Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dragonflight: Overseas and Underground

Finally reaching the exit to the dungeon after eight hours in.

Back in 2010, when I was in the middle of Wizardry, complaining about how long it was taking, someone said, "Wait until you get to the 1990s and every game has 10 dungeons as big as Wizardry." Slowly but surely, this has been happening, but I didn't really notice it until Dragonflight. Over the last few days, I've spent about eight hours exploring and mapping a single dungeon of 10 levels, the largest occupying 28 x 31 squares (although not every space was used). Oh, it didn't take quite as long as an entire game of Wizardry, of course, owing to easier monsters and no permadeath, but it's only one of god-knows-how-many dungeons in the game.

A large dungeon level of secret doors, rooms, combats, traps, and treasure.

Dragonflight, in short, is taking forever. I just passed the 30-hour mark, which already puts it in the top 15% of games I've played for length, and I still mostly have no idea what I'm doing other than progressively getting more powerful. There hasn't been the slightest hint on the main quest. I'm supposed to discover what happened to the dragons all those years ago, and I can only hope that my random explorations are somehow, someway leading me to that goal.

When I last posted, I had just left a dungeon on the far west coast of the continent because I kept encountering locked doors after I'd run out of keys. I went back to the town of Luthag to purchase more. Figuring I'd let the west coast dungeon regenerate before I returned to it, I decided to check out the one other dungeon I knew about, in the middle of southern desert. It was tough because walking through the desert saps hit points every round and I had to make sure I was keeping up with the loss. When I finally got to the dungeon, I descended, lit a torch, and:

There's supposed to be an image here of a magic mouth demanding a password. I missed it because for about four consecutive hours, I forgot that the screen capture key in Steem isn't CTRL-F5 as in DOSBox but rather END. Here's a shot of me opening a treasure chest instead.

Great. Another magic mouth that wants some password before I can proceed. I hadn't received any clues about this dungeon from anyone, so I had no choice but to return to the surface, navigate back through the desert, and return to the west coast dungeon.

It was this dungeon that ended up being 10 large levels, full of monsters, traps, secret doors, and treasure. I say it took me eight hours to complete it, but I'd already done Levels 1-4 in the last post, so the eight hours were mostly just the bottom six levels. Notes from this exploration:

  • There were a ton of enemies. My characters slaughtered so many--including my rear two characters wiping out scads of undead with "Dispel Undead"--that everyone more than doubled their experience points.
  • As experience points rose, so did health and, most importantly, the number of movements per round. The problem I had with enemies anticipating and avoiding ranged attacks went away (or at least got a lot better) when my spellcaster and archer were able to move more than once per round. By the time I left the dungeon, the archer was up to three moves per round, which usually translates as one to get on a firing line with the enemy and two to actually shoot arrows.
  • By far, the most difficult enemies I faced in the dungeon were balrons, who have a ranged magic attack capable of practically halving hit points. They can do it multiple times per round, and I occasionally encountered up to four in the same room. There was one level where there were four such rooms in a row. I had to stop, heal, and restore my magic points between each encounter, and even then I only won by casting "Speed" before the combat and "Heal" every round during the combat.

I also missed shots of the balrons. Here are some skeletons.

  • As long as you have plenty of food, healing and restoring magic in dungeons is an easy matter of standing in a corridor and holding down the left-turn or right-turn keys. As you spin in place, both attributes slowly regenerate.
  • Enemy difficulty has no correlation with the quality of treasures found in the rooms. None of the balron rooms had a single treasure chest, whereas some of the best treasures were found in rooms with no enemies.
  • There were potions. Oceans of potions. Practically every treasure chest had at least six of them. When I got out, my characters had more than 50 healing potions, 20 potions each of spirits and wine, and dozens of others. I'm no longer so afraid to use them, though I'm going to keep at least 5 of each in permanent inventory in case I need them as quest items.
  • There were a lot of trap doors that dump you on the next level. I'm a little confused by them. You can "detect" them in a way by "looking" at each square of the corridor, but there's still no way to avoid them. There's no "Levitate" spell or anything similar. Yet I see doorways on the other sides of the trap doors with no other way to approach them. I'm not sure what I'm missing.

How do I get to the door at the end of this corridor? Is it just a mirage?

  • There were so many secret doors that I ultimately had to adopt the practice of scanning every wall. Unfortunately, in this game you can't find secret doors just by walking into them. You have to "look" at the wall first.

If you say so.

  • There were two map pieces in the dungeon. I still have six to find, but I can confirm that the main continent is indeed shaped like a dragon.

The map shows a lot of places I haven't explored, including everything above the dragon's neck, the island between his legs, the island above his back, and "Antarctica." Fortunately, I now have a ship.

On Level 9, I encountered a magic mouth that said there were special potion bottles meant for dispelling creatures beyond. It asked me what type of liquid was in the bottles. I had no idea that this dungeon was the solution to the quest I'd received in Scatterbone, where the king is plagued with an imp constantly buzzing around his head. Consulting what he told me (made easier by the "notes" the game gives you after each major dialogue), I found the answer: LIQUEUR OF RAISINS. The mouth let me pass to retrieve the special potion in a room beyond.

I got it wrong a couple of times first. I always forget how to spell "liqueur."

Level 10 was a "reward" level--not a single combat, just copious treasure chests. Of course, I still had to deal with this nonsense:

Time to reset the emulator, re-start the program, re-load the game, and hope that this process re-seeds the random number generator.

It was a relief to trek back up and finally exit the dungeon. I immediately made my way to a temple, where my max magic points, for Rinakles, went from 20 to 100. Returning to Pegana, I sold my mushrooms and excess equipment. Fiddling with some of the rings, I discovered that they were Rings of Protection (they just say "ring"), so I'm glad I didn't sell them all.

A bunch of stuff that I'm afraid to sell now.

I sold a lot of the other gems and jewelry--bracelets, earrings, pearl necklaces, brooches, opals, diamonds--but kept a few pieces in case I needed them for quest items. I learned the new scrolls and turned in the ones I'd already found to the University for karma.

30 hours in, and I've solved this one side-quest.

When I returned to King Scatterbone, he happily took my potion. Free of the imp, he rewarded me with gems and a "Piece of Eltam," If I try to equip or use it, it says it's "not complete" and some "pieces are missing." I otherwise have no idea what it is. Maybe all these other side quests result in more "pieces of Eltam," and when the thing is complete, a dragon will pop out of it, and that will be the endgame.

In fact, except for the compass, I have no idea what any of the stuff on this screen is for.

The dungeon exploration accomplished the thing I had most hoped it would: it gave me enough money to "charter" a ship at Port Pylon. When I paid the fee, the game did as I hoped and gave me a ship to sail around freely, not just "passage" to some other location. With it, I was excited about exploring some of the locations on the map that I couldn't reach overland, starting with a dungeon on a nearby island. 

The creators made a combat backdrop for the ship. This makes me want to go downstairs to my Xbox and play Assassin's Creed IV.

The moment I walked in, I got another magic mouth looking for a password. Bollocks.

 
I soon found out another restriction to owning a ship: the crew won't sail very far from the home port. Mine refused to go very far east. I suppose this means I'll have to buy other ships in other ports.

Is the crew aware that I'm capable of casting "Lightning Bolt"?

The crew had no problem sailing west around the main continent, though, which was good because near the dungeon I'd spent so much time exploring, I found an "orc village" that I'd missed before. (It blends into the background a bit, at least for me.) There, I was surprised to meet a friendly orc king who spoke the human language. He explained that he was trying to civilize the orcs, and as part of this effort, he wanted me to take a contract around to the human, elf, and dwarf cities and see if I could get the leaders to sign.

I give the game credit here for a fairly original side-quest.

This side quest reminded me that I hadn't done much about the elf queen's request that I find the stolen sphere containing the souls of the elf elders. One of the possible locations was in the "dragon's tail." I sailed up to the series of islands that make up the tail and didn't see anything, but I hit upon the idea of getting off the boat and "searching" the mountains. I'm glad I did, because I found a dungeon on my second try.

And there was no magic mouth looking for a password!

I leave you having entered this dungeon, and I'm trying to decide whether to explore it or to do the orc chief's quest first. I suppose I'll try a few levels and see how long it takes. It would be nice to return to Nimraviel with the sphere.

My opinion of the game hasn't changed. There are no great moments or awful moments, just moments. I'd happily give it up except for not wanting to break a long winning streak. You'll probably see a post on FallThru and perhaps a 1980s game before I post next, though.

57 comments:

  1. This game sounds so tedious...

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  2. One last thing I learned from the german Let's Play: The guy there didn't think about selling his cup of gold, he just did it. Only the gems seemed to be of importance to him.
    I guess completing the map is important. I mean, it looks important, but why?
    The big dungeons probably wouldn't be such a problem if you knew why you have to clear them... At least, it looks as if the game is structured in such a way that there is just that one big quest to do, and not chapter after chapter of separate main quests. So once you think that the end is coming, it's really almost there.
    Maybe you just have to get your characters strong enough to survive on the eastern island or antarctica - which you might access from either the dragon's nose, or the forepaw.

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    1. Ok, so I went to http://thethalionsource.w4f.eu/ and there is a solution and hints (and maps) - in german. Indeed, the narrative is simple and there are not many quests in the classic sense. But there are tricks involved and some mechanisms which I think need hours to figure out unless you can also get some hints in-game. You need to show certain things to certain people, eat a certain thing out of a certain vessel, and so on...
      German gaming magazines back in the day (and probably elsewhere, too) had walkthroughs, solutions and cheats of current popular games. You could also phone the companies to get hints. It looks to me as if the game was made with this in mind.
      Also, the game took three years to make and the release date had to be postponed several times. It is massive indeed, for it's time. I can tell you the number of dungeons though. You don't need to complete them all, but they have parts of the map and scrolls and the scrolls give character points.

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    2. The map being important for at least one major reason: directions tend to be vague. For instance, some NPC might say that there could be something hidden in the "dragon's tail".

      Considering that the addict has almost completed the map already, there can't be that much of the game left...

      I remember this being a long game, but it still somehow fit on two diskettes.

      There's definitely longer games. Such as Fate: Gates of Dawn (1991), where it can literally take eight hours just to walk from one location to an another; and the overworld map is something like 10000 x 10000 squares. Which you are expected to map by hand.

      Incidentally, it's also a German game.

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    3. Map of Fate is 800x600 approx. You can count it, the map is on the internet.

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    4. Whew. The idea of mapping 100 million squares by hand really wasn't appealing to me. Not that 480,000 really appeals to me, either.

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    5. How big was the Underworld in Ultima V?

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    6. Dear Addict,
      are you planning to play Fate: Gates of Dawn?

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    7. Yes, it's on my list for 1991. There's probably 60 games between now and then, though.

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  3. This might be a dumb question (and one you've possibly already answered), but does unequipping weapons before opening chests protect them?

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    1. I think it might meant the weapons INSIDE the chest.

      I'm not sure though.

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    2. No, they're definitely weapons in inventory. I don't think you have to be holding them, but what do you know, I suddenly can't find one of those trap chests to verify.

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    3. If the trap does zap inventory weapons, does that suggest an alternate protection scheme where you spam your inventory with cheap junk weapons?

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    4. That could work. I'm not sure how it decides. In any event, it's pretty easy to kill the game in the emulator and re-start it, and I'd still have to do that for disappearing-chest traps, so there's not much point fiddling with it.

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  4. Thalion with Amberstar, Ambermoon then BlueByte with Albion (German CRPG). Conclusion: lots and lots and lots of stuff one can find in game and put to ones inventory, but main part of these things do really nothing. Germany precision and detail..?

    Enybody agree with me? I'm wrong in this case?

    Is it Dragonflight will be diffrent in this matter?

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    1. It's been a while since I played this, but I'm almost sure that most things had some use.

      For instance, I... think... those hats could be used to avoid damage in the desert. If everyone is wearing them AND not wearing coats (which seem to be translated as cloaks).

      Then again, maybe I just remember wrong.

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    2. I wonder what the image shows up after all those "hundreds" of games. I wonder if there are any patterns, similarities in games with companies from the same countries.

      As already Chet posted, we can see the difference between the United States and Europe (and of course Asia). But going forward, eg differences between German and French titles or English one ...

      In the era of the Internet that already exist 15 years (or something) in our homes, we are in bloom, all kinds of comparisons, rankings, analysis.

      Perhaps referring it to the market of computer RPG could be interesting to write a few sentences about. Not necessarily from the cultural differences. Maybe some summary about decade, the type of game, etc., etc.

      Hope I am not spam... ;)

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    3. If you are, I hope you're Jalapeno-flavored. Spicy!

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    4. Thanks for the tip, Zaltys. My characters were wearing both hats and cloaks when I went to the desert, so when I return, I'll try removing their cloaks and see what happens.

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    5. In Amberstar, Ambermoon and Albion, the useless items are very obviously furniture, stuff like buckets etc. I'm not sure what the reason behind this is. Flavor maybe? But I can surely say it's not because Germans like to pick up and collect useless stuff. :D

      Dragonflight really seems to be kind of "half-good". 8 hours for a single dungeon (of many) is simply too much, I can imagine that combat really starts to wear you down, since you can't speed it up (you won't be able to until Albion in this series - but at least the combat system gets gradually better).
      The longest dungeon in Amberstar should take no longer than 2 hours - and that's the final dungeon, so it's ok. So the devs at least learned where they overdid it.

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  5. "I soon found out another restriction to owning a ship: the crew won't sail very far from the home port."

    Did they say "We can't go there mon, that's the forbidden Elliptic Hyperboloid"?

    Sorry...

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  6. Nice progress Chet!
    Now I'm continue playing (after 2 years), and actualy in level 5 of dungeon D4 (that one on the middle of Dragon's tail).
    I created the Dragonflight Interactive Word Map using the Google Maps api with markers etc. look here:

    http://www.oldgames.sk/docs/Dragonflight/index.php

    there is also list of spells, and more content will be added soon, during my very slow progress :-)

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    1. Players still surprise me ... :)

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    2. Nice project :-). I'll put a link to it on my DF hints page.

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    3. DJ - Why did you choose "just" this game to create such a breakneck project?
      However, I like it and keep my fingers crossed for you to be a tenacious and reached the end.

      Strange is sometimes stubborn, almost sadomasochistic, which take the players returning to the old titles. Or maybe it's just the force of sentiment and nostalgia.

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    4. I'm very tempted to look at it, but I'm still trying to avoid spoilers.

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  7. Thirty-plus hours of "no great moments or awful moments, just moments" sounds [i]horrible[/i]. You often hear people tout the number of hours in an RPG as a selling point--the more the better!--but I've always thought that knowing when to end was a lot more valuable.

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    1. I believe I felt EXACTLY like this playing Dragon Quest 7 (which admittedly Chet will never play). The game was amazing, but you were 30 hours in before you even assembled your whole party and it was at least 70 more for me to get to the end game. I was a bit of a completionist, but it was real work after a while and I think I gave up before the end.

      I recall brutal grinding in order to find colonists of a certain class to join your town so you could get the best weapons for each of the party members. I desperately wanted to beat it with the best weapons and eventually never beat it at all. Oh well.

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    2. DQ7 expected you to get the last NPCs you needed from friends with game saves instead of by yourself. Today, copying some saves from GameFAQs for town use might be the way to go.

      Getting the best weapons was entirely unnecessary in DQ7, though - master the right classes and your team would be unstoppable powerhouses anyway.

      My first thought when it comes to "obsessively long game" was "what about Oblivion?", but then I realized that 95% or more of Oblivion's content is optional. I guess that makes a world of difference.

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    3. I believe that you are thinking of DQ9. I do not recall that mechanic in DQ7 or DQ8, nor any of the older ones but I have not played them all.

      DQ7 was the one where you gradually put back together a world where all of the islands had disappeared and there was an interesting time travel mechanic which was only used well a few times. It was the last of the tile-based DQ games, as DQ8 would follow with a more anime-meets-Elder Scrolls style except with a separate battle screen.

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    4. Also, DQ Swords on Wii. Seriously, what were the devs thinking (or smoking and I'd like to get some of whatever it is) when they were programming this thing.

      It's a good thing that you have to MOVE to play this game or you'd fall asleep from the boring repetition.

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    5. All of the Dragon Quest games are like that. It's forgivable for the NES games, less so for the (unreleased in the US) SNES games, and horrible for anything beyond. They games are all very formulaic, following the same formula.

      The Final Fantasy series may get ragged on for a bunch of reasons, but at least the franchise tries something different now and then.

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    6. They are quite formulaic, with some exceptions, but I suspect there is a comfort in that. The games were insanely popular in Japan and while I do not understand waiting in line for a week to buy a DQ game, they are fun enough in their own right, if frequently lacking a strong narrative.

      Final Fantasy on the other hand... wow. They never hesitated to completely throw out everything and sometimes that worked-- and sometimes it really didn't. (The broken experience system in 2, the not-quite-there-yet multi-class system of 5, the attempt at realism in 8, and the mind-numbing linearity of 12... for a series that has some of my favorite game experiences of all time, they have also had equal and opposite clunkers.)

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  8. Acc. to the cloak:
    I didn't play this game, but in the Realms of Arkania series your characters get sick when you not wearing cloaks in cold mountain areas, maybe you need them in the antarctica (dungeon)?

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    1. Perhaps. I'll let you know when I finally explore there.

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  9. Hey, The Gadfly checking in just to show everyone I am still alive after the death of my wife 3 months ago. Coming back to the land of the living myself after 3 VERY hard months. For insane reasons I also bought BOTH the c64 AND the Amiga versions of the *Forever packages. Dunno why. Other than having owned both the c64 and the Amiga w-a-y back when and nostalgia, but I already have way many c64 emulators, and most of the Amiga games I liked and wanted already came in their own little packs to run them anyway. Ah well. Youth! (I am turning 52 in the following Octogre).

    Hello :) Chet, great work on Dragonflight. From the stuff I have been reading, the people that made the game themselves said that really, the main quest of the game is somewhat nebulous and can be done any way you like, no real hard and fast way. Just- wander, get stronger, and eventually you will win the game. How about that.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Welcome back!

      It sounds like the game designers sort of lost their way with Dragonflight.

      "Yeah, there's no storyline or anything, just...you know...fight things...get stronger...then stuff happens. Yeah. Let's ship this thing."

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    3. Or it's just a slightly different approach based on culture. Legend of Faerghail was kind of like that, too. It's also possible that some of the things NPCs say sound more direct in the original language and context.

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  10. This game seems to take non-linearity to an undesirable extreme: there seems to be little guidance as to "what is next," and Location #12 that you visit might give you a clue as to Location #2 or Object #6, but no indication that you needed to go to Location #12 to solve Location #2 in the first place.

    It's open-ended, but with no guidance, and with locked doors or "locked plot points" along the way that you force you to randomly walk into locations (or dungeon walls) to randomly advance the plot.

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  11. "As long as you have plenty of food, healing and restoring magic in dungeons is an easy matter of standing in a corridor and holding down the left-turn or right-turn keys. As you spin in place, both attributes slowly regenerate."

    Bladus: Oh, gods... I'm gonna puke...
    Rinakles: Hold it in! I feel my MP coming back!
    Dobranur: Look! That mace blow to my groin is closing up while I spin in place and shove a sandwich in my face! Amazing!
    Andariel: I'm woozy enough without you showing your filthy dwarven nutsack, you fuc- RRRAAAAHHHGGGHHHH!!!

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    1. That's pretty funny, but Kenny, do all of your comments have to involve male genitalia in some way?

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    2. Not all. Some involves the fema- hey... are you trying to goad me to say something filthy?

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    3. Chet, you can do this also just press "Zzzz" button (5 on numpad) and one time unit pass in game...

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    4. Well, that's something I should have figured out a lot sooner. Thanks.

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  12. Haha. I get it now. "Overworked and Underpaid". I am so slow sometimes.

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    1. You know, SUBCONSCIOUSLY that's probably what I was thinking, but I didn't do that deliberately.

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    2. I think I originally had it as "Underground and Overseas" and reversed it because it "sounded better." Now I know why.

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    3. Oh, man. You would've sound really smart had you said, "Yeah. That's what I did.", Chet.

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  13. Pardon me for reading ahead, but "Ring of Darkness" (1983) is another game that uses the Ultima-style Z-Stats, K-Climb, keys. Did you determine that Ultima was the originator of that style or was there an older game that uses the same? (Obviously most of the keys are pretty self-explanatory and could independently evolve, but "Z-Stats" seems quite unlikely to be independently created.)

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    1. Ultima was indeed the first game to use those.

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  14. I wonder if locals call that desert "the ass of the world". I mean, it's certainly shaped like one, and that dungeon in the center.....

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    1. I hear it's a pretty crappy dungeon

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    2. With loads of shitty treasure filled with enemies that are total bas-turds.

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    3. You are an awful person, and I adore you.

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    4. The worst thing about the Dracontopygian Desert is that the environment is so hostile to human (elven, dwarven, etc.) life that, if you hang around there too long, it will literally *kill* you.

      Needless to say, this is one hazardous Waste-land.

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    5. Actually, I think that the area's right name in that world is "the Drachenarsch Wastes". But most people would just call it "the hinterland", and any nearby yokels would simply call it "the outback". I suppose that resident monsters would probably think of it as "the Hub of the Universe", "the happiest place on pseudo-Middle-Earth", etc.

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