Sunday, July 2, 2017

Deathlord: Continental Drifting

It's a little late for this.
      
I hate trying to get back into a game that I've only abandoned for a few weeks--not long enough to make it seem fresh, but long enough that I forgot most of what I learned about it. I equally hate trying to make a posting out of notes that I mostly took several weeks before writing the entry. Today, I get to engage in both activities. If I don't, the blog will never get restarted, but I apologize that this one isn't going to be my highest quality.
      
Our new party member.
     
Thanks to Genpei's comments on my first entry, I dissolved my party and re-formed it without a thief. The logic here is that my ranger was going to be mostly wasted in the fourth position, since only the first three positions can attack (even with missile weapons). I gather that thieves are mostly useful for actual thieving, and not just disarming traps and finding secret doors and whatnot, so I can do without him. I moved my ranger into position #3 and added a genkai (illusionist) to the party. He comes with a decent low-level mass-damage spell.
     
A blast spell does minor damage to an entire group.
     
With the new party formed, I began a counter-clockwise circuit around the continent, hoping to get its rough shape. I figured I'd do inland exploration after sketching out the perimeter. It seems to be roughly 125 x 125 tiles, shaped enough like Britannia (an upside-down "L") that it must have just added salt to the wound.

The first new place I visited was the castle, which I only figured out because it had a castle-like icon and there was a guy on a throne who offered nothing useful except to reiterate the gist of the main quest. Unless I'm missing some mechanic, there's no way to see the names of the cities and towns, nor the names of the NPCs who populate them. I guess the opening town is "Kawa" because I got a hint that "the Daimyo of Kawa hides a secret," and I saw something called a Daimyo in the city, but I suppose it's possible that all cities have a Daimyo.

The castle had a "treasure chamber" that would have required me to kill a bunch of guards, so I declined to explore it (even if I would have survived). I also couldn't defeat the "captive demon" in the "Emperor's Private Gardens."
     
Maybe I'll come back another time.
   
An NPC told me that there was a spy locked in the northwest tower, so I went to see him. Lacking a thief, I've been opening every door by bashing, which does damage to the character if unsuccessful. This has in turn occasioned a lot of waiting around for those hit points to regenerate so I don't actually kill myself trying to bash a door.

Anyway, in the process of bashing the doors, I guess I freed the spy--along with a lot of other characters in something that looked like a jail (some of them fought me). He told me to "step 'east' on the second drop," which I imagine will come in handy later. The castle had a dungeon, which I explored a little but didn't finish because the monsters seemed a bit hard.
    
Why is "east" in quotes? Is it not really east?
            
Another city sat in the northwest corner of the continent, where a dock held 14 ships selling for 10,000 gold pieces each. I think the city is probably "Tokugawa," since a line of dialogue in another city said I could buy ships there. A weapons shop sold missile weapons, but I'm not sure they have any real purpose, since only the first three characters (who can attack with melee weapons) can attack at all. (Maybe they let me target anyone in the enemy stack?) A door blocked an area with a sign that read "keep out or face the consequences." I smashed my way through and found myself in battle with multiple stacks of zombies.
     
Are we commoners? The manual didn't really give us a backstory.
     
A dungeon on the southwest coast was once a town, complete with abandoned weapon and armor shops, now overrun with snakes and skeletons. There were a lot of chests, but oddly most of them were already opened and looted. As with the castle dungeon, I explore just long enough to get a taste for it and then moved on.

A sign somewhere in the mid-west advised me to search the "Wakiza ruins" for pirates' gold. Maybe that's where I just was? It sure looked like ruins.
      
If only the dungeons had names.
     
A dungeon in the northeast section of the continent, surrounded by swamps, served up battles with stacks of skeletons. I didn't stay long, as I was running low on spell points and hit points.
     
Trading blows with skeletons in a dungeon.
     
The last thing I found before returning to my origin point was a village on the eastern coast consisting of a few small buildings with a lot of forest in between. There was a weapon and shield shop, a food store, and several buildings I had to smash my way into for no clear reason; most had NPCs who just said "welcome," although one had a battle with a stack of yakuza.

I think the town is called "Tokushima." That's the name of the bakery, at least. This game reminds me of times when I'm driving through an unfamiliar area, trying to figure out the name of the city I'm in by scanning the names of businesses along the road.
      
I need a second sign to determine if this is the city name or just the owner's name.
     
Only during the end of my trip did I start to see little plus symbols next to my characters, indicating they could level up. Only the front three characters have the symbol, which makes me wonder if I misinterpreted some of my readers' advice. I thought if the spellcasters cast at least once per fight, they'd get equal experience for that fight. Maybe that just gives them some experience for the fight, but they need to cast every round for it to be equal? Whatever the case, they're lagging behind the fighters, and because the game doesn't let you see your experience total, I don't know by how much.

I've written down about 20 lines of NPC dialogue, none of which give me any strong hints about what do do next. "Evil is coming from the north," one says, echoed by another that tells me to "look to the north." Whether this means north of the continent or northern portions on the continent, I don't know. "Time is short," says another, and I should "find the words" and "find Senju" and "seek the Seven." Many of the dialogue lines are simply tips on playing the game: "Watch out for the storms at sea"; "Ships get stolen"; "Ruins are rich"; "Don't get caught outside at night." I spent the entire last session forgetting that there's a "keyword" option in dialogue, allowing for the possibility that NPCs will expand on these tips, so I pretty much have to go around talking to everyone again.

Miscellaneous notes:
          
  • I'm sure you're sick of hearing how my colorblindness affects my gameplay experience, but it would have been nice to see more contrast, in symbol or shade, between "harmless forest" and "deadly poison." Avoiding swamps is the most annoying part of navigating outdoors. There were some areas I couldn't reach because I didn't want to trudge over poison squares.
                
I stand south and east of harmless forest squares and north of poisonous swamp squares.
                 
  • There aren't very many enemies in the outdoor areas. A player who wants to grind has to wander far and wide for the occasional paltry wolf or skeleton.
  • I like that the game holds enemy parties to the same rules as the players. Only their first three warriors can attack in any given round, and they can only attack your first three.
  • If you don't (A)ttack the monsters first as they approach your square, they act first in combat.
  • Hit points and spell points regenerate at a rate of about 1 per half-hour of game time, corresponding to around 25 moves.
  • There are long loading times between areas, and when the game decides to save progress to disk. I find myself frequently switching between regular and "warp" mode in the emulator.
  • Guards don't seem to mind when you slash doors or loot chests, unless you have to kill them to get past them.
                
I loot a bunch of chests, to the indifference of the NPCs in the room.
                
  • I know from the manual that secret doors are possible; I just don't know what they look like. I assume there's some way to tell and I don't have to search every wall tile.
  • I haven't even tried to adhere to the game's permadeath. I capture a save state every few minutes and reload if someone dies. I suppose I could start playing more honestly now that I've found a healer who resurrects.
                   
Although it might be a while before I an afford it.
      
Thusfar, I've discovered three towns, two dungeons, and a castle. Now that I have a sense of the outlines of the continent, I can start mapping the interior systematically and see what else there is to find. Although I don't know exactly what to do to proceed on the main quest, I imagine I'll have to solve the Diamyo thing eventually.

I'm going to have to figure out a mapping process somehow. Mapping top-down games is always a pain, but the dungeons and cities are too large here not to map them. Through my usual methods (explore the perimeter, then try to clean up as much in the middle as I can), I'm sure I'm missing huge sections. In this regard, I wish Deathlord had kept Ultima's dedication to small, first-person dungeons.
      
Ultima would have offered individual epitaphs for each of these graves.
   
Deathlord does about as good as a game could do with an early Ultima base and a Wizardry combat system. The problem is both Ultima and Wizardry were six years old at this point, and both had surpassed the incarnations that inspired this game's developers. It thus offers a game as limited in mechanics as 1981 but with a much larger game world--something that I may have welcomed in 1987, but which exhausts me 30 years later as I try to get through all the other games published this year.
    
Time so far: 8 hours

45 comments:

  1. Colorblindness is an issue you almost never see taken care of in video games, though I suppose modern games could benefit from ATI/NVidia profiles or tweaks in their Control Panels. The Internet suggests that increasing color vibrancy and/or saturation would help, but I suppose that's dependent on the type of colorblindness you have.

    I know Alpha Centauri has a specific setting that can be toggled to assist with colorblindness, but I can't think of any other games written with that consideration.

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    1. The ancient Battle Isle and Historyline strategy games had it as an option but it's very rare

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    2. They are not rpgs -- well, they sort of are, in a way -- but the Borderlands games have options designed to help with colour-blindness.

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  2. "I'm sure you're sick of hearing how my colorblindness affects my gameplay experience, but it would have been nice to see more contrast, in symbol or shade, between "harmless forest" and "deadly poison." "

    That's not your colorblindess. I can't see any difference in the symbols either.

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    1. They're slightly different shapes. That's it.

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    2. Geez, that's not a colorblind problem, that's a design problem. I had to look a while to spot the extremely subtle difference: the small "dot" is purple in the poison vs the forest (but it's so dark it looks almost black), and also the poison "circles" have 1px sides vs 2px in the forest.

      Such level of subtlety is ok for hiding a secret door button in EOB, not for crossing an entire map.

      Delete
    3. Wait...*goes back up, has to zoom in the image to tell which is which*. So, the swamp has 2 tiny dots added, the forest doesn't?

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    4. I've gotten so used to my colorblindness being a problem that I just assumed it was another case.

      Maybe the developers deliberately kept the tiles similar to make the player take extra care in movement or something.

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    5. It kinda makes sense though - what's the point of having a trap that can be spotted from a mile away?

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    6. Seems like idea is that green blob with blue specks = ground with water = swamp.

      You have to remember that capacity was very limited and best way to conserve it was to change colors of identical sprites though they could just chosen a color for the bigger blob instead of the little one.

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    7. Chalk this one up to the C64 version. On the Apple II version the difference between swamp and forest is super obvious. Back in the day our IIe only had a monochrome monitor and we could tell the difference no problem. There are other tiles in the C64 version that are more confusing too, like mine entrances.

      Speaking of the C64 version, that's also why the load times are so bad. They were fine in the Apple version. Overall the C64 version is just not as good--the tiles are a little nicer looking in some cases but otherwise it doesn't play as smoothly. And it has other little annoyances, like using IJKL for movement (The Apple version was IJKM with L for Light Torch)

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  3. The C-64 version of the game had a partial map on the inside of the box. You can find the names of the towns and ruins there.

    http://c64sets.com/details_db.html?id=4791&t=Deathlord&i=inlay%20inside%201

    If it makes you feel any better, the swamps are not all that much easier to see when you can tell the colours apart. Although I wonder if the similar-looking tiles are supposed to be brush rather than forest. The game seems to be following Ultima by making trees obscure your view, and the tiles in the swamp screen pic don't do that.

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    1. Thanks! When MOCAGH didn't have anything like a map attached to the game, I assumed it didn't ship with one.

      But--aaaargh! This continent is only one of FIVE? No wonder people say the game takes so long.

      Delete
    2. More like, one of 16 (it's a partial map, remember). Most others are smaller though.

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    3. Yep, it's the first continent of 16. Fortunately it is the largest, with it being triple the size of most of the others. If you consider the L-shaped Kodan to be three squares, then there are 2 continents at 2 squares and 13 at 1 square, with some of those containing mostly ocean.

      Given the breadth of this game I suggest skimming the first half of WLau's FAQ on gamefaqs for handy tips up until it starts listing actual walkthrough information such as the map.

      Delete
  4. The swamp and forest tiles in that image use the same shade of green - I couldn't easily tell the difference either.

    When I played the Ultima games I mapped the whole outdoor region, one pixel per square.

    ... I can't defend this practice.

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    1. Same here. I had to stare at that picture for ages until I could tell the difference between the forest and the swamp. They're basically the same colour even if you're not colourblind.

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  5. Weeeellllll . . .

    Since I'm so eager for the Dungeon Revealed, I suggest there's no reason to exhaust yourself.

    Onward!

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    Replies
    1. Just to expand on my eagerness:

      We got a Mac Plus in 1986 when I was eight years old. The Dungeon of Doom (later The Dungeon Revealed) was one of the early games I played.

      Compared to what else was available at the time (which I mostly know through early Mac ports (like Wizardy I) or through this blog), I am expecting the biggest contrasts to be the high resolution and mouse control.

      I will feel much more "actiony" I expect. I'm excited!

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  6. It's "Daimyō", not "Diamyo". I wonder how much time the develpoer had for the change in setting. Looks like they went with the first translation they could find without doublechecking. And misspelling daimyō is like misspelling lord. The rold has a quest for you!

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    1. Yeah, we don't use macrons in English, we can just omit them. If we wanted to get fancy we'd write daimyoo, but nah. Daimyo will do.

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  7. I assume diamyo is the game's misspelling of Daimyo, who were the vassals of the shogun that ruled over each area in Japan. The eastern equivalent of the west's landed nobles. I assume it refers to the rulers of each of the game's towns.

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    1. It was probably my error. I fixed it in the posting.

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    2. I'm sure it's misspelled in the actual game. I noticed when I looked up the game when it popped up on your list, I don't remember where though. There's a game script on gamefaqs that also spells it diamyo consistently.

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    3. Not only is it misspelled in the actual game, it's inconsistently misspelled. There's at least one place that spells it "diamyo" and at least one that spells it "daimyo".

      Delete
  8. I can't stop seeing XKCD, and wondering what that is. Last post only had an X there.

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    1. If you've never heard of xkcd, it's a good thing we're in the middle of a long weekend. Google it and enjoy!

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    2. I meant in relation to the game, or is that something you entered?

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    3. It's something I entered. You can set the name of your own party. I named them after characters in the comic: "Kyuboru" = Cueball, etc.

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  9. I wonder if these treasure chests were empty because you released the jailed thief.

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  10. Please! If you have to ask, you're a commoner.

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  11. Hi Addict,

    The top-down dungeons are actually one of the better features of the game, as they're challenging to explore and have plenty of puzzles that the basic 3D dungeons from Ultima could not do. They might be a little TOO challenging at times, so don't feel bad about checking for hints here and there. The worst part of this game is sailing around trying to find the other islands.. I'd recommend checking a world-map online to save the hassle of endless sailing

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    1. Indeed, I just googled a world map of Deathlord and, back in the day, it could have been a pain in the ass to sail as much in a mostly empty map searching for islands.
      Or should I say lawn-mowing the map?
      It may have contributed artificially to the length of the game

      Delete
  12. Just a comment on your comment about experience--if your casters cast a spell once per battle they're getting full credit, but even then they tend to level more slowly. If the amount of experience you get for a fight isn't evenly divisible by the number of characters in your party, the characters up front get the remainder. It adds up over time.

    There's also no way to determine which walls are secret doors and which are not, I'm afraid, other than searching each brick tile. The layout of each map usually hints at where you should look though.

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  13. If I recall correctly, there's a little tiny white dot in the wall if there's a secret door, like between bricks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That may be. I don't recall anything like that as a kid, but maybe I just was oblivious to it.

      I might have to load this game back up and check it out. I remember playing it and liking it a lot. Hard as hell, but it was fun back in the 80s.

      Delete
  14. HINT/TIP SECRET DOOR: Kawa, the starter town has a secret thieves guild. Entrance to it is hard to find... there is no indication anywhere when playing that there could be a secret door that leads to it.

    If my memory serves me correctly from my glorious youth in the 80s on my C64, the thieves guild is located somewhere in the lower left corner of the town... I recall a long hallway that runs north and south... the door, when you search for it, should be on the right side wall of that long corridor... I think somewhere between 7-15 paces along the wall.

    TD Bauer

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  15. In early editions of DND the magic user class would require significantly more experience (between 25% and 100%, I believe) than the other classes to level up.

    If you can't see the number of actual EXP earned, it's possible that they are getting full experience but simply haven't hit their level up requirements yet, since those reqs may be higher than for your fighting guys.

    I believe it was a balance thing, since high level casters could be significantly more powerful than other classes.

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    1. The XP-per-level requirements are the same for each class (see my and Genpei's comments on the Addict's previous post about experience). His spellcasters are just gaining XP slightly more slowly.

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  16. Seconding Genpei's comment about the graphics on the Apple II being better than the C64. That swamp/forest lack-of-distinction is brutal.

    I don't remember / haven't noticed any graphical difference between a wall square with a secret door and one without, but maybe I'll take a closer look next time I boot up the game.

    Sort-of spoiler about secret doors, ROT13d: Abg bayl ner gurer frperg qbbef gung lbh unir gb frnepu sbe, fbzr jnyyf ner fvzcyl vyyhfvbanel naq nyy lbh unir gb qb vf jnyx guebhtu gurz.

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    1. I'm glad I translated that. The game is confusing enough without having to discover that 25 hours in.

      Delete
  17. I read the wiki, i can see why Richard Garriott had a problem with this game, the early ultimas predated this game by far. The overworld similarity is just shocking. It´s fine to be inspired but for heaven´s sake make more changes so plagiarism isn´t outright!

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  18. crpg addict glad to see you back on deck, you really have an excellent blog. I´ve read many other blogs over time so I truly can say that.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I was reading this blog back in 2011 or so and then got completely swamped with work/life for several years. Coming back now, I am amazed that you have been able to maintain this blog for several years. It is hard to see how you can balance this hobby and the related time with the games, with work, family, everything else (sleep, doctor's appointments, exercise, etc.). Have you written entries already about how you do this and the actual time you generally allocate to each? It would be good to know for other aspirant addicts.

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    1. Ha. I need to READ blog entries like that. I don't balance anything at all.

      Delete

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