Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Fallthru: Hunting and Gathering

Hopefully, I can stop scrounging for food now.

Another six hours in Fallthru has produced little reward, but I finally feel like I'm getting the hang of the game, and towards the end I started to make some real progress.

I spent a couple hours just screwing around with sample characters so I could get a sense of the map layout and the game mechanics. The game's "odometer" system, which records the number of steps taken in a particular direction until you switch directions or RESET, helped with mapping. In addition to the starting city of Or'gn, I found the locations of three other cities: Slavhos, Odetn, and Forod, as well as a bunch of farms that dot major crossroads.

The cities and farms all took up a maximum of five or six squares, so there's really no need to map them separately. Cities all have a shop or two and a well, and most farms sell both food and grain and offer free water. 

I manage to kill a bird moments before I die of starvation.

With water fairly plentiful, the primary survival obstacle in the early game is food. Food, water, and fatigue tick down at a rate of 1 every 25 moves, and you die if any get to 0. Restoring fatigue is a simple matter of typing REST, although this usually has the consequence of depleting water and food. It's hard to get them all back to their maximums at the same time.

I finally found a good hunting area in the wilds to the northeast of Or'gn, where squal (basically quail) and rabir (basically rabbits) appeared at random or with the use of the HUNT command (which takes two hours). I learned to THROW KNIFE when they appeared. If I was lucky enough to hit them, I then had to TAKE my knife back and PREPARE the animal, which converts it to food: 2 rations for squal and 3 for rabir.

Hunting is a tedious but necessary process in the early game.

At first, I was just interested in getting enough food to stay alive, but it later occurred to me that I could sell it in Or'gn for 0.09 ems each (100 ems make a gold rall). For about an hour, I had to type repeatedly:

>HUNT
>THROW KNIFE AT SQUAL (or RABIR)
>TAKE KNIFE
>PREPARE SQUAL
>HUNT

After a while, I had a backpack full of meat. I sold it in Or'gn and repeated the process a few times until I had enough money to buy an axe.

A "navaid" is alas far in my future.

As I had been wandering around, hunting and mapping, I ran into a bunch of NPCs and warriors. I still wasn't any match for the warriors, I thought, but I began noticing the same names multiple times. When a warrior approaches, you can accept his challenge by typing FIGHT, or you can say HELLO and find out his level (along with a little bit of lore). I noticed that each named warrior had the same level, though sometimes different equipment, every time I encountered him. Many were Level 0 like me. I started taking notes.

Once I had my axe, I tried a policy of fighting any warrior who was Level 0 and didn't have manifestly better equipment. The strategy paid off. Through my combat victories, I got about 30 rall and swiftly rose to Level 3. I noted, however, that the number of rall you receive from defeated foes seems to be related to the variance between your level and theirs, and as mine rose, the rewards grew slighter. Occasionally, my hit points dipped and I had to YIELD combat and pay a tribute of a few rall to my opponent. A couple of times, I died and had to RESTORE.

Victory!

During this time, I had encountered multiple wandering NPCs and tried to help them when I could. If they asked for food, water, or ralls, I happily typed GIVE. Eventually this paid off when a little girl handed me a ruby. This was consistent with a bit of lore I received from an NPC that said, "Those who persist in good works are rewarded."

What goes around comes around.

I wanted to sell the ruby and buy a sword or some armor, but another piece of lore said, "jewelry of Faland has value beyond money," so I suppose I should hold onto it.

Lore is a vital part of the game. It works much as it did in The Land. Each NPC, when greeted with HELLO (the only dialogue option) plucks a random selection from a "lore database." I've recorded 38 lines so far. Here's a sample:

  • The emerald of Thun deciphers the runestone.
  • Hole-in-the-wall lies east of Biclif.
  • A warrior gains honor through clarity.
  • Rings can be obtained from the ringmaker in Triod.

There were three overtly related to the  main quest:

  • If you truly seek home, then you must learn how to fight Zugg, the most powerful demon in Faland.
  • It is said that home lies at the end of the golden way.
  • The golden way runs through Sorf.

Aside from providing direct hints, these bits of lore also give me some ideas for things to look up with the INFO command. For instance, INFO THUN (from the first comment above) gives me:

Thun is an ancient cavern, known to the earliest peoples of Faland as a place of great power and mystery. It has not been occupied for many generations and is little visited due to its remoteness and the forbidding nature of the surrounding terrain. It is said now to be a lair of felven. Rumors that the cavern hides a great treasure have long circulated.

Felven turn out to be "felines of unmatched power" whose attack cannot be withstood by any weapon, armor, or magic. Fortunately, they only attack on moonless nights because they avoid all light. Basically, they're this game's version of the grue.

Lesson learned: you don't want to be out in the wilderness on the night of the 15th day.

Some of the INFO entries have filled in a bit of the back story of the game. Some entries make reference to the "demon wars" of long ago and an ancient evil king named Morag. Unfortunately, although there are entries on almost every location, creature, and piece of equipment (making it one of the few games of the era with weapon and armor descriptions), there are no entries for some of the things that would be most obvious, like FALAND, DEMON, and PHARG (a creature I encountered underground).

Among the lore entries were this sequence:

  • The weyring is a remarkable instrument. If you have one, the command WHERE IS {place} can help you find numerous locations.
  • If you have the wit and courage to find the secret of Black Water Cave, you can wrest a weyring from it.
  • Black Water Cave is beneath a grass-covered mound.
  • A silver amulet opens the door to black water cave.

The "grass-covered mound" is somewhere near Odetn--I've seen it from the tops of trees--and I have a shovel that I can use to DIG if I get there, but I'm not sure where to get a silver amulet. I've seen them hanging around the necks of random NPCs, but I don't want to kill them or STEAL them, as wandering warriors attack immediately if you get "dishonorable" status. Laying down money and trying to BUY or TRADE doesn't work, and lore says "amulets cannot be bought."

Lacking other ideas, I decided to explore the catacombs beneath Slavhos, which according to INFO used to house slaves in the days of King Morag. Getting through the area involved a lot of juggling of the lamp, the bottle, and oil, but basically it was a 5 x 5 area in which I kept getting attacked by "Pharg" (no idea) but managed to defeat them (rising to Level 4 in the process). A single room led DOWN to a small chamber with a key, which in turn opened a gate that led to a treasure room with a ruby and 5 "ikons." The ikons were too heavy to take out all at once, so it looks like I'm going to have to tote them one-by-one back to Or'gn for sale.

Entering my first Fallthru dungeon.

Combat in the game is pretty rote, the only variables being your weapon, whether you're wearing "armor" (there's only one type), and your combat level. The experience looked like this:

>FIGHT
The savage horror aims a blow at your head. Nice dodge!
>FIGHT
You swing. Good hit! The nasty brute is bloodied!
>FIGHT
You duck under razor claws and deliver a powerful blow.
>FIGHT
You dodge too late. Claws rip your flesh!
>FIGHT
You strike, then take a blow and dance away!

In the end, I don't actually kill the pharg. I just drive it off.

After this, I have a few options, including continued exploration of the road network and a cavern beneath the city of Forod. In addition to a sword and armor, there's at least one item I'm saving to buy: a "flyr," which greatly increases movement speed and thus lowers depletion of fatigue, food, and water over long distances.

A few miscellaneous notes:

  • The only sound in the game is a startling system beep whenever one of the game's eight-hour periods rolls over.
  • I've mapped close to a thousand squares, but less than 1 in 100 has anything special in them. Most are generic descriptions, like "you are in a slightly rolling region of well-kept farms."
  • When moving down the road, you can't type too fast because you'll miss warriors and NPCs.
  • I guess you could make money by buying and selling grain, too. Most farms sell it for something like 0.02 per pound, and you can sell it in the city for 0.04. A sack holds 29 pounds and costs 0.45 to buy, so it would take one trip just to make a profit. Subsequent trips would yield about half a rall each (you can only carry one full sack at a time). I think hunting is easier.

The farmer spells it out.

  • Juggling inventory items is tedious and annoying. The whole process of trying to buy oil and fill my lamp was a comedy worthy of the Keystone Kops. To buy oil, you have to have an empty bottle--you can't buy ounces to fill a partly-full bottle. It has to be on the ground. So do the ralls that you're buying it with. Then you have to pick it up and fill the lamp, but the lamp has to be on the ground to transfer the oil. The bottle will hold 12 ounces but the lamp only holds 8. I naturally made mistakes at every stage in this long process.

Let's talk briefly about the book before I go. A few days ago, I bought a copy of Fallthru: The Mentat Warrior by game author Paul H. Deal. The paperback version is a large 678 pages; I read the equivalent of about the first 40 of them.

The plot concerns eight people from Earth, none of whom know each other, who wake up in an inn in Faland one morning and have no idea where they are. There are two men (including Martin, the main protagonist), two women, two young boys, and two young girls. All have been plucked from various places and times, and the only thing they seem to share in common is that most were fatally ill and hospitalized before they appeared in Faland. They wake up in perfect health.

Shortly after waking up, they meet a man named Engar, who explains that they're not on Earth, though Faland is similar in many ways, including a roughly 24-hour day and a 360-day year. It is occupied by a race of human-like beings who speak a form of English, and humans have apparently been mysteriously appearing once a year, in groups of 8, for about 20 years. No one knows why this is happening, whether the humans died back on Earth, or what. But while generally pleasant, Faland is a tough place to live, and the humans will be sold into slavery if they can't learn a trade, so Engar says that he'll be training them in fighting, first aid, scouting, hunting, and whatnot for the next month. Slowly, through training and testing, the group figures out what skills suit them best. Martin shows some promise as a "Mentat," a warrior with special mental abilities.

While the writing is perfectly adequate and some of the descriptive passages are quite good, the dialogue (the hardest part to get right) is stilted and sometimes cringeworthy. The eight humans don't talk, think, or act like real people who have suddenly awakened in a strange place. They accept their situation a bit too readily and express no remorse for the people they (presumably) left behind, nor for the inconveniences of being transported to a medieval-level society. Where I'd be alternately screaming, crying, swearing, looking for hidden cameras, and throwing up, the characters in this book happily wander off to breakfast (me: "Don't eat that! It's an alien planet! Can you tolerate the microbes? You don't know!") and sit around and ask questions like, "What kind of life do people have here? Do they raise families?" and "Do warriors get paid?"

Engar offers way too much exposition in just a few pages. None of the characters have any traits or flaws that make them feel like real people. Finally, at times it feels like too much of a game adaptation, with Engar referring to his combat "level" literally.

It's possible that some of these things change, or receive explanations, as the novel goes on, but I should probably avoid reading ahead for spoiler reasons anyway.

This switching back and forth has worked out for me pretty well. I'll keep playing Fallthru, but let's see if we can finish off Dragonflight first.


59 comments:

  1. This game is fascinating. Is this the first time that we have seen this level of resource management in a game? I starved to death an awful lot in the early Ultima games, but I cannot recall a game where you had to consciously decide whether you wanted to trade grain or sell hunted animals (or bake bread, etc.) to make a living. Most of the games have a more pressing plot, but right now you are simulating a subsistence hunter-gatherer!

    I wonder how far the designers went with this. Are there carts to buy that would let you transport more grain, making that option more profitable? Are there goods in cities that have different enough prices to justify setting up a small trade network moving swords from city A to city B? Fun thoughts at least, even if the designer did not take it that far.

    Is it conclusively a cRPG? It seems that you are growing and gaining levels and the items are not plot-related. And there are role-playing choices around how you get that amulet.

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    1. Yes, no question that it meets my criteria for an RPG, although it could stand to be a little stronger in the development and combat departments.

      I don't recall this level of simulation before, but then again, such mechanics aren't really normal in RPGs. There were plenty of simulation games during the same period that of course I'm not playing.

      No carts, but you can buy a mule to greatly increase carrying capacity. It costs a LOT, though--like 99 gold pieces--so I imagine that by the time you can afford to buy one, you're past the point where you need to trade grain to survive.

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  2. Oh dear, fear I've suffered the infamous comment-eating - that'll teach me not to copy to clipboard!

    This seems tedious but in a sort of honorable, satisfying way. At least, I can imagine taking pride in slowly progressing from hunter-gatherer to mighty warrior! Seems like all it really needs is an interface overhaul or at least some shortcut keys to get around the really silly bits that break the smoothness of the imaginary experience.

    Agreed with the comments on the last entry that brought up MUDs - I suspect these, at least the more roleplay-oriented ones, may have absorbed some of the audience and the creative energies that might have otherwise gone into text-based RPGs. We should probably also imagine these things as part of a larger body of the user's time: MUDs can't match the story- and puzzle- quality of a tabletop RPG (or a good CRPG) but they can provide a social "we're on a quest together" experience without having to futz with as much math. If you were also playing tabletop games at another point in your week, you might not miss the richness of the quest when playing a MUD. Scratching slightly different itches. Right now, Fallthru is reading like a MUD that nobody else is logged onto, but I can imagine the quest(s) developing a little more as your character becomes capable of actually pursuing them.

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  3. Rubies do not constitute "jewelry" but they do have value beyond trading them for ralls. I find it a tough call in the early game between stashing them because they're so hard to acquire and selling them because they're so valuable. I think that's good game design.

    Hunting is pretty lucrative at any level, but it's tedious because a low-level character sucks at it. (Also, spoiler or logic? You're killing tiny squal and selling them in a place bursting with food already. Not the right combination of supply and demand...) Grain hauling is easier to do, but the margins are low. Battling warriors is very dangerous but very rewarding! You haven't tried my favorite early-game scheme yet, so I'll refrain from mentioning it. Again, I find the trade-offs between all these to be nice game balance.

    I think you can fill canteens with oil. They're a lot bigger than bottles, so you don't have to spend as much time fiddling with them. Yeah, moving items around the inventory is the weakest part of the game. I'm still not sure how it could be improved without ruining the flexibility. Smarter AI to "do what I mean not what I say"?

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    1. A macro system would work wonders for repetitive text commands. Isn't there one built in to DOSbox? Or maybe it's an add-on or mod?

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  4. This is something that modern IF languages can easily streamline.

    "Before reading the book:
      if the player is not holding the book;
        try taking the book.

    Does the player appreciate this kind of thing:
    it is very likely."

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  5. Translation for those who aren't text-adventure veterans:

    It is very annoying when you walk into a room where "There is a book here."; if you command "> READ BOOK", it squawks "You're not holding the book." The parser should have you auto-take the book first, if it's takeable, or else make reading an activity that's independent of possession.

    Another howler is when you walk up to a locked door holding a key, and "> UNLOCK DOOR" results in "Please specify the object you want to unlock the door with." Well, what else?!

    It's really rich when "> HIT DWARF" yields "With what?", but "> THROW AXE", instead of producing "At what?", automatically makes you bean the dwarf (if present) like you're the Avatar.

    Little problems like this have a disproportionate impact in generating tedium and wrecking immersion in what could otherwise have been a fun and immersive game. More's the pity, since those errors are SO easy to fix.

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    1. I agree so much with all of these. My pet hate is:

      > You are sitting at a table in a large room. There are exits to the North and West.

      > W

      > You need to stand up first.

      AAAARRGGHGHGHGHHHH!!!

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    2. @Ben: How could I forget that one? I think I hate it most of all among all the foregoing.

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    3. @Ben: How could I forget that one? I think I hate it most of all among all the foregoing.

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    4. The Skeleton approaches...

      > Attack Skeleton

      With what? The Skeleton approaches...

      > Attack Skeleton with Sword

      Which sword? The Skeleton attacks... and misses!

      > Attack Skeleton with Long Sword

      You must draw your weapon first. The Skeleton attacks... and misses!

      > Draw Long Sword

      You do not have any writing implement or paper. The Skeleton approaches...

      > Remove Long Sword from Scabbard

      You drop your Long Sword and kept the Scabbard with you. The Skeleton attacks... and misses!

      > Pick up Long Sword

      You pick up the Long Sword and sheathed it back into the Scabbard. The Skeleton attacks... and misses!

      > Take out Long Sword from Scabbard
      You draw your Long Sword out and got ready for combat. The Skeleton attacks... and hits for 32 HP.

      You are killed.

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    5. Oh, how I hate when "mistake" inputs STILL increment the timer. A lot of the time, "mistakes" are things like these:

      > ATTACK SKELETON

      With what?

      > SWORD

      There was no verb in that sentence!

      > ATTACK SKELETON WITH SWORD

      You don't have the sword.

      > INVENTORY

      You have:
      a sabre
      pocket fluff
      no tea

      > ATTACK SKELETON WITH SABER

      I don't know the word 'saber'.

      > OOPS SABRE

      I don't know the word 'oops'.

      > UNDO

      I don't know the word 'undo'.

      > GET STUFFED!

      There are none at all available!

      > DIE IN THE PITS OF HELL!

      Are you sure?

      > YES

      That was a rhetorical question.

      > KILL SELF

      ***You are dead***


      And that's why people play RPGs to satisfy their "kill things and take their stuff" needs.

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  6. Japanese games are the bestJuly 1, 2014 at 4:10 PM

    Glad they are felven and not elven, because elves are always pompous jackasses: They consider themselves to be the superior master race and condemn anybody who uses technology because they are so close to the Earth or whatever stupid excuses they use for living like crazy survivalists. They are like a society created by Stephanie Macmullen and Adolf Hitler. I love shoving swords through the smug faces of them and paladins, who are essentially the same but slightly less arrogant.

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    1. Japanese games are the bestJuly 1, 2014 at 4:15 PM

      One of the many things I love about Suikoden is that the elf village burns down with everyone inside it: That is hilarious.

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    2. This got pretty dark in the first comment, and the second comment is pretty vile.

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    3. Oh, I suppose I'll leave it because it doesn't violate any explicit rules and he's talking about fictional characters, but I wish commenters wouldn't tempt me.


      JGATB, consider NOT coming onto blogs and making weird segues into unrelated material that makes people question your sanity.

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  7. I am curious about your impression of the text-based combat messages. We are doing something similar in Hero-U, inspired by a game I played at a convention some 20 years ago. I think they called it "Blood Bowl", no relation to the football-like video game.

    In that game, each player filled out a card with their gladiator's intentions for each round of the match. If you tried too many powerful attacks, your fatigue would result in making you helpless in later rounds... if your opponent survived them. The charming part of the game to me was the results printout - "The crowd cheers and awards Thog an ear," or "You attempt to dodge, but are distracted by a mouse running across the arena." (They didn't actually have that one, but color text of that sort.)

    We also liked an arcade boxing game in which a voice would call out "Body Blow!" It amused us because we heard it as "Mighty blow!" and thought that was a fun message. Since then, we occasionally call out "Mighty blow!" when someone gets a critical hit in a tabletop RPG.

    My question is, in a CRPG in which those messages will inevitably be repeated after a few combats, do those repeats bother you? Do you have any ideas for adding flavor text to combats without having it become annoying and/or cloying?

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    1. That was Punch Out. The closest home incarnation was Super Punch Out on the SNES. You could hear that sound over all the rest in the arcades.

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    2. Here are some of my thoughts on "battle spam" messages, based on a few CRPGs that I played as a kid.

      Knights of Legend (hey, don't laugh): Battle spam was verbal only, no numbers at all. Although combat mechanics were complex, the string handling was unsophisticated, so wounds were just called "serious", "grievous", and "terrible". After enough time spent playing, your eyes glazed over and you learned to read the whole message as a gestalt, focusing only on salient details like the wound's adjective, plus special endings like "making that limb useless" or "killing it instantly!"

      Castle of the Winds: As in most roguelikes, no numbers were shown during melee; at most, you could right-click on foes and get a verbal description like "A barely scratched Walking Corpse". But for a roguelike, CotW had a large randomized library of melee combat spam, some of which was pretty funny ("You mash the goblin to a fine red paste!"). It was fun to read when the game was still new to you, but it was less funny the twentieth time around, so you ignored the spam box and just whacked on enemies until they were dead. An awesome feature became pointless through overexposure.

      Bloodstone: Battle spam was strictly nuts and bolts -- how hard a character was hit, damage reduction from armor value, hit points lost, hit points remaining. Nothing fancy or gripping, but at least you got decent information.

      NetHack: Battle spam is so horribly dull that even now, I tend to not even look at it, although you can miss important messages that way. I know that I'm 'doing it wrong', but it's hard to be patient with "The soldier ant hits.", "...hits!", "...misses.", "...just misses!" A serious battle is a lot like the end of a page-turner book: you're just skimming the text until somebody dies; and the less gripping the text is, the more you'll skip.

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    3. The point of the foregoing is that, in my opinion, battle spam should *creatively* express useful information. Original-but-unclear is entertaining at first, but it rapidly palls. Numbers-only is pure gamism, but excitement suffers. TRPGs (and CRPGs!) go better when the players get vivid descriptions of combat. But, as Castle of the Winds showed, you get bored after seeing the same message a hundred times.

      So how do you generate battle spam that doesn't get stale? It should have a textual component with heavy randomization, plus some crunchy numbers in parentheses. I would implement it something like this:

      1) Make several classes of message to signify various results -- hits, misses, critical hits, marginal misses ("by a hair's breadth!"), marginal hits (glancing blows that don't penetrate armor/hide, or which draw a little blood), etc. With both dodging and parrying in the mix, you get a combinatorial explosion of possibilities.

      2) For each class of message, set up a paradigm sentence with various nouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives to be plugged in from randomized tables, MadLibs style -- for instance, a critical hit could be described as crippling/devastating/staggering/etc.

      3) When certain conditions are met, add dependent clauses -- for instance, when the monster's HP are below X%, begin with "The [monster] roars/shrieks/bellows/howls/etc. in pain/fury/dismay/agony/etc. as you ... " You could also randomly add cinematic flavor-text -- if armor turns a blade, maybe it sends off a shower of sparks, 10% of the time; or maybe when you miss a sentient opponent, he could taunt you from a library of species-appropriate insults ("The troll cries, 'I eat punks like you for breakfast! Literally!'"); or when he dies, there's some suitable text as he expires.

      4) Include some kind of numerical information in parentheses at the end so as convey, at a minimum, damage inflicted and remaining hit points. The player really wants and needs this info.

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    4. The end product would look something like this (I've put table-selected words in brackets):

      "Your blade [whizzes past] the [hobgoblin's] [ineffectual] [parry], [dealing] [him] a [mighty] [blow]! (-27, 13/40)" (a successful hit beating an opponent's unsuccessful defense)

      "The [brigand] [snickers] as your [ungainly] [slash] [merely] [taps] [him] on the [shoulder]. (0; 50/50)" (a marginal success doing zero damage against a full-health opponent who can talk)

      "The [mantray] [lunges] at you, but you [just manage to] [back away from] [the strike]! (DODGE)" (a marginally successful dodge by you)

      "You [deftly] [stab] the [cheetaur] in the [neck], and [it] [collapses] [lifeless] [at your feet]! (KILL!)" (a critical hit, resulting in the opponent's cinematic death)

      Granted, all this would take a fair amount of programming to implement it all, but at least it would never get boring; even so, if a player were in the grip of excitement and battle frenzy, he could just cut to the chase and read the numbers at the end.

      Anyway, that's my opinion. Thanks for reading.

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    5. By the way, I find it bizarre that Mr. Deal occasionally encourages the player with "Nice dodge!" or "Good hit!" Real adventurers do not need a pat on the head for their battle prowess.

      Also, I remember "Blood Bowl"! Mainly because initiative was re-established every round by having the players randomly draw PC tokens out of a ... bowl. Wow.

      You know, I always thought it was "Mighty blow!" in Punch Out, too. As soon as I read that comment, the voice boomed in my head, twenty-five-plus years later. That would be a hilarious way to kibitz in a TRPG.

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    6. Hi, Corey. The problem I have in Fallthru is that I'm not sure the text messages are representative of anything. Sometimes it feels like the game is just putting me through the paces before it gets to the inevitable outcome. I think I'd enjoy a variety of text responses that honestly reflected underlying combat rolls. Certainly, "Hit!" and "Missed!" are a lot more boring than "The goblin ducks and your sword sails harmlessly over his head" or "You drive the spear deep into the orc's thigh and give it a twist." As the player gets familiar with them, I suppose they do become a little repetitive, but unless you make them take up time to crawl across the screen, it's no worse than plain old hit and miss messages.

      I also agree with the anonymous commenter's multiple posts above.

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    7. @Corey - When the texts become a running gag, it will not be annoying. The problem is how to make it one. Wasteland's famous "*** exploded like a blood sausage!" comes to mind. Hmm... perhaps include such flavor texts from other noteworthy RPGs might be funny.

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    8. @Chet: You're probably right that this game's string-handling -- and probably its underlying combat mechanics, too -- aren't good enough to make the responses mean much more than "hit" and "miss", a lot like the troll fight in Zork 1. Keep an eye on how repetitive they get, but I'm guessing that the variations are nothing but chrome.

      @Kenny: Good idea about paying homage to other RPGs' (and other media's) battle spam. (Insert funny example here; it's late, so I'm not bothering.)

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    9. Oh, hey, I got one: If you kill a dwarf, he disappears in a puff of greasy smoke. The enlightened will comprehend.

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    10. The messages just have to serve their primary function: convey useful information. If I'm fighting something, and I keep getting "You just barely miss the dodging gnome.", I'll probably keep trying to hit him. If I get "You flail ineffectually at the nimble gnome.", I'll probably try something else. Likewise, "You barely scratch the iron golem." conveys useful information about whether your strategy is working. Maybe I'll switch to my dagger of armor penetration when I see that.

      Flavor messages, rather than ones that are useful are the ones that really grate over time. If I do 25 damage and see "You hammer the dragon into a pancake! ZOMG! He's totally mushed!" and then the dragon goes from 100% health to 95% health, I'm going to be pissed.

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    11. Utility is the most important thing, so each type of message should have VERY carefully reviewed tables (no stupid combos allowed). "You flail ineffectually" implies "Your combat skill is too low to beat this opponent; disengage or die." So both of those words must belong in the "You're outclassed" message's tables and shouldn't be used on a garden-variety miss, which ought to put your skill in a better light.

      You have to pick flavor that's just cinematic gravy, like "Clang!", and doesn't address the crunch of the rolls. Misdirecting the player (like "ZOMG you totally kill him until he dies from it!!!" when he's NOT dead) is manifestly not okay.

      The approach that I've described requires a lot of care and attention and QA from the dev team, but it's worth it in the end.

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  8. Japanese games are the bestJuly 1, 2014 at 4:42 PM

    It depends on the speed of the messages--it is best to make them go fast, especially if the game requires a lot of grinding--and the quality of them. Superhero League of Hoboken got it right, with hilarious messages for everything in combat.

    Also, if you are the Corey Cole from Sierra, I love Space Quest, Quest for Glory and Conquests of the Longbow, but please apologize to the addict for making him play Quest for Glory 2. I loved the first game, but number two is just performing fetch quests and inane tasks instead of puzzle-solving. I hate when R.P.G. sequels to good games turn into terrible, pointless drudgery: Dragon Age 2, Shin Megami Tensei 2, Castlevania 2--although the first one was an action game--Dragon Warrior 2--this is the exception to the good games part of this sentence's antecedent--Baldur's Gate: Throne of Baal, all sucked all the freedom, fun and relevance of the previous games out and turned into dull busywork.

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    1. I have to admit that I hardly see the messages floating by after a while, they fade into the background. Getting the timing right and having them be interesting enough to build character while still not being a disruption is a challenge! Good luck.

      As for the poster's comments about QfG2, I have to disagree. I just did a replay of QfG2 in preparation for the Addict's own posts and I found it (just as I did as a kid) to be a well-balanced sequel. Exploration and puzzle-solving were great, it had fun puzzles (except trying to levitate over the air elemental... ugh), and the switch to a timed game added to the sense of urgency-- even if there were a few days where the hero had nothing to do. A very strong sequel and I hope Chat's own scores reflect that. (QfG3 was also a lot of fun, but boy did I wish there was a way to make crossing the map faster. Back and forth, back and forth. Just started QfG4 and I do not remember the game enough to say how much I will enjoy it on a replay. QfG5 came out while I was in college and I somehow missed it, so I will play through it for the first time soon.)

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    2. Quest for Glory 4's music was absolutely stunning when the game first came out, though that is likely due to my being a lucky enough kid to have a Roland MT-32. The dialogue between the gnome and the bar patrons is still funny to this day.

      Too bad the combat system in QFG4 is so mind-numbingly awful. To this day I wonder why they decided to go with 'Mortal Kombat-lite'

      Quest for Glory 5 sort of side-stepped that issue by having combat occur seamlessly within the exploration, but I don't recall it being that great either. I should fire up QFG5 again as well.

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    3. I also loved QFG2 as a kid and thought the 'timed' quality, though frustrating on first playthrough, gave it a lot of replay value (over top of the multiple character classes) - you had the sense you were missing interesting stuff that you wanted to go back and check out. The only thing that didn't work for me was the city street maze, which the Coles I believe have acknowledged and shed light on elsewhere.

      For me, I have to say that "please apologize..." rings a bit rudely, but this isn't my party to patrol...

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    4. Thanks for the comment, "Japanese..." I'm afraid I can find no reason to apologize for Quest for Glory 2. In various player polls about QfG, 2 and 4 were most mentioned as favorites in the series. As those also happen to be the two in which I had the most design involvement, I feel pretty good about that.

      In fact, yours is the first complaint I've seen about QfG 2 except for the street maze. And that was really only a problem for players who didn't get the original boxed game, since it contained a beautiful and very detailed map of Shapeir.

      In terms of puzzles, Quest for Glory 2 is the most puzzle-intense game in the series. So I'm a little confused by the comment about "fetch quests and inane tasks". In comparison, Hero-U has very few puzzles in the traditional adventure game sense; it is about character interaction, exploration, and combat more than puzzles.

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    5. @Raifield: Your comment fits in with Japanese Games's... There is wide disagreement among fans as to which is the "best" Quest for Glory game. Certainly game 1 is the most innovative in terms of the Sierra game engine, but it also has the most "ordinary" RPG setting. The game settings and story lines are much more unique in the later games.

      As for QfG4 combat, some hate it, some love it. It is Lori's favorite of the series. We mentioned to the programmer (Henry Yu... brilliant!) that we enjoyed Street Fighter. And I had a casual discussion with him about how I would like to use fuzzy logic in some future game. A long weekend later, he came back with fuzzy logic based side scrolling combat in the Street Fighter vein. Players can choose strategic combat (with the game playing it out for them) or real-time arcade-style combat. Lori, who rarely played arcade games, never used the automated system. She loved the challenge of real-time mode.

      Anyway, every Quest for Glory had a unique combat system. I don't think any of them was perfect, nor was any terrible. But you will find wide disagreement among them in the fan community.

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    6. I feel that the first three Quest for Glory games kind of had the same combat system, or at least ones that were not wildly different from one another. Then the fourth came around and the vaguely isometric view of the first three was banished in favor of, as you say, Street Fighter. Just kind of weird and not a system I ever had much success with, either in QFG4 or the actual Street Fighter II game.

      The fantastic voice-acting and eerie environment of Mordavia easily overshadows the combat system, it's just always been a head-scratcher of mine as to how the thing came to be.

      Thanks to this blog and your continued involvement with it, that head-scratcher has been solved. Thank you for responding to my comment, I'm eagerly awaiting Hero-U!

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    7. FWIW, we did have a boxed copy of QFG2 and I certainly spent time poring over that map! I think if I remember right, it was only one time that I really got lost roaming around, when I first played it and didn't get the point about having to make a beeline for the money-changer and then invest in the magic map. Though you do have to walk to all the locations at least once before you can warp back, right? Amazing thing is I can still remember where most of the things were - astrologer towards the bottom right, WIT towards the top middle - along with sillier things, like much of Keapon Laffin's fish dialogue. One of my all-time favorites.

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    8. Actually I'd like to thank Corey for QfG2, because it remains one of very few RPGs to have an Arabian Nights themed setting, which is an extremely rich environment that has not received enough exposure in video games. So thank you for not only shedding much needed light on a fantastic setting, but for making it a damn good game too.

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    9. Japanese games are the bestJuly 3, 2014 at 4:38 PM

      I did mention how many excellent games he and his company made, and I wanted to tell him that I appreciated he and his company's contributions to the adventure genre without sounding like an obsessive fanboy. Nintendo's games aremostly excellent, but if Miyamoto asks, I will admit there are a few clunkers like Yoshi's Island, Wind Waker, Star Tropics and refusing to translate Mother 3.

      Also, maybe I went a little too far, but I stand by my opinion on elves. Suikoden has some of the nicest, least Narcissistic elves I have ever seen, and this is the dialogue with them shortly before their village is destroyed: http://lparchive.org/Suikoden/Update%2017/ Sounds to me like they are planning genocide on a much larger scale, and compared to the elves in most fantasy stories, these guys are practically the A.C.L.U.

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    10. I loved the QFG2 setting 2. But, like I said, the city maze was just not one of the best way to implement on that engine.

      Even with a map, I could easily miss a turn somewhere because my character was running past it or might have thought that the exit beside me immediately after screen transition is the last exit from the earlier screen.

      Had it been remade in the current age with smooth-scrolling, it would have been a lot easier to navigate.

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    11. Yes, even with the the city map it is still a pain to navigate. Loved the game, hated the way the city worked.

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  9. Yeah, genocide is roflcopter. Lolololol.

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    1. In re Suikoden, I mean.

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    2. > roflcopter

      LOLWUT?

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  10. "I guess you could make money by buying and selling grain, too..."

    A mundane option, but one I really like. Not enough games let you dabble with trading in a mercantile way.

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    1. I don't think those that do go far enough. These things are rarely taken into account:

      1) Existing market - If there's a need, then surely someone thought to supply it. Would the player's actions to enter the market be accepted? Are there regulations?

      2) Emerging market - Maybe it's a novel idea, but after the player character does it a couple times, surely someone should get the same idea. Someone who isn't saving up for the best weapon and just wants to make the food budget for the month could probably undercut the player.

      3) Market swings - From what I've encountered, most games have unlimited supply and unlimited demand that remain static (or at least partially, i.e. Town X always needs ore and Town Y always has it), but why wouldn't a market get flooded or supply chains run dry? A few modern games I've seen this not be the case, but I'm pointing it out anyway.

      4) Single currency - Not always a concern because games often take place in a single kingdom for fantasy games, but I've seen plenty of sci-fi games where everyone just uses the same "credits". I suppose "gold" is equally suspect as a common currency.

      Still, I like the concept of using all the parts of animals killed in the wild (food and skins). Definitely not enough games do this. I suppose to avoid all the inventory management.

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    2. Pirates! was surprisingly advanced in this regard, taking into account various factors of supply and demand, as well as external events like plagues, Indian raids, and so forth. Of course, it wasn't really an RPG.

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    3. Oh, how I wished that the Elder Scrolls games had something akin to real economy! They have a calendar, so you could reflect the agricultural cycle.

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    4. So far only EVEonline has anything close to your bullet points. and it's an MMO with full loot where part of your stuff (inside the ship) is destroyed if your ship is destroyed.

      Speaking of MMOs what does our esteemed blogger do when we get to an MMO era ? Or leave MMO's for another blog maybe ?

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    5. An MMO would be the equivalent of sailing this blog into a black hole. From our view he would never reach the end of the MMO, but after playing enough of the game (the event horizon, if you will) he would be irrecoverably destroyed.

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    6. Chet on MMOs would be mentally mutilated beyond hope of regeneration.

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    7. I've always suspected. Hence, their absence from my list.

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    8. MMORPGs, with the exception of the 1st version of Ultima Online, are an insufferable taint on the institution of CRPGs.

      I say "with the exception of the 1st version of Ultima Online" because it was truly revolutionary then, like how Communism would have looked like if it works... IN THEORY.

      That is, IF everybody acts like a socially acceptable individual. Ultima Online proved that there are jackasses and that MMORPGs should not and must not continue to have a place in the world. But no, just like Communism, it is STILL around for God knows what reason.

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    9. Weren't some of the early PLATO games equivalent to MMORPGs?

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    10. To the immediately preceding anon:

      Yeah, only in the sense that 1920s reefer is "equivalent" to 21st-century marijuana. Back in the day, amateurs were the producers, and they did it for their own amusement. Today, ruthless businessmen make it for a (very profitable) living, and they want to make darn sure that you stay addicted for life.

      Winners don't do MMORPGs.

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    11. Those are, arguably, MUDs at best. It definitely isn't massive. It could support probably 30+ (or a whole classroom of) players at a time and usually, you'd know those other players by name IRL.

      So, you don't get D&As (d!cks & @ssholes); or at least D&As that you DON'T know, ruining your gaming experience.

      So, just... don't touch MMORPGs with a billion foot pole. Avoid it like the plague with dysentery symptoms.

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    12. Griefing existed back on PLATO too, from people whom you didn't necessarily know. But griefing is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to things that make MMORPGs horribly dangerous.

      The Skinner-box-like way that they ration out levels, upgrades, loot, power-ups, and all kinds of other junky swag will actually rewire your brain and leave you jonesin' to score your next hit. MMOs are like D&D on steroids, and we all know how addictive such CRPGs can be for certain kinds of people, ahem.

      But unlike tabletop D&D, MMOs have no human DM/GM intermediary between you and the heartless corporate puppet-masters. Your buddies presumably have their own lives and schedules, but the MMO is ALWAYS there, so that, any time that you feel the urge, the fix is immediately available. And when you top it all off with the insidious practice of "free-mium", well, you're screwed.

      MMOs are the crack cocaine or crystal meth of RPGs -- not even once! Just say no!

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    13. Icewind Dale had a feature where certain goods would get less valuable each time you sold them to a merchant. So gems never lost value (The merchant can sell them to a trade caravan headed south easily), but goblin battleaxes lose value after the first few, since how many battleaxes does a town of a few hundred need?

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    14. I think Baldur's Gate II had the same dynamic. But I don't think either was terribly sophisticated. I think that after a certain threshold, items just lost 1//2 of their value and then stayed at the lower value for the rest of the game. It's not like it was constantly adjusting based on supply and demand. That would be something nice to see from an ES game instead of capping the daily spending limit for merchants.

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  11. Ha. Nice Galaxy Quest reference.

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