Monday, October 23, 2017

Game 266: Die Drachen von Laas (1991)

The graphic, with no title, precedes the "title" screen, which also starts the text narrative.
    
Die Drachen von Laas
Germany
ATTIC Entertainment Software (developer and publisher)
Released in 1991 for DOS, Amiga, Atari ST
Date Started: 14 October 2017
    
Apparently, ATTIC Entertainment and its Realms of Arkania series are destined to be a big part of my life as I roll into the 1990s. Their contributions to the genre begin here, with Die Drachen von Laas ("The Dragons of Laas"), a rare RPG/text adventure hybrid that I'm able to play, slowly, thanks to some wonderfully helpful commenters (from this entry). It was apparently written in 1989 but took some time to publish.

It's good to see a text adventure in 1991. I wish it was more of a genre today. With the time and money you'd save on graphics and sound, and no longer limited by storage capacity, you could tell some truly epic interactive stories with text alone--stories with incredibly complex dependencies and deep role-playing--and you could make it available on mobile devices with virtually no loss of gameplay quality. Maybe this genre actually exists and I don't know about it? MobyGames does list at least a dozen text adventures, including some text/RPG hybrids, in the last decade. Names like Highlands, Deep Waters (2017), Choice of Alexandria (2016), and Fallen London (2009). I should investigate them.
       
The title screen of the DOS version.
     
Laas concerns two young adventurers named Smirga the Warrior (a girl) and Aszhanti the Magician (a boy). [Edit: I guess they're both boys. I don't know why I thought Smirga was a girl.] They hail from a small village named Hyllok and hope to become the most successful adventurers in the kingdom of Laas. In their quest, they are somehow destined to come across the titular dragons.

There is thus no character creation. Attributes are health, strength, fame, magic skill, hunger, and thirst, with health, hunger, and thirst rising and falling throughout the game and the others constituting the bulk of what we would call "character development." As both characters start as "milkboys" in strength, as "unskilled" (Smirga) and "charlatan" (Aszhanti) in magic skill, and as "nobodies" in fame, they clearly have a long way to go.
     
From the DOS version, the "character sheet" for the two characters, followed by the inventory screen (we have nothing).
     
While the two characters do travel together (if there's a way to separate them, I haven't found it yet), they act independently, and you switch between them with a single key. The game's textual perspective changes depending upon which character is active. For instance, at the beginning, if you walk north to Aszhanti's house, the paragraph begins "this is my parents' house" if Aszhanti is active and "this is Aszhanti's parents' house" if Smirga is active.

The game isn't fully textual. Some areas have a graphic associated with them that you can turn on or off with the flick of a key. At least this is true of the Amiga version. I'm not sure if the DOS version has no graphics or if the versions I'm finding just don't work, but either way they don't come up. On the Amiga version, the graphics are nice but usually get in the way of the text. 

Text adventures succeed or die on the strength of their parsers, and from what I can tell, Laas provides a strong one. (I still had lots of problems, I hasten to add, but I think they stem from my lack of German skills rather than issues with the parser.) Like Quest for Glory, it offers so many verbs and synonyms that the manual doesn't bother to document them all, trusting that unless the player is deliberately arcane in his word choice (PILFER THE GASLIGHT), he'll hit upon the right combination. There's nothing more annoying in a text game--particularly one in a foreign language--than pedantry, but fortunately Laas doesn't seem to care if you type NIMM LAMPE or NIMM DIE LAMPE.
     
Just a shot from the manual to break up all the text.
     
Verbs that work include KAUFE (buy), FRAGE (ask), LEG (put), SAGE (say), OFFNE (open), BETRITT (enter), SIEH (look at), KLETTERE (climb), SCHLAFE (sleep), and NIMM (take). (I think these are all first-person form, but someone correct me if I'm wrong.) The parser supports complex and compound sentences, including the German equivalents of ENTER THE HOUSE AND GREET MY PARENTS, PUT EVERYTHING EXCEPT THE LAMP IN THE BAG, or PICK UP THE SWORD, THE SHIELD, AND THE HELM, AND PUT ON THE HELM. (Naturally, as someone whose German is limited to kindergarten and schadenfreude, I'm stepping things out with less complex sentences.) If the manual is to be trusted, it even accepts modifiers to verbs like "quickly" or "quietly" so you can WALK NORTH RAPIDLY or CAREFULLY CLIMB THE LADDER.

The game offers shortcuts for a lot of common commands. Various function keys bring up a description of the current area, the characters' attributes, and inventories, for example. Directions are a breeze because the game accepts abbreviations, and with the exception of OST, they're all the same as the identical directions in English.
     
The center of the village.
      
As the game begins, the two friends meet at the town square at dawn, vowing that this is the day that they'll embark. They plan to say goodbye to their parents, grab their equipment, and go.
     
With the first rays of sunlight falling over the flat, shingled roofs of Hyllok, the ground of the village square is dimly lit. The heavy, wooden bucket hanging on a finger-thick rope above the well vibrates loudly between the posts, clattering. The large wooden palisade that surrounds the plaza casts long, threatening shadows over the ground and the houses of Hyllok. The dense ground fog, which wanders slowly outside the village on the meadows, now shines in the first sunlight of the morning and finally dissolves. The morning dew sparkles silver in a tuft of grass next to us and I watch a spider spinning a new web between the long, swaying stalks. Now the sun rises, and their rays form a bright cone of light before our feet.

Smirga pokes around with a stick in the crevices of the paving stones, as she slowly rises to speak: "So now it's time. It's a strange feeling to leave home and not know what's coming."

"Yes," I murmur, nodding at her. "Do you really think that we are mature enough to undertake such a journey?"

"Please, not again!" Smirga complains as she stands up. With her hands on her hips, she now stands in front of me, blinking in the sun. "We agreed! Let us finally setout before today's day is over again. It will probably take a while to convince our parents and pack our backpacks. Besides, I should still go to Foroll, the blacksmith, and pick up my new dagger as well as the sword."

"Oh, yes," I say, jumping up. "I must also briefly go to Mygra."

"What more do you want with that charlatan?" Smirga asks, squinting her eyes a little, her hands still resting on her hips.

"Magic!" I rept, and smacked Smirga lightly on the side. "Come on. let's go."
   
I made only a couple of changes to that text from what Google Translate produced. So far, the translation has been easy and clear. But slow. Zardas did me a great service by extracting the text from the game into a notepad. I brought it into Word (201 pages) and cleaned up the extra line breaks and whatnot. When I encounter the text in-game I have to find it in my Word file, copy and paste it into Google translate, and then copy the result back into Word.

Following the narrative above, I head north into Azhanti's parents' house, where we are welcomed by Sklar and Phira and given some food. I successfully enter my first command with NIMM EI (take egg) but immediately run into a problem with NIMM BROTCHEN (take the bread roll); the game replies "Das habe ich nun nicht verstaden" ("I do not understand that"). After some investigation, I realize that characters that simply look similar aren't going to do it: I need the diacriticals and everything. Fortunately, the game has remapped my keyboard to a typical German keyboard (among other things, Y and Z are swapped), where an ö is mapped to the semicolon. Thus, I soon have successfully typed NIMM BRÖTCHEN and I have the bread roll.

Meanwhile, mom is asking what's wrong because clearly something's up. I quite literally translate "tell Phira that we are going" (SAG PHIRA DASS WIR GEHEN), and damned if it doesn't work. She says something like, "My God, children. That is far too dangerous--to be left at the mercy of Laas." I relate the same to Sklar, my dad, and he's more practical: "I've been thinking for a long time that you two will not last forever in our little Hyllok. I was the same when I was your age. What can I say? Go on your adventure, and when you've had enough, just come back home."

North from the main house, in Aszhanti's room, is a piece of paper with an unsuccessful attempt at a spell. Reading it (LESSE PAPIER) produces the credits for the game, which I'm guessing is a bit of a joke. We make an unproductive visit to the henhouse. Asking for money produces nothing ("you have your allowance for this month!"), so we leave. For some reason, Sklar accompanies us back out to the town plaza.
     
This reminds me how a paper with the credits for Zork was found in a mailbox near the starting area.
    
West of the plaza is Smirga's parents' house, and I switch to her when we enter. Her mother, Agima, is cleaning, and her father, Har, asks what we're doing up so early. They have the exact same quotes when we inform them of our imminent departure. We head up to Smirga's room, which is a mess, decorated with the skins of beasts she's already hunted. The game makes a point of saying there's a chest of drawers in here, and I can open it, but no combination of commands I can divine will allow me to successfully search or look inside it. Downstairs, we snag a salami from the pantry.
      
Smirga's house.
      
In the southwest of the town square is a smithy where the smith, Foroll, wants 7 "Gerfs" for some weapons. I'm not sure where to get the money just yet. Next to the smithy is the house of Mygra the sorcerer. He asks what we want. I try asking for spells but he just ignores me.

Mapping is clearly going to be a pain. The game's squares exist at different scales and thus don't arrange neatly around each other. For instance, from the central square, I can go north into Aszhanti's parents' house and then east into the henhouse. Or from the plaza I can go east to the main entrance of town and then north to "hill country." Both the henhouse and "hill country" are one square north and one square east of the plaza, but clearly I'm moving a greater distance if I go east then north than if I go north then east.

East of the village square is the exit and the beginning of our adventure:
    
In front of us lie infinitely wide hilly meadows, the up and down of which resemble the waves of the sea. The lush green meadows are littered with colorful flowers and here and there one can see bushes and narrow trees, whose branches swing from the wind. A large flock of birds sweeps across our heads to the west, and their chirping mixes with the sounds coming from Hyllok. I turn around and see the village square and the surrounding houses. The gravel road we are on leads straight further east. "Where shall we go now?" I ask.
     
Almost immediately, we were attacked by a raubfliege, which I guess translates to something like "monstrous fly." The game asks me what weapon Smirga should wield: "hands or flee?" I say hands. It then asks what spell Aszhanti should use, but offers only "nothing" for an option. Over the next few rounds, Smirga bats at the fly with her fists while Aszhanti just stands there. It takes about 12 rounds, but we win! Albeit with hit points reduced to 12 and 9 from the original 20 each.
      
My unlikely victory over the fly.
     
Clearly, I needed to accomplish more back in the village with the smith and the mage, and perhaps there was more to find in the houses. My major weakness here is clear: a lack of understanding of the right verbs and nouns for my own inputs. Despite the examples the manual offers, I'm not hitting upon the right combination of words to search for things and ask for things. I'll be grateful for examples from my German-speaking readers, but honestly, this would be a great occasion for someone else to play the game and write about it, and I just comment on the summary. Any takers? Otherwise, we're in for a long slog.

Time so far: 4 hours

82 comments:

  1. You are a braver man than I for attempting a German text adventure! Six years of studying German (twenty years ago...) and I know I couldn't do it.

    Question on Quarterstaff: Will you be playing ONLY the original 1987 edition? Or will you take a look at the Infocom update in 1988 as well? The game has a bit of a complex release history and you should be careful to make sure you are playing the edition you plan to play. I don't fully know the differences between the two games.

    (Over on "The Adventure Gamer", we're doing an Infocom marathon, covering roughly one game in the canon each month, currently up to the twelfth or so, "Sorcery". We plan to play the Infocom version of Quarterstaff eventually, but it will be more than a year from now at the current rate.)

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    1. Until I saw your comment, I didn't know about the variants of Quarterstaff. I'll research it more before it comes up.

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    2. Every time someone asks me about it, it gets put off for another month.

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  2. I think what used to be called "text adventures" is now called "interactive fiction." I believe there's a reasonable community for that genre out there.

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    1. There is. There's an annual competition that generates interesting small pieces (2 hours or less). Some of these are even RPGs, like Onaar (2015).

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    2. They even made their way to Smartphones. Check out The Great Tournament if you can, it's pretty good from what I can tell.

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    3. I was just checking out the latest in text adventures, and I see that one that was noted by Polygon as having a $25000 Kickstarter a couple of years ago was just released on Steam:
      http://store.steampowered.com/app/532980/Thaumistry_In_Charms_Way/

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    4. Yes, this year's competition has record 80(or so) entries with roughly half of them parser based and the other half choice based.

      Some of the games I played this year had at least few crpg elements in them, including a simple parser based crpg by the same author who created Onaar.

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  3. I've used Trizbort for some IF mapping. It's not perfect, but probably works better than Excel. Visio would also be a string contender.

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    1. The download link on that site seems to download a source code package. Do you know where I can get a compiled version? I don't know, it's late and I just got off a flight, so I might be missing something obvious, but there's no executable among the files.

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    2. Latest compiled version:
      https://github.com/JasonLautzenheiser/trizbort/releases/download/v1.5.9.9/Trizbort1599.zip

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  4. "Milchbubi" means more or less "mama's boy"

    I think the verbs are imperative singular. That's often but not always the same as first-person singular ("Betritt den Raum!" vs. "Ich betrete den Raum").

    I could get the graphics in the DOS version with the DELETE-key (not backspace).

    I don't think you're doing too badly. I never got the idea to tell Phira "we're going". How many of these four hours went into preparation? Asking Mygra for spells is the right idea, try it with "Sag Mygra Zauber" or "Sag Mygra Magie". Also, try searching the rooms more thoroughly. Maybe there's nothing in the drawers, but something else might contain something.

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    1. I've got the game running and the advantage of being a native speaker, but I'm really bad at playing text adventures, pretty much using a walkthrough for the village. Also I don't think I could write very well about games.

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    2. The DOS graphics only work if the game is launched with a parameter (v for VGA, e for EGA).

      The download linked to in the comments on the previous post is set up to start the game under DOSBox with the VGA graphics parameter set in the DOSBox configuration file.

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    3. I think I need some help. I feel I'm pretty close to the end, and trained as far as I can. There's a 300 feet cliff that I think I need to go down, and I have a 300 feet rope (coincidence? I think not!). I tried climbind down with the rope, I tried tieing the rope to something, I even tried sticking a bone in the ground and tieing the rope to that. I tried making one of my characters strong so he can hold the rope.

      There are German language walkthoughs available, but I'm not desperate enough yet to look at then (again!). Maybe someone could take a look and ROT13 if I'm at least trying the right thing with the wrong words, or maybe missing some important precondition. Please don't tell me I need a fishermen's net.

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    4. Not neccessary anymore. There was a tree after all.

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  5. A comment about the notion of an almighty triple-A text adventure: I'm not sure graphics and sound are necessarily the barrier. I think part of the issue relates to scaling. The more words you add, the more writers you need. The more writers you have, the more time spent coordinating narratives. Forking rapidly gets out of control. Elements that interact with one another rapidly get out of control (that's the beauty of a physics engine, you can get so much mechanical reactivity and consequent emergent gameplay/experiences because the engine knows the rules).

    There's definitely a market for interactive fiction at the moment, some more graphical than others - Steins;gate and Oxenfree made pretty big splashes, Fallen London gets a lot of attention and there are a number of popular, quality publishers on mobile, but I don't think any of them are the kind of game you're calling for.

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    1. Those games are more choose your own adventure novels though. In particular the visual novels have VERY limited interaction, borderline no puzzles and only basic forking.

      Regarding AAA I think it is actually the other way around. Writing is much cheaper than creating graphics, but there is just not enough interest in IF for large budgets.

      Just compare the kickstarter for Bob Bates latest text adventure (35k) which is probably the largest name available for IF. That is a semi-pro budget at best.

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  6. I'm guessing a "raubfliege" is a Robber Fly - albeit the D&D-influenced giant-sized version. A good old-fashioned challenge for a couple of Level 1 characters.

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    1. Until googling just now I didn't even know there really was a type of insect called Raubfliege/robber fly. I took it to be a made up name based on "Raubtier" (predatory animal).

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    2. "Raub..."-whatever is indeed used just like "predatory" and is usual used as a prefix for whole clades or groups of animals. Other examples incluce "Raubwanze" (assassin bug, where a "Wanze" is just any bug) and "Raubfisch" (a catch-all meaning just about any fish living as a predator).

      "Raubtier", as Atantuo points out, is the most catch-all of them all. :-)

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    3. I just assumed it was a reference to the Raubritters, robber knights of medieval Germany. They make an appearance in Darklands, I always liked making friends with them.

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  7. Have you tried asking Mygra for "magic" instead of "spells?" That's the exact word Aszhanti uses when describing what he wants from him. "Help" or "training" might also be worth trying, if that fails.

    Concerning the drawer, have you tried some version of "take everything" after opening it to see if you can take the contents without explicitly searching first?

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    1. Another thought on Mygra: try treating him like a generic merchant and asking to "buy" something.

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    2. Ugh, "guess the synonym", one of the reasons I always hated text adventures. Right next to "guess what the developer was thinking".

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    3. Yeah, I always struggle with these, even in my native tongue. Rarely do I make it past a room or two. The only thing remotely close to this style that I've done well at is Shadowgate on the NES, where there's no actual parser, and you just click/drag/drop to solve the puzzles.

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    4. Also tryigh to look in the drawer is likely different in german then (literally) trying to open (as in busting it to pieces) a drawer.

      Languases don't always handle things the same way between them.

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  8. Not that it makes much of a difference (probably), but the text extracted by Zardas refers to both Smirga and Aszhanti as male.

    I couldn't help but notice you misspelled "lese Papier" as "lesse" (technically, "lies" would be the correct imperative). I wasn't going to say anything, of course, thinking you simply made a typo. Then I saw you spelled it that way in the game and it actually worked! It's definitely not correct, so they must even have accounted for typing errors in their parser. I'm not very familiar with text-based games, so maybe that's common practice. But I'm still impressed.

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    1. Well, I've played the game for a bit now.... man, I'm really noticing my unfamiliarity with the genre. The parser seems impressive (especially according to the manual), but I still have a hell of a time coming up with anything useful to type apart from "go X" and "look at X". I couldn't get anything useful out of the handful of people in Hyllok. I only made a little bit of progress thanks to a FAQ that told me where to get money to give to the smith (making fights a *lot* easier).
      [Mild spoilers, I suppose:] There's money in Aszhanti's room, apparently on the floor. I specifically tried "suche nach geld" (look for money), which produces the generic "I don't see any money here", but "nimm geld" (take money) works for some reason. If there's any hint about that in the game I sure didn't find it... some more money can be found in a slightly more reasonable place in Hyllok (but getting it requires typing a pretty specific command). Again, I'm hardly familiar with the genre and this level of obscurity might be perfectly normal.

      More observations:
      -Both Smirga and Aszhanti are indeed boys.
      -I never got spell #2 to do anything useful in combat, despite the manual suggesting an offensive use; spell #1 sometimes distracts enemies, allowing Smirga to get an extra attack in. It's neat, but Aszhanti still feels a bit useless early on.
      -You get hungry and thirsty pretty fast, and supplies seem very limited. The boys' parents don't seem to feel responsible for providing any :(

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    2. That's weird about them both being boys. I don't know where I got the idea that Smirga was female. Something must have translated amiss.

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  9. Seems like an enormous challenge to play a game by copying the text into google translate back and forth. Seems like a cool game though.

    Apparently those games you mentioned are all on Steam and seem more like choose your own adventure books than actual text based games.

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  10. Not sure if you know this, but the Google Translate App can translate images through automatic OCR. I just took pictures of the screenshots (DOS as well as Amiga) and it could translate them quite well. Not sure if this is faster than looking up the text in your file, but maybe this helps.
    I'm quite surprised that the parser accepts "lesse" instead of "lese", but does not like "brotchen" instead of "brötchen". If you're tired of finding the correct 'umlauts' on the keyboard, you can try replacing for instance 'ö' with 'oe', since this is usually how they are written when no German keymap is available.

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    1. I tried Broetchen but it didn't work, though the game accepted "Brot".

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    2. The parser may automatically scan for double letters or just a bunch of preset common typos. But "Brotchen" instead of "Brötchen" would require a really strange keyboard layout.

      BTW, Umlaute are not just 'regular' letters with diacritics in German. Completely different sound, which makes quite the difference where vowels are concerned. In fact, for most practical purposes just think of German as a language with eight different vowels.

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    3. Never the less in my opinion it would be logical to accept o i stead of umlaut-augmented version. I played polish muds quite a lot and they all (if my memory serves me well) accepted e.g. 'a' instead of 'ą'. And these letters too sound differently.

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    4. Danish has it the worst: there are 9 vowel letters (the non-latin being æ, å and ø), but twice as much vowel sounds, and pronunciation has fuck all to do with spelling.

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    5. From whenever I hear a Dane speak (e.g. TV interview), my impression is that they mostly make do with vowels and eschew the consonants more or less completely... :-P

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  11. I feel like a few issues with a modern text adventure RPG is that most current gamers care far too much about graphics to ever consider touching it, that much writing would take a lot of time, and you'd still have the problem of only being able to do what the developers thought of.

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    1. The last point is just as, if not more, problematic in graphic-based games. How many times in Skyrim or the Witcher games do you see some part of the environment which looks destructible or otherwise interactable, but quickly turns out to just be scenery? Especially in the Witcher, you can't even pick up most things, while in Skyrim you can at least fill your inventory with embalming tools. Not that you'll ever get to embalm anybody with them...

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    2. This was an early division in computer games: originally text adventures and RPGs were one and the same, then they split. In adventures you could do more interesting things, but each one had to be programmed, so there were limited options at any point. In RPGs (with roguelikes being the ultimate genre in this direction) you could do fewer things, but you could do them anywhere, to anyone.

      The adventures evolved towards silliness, then towards graphics. The RPG ended up the healthier genre. But hybrid games are the new black. Nobody would turn a hair to see the latest game advertised as a roguelike strategy adventure eroge. (OK, maybe the last would be a step too far.)

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  12. The title image is Larry Elmore's "Golden Evil" from 1988. It looks like it should be from some sort of D&D adventure, but I can't place it, although it did appear on the cover of a non-D&D related novel.

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    1. I was thinking it was a Dragonlance cover.

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    2. That was my thought; it looks like it should be one, but I can't see it in any of the Dragonlance lists.

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    3. It was the cover of a Drangonrealm novel "Firedrake" by Richard A. Knaak.

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  13. I think it was a Dragon magazine cover but I’m not 100% sure. I’ve definitely seen the image before though.

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  14. Playing text adventure games with 1 or 2 years of English in school was actually how I really learned English. Dallas Quest and some Curse of the Sun or something similar in particular. Did wonders for my vocabulary and way before internet spoilers. Got some hints through computer magazines/friends. Still remember the “tickle anaconda” and “read epitaph” from Dallas Quest which I don’t think i would have come up with as a 11 year old in a foreign language on my own. I think you’re very brave to tackle something like this in this day and age. On the one hand much easier with instant help, translation tools etc., on the other hand less free time and a lot more alternatives to spend it on.

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    1. For me it was Leisure Suit Larry. That dictionary I had wasn't really suited to the game's... specific vocabulary demands... but I still learned an awful lot of English there.

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    2. For me it was Larry, too. Most games were english, so I had some basic vocabulary, but Larry made me actually use a dictionary. I was 8-9 :D

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    3. For me it was maniac mansion and zac mckraken. :)

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  15. Interactive Fiction is absolutely a thing. Fallen London is a web game along the lines of Kingdom of Loathing, which sort of draws from the MMO/MUD lineage, but there are a lot of text adventures out there nowadays. (I have Andrew Plotkin's "Hadean Lands" installed and ready to play any time now.)
    Specific RPG hybrids I'm drawing a blank on, though.

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    1. Ah, no, wait. I can think of a fair few: The "Choice of Games" choose-your-own-adventure series almost all come with plenty of stats that affect the outcome of your choices.
      If I can self-link, I personally played Hero of Kendrickstone and did a spoilerful write-up of the game using the ballad it generates for you in the ending.

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    2. Kendrickstone feels a little boilerplate in the beginning but after a couple of replays you realise that it's a take on the spectacular Quest for Glory formula.

      I wouldn't characterise all their titles as RPGs, but plenty of them come "close enough" to qualify for this blog... sometime around 2048 8)

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    3. "Hadean Lands" seems great so far, even if I am currently stuck (and I've loved his other work like Spider and Web).

      I'll have to look at "Choice of Games".

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    4. I never played Fallen London, but I picked up the Sunless Sea spin-off in the Steam summer sale (I think) and it's pretty good.

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    5. I’ll second Sunless Sea as a great text adventure rpg hybrid. The game is a little grindy but the writing is setting is wonderful and the writing is fantastic.

      The Sorcery! adaptations are very well done, and a perfect hybrid of text adventure and rpg. They story and writing are a little dry for my taste, but the mobile adaptations are better than the original books (published in the 80s but still on my shelf!).

      You might also want to check out King of Dragon Pass which is a unique text adventure / RPG / strategy game. It really is one of a kind and hard to describe.

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    6. Oh, if you bring up the Sorcery! port, you have to mention 80 Days as well. We're drifting out of "This could be considered an RPG" but it's so very great.

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  16. Maybe this genre actually exists and I don't know about it? MobyGames does list at least a dozen text adventures, including some text/RPG hybrids, in the last decade.

    Kerkerkruip is probably the singleplayer ne plus ultra of what you have in mind -- with a focus on roguelike duels against formidable monsters, and on the macro scale of a more complete RPG experience this territory was probably perfected by MUDs just at the moment when they began the grotesque transformation from complete textual experiences to primitive graphical MMORPG ones. But some of them are still out there (likely some even from the same era that you're at one the timeline), and they might make for compelling review fodder.

    Successful adventure/RPG games for mobile have considerably stripped-down interfaces. I've stumped for Choice of Games before and I will again, but despite the sophistication of what's going on under the hood players never get more fine-grained input options beyond "here are three or four things you might try doing next".

    The parser supports complex and compound sentences, including the German equivalents of ENTER THE HOUSE AND GREET MY PARENTS, PUT EVERYTHING EXCEPT THE LAMP IN THE BAG, or PICK UP THE SWORD, THE SHIELD, AND THE HELM, AND PUT ON THE HELM

    I don't know much German, but I know enough to suspect that there's a good chance each of those commands translates to a single enormous word.

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    1. Haha, I had the same thought except I imagined all four commands together turning into one gigantic word.

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    2. I wouldn't put parser-based IF in the same category as computerized CYOA (which barely qualify as games IMO).

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    3. Despite the superficialities in their interface mechanisms, it would be a mistake to lump in Choice of Games' offerings with stateless choose-your-own-adventures. They carefully keep track of your decisions through the whole game, using that information to present modified text, different options and varying outcomes depending on how consistent the player is being in their choices.

      (Parser-based IF is ultimately, in the end, just a CYOA with 200 options at every node compared to the standard two or three... but at any given moment there are still only one or two valid inputs to advance the game state. Parser games just keep more unuseful choices on the table at all times... and are better suited to navigate endlessly delightful dry goods puzzles.)

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  17. I have read (played?) some of the "Choice of ..." series. They're text adventures/choose your own adventure. I don't think they get to the level of "Lone Wolf" (maybe the newest ones, I have only played the older ones) but they're pretty good nonetheless.

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  18. No wonder you didn't notice the money, the game's very particular about it. Here's what I did (I'm sure Chet has "solved" this by now, so no rot13): In Aszhanti's room, if you look at the footstool you notice a drawer. If you type "open footstool" the game says you can't find a handle. If you say "pull drawer" the game says you pull with all your might but can't move it. You have to type "open drawer" to get it to work. That's obvious enough, but the two other responses are quite misleading. I also couldn't pick up the money on my first attempt, but "Nimm Geld" worked.

    There's some money in Smirga's room as well. I tried taking the quiver, but Aszhanti stopped me. When he puts it back, you hear a tinkling noise. So I switched to Aszhanti, but he won't take the quiver either. If you "loo into Quiver" you see the money inside. Simply typing take money doesn't work, the game simply says there's no money here. You have to "take mone out of the quiver" to get it.
    It makes sense in a way. Otherwise you could just walk into a room and type take whatever and get it. Still, it's a bit tedious.

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    1. The weird thing is, you don't have to do anything other than enter Aszhanti's room, type "nimm geld" and you have it. In Smirga's room, you have to try taking the quiver as Aszhanti specifically to get the hint, and then specifically type "nimm geld aus köcher" to actually get it. I guess the former "solution" must be unintentional.
      Based on these examples, I shudder to think how many more tiny but crucial details may be hiding in all those other locations, requiring just the right combination of commands to activate, plus an element of passing time and things changing accordingly...

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    2. It might not matter that much. I got 25 Gerfs from beating the Raubfliege, which is much more than you find in the rooms.

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    3. Well. Maybe my praise for the parser was premature. Thanks for the tips!

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  19. This is a newer and significantly better alternative to Google Translate: https://www.deepl.com/translator

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  20. It seems reasonable to me to modify the Latin alphabet rule to require non-English games to still rely on some sort of graphical interface. There's a big difference between translating some ancillary text (which already sounds like a big job!) and this.

    I'd be interested to read about this game, from you or a guest poster, but I wouldn't be disappointed if it was declared outside the scope of this project either.

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    1. Well, I feel like once I've given a game a number and offered one entry on it, I need to see it to some kind of conclusion. But I probably will reject anything like this in the future.

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  21. "Mapping is clearly going to be a pain. The game's squares exist at different scales and thus don't arrange neatly around each other. For instance, from the central square, I can go north into Aszhanti's parents' house and then east into the henhouse. Or from the plaza I can go east to the main entrance of town and then north to "hill country." Both the henhouse and "hill country" are one square north and one square east of the plaza, but clearly I'm moving a greater distance if I go east then north than if I go north then east. "

    For text adventures, a symbolic map is usually better than the representative sort you would use in a tile-based RPG. This is essentially a map in flowchart form, with a list of areas and the connections between them. I use GUEmap for this purpose.

    As for modern text adventures/interactive fiction, there is not only a thriving "market" in free indie IF games, there are still a few Multi User Dungeons (also free, usually) kicking around, which are essentially Text Adventure MMORPGs.

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    1. Yeah, my Excel solution doesn't work well for adventure games. I checked out GUE Map but there don't seem to be any online instructions and the .hlp file doesn't work in Windows 10. I figured out the basics but not how to move boxes or adjust the directionality of arrows.

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    2. You move boxes by holding down the Control key while dragging. Apart from that (and the fact that the best way to make your map is to type directions in the text bar - typing NW will add a room to the northwest of the one you are in) I can't help much because I haven't used it in awhile.

      Since the map is basically a flowchart, Microsoft Visio or one of the free alternatives to Visio would probably work just as well.

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  22. Many people have mentioned Choice Of Games.

    I will also point out the recent Sorcery! video game adaptations, which are quite impressive and add a lot to what was in the original books. Different play styles are absolutely catered for and represented by your character's divine avatar thing tracking your personality - like, do you generally solve problems with violence or with magic, are you sneaky, do you go out of your way to grab more treasure, etc. Many, many, many ways to solve every challenge. And unlike something like Long Live The Queen, it's difficult to really dead-end yourself. You can easily back up if you've made a mistake, and while you might have figured out a more efficient way to do the whole story if you started over, you shouldn't NEED to. As long as you're not dead, you should be able to find some way out of you current predicament. And if you are dead, UNDO your last turn.

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  23. Fallen London has truly magnificent writing, but game play wise it's a rather boring grindfest. It's still one of my favourite games on the strength of its writing.

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  24. Oofa doofa, a German-language text adventure? I run into enough trouble with the English ones. I'll give you credit for not skipping it right away.

    Speaking of which, there's another interactive fiction game coming up in 1992 - the Adventures of Maddog - that I'm not sure will count sufficiently as an RPG. I recall a Sierra-style points system and a swordfighting mode, but not much in the way of RPG mechanics. We'll wait and see though, since it's been a long time and I barely got anywhere with it.

    Oh, and if people are offering modern IF games (or IF-adjacent) to try out, I might suggest Stories Untold if you have a moderately powerful PC to run it. It's a horror anthology that does some interesting stuff with text parser interfaces. I hear Event[0] is a similar case. Both are on Steam.

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  25. If I may jump out of lurking--been reading for year a but haven't felt moved to comment before--to push a couple of my own efforts in the realm of RPG-style bits of Interactive Fiction:

    https://rgoodness.itch.io/tombs-of-reschette
    https://rgoodness.itch.io/tweezer

    A little more coy about their RPG-ness than playing it straight, but looking to make a more traditional RPG some day. Either way, enjoy if you like!

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    1. Thanks, Richard. I'm glad to know the genre is still alive.

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  26. Ok, the title screen was also oddly familar to me, I thought from a "Das Schwarze Auge" fan site. So I put in on reverse Image search and didn't find the site put some results to the mystery.

    It's the box art of a Ral Partha figurine modelled by Larry Elmore

    here the box art:

    http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~tpope/sol/ral-partha/images/01-507-box.jpg

    and here the back

    http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~tpope/sol/ral-partha/images/01-507-back.jpg

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    1. Another one! Is any artwork ever original?!

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    2. "Everything is a repost of a repost of a repost"

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    3. Not surprising, since Larry Elmore is credited for the cover art on the paper found in Aszantis room :)

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    4. That's cool. At least they didn't plagiarize it without citation.

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