Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Game 164: Dragon Sword (1990)

The game is titled The Dragon Sword everywhere but the title screen.

So far, we've seen a lot of descendants of Wizardry--including The Bard's Tale and Might and Magic--but few direct clones. That changes with Dragon Sword, a game that copies Wizardry so directly that the manual suggests that if you've already played Wizardry, you don't need to read the manual. 

Dragon Sword has you exploring a wireframe world with a party of up to 6 adventurers, each drawn from Wizardry's races (human, dwarf, elf, half-elf, hobbit, gnome) and featuring Wizardry's six attributes (strength, intelligence, wisdom, dexterity, constitution, and luck). The classes aren't exactly the same, with barbarians and monks added to the Wizardry-derived (and ultimately, of course, D&D-derived) fighters, thieves, clerics, and magic users.

Creating a character.

Navigation, equipment, experience, training, economy, and combat are very similar to Wizardry, but we have a few variances. Spells deplete a pool of spell points rather than fixed slots. The spells themselves are mostly different (more on that in a minute). There's no "menu town" at the top of the dungeon, but rather a fully explorable 21 x 21 map.

Dragon Sword also allows you to save anywhere (although with only one slot) and eliminates permadeath. A player who suffers a misfortune can simply quit and reload.

Exploring the town of Bralka with my party of 6. Icons indicate that I have "Compass," "Find Secret Doors," and "Light" active. A summoned familiar--an owl--leads the party.

The back story is told quickly and with no fanfare. The city of Bralka used to be a peaceful, prosperous place. Then, at some point, the dragon Oijngate (no idea on the name) came along and conquered the city and now everyone's miserable. The party has been charged with seeking the Dragon Sword to defeat Oijngate. 

Some text on the wall drives the story home.

The game begins in Bralka, which holds several shops, temples, banks, a guild, and a training hall. In the southwest corner, stairs ascend to the dungeon levels. Shops sell the usual selection of weapons and armor (leather, chainmail, maces, longswords, etc.) and you don't have much gold at the outset. 

The shop has some nice-sounding options for when I'm richer.

The game allows you the option of just walking out the front gates and ending things immediately, though it's a bit of a downer ending.


There are a ton of random encounters as you explore, some with laughably easy foes (e.g., 1 fighter) and some with absurdly difficult parties (e.g., 6 bugbears, 4 warriors, and 3 goblins). You can "Run" from most fights but not all of them, and running carries a risk of the enemy getting a free round of attacks. Combat is the same as in Wizardry: only the three front characters can execute melee attacks, and each character decides on an attack for the next round before watching them all execute at once.

Planning my attacks against a party of enemies.

The manual indicates that the game features a staggering 30 dungeon levels, all (like Bralka) 21 x 21. The manual also says that every square is used, but there were a few I couldn't access in Bralka. Perhaps there are stairs down from other levels, or perhaps I need to wait for the "Teleport" spell. There's also a 5 x 5 area I can't access behind a locked gate, and I wonder if this is Oijngate's throne room and thus the site of the endgame.

The starting town.
Inns are notably absent from the list of services. There is no place where you can rest and restore hit points. This put me in a bind as I explored the city, and late in the session, I was reloading frequently as my hit-point and spell-point-deficient party found it difficult to fend off even easy foes. Eventually, I discovered that if you stand in a fountain near the guild, all your spell points get recharged, which you can then use to cast "Mend" spells to restore hit points.

I explored a little of the first dungeon level, long enough to see that it had its own name ("Perion's Place") and to get a message of terror from what must be the big boss there. From the encounters, it was soon clear that I was there too soon and needed to build my characters to higher levels (and better equipment) on the ground first.

An early-level encounter.

Fortunately, if I just stand by the fountain and spin in place, I can fight all the battles I want and immediately heal afterwards.

I'm getting there.

There are two ways in which Dragon Sword transcends its Wizardry heritage. The first has to do with a number of puzzles scattered about the town. On the town level, a voice in a dark and moldy tomb is looking for a word from "Galt's Domain." In another square, a jester begs me to "answer tried and true" with some sort of password; and in a third, I'm asked for a word of passage by a mysterious voice. My understanding is that I need to find these answers in the dungeon levels, and the manual suggests that the dungeon levels themselves have similar puzzles as well as numerous navigation puzzles. 


The second way is in the selection of spells, some of which are drawn from Wizardry (e.g., "Compass," "Light," "Locate"), some of which are drawn from D&D (e.g., "Stinking Cloud," "Friends," "Wish"), and some of which are original to the game. The manual tells you nothing about them; you're left to experiment based on their names. Some interesting sounding ones include "Holy Water," "Teleport to Stairs," "Open Wall," "Weapon of Silver," "Block of Ice," and "Burning Air." Perhaps the most interesting is "Familiar," a Level 1 mage spell that summons a small creature that you can name. Granted, this isn't a lot different from the summoning spells of The Bard's Tale, but I think it's the first time we've encountered a "familiar" in a CRPG.

This hawk turned out to be quite good in combat.

Dragon Sword is a shareware title, writen by two friends and roommates at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois: Tim Musa and Brian Tieman. It was published (like Falllthru) by PC-SIG, the California shareware magazine. The manual says that the pair was planning a "256-color sequel," but I can't find any evidence that this ever came out. I've written to Mr. Musa to see if he wants to discuss the game.

I don't know, though: this one might defeat me. Unless the levels are really interesting, it's hard to imagine plowing through 30 of them in my quest for the Dragon Sword. (And there are no walkthroughs online to help me cut corners.) I'll map at least a couple of them and report back. Thusfar, it's one of the better shareware titles I've experienced, at least if you can get past the graphics. If Mr. Musa responds, I'll be happy to send him the $15 license fee.

****

In list news, I'm toying with dropping Crystals of Arborea. I've checked it out, and it lacks the "inventory" element of my three core criteria for an RPG, though I admit that if it's not an RPG, I'm not entirely sure what it is. I gave it about an hour the other day and didn't like it at all, but I'll hear impassioned pleas to preserve it if anyone has them.

88 comments:

  1. I was kind of interested in reading about Crystals of Arborea because it is the predecesor of the Ishar series, which I have played and are without doubt RPGs (with inventories!). I can't really comment on Crystals in particular though, as I've never played it.

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    1. Same for me; a little interest but not quite enough to play it. Ishar is one of the only games to ever make me nauseous, incidentally.

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    2. I skipped it when it came up on my own chronological play list, but I wrote the comment "Sounds too weird/French".

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    3. Haven't played it myself either, but I recall it being described as 'battlechess with stats and some story".

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    4. While Ishar 2 is one of the my favourite RPG's on the Amiga, i hardly remember anything about Crystals, but i think that unlike Ishar it has turn based tactival combat, but i may be wrong.

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    5. CoA seems almost like a puzzle game with a Wizardry-style interface. I got it as part of an Ishar compilation on GOG.com, but never made it more than a few minutes in without putting it down.

      My only interest in seeing it covered here is that there's so little info on it around the internet, and it's supposedly connected to the Ishar RPG series in some way.

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  2. Yeah, I don't know if it's that important to plow through every shareware title out there. By 1993-95 there will be shovelware CDs with hundreds of such games.

    And it especially annoys me that someone could correctly spell the word 'palette' and yet misuse it for the word 'palate'. I mean, palette has all sorts of chances for error: is the l or t doubled, does a or e come after l, and so on. It just chives my cheers.

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    1. Fortunately, most of those CDs are lost to the mists of time, and it is almost impossible to get them working in a modern environment (many require Windows 3.1, which you *can* run in Dosbox, but it doesn't seem to work too well; or windows 9X, which is all but impossible to duplicate unless you have an old computer that's compatible with the OS (virtual machines generally don't work for gaming.) This is all to the good, as the majority of on-disc shovelware shareware were very very low quality clones of games like Pokemon or Final Fantasy, and the last thing anybody here wants is for the Addict to play bad imitations of games he refuses to play the originals of (as it would waste blog time without giving anybody a game they really wanted to see.)

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    2. Spelling was not their strong suit. They misspell "copyright" on the main screen, "divvy," "tarantulas" (unless they really intended to have the player fight an Italian folk dance), and "intelligence." "Defense" and "armor" use British spellings, though that might have been intentional. There's a level six spell called "Deamon."

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    3. If the misspelling of tarantula was "tarantella," that might be the fault of D&D, and not the game authors. There was a tarantella spider in one of the early versions that, if your character was bitten, would be forced by the poison to dance uncontrollably.

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    4. Many of my puns come from mishearing words and thinking of a funny interpretation before realizing what I actually heard. Tarantula/Tarantella could be an example of someone doing that. I frequently see humorous (usually unintentional, but not always) misspellings even in "professional" journalism.

      For example, yesterday an article talked about something "running the gambit", where they presumably meant "running the gamut". And there is a debate to this day as to whether the correct phrase is "cut the muster" or "cut the mustard"; I learned it the first way, but have seen references that suggest the latter is correct.

      I'm sensitive to misspellings, but try to get past them to the content of a work. If the intention is good and the article interesting, I treat the misused word as mildly amusing rather than an affront. I don't always succeed in this charitable response. :-)

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    5. ("in this" should probably be "at this") :-)

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    6. By the way, running windows 3.1, 95, 98 games can be done pretty reliably through a windows Virtual Machine. Eventually this is going to come up, so it's worth doing a bit of research. I successfully ran latter day adventure games like the Black Dahlia on VM and I was very happy to see that these games can also be preserved. I'm sure as the years pass this sort of emulation will become more reliable and widespread, just as dosbox has.

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    7. My pedantry wanted to say "He used my daughter to paint with? THAT FIEND!"

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    8. @Helm

      Virtual machines are terrible at running anything that uses a 3D accelerator card, primarily because the VMs that even allow them to be used at all do nothing more than "pass through" to the system one, which WILL be incompatible with a Windows 9x os. This means that a large percentage of mid-to-late Windows 9x games will be very difficult to run unless the've been released on Steam or GOG. (For example, Baldur's Gate I and II are nearly impossible to run on Windows 7, can not run in a virtual machine, and are playable only because GOG has the originals and Steam has the Enhanced Editions to solve this problem. Likewise FFVII and FFVIII require fanmade hacks to even install, won't run in a VM, but have fortunately been rereleased by the publisher in a more friendly format.

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    9. Coincidentally, I'm currently playing through Final Fantasy VII on a VM (Virtualbox) running in a three year old laptop, and runs perfectly. But yes, it took me a bit to make the game work after all the bugs that it presents.

      In any case, the time for the Windows games is still far away...

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    10. For just about every game I've tried to run on W7 there has been an easy to acquire fix.
      I can't stand FFVII unless I play it on an PS emulator with a fast forward function. So much of that game is boring down time waiting for the same old sequence of attacks to execute.

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    11. @Noman

      No, VMs are terrible at running games that _requires_ a 3D card. That won't likely be a problem until very late 90s or possibly even early 2000s. At the current rate those games are a loooong way off so the problem may very well be solved before we get there.

      Also, as Tristan says, there are an awful lot of fanmade patches out there.

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    12. Lots of the games for Windows 3.1/95 run very nicely on Linux with Wine. Basically, instead of trying to emulate the entire thing, it just translates all the system library calls to their modern equivalents. It even works with games that need 3d acceleration. If you run into anything that you can't get to run nicely, let me know and I'll see what I can come up with for you.

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    13. @Norman:

      Weird, I've never heard of any problems running Baldur's Gate 2 and ToB on Windows 7. With the newest patch and maybe the widescreen-tool from Gibberlings 3 there's no problem whatsoever. I actually prefer it to the Enhanced Version, which I also own.

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    14. Do you have the GoG version or the original discs? The GoG version is fixed, but the original dics will not even install unless you disable every bit of security in the system and reboot into safe mode. If you do that, the game will crash on startup. It is possible that this only happens in the 64 bit version of Win7, as that is not an uncommon problem for software. BG1 will actually run if you do that, but the color is terrible, the game randomly crashes, and files get corrupted regularly.

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    15. As a note: You should buy BG:EE from Beamdog (The makers of the game) not steam. The Steam version lines the pockets of their skeezy publisher who they had to work with due to them owning the rights to the original; the deal was supposed to be that Beamdog would sell it themselves, then the publisher put it up on steam without telling them. They have now worked things out so Beamdog gets cents on the dollar from Steam, but of course, the entire cost if you buy it directly.

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  3. This game is so obscure that it is not even mentioned once on the RPG Codex. That is quite a feat for a CRPG.

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  4. It's interesting to see another Wizardry clone and I'm glad you visited this one. But perhaps you shouldn't visit all shareware titles because, as we get closer to the present, won't there be more and more a proliferation of independent developers? Maybe a few notable or particularly influential or impressive shareware titles perhaps...

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    1. Agreed... to a certain extent. I don't know if Sharewares can be totally discounted. A good amount, of course, are literally worse-than-shit bad. But I'm sure there must be some hidden gems or a labor of love by a current celebrated developer.

      For those, I hope Chet can knock himself out.

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    2. I think most of the shareware titles that can still be found on the net should be good enough games to be remembered and preserved that way.

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    3. I think for shareware games the same rules should apply as for the World of Spectrum list, outlined in the Giant Problems article:

      I will only add games to my list if a commenter has had direct experience with the RPG and can personally attest that it meets my three core elements.

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    4. Given how much shareware we're about to encounter, I'd be perfectly okay with the bad or boring ones simply being given the boot. But if Castle of the Winds is not given a fair shake then I propose we track him down and force him to play the game Clockwork Orange style.

      I do like that Chet makes the effort to contact the developers and throw some money their way. I can't see anyone reacting negatively to being given money.

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    5. renke's solution is basically mine. I figure if it made it to Wikipedia or MobyGames, it was notable enough that it's worth playing. Beyond that, I need some personal testimony.

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    6. Regarding how to evaluate a shareware title, I would say play a small portion, similar to what was the 'free' part of the title back in the day (say 90 minutes of play). If it is a turd at that point, I'd say it would have been indicative that not many would have actually paid for the rest of the content, and you should move on. If it is interesting or different enough at that point, treat it like a regular game.

      Remember that these games had to grab your attention quickly if you were to buy them. If they don't....sooo sorry...NEXT GAME!

      -Chris

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    7. I had first-hand experience with the following shareware titles and can assure you that they all meet your core criteria: Aethra Chronicles, Aleshar: World of Ice, WarWizard, Enchantasy, Nahlakh, Ultizurk series (at least the third installment, I don't remember earlier ones that well), Excelsior series (quite simplistic overall but still).

      Also, seeing that you've included Mac games up to 2000 in your playlist, I'd dare suggest one more from 1999: Cythera - a very good Ultima clone, that even surpasses the original in some areas.

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    8. Hey, I remember Castle of the Winds! That game seemed more like a roguelike than what I'd call an RPG, although it did feature saving and not permadeath. I don't remember there being any puzzles or sidequests, not much in the way of NPCs or dialogue, etc. Still a pretty fun game though.

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    9. No puzzles or sidequests, but custom character, inventory (GREAT UI to. Wish more games used windows you can put where you want, and have all the ones you want open at once. Imagine Dragon Age or Skyrim if you could have you, AND your companions inventory open AT THE SAME TIME! @.@), and non-plot based items. I don't think Chet will love it, but it finishes quickly enough it won't wear out it's welcome (I think I beat it in 2 days, and I was taking the time to magic map/detect treasure every level; If Chet beats it in under 6 hours, I will not be surprised, and I think he'll have fun doing so. Also, the creator was very nice when I emailed him a few years ago.

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  5. Honestly say that I feel a little disappointed when you write about the possibility of not playing "Crystals of Arborea". I've been waiting a long time for this title ...

    It seems that the network does not have guides or tutorials to "Ishar0". Even on youtube you will not find anything beyond short demonstration videos. Do not therefore beckons you be the first :)

    I'm surprised that the game has no inventory. I thought it was a typical CRPG.


    I have a suggestion.

    If you do not want to try to finish it, you could even give him a chance, say a couple of hours and write about these experiences at least one post.

    If only for the fact that it is the ancestor of Ishar series.

    Regards

    reader

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    1. The best thing of that suggestion is that Crystals of Arborea can be won in a couple of hours

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    2. If that's the case, I suppose I can be bothered to produce one posting on it. In the initial phases, it really struck me as quite dumb. If anyone who's played it comes along, is there any actual PURPOSE to the 3D view? I agree that it looks cool, but I don't understand what it's for.

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    3. I played it on my own little quest, but gave up on it pretty quickly (You can read my thoughts on it here: http://blog.keeki.com/2014/04/crystals-are-boring.html). You can only move the prince via the 3D view (I have no idea why), and you need him in order to pick up crystals. For the other characters, you switch to 3D view so you can see things like towers. It's also a requirement for any dungeons, etc. You can pick up armour and other equipment (if you're the right character), so it does have an inventory of sorts. I didn't enjoy the game, so I don't wish it upon you, but unfortunately I do think it's a game that you should play for the blog for historical interest. It'll also allow you to build up your bile ready for the rest of the Ishar series, which I didn't get on with either.

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    4. I played it as a child. I even bought it myself, which isn't true about most video games I had as a child. I don't remember too clearly, and yes, it may be there is no inventory. What I do remember is it had a nice level of difficulty for child-me. I retried for about 2 or 3 weeks beside school, then it was done. Then I replayed it to see if I could do better or reach another ending. I think there is one! I liked it

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    5. Also I read your blog, Ben. I think the major problem is the save-bug. I played the fully working original, and that makes all the difference. After you know what you are doing, you can do it a lot faster like shakao said. (Perhaps the tower locations stay the same?)

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    6. and now I played it again. Ok, I also don't see why the prince can't move on the map. Otherwise I still like it. There is something like a hidden inventory. You take objects and they improve your stats in battle. And the prince has bottles of healing water. The battle is tactical round-based. Your health points are the most serious problem. You can rest against fatigue, but other than the princes bottles there is nothing to heal, I think. So you should stay out of hard battles, but you definitely need experience as not all battles can be avoided. I also have a save-bug in that the game sometimes freezes after saving, but the save-file works. Also you can just use save states from WinUAE.

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    7. Summarize:

      > the game is a prelude to a series of crpg ISHAR

      > takes place in the same universe and perhaps on the same planet as Ishar games

      > has inventory - although you can't browse it (but you can't say that it is not there - what's more, I think that is interesting from the standpoint of the history and development of the genre)

      > you can buy it on GOG - the whole tetralogy for a ridiculously small amount (probably without bugs)


      And therefore

      In my opinion, as you omit the title, then your journey through the history of CRPG will be incomplete ...


      Full of admiration for the work involved and always faithful

      one from many

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    8. Yeah, I do kind of think that dropping Crystals would be the kind of decision that's going to come back to bite you in the arse when it's time to do a writeup on Ishar.

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    9. Why? Because it has some vague thematic connections? It's not like CoA is so full of plot that I won't know what's going on in Ishar.

      Anonymous, picking up things, having them automatically modify statistics, and being unable to drop them does not constitute an "inventory."

      I've already said I'm going to post about the game. I'm playing it right now, in fact, and I hate it. The next person who offers me some dumb justification for why I should keep playing is going to send me over the edge, and I'm going to drop it.

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  6. Isabeau the Hawk. Nice Ladyhawke reference :)

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    1. Thanks. Weird story: When I woke up this morning, I checked e-mail on my iPhone and saw your comment among several others. Almost immediately, while the comments were still loading, I realized I wasn't ready to wake up, put down the iPhone, and went back to sleep--only to have a dream that prominently featured the actress Nicole de Boer. I don't think it was a coincidence.

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    2. Check out the Julia Eklar song based on Ladyhawke. Here is one of the early recordings of it - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJI4V7FctTs. I think she has a newer version with orchestral accompaniment, but I'm not sure it added anything.

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  7. 30 levels!!!! Very cool indeed! I just do not like Wizardry's style of combat anymore.

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    1. I wouldn't call it "very cool." As I say in my next post, "[L]ike many shareware titles, it has an over-inflated sense of its own value. The idea that someone would be willing to play this game for 30 levels is just staggering in its hubris."

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    2. I like dungeon crawlers - but I can see your point. It could be 30 levels of excitement or boredom.

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  8. You titled it yourself in your "Recent & Upcomming"-List as "THE Dragon Sword". ;)

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    1. I did...because I hadn't seen the title screen yet.

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  9. Minor correction: "impassioned please" should say "impassioned pleas". There are plenty of games that defy genres, though, so it won't be entirely unexpected if one obscure game doesn't really belong to a genre.

    Also, I shot an email your way a few hours ago and this may seem impatient, but.I'm wondering whether you'll spill your secrets. I fear it may be marked as spam, however.

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    1. I didn't get anything in my e-mail that looks like it came from you, even in the spam folder.

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  10. I loved Wizardy :) Might want to try playing this one! Where did you find it? Is it available for download somewhere??

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    1. I'm not sure how comfortable Chet is with linking to warez sites on his blog so, just to be safe... Google "Role playing Games #4 - Old-Games.com". It's down that list, between Dragon Riders and Dragon Wars :)

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  11. Sneaky developer vs. Giuseppe: 1-0.

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    1. By the way, the moment I saw that first screenshot, I noticed the ridiculous version number, realized that they had set it to the irrational number e, and decided that the developers were smartasses. I see now that that wasn't hasty of me.

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    2. Brian, if you feel like contributing instead of just messing around, we'd love to know more about the game: your development process, why you made it, how well it did, whether anything became of the sequel, that sort of thing. Your colleague didn't respond to my e-mail, so I owe you a $15 shareware fee if you send me an address.

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    3. Messing around is more fun :)

      Actually, I just saw the the forwarded email from Tim a few days ago. I meant to respond but had a lot to do the past weekend. Tim had to go ahead and be the adult and commented some information below. I guess I can email you some additional information in the next day or two...

      ...and keep the $15. I think the game is disableware and only Perion's Place is playable...you give us $15 we need to figure out how to unlock the rest :( Besides...it messes up my taxes!

      Last tidbit for now: Oijngate was always Tim's character in adventure games. Mine was Jodvar who also makes an apperance at some point. Both names were created by mashing the keyboard one time when asked to enter a character name.

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    4. @Brian Tieman

      Hearing from developers like you and Tim below is always a great treat. Please stick around if you have free time. I'm sure we'd all love to hear more from you as the game progresses.

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    5. If I can figure out the key to unlock the rest of the game I'll post it here.

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    6. I particularly appreciate the information about where "Oijngate" came from. I was trying to forever to make an anagram of it. The CRPG-playing community thanks you for not following Wizardry's example and naming the characters "Mit" and "Nairb."

      By your technique, my next character will be "Alfjdosljnn."

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    7. Yeah, with only 5 vowels and their odd grouping on the keyboard, it's fair to remove consonants and add vowels as needed. It's also fair game to erase and try again! From your mash I would probably go with "Alfidos". Or maybe "Jdoslin"...

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    8. This comment contributes nothing to the conversation, but I wanted to pop up and say thank you as well for showing up both Brian and Tim. Welcome to the most awesome comment section in an obscure gaming blog in the whole wide world :)

      It is indeed awesome beyond words when we can get the developers of the games to show up and comment :)

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    9. The best character name I've heard comes from Robilar's player cheating at scrabble. They entered Quij, and were very good at scrabble so people were suspicious but scared to call them on it. Later they found they had cheated, and in revenge when the cheater got a crazily good orc companion, Gygax informed him his name was was Quij.

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  12. Guess I could chime in here as well. I guess the main answer to "Why?" Is just to see if we could. We were playing all of these AD&D-type games. Bard's Tale was the first. I still remember rigging back from the mall on our bikes after buying that at Egghead (or maybe it was Babbages). But also played all of the "official" AD&D games, starting with Pool of Radience. When we started in on the Wizardry series, we both looked at the I terrace and said, "Hey, we could do that." So we gave it a shot. A pair of Math / Physics majors that dabbled in programming. And Dragon Sword was the result.

    Then we graduate and got jobs, so no sequel came.

    The development process was fairly minimal. Pretty much just some coding when we should have been studying. But neither of us really did much of that. Finals week was usually spent at the arcade playing Gauntlet or something else. You should have seen Brian at Robotron.

    Having this brought up did get me to dig out my old disk cases and found that I still had two labeled "Dragon Sword" so I figure I'll bring them to work and see what might be on them. Just have to scrounge up my 5 1/4" floppy drive (and cable.)

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    1. What is locked out in the shareware version that's available in the fully registered version?

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    2. That's a darned good question, and something I am hoping o figure out by looking at the disks I found.

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    3. I believe only Perion's Place is playable...~7 levels.

      ...and Tim, good luck with the 5 1/4" drive. Even if you have the cable, it's likely for an ide bus.

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    4. No, I actually did save a 5 1/4" drive along with the appropriate cable. However, here at work the hard thing has been finding a computer that will work. None of the Lenovos we have (going back to 2006) even have a floppy port. I found an old Dell, circa 2000, that has a floppy port, but the BIOS only recognizes 3.5" drives. So, I have an old white box computer at home, I just didn't want to deal with getting any OS onto it, but I guess that is the route I'll need to take. I do still have the Compaq luggable 8088 in the garage, but I think it just had low density drives. Oh well, another day.

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    5. Thank you both for taking the time to comment. If what you say about the shareware version and levels is true, that was awfully sneaky of you, as the manual doesn't mention anything about it and suggests that if you take time to register the game, the only difference is "free hint support and notification of any upgrades and future sequels."

      On the other hand, that DOES give me an excuse to stop playing at a reasonable point, so perhaps I'll regard it as a bit of a blessing.

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    6. Thinking about the disableware thing more, we may have opted not to go that route. I don't think we had a plan on how to get people to unlock the additional levels. If we did, we probably owe some people a refund as I don't recall ever sending anyone anything to unlock the game!

      I've lived more life since that time than before that time so don't trust my memory! Probably we won't know for sure unless we can find the sources again. Even then, I'm not sure I can still read Pascal...

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    7. This is like finding an ancient manuscript that only a Methuselah could read... if that guy is still alive and can be found.

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    8. It's certainly possible to read the disks. There are services that will do it and I found a guy who sells a floppy to USB controller that would probably work. It's possible, maybe even probable, that the disks Tim found contain all the sources...one may even have a ray-casting engine I worked on for "the sequel". The question is if it's worth trying. The disks are 25 years old and may have physically degraded beyond use. Even if one could read them, the sources are Pascal and Assembler.

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  13. Reading the entire exchange from top to bottom, about finding the old disks, the disableware question, et.al., I actually feel giddy as a schoolgirl. What does that mean? Anyway, I want to bounce in my chair and giggle about the whole situation. It's awesome! Thank you everyone, tonight, for providing me with entertainment using nothing more than your own little lives. Makes my own little life feel bigger :)

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    1. Same here! I wouldn't be surprised at this point to see a post stating that Indiana Jones himself rappelled from a helicopter hovering over the Addict's house, crashed through a window, and handed the unlocked copy over.

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    2. @Raifield
      That's ridiculous. He'd never do that with such an artifact. It belongs in a museum!

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  14. Well, I was able to get the sources off of the disks. On a first read through I believe Brian's recollections are correct, as I an find no "disabling" code anywhere. As he said, I believe we thought about how to do that, but in the end, opted to skip that.

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    1. Yeah, I didn't see any disabling code either. So, play on ;)

      There are some easter eggs. Press one of +"b", "j", or "t"...our first initials...and you should get a splash screen. The code says the key but I had to use in Parallels on my Mac so maybe try if doesn't work.

      Encounters are random based on area. Each area of the dungeon has a probability of encounter. According to the code, there are 9 possible probabilities for encounters. The very highest should correspond to a 30% chance of encounter and would only have been used in limited areas. The other 8 zones range from 0.01% to 0.06% so should range from ~1/100 actions to ~1/17 actions. I haven't tried reading out the data files yet to see what it should be in different parts of the first few levels but what is being reported is too high based on what I would expect from the code :(

      As no one is likely to play very far in, I'll mention that there are some fun attacks by some of the higher level creatures. Aside from the typical sleep/stone/drain level, some of them can steal from the party or teleport the party away or even call for help :)

      There are 5 dungeons: Perion's Place, Galt's Home, ??Shit Hole??--don't quite recall the reasoning behind that name!, Tower O' Fun, and The Lair. Oijngate was always Tim's primary character, Jodvar was always mine. Perion was typically our mage. Galt was typically our thief.

      There are plenty more interesting tidbits (well, to me anyway!) that no one cares about. Turns out Tim also found some old disks with short stories and even a novel I wrote back in the day...yikes!

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    2. Ack! The board doesn't like the way I annotated the control and alt keys! Try control+b or j to t for the easter eggs. I had to use alt but I think that's because I'm on a Mac...

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    3. Thanks for confirming that, started on the game last week and looking quite forward to (trying to) play through :)

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    4. It would've been more charitable of you guys to just say that yeah, the game is only a trial version and you couldn't find a full copy. No matter what Chet said above, he'll feel compelled to play all 30 levels now.

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    5. As much as I respect the effort that went into making this game, I'm not sure you're gonna get much value playing levels 6 thru 30 unless you really enjoyed the first 5.

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    6. I take the weirdest things as challenges and I used to devour the old Blob crpgs... I'se gwine try to make it through. I "technically" beat BT1... (beat the end boss but never made it out of the tower and back because of something (30 yrs ago :) ) that crashed the game/power loss/sumpin'). Bad guy dead- I figure I won since I didn't want to refight the whole thing over again.

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    7. @william: I'm confused. In Bard's Tale 1 (Tales of the Unknown, Volume 1: The Bard's Tale), if you defeat Mangar, you are teleported out of the tower without any control in the matter, and deposited in the Adventurer's Guild, where the game started.

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  15. My first thought was the same as Whiner's. I can understand a dragon needing to eat... but using someone's blood for his doubtless bad paintings - that's cold!

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