Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Conan: The Summarian

The box features artwork by the incomparable Boris Vallejo. I had two books of his paintings before my mother found them and threw them away.
      
Conan: The Cimmerian
United States
Synergistic Software (developer); Vigin Games (publisher)
Released in 1991 for Amiga and DOS
Date Started:  9 June 2017
Date Ended: 14 July 2017
Total Hours: 24
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate (2.5/5)
Final Rating: (to come later)
Ranking at Time of Posting: (to come later)

If nothing else, the Conan game has interested me in Conan mythology. Prior to this week, I had never read any of Robert Howard's original stories. I had seen the Arnold Schwarzenegger films, but about 30 years ago and in bit and pieces as I caught them on UHF stations. 

I was surprised to find Conan already King of Aquilonia in Howard's first Conan story, "The Phoenix on the Sword." He is restless in the position, particularly since the populace has begun to romanticize the tyrant that Conan killed to get the throne in the first place. The plot concerns a conspiracy of nobles, an assassin, and a minstrel to sneak into Conan's chambers at nighttime and kill him. Conan is alerted to the threat by the spirit of a long-dead sage named Epemitreus, who brands Conan's sword with the symbol of the phoenix.

Thoth-Amon is long-fallen from power, ever since he lost his Serpent Ring to a thief, and now serving as the slave to the assassin Ascalante, who is working with the conspirators but secretly plans to kill them and take the throne for himself. On the fateful night, Thoth-Amon finds that a fellow servant of Ascalante's actually has his Serpent Ring. Thoth-Amon kills him, reclaims his ring and his power, and summons a demon to kill Ascalante.
      
This plot point also plays a role in the game.
     
The climax takes place in Conan's chambers, where he stands armored and waiting for the 20 assassins as they burst in. As he slays them one-by-one--reluctantly in the case of Rinaldo the Minstrel, as Conan admired his music--Thoth Amon's demon shows up and enters the fray, killing Ascalante. The story ends with the wounded-but-victorious Conan convincing the priests of Mitra that he really was visited by Epemitreus.

The text is a bit thickly-written for my tastes, although there are some memorable lines, such as this explanation for Rinaldo's involvement in the plot: "Poets always hate those in power. To them perfection is always just behind the last corner, or beyond the next." Of Conan's style, we learn: "He was no defensive fighter; even in the teeth of overwhelming odds he always carried the war to the enemy." And of course the text that opens the story is wonderfully evocative:
           
KNOW, oh prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars—Nemedia, Ophir, Brythunia, Hyperborea, Zamora with its dark-haired women and towers of spider-haunted mystery, Zingara with its chivalry, Koth that bordered on the pastoral lands of Shem, Stygia with its shadow-guarded tombs, Hyrkania whose riders wore steel and silk and gold. But the proudest kingdom of the world was Aquilonia, reigning supreme in the dreaming west. Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet.
         
The game's abbreviated version misses a lot of the poetry.
              
I didn't realize until looking at summaries of Howard's other stories that Conan's adventures jump around in time, and that "The Phoenix on the Sword" is one of his last tales in Conan's internal chronology. Howard wrote it at the same time as "The Frost-Giant's Daughter," one of the stories earliest in Conan's life. I read it and found it a little less compelling than "Phoenix"; it's basically about Conan chasing a woman through the tundra so he can have his way with her.

As for the movie--it wasn't what I remembered or expected. It replaces Howard's over-wrought prose with equally over-wrought music and set pieces, far more pompous and stylized than other sword-and-sorcery films of the era, like The Beastmaster or The Sword and the Sorcerer. (Oliver Stone is credited on the script and part of the directing.) The film re-writes Conan's history, turning him into a survivor of a massacred village, a slave, and a gladiator before beginning his adventures. (Side question: Why does his master free him? There's no explanation in the film for it.) He is far less intelligent and articulate than in Howard's stories--perhaps inevitable with early Schwarzenegger. Everyone's hair is ridiculous, and man has cinema come a long way in the realism of fight scenes.
      
I remembered the line about Conan being "destined to wear the jeweled crown of Aquilonia on a troubled brow," and I assumed he was "troubled" because he was too intellectually inferior to properly grasp statecraft. Howard's original stories make it clear that the trouble is more a case of wanderlust, and Conan is actually quite smart.
      
There are some highlights. I somehow remembered Sandahl Bergman as being unattractive; either I was thinking of someone else or I had really bad taste as a kid. Bergman, James Earl Jones, and a scenery-chewing Max von Sydow are the only ones who actually seem to be "acting" in the film (which must top out at less than 50 lines of actual dialogue). Schwarzenegger only seems mildly annoyed at being crucified. Mako is . . . Mako.

But it was useful, because it helped me understand how much of the game is based on the film rather than the original stories. Conan's origin story is virtually the same, with Thoth-Amon destroying Conan's village in the game, in place of the film's Thulsa Doom. (In the original stories, Thoth-Amon is a sorcerer of Set but not the leader of a horde, and he barely crosses paths with Conan. Conan is a blacksmith's son who just decides to start adventuring.) The use of giant snakes as enemies, and the importance of stealing the Eye of the Serpent, also seem to be inspired from the film, and there are a lot of stylistic similarities between the game's and film's versions of Conan's visit to the ancient king's tomb and retrieval of his sword.

I guess Bergman's character, named "Valeria" in the credits but never in the movie itself, appears in Howard's "Red Nails," but has attributes more in line with Belit, "Queen of the Black Coast."
        
I think the "riddle of steel" from the game's copy protection only appears in the film.
     
Returning to the game: I liked the wide open first chapter amidst the large city, where despite my exhaustive explorations I managed to miss several side quests. The rest of the game's episodes were a bit too linear and short, although if they'd all been as broad as the opening, I'd still be playing the game until October. Character development and combat remain weak until the end--a theme that goes all the way back to Robert Clardy's earliest titles--but the economy is quite strong. I expect it to GIMLET higher than the two Excalibur games, and slightly in "recommended" territory. Let's see.

1. Game World. Given the richness of the setting, you can't possibly go wrong with an RPG set in the Hyborian Age. The backstory and ongoing narrative are both quite fun, and the map of Shadizar with its temples and quarters evinces much of the compelling nature of Howard's introduction. How do you look at a map with labels like "Thieves' Quarter" and "Bazaar" and "Inn of the Veils" and not get a tingle? I talked in an earlier post about how there are almost too many buildings in the city to visit every one, which is nice. It's just too bad that the game world didn't adapt much to the plot. NPCs still dismiss Conan with, "You insult me, barbarian!" long after Conan should have been famous. Score: 6.
      
The final game world consisted of 6 locations.
      
2. Character Creation and Development. A low point. Conan starts the same for everyone. There is no reward for combat, only for completing each stage, and even then it's just a measly +5 to his "defense" score. The only way you really develop is by spending money on training, and you can only afford to do that a couple of times during the game. Why the developers didn't award a point or two of combat skill for each victory is anyone's guess, but it would have made several aspects of the game much better. Score: 1.

3. NPC Interaction. You learn a lot about the backstory and about available quests by speaking to and bribing the various NPCs, and I like that NPCs can shift between NPCs and enemies depending on their dispositions. There are no real role-playing or dialogue options, but no one is really offering those yet. Score: 4.

4. Encounters and Foes. The game has a simple but effective stable of enemies, many with special attacks or defenses that need a particular approach to defeat. Non-combat encounters are frequent and informative although lacking in any choices or role-playing. The few puzzles are on the easy side, but still offer some welcome variety instead of making everything about raw combat. Score: 4.

5. Magic and Combat. There's no magic system, and the combat system--when it works at all--involves selecting a combat style and swinging away until you or the enemy is dead. It's boring and predictable. Score: 1.
       
Only the visuals redeem the game's approach to combat.
       
6. Equipment. A strong point. You can find and buy a nice variety of items, including sword upgrades, magic items, potions, and typical adventuring gear like ropes and torches. A generous but not-infinite number of inventory slots makes prioritization important. It's too bad there isn't any armor, but I guess maybe it would go against Conan's raison d'etre to wear any. I like that most of the items you can buy, you can also find, and most useful quest items (like the Gem of Sight) have duplicates elsewhere. Score: 4.

7. Economy. Another strong point. There's a real incentive to burgle as much wealth as possible, because even after you've purchased all the required equipment, you can always sink money into training. Conan is explicitly named as a thief, and thus plundering treasure chambers is both rewarding and keeping with Conan's mythos. I just wish slain enemies had offered a few gold pieces. Score: 7.
      
Spending money on some late-game character development.
      
8. Quests. A clear main quest paired with rewarding side quests and optional areas. There are no choices (except, I suppose, whether to keep some of the quest items or turn them in) nor role-playing, but in general this game does as well in this category as any game in the era. Score: 5.

9. Graphics, Sound, and Interface. No complaints. To me, the graphics are excellent, with each of the interior "scenes" well-composed and detailed. Sounds are sparse but realistic. The game supports redundant mouse and keyboard controls, which is all I ask for. Score: 5.

10. Gameplay. It starts nonlinear and becomes linear, but even in the later chapters, you can break off and spend some time exploring the city. I just chose to do most of my wandering during the first chapter. Unfortunately, I don't see it as very replayable, but the level of difficulty was moderate, and the overall length of the game was perfect for its content. Score: 5.

Our final score is 42, making Conan a rare game that manages to top 40 (which marks roughly the top 20% of the list) while scoring miserably in the two categories I prize the most in RPGs. Nonetheless, it reflects the overall fun I had with the game despite its flaws, and it out-performs Spirit of Excalibur (33) and Vengeance of Excalibur (34).
        
          
Charles Ardai's review in the February 1992 Computer Gaming World is oddly fixated on the fact that you're role-playing Conan's origin story, instead of a mature, skilled Conan. He has the same complaints that I do about limited character development and lame combat. "It is perhaps the most rudimentary role-playing game ever made," he says, a sentiment that echoes my scores of 1 in the two most vital RPG categories. But like me, he praises the game's aesthetics and concludes that it's relatively uncomplicated, undemanding, and fun.

The aesthetic attention, I should add, goes beyond the game. The manual has 7 full-page illustrations of Conan rescuing maidens and fighting monsters and whatnot. Since they're uncredited, I assume they're original to the manual rather than adapted from classic sources.
          
Conan must still be Level 1 in this image.
     
I'm a little jazzed about Conan now, which is too bad, since we won't encounter him again on my blog until Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures (2008), an MMORPG which I guess has a single-player campaign. A handful of other licensed titles from 2004-2017 are action-only. Maybe I'll honor him by being better-predisposed to playing a barbarian in other games.

This won't be our last experience with this engine, which Synergistic called "World Builder." They adapted it for multiple characters in Warriors of Legend (1993), as well as for the non-RPG The Beverly Hillbillies (1993). I love the fact that Lancelot, Conan, and Jethro can all go on adventures in the same game engine.

Going all the way back to the "Campaign" series, Synergistic doesn't do things quite the same way as any other RPG developer. This has produced both bad and good results, and Conan fortunately balanced on the "good" side.

****

Further Reading: Check out the other games made with Synergistic's "World Builder" engine: War in Middle Earth (1988),  Spirit of Excalibur (1990), and Vengeance of Excalibur (1991).



50 comments:

  1. Nice result for a game with barely any RPG mechanics. It does feel a bit odd however that it "only" scores a 5 in graphics & sound, as it really looks stunning for a 1991 game

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    1. "For a 1991 game" doesn't enter into it. The scale has to be able to expand to accommodate the completely immersive graphics and realistic ambient sound of today's titles, so a 5 or 6 is about as good as a 1991 game is going to get.

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    2. I just want to remind you that when Morrowind came out there were people saying that it is photo-realistic, so maybe "completely immersive graphics" not of today's titles but from some hypothetical distant future?

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    3. I wasn't expecting more than a 6 or 7 as it needs some headroom for future games. However, there are 20 games right now that got a 6 or more (Eye of the beholder and Ultima VI got a 7), so compared to them I found the rating of 5 a bit low

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  2. About swords in the movie those are real steel swords not some replicas like these days so you obviously cannot swing them to your fellow actors at full force and Valerians actress almost lost her fingers due to mistake.

    Sword that was broken at end of the movie was real it wasn't staged and not even in the script also the sword master that slaps Arnold on the face was an actual iaido sword master.

    So unless you expect them to be lobbing off real heads and limbs without a CGI it doesn't get much more real then it is in Conan.

    Only thing coming to close is LOTRO and for the same reasons which is that they had actual swords and armours and actual solders doing the drills and boatloads of CGI and a budget to match also not everything has to be next Rambo 4 to be "realistic".

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    1. Okay, but why did they have to use real swords?

      I'm not expecting Aragorn against the Uruk-Hai in 1982, but every battle here is like Captain Kirk vs. the Gorn. And age doesn't have to be a factor. Have you ever seen the final duel in Tyrone Power's "Mark of Zorro"? One of the most thrilling sword fights of all time, made 40 years before "Conan."

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    2. I'm sure the swords weren't sharpened. A breaking sword is dangerous, though, even a wooden one.

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    3. I had to go see that on youtube:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nB8tiSMCwRE

      Absolutely breathtaking. Nobody makes cinema like that anymore.

      (Just like best car chasing scene of cinema is still by Steve McQueen on Bullitt)

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    4. Yeah, that duel is just amazing. Thanks for bringing it up, Chet.

      Best car chase though is Popeye Doyle chasing the train through New York in The French Connection.

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    5. Not to get off-topic, but what I love about this scene is that it begins with Captain Pasquale (Basil Rathbone's character) having no idea that Diego is Zorro. Pasquale thinks he's about to do battle with a pampered fop and gets the surprise of his life. It's possible that he dies STILL not knowing that Diego is Zorro--there's no clear "aha" moment. You don't often have the "big bad" defeated in a movie still not knowing the hero's secret.

      Of course, the alcalde immediately figures things out.

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    6. Well, to be fair, all the common fencing swords are about a half kilogram, and fencing is still taught relatively commonly, depending on the area. Having experience as an actor (specially during that period), and having lots of good instruction, should have been fairly easy. That said, if you want *accurate* representation of European martial techniques, the documentary "Reclaiming the Blade"[1] does a fairly good job covering it and referenced movies that do it well. It used to be on Netflix, but I'm not sure where you can see it now. It was fairly entertaining IMO, so it may be worth a rent if you can locate it.

      1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reclaiming_the_Blade

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    7. OT here. Regrading great car chase scenes. I have to throw out 1998's Ronin.

      Not only is it zero CGI, there are actually two awesome car chase scenes:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxxH0lZSYgU

      The first, BMW e34 being chased by Deniro in a Peugeot through Paris. Everyone is cool until they hit the tunnels. The French guy throws on his seatbelt 2 minutes in. It takes until they are driving against traffic 4 minutes in for the German to strap in.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2m-ofGDLNlM

      The second is an ambush, and features the iconic 6.9l Benz (the first executive super-sedan), and an old school Audi S8, plus lots of shoot and of course a rocket launcher.

      I now turn car nerd off, and return you to back to CRPG talk.

      -Chris

      P.S. Bullitt was great as well, but I always rooted for the Charger

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    8. Film guy perspective! I really love the Conan movie. I also read "Phoenix and the Sword" and was surprised by how much the movie butchers the character. But a little context helps. It was directed by John Milius (I recommend the documentary about him, I thinking it's on Netflix) who was buddies with all the powerhouse filmmakers we now take for granted (Spielberg, Lucas, Coppola, etc.) It's easy to think Star Wars (1977) is forever, but Conan (1982) was released only five years later, and one year after Indiana Jones (1981.) The fantasy blockbuster thing, that has completely degraded Hollywood today, was still pretty visionary at the time, and the rules were still being written. What Conan lacks in polish, it more than makes up for in imagination. What's funny is that the two similar films you mentioned (Beastmaster and Sword and the Sorcerer) were released the same year, but that seems to happen a lot in Hollywood, where unrelated productions are coincidentally made at the same time. I think if you re-watched them, Conan will hold up better (though I've only seen Beastmaster, and I was probably 5 or something.)

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    10. The Ronin chase scenes made no sense in so many levels that taking the movie seriously became impossible.

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    11. If looking for real sword fighting, check out The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers from the mid 70s with Christopher Lee, Michael York, and Oliver Reed to name a few. All the blades were real, and the fighting authentically choreographed for the era. Some great scenes in that movie... and the stories follow the book closer than any other movie adaptation.

      Anyway, I loaded up an emulator copy of the Conan game on the Amiga... used to own it back in college in the early 90s and played it a lot. Forgot how fun it was.

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    12. I enjoyed the Mark of Zorro duel, but it does seem like an apples-to-oranges comparison to me, at least if "realism" is the criterion (rather than, say, "virtuosity" or even "excitement").

      I remember feeling a visceral appreciation for the ponderous brutality of the fight scenes in Conan the Barbarian. They felt infinitely more honest -- more "real", one might say -- than the sexy flashiness of other films' well-choreographed tableaux. In real life, violence is far more often ugly and blunt than it is stylish and balletic, and there are no rules other than killing the other person as quickly as possible (while minimizing injury to oneself). Conan's literally prehistoric setting, and its fundamentally amoral outlook (at least in the movie), would seem to me perfectly matched to the fighting choreography & style used in the film.

      On some level, I guess I mistrust any depiction of violence and murder that makes it seem artful and Baryshnikovian. Killing is an ugly, ugly business, even when the good guys do it, and usually involves tremendous suffering -- Captain Pasquale's quick death is a rare exception.

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    13. man has cinema come a long way in the realism of fight scenes.

      Really? All they do now is whip the camera around showing 0.5-1.0 seconds in each shot. You never see any extended action and this epilepsy-inducing camera method is tons easier to make (which is why it's used so often).

      I assumed he was "troubled" because he was too intellectually inferior to properly grasp statecraft.

      Did we watch the same movie? Conan was pretty sharp.

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    14. I was always partial to the final duel in Rob Roy. It felt more realistic.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27M5KWI_q50

      -Chris

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    15. The poor swordfights in Conan the Barbarian are probably down to the limitations of the performers more than anything. Arnold even at his acting peak was basically the kind of guy who looks better when he's either moving slowly or stationary (which is probably why he was so ideal as the Terminator). Kind of like John Wayne in that sense.

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  3. Finally the punny title we were all anticipating!

    I knew nothing of Conan before picking up Volume #0 of the Dark Horse comics series. The art was really good and always meant to get the rest of them one day. Fortunately I found the series in a collection of omnibus volumes on Amazon Kindle, which is always nice.

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  4. I also knew nothing of Conan until I finally decided to pick up the collected Conan tales when they were republished a few years ago. I was surprised that instead of some primitive barbarian stories I found a powerful, evocative mythos that has aged surprisingly well, and Conan being uncivilized, but quite smart in his field. Which makes his campaigns against all those ultra-brainy dark sorcerers all the more interesting.

    It's actually astonishing that of the gazillion fantasy CRPG worlds so many adhere to the standard Tolkien/D&D elf/dwarf/hobbit formula and so few go for a Sword & Sorcery setting in the Conan tradition. It would make for a refreshing change, and without the need for a "Chosen One" story to propel the heroes into action. Conan surely didn't require such a motivation in any of his stories.

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    1. Well, I think that regarding depth Tolkien's world blew and continous to blow everything so much out of the water. It is no surprise that this became the blueprint for Western medieval Fantasy settings. I guess that Conan's world just does not compare. And for the record I am not a huge Tolkien fan. LOTR as novel is barely readable for my 40 year self, but the world, mythology, history, geography, you need a brain like Tolkien to create this stuff, amazing. Even the derivative material is really interesting. The modules which were available for MERS were among the best I ever read. It is a pity that these were not used for crpgs. Sorry gut carried away, topic is Conan.

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  5. If you are now intereste din Conan´s tales but thinks the text "thickly-written", I woul liek to recomend David Gemmel´s books for you. Specially the "Rigante saga" and the "Drenai Saga". He has a lot of the same centarl ideas, but I find them to be better written, and more acessible (David Gemmel was actually critisised for using mostly simple words contrary to many contemporary fantasy writers)

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    1. Gemmel's "Legend" (from the Drenai cycle) is one of those fantasy books every fan should read, without being amazing in a literary point of view.

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    2. I should go back and try some Gemmell. I opened with Morningstar, which I liked a lot. It probably tainted me on "myth vs. reality" stories, and was in the back of my mind recently when I read "The Name of the Wind."

      After that I think I picked something from the middle, maybe "Waylander," and enjoyed it, too, but was just confused enough not to read more. (Or just couldn't get my hands on more at the time.)

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    3. The stuff you read about here. I think i remember reading a morningstar by David gemmell like in 1992 or 93. Did not think about this in 25 years. This is why i love this Blog....

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  6. I'm really happy (and relieved) that you seemed to enjoy this one. I pushed for its inclusion after noticing the similarities to the Excalibur series and looking for it, but still harbored a few reservations after our discussion as to whether it qualified as an RPG, as my experience with it was so long ago I was going mostly off vague memories and the manual.

    I do fondly recall reinstalling this game to play it no less than 5-6 times though, as even though I never had time to get very far, exploring Shadizar is itself so fun and scratched an itch I didn't know I had so well that I would have paid full price for just that portion.

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    1. That's right. I had forgotten that you nominated it. I get what you mean about Shadizar.

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  7. Those manual images look like they were taken from the interiors of The Savage Sword of Conan comic series that were so popular in the 1970s. I have a bunch of them at home.

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  8. It's definitely weird we didn't get more Conan CRPGs. It's kind of odd we didn't get a whole lot of LOTR CRPGs either, considering how much they influenced the genre. I suppose half the fun of developing CRPGs is building the world around them. Even now, there are far more RPGs based on original properties than licenses.

    Wow, Synergistic also made a Homey D. Clown adventure game in 1993 along with Beverly Hillbillies. An interesting year for those guys, I'll euphemistically say. I look forward to the Warriors of Legend write-up, since I know next to nothing about that game. (And I've mentioned Birthright before, which I believe was Synergistic's next CRPG after WoL. Such a weird experiment.)

    MegaTraveller 2's up next, huh? Well, at least the scenery will be different.

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    1. Speculating here, but my guess is that licencing existing IPs often causes more problems than it's worth. You also end up getting hamstrung trying to please fans of the IP while not making bad design choices for a computer game (e.g. the discussions on this blog about how tricky it would be to implement faithful mechanics in a Mistborn RPG). There is also probably the issue that someone gets the rights to an IP, makes a bad game, but then no one else can get their hands on the rights until the first company lets it go.

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    2. I am somewhat surprised even how many Japanese games are based on war of the three kingdoms, that we don’t have more games based on western myths and stories. Arthur, Robin Hood, Beowulf, etc.

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  9. >Conan: The Summarian

    Okay, admit it: you've been snickering about that one for weeks, waiting to inflict it on us. Admit it!

    Truly terrible, and well played.

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    1. We even joked about some of the options in the last one, and he sat quietly on this one. (Most likely giggling to himself over a gimlet.) Definitely a good one.

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  10. Great coverage of that not-so great (in a way) game. I just wanted to say that the series of post titles for this one was one of the best you did, really funny.

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    1. Thanks! I do put some effort into that.

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  11. I can sympathize with your experiences with Boris Vallejo; I remember one summer when my family had to spend in an apartment (our house had gotten skunks in the basement that sprayed into the central AC and cleanup took months) that was near a bookstore that I'd wander to on my own, and there I discovered a couple of Vallejo artbooks that I religiously poured over in my adolescence.

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  12. MM3 and Heimdall on the horizon! Fun times are coming:)

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    1. I may be the only one, but I'm waiting for Chet to get through Ancients 1. Played that game as a kid, and while I have a good memories, I remember it wasn't very good. Just want to see how bad it really is without having to go back and play it. :D

      I guess what I'm trying to say is there isn't a game on the list I'm not looking forward to reading about.

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    2. MM3 will be a nice break. It's just so easy to digest and fun.

      -Chris

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    3. I'm quite looking forward to MM3 myself, to the extent that it's making me unreasonably annoyed with what comes in between.

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    4. Yeah! I love that game. I didn't complete it- my save file was messed up at the end of the mid-game and I took a break- but I loved every second.
      I've actually started to play MM1 at the moment, it seems to get a lot of love on this blog.
      But I can't wait for the MM3 posts.

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    5. I reread MM1 in preparation for MM3, and realized you used to bold the keywords in the text. I'm not sure when that stopped, but it seems quaint now. Regardless, I'm also looking forward to seeing that one. I played through it a couple of times earlier this year and had a lot of fun with it.

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    6. I wasn't even consistent about it back then. There are a lot of stylistic things that I've tried once or twice and abandoned, such as sub-headings within each entry. I never get much feedback one way or the other. Now, if I change the FONT, on the other hand...

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    7. *starts picking the blog’s front entrance with a sign that reads Baskerville or Bust*

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    8. I really liked the experiments where Chet wrote from the point of view of the characters he was playing. I especially like the exchange between the neutral theif and a character that turned from evil to good in wizardry. Long time ago.

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  13. I recall in scene in Barbarian where Conan puts on a moderate amount of armor because he knows he's about to be attacked by a small army. A little surprising that there wasn't at least one mention of armor for Conan in the game, but I guess they were fixed on the loincloth-only vision of Conan.

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  14. Speaking to the order of the Conan stories, Howard had said that he wrote them as they came to him. He didn't have a chronology determined when he wrote them. He wanted them to seem like tales told from an old adventurer in a tavern. They would not come in order, they would come out as he remembered them, jumping from story to story.

    As far as his actual prose goes, it is not for everyone. Like a lot of pulp writers, he was writing quickly for a paycheck. Not a lot of editing or feedback going on. But he shows his skill in the occasional gem you find when reading his prose. And he does evolve and get better. And he is way more than the creator if Conan. He was pretty prolific. I would encourage you to check out a few more of his stories.

    Also, for anyone interested in Howard, check out the Cromcast. It's a Howard centric podcast that has expanded a bit beyond Howard to other pulp writers.

    Also, Age of Conan doesn't have a single player game as far as I know. Haven't played it in a decade. The first 15 levels or so kinda work as a single player game though.

    Anyway, love you're jazzed about Conan, I can kinda server as an REH, Conan expert if ya need one.

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  15. Speaking of which, anyone knows what timeline Conan Exiles is set in?

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