got part or all of the game for free, and could pay to unlock the rest or to remove nag screens (for many games, a screed would pop up constantly telling you to buy the full game, or do so on start/exit). This was very, very common in the mid 90s with the rise of BBS and Internet services, and was often linked with what we now call "shovelware" due to the CD distributions of cheap knock-off games (Often with titles like "101 great games!" or "Isle of the Dead and 15 explosive games!" that polluted Wal*Mart and other department stores in the later 90s.

      There is a fair bit of convergence between the two, as independent developers could easily and cheaply "shotgun" their files to the nine winds and hope that a small portion would purchase the full version. However, this also made the practice very attractive to established companies as well, and the relative ease of pirating such games (due to the very limited speed of modems and the expense of shipping diskettes through the mail, the full game or application was usually already present and required nothing more than an unlock code that could be shared) made a fair number of independents wary of it.

      I suspect you knew most of that already.

      As for why some show up in databases, those are the ones that gained a fair degree of success (either commercially or simply in reputation.) The more obscure ones from the shovelware CDs (not always bad, as those discs usually had two or three real gems on them, and the rest tended toward the mediocre rather than being true garbage) were immediately forgotten.

      Delete
    3. "I suspect you knew most of that already."

      Yes, I should have asked more complex questions. As you say, there's a lot of overlap between shareware games and indie games. What I was trying to get at is how do I create an kind of exclusionary rule? If I eliminate "shareware" games, I'm eliminating an entire crop of indie games. Hell, I'm eliminating most roguelikes.

      I guess my feeling is that if the game got enough traction to show up on Wikipedia or MobyGames, I should play it, regardless of how it was created or distributed.

      Delete
    4. I don't know about RPGs, but on the FPS side Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, two of the most influential games in the genre to date, and both were shareware. Heck, isn't anything with a demo really shareware? I got Dungeon Siege and Age of Wonders due to demos.

      Delete
  11. There's a blue rose on the title screen! Ah ha! That must be a hint. Is there any other mention of a blue rose in the game? Do any of the characters mention that it's significant?

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    1. Speaking of Blue Rose, I noticed that Chet had referered the Giant in brown toga to be in green. It's probably his color-blindness acting up and that rose might also be in a different shade of color for him to miss that visual cue.

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    2. Ha. I figured they were green because they were clearly designed to look like the Green Giant. I'll call Irene over before making assumptions like that again.

      Delete
    3. The hill giant in the original monster manual was wearing a similar toga made out of crude skins. That might have something to do with it.

      Delete
  12. Have a look at the browser plugin Lazarus (you will like the icon for sure :)). It saves all your webform entries as you type.

    http://getlazarus.com/

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  13. So looking back over all of my data, I remember I deleted a few things as I was cleaning out old files and mistakenly deleted the vampyr folder and all the save games, notes. I can remember asking myself if I should play it again to get back the levels and rewrite the notes. I believe a cold day in h3ll was the thought, play it again, me ? no. As there was no replay value. Not sure if that is how you feel now. More like a painful lesson in self discipline and self determination then anything else.

    I do believe I beat it back in 96, and then hacked it so I could try fighting the janitor and heaven creatures. Kudos on beating it. Not many have from what I gather. besides the end, I think I remember the island and giants parts as one of the worst... (or most memorable) And that cave... that little... little cave.... They must have thought you were Alice and could shrink to the size of a mouse.

    It feels like they had a great beta version and that if they were able to do social media like today and learn from people playing it, that the game could have become something interesting. I wonder how much they ended up making from the game?

    -A voice from beyond

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    Replies
    1. At $10 a pop? I can't imagine it was much, especially since (as we've seen from my playing), the manual wasn't really required.

      I agree that it doesn't have much replayability value.

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    2. Unless the manual includes a board game, an Apple options and a HD life-sized nude Samantha Fox cut-out.

      Delete
  14. You should check out Windows Live Writer (if you're running Windows, of course). It allows for formatting and linking/uploading images and all of that, but lets you keep your copies locally. It works great for managing blog posts - I really wouldn't blog without it.

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    Replies
    1. Huh. Thanks for the tip. This sounds like just the sort of thing I need.

      Delete
  15. Sorry to hear about your lost posts Chet. That's a nightmare for any blogger! I've always written my posts in Word and then copied them across, but I generally run them through Notepad on the way to strip out all the formatting. Works for me, but I'm sure there are better solutions out there.

    By the way, I might not comment much anymore, but I'm still here and still admiring your determination and writing ability.

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    Replies
    1. Glad to know you're still around. That seems like a sensible solution except that I would forget to italicize, bold, bullet, and otherwise format everything. I'm already something of a legend for bad proofreading; I'd hate to compound it with un-italicized game names.

      Delete
    2. I'm telling you, just write it with the raw HTML. It isn't that hard; I'll often do that myself rather then use WordPress's terrible GUI editor.

      Or I'm sure there is an emacs blogger mode, it has everything.

      Actually, come to think of it, I think Word can automatically upload to Blogger....

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    3. I don't find it easy to write in HTML. I've just gone back to trusting Blogger and assuming this was a one-time fluke.

      Delete

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