Saturday, September 10, 2016

Fate: Dialogue

Man, life must be rough where you come from.
    
I spent more time than it took me to write this post debating whether I should keep going or start over. The arguments for not starting over were that I already had 29 hours invested in the game, I still remembered most of what was happening despite not having played in several months, and I had spent a lot of time in boring dialogue and combat getting to where I was. The arguments for starting over were that most of those 29 hours had been spent mapping, which I wouldn't have to do the second time, that I hadn't faithfully recorded all of the hints at the beginning of the game (because I didn't understand the system yet), and that I could use the excuse to assemble an ideal party earlier in the game. A commenter warned me that new party members are scaled to Winwood's level but don't have the training points they would have accumulated if they'd been leveling up with Winwood all the time.

Of desired party members, I was primarily lacking a witch. I decided to return my existing party to Larvin and wander around for as long as it took to find one and add her to the party. Winwood was Level 9 at the time, and I decided that if in the process of trying to find a witch, he hit Level 10, I'd start over. In fairly short time, I got a banshee, whose spells I like better than my magician's, but the witch remained elusive.

I used the time to try to codify what I know about interacting with NPCs. As I noted in previous posts, any humanoid creature can potentially be an NPC, even ones that would normally be hostile, like robbers and black witches. You just have to talk with them. Usually, they spit on the ground or demand your money, but sometimes they'll be happy to have a chat. Other classes, like commoners, noblemen, priestesses, valkyries, and mercenaries, are always friendly, and attacking them counts as a "sin" that you have to pay to absolve yourself of.

Occasionally, normally-friendly NPCs will accidentally wander into a party of evil creatures and end up fighting alongside them. It doesn't appear to be a sin if you kill them in such circumstances.
    
That "swordsman" would normally be friendly, but he's hanging with the wrong crowd.
     
There are three beneficial things that NPCs can do for you: give you a hint, train you (thus increasing one or more attributes), and join your party. But to get them to do any of these things, you first have to get the NPCs to like you. Sometimes they don't do what you want even if they like you, but they never do what you want if they dislike you.
   
A commoner hates me.
   
There are a number of things that you can do to get an NPC to like you depending on the NPC class. For instance, giving "alms" (basically, just handing over money) almost always works, although it insults knights, gladiators, swordsmen, valkyries, and perhaps some other classes. Simply introducing yourself works on everyone. Almost everyone responds to "adulation" (flattery), although it occasionally insults them. Bragging, telling jokes, and telling fibs are riskier strategies--they only work about 40% of the time--but you need to try something if the NPC won't take alms. You can give alms as many times as you want, but other actions you can perform only once.
   
Bragging fails to work.
   
Each successful action adds to some behind-the-scenes score, and with luck, you eventually trip the threshold to "like." What I don't know for sure is whether liking and disliking are binary measures or whether you can get some NPCs to like you more than others, thus increasing your chances of getting some beneficial result.
   
Winwood tells a fairly stupid lie. These people don't have access to your world's literature, Winwood.
    
The hint system works by giving you a series of hints in a specific order. A certain NPC class always has the next hint in the list, so you have to talk to a lot of NPCs before you find the right one. Eventually, the topic is exhausted and you have to do something in the game world if you want to move on to the next topic. No one has given me a hint in a long time, which I suspect means that I need to solve the Cavetrain quest before I get any more topics. I also need to find my way to the "southern isle" in a walled-off part of Larvin, where there's a druid named Mulradin.

The other thing I figured out about NPCs is that when you're "done" with one, even if you immediately dismiss him after talking to him, he disappears from the game and the game seeds the area with a new one. Thus, if I want to find a witch, rather than bypassing all the non-witches, I need to talk to them and get them out of the game to increase the chances a witch will show up in the next random selection. Since Larvin is so large and the "new" NPC could show up anywhere, I decided to head to the smaller city, Laronnes, instead.

Literally as I was approaching Laronnes's front door, a combat with a snake put Winwood to Level 10. But by this time, I was so comfortable with my existing party that I decided to press on. This was a good decision, because minutes after entering Laronnes, I got my witch. And yes, she has the "magic ears" ability, though this hasn't done anything for me so far.
     
Well, I'm glad that you think so.
   
Later, I filled the last slot in my party with an assassin. (So overall, I have a fighter, a witch, a priestess, a banshee, an assassin, and a warlock.) I'll dump either my fighter or my magician when I to take on a specific NPC.
    
Perhaps I should have held out for an assassin with a name other than "Derek."
   
With my party complete, I finished mapping the starting area. This took me about 6 hours. The resulting map represents only a small portion of the game world, and it's hard to imagine that I'll fully map the rest of the world, once I get to it. Fate really is quite enormous. In a regular game, the "opening area" of Fate would still be quite large.
   
The entire opening area.
 
I was continually annoyed by combats in the wilderness. As I noted last time, Fate can apparently hold only one monster type in memory at a given time, so you end up fighting variants of the same monster (e.g., snakes, giant snakes, serpents, swamp snakes) over and over until something triggers disk access again. I don't mind fighting the same creature so much as the fact that the game absolutely swarms you with them. Fate will decide, "it's rat time!" and soon you meet 4 giant rats. You kill them and 3 steps later, you encounter 6 swamp rats. You kill them, and then the game decides, "You like rats? Have some rats!" and you encounter a huge party of 7 giant rats, 8 swamp rats, and 4 regular rats. This continues until the enemy parties get so large that someone inevitably dies. You reload and the game leaves you alone for a while before deciding, "it's snake time!"
   
This is my reward for a couple successful battles against smaller groups of banshees.
     
I found a couple of new treasures but no more special encounters. I still have to solve the one with the body at the bottom of a pit. Some commenters suggested I do this by having my witch create strength +1 potions until I have enough (apparently, they stack infinitely) to get someone's strength up to around 50. That's going to require 25 potions, and my witch seems capable of creating only 3 per day before the spell just fails, so it will be a while.

Some miscellaneous notes:

  • "Grals wizards" are my most hated wilderness foe. Almost every other enemy you encounter in the wilds is survivable (except in huge numbers) but these bastards are capable of wiping out the entire party in a couple of spells, and they simply won't die.
    
     
  • I'm discovering that the game awards both individual experience (for successful actions like casting spells) and party experience. We've had games that have done one or the other before, but I'm not sure we've ever seen a game that does both.
  • Having not played in several months, I forgot that food and water was important. After many hours and several in-game days of exploring the wilds, I suddenly remembered that my characters needed to eat and drink. When I checked their statuses, sure enough they were "starving" and "parched." It didn't seem to have been affecting their combat ability.
  • There are a couple of islands in the middle of bodies of water that I wasn't able to visit and map. I believe you've all told me that there are no mechanisms for crossing small bodies of water in this game, so I guess that land will forever go untrod. Let me know if that's not the case, because it's starting to bug me.
   
How do I get there?
    
A short post, but the game-hours-per-blog-material ratio is quite high with this one. I won't write about Fate again until I've solved that Cavetrain quest and gotten out of the opening area. My next post will either focus on the equipment system or the economy. I have way too much money, probably because I haven't been spending it enough.

Time so far: 36 hours
Reload count: I give up




*****

Moonstone, which looks interesting, may have to wait a while until I get back home for a few days and attempt once again to get my controller working with DOSBox. It doesn't require a joystick, but I'm having an impossible time playing without one.

Maze Quest was supposed to be the next game after that, but I think I have to render it "NP." The game is really just a shareware tease for a full game called City Quest, but the full one doesn't seem to exist any more. Maze Quest's characters can only achieve Level 2. Moreover, when I tried to play it, it didn't emulate well. It froze frequently and wouldn't respond to my navigation commands, instead spinning my party around randomly. It otherwise seems like a competent dungeon-crawler, so if anyone comes across City Quest, I'd be happy to give it a try.

That has us starting Pools of Darkness much earlier than I intended, but hey, I'm not complaining.

31 comments:

  1. LOL with your picture's subtitles hahaha

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    1. Very old man on picture says 'I am an alchemist, 35 years old.'
      Man, life must be rough where you come from.

      LMFAO :D

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  2. Hey, Pools of Darkness! Never had that one as a kid. When you first got to 1991 I fired it up and started playing, figuring by the time I finished you'd be getting around to it. Then I got kind of lost in the game, and also fell into places were I died continually. I understand it's challenging, but I think I was missing something. Looking forward to seeing it played, as I do with all the Gold Box games. Maybe it'll get me back into it.

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    1. Yeah, not sure you were missing something, because man, PoD does go out of its way to screw you over pretty regularly. I've played through and won all the Gold Box games save one (Treasures of the Savage Frontier is still on the to-play list), and while the high-level games typically have some level of BS, Pools took it to a whole new level. I'd taken a fairly-rolled, not especially optimized party all the way from PoR without having too much of a hard time along the way, but had to resort to some outright cheating to make much progress.

      To get more spoilery, there are three major design choices that make the game much harder than its predecessors:

      1. Gur tnzr erthyneyl gnxrf njnl nyy bs lbhe rdhvczrag, sbepvat lbh gb fpniratr arj fghss. Guvf vf xvaq bs n sha vqrn, rkprcg gung gurer ner n ybg bs qnatrebhf rarzvrf gung unir uvtu zntvp erfvfgnapr naq creznarag sver fuvryqf (juvpu ergnyvngr ntnvafg nal zryrr nggnpx ol qbvat qbhoyr qnzntr), zrnavat gung gur bayl ivnoyr jnl gb xvyy gurz vf jvgu zntvpny enatrq jrncbaf -- juvpu va zl zrzbel ner va irel fubeg fhccyl va gur znal frtzragf jurer lbh ybfr npprff gb lbhe znva rdhvczrag.

      2. Znal bs gur onggyrf fgneg gb pbzr qbja gb dhvpx-qenj qhryf jurer juvpurire tebhc'f zntr(f) trgf bss n qrynlrq oynfg sveronyy svefg jvyy jva -- fcryypnfgref jub trg uvg pna'g pnfg fcryyf sbe gur erznvaqre bs gur ebhaq, fb vs gurl jva vavgvngvir lbh bsgra jvyy or pbzcyrgryl hanoyr gb juvc bhg nal bs gur ovt thaf be qb nal urnyvat. Pbairefryl, vs lbh jva vavgvngvir, n ybg bs svtugf trg gevivnyvmrq orpnhfr gurl'er va gur fnzr obng. Jung znxrf guvf n uvtu-qvssvphygl pubvpr vafgrnq bs whfg fjvatl qrfvta vf gung gb unir nal cenlre bs bppnfvbanyyl jvaavat gurfr vavgvngvir qhryf, lbhe zntr orggre unir n Qrkgrevgl bs ng yrnfg 19 -- fb vs lbh'q ebyyrq fbzrobql jvgu bayl n 16 onpx va CbE naq sryg tbbq nobhg vg, fbeel, lbh'er cerggl zhpu FBY (gurer znl or n srj vgrzf gung vapernfr Qrkgrevgl sybngvat nobhg, ohg V qba'g erzrzore gurer orvat rabhtu sbe gung gb or n ivnoyr fbyhgvba).

      3. Gur frdhrapr bs svany onggyrf, juvpu nf Jbaxb 4224 fnlf orybj, ner whfg n "YBY - ab" fvghngvba.

      The plot and environments for the game are lots of fun, so it can be fun along the way when it's not throwing ridiculous speed-bumps in your path, but it can definitely come to a shuddering halt pretty often.

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    2. Looking forward to it as well. I've tried to marathon the Pool of Radiance series earlier this year, but Secret of the Silver Blades and its insane amount of meaningless, unavoidable combat ("You spot a group of frost giants. They attack!") seriously burned me out of playing Gold Box games for a while.

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    3. That's holding me up too - SSB is just a massive slog. Feels really over padded.

      Delete
  3. Completely unrelated to anything, a quote I saw today: "Procrastinating is just enjoying all the side quests in life whilst you delay the main quest story mission." I'm trying *really* hard to get some things done tonight, and merely reading that sentence almost sent me to the computer to fire up a game.

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  4. If importing characters from SSB you may want to check that you can unequip any carried over cloaks of deisplacement, last time I played that would crash the game.

    Also, you may wish to have one of your trusted types read over and parse this spoiler: Gur raq frdhrapr vf shapgvbanyyl haorngnoyr jvgubhg fbzr urnil purrfvat naq/be bhg evtug purngvat.

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  5. "the game absolutely swarms you with them"

    This is why I gave up on this game more than one times :(
    Anyway it would be a great game without this feature!

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  6. Re the body in the pit: don't increase your strength via the witch's potion. Get a Magician. At level 10, he has the spell you need. (Which you can cast multiple times.) Be sure to have an empty slot in your party when you go get the body. When you resurrect the body, don't be fooled by the post-resurrection low stats - go to any guild and Restore them. (Prices for restoration differ wildly between guilds. Some comparison shopping is advised.)

    Re hunger & thirst: note the brown or grey boxes underneath the character portraits. These track the character's status. Brown is good, light gray is slightly problematic, dark gray is a major problem. The leftmost box shows your hunger status, the second from the left your thirst. For instance, in your last screenshot, we immediately see that everyone except Derek is both hungry and thirsty.

    The third box tracks tiredness, the middle box encumbrance, the last three poison, illness and something else - I forget. I usually walk around lightly encumbered (though that makes my people get tired faster), but any other box that turns gray should immediately be attended to. If you don't take care of your characters, they may leave at some point!

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    1. Thanks. I was completely blind tot hose status bars.

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    2. Check manual page 58, there is a picture with info about this "status boxes".

      Page 28 is aslo interesting, there is everything about combat system and mathematics.
      How numbers WC/AC and SC/DC works.

      Try to eliminate encumbrance, it is lowering combat stats. You can see it in real time by equipping heavy items a looking on combat stats bars (they will go down and change color to grey with high encumbrance).

      And yes, lvl 10 is OK, not many points wasted (I hope NPC`s have distributed extra points, but distributed by computer so there is a gigantic probability that they are (at least some of them) distributed to not-useful skills). I finished game on average level cca 160. No level cap is known to me, but if there is a level cap, it is very high so you probably never go that high.

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  7. "A commenter warned me that new party members are scaled to Winwood's level but don't have the training points they would have accumulated if they'd been leveling up with Winwood all the time."

    Yes, that's correct. They do scale slightly with levels, but it's advantageous to recruit your party early. With that said, 10 levels aren't such a big deal to warrant starting over. There are ways later to gain bonus attribute improvements and training points (completing milestones of the main quest line grant quite a nice amount), so don't worry about it. The game's going to take long enough as it is.

    Hmmm, now that I've tried it again, my highest level mage can only make 7 potions before failing. Strange, I distinctly remember being able to make enough potions to get the necessary strength. No matter, if you have a magician (get one temporarily if not), he should have the Strength spell by now that adds 4 points with every casting, up to the class/race limits. You really should get that dead guy, he's awesome.

    I would also get an enchanter, as his Flare spell is the only light source that also shows secret doors. There's no other way to find them, except bumping into every wall.

    "Each successful action adds to some behind-the-scenes score, and with luck, you eventually trip the threshold to "like." What I don't know for sure is whether liking and disliking are binary measures or whether you can get some NPCs to like you more than others, thus increasing your chances of getting some beneficial result."

    Apparently each action has a certain, slightly randomized threshold of this hidden "like" score. Asking their name and profession always works, unless they cut you off to demand money. Asking for information is slightly harder, but most of the time a single gift of alms is enough. Getting them to train you is even more. Finally, asking them about themselves seems the most difficult, requiring several donations to work.

    "And yes, she has the "magic ears" ability, though this hasn't done anything for me so far."

    To use it, when you find a special encounter, use the "Listen" command with her. You should get the message "X pricks up her ears..."

    "I have way too much money, probably because I haven't been spending it enough."

    Getting new spells for a party of mages will solve that quickly enough. :) But yeah, I don't think the game will get a very high economy score. I've finished it with over 6 million in the bank. On the other hand, items have almost no value and the selling interface is needlessly overcomplicated, so I don't mind getting money directly that much.

    "I believe you've all told me that there are no mechanisms for crossing small bodies of water in this game, so I guess that land will forever go untrod."

    That's correct. It bugged me too, but alas.

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  8. For Moonstone, definitely play the Amiga version if you can. It is worth the effort to get working.

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    1. Concurred. The Amiga version is the more historically significant, so to speak, and its music during interstitials is important for the atmosphere. And maybe there is less trouble connecting a controller than with Dosbox.

      I remember that Moonstone didn't pose any special difficulties to emulate. But in any case, as an alternative to setting the game up with WinUAE or FS-UAE, there is also this ready-made package:

      http://thecompany.pl/game/Moonstone:+A+Hard+Days+Knight

      Delete
  9. For Moonstone, definitely play the Amiga version if you can. It is worth the effort to get working.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  10. I'm not sure there is enough time in life to finish (or even really seriously start) a game like Fate. I honestly don't know how you even complete some of these....

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  11. Congratulations for your fortitude with Fate! After the long pause and the lost posts I was expecting you to give up. This is certainly a game I'd never consider playing but am vaguely interested in learning about so all the hours you're investing are hours you're saving me - the public service is appreciated!

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  12. At least your assassin should be brave, after all he is a Derek and Derek's don't run!

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  13. Fate! Hmmm.. the multiple enemy parties of single creatures reminds me a lot of Wizardry, especially the 7th game. I used to like it, but the abstract nature of combat put me off. I appreciate your playing this game. Maybe you can keep it as a ongoing side project.

    I see Pools of Darkness has come up. Not to soon eh? I may try it again; but repeated failure has dulled my interest. I do want to see your take on it as I have serious questions about the story itself. Thanks

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  14. "I hadn't faithfully recorded all of the hints at the beginning of the game"

    There you go. I really need to do something more productive with my time :)

    ----

    Q: 'Do you know anything about a man called Thardan?'
    - 'Psst! Be quiet! If his myrmidons heard you, they would kill you!'
    - 'Be quiet! Don't say this name!'
    - 'He's the cause of our fate!'
    - 'Beware of him! He's the devil himself!'
    - 'Shut up! Do you want his slaves hear you?'

    'Don't walk through the wilderness at night!'

    'I've heard about some strange weapons, which are to be found in the glens!'

    'Larvin is an isolated city. Our only contact with the rest of the world is the Cavetrain!'
    'We're in great trouble here in Larvin. The Cavetrain doesn't work any more!'
    'Our King Garloth has offered a big reward to whoever can reactivate the Cavetrain!'
    Q: 'Do you know, who's responsible for the Cavetrain?'
    - 'The Cavetrain is pursued by the mongards!'
    Q: 'Can you tell me anything about the mongards?'
    - 'The mongards are very ghastly! They live only in darkness!'
    - 'The mongards are nasty ape men! Beware of them!'

    'The ancient catacombs of Larvin are a mysterious place!'
    Q: 'Do you know anything about the catacombs of Larvin?'
    - 'There are many legends about the catacombs!'
    - 'The catacombs are a nasty place! Beware of the creatures that live there!'
    - 'The ancient catacombs are the home of the Shade Ghosts!'
    Q: 'Can you tell me anything about the Shade Ghosts?'
    - 'The Shade Ghosts aren't evil creatures! They're on our side!'
    - 'The Shade Ghosts are the power behind the Cavetrain!'
    - 'The Mongards have the force to control the Shade Ghosts! But there's an old tale about another being, which can also do it!'
    - 'An old legend tells about a strange man, who lives deep in the catacombs! The legend calls him the 'Master of the Shade Ghosts''
    Q: 'Do you anything [sic] about the mysterious 'Master of the Shade Ghosts'?'
    - 'The legend calls him Miras Athran, but that's all I know!'
    Q: 'Do you know anything about a strange man called Miras Athran?'
    - 'I was told, that he went along with Thardan! So I think, he's also an evil creature!'
    - 'The tale says, that he's a powerful master Mage who nobody can destroy! Avoid meeting him!'

    'The southeast part of Larvin is a small isle! Maybe you'll find some clues there!'
    Q: 'Do you know anything about the southern isle of Larvin?
    - 'It's the home of a lot of wise men!'
    - 'There's only one hidden way leading to the southern isle! The key might be found in the catacombs!'
    Q: 'Do you know a way down into the catacombs of Larvin?'
    - 'There's more than one way to enter the catacombs!'
    - 'The key to the deeper catacombs might be found in the Lich's Inn!'

    'In Larvin lives an old and wise druid called Mulradin. He's the keeper of many secrets!'
    Q: 'Could you give me some information about the old druid Mulradin?'
    - 'Maybe he lives on the southern isle like many other wise men!'
    - 'I heard he died last summer!'
    - 'He lived in Larvin once but I don't know where he is now!'

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    1. Wow. that actually cleared up several questions solidly!

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    2. Thanks a bunch for this. I have no excuse not to just continue now!

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  15. Hi Chet, really great to read from you again. I cannot comment much, but I read every post.

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  16. I loved playing moonstone in my youth. Not sure how it will do on your criteria for an RPG.

    I always thought of it as an action game.

    If you do go for it the Amiga version is the best to play.

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    1. Why? And don't tell me "because the sound is better." $*%@ the sound.

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    2. DOS era action games tend to be very jerky and Moonstone from my experience is extremely hard to actually get to run on newer systems.

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    3. Runs just fine in DOSBox, though it needed some tweaking in the configuration file (found in C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\DOSBox) to properly emulate my XBox360 controller. My settings (add these lines if they aren't present):

      [joystick]
      joysticktype=auto
      timed=false
      autofire=false
      swap34=false
      buttonwrap=false

      It's also one of those badly programmed games where timing is tied to CPU speed, so you need to limit DOSBox to roughly 3000 cycles. (Ctrl-F11/F12)

      The presentation seems to be exactly the same as on the Amiga.

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  17. /Teenaged self playing/
    *Encounters semi-nude woman*
    "Wow! This game is cool!"
    *Encounters MORE semi-nude women*
    "This is great!"
    *Encounters EVEN MORE semi-nude women*
    "I wish I could live in this world!"
    *Encounters so many semi-nude women the screen could barely hold them*
    "Okay, I'm turning gay now."

    ReplyDelete

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