Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Might and Magic III: Mudcrabs and Mud-Slinging

Disgusting creatures. I hope to never see another.
       
Most CRPG fans know of Scorpia, Computer Gaming World's preeminent reviewer of RPGs for over 15 years (c. 1984-1999). I consult her reviews after every game that I complete. I generally find myself agreeing with her--anyone that names Ultima IV as her favorite RPG has unimpeachable taste--and even when I don't, I can usually see her point. That is, except when I can't. Every once in a while, she fires off a review that comes out of nowhere, often complaining that a game lacks features that literally no game of the era offered. (Her comment about "no true role-playing" in one of the Krynn games continues to baffle me.) Despite high praise for Ultima IV, for instance, she gave a negative review to Ultima V, which 99% of players would call superior except perhaps for the plot.

If a positive review for Ultima IV but a negative one for Ultima V seems odd, it wasn't the only time this happened. Her April 1987 review of the original Might and Magic is nothing but praise. Even when she acknowledges the early game's legendary difficulty, she's clearly (like me) more exhilarated than annoyed by it. She's enchanted by the encounter-packed maps, the detailed combat, and even the minimalist plot. You could pull quotes from the review that would shame the most hyperbolic movie poster: "One of THE most extensive computer RPGs around . . . world-touring on a grand scale! . . . its scope and complexity are amazing . . . highly recommended!"

The second game introduces NPCs and skills and has updated graphics, but keeps enough of the core gameplay that it's hard to imagine liking one but hating the other. Thus, Scorpia's largely negative review in the March 1989 issue seems to come out of nowhere. Sure, the whole NPC mechanic is a little unnecessary, but kiddo, where were you finding any games in 1989 in which NPCs had "personalities of their own"? She criticizes the game for offering extra quests and areas not essential to the plot and criticizes the plot as "simple," apparently forgetting that the first game, until the final screen, had no plot at all. She lambastes getting an extra 50 million experience points upon finishing the game. I mean, I guess I agree that they're kind of useless if you don't want to keep playing (and by the way, how many games offered the ability to keep playing after you win?), but they don't exactly hurt, do they? I think Scorpia's primary issue--I see this in a lot of her reviews--is that she gets hung up over a bad element or two--bugs or mechanics that don't work exactly like they're supposed to do--and it casts a pall over the rest of her enjoyment of the game. I remember how she went on for like a page analyzing combat rolls in the sewers section of Curse of the Azure Bonds, for instance. Here, apparently a couple of side quests were broken on the first release.

Van Caneghem was naturally surprised upon reading the review. "We had worked so hard on Might and Magic II, and it was a big step up from the first one . . . it had everything that Might and Magic I had, elevated," he said in an interview earlier this year with Matt Barton. (Incidentally, he remembers the review incorrectly, thinking that it all came down to the cryptogram puzzle at the end of the game. This is in fact only one thing Scorpia complains about, and not anywhere near the most serious.) Surprise festered into anger. The May 1989 issue published a long letter from Van Caneghem in which he attacks Scorpia's very qualifications as an RPG reviewer, suggesting that she would be more interested in adventure games. He correctly points out that the end of the game, though odd, was a deliberate attempt to avoid the very "foozle" that Scorpia coined the term to denigrate. He expresses (deserved) bafflement at her comments about too much combat, noting that "approximately half the time spent in any current fantasy role-playing game is combat time." His penultimate paragraph is quite a roast, and I suspect he was thinking of Ultima V when he wrote it:
      
Maybe a different reviewer should oversee the CRPG genre. Of the reviews Scorpia has done of CRPGs, even those with a favorable end have been thrashed within an inch of death before earning the "recommended" status . . . The majority of these have been sequels to classic games and have gone on to become classics themselves and favorites of game players everywhere, bereft of Scorpia's approval.
        
To her credit, Scorpia gives a measured reply to the letter, defending her obligations as a game journalist, and if I didn't think she was simply wrong about the qualities of Might and Magic II, and the way she reviewed it, I would think that she came out looking better from the whole episode.

Van Caneghem wasn't finished, which brings us to the present game. This is a monster encountered in the dungeons of Swamp Town:
     
You think the artists were influenced by The Little Mermaid's Ursula?
      
I had heard for years about Scorpia's inclusion in Might and Magic III, but I thought she was a one-off NPC. I thought I remembered her out on the ocean somewhere. Instead, she's a whole class of monsters capable of poisoning the party. You have to kill about 15 of them in the town's dungeon.

If Scorpia ever reacted to her depiction as a morbidly obese witch with bad makeup and horrendous fashion sense, I haven't been able to find it. In the same interview linked above, Barton asked Van Caneghem whether she'd had any reaction, and Van Caneghem said, "Said she was flattered to be included in the game, which I thought was wonderful." (That does admittedly sound like Scorpia. I read a interview with her once in which the interviewer tried repeatedly to get her to say that she'd suffered belittlement or discrimination because of her sex, but she refused to rise to the bait.) I was hoping that she'd reviewed Might and Magic III, but the magazine's editors, probably thinking politically, assigned it to someone else. She did have praise for the game in a October 1993 summary of dozens of RPGs on the market, but she stuck to her guns on its predecessor, saying that Terra's positives "turn the series away from the excesses of the past" and result in "a big improvement." Anyway, it's all a fun piece of CRPG trivia, particularly given that it doesn't sound like anyone is still bitter.
      
My reward for donating at all the temples was a few iron weapons and a coral shield.
        
As I played through this session, it became somewhat clear to me that the developers intended the player to visit each of the towns before doing any serious outdoor or dungeon exploration. This is the sensible approach in both previous games, and there are a lot of clues that they intended the tradition to carry forward, including the availability of a boat from the starting island to Swamp Town (unnecessary if the party has already acquired "Town Portal" or even "Water Walk"), the fact that the magic mirror password to Blistering Heights appears in the Swamp Town dungeon, and the fact that your reward for donating at all five temples is a set of equipment that even a Level 4 character would find useless. Also, the enemies in both remaining cities were laughably easy at my level.

Corak's notes on Swamp Town indicated that the city had been taken over by undead after VonEmosh, "master of the walking dead," had destroyed it. The ninja clan, which made a truce with the undead master, "remains undisturbed." This translated to the town's services being located behind secret doors, guarded by kicking ninjas.
     
True to the theme, even the trainers in Swamp Town are undead.
     
The rest of the town had encounters with ghouls and ghosts, the latter immune to most physical attacks. There were a lot of graves to search, some of which cursed my characters or produced enemies, others of which delivered treasure. One of the things I'm growing to dislike about Might and Magic III is the pre-determined nature of treasure and traps. There are some chests with basic traps that require a thief's skill to disarm, with random treasure inside, but the larger percentage of chests, graves, coffins, coffers, and so forth seem to offer a pre-determined, inevitable outcome, with no way to search, anticipate, or avoid. Since you have to test and open everything, just in case, you simply have to suck up and deal with every ill the game wants to throw at you. I know it's too early to expect a title like Fallout 4, where if you look carefully you can see the tripwire, but it would be nice if traps were something that you could role-play instead of just endure.
      
Alas, this was not just a saying.
     
In addition to Scorpias, the Swamp Town dungeon had phantoms that cause magic aging. I never suffered it because I was able to kill them in one or two blows. Two long spiraling hallways ended in altars that conferred 20-point boosts in strength and endurance for all party members.

A statue in Swamp Town had the first reference to the "main quest" in a long time. A statue of Prince Smallberry, "explorer of the swampy lands," said that, "When Princess Trueberry was abducted by Sheltem the Dark, Prince Smallberry was the first to come to her aid, and the first to fall dead at the dark one's feet." I've otherwise heard nothing of Sheltem all game. Two other statues, in response to riddles so easy I'm not even going to repeat them, gave me passwords to the "Main Engine Sector" and the "Beta Engine Sector"--of what, I don't know.

By this point, the trainers in Swamp Town were unable to advance my characters any further, so I went right for Blistering Heights, the last city, nestled in the midst of a volcanic island. Outside, which I only explored for a few steps, characters take fire damage with every move. Inside, fire lizards and demons roamed the halls. But statues cheerfully offered +50 boosts to elemental resistances, making what would have already been an easy area very easy.
       
These guys look a lot harder than they are.
      
Aside: I've never really understood resistances in the Might and Magic games. Here, a 50-point resistance is enough to block all damage from the fire-based attacks inside and outside of the town, so perhaps it's not so much a percentage as an hard threshold? Later, in Might and Magic VI-VIII, the opposite is true: no matter how high your resistance, you always seem to take some damage from elemental attacks. 
     
The Isles of Terra are noted for their six-legged spiders.
      
The caverns below Blistering Heights (presented in Corak's notes as the husk of a giant spider rather than a man-made formation) offered combats with "fire stalkers," who are immune to physical damage but who fell easily to my cold-based spells. 
          
I have no idea what's going on with my lead character in this screenshot. I don't remember anything driving me insane in the area.
      
There was another Scorpia or two, plus pools of fire on the floor. (As with some of the traps in other dungeons, I reflected that the pools of fire are there to separate the true role-players from those who really want a completed automap.) At the end of each of the spider's "legs" was an altar offering a permanent increase in resistances.
      
      
At this point, I was a bit lost. Other that really needing to find the "evil" castle to get rid of a bunch of Ancient Artifacts, I didn't have any compelling reason to choose any of the maps. Thanks to combinations of "Town Portal," "Lloyd's Beacon," and "Water Walk," I could pretty much go anywhere. Incidentally, right about this time, I figured out that "Lloyd's Beacon" is specific to each character, meaning that I could have two beacons active at once. I had my archer set his in the midst of the attribute-boosting wells in B1 so it wouldn't cost me so much time to visit.

Ultimately, I succumbed to lawnmowing tendencies and made my next visit to C1. The area was about 50% water, with two small islands in the middle, crawling with trivially-easy sprites and absurdly difficult cyclopes. There were no dungeons, just a couple of treasure chests and spawn points for the enemies.
       
The frozen tundra of the northern isles is about a day's walk from the palm trees and sand in the south.
      
The eastern island held an altar to the full moon. Corak's notes warned me that desecrating it would draw the wrath of werewolves, and sure enough, that's what happened. The creatures cause disease and have a ton of hit points, and my party probably deserved the grief they brought me. Why did I desecrate the altar? Who has a problem with the full moon, for gods' sake?
     
Flinging a fireball. Note the diseased characters in the middle.
    
Problems started in C2. The Isle of Fire in the middle of the game world encroaches on at least four maps--C2, D2, C3, and D3--and the spires of brimstone that ring the island form a hard wall. You can't just walk across them like mountains; you have to thread through them like a maze. ("Teleport" and "Etherealize" also don't work.) Unable to reach the interior without returning to Blistering Heights, all I could do was map the northwest contours of the island and the water squares around it.
     
The exterior of the volcanic island is impenetrable.
     
The water squares held a few whirlpools, but unlike the ones on a previous map, they didn't send the party to some distant shore. Instead, they held floating boxes of treasure. The problem was, every time I opened one, I summoned a handful of monsters. In this case, they were "dragon worms," perhaps the toughest creature I'd faced in the game so far. Despite that appellation, they weren't that tough, and though I relied more on damage spells that with previous enemies, I was able to kill them without much problem.
     
These guys are going to become a lot more annoying in VI.
     
Map C3 was a different story. It was almost a mirror of C2, outlining the southwest coast of the Isle of Fire, and offering more floating chests. These didn't summon "dragon worms," however; they summoned something called "kudo crabs" which I'll be happy never to face again. My party members couldn't even hit them (or couldn't penetrate their hides). Every physical attack failed. And as they had more than 2,500 hit points, even magic attacks weren't very useful. Moreover, almost every one of their devastating attacks shattered my armor. Even hopped up on well water, I was no match for them. It took me about 25 minutes and all my (artificially elevated) spell points to kill even one.
       
The bartender really understates things.
       
Nothing was forcing me to open the chests adrift on the water, and I could have dealt with the issue by simply saving them for later or bypassing them, but for some reason I was feeling stubborn this time. I claimed the experience due to me for the Ancient Artificacts of Good and Neutrality that I was carrying, leveled up (level average is around 25 at this point), and returned to Blistering Heights to visit the magic guild because I'd forgotten to do that before. There, I bought the rest of the game's most powerful spells--names like "Inferno," "Incinerate," "Dancing Sword," "Implosion," "Moonray," and "Star Burst."
     
#$@*, yeah. It's almost too bad the crabs only attack one at a time.
     
I visited the wells that increased levels, hit points, spell points, armor class, strength, luck, and dexterity. I donated at the temple in Baywatch enough times to get the various blessings cast on each of the characters. I un-equipped my armor. Then I returned to the map and confronted the crabs.

It was a useful exercise. First, it taught me how some of the spells work. "Mass Distortion" is a particularly useful one that halves an enemy's hit points no matter how many it has. The only thing is, it doesn't work (or, at least, not to its maximum effect) every time. You can't get discouraged; you have to keep casting it. I also determined that some spells increase the spell point cost with the character level, and since my levels were artificially inflated, it was costing a lot. My mage could cast "Dancing Sword" maybe three times and then he was out. I settled into powerful but less costly spells like "Incinerate" and "Fiery Flail," expending more gems on 9 crabs than all of the prior enemies in the game.
      
"Identify Monster" disabuses me of the notion that I've made any significant progress in this battle.
       
It took several trips back to the fountains and temples, but ultimately I was victorious, and got some pretty good loot for my trouble. Everyone has something of obsidian--the best material in the game--at this point. The experience rewards were decent, too, although not as much as the difficulty of the enemy warranted. Even while juicing on well water, though, my characters couldn't land a blow on the damned crabs. I hope I don't encounter more of them--or something worse--on the other side of the island. I'm sure I will.

I capped the session with a visit to C4 and one of the desert islands to the south. It had a fountain that increased my accuracy by 60 points, which would have been nice to know about before the crabs. (I know, I know--it's my fault.) There were a handful of treasures, combats against barbarians and dino beetles, and Greywind's Castle. I had been told to visit the castle on Day 50 to sit in his throne, and it turned out I got there on Day 53. Blast. I thus saved the castle for next year. If I head right to D4, though, I might get to Blackwind's castle before Day 60.
    
I felt bad telling him that I wouldn't be back for a year.
    
Miscellaneous notes:

  • Even in Blistering Heights, the store offers equipment less useful than what my characters had at Level 5. I haven't bought anything from the shops except identification and repair since the game began.
       
I outgrew steel and silver about 30 hours ago.
      
  • The inventories of my first four characters are now fully taken up by quest items, including 7 Ancient Artifacts of Evil, 4 "Precious Pearls of Youth and Beauty," and 3 "Hologram Sequencing Cards." I know that I have to deliver the artifacts to the evil castle, but I don't know what the other two batches are for. I realize that if things really get out of hand, I can stash excess items on NPCs hanging out at inns.
  • It occurs to me that each map, outdoor or indoor, has featured (I think) exactly three enemy types. 
  • I laughed at this "Guild Info" paragraph in the last town. I'm not even sure what the option is there for.
       
"Premium" meaning "extremely high."
      
  • A lot of things curse you. I'm not entirely sure what effect cursing has. I thought it caused 50% of your actions to fail, but it never seems to stop me from casting spells.
      
About half the game world explored!
     
With only one dungeon in the entirety of Column C, the game does seem to be moving a bit quicker. I'd guess I've now explored about 50% of it. I really like the feeling of standing in the first square on a new map, wondering what treasures and special encounters you'll find this time. If the Might and Magic series knows how to deliver one thing, that's it.

Time so far: 34 hours
Reload count: 13 

90 comments:

  1. Concerning the werewolwes:
    Lbh trg n fvqrdhrfg gb qrfgebl gurz sebz n sbhagnva ng gur fnzr vfynaq nygubhtu vs lbh nccebnpu gur vfynaq sebz gur jebat qverpgvba lbh zvtgu zvff vg naq qrfgebl gurz orsber lbh ner gbyq gb qb fb

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    1. Yeah, I clearly messed that up. That also explains the fountain that did nothing.

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    2. A pity it is one of the best fountains in the game it raises all attributes with 100

      Not that you really need it but it can be fun to be absurdly overpowered sometimes

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    3. Oh, THAT's the fountain? That works for me just fine. Helped me a lot with the hydras and whatnot. I didn't realize that its power was the result of a quest.

      I figured the fountain in question was the one that just says 'Fountain of Kartera" when I approach it and does nothing.

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    4. hmm i migth be wrong i remember it as if the fountain wouldn´t work until you had killed the werewolves but unfortunatly i don´t have any save i can use to confirm it and i can´t find anything about it in the walkthroughs

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  2. The crabs are definitely tough, but I definitely remember being able to hit them, at least with one or two lead characters. I'm guessing the lack of accuracy was the issue there, because a barbarian, knight, or paladin wielding some obsidian ought to be able to smack them pretty hard. I think there's a point around midgame where I stop trying to spread around might or accuracy, and just load it on the front two.

    Re: scaling spell points. When it comes to gameplay balance, you've called out what I think is one of the worst refined points of the game. The non-scaling spells are inexpensive but quickly become useless, while the scaling spells always cost so much you can hardly use them. Because of the way spell point reserves also scale with level, you basically can never cast more than 3 or 4 good spells before needing to replenish, which just isn't enough for an outing. If they all cost half as much, I think it would have been closer to the right balance. As it is, there's a large stretch of the game where I just let my front two fight melee, while the remaining 6 just twiddled their thumbs except for a little utility spellcasting and a few dire emergencies.

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    1. I was fighting them too early. I did the entire center map too early, as you'll see from my next entry. Powered through it anyway.

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    2. I admit I am not 100% sure, but if I remember well, your spell points don´t increase just with level, their number depends also on the Intelligence of the character (in case of Sorcerer, in case of Cleric it´s Personality).
      If you give all upgrades from barrels etc. of Intelligence or Personality to them, I think it´s not so bad, how you say. I feel like I was definitely able to cast more than 3 or 4 strong scaled spells before my spell points were out.

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  3. Wow, I can't believe that you have tackled the crabs this early in the game, they are basically the hardest monsters in the game, perhaps only octobeasts and hydras (which you may have already met given your west to east lawnmowing tactic) matching them!

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    1. Yeah, I met the hydras for my next session. I'd say they were even harder.

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    2. My biggest problem is always the minotaurs although that migth be due to encountering them earlier than hydras and crabs

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    3. I always thought Minotaurs and Medusas were horrible to fight against. Then, one day, I discovered the power of protective spells and cruised through everything like butter. I really urge Chet to explore that at some point, as some of your own buffing spells scale with char level, while the temple bonuses do not (I think).

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    4. Too lazy to try out by myself, so I just checked the cluebook: Hydras give twice as much XP as crabs, and both easily rank within the top 10 of all monsters in Terra. The official name is apparently "Kudo Crabs", by the way. (Can't confirm because I curiously never met them - I pretty much skipped exploring the sea squares.)

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    5. ...but of course, that wouldn't fit the M. I should go to bed.

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  4. "You can't just walk across them like mountains; you have to thread through them like a maze. ("Teleport" and "Etherealize" also don't work.)"

    I don't think any of those spells work when casting them *from* the water

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    1. They don't work inside the Isle of Fire either. You have to walk.

      I just played through Terra for my You Tube channel, and tried to teleport around.

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  5. I'm with Scorpia. I really enjoyed Ultima IV, and Lori and I borrowed the idea of the fortuneteller whose readings affected character stats (class in UIV), but I found Ultima V felt cold and sterile in comparison. I'm pretty sure I never finished it.

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    1. I'm an Ultima collector and finished all of them (except U9), and I'm not a big fan of U5 either. The underworld is too big, empty and boring. Or "cold and sterile" as you say. U6 was magnificent though.

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    2. See, that's funny: I liked U4, loved U5, couldn't stand U6. I guess everyone's tolerances for different types of bullshit are different.

      Me, I couldn't tolerate U6's interface.

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    3. Obdurate hater of Rhythm GamesSeptember 26, 2017 at 10:33 AM

      I also agree with that, and her very accurate Baldur's Gate review which I now realize applies to every Bioware game except Planescape Torment.

      I also found a surprisingly good adventure on GOG recently: Atlantis The Lost Tales.

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    4. Corey and Pedro, I get what you're saying, but the coldness and sterility is only compared to U4. In terms of content and story, U5 offers more than 99% of other games in the entirety of the 1980s. And the mechanics are fantastic. Musical instruments that you can play, NPCs who keep a daily schedule, the conversation system...I'm thoroughly annoyed that the engine wasn't used repeatedly.

      I feel like we're seeing the same thing with the U5 reviews that we see with a lot of modern games: if the game doesn't retain every positive aspect that its predecessor had, it "sucks." To me, Fallout 4 is a pretty awesome game, but because its dialogue and quests aren't as good as FNV, it's deemed a "travesty." I haven't played the Mass Effect series, but I'm sure there's something of the same phenomenon going on with Andromeda. Graphics that were perfectly serviceable 5 years ago are now suddenly worthy of ridicule because they didn't improve.

      I don't think developers are obligated to improve every aspect of their games to be worthy of good reviews. Corey, you must have suffered some of the same issues with Quest for Glory V.

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    5. Servicable graphics are fine if you are just quietly release another Victoria or similar game, if you are advertising and creatimg hype around it... ooh boy, you better deliver more than you promised!

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    6. Servicable graphics are fine if you are just quietly release another Victoria or similar game, if you are advertising and creatimg hype around it... ooh boy, you better deliver more than you promised!

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    7. Oh yes, many players have written that "Quest for Glory V is not really a Quest for Glory game." And yet it has far more puzzles, and much more dialogue and story than any of the previous entries. It also has the most impressive musical score. Other players have lauded the game for those changes.

      So why did people dislike QGV? It was the only game in the series to use 3D graphics, and we had a lot of trouble with the graphics engine. That caused characters to look bad compared to characters in previous Quest for Glory games. It also had a more intense, FPS-style, combat system that might not have appealed to adventure gamers. But I think the main issue was the graphics; they broke many players' immersion in the game.

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    8. Mass Effect Andromeda actually looks worse than it's predecessors, so it's a backslide. They seemed to have some really amateur 3D modelers who didn't understand basic anatomy, and as a result the character models hit the Uncanny Valley really hard.

      As for Fallout 4... nothing Bethesda does will ever be acceptable to hardcore Fallout fans. I think most people saw it as an overall improvement in gameplay and graphics to Fallout 3 though.

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    9. Whaaat?? U5 was amazing and you really felt like Origin's motto of "We create worlds" was achieved there. NPC schedules, day/night, better dialogue, more detailed towns, better interface, improved combat, and so much more. U4 had a great story but the gameplay was kind of grindy. However U5 really felt like you were exploring another world.

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    10. After a little more thought, it isn't so much that I *disliked* Ultima V as that I scarcely remember it. I have detailed memories of Ultima IV and Ultima Underworld 1 and 2. I disliked the graphics on Ultima VI from the beginning, so played very little of that game.

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    11. That caused characters to look bad compared to characters in previous Quest for Glory games. It also had a more intense, FPS-style, combat system that might not have appealed to adventure gamers. But I think the main issue was the graphics; they broke many players' immersion in the game.

      I played QfG5 some years after release and thought it looked fantastic. However, there was way, way too much combat in it, and the biggest problem was that it was (IIRC) unavoidable, followed by relative linearity and environments that, while beautiful, were (or at least felt) less interactive than in previous titles. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy it, but I can see why it could be a disappointed compared to QfG4.
      (that said, I still remember Gnome Ann and her meals. You don't want to know. You REALLY don't want to know)

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    12. The opening tune for Quest for Glory V is great, but my favorite song on that soundtrack and maybe of any video game is Dance of Mystery and Intrigue.

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    13. The first time I played QGV I was thrown off by the different UI system, I think, but after getting used to it I enjoyed it a lot, and felt like it was a fitting end to the series.

      I loved playing U5 but only with a walkthrough. I just didn't have the patience to play it straight, not sure if I do now even- it's a really dense, tough game. U4, in contrast, was the first Ultima I beat without a walkthrough (I think,) I was pretty shocked by how accessible it is by modern standards.

      Also, I've been skipping your M&M posts b/c I want to play them unspoiled, but the Scorpia trivia caught my eye, couldn't resist!

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    14. My overall point is that there is a tendency of some reviewers, Scorpia occasionally amog them, to judge the totality of games by their worst features. I try hard to judge them by the totality of their features.

      It's even worse today, when games are deemed to "suck" not even when they're bad, but when they simply aren't the BEST. You'd have to be insane to think that Fallout 4's graphics are BAD, but plenty of gamers opined that they "sucked" simply because they weren't as good as the best games ever made. Ditto its quest line and dialogue options vs. New Vegas. That's a ridiculous standard to have to live up to.

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    15. VK: Those are fair criticisms. I booted up QGV last year and didn't get far in it. First, the programmers somehow left in a debug option to go "straight to the action" and I foolishly chose that. It took me to an (as far as I can tell) unwinnable combat, probably intended for much later in the game when your character has higher skills. It also led me to a deserted fishing village that was part of the story line and just felt empty when played at the beginning of the game instead. That option should never have been available to players.

      Even if it had not been there, I think the combat was designed to be intuitive to FPS players, but not necessarily to players of the previous Quest for Glory games. As FPS games make me seasick, I haven't spent much time with them.

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    16. Gotta say Corey, I played QFGI-V about a year ago (GOG versions, lost my originals long ago) and thoroughly enjoyed them all just as much as I did 25 years ago. Yes V is different, but as someone who enjoys adventure games and RPGs I felt it captured that wonderful mix of the 2 genres better than any of the previous four titles. Not to sound like too much of a fan boy, but the originality of the series is rarely seen in any meaningful way. Developers should never try to compete with or replicate a previous title even within a series. innovation requires change and as long as its will thought out it can still work, albeit differently than earlier titles.

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  6. Obsidian is the best equipment material in the game. You just beat endgame-power monsters for endgame-quality equipment.

    I remember M&M5 throwing at you similar, but lower-power monsters outside of the second town in the game. Armadillos, you just can't hit them at the level you can train to in the first town. Spell power and repertoire is rather limited at that point of the game too. Still, one spell proved to be very useful.

    And the shops. M&M4-5 fixed problem with underwhelming stock in the later towns. You can find obsidian items in the most advanced shop there, with some luck.

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    1. I remember all my EXPENSIVE obsidions getting shattered over and over towards the end of MM4/5 (I forget which), to the point where I ran out of money for repairs and had to fall back on lesser equipment.

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    3. I remember beating MM4, and feeling it was too easy because you could hop into MM5 to grind.

      The only other MM I beat was MM8, because I had nothing else to do for a fortnight. Otherwise it would have lost me in the crystal, where all the monsters had high resistance to all magic.

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    4. Don't fall into the Obsidian > Everything Trap. near the endgame the monsters have such massive hit chance and damage that even a full set of Obsidian won't help much, but trading in one or two pieces for items with high elemental resist will help a LOT.

      I may be conflating WoX strategies with MM3, now I that I think of it.

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    5. To be fair, if you played MM4 before 5 was out, then it was probably the most perfectly balanced of all the Might and Magic games standing alone. You were meant to buy 4, beat it, then install and bring over your party to 5, then the World of Xeen specific content.

      I wasn't nearly as enamored of MM5. As a whole, I think MM3 is better than MM5/World of Xeen, but MM4 alone is the best of the classical era Might and Magics. I hold MM5 to be better than 1 and Swords of Xeen only, and 1 only because I haven't actually played it.

      Now of course, we just install the whole thing together. I'm not even sure you can get a modern copy without them together. I'd have to see if I still have my Clouds of Xeen disc to install it alone.

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  7. Hahaha I plead guilty to walking in all traps to get the perfect automap... :D

    Else, wow thanks for all the telling of the story of M&M and Scorpia, it's something I had never heard of. All those years I thought that it was some kind of a female scorpion-like witch, Scorpia being a fantasy feminine of Scorpion. I mean, there's so many made-up weird monster names in there...

    The spell casting cost does scale with level, but so does the damage too, so in the end, scalable spells end up doing more damage than fixed late-game spells in one shot. But still, the ratio of damage/cost is always better with the top spells, especially those who target a single monster.

    On the inability of hitting monsters - I'm not sure exactly how, but I know character level plays a big role. With the same weapon, a level 50 char might be able to hit the crabs where a level 25 char will not.

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    1. In the screenshot it's called a Scorpio. Maybe Scorpia is the plural (possibly that's what JVC intended.) I doubt she minded. As a monster she looks pretty hard-core.

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    2. No, that last letter is an "a" not an "o". MM III uses a bit of an odd font, but if you zoom in you should be able to see that the lower right corner is square, while the o is rounded.

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    3. Scorpia participated in a group on the old GEnie bulletin board back when MM3 came out. She appeared to be shocked or at least very irritated when we players told her about the Scorpia monster. Later her professionalism and wisdom guided her public reaction. But she was not initially as cool as some of you report.

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  8. Does the giant enemy crab have a weak point you can attack for massive damage?

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    Replies
    1. No, there's no location-specific targeting in this game.

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    2. Now I don't kniw if you are unaware of this meme or are you simply prentending that you don't know it.

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    3. It has been brought up and explained to the Addict before. Presumably, he is just ignoring it because it is idiotic.

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    4. Don't know it either, and I am immersed in the culture. I think you are assuming that everyone smells like your local clique, when in fact almost everyone uses anti-perspirant.

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    5. It was a meme that exploded everywhere for about a week after a Sony press conference in 2006, and has been dead since the start of 2007.

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    6. I have absolutely no idea what meme this is about either.

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    7. There was a press conference given by Sony where they boasted Ankit making the most realistic simulation of feudal Japanese warfare ever. Then a giant crab emerged, and they boasted Ankit their innovative combat system where you "attack the weak point for massive damage".

      So 1) apperently giant crabs are historically accurate
      2) They tried to sell something industry standard as innovative. That would be like trying to sell an innovative magic system on the fact it has spell points that regenerate over time.

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  9. Obdurate hater of Rhythm GamesSeptember 26, 2017 at 10:26 AM

    Scorpia was creative, a good writer and had good taste in games, so why did she enjoy being in this?

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    Replies
    1. I remember first seeing Scorpia in MM3 and my heart sinking. I thought it was crass and in poor taste. I can understand her deflecting it, however.

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    2. I agree. This was a misstep for the game and I think it detracts from it. When I played MM3, I didn't know the story but now that I know it... ick.

      Speaking of which, what ever happened to Scorpia?

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    3. Wikipedia says "She values her privacy and cited that as another reason for using a pseudonym.[10] At CGW, only owner Sipe knew her real name."

      But I wonder if it is true. She is pictured as a really large woman in this game, so there should be some picture of her or maybe she were present on some meetings, and the it is hard to imagine that she managed to still hide her real name. But maybe she was presented as fat because, you know, fat and stupid LOL.

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    4. Well, fat doesn't mean stupid; nor is the inverse true. It's particularly crass to portray any woman this way when we all know that a woman's conventional physical beauty is linked with how society is supposed to value them.

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    5. I know fat doesn't mean stupid, but it is a popular stereotype, what can I do. Obelix, Hardy (from Laurel and Hardy), various characters from books, which are fast and clumsy, and VERY rarely not stupid... Also note that talk about "how society is supposed to value them" is relatively new.

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    6. ronaldsf, what are your thoughts on how one might "safely" depict a female target in a satirical or contemptuous way, i.e. without being accused of sexism? Is it inevitable that any visually derisive portrayal of a woman will read as an affirmation of conventional gender roles?

      This is (to be clear) outside the question of whether it's in poor taste to treat a reviewer this way (probably), or even whether this particular depiction is in poor taste (also probably). I am curious, though, how one would go about lampooning a woman (especially one whose real appearance is unknown) without using techniques one typically uses in caricature. How do we differentiate regular disrespect from sexist disrespect?

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    7. @PK

      Given JVC's issue was with Scorpia's opinion, if he wanted to lampoon her, he should have taken shots at her intelligence, not her appearance. It'd have been more palatable (but still petty) had he presented her as a dopey-looking zombie with her brain leaking out.

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    8. how one might "safely" depict a female target in a satirical or contemptuous way, i.e. without being accused of sexism? Is it inevitable that any visually derisive portrayal of a woman will read as an affirmation of conventional gender roles?

      Google Theresa May caricatures, for example. Or Merkel ones. For the most part, they focus on these women's individual idiosyncrasies (and political stances) rather than gender stereotypes.

      @Tristan, that wouldn be quite cheap too, since the perception of women as less intelligent than men is quite widespread. A more or less safe way to depict her as some sort of monster using giant pen as a club, for example (the implied metaphor being that she's a hack). Still, the whole affair as childish AF, no matter the actual image.

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    9. Yeah, the Scorpia thing really is super shitty in retrospect. Kind of taints the game a little for me. I would hope JVC has grown past that.

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  10. An amusing thing happened in my playthrough 20 years ago. I had a strategy of giving every advantage to one character (a paladin) except for intelligence where I also gave some to a sorcerer. She was as a result extremely overpowered and more often than not the only survivor.

    This strategy went well, until I met my first mudcrab. She couldn't hit it. But, otoh, it couldn't hit her either. Ended up in an infinite combat with the two combatants swinging to miss eternally. Had to restore a previous save.

    Then I came back 20-30 levels later and vaporized them.

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  11. I can't remember, are the Hour of Power and Day of Protection spells in that game?

    In regards to Scorpia, It's fascinating that a reviewer had that much clout. I think the 2000's are going to be remembered for angry youtube rants, sadly.

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    Replies
    1. No but many of the individual spells that make up those aggregate spells are in the game, like "Holy Bonus," "Heroism," and "Protection from Elements."

      Delete
    2. Hmm, strange. I was thinking these aggregate spell are in MM3 too.

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    3. Unfortunately no. Also as unfortunate, while in MM4+5 World of Xeen the effects of Bless, Heroism, Holy Bonus, and Power Shield are party-wide, here they are character-specific. This makes it prohibitively expensive to buff the party fully. In my recent playthrough, I would burn through all my archers' spell points casting just Power Shield.

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    4. Temples are a good way to buff everyone cheaply. I don't think there's an advantage to the expensive temples. But you'll only get +8 or so this way.

      A premium option is the well of magic in F4. Set a beacon, wait until morning, then charge your SP above maximum and town portal (because spells take 10 minutes to cast outdoors) and then buff to your heart's content. If necessary, recall back and recharge SP, then zap back to town and continue buffing.

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    5. Eww, that makes sense. No wonder the buffs feel so powerful in the Xeen games. They were balanced for higher costs and smaller effect.

      Does this game have the recharge item spell?

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    6. It does. Funny note, at least in the SNES port, you could find an item with recharge item, and recharge itself infinitely. Unfortunately, inventory space was so limited I didn't bother exploiting this.

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    7. Hm. I just found a gem of recharging (GOG version). Yep, works there, too. Funny.

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  12. The crystals in the swamp town dungeon are a bit better than that. One keeps adding 20 points to strength until a characters hits 50. The other keeps adding 25 points to endurance until a character hits 50. I did not do it either since I did not know, but a min/maxer would try to hit these up early. The ideal starting character strength would be 9 unless you need it higher for your class.

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  13. You should try to contact Scorpia. I wonder what she's been up to the last 2 decades or so.

    I remember when I played it I didn't visit Swamp Town or Blistering Heights until near the end of the game. But I do remember going through the entire upperworld on the first island before delving into most of the dungeons (a few near Fountain Head were pretty easy).

    I don't know if it was a bug or not but I remember beating the game without going through Greywind and Blackwind's castles. They are also one of the few dungeons that don't let you save in them either.

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    Replies
    1. First time I remember finishing it without doing them either. Here's why (MAJOR spoiler):

      Jura lbh serr gurz, rnpu bs gur vyyhfvbavfgf tvirf lbh unys bs gur ynhapu frdhrapr pbqr gb raq gur tnzr jvgu gur ubybtenz frdhrapvat pneqf. Ohg gur pbqr vf nyfb sbhaq orybj va gur clenzvqf nybat jvgu gur bgure nafjref gb evqqyrf, fb va rssrpg, lrf, gurl ner bcgvbany.

      Gung'f bar cynpr jurer V guvax guvf "uvag" flfgrz fubhyq unir unq yvzvgf. V zrna, vg'f svar gb tvir fbzrguvat yvxr gur nafjre gb gur xvat'f pnfgyrf evqqyrf, be gb gur nenpuarna pnirea zngu chmmyr, fvapr vg'f sbe bcgvbany gernfher. Ohg urer, gur uvag olcnffrf n frpgvba bs gur znva dhrfg.

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    2. Or... different ways to win the game.

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    3. Blackwind and Greywind are completely optional, as is Swamp Town. Blistering Heights is only needed for training and spells.

      Still worth doing, but optional. You can skip the entire southern sectors of the map.

      Delete
  14. Those crabs are one enemy I missed completely. I didn't fully explore the ocean. Scorpia was an enemy, and at the time I thought it was an odd name as they had no resemblance to scorpions. Thanks for the back story.

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  15. The Scorpia issue is interesting, given that one of the topics currently in circulation around the game-o-sphere culture is that modern devs are increasingly unwilling to interact with gamers, given the toxicity they can face.

    For my two cents, it seems really tasteless and immature of Van Caneghem (not to mention any other devs who signed off on it). Granted, it brings to mind similar and worse things writers have done throughout history to their detractors (how many personal enemies did Dante place in hell?), but for the most part, I also think those writers were being tasteless and immature, in those moments at least. Good for Scorpia for taking it with grace.

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    Replies
    1. Yada yada, game journalists will publish anything of that kind, and it only makes gamers madder.

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  16. Regarding the engine sectors, very minor spoilers..

    Do NOT touch the crystal arrays. Just don't (or manually back up your save first, but preferably don't). Isolated crystals are fine, but if you touch the arrays, you are in for a very nasty and quite irreversible surprise once you figure out what they did.

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    Replies
    1. The problem with that is that some of the crystals in the arrays are teleporters to areas you couldn't otherwise get to.

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    2. And since we're talking about endgame material here, by the time you get there you might probably not care much about the consequences either.

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    3. Yep, I touched the crystals, saved without realizing....
      And yeah, my entire game became unplayable. That's where I stopped playing.

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    4. I was mainly referring to alpha and beta engine sectors, which Chet just got clues for and may reach soon. Those are midgame areas, and the crystal arrays there are all bad.

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  17. "Aside: I've never really understood resistances in the Might and Magic games. Here, a 50-point resistance is enough to block all damage from the fire-based attacks inside and outside of the town, so perhaps it's not so much a percentage as an hard threshold? Later, in Might and Magic VI-VIII, the opposite is true: no matter how high your resistance, you always seem to take some damage from elemental attacks."

    Imagine you're writing a game, and you want to put in sdome elememtal resistace in ider to make combat more complex, in some sense, and to give the characters some useful stuff to find.

    Does resistance reduce damage by a percentage? Or by a fixed amount? Both are reasonable concepts, and both have their issues.

    If you care at all, you WILL agonise about it!

    (PS: armour is just physical resistance. Experienced coders know that, beginners write resistance code twice...)

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    Replies
    1. There are two factors really - how much damaged is reduced and the probability with which the reduction happens. Like armor class in D&D, which changes the probability that damage is reduced to 0.

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    2. Yeah, in 3.X D&D there is DR and Resistance to Elemental or Typed damage, which you could likely reuse code for, though they work slightly differently, but attack/damage work totally differently.

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  18. This might be a stretch, but I feel like there is sort of a proto-GamerGate quality to some of Van Caneghem's comments and actions. Suggesting that Scorpia would be more qualified for adventure games feels very analogous to the supposed gamer/casual divide that seems to get GamerGate folks so enraged. And I don't think that sticking it to her publicly and in a forum where she can't defend herself really needs to be further explained.

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    Replies
    1. If I read the story correctly, Van Canaghem wrote a letter to the editor, which was published and then responded to by Scorpia. Having been told where he could go and what he could do to himself when he got there, he took the low road, one taken by a host of quite famous and even brilliant authors. Twain, Shakespeare, Dante, Stephen King...virtually every hapless lackwit or greasy scoundrel in the world of fiction takes at least partial inspiration from old enemies, faithless friends, or the grating drone at the DMV just before a new chapter was due.

      When it's your job to deliver your opinion, you have to recognize that you will make people mad. If you never do, you're likely not doing a very good job. If even your bad reviews are couched in such wishy-washy language as to be inoffensive, they lose their effectiveness. I'm sure Scorpia realized that or else she wouldn't have lasted fifteen years. Punch and counter-punch is the order of the day, and it's a bit condescending to assume that women writers either don't know this, are somehow above it, or should be handled with kid gloves.

      At the end of the day, a major artist in the field thought her opinions important enough to take very personally. That's power.

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    2. it's a bit condescending to assume that women writers either don't know this, are somehow above it, or should be handled with kid gloves.

      I think this says nicely what I was trying to articulate above. In caricature, especially caricature intended to show utter contempt (as opposed to playful political cartoons), depicting your target as physically grotesque is a device so routine that it's practically part of the job description. If we say that this is off-limits if the object of ridicule happens to be female, isn't there a whiff of condescension about that?

      Going after Scorpia in-game is "the low road" for sure, but if we're bristling at things that wouldn't faze us if the object of ridicule were male, maybe we should ask Scorpia first whether she really wanted a White Knight of Wokeness +1 to intervene on her behalf. It's entirely possible that, even as the target of an unwanted jab, she'd still rather see us strive for a society with open, equal-opportunity ridicule, rather than one in which performative good manners mask a contempt secretly expressed at the ballot box.

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  19. If a male writer gives your game a bad review because he couldn't solve a simple puzzle so he got stuck, and therefore you write him into the sequel as an NPC doing something idiotic over and over again while everyone laughs at him, that's petty but at least it's related to the subject.

    If you write the same male reviewer into the sequel as some kind of ghoul-creature that slinks around outside buildings and peeps in windows and performs obscene acts, because "lol he's a basement-dweller who will never have a girlfriend!", that's crass and completely uncalled for. It bears no relationship to the actual 'offense' and is just being a random gendered insult.

    Do you see the distinction?

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