Sunday, August 24, 2014

Game 160: Ultima: Escape from Mount Drash (1983)

The game title is abbreviated "Mt." everywhere but the title screen.

Ultima: Escape from Mount Drash
Keith Zabalaoui (developer); Sierra On-Line (publisher)
Released 1983 for Commodore VIC-20; ported to Windows in 2003
Date Started: 23 August 2014
Date Ended: 23 August 2014
Total Hours: 3
Difficulty: Moderate (3/5)
Final Rating: 8
Ranking at Time of Posting: 2/158 (1%)

This is the story as it's been told in plenty of places elsewhere: In 1983, Keith Zabalaoui wrote a 3-D dungeon run for the Commodore VIC-20 and had it published through Sierra. (Sources vary as to whether Zabalaoui wrote the game independently and then offered it to Sierra, or whether Sierra approached Zabalaoui with the basic idea of the game already in mind.) Zabalaoui was a friend and colleague of Richard Garriott (he has credits on Akalabeth, Ultima, and Ultima II), and Sierra had been Garriott's publisher for Ultima II. Garriott thus granted permission to slap the Ultima label on the otherwise-unrelated game. (Some sources say it was done without Garriott's consent, but this seems to have been debunked by Garriott himself.) For the subtitle, the publisher chose one of the random dungeons in the first Ultima: Mt. Drash.

Technically, the Ultima dungeon is the Mines of Mt. Drash.

By 1983, the VIC-20 market was in serious decline, and Drash couldn't even be played on a vanilla machine: it required an 8K memory expansion and a cassette reader (most VIC-20 games were sold on cartridge). Sierra never had any faith in the game, only advertised it once, in the July 1983 Compute!, and only produced about 3000 copies on cassette. Sales were low, unsold copies were destroyed, and for years Sierra denied that the game ever existed.

The game didn't even merit its own ad.
  
(For a longer summary debunking common myths, I highly recommend Jimmy Maher's May 2013 article at The Digital Antiquarian. Keith Zabalaoui went on to have a productive career, founding Atomic Games and serving as lead developer for well-received strategy games like the V for Victory series and the Close Combat series, the latter of which was apparently so realistic that the U.S. Marine Corps contracted with Atomic to produce tactical training games.)

Naming the game Ultima had been a cheap attempt to cash in on the growing fame of Garriott's series, and while this didn't work in the way Sierra intended, it ironically worked decades later. Over the years--particularly as Ultima fame grew--Drash became known as a famous "lost" game. When copies first started to emerge in the early 2000s--one famously discovered at the bottom of a cliff in Vancouver, where some retailer had dumped unsold games--they sold at auction for thousands of dollars. Only about a dozen or so original copies are currently known to exist. For most games, we don't even bother to tally the number of known physical copies, but the Ultima title has made Drash undeservedly famous.

The Museum of Computer Adventure Game History has this box, famously recovered from a trash heap at the bottom of a cliff in Vancouver.

The box image was taken from an ad for Ultima's Sierra re-release.
  
The consequences of this undeserved fame extend to my blog, where, for the sake of its Ultima pseudo-history, I am offering an entry on it despite it being 1) not an Ultima game and 2) not an RPG. It is specifically lacking all three of my core RPG elements: there is no character development, there is no inventory, and combat is entirely action-based. Your character has no attributes, never finds anything, never gets any stronger, and doesn't even have a name. To play, I took time to find a VIC-20 copy rather than the PC remake everyone else seems to play. This VIC-20 version was presumably copied off one of the recovered tapes, though I haven't yet found anyone taking credit for that.

The back story, which is not referenced in-game and has no impact on gameplay, is that you are the prisoner of "the evil, wretched Garrintrots" (an obvious and weird play on "Garriott") and must escape 15 levels of timed mazes. The levels get progressively harder as you make your escape. Starting on Level 5, for instance, you have to find one of two gems before you find the exit. Starting on Level 7, the maze's corridors no longer appear on the automap. Starting on Level 9, monsters no longer appear on the automap. On level 11, you lose your compass and position on the automap, and Levels 13 and 14 require you to find both gems.

Level 6 in Mount Drash. You can see the revealed part of the automap in the upper-right. The X's on the map are monsters and the diamonds are gems (I've retrieved the one in the upper-right corner). My character is the blue circle, and the exit is ahead of him in the upper-left corner.

By Level 8, you can still see the monsters and gems, but the corridors themselves no longer appear on the automap.
  
All 15 mazes have you start in the bottom-right and exit in the upper-left, with the two gems in the other two corners. You have only 99 seconds to complete the levels, which are randomly-generated for each new game. Because of the nature of the random generation, some of the levels are remarkably quick and easy--at least until the penultimate two levels, when the need to collect both gems means you're running around the entire dungeon and fighting the timer.

This gameplay could have been exciting as an action game, but the lack of any other features makes it fall flat. You don't even see monsters or gems in the 3D view--only on the automap (at least until Level 9). The game could have strengthened its ties to Ultima by using the same monsters, but alas the two games share only "gremlins." There are only four other monsters in Drash, and they are unique to the game: floating orbs, dancing demons, phantoms, and purple slimes. Functionally, the different monster "types" make no difference, as they either die in a single hit or kill you in a single hit.

Lunging at some kind of beholder thing. I'm on Level 10 here--note the absence of monster features on the automap.

Monsters move to intercept you as you near them in the maze. On levels after 9, when you stop seeing them on the map, you have to keep a finger on "C," ready to use a timed thrust the moment you abruptly switch to the combat screen. Mercifully, the timer pauses during combat.

Combat is blunt and dumb, slightly reminiscent of Crown of Arthain from a couple years prior. You face off against the foe in a side-view. He minces towards you, the speed increasing as the levels get higher. Your three moves are thrust, "counterthrust," and return to the "ready position." If there are any tactics associated with this--such as the need to ever return to the "ready position"--I don't see it. The trick to combat is more to do with timing than anything else: if you thrust right when the monster has closed about 4 or 5 steps, he'll immediately die. I found that if I missed this shot the first time, it was virtually impossible to kill him after that. He'd keep encroaching on me, and none of the flailing I did ever killed him. I understand the PC version is much easier.

You start the game with three "lives," and if a monster kills you, you lose one. Fortunately, this also removes the monster from the maze. If you lose all three lives, you get a quick message that you've failed, followed by a new maze on Level 1.

Losing a life.

Beyond this, the only tactics you have are in the form of three spells: "Blast" destroys the wall in front of you; "Sleep" puts all monsters to sleep for three turns (allowing you to walk over them); and "Teleport" moves you to a new location within the level. You can cast three spells per level and "Blast" only three times in the entire game. You don't really need any of them until the last three levels, when they become vital.

When monsters aren't on the screen, the game displays your current rank, from "Qwimby" to "Questor," with a "Cadet" somehow outranking a "Corporal" on the way. I have no idea what a "Qwimby" is supposed to be; The Simpsons hadn't aired yet, so no help there.

Level 15, the last one, has no gems and no maze--just a long, winding corridor with about 10 combats, culminating in a flashing screen and a message that you've achieved "Questor" level. The game then resets and starts a new maze. A winning game takes less than 20 minutes, but it takes considerable luck to win, particularly given the mindless and unpredictable nature of combat. You have to get lucky with the maze designs, avoid as many monsters as possible, run past some with "Sleep," and get lucky in your hits with the others. Despite all of this, I was able to win "mostly honestly" in a couple of hours. I say "mostly honestly" because I used save states just before I wanted to capture particular screen shots, and I reloaded if a monster attacked and killed me while I was taking the screen shots.

The victory screen leaves me feeling nothing. Nothing.

I've seen some sources praise the music, which plays on a constant loop in the background. Among the selections are bits of Camille Saint-Saëns "Danse Macabre" (1874), Johann Sebastian Bach's "March in D Major" (c. 1722), and--during combat--Robert Schumann's "Knecht Ruprecht" (c. 1854). These are not in any way commonly-known pieces, especially (and sorry to trade in stereotypes here) by the average Texas teenager in the early 1980s. That he included them instead of something trite and obvious like "In the Hall of the Mountain King" is remarkable, although I can't say the VIC-20's sound capabilities do the music justice or sound good to modern ears. Still, if you're interested in the music, it's a good reason to play the VIC-20 version, as the PC port doesn't have any.
  
Lacking any RPG credentials, I expect Drash to provide one of the lowest GIMLET scores on record. Let's see:
  • 1 point for the pitiful attempt at a back story that makes up the game world.
  • 0 points for no character creation and development.
  • 0 points for no NPCs.
  • 1 point for the tactically-indistinguishable foes.

Of all the monsters to keep from Ultima . . .

  • 1 point for the strategically-bereft combat system
  • 0 points for no equipment.
  • 0 points for no economy.
  • 1 point for a quest that technically has an ending, but no actual plot.
  • 2 points for the graphics, sound, and inputs. The automap works reasonably well and the music is an original touch. But the controls are sometimes unresponsive and the blank corridors don't deserve any credit.
  • 2 points for gameplay. Too much is based on luck and I can't imagine wanting to replay it. It has the virtue of being short.

The final score of 8 puts it at the second-lowest rating I've given. To be fair, it never claims to be an RPG--it's much more an action/arcade game--and as a erstwhile VIC-20 owner, I think I might have had a modicum of fun with it when I was 10.

Because of its limited release, there are few contemporary reviews. A single paragraph in the July-August 1983 Computer Gaming World calls it "an intriguing adventure game because of its unique graphics and marvelous musical score," but it's not clear from the article (which is a long summary of available games) that the writers were doing anything other than parroting the press materials. Reviews from the post-rediscovery period have been far less kind, with Hardcore Gaming 101 calling it "absolutely, horribly unplayable," Ophidian Dragon calling it "truly, truly awful" in his "Blogging Ultima" series, and the one review available on MobyGames summarizing it thusly: "Without the Ultima brand on it, this game would be justly long forgotten."
  
Nonetheless, decades of Ultima fans have fallen for Sierra's cynical marketing gimmick and continue to fuel its legend. Despite his disdain for the game, Ophidian Dragon worked the story into a non-canonical history of Ultima in which clearing the monsters from Drash was the final quest of the hero of Akalabeth. Game programmer Kasper Fauerby produced a PC version in 2003. In 2006, Santiago Zapata (aka "Slash") created Mt. Drash: The Roguelike as part of the annual "Seven Day Roguelike Challenge." And now, look, I've gone and added to the unnecessary and unproductive perpetuation of the game's memory on a blog that's supposed to be about games that Drash is the opposite of.

Ironically, I'm leaving this faux Ultima for an Ultima clone. Let's see how Telnyr performs in comparison.

65 comments:

  1. This is the stuff of computer gaming legends. Not because it was a good game - from your description, it sounds pretty blah even for its time - but because such a rumor-laden mythos evolved around it. I'd heard of Atari E.T. catridges that were buried in a landfill during the Great Video Game Crash of 1983, but I'd never heard of a pseudo-Ultima game rediscovered on the cliffs of Vancouver.

    I really enjoy how you make the extra effort to research the history of these games, in addition to playing them.

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    1. I concur, and also thanks for reminding us about sites such as the Museum of Computer Adventure Game History. I've got a lot of games lying around from my childhood, probably should check if there's anything that some museum could use.

      Because I'm pretty sure that those will otherwise just get thrown in trash once I croak of old age.

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  2. Oh, seeing those line drawing characters again. Stupid VIC-20. Couldn't do anything worthwhile. Why did Dad have to get one for me instead of a C-64?

    Being a Texas teenager doesn't mean you haven't heard classical music before. Don't trade in offensive stereotypes, it's offtopic and it doesn't become you.

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    1. On the other hand, rib Australia all you want, we're a little harder than those delicate Texans. ;)

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    2. Speaking as someone whose hometown is a large American city that's pretty well known for classical music (on a nationwide scale, at least); who listened to nothing but classical music until age 17; whose parents also listened to nothing but classical, had a large collection of classical records (I'm talking thousands here), and constantly played different ones on the house's sound system; and who even got a degree relating to classical music:

      I can say without shame that I hadn't heard of ANY of these works before today, although I'm certainly not unfamiliar with the composers. Those are definitely "back-catalog" work, and I'm impressed with whoever had deep enough crates to incorporate them into this (otherwise no-account) game.

      And yes, especially in '70s/'80s Texas. With local radio and record stores being what they were then (and with no music by Internet), this stuff would've been unfindable.

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    3. Out of the three Chet mentioned, I have a CD with the Saint-Saens (I don't think that one is too obscure) I've played the Bach (not obscure if you play piano, but not common either) and haven't heard of the Schumann (although I've only played a little of his piano music).

      The essential point remains that Keith didn't just reach for the Greatest Hits catalog. I suspect he played piano music and picked stuff he had sheet music of.

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    4. All I can say is, you'd have to be almost comically easily offended to find Chef's comment there offensive. I would strongly encourage any interested parties to make fun of MY home state (Pennsylvania).

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    5. Well, that's what I get for not checking YouTube before commenting.

      Although I'd never heard Knecht Ruprecht, I do know the Bach and the Saint-Saëns well -- just not their names. They're classical warhorses of the kind that you wouldn't necessarily be able to place by name alone. I'm surprised Keith didn't use Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee". (I noticed Grieg's "Puck" in the YouTube playthrough, though.)

      Judging from difficulty level, it looks like Keith (and Jason) took more years of piano than I did.

      @GeoX -- Help us narrow it down: are you from Killadelphia, Sh*tsburgh, or Pennsyltucky? ;-) (Note: For what it's worth, my home state is a far greater disgrace. I spent most of a year in PA once, and I found it quite pleasant.)

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    6. Pennsyltucky born'n'raised. The state's not one hundred percent bad, I'll grant, but sometimes you just wanna shout, DUDES! We were on the WINNING side in the Civil War! Why can't you just ACCEPT that?

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    7. Texan here :-) No offense at all with the comment! (We are an easy target!). I like to say "there are stereotypes for a reason". However, Texas is a REALLY big state... and culturally very diverse...
      East Texas feels like the "South".
      North Texas feels like the "Midwest".
      West Texas feels like the "Southwest".
      South Texas feels like Mexico.
      Central Texas feels like the "West Coast". (I grew up in Austin, and there is a reason it has the nickname "Silicon Hills".)

      In terms of music... Obviously country music is pretty dominant in the state, but in that time period I could see classical having a place in Dallas and Houston. Austinites like to "Keep Austin Weird" - the 70s would definitely have a strong hippy influence there and the music that goes along with that (see "Willie Nelson"). Nowadays the people moving to Austin like to try and claim that, but they're really just a bunch of hipsters wearing skinny jeans debating psychology in coffee shops (with the wealthier ones living in high-rise condominiums along Town Lake). No, it's not Lady Bird Lake, it's TOWN LAKE. Of course there I go stereotyping and way off topic. :-)

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    8. Because the unreconstructed South is like some absurdly bitter ex-girlfriend: she won't let you forget her side of the story, she never admits that she did anything to precipitate things, and she periodically threatens to slash your tires (all because she can't believe that you've moved on). And you're all like, "Whatever, biznitch; I'm right here, bring it on."

      On the other hand, the exclaves of the "Greater South" (which includes places like Carlisle, PA, and non-urban Alaska, but not Austin, Texas, nor Alexandria, Virginia) are like the case where the ex convinces your sister that it's all your fault, and she's happy to agree to blame you, due to strictly unrelated grievances.

      (By the way, none of the foregoing is autobiographical, in case anyone was wondering.)

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    9. The preceding comment was for @GeoX, but it was rendered *non sequitur* by Clint's insertion.

      @ClintK -- All true, including the bit about the lake. (Somebody just published a book this month about Texas as a microcosm of the entire U.S., but I've forgotten the name.) Anyway, I'm sure that Jason was right that Keith Zabalaoui took piano lessons and had the relevant sheet music, which is how he knew these pieces and could transcribe them.

      Speaking of which, I'm surprised that the VIC-20's (pre-SID) chips supported polyphonic music. But then again, I always had IBM clones (starting with a hard-drive-less XT with run-time BASIC for an OS; thems was the days!), and anything but monody was beyond the capabilities of even my 286 (unless you cheated by using melodic fission).

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  3. The PC version seems to have slightly better, if broken, combat and a different level 15.

    The combat in the PC version is more about knowing the weak points of enemies: hit gremlins right in front of them, beholder-things in the eye, etc. Put your sword in the right place and the enemy is down in one. Fail and well just try again because usually the enemy will just walk into the right spot before long. Combat in the PC version is also fought with the timer on.

    The final level in that version seems to be a blank maze with small hall segments but the only way to travel is to randomly teleport around (with unlimited teleports for the purpose?). I have yet to beat that version.

    Now that I know the VIC version is different, I will go off and try to find/play it instead. I have this on my list to beat for every Ultima, so yeah, I'm a sucker for the branding too.

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    1. I suppose it's a testament to the Ultima series that we all feel compelled to play a title only tangentially related to it even though we KNOW we're being duped.

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  4. My friend bought a copy at a HAM radio show back in 1983. He ended up selling it in July 2006 and got $2705.00 for it. He had a complete copy. It was fun watching that auction end as the final price shot up. Plus its neat to say that he's in the Ultima Ultimate collector's guide on page D7

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    1. I'm waiting for it to show up on Pawn Stars. Someone walks in with a pristine box. Rick has no idea what to do with it. Corey suggests Googling the game to find out about it. The Old Man makes some curmudgeonly comment about computers.

      They finally do the search and find this site. Rick asks me to come down to the shop to help him appraise it. "It's sold at auction for as high as $2,705," I say. "And that was back in 2006." Rick offers the guy $125 for it.

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    2. There was already an epsiode where someone brought in the ultra-rare Nintendo World Chamionship gold cartridge (only five were produced, and they're worth in excess of $35,000). The shop flat out refused to buy it because they saw no possible market.

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    3. Nice to meet you, I'm in page Z3 ("Contributors") :)

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    4. And like Mt. Drash, the World Championship cart isn't worth it. It's just Mario 3 and a couple other games on a timer.

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  5. And now this fantastic blog made me listen to classical music for an hour! Thanks Chet. Always new interesting experiences.

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  6. It's one of the most valuable computer games of all time. Amongst Ultima collectors, transactions of over $4000 have been made.

    It's not Akalabeth, but it's close.

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  7. Hah, I as I was reading the article I couldn't wait to link to Slash's Drash roguelike... looks like ya beat me to it. ; )

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  8. Does the "beholder like thing" work any better as an enemy if you assume it is actually a Gazer?

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    1. I don't know why the author didn't just go with that, and "Balron" insead of "Dancing Demon." For that matter, why the "Garrintrots"? Why not "minions of Mondain"? If you're going to try to sell a game via tenuous connections to another game, why not strengthen those connections?

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  9. I was the author of that HGC101 article on Mount Drash that claimed it was "horribly unplayable", and I stand by that statement. But curse you, Chet, you've actually made me want to go back and replay the thing now. At the time I was playing the Windows fan-make due to being under the impression that no tape image of the VIC20 version existed, and I had no idea that the game had a classical music soundtrack. It's interesting trivia for a game whose only real value is as interesting trivia.

    What I wonder is what Mr. Zabalaoui thinks about the reputation his ancient juvenelia has accumulated in recent years, or if he's even aware of it. Would he be offended at the circle of loathing, or amused?

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    1. How come no particular author is credited on those articles? Some of them are quite good, and someone ought to get a byline.

      I can't find any evidence that Zabalaoui has ever been interviewed, even, on Drash. I tried to contact him, but all the e-mail addresses I could find are old.

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    2. Authors should be credited at the top of the first page of articles on the site, and author is a sorting category when you view the master article list. Are there any in particular that you aren't seeing credited properly? I can drop a line to Kurt and get those fixed.

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    3. Okay, I see you're credited on the first Ultima article. It just wasn't obvious to me that the entire series was written by the same person.

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  10. I think the Gremlin should be the Ultima mascot to keep female/feminine gamers interested in this franchise. Much like what Bunny is to Wizardry, Slime is to Dragon Quest, Chocobo is to Final Fantasy and... well... Might & Magic does not have cute... but they sure serve up a lot of partial nudity.

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    1. That's kind of a dumb statement there, as if the only reason women are interested in those franchises is because of cute mascots. Even as a dumb joke it falls flat.

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    2. Agreed, but it might be true of at least some subset of casual-gamer women.

      To be fair, a MUCH larger subset of young men of ... a certain variety ... are interested in certain franchises only because of cute girls. That unspeakable volleyball game series comes to mind, or anything with some Boris Vallejo cover art of a lesbian drow-elf stripper-ninja (that's some multi-classing!) equipped with a chainmail bikini and a bullwhip. You know that those guys are not buying the product for the realistic physics rules; what they want is Gainax gazongas.

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  11. Now I'm actually interested on how did Chet knew what those pieces were ? :)

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    1. To be honest, I only knew them by the composer. I had to look up the names of the pieces. I got into a huge concert music when I was about 25, and until I discovered my love for jazz, it was all I listened to. There was this great Teaching Company series of CDs--more than 100 hours, I think--that taught me the basics.

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    2. Would that be Robert Greenberg's "How to Listen to and Understand Great Music"? I just finished that series (6 parts, 40+ CDs worth) and came away with a huge new appreciation for that type of music. I'd also happily listen to another 40 CDs of Greenberg lectures -- that guy sure can talk about music, and his passion is infectious.

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    3. Indeed it was. It was fantastic. I listened to a ton of his stuff: "Understanding the Fundamentals of Music"; "How to Listen to and Understand Opera"; "The Symphonies of Beethoven"; "Beethoven: His Life and Music"; probably a couple others. I went through a real "Teaching Company" phase for a while, but I haven't bought anything since the post-CD era. I'm sure the courses are available for download. I should get into them again.

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    4. Oh, holy carp. He's got 50 of those lectures. For some reason I thought maybe that was his only one. I guess I'd better come up with a couple thousand dollars, because my library only has the one. I think I feel the way you feel when someone discovers a cache of early-80's CRPG candidates.

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  12. Wizardry doesn't belong in that group. Any female gamers playing Wiz aren't there to squee over the badly-drawn Vorpal Bunnies, let alone the (Bradley-era) nudity.

    (That said, I haven't played VI through 8, so I don't know what kind of kawaii-bait critters the non-Llylgamyn games have.)

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    1. Wizardry Online was painfully kawaii. The female PCs looked like they might as well be child-brides. Creepy! Sony Online Entertainment shut the game down, along with four others, earlier this year.

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    2. Ah, I forgot that one existed (briefly, apparently). I must have purged it from my databanks. I care about WRPGs, not JRPGs; ergo, I meant Wizardry, not Jizardry. Because I want Lahalitos, not lolicons.

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    3. I've looked into Wizardry online a couple of times over the last few years, and just browsed a few screenshots. Other than a fairly Japanese stylization, I didn't see many female characters that would have looked out of place in an Elder Scrolls game or as an Infinity Engine portrait.

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  13. I predict a very short post for Telnyr, which I finished in one sitting, and I'm no Chet.

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    1. Bloody hell. I thought I was going to be the only person in the world to have ever won Telnyr.

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    2. To be fair I only found out about it and played it today because of your blog, so you still have facilitated more interest in the game than anybody else I know of.

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    3. We're in a unique fraternity, then. My post will be up at midnight.

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  14. I see that the Addict has already finished Telnyr, so I just want to say that Bad Blood is probably not an RPG. There is no stat-based combat and no character development. It's more an action-adventure like the Zelda games.

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    1. There is no character progression but both the combat and the role-playing choises are affected by the character choise. I still consider it a rpg as there was such amount of inventory-based progression in the game and the quests were very rpg-like. I always thought of this game as Lands of Lore done better in all the ways. The post-holocaustic surroundings were done nicely, too.

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    2. I'll look at it for an hour. If I like it, I may make an exception. If not, I'll be glad to trim a game off my 1990 list.

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    3. Bad Blood would be way better if it wasn't for that horrible interface and tiny playfield.

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    4. If Bad Blood is disqualified that leaves only two 1982/1983 games before Secret of the Silver Blades. I wonder if Captive will be finished before SotSB is started. Maybe not.

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    5. Captive is one of those games that seems like it will never end. I think I'll still be playing it months from now.

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    6. Captive II especially seems endless but I never played it seriously enough to see if the plot actually advances beyond the first mission.
      I just mainly rampaged around stealing banks, killing innocent people for objecting that I stole their videos et c.

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    7. And while we're at it, Dragonstrike is even less of an RPG than Bad Blood. It's a flight simulator with dragons. The stats are about as sophisticated as the stats of Half-Life, there are hitpoints (of dragon and rider), and the "energy level" of the breath attack and the dragon itself, and a speed meter. Wikipedia says that there are RPG elements, but that's probably only because of the dragons and the setting (Forgotten Realms). There's no inventory, there are no real characters!

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    8. Dragonstrike might get a free pass because it's D&D :) My memory of it is quite positive, but I was 12 or 13.

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    9. Dragon Strike has digitalized scenes made by Elmore himself so it's an RPG by definiton. :P
      And Dragon Lance setting has absolutely nothing to do with Forgotten Realms aside from sharing the same rules and even those are somewhat altered in DL.

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    10. @ Petri R.:
      Ah you're right. My mind went from "Champions of Krynn" to "Gold Box" to "Forgotten Realms". But it's Dragonlance.

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    11. The Spelljammer and Planescape settings gave DMs a means of traveling between campaign worlds. I think there were a few short stories about Elminster hanging out with people from other settings, including Krynn.

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    12. [Edit: There was actually a trilogy which spanned FR, DL and Planescape called the lost gods; http://tinyurl.com/k9qgjsk]

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    13. @JK_Finland: I assume you are referring to Times of Lore, instead of Lands of Lore? They indeed have a lot in common (which unfortunately cannot be considered a good thing), if I recall correctly:
      -similar character creation (select from three possible "classes)"
      -no character development
      -pretty much same interface
      -same conversation system
      -same action-oriented combat system

      Although you can argue if ToL is an rpg at all, I think Bad Blood should qualify as well (at least for one posting)

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    14. Fenrus: Yes, thank you for the correction! I always found Times of Lore a boring chore, whereas Bad Blood was a much better experience, at least for me. It was somehow... smoother. And the story made sense, somehow... Ok, now that I think about the game again, I propably wouldn't consider it a good game anymore. But all those years ago it was a nice, shortish action rpg romp that didn't overstay it's welcome.

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    15. Wow, Times of Lore and Bad Blood are really similar! Same gameplay, similar interface (the hit point bottle of Bad Blood is a candle in Times of Lore). Though I do think that those are more action adventures than RPGs for two reasons: combat is not stat based and character development is very limited. When the Addict decided to cover Amiga games, I suggested Darkmere but he rejected it. Darkmere also looks very much like a CRPG, RPG-like quests, medieval setting, sword fights, a main character, but in the end, combat was very simple. You just had to push a button and the qualities of the character and the effectiveness of combat were not connected. The character didn't level up or improve abilities.

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  15. This game's Crowning Moment of Bad Production Values is when you lose your first life, and it says, "YOU'VE DIED GNCE!!" (G is the integer between one and two, I guess.)

    That "QWIMBY" thing looks suspiciously like a dig at some detested erstwhile classmate of Zabalaoui's, named Quimby. I can't tell if the W is an attempt to avoid libel, or just an astonishing failure of basic phonics.

    It's telling that nobody at Sierra saw fit to fix horrible typos or to change the first ranking to something comprehensible and non-in-jokey. Stay classy, Sierra.

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    Replies
    1. I just reread the Digital Antiquarian's article on this game. Sierra evidently thought absolutely nothing of this game, so quality control would've been a waste of time. That explains that.

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  16. I dare say Danse Macabre is very well known in Britain; but that's because it's the Jonathan Creek theme music.

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  17. I have never heard of Zabalaoui, but I´m still playing Close Combat a lot. Currently CC5's Winter War mod, which is awesome.

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  18. Great! Now Braminar (secretly one of my fave "trash" games, but don't tell anyone) is only 3rd last :)

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