Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Game 254: The Dungeon Revealed (1987)

     
The Dungeon Revealed
United States
John Raymonds (developer); Woodrose Editions (publisher)
Released in 1987 for Macintosh after a demo shareware version (The Dungeon of Doom) was released in 1986
Date Started:  15 July 2017
Date Ended: 16 July 2017
Total Hours: 8
Difficulty: Moderate (3/5)
Final Rating: (to come later)
Ranking at Time of Posting: (to come later)

I arrived at college in 1992 with a Brother typewriter. I thought it was awesome because it had this tiny screen that stored your current line of text, not committing it to paper until you'd reviewed it, made your corrections, and hit ENTER. But I soon grew envious of my roommate's Brother word processor and purchased one of those instead.
               
That held me for about 6 months until I took a mandatory class on computer applications and was introduced to the modern personal computer for the first time. The class was probably 14 weeks and consisted of 7 weeks on the Macintosh and 7 on the IBM PC with MS-DOS. Of the two, the Mac was so manifestly superior that I couldn't imagine why anyone would buy anything else. By the end of the semester, I had gone down to Sears, opened a credit account, and purchased one.
      
A typical Dungeon Revealed screen shows me fighting a vampire with some food, a wand, and the exit stairs nearby.
      
Imagine my disappointment when I then wandered into a CompUSA, looking for RPGs for my shiny new machine. There was an enormous wall of PC games and a tiny shelf of Mac games. Incredulous, I flagged down a store clerk and demanded answers. "I think most developers are moving away from the [Mac] platform," he said. I was outraged. But of course he was right. I hadn't done enough research. I only knew about my own experience using the platforms, not how easy or difficult it was (both on the technology side and the business side) to develop software for them. I don't recall that I ever bought or played a single Mac-based RPG. What I did eventually do is purchase a product called SoftPC that allowed me to run DOS and Windows on my Mac, and play their associated games. That's how I finally played Ultima VII and Ultima Underworld, years after they were released.

Despite its strengths in whatever areas people think it has strengths, the Mac is definitely not an RPG PC. (I originally said "gaming PC," but I don't know enough about other genres, and I definitely did burn a lot of hours playing Descent on mine.) My master list shows exactly 17 games released solely for the Mac--less than one a year between 1986 and 2000--and a few of them are only identified as RPGs by GameFAQs, which usually is wrong when it conflicts with MobyGames and Wikipedia on a game's classification. The real total might be as low as 13. OrbQuest (1986) should have been the first one, but I can't find a copy. 1987 brought three of them: The Dungeon Revealed, Quarterstaff, and Scarab of Ra. To play them, I've had to learn yet another new emulator--Mini vMac--which will be good enough for the 1987-1989 games. For anything in the 1990s, I'll have to switch to something that supports a more recent version of the operating system, like Basilisk, which made me want to kill myself when I tried to use it for Shadow Keep (1991).
          
Early TDR levels are open and easy to navigate.
       
The Dungeon Revealed is a black-and-white graphical "roguelite," clearly inspired by Rogue (1980) but eschewing permadeath. The developer circulated a demo version, later upgraded to a full shareware version, as The Dungeon of Doom a year earlier. I don't know if the commercial version came with a printed manual--I haven't been able to find one--but the setup seems simple enough: the character has entered a multi-level dungeon and can't leave until he finds the Orb of Carnos on Level 40.

Character creation involves only a name and a choice of class from 7 options: knight, fighter, sage, wizard, alchemist, jeweler, and "Jones." Each class has a fixed set of starting attributes (from the D&D list) and a particular item type that they're able to identify without an Identify Scroll. For instance, fighters can always figure out weapons and jewelers automatically identify rings. Some of the attributes are a little mysterious; I'm not entirely sure what wisdom or charisma do. There are some original uses of attributes here: once a character has 16 strength and 18 dexterity, he can dual-wield weapons; 18 strength is needed to push boulders; and having 16 intelligence automatically activates the auto-map.
         
Character creation.
     
You begin on Level 1 of a 40-level, randomly-generated dungeon, randomly seeded with treasures and monsters. Movement is with this key group...

I O P
K   ;
,  .  /

...which I never fully got used to. Other actions, like using potions and eating food, are tied to specific keys, but since this is a Mac, you can also select the options from the various menus.
     
Starting on Level 1 and checking out the menu options.
  
Monsters appear and respawn randomly, each tied to a particular range of dungeon levels. About half are fantasy standards--for instance, giant bats, ettins, centaurs, skeleton warriors, shambling mounds, vampires, and dragons--and the other half are original to the game, with names like sethrons, schwein hunds, pirbolegs, drackones, and electric penguins.
        
"The Floor" can also come alive and attack you.
       
A lot of them have special attacks and defenses. Fire lizards roast you with fire and are immune to fire-based attacks; ice whirlwinds are the opposite. Giant scorpions have a chance of reducing your strength by 1 with a poison attack. Vampires are the worst. They don't drain your levels, as in most games, but rather drain a bit from your maximum hit point bar. More on this in a bit.

To contend with the creatures, you have a typical roguelike variety of equipment, including melee weapons, throwing weapons, armor, gauntlets, helmets, potions, scrolls, wands, and rings. As in the typical roguelike, you don't know what each colored potion or type of scroll or wand does at the outset. You have to learn through Identify Scrolls or trial and error that yellow potions are Healing Potions and ruby rings are Regeneration Rings. Fortunately, Identify Scrolls are plentiful and often come with multiple uses. A lot of potions and scrolls permanently boost your attributes; the maximum is 25. Some items are cursed and require a Remove Curse scroll to take off once you equip them.
         
Using an Identify Scroll on a ring.
          
There's a food meter that needs periodic refilling, but food is extremely plentiful, and I never found that this was a problem as in Rogue. You have to be careful not to overeat because your stomach bursts and you automatically die. There is no system for eating enemy corpses here; this is Rogue, not NetHack.

You don't see your experience points, but you level up at regular intervals, which improves your maximum hit points. You hit a level cap at 25, well before the end of the game.
      
A "magic map" scroll shows the level. At Level 27, I'm about halfway between the wide open paces of Level 1 and the tight, twisty corridors of Level 40.
      
The developers did an original thing with the levels. The early levels are wide and spacious--more like rooms than corridors. As you descend, they get narrower and narrower, so that by the time you're in the 30s, each level is a large maze of thin corridors and dead-ends, making it tough to avoid monsters. Still, the nature of the procedural generation doesn't allow for "islands," so if you just stick to one wall or the other, you always find the stairs. A couple of levels have secret areas full of treasure, and you need a Digging Wand to blast through the walls to get to them, but I found I was generally overloaded with regular treasure anyway.
            
Opening my way to a secret area, with a bunch of weapons that I really don't need.
               
The game lets you backtrack to earlier levels, unlike Rogue. Equipment doesn't get better as you descend--it's jut random--so a careful player could just hang out on the early levels, killing easy creatures, until he's identified practically all the equipment and has used enough scrolls and potions to boost his attributes to 20 or above. I didn't have that kind of patience, but I found that I had what I needed by about Level 20.
    
My inventory about halfway through the game.
      
I didn't get much use out of throwing weapons, since you have to go through a cumbersome process of unequipping your melee weapons to use them. Wands, particularly Death Wands, are a godsend. I learned to save Speed Potions, Invisibility Potions, and some wands for the very tough combats.
            
Some of the scrolls are just a waste of time.
         
Every 5 levels, your descent is blocked by a Gate Keeper who gets harder and harder each time. I spent most of my high-end gear on him. The Gate Keeper on Level 9 drops a Wishing Scroll (I otherwise never found one in the game), which doesn't help much for your first game because without an exhaustive list of items in the game, you don't know what to wish for. Plate armor turns out to be the best armor, along with gauntlets and a helmet. I guess a two-handed sword is probably the best weapon. For rings, a Regeneration Ring almost makes the game too easy, but I didn't have a strong opinion on the second ring (you can only wear two); Resist Fire, Resist Cold, and Sealth all seemed to have their uses.
       
I finish killing the Gate Keeper on Level 9.
      
Making your way to Level 40 is about as hard as in Rogue, but without permadeath, so not really hard at all. I had an embarrassing number of reloads, but I was more interested in documenting the game than meeting any kind of challenge.
       
Battling a dragon on a higher level. Note the maze shown on the auto-map.
       
There are two Orbs on Level 40, one in the middle of some boulders that you have to push away, and one under a suit of plate armor. One is the real Orb of Carnos and the other is a plastic ball. An Identify Scroll can sort them out.
      
Finding the Orb of Carnos amidst some boulders.
     
Once you have the Orb, it's time to backtrack up 40 levels. Fortunately, you don't lose your auto-maps. Unfortunately, monsters seem more plentiful, treasure much less plentiful, and a Dark Wizard dogs you the entire way. Even worse are the vampires. They knock down your max hit points permanently and the only way to regain them is to drink a Life Potion, which is pretty rare. I would highly recommend that all players keep at least one Life Potion until they reach Level 30 on the return (at which vampires stop appearing), then chug it to undo all the damage vampires have done. I didn't have one during my return, and I ended up limping along at half-health for about 35 levels.
        
Trying desperately to find the exit stairs, I am dogged by multiple enemies including two vampires.
      
I guess the Dark Wizard is killable, but I wasn't able to do it (I ran out of Death Wands long before the endgame). I just kept fleeing him when he found me. Teleport Scrolls are very useful towards the endgame for this purpose. As you reach earlier levels, the other monsters become much easier, but the nature of the level layouts (more open space) makes it easier for the Dark Wizard to find and kill you. I had to reload a lot during the return.
      
The Dark Wizard continues to harangue me steps from the end of the game.
     
At the end, you get a nice victory screen, a number of points based on how much treasure you hauled out, and placement in the Hall of Legends.
      
Wow, do I look happy.
      
The title screen, death screen, and ending screen are well-composed graphically, and the icons are serviceable enough during the main game. The lack of color is jarring, but I guess the Mac wasn't capable of color until the Macintosh II, released the same year. Sounds are sparse but effective, with little "oofs," "ouches," and "uh-ohs" punctuating key moments.
               
The nicely-drawn death screen.
             
I don't know if the original game shipped with any documentation. The commands themselves are well-documented in-game, and there's a section in the "Help" menu called "Rumors" that offers a series of cryptic hints about characters, enemies, and winning the game, such as that "there are two Orbs" and "a sage knows scrolls."
        
A different game might force you to uncover these clues from pieces of paper or NPCs.
     
Overall, it's cute enough. Impressive for an independent game. But it doesn't offer much more than Rogue offered 7 years earlier except an easier time. It earns a 21 in a GIMLET, hampered by no backstory or NPCs (0s) and an economy that only matters for the final score (1). It does best in the area of equipment (4), and graphics, sound, and interface (4), mostly for the interface. I suppose I could see remembering it fondly if I had a Mac in the 1980s, but I don't think it's a great example of a Mac-specific game. I think maybe we'll have to wait until Quarterstaff for that.
      
The very brief Hall of Legends on my version of the game disk.
     
Judging by comments on his LinkedIn page, John Raymonds created the game on a lark while attending M.I.T., mostly to teach himself C. His career took him to various manufacturing and technology companies at the managerial and executive level, and he now seems to be involved in producing films (he has an IMDB page). I don't know if "Woodrose Editions" was his own company. I can't find any mention of it that doesn't connect it to The Dungeon Revealed.

Thus ends our first Mac game and my first use of the Mac OS in about 20 years. Fairly soon, we'll have Quarterstaff and Scarab of Ra from 1987 and Shadow Keep from 1991. For now, let's see if I can wrap up Conan.

43 comments:

  1. Great review!

    I'm surprised you used the keyboard to navigate instead of the mouse. Also, I recall line-of-sight that updated dynamically as you moved. I don't know if that was a part of other games.

    I used to love zooming around with the mouse and bashing into things. I never got very far down, but now I'm motivated to go back and try again.

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    1. I found that mouse control got away from me very quickly. Plus, I'm naturally more keyboar-oriented.

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  2. I never played this one, but we spent an ungodly number of hours on Scarab of Ra as grads-school kids. I'm looking forward to seeing you run through that one.

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  3. Nice! I think I played this one on the classic Mac we had at my middle school in 1987-88. It was probably the demo; we had a small collection of simple games on it to play with.

    It's odd, you would think the Mac would have been a better platform for CRPG's. At the time though, compared to the Apple IIc's and IIe's which made up the bulk of the lab, it seemed a step backwards. (No color, lack of games, etc.)

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  4. I had a very similar experience with Macs when I started university in 1998. My dad got me an iMac for Christmas and I was initially enchanted. I had grown up playing games and programming on an Apple ][e, so I was excited to find out what new Apple had to offer. I soon discovered, however, that the iMac's word processing software was really underpowered, using the programming languages I was familiar with was impossible, and gaming was out of the question. I did all of my programming in the school's labs, but I sucked it up and wrote papers on the iMac.

    About midway through my third semester, the IMac started doing strange things. The CPU speed would get throttled at strange times. It would restart without warning. I took it to an Apple repair shop (the nearest one was about 100 miles away) and was told the problem was 'an improperly seated memory chip'. The Apple policy was to replace, but not repair. Replacing the memory chip would require replacing the main logic board. The cost would have been about $700. I balked. Trashed the iMac. Bought a $750 Dell.

    Happily, Planescape: Torment was released a few months later.

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    1. There was a Mac commercial in the early 1990s that showed the owner of a new PC fiddling around with drivers and having to edit his autoexec.bat file just to play a simple game, compared to the "plug and play" ability of the Mac. There was a time for a few years where this was a legitimate selling point. But by the time Windows 98 came out, I can't imagine why anyone would pay double the price for a platform that had only one mouse button and ran a tenth of the software. No Mac version of Microsoft Access was perhaps the #1 dealbreaker for me.

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    2. As a kid I loved fiddling with autoexec.bat and config.sys to see if I could boot the family's PC with over 600k of free conventional memory. I was perhaps an odd child.

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    3. Wrangling with a boot disk to get Ultima 7 finally working with that weird memory setting it used and actually getting the sound working gave me a crash course in computing that has arguably led to my current career! Playing with autoexec.bat files is a rite of passage.

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    4. I didn't like the sound initialisation game all that much. The old days kinda sucked.

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    5. I couldn't agree more with all these comments. I remember U7 being particularly difficult to get running. Something about the Voodoo memory manager...

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    6. Anyone who can tweak autoexec.bat and config.sys to run privateer 2 deserves an honorary CS degree

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  5. In the early 90s I was still rocking an Atari ST (I'm in Europe where they were more popular, though perhaps not as much as Amigas) and after learning that the MacVenture games were Mac originals, I was briefly fascinated with what else the Mac had to offer since I heard so little about Mac gaming. Didn't occur to me until slightly later that anything decent would've been ported, like the MacVentures were. At any rate, it's another blind spot for me so I look forward to more Mac CRPG rundowns to come.

    As for Quest for Tanda, which is coming up after Conan, from reading the the game's synopsis it seems like the designer simply took the names of the characters and created a generic RPG story around them. I won't rule out the possibility that it's some meta "game-within-a-game" that the characters are roleplaying, though I wonder if that's giving the game's author too much credit. The novels are a bit closer to a fantasy "The Sting" - far more about subverting genre tropes for the sake of a grift than adhering to them.

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    1. Tanda is a goofy little thing created by a 13-year-old. If you look at my sidebar, you'll see a new rule--#4--that the game has directly inspired.

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    2. "Where Hydlide was, there Tanda shall be." -- Sigmund Freud

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    3. That's going to be a really useful rule to have when you eventually get to Steam games.

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    4. It's a slippery slope, though. Rule #4 makes it sound like you AREN'T planning on playing every single RPG Maker game ever released.

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    5. Or every module for FR:UA or NWN...

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    6. Really as far as Tanda goes I have only been hoping for a single post showing us what it looks like, expressing some manner of disbelief at how silly it is, and then moving on.

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    7. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

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  6. It's quite interesting to see these old Macintosh games. Thanks to the Cold War and its CoCom embargo, Macs weren't legally available until 1991 here on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain.

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    1. I had no idea until now that you were in Hungary. One of these days, I want to post a survey and get a sense of where my readers live.

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    2. I guess it's the nickname. It was my first World of Warcraft character. Originally I wanted Xardas (from Gothic), but the name was taken of course, so in a burst of unparalleled creativity, I chose this. Now people think I'm Greek.

      Instead of a survey, wouldn't it be easier to just install something automated like google analytics or statcounter?

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    3. >>In Britannia of course.

      Oh Dupre you joker ;)

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  7. Nice post that captures the feeling of being a late 1980s/early 1990s Mac user well, though for me at least the picture was a bit rosier than that. Maybe I was satisfied too easily by the likes of Shadowgate, Fool's Errand, Dark Castle and (ahem) Leather Goddesses of Phobos, though.

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    1. Totally rosier.

      I had so much fun playing games on the Mac. I never envied my friends' PCs. If I envied anything, it was their Nintendos.

      Dark Castle was my first game, and games like Pirates! and Shadowgate are still favorites.

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  8. Does Scarab of Ra really count as a RPG? As I recall, there's no real character development of any kind, you just navigate a maze and use items at the right time. Certainly nothing like character stats or anything close to an economy.

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    1. Maybe not. I've never looked on it. It was on Wikipedia's list when I originally compiled mine, but it seems it's not any more. It'll be nice to get rid of one.

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    2. It's essentially a roguelike in that you are navigating randomly generated mazes, finding items, fending off monsters, trying to keep yourself fed, and questing for the titular Scarab along with a couple other items of RA, but it's true that there are no character stats or stores to spend gold on. (Gold exists but it's a scoring mechanism.)

      It's one of my most fondly remembered Mac games and I think its nonviolent archaeological theme is pretty unique in the genre, but it probably doesn't technically qualify for this blog.

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  9. Another great post Addict. I never played much on Macs except in school now and again growing up as my dad was 'that guy' that owned the first PC on the block, so when everyone else was playing on their C64 back in the early and mid 80's I was stuck with a rather limited selection on my PC... However, by the time the late 80s / early 90s rolled around I was living the dream already being well versed in DOS. :D

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  10. Just to throw out a few Mac-exclusive RPGs that you might have overlooked:

    Cythera
    Prince of Destruction
    Realmz
    Odyssey: The Legend of Nemesis
    Citadel of the Dead
    Realmz
    Jewel of Arabia: Dreamers
    Wanderer I: The Cult of Misery

    The first four games on that last were pretty big during the time.

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    1. They are all on the master list.

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    2. A bunch weren't originally. I added them between the anonymous comment and yours. It appears the standard databases are lacking a bit on Mac RPGs.

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  11. On Mini vMac, you can get a copy here that emulates a color Mac II running System 7 right here:
    http://fools-errand.com/07-DL/emulate-WIN.htm

    That ought to make Basilisk unneeded for any game pre-1997, unless it needs a CD-ROM drive.

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  12. Thank you Addict for covering this, it was one of the few games on the mac we could fiddle with during lunch in middle school. I'd have gone to my grave never having thought of it again if it weren't for you.

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  13. I had one of those Brother typewriters. I was certainly a step up from a normal electric model, but I blew a lot of cash on correction tape nevertheless. Silly me, I thought an Atari 800 XL would be a great game computer, but most games were only for the Atari 800, so the most important floppy disc I had translated between the two systems. After a short while, I noticed that PC games dominated the store shelves.

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  14. First off I have injured my hand so I am trying to use windows text to speech to write this, so please excuse any weird errors or voice commands that slip through.
    Secondly I find it interesting that this game has some of the best art so far. It's straight black and white pixel art, but it has a lot of detail and nice composition. I find it interesting that Mac which has always branded itself as the art platform has much better art than the technically superior DOS games of its era. There's no reason that a DOS machine couldn't do pixel art like this, but we typically see rather ugly art in RPGs of this era.
    Finely the fact that the level layout algorithm as you descend to be interesting. As we see more and more procedurally generated games I wonder how many of them will put this sort of algorithmic dependence on stage of game to use to give later levels of feelings, or layouts? For example and algorithm that makes levels more claustrophobic more more open and dramatic as you go on. For example you could start with an algorithm that gives a very artificial feel and have a slow change to a cave-like organic feeling over time.

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    1. That monochrome 512x384 screen produced some of my favorite digital art. Growing up it implanted itself in my memory.


      Dark Castle: 1986 http://www.myabandonware.com/media/screenshots/d/dark-castle-3ke/dark-castle_4.png
      Shadowgate 1987: http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/icom/shadowgate-mac1.png

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    2. If you added EGA color to those images they'd very likely look worse, because EGA looks like it was colored in by a child thanks to the limitations of the palette/color count on screen

      Monochrome looks sooo much nicer than CGA.

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    3. I was a dedicated Mac user all the way till the 2000s, and I always felt that way.

      In the 90s I started to definitely feel the deficiency of titles compared to Windows, but the games I did have were so much better than what I was seeing on PC that I didn't mind.

      The most relevant example in this context is M&M III. I played that on a Mac, and when I got the PC version to play years later off GOG.com I was crestfallen. Not. The. Same.

      Color Mac:
      https://lparchive.org/Might-Magic-III-Isles-of-Terra/Update%2033/9-mm3_3740.png

      PC: http://image.dosgamesarchive.com/screenshots/mightmagic3-8.gif

      On a side note, in my opinion the key to beautiful monochrome Mac graphics is custom-created images. Those Dark Castle and Shadowgate images are a great example. If you use the palette available, you can get great work.

      But later, more and more monochrome Mac games were simply ports where the color graphics were automatically converted to monochrome. And they sucked.

      M&M III Monochrome: https://www.macintoshrepository.org/_resize.php?w=640&h=480&bg_color=333333&imgenc=ZmlsZa6fXMvbWFjaW50b3NoZ2FyZGVuLm9yZy9zaXRlcy9tYWNpbnRvc2hnYXJkZW4ub3JnL2ZpbGVzL3NjcmVlbnNob3RzL21pZ2h0bWFnaWNpaWlfMy5qcGc%3D

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  15. For anything in the 1990s, I'll have to switch to something that supports a more recent version of the operating system, like Basilisk, which made me want to kill myself when I tried to use it for Shadow Keep (1991).

    BTW you're not alone in this. My experiences with Basilisk have been utterly confounding, and I've been a Mac user since they came out (give or take) so it's not as if I'm at a loss for what to do on the Mac end. The damned thing just wouldn't work no matter what I did.

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    1. Seconded.

      It's been several years, but I never got great results with Basilisk. My expectations are set by DOSBox and MinivMac, both of which are excellent.

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  16. Seeing this post was a bit of a shock. I've played this game. I just don't remember when or how, and I wouldn't have ever recalled it if not for seeing it in action. Oddly neither the startup screen nor the death screen seem very familiar (the ones you'd expect to see the most) but seeing that tile floor, the stairs, the graphics for mace and wand and ring, brought back not only memories of the game, but an almost physical sensation of excitement, tension, and confused frustration.

    It was probably on the Macs in the journalism office in high school, the only place I really had access back then. Being shared computers, there may have only been one active game, and I may have picked up somebody else's save, or played so that somebody else ruined my games. All I can really remember is being in some tenuous state and dying. Repeatedly. Also, I can recall having no idea what I was doing, not knowing how to identify things, not having enough food ... oh, and dying repeatedly.

    Even weirder for me, this explains a mystifying familiarity I've always felt for Roguelikes, which I thought I had only played for the first time a couple of years ago, mostly because I'd had this unshakeable sense that I would just be really frustrated by the game. It's funny to find out twenty-five years later that wasn't cranky speculation, but a buried memory of colored potions that wouldn't stay the same, tantalizing equipment that ends up being cursed, and starving for lack of food. It's eerie, like visiting a new country and discovering you already speak the language.

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