Saturday, December 17, 2016

Game 237: The Rescue of Lorri in Lorrinitron (1991)

There's no title screen, so this opening screen is the best we can do.
  
The Rescue of Lorri in Lorrinitron
United States
Independently developed using the DCGAMES creation kit; published as shareware
Released in 1991 for DOS
Date Started: 12 December 2016
Date Ended: 13 December 2016
Total Hours: 4
Difficulty: Very Easy (1/5)
Final Rating: 17
Ranking at Time of Posting: 39/238 (16%)

At the end of my recent tour of Legend of Lothian, I wondered whether any Ultima clone really "got" Ultima. Plenty of clones have copied the iconographic interface, the tileset, and the commands, but none have even tried to match the best Ultimas for dialogue, setting, and story.

The Rescue of Lorri in Lorrinitron is, alas, not that game--but the creation kit that it was built with could have, I think, supported such a game. It is called "DC-PLAY" in the documentation that game with Lorri, but it seems to have been renamed "DCGAMES" at some point. It is credited to David Hernandez of "DC Software" in Plano, Texas. Most of the information that I can find on the kit comes from archived pages with broken links, but it appears to have gone through several variations shared on Compuserve in the early 1990s. You can still download the creator here. Registering the product cost $40.
    
Exploring a world clearly inspired by Britannia.
   
The kit boasts a surprising number of features, including recorded voices for characters, scripts to control NPCs, and up to a thousand maps of 256 x 256 tiles. In mechanics, it is clearly inspired by the Ultima line and plays like a combination of the first six games in the series. The use of most of the letters from A-Z for commands goes back to the original Ultima, and the game superficially looks like Ultima or Ultima II. But it supports the detailed NPC dialogue (via keyword) of Ultima IV, a complex inventory system reminiscent of Ultima V, and an approach to combat that blends Ultima V and Ultima VI. Aside from a roguelike approach to some equipment (where colors and descriptions are randomized for various objects at the start of the game), the kit is so heavily indebted to Ultima, in fact, that I have to wonder if Origin ever became aware of it and, if so, what its reaction was. An unsourced comment on one abandonware site says that Origin threatened legal action against the maker of Lorri, but it would have made more sense to go after the maker of the kit.

In any event, we don't judge creativity on the CRPG Addict; we judge results. It is therefore too bad that the only way we can experience the DCGAMES kit is through a fairly sloppy implementation via The Rescue of Lorri in Lorrinitron. Old archive pages hint at other games created with the software--DBQuest, Knight Fall, Other World, Legends of Old, The Slovennian Saga--but if any of these ever existed and did a better job than Lorri, they're lost to history.
   
Swarmed by skeletons and rats in the dungeon.
     
Almost everything about Lorri is inept, including rampant misspellings, inconsistencies in the use of upper and lower case, completely wasted NPCs, almost no documentation, a bungled ending, unexplained spells that seem to do nothing, and overall gameplay so easy that I'm convinced the starting character could win as-is with no companions, equipment, or leveling required. The developer, Robert Cristello, only wanted $5.00 for it, but I'm sure there were better games available as freeware. I looked up the address of Cristello's company--the location to which he wanted the $5 sent--and I saw it was a prep school in Bath, Maine. I briefly had an image of a 16-year-old boy programming this game and then using his school's address to get some quick cash, and the game was excused--almost redeemed--in my eyes. Then I got hold of Cristello's c.v. and saw that he was, in fact, Director of Computer Sciences at the school at the time, and probably about 30.

The only background you get on Lorri, independent of the kit, is as follows:
     
Hello Adventurer, Rumor has it that the Beautiful princess Lorri has been kidnapped by a terrible being and is being held in a secret location. The King is in dire need of help, perhaps you could go to his castle and offer your services to him.  It is said that the King is wealthy and would reward a brave adventurer such as yourself for the safe return of his daughter.
     
Character creation follows the standards of the kit, which blends races and classes: you can be a human, elf, dwarf, wizard, archer, or fighter, each of which has different modifiers to stating strength, speed, aim, dexterity, IQ, magic power, and hit points. You get a pool of 25 points to distribute among these starting attributes and can choose your icon from a small selection. The game begins near your house (which you can enter and loot for a few items); nearby is a town and the castle of King Altheon.
   
Creating a character.
    
Most of the letters on the keyboard are used for various actions, from (A)ttack, (B)oard, ad (C)amp to (W)ield, (X)it, and (Z)ap with a staff; some of the specific selections suggest a Rogue or NetHack influence rather than a simple Ultima one. (I don't think Ultima ever uses the word "quaff.") The small town maps are stocked with Ultima-style counters where you sidle up to buy or sell weapons, armor, and food. Bars are supposed to offer tips, but I never got any.
    
Magic armor is not only cheap; it's unnecessary.
    
My doubts about the game began to form when I first started speaking to NPCs in the towns. The kit supports long textual responses to any keywords--yes, NAME, JOB, and BYE all seem to work--and yet the maker of Lorri hardly programmed any such interactions. Throughout the entire game, in fact, the only thing I could find that was useful to do with NPCs is have them JOIN the party. I eventually supplemented Chester the wizard with Balthazar the dwarf, BOBCAT (yes, we're suddenly in uppercase) the human, and "elf" who never had a name.
     
Getting a character to join the party.
    
In the two-room Castle Altheon, I ran into a guard who demanded I not pass, then did nothing when I passed. King Altheon was standing next to his throne. The kit supports designating certain NPCs as "questers," which brings up a specific interface to receive and turn in quests. The developer here forgot to rename the generic title with the actual name of the king. In any event, I was able to get the game's one and only quest from him, but he had no other keywords.
    
I won't do it for less than 11,460.
    
The game world is about 200 x 200 squares with a few towns, dungeons, and castles, none of them very big. Terrain like trees, mountains, water, and shoals keeps you from visiting every location right at the beginning, and the key mechanism of proceeding on the quest is to find the next vehicle you need to overcome the terrain.

Monsters spawn at regular intervals. They consist of typical fantasy types--orcs, trolls, skeletons, zombies, "gouls," rats, spiders, dragons, demons--and if any of them have special attacks, I couldn't tell. The kit uses a derivative but still unique combat system. It takes place on the regular map, but when you enter battle, your party icon fans out to represent each individual character, even if it doesn't make much sense given the terrain (e.g., one character might appear on the other side of a wall or mountain). Enemies do the same. Each character's ability to hit an enemy, including considerations of range and obstacles in between, seems to be based on the lead character's position. 
  
My two-character party fights a troll.
   
Characters get experience for each successful hit against an enemy, and more if they actually strike the killing blow. Throughout the game, even when fighting hard-sounding enemies like demons, most died in one blow. Most of their attacks did nothing to my characters, and I only ever had to reload once when someone died of poison.
   
A character levels up just for hitting an evil wizard.
    
When they die, enemies follow the Ultima V tradition of leaving individual bags of treasure, items, or treasure chests. Even sea monsters leave treasures floating on the waves. Other than gold and food, these treasures can include rings, staves, potions, and scrolls. The game honestly didn't last long enough for me to bother figuring out how these items worked or what their various effects were. Hit points regenerate quickly just by walking around.
    
Spiders leave items and gold in their wake.
   
Within just a few combats, I had enough money to buy the best magical weapons and armor sold in the towns, and since everything else was so easy, by mid-game, I was just leaving equipment on the battlefield after combat.
   
"Let it sink!"
   
Characters level up at reasonably regular intervals, gaining a couple extra hit points, magic power points, and bonuses to attributes per level. As if this wasn't enough to win an easy game, I soon found a training facility at the end of a hedge maze where the trainer will increase any of your attributes by a few points, for no money. I mean, there's a money interface, and I think the developer intended to put a cost to the training, but in the game all the lessons are $0. You can get everyone up to 99 in all attributes for free. It's a measure of how easy the game is that I just upgraded a couple of stats and left. Healing, incidentally, also costs no gold--even resurrection.
   
Limitless development thanks to a trainer who never posted his prices.
   
The game has a food mechanic. When it started, I bought 225 units for about 8 gold pieces. When it ended, I still had 185. There's also a fatigue mechanic that makes you (C)amp every 1,000 moves or suffer hit point losses. But you can camp anywhere and it offers no risk.

Early in the game, I entered a city called Spectronis, which featured about a dozen rows of empty houses plus a few shops. One of the shops was a fortune teller who said I would need to "find the magicians [sic] castle to recieve [sic] transport to demon island!"
    
No need for all the other NPCs...one of them tells me everything I need to know.
    
To do his, I first had to get a boat. There was one at the end of a dock on the other side of a one-room mountain dungeon appropriately called "Boat Gateway." The boat allowed me to visit another island, which had a one-room dungeon called "Crystal Cave," where I found a Sword of Might.
   
Nice for someone to just leave this here.
   
Another boat-accessible area leads to a larger dungeon called the Underground. Here, you find a portable skiff that allows you to cross the smaller bodies of water in the dungeon (shades of Ultima VI) to the far exit, which brings you to an area encircled by mountains.
     
Out of one dungeon and into another.
    
In this area is the entrance to the "magic dungeon." You explore for a few minutes, find the evil wizard, kill him, and get his flying carpet.
    
Yeee-haaa!
     
The flying carpet works much like the Ultima V version except that you can fly over mountains with it. You use it to get to the Dark Castle. Two or three small levels of the castle lead you to the final battle against a group of demons guarding Lorri--as easy as any other battle in the game.

Lorri joins the party with the JOIN command. Her name is apparently PRINCESS, though, not "Lorri." Taking the exit near her brings you to an all-black area that says "welcome to end of game."
     
Use your indoor voice, Lorri.
It's rather dark in end of game.
    
Leaving this area brings you back to the outerworld near the castle. You enter and turn in the quest to the king, who screws you by giving you only $10 rather than the "11,459 in gold" that he originally promised. Or maybe the exchange rate just really sucks in Lorrinitron.
     
This is perhaps the first game in which the subject of a quest gets to level-up upon completion of that quest.
    
This is an example of a game whose implementation is so bad that it drags down what would otherwise be high GIMLET scores. For instance, the kit itself supports a decent approach to equipment--each character can have a variety of weapons, armor, shields, rings, necklaces, staves, and so forth--but Lorri is so easy that it's more of a hassle to micromanage inventory than it's worth. Similarly, the economy takes a big hit because the developer failed to provide anything important to spend money on. 

Combat is so easy that I didn't even get into spells, half of which don't seem to do anything anyway.

Thus:

  • 1 point for the game world. I know it's called Lorrinitron and it's ruled by King Altheon. The kit supported much more detail but the developer didn't provide it.
     
Instead of using these books to flesh out the game's backstory, the developer showcases his inability to spell the names of famous literary characters or get their lines right.
    
  • 3 points for character creation and development. A reasonable approach to both is undone by a game so easy that development is neither satisfying nor rewarding, nor do you have to try hard to get a mix of skills among your party members.
  • 2 points for NPC interaction. A solid mechanic that was unused.
    
The most useless "tavern tip" ever.
    
  • 1 point for encounters and foes. Enemies are only really distinguishable by icon; they have no special attacks or defenses, strengths or weaknesses. There are no other puzzles or encounters in the game.
  • 3 points for magic and combat. Again, a potentially 5- or 6-point system was under-utilized.
     
This should have been just a little more epic.

     

  • 3 points for equipment. Same story.
  • 1 point for economy. Same story.
    
I forgot that this potion-seller even existed until I was going through my screen shots.
    
  • 2 points for a main quest.
  • 2 points for graphics, sound, and interface. It gets all that for "interface." The graphics are uglier than Ultima and the developer of Lorri did not use the sound capabilities.
  • 1 point for gameplay. Linear, non-replayable, far too easy, at least it didn't last long.

That gives us a subtotal of 19, from which I'm going to subtract 2 points for overall sloppiness for a final score of 17.
   
I am nonetheless convinced that DCGAMES is capable of a 40-50 point game, and I can't help but wonder if any of the other titles made with it fit the bill. I'd appreciate hearing from anyone who has experience with this creation kit.

34 comments:

  1. I got the shareware of the kit as a young boy from our local computer shop, and while I never made anything worth playing, I had a good time with the kit. I've still got the documentation for version 1.30 (labeled DC-WORLD and dated April 1991) printed out on tractor paper. I keep it to this day in the filing cabinet next to my computer desk.

    DCGAME was my first introduction to the word "quaff" and that demon could be spelled "daemon". Find memories...

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  2. A quick (wait, has it really been over an hour?!) search of the internet archives--such as they are, for those acient times--revealed mostly the same list of games, or rather projects, that you must have come across. Sadly (or maybe not) I could find no evidence that any of those other games were ever finished or available to the public in any form.
    Except for one, that is. I know, I know, this kind of "help" is not unreservedly welcome, but I feel obligated to report that "DBQuest" is still available. For what it's worth, it does seem quite a bit better than Lorri from a brief play testing on my part.
    Not sure about posting links in a comment, but googling "dbquest game" should bring up an archived website that offers an online-playable version as well as a download, whereas "lostdragon dbquest" should find the developer's website with what might be a more recent version of the game.
    In any case, it's apparently from 1993, so it won't be played for a while either way.

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    1. DBQuest is available on Internet Archive, no need to track it down: https://archive.org/details/DBQuest_1020

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    2. There's also a lot of other old games tagged as CRPG in the archive that aren't listed on the master games list, but I've been trying to avoid mentioning those. Because most of them seem pretty bad and not worth playing. Not even for the sake of completionism.

      But if you want a list of the missing ones, lemme know.

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    3. I'm sure Chet is dying to play more games of this quality. Sign him up ;)

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    5. Most of them aren't close to this quality. If he played them, he'd have to adjust the scoring to cover negative ratings.

      But since I had nothing better to do, I made a list of ones that actually work. And then pruned it down to ones that don't seem like utter garbage.

      Here's the list, 12 new games - https://www.dropbox.com/s/8psdd2txafj5xuu/Missing.xls?dl=0

      I remember playing some of these when I was younger.

      Champions of Zulula might not count as an RPG, but I included it just in case. It kind of fits most of the criteria. And I it's an interesting concept: fight in arena death matches, hoping to eventually grow strong enough to destroy the monsters that are plaguing the land.

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    6. Well, I have to say that most of the ones o your list seem like legitimate games. I'll go ahead and add them.

      As for other shareware games, I think I'll adopt the expedient that I'll play them if someone cared about them enough to catalog them on MobyGames or Wikipedia. Otherwise, no. I'll probably also adopt a "one game per kit" rule if necessary.

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    7. One game per kit sounds like something both very limiting and possibly necessary - otherwise you might never make it out of the RPG Maker era. But you could be missing out on a lot of fan favourite games, some of which have been fairly influential on indie developers in a low-key way.

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    8. One possible solution would be to assign the kit itself the game number (with different major versions (basically anything you'd have to buy again instead of just updating) having their own) and consider it to be completed if you find a game worth finishing OR if you've tried enough games to get a feel for the potential (or lack their of) of the build kit.

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    9. You guys, stop giving Chet more games, particularly if they're (a) terrible and (b) of basically no historical significance because no one's ever heard of them.

      Steady progress towards Baldur's Gate is the only thing keeping him sane in the dark, unending era of Fate.

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    10. Progress can be measured different ways. While finding more games with 6-10 hour play times technically slows down chronological progress, it increases the total count of games covered by the blog faster than moving forward into games which take a long time each.

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    11. You guys, stop giving Chet more games, particularly if they're (a) terrible and (b) of basically no historical significance because no one's ever heard of them.

      For some of us, the "games no one's ever heard of" are the main draw of projects like this! Anyone who's ever attempted a project based in completism -- watching all the movies by this person, listening to all the pieces by this composer, etc. -- knows the feeling of wading through a lot of middling work and awful dreck, but also knows the feeling of unearthing an unknown gem, or finding out how often conventional wisdom is wrong (or is simply oblivious to really good stuff).

      Don't get me wrong, I want Chet to stay sane and I know you're joking around. But I love the fact that he tries to engage everything that meets his criteria, no matter how primitive or unpromising it might be, and doesn't offer some curated, crowd-pleasing subset of Greatest Hits. It means something significant to me that he's shedding light where it's needed most, not just in the popular places. Somehow that feels like a small act of rebellion against the way things have been going in our world, and I value that a lot.

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    12. Just be glad it's impossible for me to release the 3 games I made with this. See, I decided to store them on 5.25 inch floppies, and those are kinda hard to read nowadays.

      That and I made them when I was 12. They'd probably get a -15 score.

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    13. There I wanted to proove you wrong, but it seems while there are plenty of 3.5 inch floppy usb drives available (I just bought one), 5.25 are too small a market. Looks like your epics can rest in peace. At least till a geeky reader who still has an old PC in the cellar offers to transfer them for you... :)

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    14. DCGAMES sparked the creativity of a lot of people who'd always wanted to write ultima-style games but didn't know how...

      Most of those people gave up about six months later when they discovered that, even with a game engine, making a good game is a *lot* of work...

      So most of the games for this engine are of about this quality. Started, obviously never finished, and generally not even published. Dbquest is one of the few "finished" ones. http://web.archive.org/web/20010816014834/http://web2.airmail.net/davidh1/index.html lists six others that were good enough for people to actually care about. Unfortunately, some of them were hosted on services which forbade archive.org to crawl them, so they may be lost. I will attempt to find them if anyone is interested.

      http://web.archive.org/web/20020204005350/http://www.dcgames.com/ftp/ has the latest, uncorrupted version of the engine that I can find. Version 5.0 seems to be gone due to archive.org's policy of not crawling ftp sites.

      @Brian Gillespie There are a number of data recovery services that could read them for you. I would even be willing to do it as long as you're not in a hurry and don't mind waiting until the next time I have the equipment out for a paying customer. 5.25 to usb adapters are theoretically available as well, they're hand-made by one particular fellow and can read most of the formats that were used. They don't come with a drive, so you'd have to hit ebay too. I can send you the information on it if you want.

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    15. You guys, stop giving Chet more games, particularly if they're (a) terrible and (b) of basically no historical significance because no one's ever heard of them.

      I did play some of those when I was a youngling, so it can't be said that nobody's heard of them. Though I already regret adding couple of them, I should've pruned the list more. All three Bit Brother games are quite similar, and one should've been enough.

      But the rest I consider worth covering. For example, and Advanced Xoru is worth covering because it's one of the rare interactive fiction / CRPG hybrids like Beyond Zork and Zyll. Azalta, Lords of Doom: The Black God, and The Bratockian Saga are notable for features that are rarely seen in games from that era. Such as dialogue trees and full-screen cutscenes.

      Not so sure about Konrad the Warrior or Elysian Fields. Those I haven't played, and they might turn out to be misses.

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  3. Well, another heroic deed done by our esteemed crpg hero Chester :)
    It takes some nerve to play 'gems' like this one while there are plenty of other, more play-worthy games around.

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  5. So there is a DCGames v4.0 available at https://archive.org/details/DCGAMES4, which appears to either be a newer 1995 build or the registered version of the 1991 version.

    Going to mess around with this, maybe create a world called "Chet's Quest", unreleated to the cereal FPS of a similar-sounding name.

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    1. From what I remember, the creator used to release the older version as shareware, and the newer version was the registered version. I had 1.2 (I think it was) in 1991/1992, and 2.0 was the registered version then. Sometime in 1994 I got my hands on 2.0 as the creator released that as shareware then, so I'm guessing 3.0 was the registered version then? No idea after that as I stopped working with the engine in 1994.

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  6. I have this vague recollection that the comedian Bobcat Goldthwait went around capitalizing his first name like that in the 80s / 90s. Perhaps the developer was a big fan?

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  7. I used to work with version 2.0 of this engine, and the truth is, it is very limited. Just to list a few of the limitations:

    -Creators had no control over how game ending worked. The engine might or might not resurrect you if the party was killed, but you were stuck with what the engine decided to do, and as a creator could not overrule it.

    -Everyone had to use the same spells. The ones you had were prebuilt by the engine, creators did not get to select them.

    -It was impossible to delete the default items. If you tried, the game would still attempt to drop them, which would cause glitches. This was really bad if you wanted to prevent enemies from dropping stat raising food.

    -Monsters were set up so that you could only have a leader and helpers. The leader could have as high as 255 HP, but all helpers had 1/3 the leader's stats. You had no way to overrule it.

    -The Kill spell did 100 damage, no resistance. 3 casts of it killed any monster in the game.

    -You could rest anywhere with no consequence, as long as no visible monsters could attack you.

    -No control over passage of time. You had to 'get cute' with the engine to simulate passage of time.

    It is possible some of this was eventually fixed, but after version 2.0 I moved onto Unlimited Adventurers myself, as it felt much more polished in the end.

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    1. Unlimited Adventures really was fantastic.

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    2. Thanks for letting us know about the kit's limitations. It's always good to hear from someone with direct experience.

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    3. Unlimited Adventures was great! Sure you were restricted to the ruleset used in Pools of Darkness, but it was still fun to dabble in when I was in high school.

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    4. Most of that stuff was editable, even before 2.0, but you had to be willing to dig into the game's internal script files to tinker with it. The DCEDIT and DCWORLD programs were sufficient for world layout and creating NPCs and quests, but if you wanted to change any of the mechanics you had to take the time to learn the custom scripting language that backed it all.

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  8. Someone is actually making an Ultima 4 style game right now, complete with C64 version. It's called Unknown Realm and there's a Kickstarter going on for it right now. Just thought I'd mention it in case someone is interested.

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  9. This reminds me of the game I once created with adventure game construction kit. That's not a compliment, I was 16.

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    1. I was 12 when I made a game with DBQuest. I'm pretty sure it was grade A garbage.

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    2. I remember my own module for unlimited adventures. Starting area was shining - it had many dialogs and NPCs and quite a few challenging fights, then there was single, sprawling dungeon of much lower quality, and then there was a short road to a single-room dungeon with an orc, a final boss. I believe that was around time when I realized that creating games is HARD.

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  10. Wow... Someone had the gall to try to charge money for this? Honestly, you'd probably be better off playing the sample adventure that came with the kit to demonstrate its features. That, at least, had shops that actually charged money and, I think, demonstrated use of keys and needing passwords to get past the guards and such. (Incidentally, it was also the adventure in which it was discovered that Princess Lorri had been kidnapped. So this one was probably intended to be a sequel of some sort, and then never finished.)

    My memory of the balance was that it was also significantly more challenging than this particular module, but I was only about thirteen or fourteen at the time, so take my recollections with a grain of salt.

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  11. Addict, I have noticed Smudboy has been making a number of videos showing the flaws in the Mass Effect: Andromeda trailers and he has also showed the many flaws in Mass Effect 2 and 3. I also remember more and more ideas from Babylon 5 that Mass Effect stole, and this video suggests that it also stole a lot from Star Control 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlniKcFFwI8 You are an apologist for Bioware's rapidly decreasing quality and creativity, so can you please look at Smudboy's videos and Babylon and provide counterarguments? Maybe you can do a video with him, that would be interesting.

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  12. I've got to say: There is something special about your posts about obscure games like this. They bring people reminiscing about them out of the woodwork, they preserve things that are almost lost. When you play Fallout, everyone has played it. I own a copy or two of it even if I haven't played it. But stuff like this? You are pretty much the only one writing about stuff like this.

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