Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Savage Empire: Neither Savage nor an Empire

Love or hate the game, this is a pretty awesome scene.

I've often remarked that while Origin was competent at "creating worlds"--better, indeed, than any other developer of the 1980s--they generally fell short of greatness. Their world-building often falls apart under scrutiny. The gargoyles, presented as misunderstood victims, are actually pretty vile when you think about it, and their virtue system makes no sense. The explanations for the extinction-level physical changes to Britannia's landscape are just absurd, and don't even get me started on Ultima II and its planets. When the world-building doesn't fall apart under scrutiny, it's just a little too tidy. Britannia's eight major cities, each based on a virtue, with docile NPCs spouting platitudes like "STRIVE FOR HUMILITY!," seem more like one big cult than a viable socio-political system.

Given its history, I've been alert for The Savage Empire being a little too cute. For instance, the three "totems" needed to cast spells are Heluzz, spirit of knowledge and vision; Aphazz, spirit of emotion and strength; and Molazz, spirit of battle--which of course correspond with the three principles of truth, love, and courage. For a while, I thought the various tribes were somehow going to be organized around the eight virtues, and that may in fact be the case. (There are actually nine tribes, but the Urali are supposed to be weird outliers who no one knows where they came from.) For instance, the "Disquiqui" are said to be "happy, musical, and rather notoriously amorous," which somewhat fits with the bards of Britain in the main series. The Pindiro have a "one with the land" thing going on that may associate them with the rangers and the virtue of spirituality. But on the whole, if this is what the developers intended, it's very subtle.

The manual's depiction of some of the tribes.
       
More specifically cloying for this game is the way that each tribe represents some aspect of "primitive" Earth cultures. The character portraits and NPC dialogue hint at this, but the game book makes it explicit. The Yolaru are Africans,  the Nahuatla are Aztecs, the Barrab are Asians, the Disquiqui are Polynesians, the Kurak are South American Indians, the Haakur are Neanderthals, and the Pindiro are North American Indians. Eodon is about the size of EPCOT, and yet these tribes have managed to maintain distinct cultural identities over what must have been thousands of years.

Whether by ignorance or design, Origin does a good job treading the "cultural sensitivity" line sometimes, as we discussed in association with Tangled Tales and Ultima VI's "Miss Mandy." They're never actually what I would call "offensive," and yet they sometimes elicit a groan, as when the Barrab are described as having yellow skin, or in Professor Rafkin's note about the Polynesian Disquiqui: "I always recall how and where Captain Cook died, and keep my wits about me when dealing with the Disquiqui." For the record, Captain Cook died while trying to kidnap the King of Hawaii to hold him for ransom.

I don't want to give the impression that I really care about this stuff, because I don't. I don't really think that anyone at Origin hated Mapuches, or that the game somehow hampered Caucasian-Polynesian relations. If I was an ethnic Zulu, I wouldn't feel offended. It just suggests a certain failure of imagination. Like a million things they did, Origin started with the germ of a good idea but failed to take it beyond the usual tropes.

'Cause nothing says "Native American" like feathered headdresses
      
As gameplay goes, it's been tolerable so far. Not Ultima VI quality, but a decent quasi-expansion. It follows the typical Ultima dynamic of offering a large game world which you navigate by a non-linear approach, taking notes as you talk to NPCs and find clues, juggling multiple quests at a time.

I decided to explore the north part of the map first and see if I could find Topuru, the exiled ex-shaman of the Urali, who supposedly knows where the Urali live (no one else does). The first camp I ran into belonged to the Pindari. From them, I learned that Topuru lives on an island west of the Barako camp, and that I'd need a raft to get over to him. A raft, meanwhile, requires four people to paddle in unison; the Pindari get their paddles from the Disquiqui far to the south.

Fortunately, I found my fourth party member in short order. Shamuru--Shamino's doppleganger from the introduction--was waiting on the road between the Pindari and Barako villages. Like Triolo, he said he had been found by the tribe after wandering out of the jungle with no memory, so it's possible that he actually is Shamino. His fellow Barako villagers revere him as a "great hunter." Talking about things like Lord British elicits a faraway look. Another clue was that Shamuru was wearing leather armor, which wouldn't otherwise seem to exist in Eodon. I gave the armor to the Avatar, the only character who fights with a melee weapon. Everyone else has a bow.

Another clue: Shamuru is white.

The Pindari had told me about a stranger living in a cave north of the village, and I found him after some exploration. He turned out to be Fritz, a colleague of Professor Spector; as per the backstory, both had disappeared while studying the rogue moonstone, which they recovered from a dig in Guatemala.

And the German scientist manages to insult about a dozen cultures in the space of two sentences.

Fritz related that after they were in the Eodon, Spector found a crystal skull in an underground city to the southwest. He referred to the crystal skull as a "brain" and said that he (Spector) could use its energies to conquer the Earth. (One wonders if the crystal skull drove Spector insane, or whether Origin thinks that a German's default use for any artifact is to try to conquer the world.) Fritz ended up stealing the "brain" from Spector and fleeing to the cavern. He gave me the skull and 60 rounds of ammunition but declined to join me for fear that he'd run into Spector again.

The Barako village was astir because a great ape had recently kidnapped the village chieftain's daughter, Malisa. The villagers say that they can see the ape on the top of a cliff, but they can't get to him. I, too, found him lurking at the top of a cliff, but I couldn't find any way up to the plateau. There were a couple areas where it looked like I should be able to perhaps attach a rope to a tree, but maybe I need to find or fashion some kind of hook first. Nothing I tried worked. Mild hints welcome here.


I suspected I'd have to travel all the way down to the Disquiqui village to get paddles for the raft, so I was surprised when I found a bunch piled next to it. I nearly didn't see them--the color contrasts in this game are the worst I've ever experienced. As usual, I suspect it's my colorblindness, but those of you without that problem can tell me your opinion. I suppose it makes sense, given that we're in a jungle, that everything seems sort-of camouflaged.

Can you see the four paddles just south of my lead character?

Using the paddles (one in each character's inventory), I made it over to Topuru's island. Topuru is the insane, exiled shaman of the Urali tribe, banished by his own apprentice, Wamap. He promised to tell me where the Urali "hide" if I would bring him his "mind," which he claims he lost in a magic battle to Balakai, shaman of the Barrab tribe, far to the southwest.

Topuru makes a reasonably funny joke about Aiela's abductor.

In the meantime, Professor Rafkin had given me a list of some items necessary to build rifles and grenades. For instance, a grenade requires a strip of cloth soaked in tar, gunpowder (charcoal, potassium nitrate, and sulphur ground in a mortar), and a hard clay pot. I started looking for these items in the wilderness and in the villager's huts. Eventually, I assembled the rifle items, but Rafkin insists he needs to be in his lab to make one. His lab is supposedly southwest of the Kurak (starting) village, but I haven't been able to find it yet. I'm going to search a little while longer and then continue with the main quest if I can't find it.

Soon, I'll be able to defeat the Gorn.

Given the name of the game, I was expecting a lot more combat, particularly with hostile tribals. Maybe that comes later, but so far the only enemies have been random dinosaurs. Since they are, you know, dinosaurs, I feel rather bad about killing them, and I would have expected my party members to offer more incredulous exclamations. There have been a few attacks by big apes, too. So far, I don't think any of my party members have increased in levels. I don't know if there's something I have to do to get that to happen, or if I just haven't earned enough experience yet.

Fighting a pteranodon while walking across a rope bridge feels very cinematic.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • Night comes very fast. I'm constantly having to rest for the night to make it go away. Bumbling around a village and finding all the NPCs to talk with can easily burn a day or two.

Fighting at night. The game won't let you rest until you've cleared the area of monsters.

  • While I love the engine's ability to designate an active character, I sometimes forget to turn "party mode" back on until my main character has wandered miles away. It's annoying to have to get everyone back in the same area again.
  • NPC dialogue is my favorite part of Ultima games, and this off-shoot didn't adapt it very well. Each village has maybe three important NPCs and 6-8 generic NPCs. None of them, even the important ones, have very many things to say. I had hoped that through dialogue, we'd learn more about the game world and its relationship to Earth or Britannia, but nothing that I cue them with enlists anything more than a few stock lines or issues of purely local concern. Again, maybe that comes later.

I feel like maybe I should have been able to get further with him.

  • I found a potentially game-breaking bug while talking with Fritz. When he first gave me the crystal skull, my lead character was already at the maximum of his encumbrance, so the item simply didn't show up in his inventory. I suspect this is going to be a necessary item later. Fortunately, I noticed what happened when it happened and reloaded.
  • When I enter combat, it's a complete crapshoot whether any of my party members fire their bows, even though I've set all their actions to "ranged." I may have to just take manual control of everyone.
  • The game has poison swamp patches just like Ultima VI. So far, I haven't found any mechanism for healing poison, so I've been avoiding them like the plague they are.
  • Using a knife on a slain foe results in meat and sometimes hides.

Dian Fossey had better not be around here.

  • The consensus from the last post is that there's no penalty for taking whatever you want to take from the villages. I've been trying not to go overboard with this, and only take what I absolutely need.

Such as arrows.

  • In the middle of the jungle, I found something that looks like a portal. Rather than investigate it and screw up my adventuring path, I marked it for later investigation.

You just know that this is going to be important.
   
  • I don't know what was happening with graphics outside the RPG genre, but I think this waterfall represents the most advanced water effects we've seen in RPGs so far. This reminds me: a few weeks ago, Irene and I were playing Dragon Age: Inquisition on one of the seaside maps, and we were remarking how awesome the water effects were. I couldn't remember any previous RPG that actually had waves. Anyway, I said to her, "No matter how good we think these graphics look, I guarantee you that there are people online complaining about how much they suck." The Internet did not disappoint.


Sorry it's been a week since my last post. Irene and I have had to move out of our house and put all of our stuff in storage while the interior is completely gutted and replaced. (The house suffered horrible water damage this winter.) Eventually, this might result in more time for RPG playing, but alas not just yet.

Time so far: 5 hours
Reload count: 1

*****

Let's talk about Angband. I'm not sure I shouldn't regard it as a 1993 game instead of a 1990 game. My general tendency has been to play roguelikes in the year that they had their first general release, not in the year that they were first a gleam in someone's eye. Hence, I played Moria in 1983, not 1981, and I'll be playing Hack in 1984, when it first appeared on Usenet, not 1982, when some students at a Massachusetts high school were able to mess with it.

From what I understand, Angband first appeared on some Warwick University computers in 1990, but that was just a variant of Umoria. The first version that seems to have achieved general release under the name Angband--and the earliest version currently accessible--is from December 1993. (The official Angband site actually says it "eventually became Angband some twenty years ago in 1994.")

Hence, unless someone comes up with a compelling counter-argument, I'm going to bump it to 1993 and get one step closer to getting out of 1990.

106 comments:

  1. Careful, Addict. You're already being accused of being a SJW.

    ttp://www.rpgcodex.net/forums/index.php?threads/crpgaddict.54062/page-19#post-3864236

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    1. Making fun of me again, are they? What a surprise.

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    2. But, but, but, it's from someone with a lot of Brofists and Kodex Kool Kredits (really, KKKs?). Can't be a troll!

      ... I'm so tired of the term SJW. Can we stop name calling and have proper discussions again?

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    3. It's always depressed me that one of the largest collections of old-school crpg fans on the internet is also just about the worst. Anyone who claims that The Bard's Tale is a better game than Skyrim is just wrong.

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    4. Maybe they're not claiming Bard's Tale to be better than Skyrim (in general terms). But that Bard's Tale - in the context in which it was created (1985) had superior ideas and was a major leap forward than Skyrim was in 2011.

      Personally I still think that, given the technology, RPGs could be more immersive in terms of interaction with the gaming world.

      But people think that "immersion = nice 3D graphics".

      Back in its day Ultima VII was limited by the number of floppy disks it could fit into.
      Imagine a Ultima VII game nowadays in which you could even alter the landscape, build structures (like in Terraria), grow a family, etc.

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    5. Except that they're not actually saying that. If we're talking about which game is "better", and we're being as objective as possible, the year something was made shouldn't factor into the equation.

      Regardless, I don't think The Bard's Tale was any more a major leap forward then than Skyrim is today, especially compared to Might and Magic. Unless, of course, the person arguing that only has graphics on their mind.

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    6. I love that there's an RPG called 'Social Justice Warriors'.

      For what it's worth, Chet doesn't seem like he's really earned that designation.

      Also, lest we accuse the developers of cultural myopia, one of the tribes are described as primitive Europeans (the Barako).

      I hope the Pindiro don't greet you with "Hau, paleface".

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    7. You always have to take a game's date into account when you're reviewing it.
      Mostly because of technical and gameplay shortcomings inherent to the time in which games were produced.

      It's like painting: you can't just say that a 16th century painting is way better than a 13th century one. A renaissance artist had perpective knowledge, oil and other enhancements that allowed him to create a better work. Things that people never even dreamed of 3 centuries earlier.
      Yet you can say that a 13th century work is a masterpiece of its time.

      I'm one of those guys who love Skyrim. And I think it's a brilliant game. Nice visuals and fun to play. Yet I'm perfectly aware that the game will most probably be seen as "ugly" and with a dreadful interface in 2031.

      The most important thing, though, is that Skyrim will inspire the creation of newer and better RPGs.

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    8. I made the mistake of following that link. Apparently anyone married cannot have a negative opinion of female nudity in video games. So says someone who is likely not raising a daughter.

      I've learned my lesson...

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    9. It's just this big echo chamber in there. Someone got the idea in his head that "The CRPG Addict has a problem with boobies!" and everyone's repeating it without actually having read my posts.

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    10. I don't want to enter into psychological disputes or anything (in fact I don't know if this sort of question should be addressed here).
      I'm just curious.
      I don't have children but most of my friends have daughters.

      What's the problem with nudity in video games and daughters?

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    11. I don't think anyone (here) is advancing that there shouldn't be nudity in video games. If you don't want teenage male titillation nudity in your games, and you get teenage male titillation, you're going to roll your eyes. I think that's the only point Chet has ever made. I haven't seen anyone complaining about nudity in principle - though I'd like to see how the rpgcodexers would respond to a game full of sexualised men.

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    12. Yay! Big donged naked man monsters! Want!

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    13. The idea of your wife being naked is hardly shocking and the idea of your sister being naked is not something you'd want to think about but also not something you'd particularly care about, presuming you are past high school and sex in general has stopped being a mythical unicorn which you are engaged in tireless pursuit of. The idea of your daughter being naked, on the other hand, elicits not just a personal desire to think about something else but a desire to make sure that doesn't actually happen ever. Of course, this isn't rational. Your daughter is her own person and is at some point going to get naked in front of a boy and rather than trying to force her to conform to an idealized image of virginal purity like this is the goddamn 50s or something it is obviously smarter to come to terms with the fact that she is going to have sex at some point whether you like it or not and focus on a compromise position that directs what sort of person they have sex with rather than if they have it at all. Lenient instructions your kids will follow work better than strict ones they will subvert. The aversion to female nudity for those with daughters is understandable, but also symptomatic of an ultimately unhealthy reaction to raising a child.

      So long as I'm on moral diatribes: No, Chet doesn't qualify as an SJW. Not even close. SJWs are specifically bullies who cloak themselves in left-wing social rhetoric to fool onlookers into thinking they're heroes for shoving around people who are too weak, too few, or too taken in by the narrative to fight back. They're basically an evil doppleganger of people like Chet, pretending to believe the same things he does in order to deflect criticism for their actual actions, which are blatantly and obviously repugnant to everyone once shorn of the buzzwords and other window dressing that disguise them as acts of heroic civil disobedience.

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    15. @Lizard:
      I'm sure there are more than a few Skyrim mods for that. Let's just say the Giants are wielding more than one club *wink wink*

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    16. Most of the time I've seen the term SJW used it means: 'I don't agree with that person, they are to the left of me politically and I want to dismiss their argument with a sneering acronym'.

      If I say: "I think gaming could do better as far as the portrayal of women and minorities is concerned" most people who would ever use the term "SJW" will say "SJW!!!".

      And FWIW I kinda think a naked family member is pretty shrug worthy. I mean, especially your kids. Granted, no kid whose hit puberty wants their parent to see them naked or wants to see their parent naked :)

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    17. @Raifield
      Now I know why the Non-Certified Spouse spends all of her time on Skyrim just taunting giants!

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    18. I'm just grateful that the Addict doesn't care too much about the aggressive, ignorant, or thoughtless things that anyone on any forum says.

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    19. My understanding was the Codex doesn't ban racist speech, so it evolved into a right-wing forum over time.

      I'm to the right of Chet on this issue, but hate it when RPG discussions get derailed over politics. We have enough polarization in the real world...

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    20. It doesn't say good things either about your position or your willingness to engage in reasonable discussion that you label people who disagree you with the term "SJW." Most people I know are pro-justice...

      The most recent point on nudity made here wasn't about the nudity itself. It was Chet noting that every single woman in the RPG was bare-breasted and sexualized. The double-standard of "men can be sexy when they want, women are always sexy" in RPGs should offend people interested in compelling stories and characters, quite aside from the social and cultural implications of this sort of attitude.

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    21. This is why this blog is great, the people here are generally pretty respectful even when debating different opinions.

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    23. Ugh, I can't believe I followed another RPGCodex link. Between their imagined rivalry with the Addict and the term "blobbers," I should know better...

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    24. So... let's talk about GamerGate. /troll

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    25. Hey, I'm just concerned with ethics in video game journalism!

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    27. Their argument is odd, for sure. Chet didn't like the pervy aspect of Wiz 6, which per the print ads at the time was absolutely exploited in advertising for the game.

      Somehow that means Chet is a social justice warrior. Because...reasons?

      These guys are why we can't have nice things.

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    28. Different AnonymousApril 20, 2015 at 4:56 PM

      "... I'm so tired of the term SJW. Can we stop name calling and have proper discussions again?"

      Okay, but the SJW's have to stop name calling too. Oh wait, that will never happen, because they're the most judgmental people you could ever encounter.

      Delete
    29. Ah... someone from RPG Codex, I presume?

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    30. Do you actually like boobies CRPG Addict?

      This is very important!

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    31. I suspect that he does. Just not heavily pixelated and depicted in a wantonly juvenile manner.

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    32. The term SJW is a straw man. Maybe 1 in 100 or fewer people who support diversity and women's rights are actually virulent about it enough to be offensive. But certain factions like to paste the SJW tag on anyone who admits that social justice is not such a bad thing. Me, for example. :-)

      Everyone at Sierra was quite amused by the virulent letter sent to Roberta Williams about forcing her players (presumably all male) to play as Rosella in King's Quest IV. Apparently the sender did not quite get that Roberta is female. We especially liked the misspellings, such as where he called her a "bull dyke feminest". :-)

      So the whole "You're oppressing me by making me play a female" trope is nothing new.

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    33. Corey, have you played Superhero League of Hoboken? You made Quest for Glory, and it has a similar mix of adventure and R.P.G. that you should enjoy.

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    34. Wow. I thought my experience of having a computer yanked out of the wall due to Shema's dancing was bad, but to write a hateful letter to Roberta because the game character is female is a whole new level.
      There are quite a number of disturbed people in this world.

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    35. Thanks to KQ4, however, we now have so many games that have female protagonists now - spreading through every genre possible.

      The modern games that have lead as females
      http://www.showmethegames.com/2014/09/30/state-of-play-female-protagonists/

      There's also - Remember Me, Parasite Eve, Cryamore, Shantae, Armored Princess & more.

      The only one genre I've yet to see having a female protagonist is Real Time Strategy games (unless you count Hero/Heroine units as protagonists).

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    36. So, I've played a few RTS games in my time, and I'm struggling to think of an example where the protagonist is so much as depicted, communicates or referred to with a gendered (pro/)noun. I remember being called commander, general, templar, comrade, warchief and cerebrate.

      Oh wait - Warhammer: Shadows of the Horned Rat, you're Commander Bernhardt

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    37. You could argue that in Warcraft 3, that 'you' are the person whose perspective the introductory cutscene is presented from, in which case the player is female on a number of maps.

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    38. Yeah, but it's so ambiguous that the protagonist might as well be sexless. Without an iota of a gender identity, you could even argue that the commander is an asexual garden slug.

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    39. Spellforce comes to mind. It may be an RPG/RTS hybrid, but I would argue that the RTS part is more dominant.

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    40. Really? Dammit! I bought it on Steam as I thought it was an RPG. What a waste of money. Hope it's at least a decent RTS, then.

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    41. Doesn't Kerrigan from Starcraft count as a female character you play (well, some of the time)? Actually, it's been a while, do you play as her?

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    42. Well, I wouldn't call her the protagonist since she's mind-f#$%ed and biologically altered by genocidal aliens. It'd be like calling Vega the protagonist of Street Fighter just because you get to choose him, isn't it?

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    43. In the original Starcraft (I have not played 2), the zerg campaign has you play as a 'cerebrate', a mostly autonomous piece of the hive mind. You're charged with protecting/guiding Kerrigan in a lot of missions.

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    44. Are we seriously going to classify my definition of a "female protagonist" as that (a sexless pulsating piece of fetid slime-brain-flesh) now?

      And I thought we all have a common urge to scream at developers to make believable female protagonists with strong defining characteristics.

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    45. @obdurate - Yes, I have played Superhero League of Hoboken and recommend it. Steve Meretzky is a funny, funny guy! Princess Glovebox, possessed of the sole superpower of being able to refold a map so it fits in the glovebox again, priceless!

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  2. This "you can take whatever you want" thing, while feeling strange in this context, subverts one of the standard RPG tropes: the fact that you're out to save the world and whatnot but you have to buy everything. Seriously king, the best you can do is give me 50 gold coins and a wooden sword?

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    1. Although it's definitely a trope, I'm not sure it's necessarily illogical. For some games, there's clearly an issue along these lines: In Mass Effect, for instance, you are one of a handful of top-military personnel in the galaxy, and possess the most advanced ship ever designed by humans. Why then, do you have bargain bin guns and armor? Same goes for the Wasteland games, though not the Fallouts. In Baldur's Gate you're just a private citizen, so it makes sense. IN IWD you work for Arundel and in IWD 2, Targos, neither of which you'd expect to have six sets of elite magical gear laying around.

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    2. Good examples.

      I checked, and sure enough, it's on TVTropes.

      http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/NoHeroDiscount

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    3. I'm surprised that Dragon Quest warranted only a single mention, since the series seems to live off the trope, along with whatever trope describes the idea that better equipment is always available as you get further away from where ever you started.

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    4. On the other hand, the natives are probably looking at the Avatar pilfering their arrows and meats while thinking, "Poor white man. No know how to make own pointy shafts and hunt own food. He take, I pity him."

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    5. Oh cool, we got that one mostly right per TV Tropes: "Justified in Quest for Glory series, in which every game takes place in a totally new setting, where your heroism in the previous games is known only to a few people, if any. The second game somewhat averts this trope: the people who you helped in the first game provide you with free room and board at their inn, and the merchants will give you the items you need to subdue the Elementals for free, but only if you ask at the appropriate time (so they won't just hand you over a brass lamp at any random point just because you asked for it, but if there's a fire elemental rampaging and you explain that you need it to capture it, they'll do so)."

      Not too bad for 1990. Then again, we also had relatively few things you could buy compare to most RPG's.

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    6. Haha. Yep, can put that on the box: "One of the highest quality video games series of all time, AND avoids that silly trope where you gotta pay for stuff you shouldn't" ;)

      Lookin' forward to H-U.

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    7. "...with guest appearances by Groucho, Harpo, and Chico."

      Everyone always forgets Zeppo...

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    8. Zeppo was in the first five Marx movies. He quit acting to pursue a career in metal fabrication and wound up inventing the Marman clamp that would be used in World War II to hold the first atomic bomb inside the plane. Life is ironic sometimes.

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    9. Yeah, I know. I was just screwing with you.

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    10. If you look at it closely in ME1 it does make sense most of the time: The merchant on your ship is acting as a middle man to get your gear from commercial suppliers (you even have to purchase licenses for him to become an official reseller). The merchants on the citadel don't know about you or your mission, and would go broke if they gave out gear to every spectre, and the merchant on the jungle world is unys-zvaq pbagebyyrq vagb abg jnagvat gb uryc lbh. The only one that doesn't make sense is the Turian military supplier on the citadel.

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  3. I hope you have found a good kennel for your felines. I am a bit of a softy when it comes to cats.

    That said, two quick points:

    1) Your "heal" spell takes care of poison as well, though I do not recall the swamps poisoning you in SE but I may just have avoided walking through them for force of habit. There are enemies that can cause poison.

    2) You are right on being uncomfortable by the racial stereotypes, although without giving away much I can say that you have a lot of story left in this game and I understood what the authors were intending by the end, even if I did not like the implementation.

    Your game experience has been quite different than mine. I took to exploring the southern towns first. I look forward to your impressions once you have explored more of the world.

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    1. It is not great to speak ill of the dead, but this seems to really be par for Aaron Allston, along with the weird "lack of creativity" that Chet mentions.

      His D&D Hollow World box set had a lot of similar problems, and was released right around the time this game was. So there was likely either co-development of the two properties.

      I've personally found a lot of his work to lack true imagination, and ends up being really workman like.

      It may be worth noting that a lot of his work with D&D was not really based around creating new IP.

      He wrote a lot of books that expanded and codified existing areas, etc, and his lack of need to innovate in those products seems to have carried over to this game as well.

      It does make me wonder if these products would have taken a more creative path with a different author at the helm.

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    2. All things aside, Aaron Allston was very detailed. What he lacks in creativity, he makes it up for zooming in to parts where others have missed out or came out sounding nonsensical in the first place.

      So, he's not an innovator but he is a damn fine craftsman who excels in ironing out the "boring" stuff (i.e. rules, case-by-case scenarios, addressing of conflicting statements & etc.) which other writers would just throw it off as "DM's discretion".

      His stuff isn't really popular with creative DMs who likes to run campaigns with their own adventures but it's very helpful for newbie/lazy/stick-in-the-mud DMs.

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    3. Hmm, I thought the story arcs in the poor wizard's almanac were pretty imaginative. It was basically a book of campaign ideas.

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    4. I didn't get that book. Was it any good?

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  4. Compelling counter-argument: Angband is awesome and you want to play it as soon as possible.

    On the other hand, although I've played and liked Angband since the '90s, it's steadily gotten better since then. Which version were you going to play?

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    Replies
    1. Still not sure how he should handle the variants, would probably do some of those rather than many different versions of vanilla, but which ones :S
      Oh and I saw those oars straight away after you mentioned them, if you hadn't I would have assumed it was part of the ground/foliage

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    2. I think It's probably reasonable to consider the releases pre-2.4.frog-knows much like you would a beta prior to public release. I reckon 1993 is reasonable.

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    3. Postponing until 1993 does have the downside of being closer to other RL games (and later versions of Nethack, which the Addict wants to play with), so the RL content is less spaced out (not to mention that going back and forth between *hacks, *bands or the rarer independent games is a muscle memory nightmare) and runs the risk of ennui on both the Addict and the readers.

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  5. It's been a while since I played Savage Empire, so I could easily be misremembering--but on the racial / cultural imperialism side of things, I recall coming away with the impression that Origin really wanted to not succumb to ugly stereotypes while still preserving some of the "generic primitive natives" feel from the pulps that so clearly inspire much of the game.

    On the one hand, you've got a wide geographic spread of tribes, including a European one (which is pointedly not the most advanced or "civilized"), with the only "evil" tribe being explicitly drawn from outcasts instead of an actual earthly culture. On the other hand... they all refer to themselves in the third person. They need a blonde white man to save them. And, you know, the Disquiqui.

    It just doesn't completely work. I believe it was all well-intended, but in a "white-guys-not-wanting-to-abandon-cherished-but-problematic-ideas" sort of way. And, heck, I think more thought and concern may've been put into Savage Empire than some games today. Doesn't mean Origin succeeded at its goals, though.

    I really quite liked the game, regardless of the above, but it's hard to discuss the game without acknowledging the line it dances along.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I thought the game was supposed to reflect the typical characters and stereotypes of the pulp magazines era of the 1930s?

      Delete
    2. I think pay homage to would be more accurate, or draw inspiration from. Often the fun of doing so is challenging or reframing the tropes present in the original media - much like Tarantino does. I think an accurate rendition of pulp adventure stories would contain uhh...even more dated terminology and characterisations.

      Delete
  6. On Gorilla:
    --Have you checked whether there's a waterfall around? And you need to move something big, really big with something that not exist yet in this world. Unless of course, you ask Rafkin to make it for you.

    Make sure you save first!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And a hint about finding that lab - make sure you make liberal use Triolo's Eagle Eye. It helps a lot.

      Delete
    2. Hey, ROT13, dudes. Finding those out were half the fun.

      Delete
  7. To answer your question regarding the paddles, yes, they are quite visible (paddles - brown, background green). However it's understandable if you'd have difficulty with the game's graphics if you're red or green-blind. Practically all the backgrounds are heavy on browns and greens, which easily blend together if you take out either of the two components.

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    Replies
    1. Although while noticeable, they are lined up so nicely with the layout of the scenery that they could easily be mistaken for part of the path or contours of the land.

      Delete
    2. I am not colorblind and completely missed the paddles, I ended up walking all the way to Disquiqui to pick up new ones. It makes sense that there would be paddles there in the real world, but my head was thinking "fetch quest" so I went and fetched.

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    3. I think this is one of those times where this game has not aged well.

      My eyes in 1990/1991 easily could pick out those paddles. At that point my eyes were trained to pick out small details in games with bad graphics.

      In 2015, I have to admit, at that photo size it did take a second.

      Delete
    4. Different AnonymousApril 20, 2015 at 5:01 PM

      Knowing what I was looking for, I could find the paddles without any problem. But if I hadn't been looking for paddles with foreknowledge that they were there, I would have most likely mistaken them for part of slope on the shore line or somesuch. I don't doubt that it would have been very hard if I had colorblindness.

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  8. Chet,

    Sorry to hear about the water damage. I remember what Hurricane Gustav did to my house. Best wishes on getting the work done and you two back in your house soon. Enjoying your posts still while I try to crack Death Knights of Krynn.

    ReplyDelete
  9. On the topic of waterfalls from games, does anyone know what the heck those glistening things in the water are meant to represent? I remember seeing them in Secret of Mana as well ( http://i.imgur.com/S2bK6CC.gif or http://i.imgur.com/sz9w8JH.gif for those of you who can't stand unfiltered images form emulators).

    ...Oh, and no discussion pertaining to water graphics in video games is complete without https://twitter.com/BadMiiversePost/status/469556540656340992

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Different AnonymousApril 20, 2015 at 5:04 PM

      Aren't they just ripples on the water's surface? It's rare you'll find a body of water that's completely still, which I think is what the art is trying to convey.

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    2. That's just the water catching a source of light and refracting it while it is moving/roiling/doing whatever water is supposed to do in the great outdoors.

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    3. I think it is either supposed to be light catching on ripples, or bubbles rising up from under the water. I'm pretty sure I've seen both in games before.

      Delete
  10. The Portals are a great way navigating around the map. You should check them out and mark where they lead.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Spoilers much? Please let Chet figure things out on his own in his own time.

      Delete
  11. I see Antares has popped up on the list. Kannst du gut Deutsch sprechen?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nicht sehr gut. Vielleicht ist das spiel wird mir helfen.

      Delete
    2. If you need help, let me know!

      Delete
  12. Funfact: we Germany don't do capital letters for languages, nations and so on. We use caps all the time but not here ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah we do... Languages and nations always start with a capital letter.

      The only time you can write 'deutsch' lower-case is when it's used as attribute, e.g. 'deutsche Wirtschaft'.

      Delete
    2. If someone wants to comment non-anonymously, that's who I'll believe.

      Delete
    3. I seem to vaguely remember that all nouns in German are capitalized, and I'm only indecipherable, not anonymous. :P

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    4. Totaly correct.
      Examples from a grammar page:

      männlich (der): der Mann, der Stuhl, der Auftrag, der Computer
      weiblich (die): die Frau, die Lampe, die Treue, die Zeitschrift
      sächlich (das): das Kind, das Bett, das Leiden, das Buch

      The nouns are characterized through the grammatical gender. It is determined through der, die, das (male, female, neuter).

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    5. Nouns are always capitalized. Adjectives are not. There is no exception for languages:
      Ich komme aus Deutschland.
      Du sprichst Deutsch.
      -but-
      Berlin ist die deutsche Hauptstadt.

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    6. @NoGaijinHakase - What do you mean by "indecipherable"?

      Delete
    7. I mean, most non-Japanese speakers would have no idea how to read my name, and many Japanese speakers probably couldn't make sense of the Japangrish either, thanks in part to a horrible Google accident involving the first and last names being switched around.

      Delete
    8. Don't know what either of you are talking about, @#^labtj, is a common name in these parts. Usually go by Athash for short.

      Delete
  13. Is it me, or does that portrait of Shamuru look suspiciously like Richard Garriot?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah. Dick is both Shamino/Shamuru and LB. He admitted that through all the interviews that asked him about it.

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    2. Dick, eh?
      Do you know him intimately?

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    3. You could say that.

      On a daily basis.

      With or without another female companion to know him intimately in the biblical sense.

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  14. My opinion: angband didn't really hit its stride until about 2.4.frog-knows (actual release number), so yeah feel free to bump it to 1993.

    Incidentally picking a version to play is tricksy, because the character of the game changed greatly from the 2.4-2.6 era through the cleanups of 2.7 and then the ultimate shifts in focus during 2.8/2.9 to modern times.

    Probably any version is fine, but I'm not convinced the 3.4.0+ have really found a new sweet settling point after some significant gameplay changes. Not to say they can't but I think it's going to need more ageing and polish to feel smooth again.

    ReplyDelete
  15. You are wrong about the leather armor for Shamino - you can find a lot more of these in Tichticatl.

    ReplyDelete

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