Friday, January 15, 2016

Here, Have Another Post on Tyrann

Yet another victory.
Tyrann did some weird stuff on the first few levels, and only some inexplicable persistence on my part kept me from abandoning the game. Any lesser CRPG addict surely would have.

As I tried to explore Level 3, I found it simply impossible. Every single combat absolutely slaughtered me. Enemies always attacked first, and were generally capable of wiping out a character's hit points in a single attack. I was losing 2 out of 3 combats with full-party deaths and having to trek all the way back to the town level to resurrect or un-paralyze characters on the third. On the rare occasion that I won a combat, it delivered thousands of experience points and my party members were leveling up relatively fast, but they still got taken apart by every enemy. The game does a good (i.e., annoying) job mixing undead and non-undead creatures in most encounters so that no single spell works against all of them. (Tip for people who inexplicably want to play this game despite my postings: sacrifice one warrior position for a second druid position.)

An archmage one-shots me.
You'll recall from a previous post that almost all encounters in the game are at fixed locations, and once you clear a level it remains clear. This isn't 100% true, as I have encountered an occasional stray combat at a previously-visited location, but it's functionally true. I could wander for an hour on a previous level and not find a single combat. So returning to early levels to grind was out of the question.

Meanwhile, Level 3 had a staircase to Level 4 that wouldn't let me descend. I didn't think I was any more capable of surviving Level 4 than Level 3, but I figured that thanks to MobyDX's maps, I could perhaps skirt the fixed encounters and look for messages, special encounters, or even the endgame. I don't know what my plan was, really--I was just sick of dying on Level 3. In any event, it didn't work. The game showed me an option to "(D)escendre," but hitting the appropriate key did nothing.

I suspected I knew the reason. The manual had a line towards the end that says, "When your team has attained an average of 11 levels of experience, you will be able to load Side B." Even though I was playing off a disk version of the game, I suspected that it was enforcing a similar rule. Dungeon Levels 4 and up were the equivalent of Side B, and I'd need to hit character Level 11 to go down.

At this point, my team had an average of Level 5 or 6. Now, they were leveling rapidly on Level 3, but I still didn't think there were enough fixed combats on the level to get us up to an average level of 11.

I thought some more. I developed a theory that the disappearance of fixed combats on Levels 1 and 2 wasn't intentional--that it was, instead, an artifact of the way I was playing. I was saving the game with save states rather than using the tape-saving mechanism (which I couldn't get to work). When you use save states, it's the equivalent of never shutting off the computer. My hypothesis was that if the game was played "properly' and re-loaded in between sessions, it would re-seed the first two dungeon levels with encounters, I could grind more, I'd be better equipped for Level 3, and I could eventually get to character Level 11. I didn't particularly want to grind more, but I was obsessed at this point.

This is a text-heavy entry, so here's a picture of Chestre on some kind of 'roid potion doing major damage to an enemy.
It took me a while to get saving to work, mostly because I didn't understand how WinAPE was doing it. I thought I had to insert a "blank" cassette file to save, but it turns out that WinAPE will just create a file on your computer (with a .wav extension) representing the saved tape file if you don't try to mess around with it too much. Once I figured that out, the saving worked fine.

Reloading didn't. I kept getting "out of memory" messages when re-starting the game and loading the saved file. Eventually I hit upon the right combination of settings to get this to stop happening.

Anyway, a surprise greeted me the first time I successfully reloaded the saved game. A message popped up on the screen that said: "The village staircase will take you directly to Level 4." Sure enough, when I went down, I was on a level that I hadn't mapped before.
Part of me thinks this is really lame; part wishes more RPGs would do it.
And lo-and-behold: the difficulty of combats was fair again! I encountered some of the same monsters as on Level 3, but they were weaker, slower, less damaging, and quicker to die. I was able to proceed without much trouble at all, and with the town more conveniently available again.

Thus, my new hypothesis: the manual didn't mean an "average of 11 levels of experience" per character; it meant, "a sum of around 11 levels of experience" for the party as a whole. And the disk's equivalent of allowing you to load Side B of the tape was to scan the party and alter the dungeon so that you go directly to Level 4--but it only does this when you load the party from a saved game. As for Level 3, I suspect it exists solely for grinding purposes. It ensures that the party trying to hit the "sum of 11 levels of experience" never possibly runs out of combats to get them there. The average player of 1984, saving on tape after every session, probably would never have finished mapping Level 2 before getting the message on some re-load and having the dungeon reconfigured to start on Level 4. (Levels 1-3 are permanently lost to me at this point; going up from Level 4 returns me to the town, no matter what staircase.)

Although I've never seen this particular approach in a previous game, it does have an analog in Tyrann's obvious inspiration: Wizardry. There, the party had to develop its skills in the "proving grounds" of the first 4 levels before fighting a fixed encounter and winning a "blue ribbon" that allowed passage to lower levels. What Tyrann does is the same concept, just a little less interesting and more clumsy.
I would have been so disappointed if a French RPG hadn't featured a loup garou.
For Level 4, I stopped mapping myself and used MobyDX's extracted maps. I should add that the game has no secret doors, spinners, teleporters, or one-way doors, so it's only cheating in a very minor way to use the maps. I still have to hit practically every encounter, as leveling up is the only way to ensure survival on lower levels. Anyway, Level 4 had a bit of a mystery that I never solved. The map is split in half. To get to the right half of the map, you apparently have to ascend from Level 5, but the left side has no place to go down to Level 5. After exploring the left side exhaustively, I tried saving to tape and reloading again, and sure enough, the game told me that the stairs from the town would now take me directly to Level 5. I hope nothing was important on the right-hand side of Level 4.

Level 4. I never figured out how to get up to the right side or down from the left side.
Level 5 was full of traps and had a much smaller number of encounters than previous levels. It also brought the game's first and (so far) only special encounter: upon stepping into one square, I got a message saying, "Fear not, brave subjects! I am Wakhan'Yorl, God of Virtues." Wakhan gave Talbot, my druid, a 10-point increase in all attributes, which is pretty cool because it makes him act first in all combats, giving me a chance to fire off an OKOY ("paralyze") or ZINAK ("turn undead") spell before they can act.

Don't tell me not to craignez. I'll craignez if I feel like it.
Talbot acquired his 10th and last spell when he hit Level 10; I guess all level-ups from here will just give him more slots for each spell. My mage still has a few slots to go. So far, there have been no mass-damage spells. The first-level spell "paralyze" remains the most useful in the game, since it seems to work unfailingly against all non-undead monsters and paralyzes them permanently for the rest of the combat. My mage's YPAFET ("sleep") also does its job pretty well.

Talbot's complete spellbook.
KERR ("Word of Death") is a high-level druid spell which theoretically works great--it instantly kills every living creature--except that if you wipe out a party with it, you don't get any experience for the battle. You also don't get any experience if you end a combat via "turn undead," MOKAR ("friends"), or the enemies fleeing. There's one major spell mystery: ZADEQ indicates that it results in metal mou, or "soft metal." It doesn't seem to do anything at all. I suppose it might be lowering the effectiveness of enemy attacks in ways that aren't obvious.
The poor little mouse saves me from a trap.
If the game has any originality, it's in some of the usable inventory items. The "white mouse" (souris blanche) turns out to be a trap-detection device. It runs one square ahead of the party and triggers any traps it finds, dying in the process. I've never seen anything quite like it in an RPG. A mysterious fiole (flask) turns whoever drinks it into a super-warrior for the duration of one round. A chien de combat and a bebe dragon are both animals that you can use in battle for a guaranteed high-power attack against one creature, but there's a chance that the animal will die. A baril de poudre explodes for damage against each enemy (accompanied by a decent sound effect), and a parchemin casts a mass-damage spell.
My thief's current inventory.
Judging by the maps, I have 5 more levels to go, and I guess you probably won't see a post again until I win, which will only be after many more hours of slogging.

Time so far: 11 hours
Reload count: 22


Just a quick announcement: For the last few years, I've set a personal goal of churning out one blog post every 2 days. There are streaks in which I've met the goal (e.g., the last few weeks), but when I don't, I fail pretty badly.

I've decided there are three bad things about such an ambitious schedule:

1. I simply can't meet it all the time, and this causes me a bit of stress. I can't take a couple days off from RPG playing without falling behind fast.

2. If each new post is only "new" for a couple of days, it doesn't encourage very much discussion. I might only get a dozen comments before we've moved on to something else.

3. If I have some extra time, I feel compelled to play more games and line up more draft posts--after all, having 5 drafts in the pipeline still only gives me material for the next 10 days. It discourages me from working on other aspects of my blog, like the GIMLET page and the "glossary" page I've been trying to set up for over a year.

Thus, I'm setting a new goal of posting every 3 days instead of every 2. This will still result in 122 posts a year--not much lower than my average, and more than I did in 2015--but hopefully at a steadier, more reliable pace that encourages more thoughtful reflection and discussion on the games.


  1. I have to admit, the post title made me laugh.

    I find it really interesting the way you ran into trouble by not playing the game 'naturally'. I don't think I've run into another game where using save states actually hinder your progress in this manner.

    1. For some platform related reasons they've adopted to check any level layout changes only when loading levels to memory or it was the only way to actually do it without breaking something up.

    2. I do think this is the first game in which saving and reloading is somehow necessary to advance the game (or even changes anything about the game).

    3. Not an RPG, but Ninja Giden (sp?). Platformer where normally when you die you go back to the start of the stage, except in the final stage which kicks you back to the start of that world. However, it tracks which form of the final boss you are on (it has three). So if you play normally when you run out of lives you have to replay the whole world, but can beat one form of the boss, die, and then start at that same form. If you use save states you have to do so three forms in one go.

  2. With a name like "soft metal" I might guess that it weakens enemy defenses? Unless walls are metal and it lets you walk through them or something like that.

    No complaints here on the schedule change. I like frequent posts, but I also like special topics and other features like the Gimlet page. Twelve of one, a square root of a gross of another, it's a fair trade.

    1. That's what I THINK it probably does, but damage rolls are quite varied already, so it's hard to detect the influence after you cast it.

    2. I was actually referring to your first thought. I did wonder if it was a kind of "passwall" spell, but nothing happens if you cast it outside of combat.

    3. According to this fan site, you're right about "soft metal": it should lower effectiveness of enemy attacks.,fr,112,9.html

      (Navigate using the Précédente / Suivante links on the bottom of each page.)

      Regarding the "Side B" thing -- I think you're working with an incomplete version of the game. The downloads here have two disk images, labeled "Side A" and "Side B".

    4. You're kind-of right, Peter. The disk version I have has the complete game, but I was wrong about the "Level 11" bit above. Once I hit Level 11 for real, a lot of stuff happened and the game fundamentally changed. I'll talk about that coming up.

  3. Does the mouse only die if it triggers a trap?

    It would seem to make sense if it managed to get away if there was no trap there. Otherwise, I start imagining some sort of hero covered in swarms of parasitic mice...

    1. Yes, once you activate the mouse, you don't hear anything about it again until it triggers a trap and dies.

    2. I was imagining a happier ending... one where the mouse finds another mouse of opposite gender and they set up a little, but fast growing, colony of dungeon mice.

    3. I can only assume that's what led to the friendly dungeon-dwelling mouse families in 199X in Earthbound.

    4. I can only assume that's what led to the friendly dungeon-dwelling mouse families in 199X in Earthbound.

    5. Whoa. I got you the 1st time but yeah. XD

  4. Yeah, 2-3 times a week is fine. I didn't know the goal was every 2 days, that seems excessive. Let the comments pile up and then go on.

    A devilish solution to a confounding emulator problem. Finding the correct solution to this was surely the same difficulty level as some of the more infamous adventure game puzzles. It's like a puzzle outside of the game, that, once solved allows access to the unattainable inner game. Combined with the obscurity of this title and the fact that nobody else has ever come this far, we're really through the looking glass now.

  5. Wow, thats a great job figuring out the problem. Im proud of you, Addict :) its good you stick with the game, im looking forward how this will end. This is why I love this blog so much - you are a tough bastard and never give up. I would throw this game out of the window after first 4 hours... And yes, a new post every 3 days is okay. 2 new posts in a week is also ok. Just take your time if you feel stressed. It would be really bad if you had some burn-out syndrome or something. We all want you to complete all the freaking cRPGs at least until 2000 :) U.

  6. Take whatever pace you feel comfortable with. Having clear targets can help but as you say can also very much backfire. No matter what Pace you maintain, I still give better odds of you reaching let's say Baldur's Gate 2 than GRRM finishing Game of Thrones :)

    1. I would say that depends of how many obscure Sharewaretitles from the 80s we still find for him to wade through ;-)

    2. I think no matter what people find for the Addict, the only way he doesn't reach BG2 first is if suddenly there's a year without football to distract GRR.

    3. I want to at least reach BG2, and if I go that far, I'll keep going to Morrowind. It'll be 2030 by then, and I can't promise I won't retire at that point.

    4. There's also the possibility of total nuclear fallout where we'd all be either living in vaults or eking our a squalid living in a radioactive wasteland in the future.

    5. But we'd probably have a lot of time to play on our hands in the vaults...

    6. Yeah but I'll bet the Internet has turned to shite and blogging about games'll be a b*tch.

      By the way, anybody beat this game yet?

  7. Twice a week should be often enough to keep people checking for blog updates. Going back and reading the treasure trove of past posts is enough to get people hooked. We want you to be able to focus on the right mix of quality/quantity, rather than constantly being under the gun to meet your self-imposed schedule.

  8. Stress? Why do you feel obliged to post on a regular basis at all? We enjoy your blog no matter what.
    And it's much better when you write without feeling compelled to it.
    Funnier, too :-)

  9. Two times a week is the perfect solution. Kontermann Has spoken.

  10. Yeah, I don't think you should have a schedule like that too.

    Do whatever you want. Writing, like playing games, sucks when it becomes an obligation instead of enjoyment.

    What if you get bogged down by work again? What if you had to move again? Stuff like this happens, man. And when it does, we really want you to put those in priorities. And your missus too.

  11. Even one single posting a week would be great. This blog is so much effort and work, it is increadble that you keep it for nearly 6 years already.

    Even strange french wire frame RPGs sound interesting in your despription.

  12. I've been reading this blog and been entertained by it for the last couple of years.
    What you can do to increase the number of posts is something that I'm very interested in and that is: Why not just give a GIMLET on any of the new RPGs that you play, like dragon age, skyrim, fallout (did you play pillars of eternity?).
    I'd be very interested to see how these ones score.

    1. You know, I've thought about that and mostly rejected it because I think it would be too jarring to offer GIMLET ratings on games 25 years newer than the ones I'm currently playing on the blog. Right now, my spreadsheet of ratings shows the slow evolution of games from the earliest proto-RPGs, and I don't want to suddenly jump forward a quarter century. I'd rather see how it continues to evolve and be surprised when I get to 2015 naturally. Does that make sense?

      Anyway, I don't play as many modern games as you might think, and when I do, it's almost always console games, in which I look for slightly different things.

  13. The "white mouse" (souris blanche) turns out to be a trap-detection device. It runs one square ahead of the party and triggers any traps it finds, dying in the process. I've never seen anything quite like it in an RPG.

    There was the canary in Secret of the Silver Blades which acted similarly in terms of detecting the trap. Unfortunately the canary didn't disarm the poison gas clouds, so your only choice was to march through them anyway. Which made buying the canaries a heck of a lot less useful than the mice seem to be here.

    1. No, I wasn't clear. The mouse here doesn't set off the trap, either. It just alerts you that it's there.

      Nonetheless, most traps in this game CAN be avoided by skirting around them, and nothing but traps ever appear in trap squares, so I wouldn't call the mouse useless as long as you're making a paper map. You just annotate the trap square and skirt it.

    2. Sorry, I'm confusing things even more: the mouse DOES set off the trap--as in, the mouse gets killed by it--but the trap still remains active. Once the party steps on it, in contrast, it disappears.

    3. Uh... so, if YOU were the one who set off the trap, would the trap remain active as well; as in, it's a self-reset trap or something like a persistent trap?

      If not, why would the mouse set off the trap and it still remains active? Is there, like, small mini-traps meant for mice set beside all the other human-sized traps?

    4. "trappe" isn't French for "trap", but rather "pit". Typically, it's a false floor that swivels under the weight of a person, causing the unfortunate to fall into a pit.
      The mice don't "die" (at least in the original, French, ORIC version of Tyrann), they "disappear into a hole", i.e. scurry in the crack of the false floor - which adventurers wouldn't otherwise notice it since it's probably only a few mm wide.
      And the "trappe" is multiple uses, since once people fall, the false floor swivels back in position above their heads.


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