Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Game 176: Space 1889 (1990)


I have been trying without success to find articles, testimonials--heck, even rumors--that would explain why Game Designer's Workshop gave Paragon Software the rights to make computer games out of GDW's tabletop RPGs. Did the principals of each company know each other from college? Did Paragon just make a really good pitch? It was a non-obvious choice. Where the union of Dungeons & Dragons and SSI was a match made in heaven, and Flying Buffalo's decision to go to New World for Tunnels & Trolls was perfectly understandable even if the result wasn't fantastic, Paragon should have been far down on the list of developers to turn anyone's intellectual property into a CRPG. Their achievements prior to 1990 were Alien Fires: 2199 AD (1987), perhaps the weirdest (and not in a particularly good way) RPG of the 1980s, and the unsatisfying Wizard Wars (1989). The company got a license from Marvel to do X-Men, a couple of Amazing Spider-Man games, and The Punisher, so perhaps GDW was impressed by that.

Whatever the case, in my assessment, Paragon bungled the job. Traveller and Space 1889 are both interesting RPGs with fairly large fanbases, rich histories told in numerous associated publications, and solid, skill-based role-playing systems, none of which are well adapted in the computer versions. Good computer editions of GDW's properties could have greatly increased their popularity and produced long-lasting franchises, but instead they fizzled right out of the gate, offering nonsensical stories, bad game mechanics, and bafflingly poor combat systems. (I won't see until next year whether Twilight: 2000 continues the trend, but I'm willing to bet that it does.) Contemporary reviews of the titles are best described as "lukewarm," and the games are little-remembered today. While Paragon's efforts didn't cause GDW to go out of business in 1996, they certainly didn't help.

The cover for the tabletop Space 1889 rulebook covers several themes from Victorian-era society and science fiction.

As with MegaTraveller, the 86-page manual that comes with Space 1889 is the best part of the game, outlining the unique universe of the tabletop RPG. The setting uses an alternate history in which the ideas of Victorian-era science fiction writers (and, in some cases, scientists) are a reality. The buzzkill scientific discoveries of the 20th century (there's no such thing as aether; other planets are not only lifeless, but lack water and livable atmospheres; traveling through space is really hard, long, and dangerous) haven't happened, so in this setting, we have steam-powered ships sailing through the aether to colonies throughout the inner solar system, and humans interacting with the crab-people of Mercury, the lizard-men of Venus, and pointy-eared Martians. A key element of the universe is "liftwood," a plant that grows on Mars and has anti-gravity properties, greatly facilitating space travel.

In the computer version, the player controls a party of five characters, one designated as the lead. The five characters, all with some archaeological background, meet in London at an exhibition of Egyptian artifacts. They overhear two men discussing the recent discovery of King Tut's tomb and a forthcoming German expedition to excavate it. On the spot, the party agrees to beat the Germans to the tomb and its treasures. Somehow, we're going to get from there to Mercury and Mars.

From the opening screens.

The character creation process isn't as fun as MegaTraveller, but it's still pretty interesting, and as with MegaTraveller, I suspect it's destined to be one of the more enjoyable parts of playing the game. The process begins by choosing a sex, name, and portrait for the character from an all-Caucasian selection. While the male portraits do look like characters out of a Jules Verne adaptation, the women all have distressingly-1980s hairstyles.



Space 1889 uses six attributes--strength, agility, endurance, intellect, charisma, and social standing--each ranked on a scale of 1 to 6. Each attribute has 4 associated skills; for instance, strength has fisticuffs, throwing, close combat, and "trimsman" (the ability to "maintain a liftwood vessel in proper order") and intellect has observation, engineering, science, and gunnery. For each skill, the character can achieve a rank between 0 and his level in the associated attribute (e.g., a character with a strength of 4 will never go higher than 4 in "fisticuffs"). As with MegaTraveller, I have no idea which skills are going to turn out to be vital for 1889 and which are going to be useless.

Each character has a primary career that automatically assigns a selection of skills and skill levels. I loved reading through the list of careers. There are 27 of them (some with multiple levels) organized into 7 groups: government (e.g., army, navy, foreign office); exotic (big game hunter, adventuress, reporter); service (actor, governess, groundskeeper); mercantile (inventory, mechanic, seaman); professional (detective, doctor, scientist); and criminal (poacher, smuggler, anarchist). There are attribute minimums associated with most careers (e.g., you have to have an agility of 4 and an endurance of 5 to be a big game hunter) and some careers are only available to characters with low social standing. Sex plays a minor role: only women can be "adventuresses"; the career of tutor/governess changes title based on sex; and technically women who enter military careers are assumed to be passing for men.

You can choose a primary career and secondary career, or choose just a primary career and then assign other skills from a pool of points. One career, "master criminal," can only be taken as a secondary career by a character who has a primary career based in crime. You can even create your own career and assign the appropriate restrictions and skills!
 
I was briefly tempted.

Attribute rolls are random and not dependent on each other, so with a little patience it's possible to create a character with every attribute at 4 or above. For my team, I went with:

  • Griffin, highest attributes in social standing (6; making him a member of the aristocracy), strength (5), and charisma (5). He had a career as a navy officer and develped skills in eloquence, riding, piloting, leadership, observation, and fisticuffs. I used the extra skill points to bolster what he already had and give him ranks in "trimsman" and "bargaining," since no one else had those.
  • Prendick, who had 5s or 6s in everything but social standing (2). I made him a big game hunter and developed his skills in stealth, marksmanship, travel, and observation.
  • Perdita, the only character to whom I assigned two careers. She could have done almost everything with her 5s and 6s in the first five attributes, but her social level of 1 relegated her to the working class. She became a thief and then a master thief, developing high skills in fisticuffs, stealth, crime, travel, observation, eloquence, and theatrics.

Perdita got a pretty rad attribute roll, if you don't care about social standing.

  • Dejah is Perdita's opposite: a detective with 4s and 5s in all attributes. She duplicates some of Perdita's skills but also has engineering, a little science, riding, and medicine.
  • Julian is the classic Victorian gentleman inventor of the group. He has very low strength and endurance (2s) but high intellect and agility. He excels in mechanics, observation, engineering, and science, and has a little skill in gunnery.

The completed party. I'm on Perdita's statistics and attributes.

Character creation is fun, but after that everything goes to hell. The game starts at the British Museum exhibition, with a long journal entry from the main character (in my case, Griffin), where he concludes that "I became a skilled professional in the [navy] career. But, after seeing these priceless treasures, I fully realize that I cannot hide from my true identity--I am an adventurer!"

The intro goes on to say that the main character overheard a German named Claus von Schmelling talking about an upcoming expedition to the Valley of the Kings. Determined to get von Schmelling's map, Griffin rounds up the other 4 party members, all attendees at the exhibition, and with little trouble, persuades them to join him.

The opening narration.

After the intro screens, the game transitions to London--perhaps better referred to as "London," a small walled city of trees, grass, ample cobblestone walkways, about 5 buildings, and about a dozen NPCs. No need to grab a bus to Amesbury; Stonehenge is right there in the city limits. And if you head outside the gates, you can walk to Egypt in about 30 seconds. Who knew England was so conveniently-located?

The main adventuring screen. The portrait and statistics show the character currently in the lead. The bottom of the screen shows the available commands.

So far in the game, I've been to London, San Francisco, New York, and the "City of Egypt," and all of them look exactly the same. The game makes no effort to evoke the feeling or culture of these cities in the late 1800s except in the briefest of nods to contemporary stories like the Whitechapel murders. It's extraordinarily disappointing to see such bland results from what could have been the richest of settings.

London contains an archaeologist who will identify found artifacts, a cave that you can't explore until you get a light source, the British Museum, a food shop, an inn, a tavern, and several wandering NPCs. Most of them are generic folks who just say "greetings!" and whatnot, but there are a few named ones with side-quests and interesting things to say.

Outside the archaeologist's shop.

The main quest seemed to involve finding Claus von Schmelling, and it didn't take me too long to run into him, still walking around randomly two weeks later. He offered to sell the map, but I figured why bother to buy it when I had such a skilled thief in the party? I used the "rob" command to pickpocket his documents. They mentioned a Hans Ogleby in New York City.

I knew I brought a thief along for a reason.

Nearby, I found a gun shop and outfitted several of my characters with rifles, handguns, and associated ammunition. I discovered at this point that I started with a ton of money, probably enough to finance me for the entire game, thanks to the high social standing of several characters.

One of the wandering NPCs was Chief Inspector Doyle, who offered a reward for "the capture of the Ripper, dead or alive." It wasn't long before I found someone who looked like he fit the bill.


Although he warned me about the Ripper, his tune changed when I approached him with a female character in the lead. Again, we have what could have been an interesting sub-plot handled in the most ham-handed way.

This man has some issues.

This interaction triggered the game's combat system. It's quite bad, perhaps even worse than MegaTraveller. In it, you cycle through the characters and issue various orders: attack, change weapons, reload, move, block, and flee. You obviously have to move characters up to the enemy to engage in melee attacks; characters with firearms will shoot from a distance but have to have a clear shot (no other characters in between), so combat is a lot of micromanagement of movement and positioning, hampered by unintuitive keyboard commands. Jack the Ripper went down quickly, but I imagine larger combats will get annoying.

Fighting Jack the Ripper. The bottom part of the combat screen lists all characters; the letters at the bottoms of their sections annotate the 7 actions they can perform.

As I fought Jack, for some reason other NPCs in the area decided that they were part of the action and started firing on my characters. Fortunately, I was able to exit combat after killing Jack, but what the hell?

In any event, Jack's body revealed a knife and his scalpel, which I took to Chief Inspector Doyle for a $2,500 reward--barely a drop in the bucket compared to the thousands my characters already had.

That felt a little too easy.

Another side quest came along in the British Museum, where I encountered the famous proto-archaeologist, Heinrich Schliemann. Speaking in a kind of pig-German which might be considered a little offensive to actual Germans, he relayed that he would reward me for any artifact that proved the existence of Homer, the Greek poet. [Edit: Apparently, what's happening is the lead character failed a "linguistics" check, which causes random garbage to be interspersed with the actual letters. This was not an attempt to render German or to make fun of Germans. I apologize for the error.]


In the tavern, an NPC named James Alexander Grimes (not based on anyone historical, at least not as far as I can tell) sold me his blueprints for an "aerial flyer" called the Pride of Sussex.

At some point during my travels, I noted that the game kept telling me that the characters were hungry. The game has both a hunger and fatigue system. The former is easily addressed by buying hundreds of days' worth of food from the food shop; it barely costs anything and weighs nothing. As for fatigue, I don't really understand it. Time passes quickly and relentlessly in the game. Nothing pauses it except the "pause" command. Days blow by while you're walking down the street, buying items in a shop, or just looking at the party inventory. Given how rapidly time passes, I'm not sure what good it does to periodically rest for one night in an inn.

When I was done with London, I headed outside to go to New York City. I'm happy to say that the game doesn't let you walk there. Instead, you have to go to a harbor and rent a dirigible or boat for a fixed time period. I rented a dirigible for 30 days, sailed across the Atlantic, and returned it at the harbor on the other side, getting a refund for 17 days. The area was swarming with buffalo and Native American NPCs.

America at last! My zeppelin hovers outside the entrance to New York City. A pawn shop sits to the southeast, and a couple of American Indians wander nearby.

There was a pawn shop just outside New York City. It sold everything but weapons, so I stocked up on adventuring gear, including books (Conklin's Atlas of the Worlds and Handy Manual of Useful Information; Robb's Medical Companion and Household Physician), navigation instruments, tools, shovels, armor, lanterns, rope, and gunpowder.

Some of my new stuff.

I end the game having entered New York City, which is indistinguishable from London in its tree-lined cobblestone streets and expansive farmland. When I next write, I'll pick it up from my encounter with Mr. Ogleby.

Some random notes:

  • The manual doesn't say anything about the possibility of improving characters' skills. Like MegaTraveller, Space 1889 doesn't feature any experience or leveling, but at least in the tabletop version it's possible to acquire new skills and improve existing ones. I'm not sure it's possible in the computer version, making the game technically not an RPG by my rules.
  • In the 176 games I've played so far as part of this blog, I think maybe three have featured textual descriptions of inventory items. This game is one of them. I look forward to seeing more of this as the 1990s develop.


  • The British Museum was full of chests, but there doesn't seem to be any command that opens them, unless I'm missing something.
  • The pawn shop outside New York City sells a metal detector. The manual says it's supposed to weigh 100 pounds, but it actually weighs 1,000, meaning no one can effectively carry it. I bought one, but I sold it back when I saw the bug. Maybe I won't need it.
  • My dialogue with a Native American needs no embellishment:

I'm surprised they didn't just add "me smokem peace pipe" for good measure.

My initial experience with Space 1889 makes me want to play the tabletop RPG and stop playing the computer RPG. Let's hope it gets better or, at least, doesn't last very long.

Time so far:  2 hours
Reload count: 0

66 comments:

  1. Now I would've given your "Blogger" class a point or two of Leadership, myself. How often do you get "You make this look great, I think I'll go play this game!" posted in the comments?

    Well. Never for this game, probably... but in general.

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    1. I would have put a point into Medicine. Gimlets are likely medicinal under the right circumstances.

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    2. They're very anti-septic, among other things.

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    3. Demolitions +1 too, then. Flammable.

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  2. I gave up on the game back in the day after getting about as far as you got. Between walking to Egypt, the weird time scale, and the offensive NPCs, this is the only game I ever returned for a refund that was playable. (All my other refunds were of games that didn't start or crashed immediately.)

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  3. I think the German NPC's dialogue gets mixed with procedural gibberish by the game code because he's flagged as speaking a foreign language, and your characters don't have the language skill to understand him properly. It's probably not actually written like that in the data files.

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    1. That's actually really cool. Too bad that mechanic was forgotten. I know Starflight did it too, garbling words in the middle of communications. However it was too easy to get top communications skill and so the window of time this effect was in play was small.

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    2. That is indeed what is happening. I was thrown because the gibberish sounds SORT OF German, but I see now that it's all about the "Linguistics" skill check. I'll put a correction above.

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    3. Nothing excuses "How, pale-face," however.

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    4. Made with Authentick 1889 Sensibilities

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    5. You'd think Native Americans would be politically correct enough to avoid racial slurs like "pale-face".

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    6. So, can you play as a black character in this game? And would he still call you a "pale-face"?
      (Now, I also wonder where we saw the first black player character in a CRPG.)

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    7. Yeah, that sort of question would make for some interesting 'firsts'.

      First dev-created playable (or significant) character who is identifiably (and not negatively):

      European/North African/Sub-Saharan African/East Asian/South Asian/Indigenous American/Pacific Islander/Indigenous Australian

      Plus straight/bi/gay/male/female/trans or those with mental or physical disabilities.

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    8. Ultima 6 would be the first to have that racial selection.

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    9. There's a black tavernkeeper in Pools of Darkness (1991, I think).

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    10. Dungeon Master also had different races.

      Couldn't anyone in Wasteland have sex with the prostitute?

      And playing a mentally disabled character was probably done first in Fallout.

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    11. But in Ultima, it matters because the Avatar came from Earth while in DM, when they say 'race', they mean Orcs, Goblins, Trolls, Demihumans and Others.

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    12. No, Dungeon Master had different HUMAN races. There are recognizable black and Asian people among the selectable players. I think DM is probably the first. There aren't many earlier games that even have character portraits.

      Of course, in DM it's a little different because you're not really CREATING the character. Ultima VI might be the first one that had non-white characters during a more traditional character creation process.

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  4. I am curious, what happens if you rent a dirigible for too short a time period? Do they drop you off in the middle of the Atlantic?

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    1. You have to pay extra when you land.
      Since you start with so much money I've no idea what happens when you can't pay.

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    2. The manual says that you have to go back to the original harbor and return it there.

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  5. My first thought was: Ah! A steampunk CRPG, there aren't that many of them. But then, looking at the graphics, it doesn't really seem to matter, it doesn't look any different from any other RPG. It dawns on me how important imagination was back then.
    I guess the game is going to be bad, but you apparently caught Jack the Ripper within 15 minutes, so it shouldn't take too long. I don't have a comment on that Schliemann dialogue.

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    1. Yes, there's nothing within the graphics that even remotely evokes a Victorian aesthetic except perhaps the men's facial hair.

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    2. There is an Angband variant called Steamband. It's victorian-ness is still fairly shallow (particularly since it is an ASCII game), but better than this is.

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  6. What a waste of a setting. Does it really feature the 'city' of Egypt? That would be even more appalling than the female hairstyles.

    I find it difficult to understand how some combat systems make it to print. Doesn't someone who isn't the dev play it and say 'ya know, this sucks'?

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    1. It does indeed. Moreover, the desert is located within the city.

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  7. I've been trying to play a little of all your upcoming games because I find it makes reading about them more relevant. I couldn't keep going with this one.

    It looks like it is trying to ripoff Ultima 6's interface but I know U6 only came out the same year. Maybe it was only in development for a few months?

    What is with games wasting so much space with the title somewhere in the interface? Are there any good games that do that?

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    1. Most likely performance issues and devs didn't like leaving empty space around the action screen or lowering the screen resolution.

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    2. "Worlds of Ultima: Martian Dreams"; built on the U6 engine makes this game looks like crap.

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    3. Most Ultima games make other games of the time period look like crap. Unfortunately this includes all other Origin games not containing the word "Commander" in it.

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  8. Gah, another poor adaptation of pretty good tabletop RPG. I was always curious about this one, but now I see why I've never heard a thing about it.

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    1. I got this RPG recently from a Google+ group named The Goblin Emporium. I've not read the full thing, but it seems quite cool. One of two PRGs my girlfriend is interested in my running-- She likes that women can be pretty much any occupation, even if they have to disguise themselves as men. Also, martian canals.

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  9. Another typical 1990 CRPG...

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    1. I can't believe how much this year sucks. And when it's done, I'll have spent nearly two years on it!

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  10. Those eyes in the PC portraits. Especially Griffin, he looks bug-eyed. :/

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    1. They look like they have silver lenses instead of real eyes; it's kind of upsetting.

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  11. As a kid, I managed to get some enjoyment out of Megatraveller I.

    I got NO enjoyment out of Twilight 2000.

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  12. Space:1999 and Twilight 2000 were games I owned when they came out and really, REALLY wanted to like, but I never got very far with either. I remember character creation in Twilight 2000 starting out fun and becoming tedious since you make so many characters. And then combat shows you what tedium really is...

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    1. On the plus side, TW2K does have a trick/glitch that lets you trivialize non-vehicular combat entirely, so there is that.

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  13. Looks like 1990 is the year of the botched sci-fi.

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    1. Well, the first Buck Rogers game was quite good.
      1990 was also saw the start of the Wing Commander series.

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    2. IIRC, Chet didn't like Buck Rogers all that much either.

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    3. No but Buck Rogers seemed quite a bit better than this.

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    4. Everyone has their preferences. I've followed this blog from the beginning and Chet has pretty much stated that he is more likely to give a mediocre fantasy RPG the benefit of the doubt over a sf RPG.

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    5. 1990 is the year of the half-assed everything. That'll probably be my end-year theme.

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    6. I very much fear that "half-assed" is going to be a phrase you'll be using far too much in the next few blog-years. From what I remember, RPGs on computers really stagnated for a while, especially after Wolfenstein 3D in 92 and DooM in 93 launched a whole new genre that became dominant for a while.

      Then again, I haven't even heard of most of your 1991 games (the only ones I'm familiar with are Knights Of Xentar (one of the very few jRPGs released in the US on a computer, and from what I remember (and can tell by research), one of the worst ones made) and the sequels to a few venerable lines. I might be pleasantly surprised.

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  14. I always wanted to like this game, since I loved the setting and concept, but the implementation was terrible. Don't worry, you'll get to Martian Dreams eventually. That's Victorian sci-fi that you will enjoy.

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    1. Hopefully, anyway. Chet has mentioned before that he's suspicious of the Worlds of Ultima games, but I think he'll be able to divorce it from the rest of the series enough to enjoy.

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    2. I think the WOU games are thematically idiotic. But I also thought U6 had a great engine, so mechanically they might be okay.

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    3. I thought it works on the idea that Moongates can traverse to different Worlds? Why would that be idiotic?

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    4. Honestly the WOU games ARE thematically idiotic.

      They tended to be pretty fun at the time, but I am quite curious to see how they age from a "fresh" perspective.

      As you mention the engine is pretty great, that does help ease some of the silliness of the themes.

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  15. Chet, if you hate this game now, wait till you get a spaceship and be finally able to explore "the vast environs of space and beyond!".

    You'd wish you could have some hair to pull out of your scalp.

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    1. Yeah, I got there the other day. It took me a while to figure out what the constellation bit was about, and even after I figured it out, it took me forever to find the planets.

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  16. This has more to do, Chet, with a previous game, LORDS OF XULIMA, and I hope this is okay because it's kinda relevant... :) Anyway, I have started a Let's Play series on Lords Of Xulima! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8VZVsZwGsk I also have LP's on Might And Magic 6, Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, ton of other roguelikes, crpg's, survival sandboxes, horror survival, bad games and more! :D

    Would love to see you all there! I sure hope this is okay, Chet, can it be, please? Unless you all wanna just kick a 52 year old USAF vet around... ;)

    And thank you for all these smaller games Chet! Given a choice between waiting two weeks for a huge post on one game, I kinda like a buncha smaller posts on smaller games :)

    William
    NearlySeniorCitizen
    http://www.youtube.com/user/williamroeben

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    1. That's fine, William. Best of luck with your LP.

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  17. Saw this game in a bargain bin, the great looking box sold the game for me.
    I remember being really pissed off about being able to walk to Egypt. Seems a silly thing to get pissed off about now.

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    1. Not at all. If a game is going to occur in something like the real world, it's jarring when it does such a poor job modeling the real world.

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    2. *I* would have been pissed if I played a game that (to my inadequately educated mind) simulates actual IRL geography and find that I couldn't reach Egypt after cycling on my kiddie-trike for an hour.

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  18. Have been looking forward to seeing your take on this one, it's the first game I remember actually playing back in the day. I had the Amiga version, and it would always crash when you attempted to leave Earth - took it back to the shop and got another copy, and had the same results. Don't know if this was an issue with the Amiga version, or one of the releases of it, or if I just got unlucky.
    As far as the compressed geography goes, London being on mainland Europe, roughly where France should be, was the topper for me. I must have been pretty new to RPG geography, I remember being really baffled by the museum you start in being roughly the size of the rest of London.
    I do remember liking the way they handled characters with low linguistics not being bale to understand other languages though, can't remember seeing that used much elsewhere.
    - Bobbledog

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    1. I can't even figure out the geography of "Europe" in the game. It doesn't resemble anything of the actual continent.

      I suppose the language system is an early example of what we see now in some Bioware games, where characters of limited intelligence lack major dialogue options.

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  19. Chet,

    I've been reading through Designers and Dragons recently, and they actually very briefly cover the Paragon made GDW games but do not specifically cover why GDW picked Paragon.

    There are a few things to note about GDW, when evaluating that decision.

    1) GDW was primarily a wargame developer. RPGs were secondary to their bottom line. Wargame companies tended to be a bit behind the times, when compared to RPG companies, which were fairly cutting edge.

    2) GDWs properties, while popular, did not share the same level of popularity as D&D. They did not have access to folks like EA, and had to pick a partner that wanted to work with them.

    3) GDW had an extensive history of licensing their products to anyone willing to take the license. They had multiple firms developing supplements and background for the Traveler universe, from very early on.

    Combine a somewhat lackadaisical approach to licensing, with a second/third tier product, at a company slightly behind the times, with little to no understanding of the video gaming industry, and these results actually become logical.

    Interestingly enough, the author of that tome believes that these adaptations were actually quite accurate. Unfortunately the accuracy of said adaptations are part of the problem.

    In Traveller, for example, you really don't gain experience. Players gain power by gaining equipment and knowledge and there is, apparently, almost no character development outside of that, by design, in the core game.

    Apparently the creator of Traveller didn't believe that gaining xp and levels was "realistic".

    As-is Space 1889 had an *incredibly* brief run as a supported product and was basically retired by 1991.

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    1. I forgot to note, Space 1889 was actually released in 1989, all supplements ceased by the end of 1991 as noted in my comment.

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    2. Thanks for all that background. Perhaps I had an overinflated sense of how popular and important the tabletop versions of the games were--although Traveller's longevity suggests that it, at least, deserved a better RPG.

      I don't mind that the games feature no "experience." There are other ways to develop a character. I did get the impression that in the tabletop versions, improvements in skill levels were more frequent than in the CRPGs.

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    3. Levels & XP are not "realistic"? What a load of bull! I'll have you know that I'm a Level 12 Keyboard Warrior with a Google-Fu Skill Rank of 15 (+2 Bonus from WIS score). You just wait till I gain 9 more levels to gain the 'Epic Feat: Unearth Obscure DeepNet Literature' to show that we are all living in an RPG.

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    4. How much XP have you gained from posting on this blog?

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    5. Traveller has always been popular, but rarely a commercial success: That license has passed through a LOT of hands over the years as companies went under.

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