Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Revisiting: Quest for Glory: So You Want to Be a Hero (1990/1992)

 

I'm convinced that the Quest for Glory series is remembered for one primary reason: it has a fun attitude. It's amazing how often games--even good games--don't. They might be challenging in their puzzles; they might require a certain level of tactical or strategic thinking; they might be beautiful in their graphics and sound; they might offer evocative back stories or mind-blowing plot developments; they might convey a sense of steady character development and authentic role-playing; and I might love them for all of these reasons and more. But even when a game scores near the top of my GIMLET scale in all of these categories, in reflection I often feel that it was never truly enjoyable--that it forgot it was, fundamentally, a game. Quest for Glory never forgets that. It has some great RPG elements, sure, but what makes it truly memorable is that it remembers that playing a game is supposed to be, if nothing else, entertaining.

The result is a series of enjoyable, funny, tightly-structured, satisfying little adventure/RPG hybrids. They're not perfect, of course. They tend to be small and short. The puzzles (at least in the first game) are far too easy, and there are hardly any tactics associated with combat. While generally witty and honestly funny, the games do occasionally stray over the line to absurdity. I don't think any players would deny these weaknesses, and yet I've never heard from anyone who, having played Quest for Glory, honestly didn't like it at all.

Thanks to my sponsorship of Hero-U, the Coles' Kickstarter project, I have a stuffed meep sitting next to me as I play.

The initial incarnation of the game was Hero's Quest: So You Want to Be a Hero, one of the first true adventure/RPG hybrids. It remains one of the best. The others that came out the same year either under-developed their RPG halves (B.A.T., The Third Courier) or had senselessly goofy plots (Tangled Tales, Keef the Thief). Hero's Quest was unique in having strong RPG genes, with a great skill and attribute development system, along with a strong (if a bit easy) adventure game paternity. It had a witty, rather than silly, sense of humor, and its main quest was told straight. I had a fantastic time with it 18 months ago; I gave it "Game of the Year" for 1989; and it remains in my Top 20 highest-rated games.

Hero's Quest ran into trademark issues with Milton Bradley's HeroQuest, a board game that would become its own CRPG in 1991. The title of the series was changed to Quest for Glory in time for part II (1990), and in 1992, the original Hero's Quest was re-released with updated graphics and a new interface. That's where we are right now. I had originally intended to play this as a separate game in 1992, thinking that it was different enough from the EGA version to deserve a unique entry. Now that I've played it, I no longer agree. The re-release is fundamentally the same game, and it doesn't make sense to play and number them individually any more than it would have made sense to re-play the CD-ROM version of Lord of the Rings in 1993.

Corey, you'll be happy to know I bought the entire series on GOG.

But when I saw that Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire was fast approaching, I decided I wanted to replay the first game, primarily so I could end with a mage character to import into II. When I first played Hero's Quest, I played as a thief, and while I ended with a strong thief character, I didn't want to go forward with the series as a thief.

There are a few reasons. First, I never play a mage as the protagonist, so I wanted to have the new experience. Second, I believe II has a mage's college as a prominent set piece, and I wanted to experience it. Third, I played a thief the last time I went through the entire series. Granted, I barely remember it, but what I'll never forget is one moment in V in which I had to make a horrible role-playing choice, made it, and then found I'd made it for nothing because a key NPC didn't trust me because I was a thief. I'll recap it when I get there.

Several NPCs have told me of the wizard's college in Shapeir. My endgame character has 8 of 9 spells needed.

Most important, the mage faces the most challenging game in Quest for Glory. He needs to make more money to buy all of his spells, not to mention mana potions. It takes a long time to develop skills in the various spells. In the early game, he's weak physically and can't cast very much, so he has the hardest time against wandering monsters. Finally, his unique mini-game--"Mage's Maze"--was for me the most challenging part of my replay.

There are 8 mage spells in the game. I'm lacking only "dazzle" here.

It's worth noting at this point that this kind of discussion doesn't take place with many other games of the era. Quest for Glory was one of the first titles in which the choice of character class for the protagonist actually matters. Most other games with a single protagonist made him some kind of multi-classed figure who could do anything, or simply made the choice unimportant by having everyone face the same game, just with different strengths and weaknesses. Quest for Glory characters, on the other hand, face quite different games, with some areas available only to certain classes, different ways of solving puzzles, and a different scoring system (at least for a certain percentage of the points). Later in the series, the differences become even more acute, with the classes facing fundamentally different paths and even different endings. The choice you make in the first game is quite significant--unless you want to create a new character every time.

Where the thief sneaks past the minotaur and the fighter kills him, the mage casts "calm" and puts him to sleep.

The fighter knocks the nest out of the tree with a rock; the thief climbs up the tree to get it. A mage casts "fetch" to bring it to him--although he can use the other two options if he doesn't yet have the spell. Nothing in the game forces you to role-play your class.

Anyway, having decided to replay the game, I decided to check out the 1992 VGA version just for variety's sake. Quest for Glory II was still EGA, so it'll feel like regressing a bit when we get to it, but as we're going to discuss, I actually prefer the earlier interface.

For the details of the plot, I suggest you check out my 2012 series on Hero's Quest. Briefly, the titular hero wanders into the valley of Spielburg (literally: "game town") just before snows close the only pass out of town. He finds the valley, its castle, and its town under a curse. The Baron's daughter, Elsa, has been missing for a decade, and his son for almost as long, and he's turned into a recluse. The Baron's soldiers aren't enough to handle monsters that wander the valley, and a local band of brigands has become curiously well-organized and has recently robbed a merchant from Shapeir (a desert land to the south) as well as a local centaur farmer. A lot of this mischief seems to be related to the evil ogress Baba Yaga, who schemes from a hut on fowl's legs.

And she's an ugly old thing.

As the hero explores and collects evidence, he discovers that the brigand leader stays hidden behind a hood, has a high-pitched voice, and seems to care about the people of the town (among other things, the leader had the centaur farmer taken to the healer when some of the brigands got rough). This coupled with the fact that the brigand warlock sounds an awful lot like Yorick, the castle jester who went missing while searching for Elsa, leads the player to learn that the brigand leader is in fact Elsa herself, suffering under a spell of Baba Yaga's. The Baron's son turns out to have been turned into a bear by a kobold wizard.

The "counter-curse" to Baba Yaga's evil is given as a rhyme:

Come a hero from the east
Free the main from in the beast
Bring the child from out the band
Drive the curser from the land

Third line accomplished!

The player slowly satisfies the prophecy by freeing the baron's son from his magic shackles, finding the ingredients for a dispel potion, infiltrating the bandit's fortress, and tossing the potion on Elsa, who returns to her normal form and memories. He then takes a magic mirror to Baba Yaga's hut and rebounds her "turn to frog" spell, causing her to freak out, take flight in her hut, and leave the valley forever. After a party at the Baron's castle, the newly-dubbed hero boards a magic carpet piloted by his friends from Shapeir and heads to the next adventure.


A victory party in the baron's castle reunites every NPC in the game, and some not in the game. I think I see Riker in the right-center. I have no idea who the dudes on the stairway are.

The primary differences between the two versions are updated graphics, updated sound, and a new point-and-click interface. Although the graphics are the most noticeable difference in these screen shots, the interface made the biggest impact on gameplay. In the EGA version, you typed commands (THROW DAGGER, ASK ABOUT BABA YAGA, OPEN DOOR, PICK LOCK) in a small text window that you brought up with the SPACE bar. In the new version, you have a ribbon of icons at the top of the screen and you click on them to walk, look at things, speak, take or activate something, cast a spell, access inventory, use an inventory item, and access game settings. I guess the interface was known as the SCI1.1 interpreter, and it was used in a lot of Sierra games of the time, including King's Quest VI, Space Quest IV, and Quest for Glory III.

Standing in front of Baba Yaga's hut. The command icons are at the top of the screen.

My problem with the interface is that it renders an already-easy game even easier by not requiring the player to do any thinking or even much note-taking. In the EGA version, the player had to watch NPC dialogue, take notes, and study the environment before deciding what to ask NPCs. For instance, the player must talk to Hilde or the Sheriff in town before he knows to ask Heinrich (the centaur farmer) about the bandit attack. With the point-and-click interpreter, every character's dialogue options are right there on the screen.

I have no idea why I can ask about so many individual vegetables.

The new mechanic ruins some fun moments. I remember asking the centaur lass about DATE and being delightfully surprised that the developers knew players would do that, and they programmed in an answer. In this version, the word DATE is just sitting there among the choices. In the previous version, I had to study all the heads on the Adventurer's Guild wall before I knew to ask the Guildmaster about them; in the VGA version, they're all arrayed in the dialogue in front of me. And in this later version, there's no need to write down passwords such as "HUT OF BROWN NOW SIT DOWN" because you know the game will have it waiting there for you when the time comes.

The point-and-click interface hurts more than just dialogue. On a screen where you have to catch a seed being spit about by plants, in the earlier version you had to figure out the puzzle by typing CLIMB on the right rock and then CATCH SEED when it was in the right position. Now you just click on stuff with the hand. It wasn't a tough puzzle in the first place, and the new interface makes it essentially impossible to screw up.

There are some advantages, though. Obviously, the graphics look nicer. I didn't think they looked so bad in the EGA version, but they look beautiful here. Moreover, the developers took the time to re-design some screens that might have been confusing the first time. The bear cave is a good example. In the EGA version, it wasn't clear that there was a passage behind the bear, where in this version you couldn't possibly miss it.


Note the difference.

Some other comparison screens:

Fighting a mantray.


Defeating Baba Yaga in her hut.


Proudly posing on the victory screen.

The second advantage is the time and effort allotted to responses when you "look" at things. Almost every discernible object on the screen can be activated with the "eye" icon, delivering at least some basic descriptive text. It's very impressive. The screen below, near the castle, has absolutely no purpose. You can't enter the barracks and the guard has nothing to say to you. Nonetheless, there are separate descriptions for all of the objects on the screen: the chimney, the castle's central keep, the garden area, the exterior wall, the turret, the empty wagon, the guard, the barracks building, the crest above the door, the door itself, the pot in the corner, the door in the leftmost turret, and the watering trough. Every screen is like this to some degree.


As I mentioned, sound is improved for contemporary sound cards, and this is one game where I keep the sound and music active. We were just talking about background music in the context of Dragonflight, and I was saying that I didn't like it and usually turned it off. Quest for Glory, however, uses music the way I like it--for accent rather than background. Instead of some tune constantly droning away, different leitmotifs punctuate different scenes. A little Persian tune plays when you walk into Shameen and Shema's inn; a haunted minor theme starts up on approaching Baba Yaga's hut; a pizzicato theme that evokes sneaking plays in goblin "ambush" area; a little victory tune ends a successful combat. I even think (though I could be wrong) that the combat music--which I mostly found repetitive--modulates keys and tempo as victory nears for one of the combatants.

The sound improvements also include some nice effects and background noises. Birds trill and crickets chirp as you walk through the forest, but sparingly and non-repetitively, so it never gets annoying. There are realistically-satisfying sound effects to accompany spellcasting, damage in combat, and a variety of other game actions.

If you've read my blog for a while, you know how I feel about a mouse-only interface. This one isn't quite mouse-only. You can still use the keypad to walk or run in whatever direction, and the "5" key cycles through the various icon options (as does the right mouse button). But I wish there had been more keyboard support. It would have been nice to switch from walk to run, activate a spell, and perform other actions with a mapped key.

The interface did cause me some problems, though I'm going to assume it's modern emulation rather than a problem with the original version. The "walk" icon often failed when I clicked on the edge of the screen (trying to leave), so I'd have to use the keypad instead. The command selection often switched when I moved from one screen to another, forcing me to fiddle around changing commands while my character charged onto the next screen in the meantime. The "movement" submenu (allowing switching between walking, running, resting, and viewing the character portrait) didn't work at all with the mouse; any twitch of the mouse after bringing it up would send it to the background again. I had to click on it and then use the arrow keys to move to the right selection, making it annoying to switch between walking and running. I also had a lot of freezes when trying to transition between areas.

I didn't really notice many differences between versions in terms of plot and content, though I didn't play as a mage last time and I'm sure I missed some dialogue options in the EGA version, so I don't know if any of the dialogue options here are new ones. The only major difference I could see is that there is no longer a treasure cave off the secret entrance to the bandit's hideout. There were minor adjustments to "look" options owing to the re-designed screens. Maybe you know some more.

The Three Stooges sequence was, alas, still here.

While I had a lot of fun with the game, I was slightly disappointed that the developers didn't use the improved technology to add a little more content, such as dialogue options that change depending on where the player is in the story. NPCs happily talk about the missing children of the Baron long after you've rescued them, for instance. I was also a little disappointed that the combat system remained essentially the same. More on that in a second.

These minor complaints shouldn't suggest I didn't have fun with the game. I won it in a couple of long sessions totaling around 4 hours. (I still remembered all the puzzles from the last time I played.) Much of this time was spent in training, building my attributes and skills. This is the dynamic that gives the game its strongest RPG credentials, and I love it. Few other games offer such a satisfying sense of character progression, with various activities simultaneously increasing skills and their associated attributes. For instance, climbing a tree will raise the "climbing" skill as well as dexterity and strength. This is one of the few games that allows you to "grind" your character without necessarily engaging in combat. You can climb trees and walls, run back and forth, throw daggers and rocks at a target, train with the castle's weaponmaster, spend a few hours mucking out a stable, cast spells over and over, and engage in several other tasks to engender improvements in various skills and statistics.

Working in the stables builds strength. And you get 5 silvers for it!

Of course, combat is a major part of the game, with goblins, cheetaurs, bandits, trolls, mantrays, and sauruses--half of these original creations--wandering the wilds. It's enormously satisfying to progress, in a few hours' time, from barely being able to stand up against a goblin to taking on several trolls in a row. If the game world was larger and the game longer, I'd say that character progression happens too quickly, but in this game it fits the size perfectly.

Standing my own against a troll. The interface is on the "spell" portion.

The combat mechanic still leaves me a little lukewarm. Fighters have one screen with four options: swing, thrust, parry, and dodge. Mages have a second screen with three spells--"flame dart" (like a magic missile), "zap" (charges a weapon with electricity for the next strike), and "dazzle" (temporarily stuns)--plus an "escape" icon. Fortunately, these options are mapped to the keypad, so you don't have to click around a lot during combat. The "5" key switches between the two selections.

Battling a cheetaur, perhaps the game's most interesting creation. This time, I'm on the weapon interface.

Fighting as a spellcaster, I tried to cast a few "flame darts" and one "zap" (I got "dazzle" very late) before switching over to the weapon pad. There's really no way to play combats as a pure spellcaster until late in the game; you always run out of spell points before the enemy dies. Everyone has to learn how to use a weapon.

It's not true, as some have said, that there's no strategy to the combat. Different foes move in different ways, and you do have to watch their actions to know the best times to swing, thrust, dodge, or parry--at least, if you want to get out of combat with a minimum hit point loss. The primary problem is that dodging and parrying are essentially useless. They just consume stamina points while offering little advantage. It's easier to counter-attack and get the enemy on the ropes than to anticipate, time, and evade or block the enemy's own attack. Nonetheless, I tried to work a lot of dodging and parrying into combat just to build those skills.

When I set out, I had a vague plan to get all my skills and statistics up to 100, but it gets harder to grind them as the game goes on, and I decided to stop when most were between 55 and 80. Characters created in Quest for Glory II start with around 40-70, so that should give me a little advantage while not breaking the second game.

My character towards the end.

The economy remains quite strong throughout the game, especially for a mage, who needs a stock of health, stamina, and magic potions. I ended the game nearly broke.

Exactly.

Perhaps most important, the game's wit and humor is generally enjoyable throughout. I assume this mostly comes from Lori Ann and Corey Cole, though I don't know how much the other programmers contributed. Some of it is in dialogue, such as the beggar who regards begging as his "business" or the interplay between Erasmus and his familiar, Fenrus. Much of it simply springs from the game scenario itself. I love how I received repeated warnings not to drink Dragon's Breath (an instantly-fatal brew in the tavern) except from the one truly "evil" NPC. I laughed when the provisioner was reading a book titled Quest for Glory: A Hero's Death, and when my character tripped on some mushrooms. Some of the humor comes from the interface, such as how clicking on yourself with the "speak" icon produces this:


There are a lot of witty literary allusions--Shakespeare is a favorite--in both NPC dialogue and the manual. Finally, a lot of the humor comes from the various ways you can hurt or kill yourself, such as trying to run on ice, standing in front of 'Enry the 'Ermit's door when he swings it open, drinking Dragon's Breath, standing under Baba Yaga's hut when you command it to sit down, and attacking the white stag in the forest (the Dryad turns you into one). A new one I found this time was waiting too long to go under the portcullis after the gate guard opens it for you.


There are times that the humor is too broad, nonsensical, or goofy for my tastes . . .



. . . but for the most part, it works very well for the setting and kept me grinning through the game.

Ah, puns: the refuge of the desperate.

My newest experience playing as a mage was defeating Erasmus in "Mage's Maze," an interesting but often-infuriating mini-game in which the player and his opponent each try to coerce and cajole a little randomly-moving "bug" from a starting point to an exit. This is done by using the "open" spell to remove boulders, the "fetch" spell to move ladders and bridges, the "flame" spell to draw the creature closer to something, and the "trigger" spell to change the bug's size so it can fit through tunnels or climb ladders. The game consumes a lot of magic power, so you need to have several potions at hand to re-fuel during the contest, and I didn't have enough money until late in the game. Erasmus isn't a particularly difficult opponent; the problem was that I couldn't keep my own bug on the right path to save my life, and I kept running out of mana trying. I finally won on my tenth or eleventh attempt, and Erasmus taught me "dazzle." I rather liked the thieves' dagger-throwing mini-game better.

Playing Mage's Maze. It doesn't help that the two bugs are colored blue and purple.

I won with 499/500 points. It's infuriating, but I can't figure out where I missed that 1 point. I even consulted a walkthrough just before going into Baba Yaga's hut for the endgame, but I couldn't find anything I hadn't done that would be worth one point. I guess I'll just have to live with it.

I've already given a GIMLET score of 53 for Hero's Quest, putting it into the top 10% of games I've played so far. For the VGA version, I would give the same score. What it gains in graphics and sound, it loses in the interface and the level of challenge; most substantive categories remain exactly the same. I know some people hate text parsers, though, so mentally adjust it upwards by a couple of points if you're one of them.

Fortunately, I get to return to my favored interface for Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire, which I imagine I'll be starting soon. I'm going to let Trickster over at The Adventure Gamer take the lead on it. Back in 2012, we were supposed to play Hero's Quest simultaneously, but I had the week off or something and I ended up getting way ahead of him. (I think I actually won the game on the first day.) This time, I'll only offer each post on the game after one of his, even if it means I have to intersperse them with some other games.

On to the sequel!

See you soon in Shapeir. For now, back to Dragonflight.

79 comments:

  1. Hey! Is that... is that the Coles in the victory party scene?!

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    1. Yes. At the end of this one, click your "eye" cursor on all of the people, who worked on the game, to see their name and a little animation. Not a spoiler, since you already finished the game.

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    2. Ah, very good. I missed this. You have a limited time to click around before the game automatically takes over, and all the game NPCs simply say "It's not much to look at." Yes, all the developers are named and have a little flourish. Corey's outfit changes, for instance. All the people on the stairs are developers. The one hanging in the window is Diana Wilson; I'm not sure if that's some kind of in-joke. The one I took as Riker from Star Trek: TNG is given as Jerry Moore.

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    3. That's right - Jerry Moore (artist) was a big Star Trek and media fan. For Halloween one year, he created a Rocketeer costume with jets that looked functional. He was known for slipping at least one Star Trek reference into every game on which he worked. Since Lori and I also grew up on Star Trek, we had no problem with that. :-)

      I believe Lori is the one in the harem costume. She actually owns a set of belly dance clothing, but has only worn it once or twice. (Originally she got the outfit for a Lifespring "get out of your comfort zone" exercise.)

      I'm fairly sure the yellow and green outfit is on Richard Aronson, a friend who worked on the 256-color remake. The guy in the blue suit (front) is likely Ken Williams. I won't try to identify the others since there is a mouse-over to see the names.

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  2. All the problems you mention as "interface issues, possibly with modern emulation" I remember from playing this and other first-run VGA Sierra games. Particularly the fiddly screen-edge issues. "The hallway, Roger! THAT hallway! Don't walk to the middle of the screen and come back like you're gonna find something new there this time!"

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  3. While it won't net you a point, I don't remember if you tried lockpicking your own nose in the EGA version. That will get you quite a humorous death in this version, though only if you fail the skill check.

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    1. I did try it in the EGA version, and it does the same thing. Once I was already at a certain level, I actually used it to grind lockpicking.

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    2. As far as you missing point, the only thing I can think of is selling ingredients to the healer (mushrooms, flowers) and talking to EVERYONE (Zara, Weapon Master, Guildmaster etc.) even if your class has nothing to do with them.

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    3. In Quest for Glory II the most elusive points are usually the class-specific ones. You may have missed a small thief-related activity or dialogue. There are, of course, complete point lists available on Gamefaqs, but I've yet to beat any of the Quest for Glory games with a perfect score and enjoy not knowing what I've missed doing.

      Keeps the inevitable next 1 through 5 marathon interesting. Odd that I've been playing the game since the early nineties and still can't beat it perfectly. Oh well.

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    4. I found a point list here - http://tartarus.rpgclassics.com/qfg1/points.shtml. Most 1-point "puzzles" are for talking to people, but there is also one for signing the logbook in the Adventurers' Guild Hall.

      If I recall, Chet played through the original EGA version so quickly that he came up very short on points. He obviously spent more time exploring everything in this play-through.

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    5. In my first pass on the EGA version, I neglected to pick up the magic mirror before exiting the bandit's fortress, so naturally I missed a ton of points. But on the second pass, I got 498/500.

      I still can't figure out the missing point here. I've re-spoken to everyone and done everything else that gets one or two points, and nothing works. The only thing I can't re-do is speak to the weaponmaster, as going into the castle triggers the endgame, but I'm SURE I spoke to him before. Oh, well. It'll just have to be a mystery.

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    6. Figured it out! The first time you leave town after the game starts, you get a message about the breeze being cool and you're on your own and whatnot, and you get a point. But you don't get the message or point if you leave town by climbing over the gate at night. I'm pretty sure this is what I did the first time I left.

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    7. Ahhhh, the legendary "Leaving Town" sidequest! The most challenging of all!

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    8. Some games make that the MAIN quest!
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silent_Hill_(video_game)

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  4. In case anyone doesn't want to adjust to the EGA version after coming from this game, a fan-made VGA remake for QFG2 exists. Though I recommend any fan of the series try it, there's a lot it adds to the base game.

    -BelatedGamer

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    1. I recall getting steamrolled by a brigand in the remake, not knowing ahead of time that enemies now had throwing weapons.

      There was some sort of 'combat assist' option, but I really had a hard time of it anyway with the remake. I think I played up until the third day, then fired up DOSBox and replayed the original much more happily.

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    2. One thing about the remake is that it makes city navigation much easier.

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    3. Yes, THAT! The only thing I hate about QFG 2 would be moving around in the goddamn alleys. It's like Sierra did it specifically to torment players.

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    4. They did, the beginning of the game did say that you'd need something included with the retail copy of the game to beat the game. They likely meant the game manual, since it has the city map inside.

      The confusing streets were meant to be copy-protection, but it's easily circumvented by going outside the town and fighting a Brigand. With the coins you'll win from the battle you can buy the map without having to go to the money-changer first.

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    5. Ah, nice solution, Raifield! It never occurred to me that you could get the map without finding the money changer. Besides mazes being de rigeur in older adventure games, my thought was that you would have to map enough of the maze to find the money changer, after which you could buy and use the magic map.

      We also wanted to make the alleys more interesting (including combat encounters), but they were so memory-intensive we couldn't add anything to them. At least the printed map that came with the game is gorgeous (IMO).

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    6. By the way, fighting to earn money to buy a map is a good example of how role-playing games differ from adventure games. A good RPG has "emergent behavior" that lets players solve puzzles in ways not specifically designed/programmed.

      A dungeon master friend once complained that he had created a locked room mystery that could be solve in any of four ways - He wanted to make sure it was fair. The players found a fifth solution instead. That is what makes tabletop RPG's fun, but is very hard to pull off in a CRPG... except sometimes by accident.

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    7. Would "bashing the DM" be the 5th solution?

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    8. Corey: When my Dad designs problem rooms in his games he usually doesn't think up a solution, just puts in a bunch of tools there, since the players will do something unexpected anyway.

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  5. Such a fun game, I had been thinking of playing it again because it's been years, so it was nice reading about it. On my Amiga I had such a hard time back in the day, I needed an memory/coprocessor upgrade card to stop the game from slowing down when it became too graphically intense.

    I always played as a jack of all trades. If you start as a thief, you can put points in to everything else that is 0 and can then do everything in the game. Plus, those points carry over to future games so you can always have any option on how to play.

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    1. While it's true that a thief can learn every skill and you theoretically can play however you want, to get a full score, you have to do the things consistent with your class. For instance, in this game, you have to burgle a couple of houses and steal all the valuables. I wanted to earn points specifically as a mage.

      Also, I think some of the games have plot points that depend on the "base" class, though I might just be thinking of the last one.

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    2. Definitely: your class starts affecting the gear you can get, and that changes how other characters treat you, what you can nick, etc. Honestly, it's annoying.

      I remember III as being the worst, though I'm the least familiar with V.

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    3. I'm planning on playing along with Trickster for the entire series, and have a character in each class. I shied away from magic for my thief since I also have a mage going. I'm not sure how the differences progress, but the thief can't learn at least one spell: Zap.

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  6. Amblin Entertainment is the name of Stephen Speilburg's film production company.

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    1. Correct. That line was added by a programmer. I don't object to the reference, but think the phrasing ruins the joke. Lori and I tried to avoid hitting the player over the head with a joke or reference.

      We expected that every player would get some of the jokes, but that many would only be funny to players who "got" the reference. For example, we drew from the Marx Brothers, Monty Python, Firesign Theater, current events, and many other sources. Unless you had the exact same experiences as we did, you will miss some of the references.

      In fact, we might miss some of them. One of the programmers talked an artist into animating a dinosaur carrying a briefcase in reference to the "Dinosaurs" TV series. Lori and I have never seen that show. Amblin we know, but we wouldn't have written the joke the way it appeared in the game. We gave our artists and programmers a lot of creative freedom to have fun making the game.

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    2. That's the problem with giving artists creative freedom: they're going to insert references that nobody but them and their little friends get. Then the game comes out and they cackle, and forget about the game and move on to the next project. Meanwhile, the rest of us are stuck with dumb or incomprehensible jokes. Games are supposed to be for everyone.

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    3. @Anonymous: You'd hate the Leisure Suit Larry copy-protection scheme then. It involves answering questions based on current events to prove that you're an adult. The problem is that the "current" events occurred twenty-five years ago.

      Not quite the same complaint as yours, but somewhat related.

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    4. I did see the dinosaur. I didn't realize it was a reference to the TV show. Boy did THAT one get dated fast.

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    5. @Raifeld, I find reference humor in general to be a turn off, especially in games. It doesn't take very long for a joke, meme, pop culture or current event joke to become played out and irrelevant. Shows like Family Guy will be incomprehensible in another 10 years to anyone not steeped in 80's and 90's ephemera.

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  7. Your caption on the victory screen wonders if it's Commander Riker in the left-center, but the dude in the TNG-era uniform is on the right. Took me forever to find him.

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    1. Yeah. Left, right. I'll get it correct one of these days.

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    2. Just take away all the directions it can't be, and whatever's left is right!

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  8. Some dialogue is unlocked by other dialogue. Unlike the EGA version where you can take your notes (including the rhyme passphrase for the hut) and get to most any point in the game, the VGA version forces you to talk through some solutions so your character learns about certain events.

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    1. Interesting. I just restarted a new game, but the only clear example I could find was that the healer wouldn't tell me about her missing ring when I hadn't looked at the quest board first. Can you think of a particularly acute example?

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    2. Hut of Brown?
      Asking the Hermit about Erasmus (might not be possible if you hadn't heard about Erasmus from the Magic Shoppe chick?)?

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    3. I'm sure "hut of brown" is an example, although you get the rhyme from the skull directly in front of the hut, so it's not a great one.

      I just re-started and went directly to 'Enri, and he still has a dialogue option about Erasmus.

      It interests me because I think this WOULD be a good dynamic, and it would mitigate the point-and-click interface a bit. I'm just not convinced that the game implemented it in more than a couple of places.

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    4. My memory might be failing, but there aren't many places as you said. I believe you can't enter the secret passage to the camp if you hadn't overheard Boris talking about it.

      Hut of Brown is the best example though.

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    5. Oh, and I noted it in my playthrough of the game, but it's possible to get locked out of the hut due to the new dialogue. If you lower the skull gate before getting the pass phrase there's no other way to get it if you're past the point where you can pay Boris for it.

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    6. That sucks. Now I can't remember how it worked in the old version.

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  9. Out of curiosity, do you intend to revisit your general rule on "remakes" based on this? As far as updated rereleases go, they tend to have even less significant differences than this one does, so it may be worth considering the general rule as "they're the same game, unless experimentation reveals substantial enough differences between them." Granted, you'd have to decide this on a case-by-case basis (and updated ports makes the issue more complicated, as the original game might well be one you refuse to touch), but this might noticeably reduce your master list.

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    1. Yeah, I have trouble coming up with a general policy right now. I'll re-evaluate next time I run into a game with a remake.

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    2. Well, there is the Steam remake of Phantsy Star II (which, incidentally, I found out about only today), which appears to be a direct port. The original game came out in 1989 (Japan)/1990 (US), while it wasn't ported until 2012. Perhaps that could be a test case (as well as a prototype of console to PC ports in general. With more and more companies porting their back catalog, I would be surprised if the issue didn't come up again, and it might be a good idea to consider the problem now.)

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    3. Fine. "Remakes" don't get played unless they offer a substantially different content experience than the original game. If I can get through all (or most) of its maps, encounters, and puzzles with my memories and notes of the original, it's not on my list; hence, "revisiting" in this title instead of a new game number.

      Ports get played in the year of original release unless so much time has passed and so much has changed that they are simply "remakes." But a "port" needs to have been re-designed and re-programmed for the ported platform. Games that are simply POSSIBLE to play on other platforms thanks to emulation do not count as "ports."

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    4. First, your reply came of as quite irritated. If this is the case, I apologize, as it was not my intention.

      Second, I'm not sure I see the distinction you are trying to make in the second part. I don't think anyone was insisting that emulation makes all games "ports", or were you working on the assumption that most official ports of older games are just bundled emulators?

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    5. No, sorry, Noman. I agree that it sounds that way (particularl when it started with "Fine,") but I wasn't irritated. I was just answering a bunch of comments in a hurry.

      About PS2, that wasn't an assumption. In a previous thread, a commenter wrote about PS2 and PS3: "There is no 'real' PC version for either - it's an emulator + Genesis ROM on steam (released 2012)." If this isn't the case (I'm having trouble verifying), then the port should count.

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    6. I can't verify either way (as mentioned, I only became aware of it when it showed up as a recommendation), but further research shows it to be likely due to the way different releases of the collections you can buy it as have different games.

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  10. I don't think these graphics are better than in the EGA game, personally. They're certainly more painterly and colourful, but the EGA game was tighter and had more character to its art. I say tighter because 1. the artist(s) were very talented and 2. the method for making backgrounds for Sierra games of the vintage (AGI and early 16 color SCI) involved drawing with vectors of a flat color from the 16 or a dithered pattern between two colours of the 16. This gives a certain gestalt to the whole game, it makes it feel as if it's all made from the same material, whereas the VGA graphics are muddy and inconsistent.

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    1. I disagree that the VGA graphics don't look better, but I think you have a point that in the original game, the cartoonish graphics better complemented the game's theme and sense of humor. Certainly, the EGA graphics didn't look BAD.

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    2. I have to agree with Helm here, but this is always going to be subjective. I played Hero's Quest over and over but never had much interest in the remake, not that my parents would have splurged on such a thing! I believe that the look wowed me at first glance, especially the 'claymation'-looking monsters - but there is something about them that has a little less personality maybe. The EGA ones clearly are working very hard through the restrictions and constraints of the system, which gives them a kind of integrity already; the VGA ones seem to have more freedom but a less clear idea about what the game's aesthetic was supposed to be. I suspect also that the greater freedom in color and shade was matched by a pretty tight deadline. Whereas actual sequels in these series tended to take the VGA into account and plan for a particular look and feel they wanted - QFG3 in places feels a lot like this remake, but has certain totally beautiful sequences, and I'd say QFG4, Conquest of the Longbow, and the second Laura Bow game all feel really fully conceived in terms of graphics and sound sustaining a certain tone. Whereas HQ1 with these storybook paintings feels like an adventure-comedy accidentally playing dress-up as a serious adventure.

      I'm also just bothered by the way the perspective seems to slide around willy-nilly - those shots of the castle's front yard area just seem kinda...funky. But again, YMMV.

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  11. EGA is teh best graphix evur! :P

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    1. monochrome or gtfo

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    2. wtf u n00bz toking bout? Abacus 4 life, others r teh sux

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  12. Ha! I just found out that if you stand still on the opening screen long enough, Otto beans you in the head with his yo-yo.

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  13. Baba yaga is an old slavic folk tale.
    From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baba_Yaga :

    And some stories even have 3 sisters that all are called Baba Yaga.

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  14. "Hero's Quest ran into trademark issues with Milton Bradley's HeroQuest, a board game that would become its own CRPG in 1991"

    Not that this is wrong, but the original HeroQuest was a (poorly fleshed out) quasi-setting for the RuneQuest TRPG -- now largely forgotten, although it was a big deal back in the '80s. But for years, the RQ guys couldn't be bothered to secure the HQ trademark, so MB swooped in. But Stafford and co. reclaimed it as soon as MB let it lapse, and HeroQuest is still a going concern to this day.

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    1. Speaking of TRPGs that were a big deal back in the day, but languish in obscurity nowadays, in spite of their STILL being published in new editions:

      The board game on which the HeroQuest CRPG was based was in turn derived from Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, itself a TRPG offshoot of Warhammer Fantasy Battle, which was also the precursor of the notorious Warhammer 40,000. WFRP is still around today, but to hear the young punks talk, you'd think that 40K is all that exists or ever existed.

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    2. (Same anon here as the two above.)

      The point of my seemingly irrelevant aside about RuneQuest etc. was that this series was ultimately better off with the name "Quest for Glory". Not only does it sound better, but the fact that it broke with Sierra's pattern of giving almost every game from King's Quest I onward a Foo-Quest name, no matter how silly it was in context (Space Quest, Police Quest, etc.), is actually a good thing, IMO.

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    3. I never really thought about the constant repetition of "Quest" in Sierra titles. You make a good point, and I guess I agree that Quest for Glory is ultimately a better title for the series.

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    4. Corey Cole could confirm this, but my suspicion is that someone on the business side at Sierra (probably Ken Williams) insisted on making all those "Quests" because they figured that Quest should be the generic name for any graphical adventure. I'd bet dollars to donuts that Sierra really wanted to call Leisure Suit Larry some sort of Quest, but they couldn't find a palatable name (Nookie Quest, anyone?).

      There's an interesting paragraph toward the end of the Digital Antiquarian's recent article on Spellbreaker, mentioning Infocom, Sierra, and Origin's branding approaches toward their respective franchises in the early '80s. Some at Infocom wanted to call text adventures Zorks, just as Sierra was calling unrelated graphical adventures Quests and Origin was calling tenuously-related CRPGs Ultimas (and earlier, all things Dungeon had belonged to TSR). They must have wanted to dominate the market by turning their trademarks into iconic synonyms for their respective games' entire genres (think of Kleenex, Xerox, and Coke).

      Anyway, if those brand-pushers had all had their way, the Adventure Gamer would be calling himself the Quester, and you'd be the Ultima Addict. It's a very good thing that they failed.

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    5. Oh the painful Sierra brand shoehornings: Colonel's BeQUEST, ConQUESTS of Camelot...

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    6. At least we didn't get the Island of Dr.Quest

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    7. Yeah, the Sierra suits showed admirable restraint by not foisting upon us such gems as Gold Quest!, Manquester: New York, Codename: ICEQUEST, and The Questionable Machine. And when they could've justifiably "quested up" Betrayal at Krondor, they didn't. Go figure.

      I suspect that when Activision compelled Infocom to write those "interactive comic books", the Infocommies were expressing their contempt for Activision and Sierra alike by naming the series ... Zork Quest.

      Also, Legend's Timequest is a great game saddled with an absurd name -- I'm not sure what they were thinking there.

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    8. Let's not forget that they actually slapped "Quest For Tires" on a (lousy) action game based on the B.C. comic strip! I suspect they would have done it to Krondor too, but maybe ran into resistance from Feist or his publisher. OTOH they may have given up by the early 90s as most of the VGA games eschew this naming. Maybe someone told them it was actually making the games appear samey-er and assembly-lineish at precisely the moment that they were trying to stress the increasing diversity of play styles and audiences with the acquisition of Dynamix and so on. Heart of China really does play differently from Castle of Dr. Brain.

      In any case, just wanted to say I got a good chuckle out of "Manquester" and "The Questionable Machine." Surely though it would have been "Ice Chest Code Quest"?

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    9. if those brand-pushers had all had their way, the Adventure Gamer would be calling himself the Quester - actually, that's what happened in Russia: until fairly recently Adventure games were exclusively called "Quests" here. And even now this term is much more common than any variation of "Adventure game".

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    10. ... you mean Glorantha? Yeah, hardly poorly fleshed out. Quite the opposite. The Guide that got kickstarted a couple of years ago that is just starting to get shipped is two 400 page books.

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  15. Great game :) I find the mage class is the most fun, although I haven't played the entire series yet.

    That said, I have heard from some people that the thief class is the most comprehensive, in that it is possible to have some stats in every attribute at the start of the game, meaning you can access the most content in the game. Early on, the game series only checks ability, not class...any class can try to climb, for example, but only one with a nonzero climb skill has any chance of succeeding and/or increasing the skill.

    I believe the later games have class-specific content though, which doesn't depend upon ability points but instead depends on actual class...which I think is what Chet was alluding to when talking about his earlier playthrough with a Thief, although I haven't played the whole series from start to finish. I just wanted to bring this up though because if someone didn't care about importing character in later games and only wanted to get the most out of QfG1, playing a Thief allows you to do that most effectively.

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    1. What you heard is correct. Owing to the number of points alloted at the outset and the cost required to "buy" skills that the class doesn't normally have, the thief is the only one who can start the game with all of the skills, which means he is the only one who can progress in all the skills and access every part of the games.

      Nonetheless, as we discussed above, there are plot elements later in the series that are restricted by class rather than skills. Perhaps more important, I think it's a lot more fun to choose a class and role-play in a way consistent with that class rather than try to be a jack of all trades. I'd rather save other classes to play the game again and experience it from another perspective.

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    2. I remember Quest for Glory III was far better as a Thief character. Both for the story, and quest events. Getting the spear back to the African village was particularly interesting, and the final fight is awesome !

      Even tho I prefer mage, thief for QFG3 and Pally for QF4 really stands out and worth a replay imho.

      -- Francois424

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    3. Man, I never go adventurin without a pally, a dru-dawg, and a clerizzle.

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    4. Dru-dawgs is wack, da WIZ where it at!

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  16. I'm thrilled to hear that you'll be setting off for Shapeir at the same time I will. I just need to get through the challenging Altered Destiny before I can pack my bags.

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    1. No hurry. I'll keep watching your site for your first post.

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  17. Wow guys! I was just thinking about QFG and noticed this page as I was browsing... Its so great to see people posting about this landmark series as recently as last week! I am thinking I am past-due to revisit all of my old favorite Sierra adventures again. You folks got me all nostagic and stuff. This was my first (and is still my favorite) game series of all time (and I've played a lot)!

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