Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Game 285: Quest for Glory III: Wages of War (1992)

           
Quest for Glory III: Wages of War
United States
Sierra On-Line (developer and publisher)
Released in 1992 for DOS
Date Started: 1 April 2018

There's a quality of a good RPG--of any good game, really--that I haven't talked about much because it's hard to describe. I can't even think of a good word for it, so in my mind I simply use the word tight. It isn't about the number of features so much as how well they hold together, how well they check and balance each other. A tight RPG might not have everything my GIMLET is looking for, but playing it is like driving a solid, reliable car. It might not turn heads, it might not exceed 90 MPH, but you know it's going to get you where you want to go without breaking down. It's like holding a nice, firm apple in your hand. No bruises, no blemishes, no mush. Most games, even good games, are like holding a piece of apple pie in your hand: it might be delicious, but it's also a bit of a mess. I don't know if these analogies make sense, but like I say, I have trouble describing it.

A tight game might be simple, but it's simple by design and not just because the developer didn't know more complex programming. Its mechanics don't break, nor allow you to break them. The developers might occasionally allow themselves a little excess, but they know when to reign in that excess. They establish what the game is about at the beginning and hold true to its purpose until the end. Once you realize you're playing a tight game, you feel a warm glow of trust between you and the developer that transcends simply "enjoyability."

The Quest for Glory series is a series of tight games. (Please, someone, give me a better word.) They perfectly fuse role-playing and adventure gaming. Their worlds are just big enough to get a little lost in, not to exhaust you. You have fun, but they end before the fun goes on too long. There's hardly any wasted space--except in places where a little extra space is necessary. The NPCs say just enough to establish their personalities but don't drone on and on. The three classes are well-balanced and find meaningful class-specific experiences no matter what paths they take. The games are bug-free and error-free, and the authors have done a great job anticipating just about every action the player might take. Their attitude is perfect: they have a sense of humor, but rarely straying to absurdity. Its clear that weighty events are happening, but that doesn't mean someone can't make a joke.
          
I have a feeling this game is going to make me regret my use of "rarely" above.
          
Even the main character's appearance is well-done. Normally, I'd object to having only one option, but I don't really mind role-playing this guy. He doesn't look like a stereotypical hero, but neither does he look risible as a hero. And he plausibly handles all of the classes well. If Corey Cole happens along, I wouldn't mind his comments specifically on the design and appearance of the character and whether he was deliberately designed to be a blank template while not feeling like a "blank." It's a remarkable achievement.

Quest for Glory has always been a little coy about whether it takes place in the real world (albeit in an ancient Hyborian Age) or a fantasy world populated by real-world influences. The individual settings have done a good job evoking broad themes from real-world locations while still offering original fantasy details. It's almost too bad that the series never continued its way around the globe, visiting settings reminiscent of India, China, and Central America, among others.
          
This doesn't sound like the real world, but the fact that the denizens of the bazaar speak "Arabic" does.
         
Here, from the moment you hear tribal drums and shouts on the title screen, you're transported to "Fricana" and its numerous African influences. (Playing this game in the same season that Black Panther dominates the box office is an extra bonus.) Yet are they just influences? The manual says that the major city of Fricana, Tarna, "has retained the basic architectural style of the ancient Egyptians" and that the major languages are "Egyptian, Swahili, and Common." On the other hand, the place is ruled by "liontaurs" and magic is openly known.
         
In Tarna, the developers have created another evocative setting.
        
As usual, you choose between a fighter, thief, and wizard (promoted from "mage" after his success at the WIT) in character creation, and I expect as usual, each one offers a very different path. There are a few changes in the character sheet. "Magic" becomes an attribute rather than a skill. "Honor" is added to the end of the skills list, but you can't set it during creation or import. "Communication" is carried over from Quest for Glory II. The "score" explicitly becomes "Puzzle Points."

I have three characters saved after Quest for Glory II: Trial By Fire (1990). The first is a thief whom I originally created for Hero's Quest. He's by far the strongest character of the three, as I spent a lot of time grinding his sills and attributes. He has 200 in all attributes and above 150 in most skills, including non-thief skills. He has the lowest "honor" score (68).
             
I must have been very dishonorable in Shapeir, because a new thief here has more honor points than my imported one.
        
The second is my wizard, who came from the first game remake, Quest for Glory: So You Want to Be a Hero (1992). He's also pretty buffed, at near-200 in most attributes (somehow, "luck" is at 204 despite 200 being the cap in the second game). He has no thieving skills but is above 150 in the fighting skills.

The third is my fighter, created specifically for Quest for Glory II, promoted to a paladin at the end. He's the most limited of the three, with no thieving or magic skills, but still relatively high attributes. Oddly, despite having achieved paladin status, he has a lower "honor" than my wizard (118 vs. 121).

Whichever character I choose, he's going to start at a significant advantage. New characters start with class-specific attributes between 80 and 150 and class-specific skills between 90 an 150, averaging around 120 in both cases (although you get an additional 50 points to allocate). It is no longer possible to create a "jack of all trades" from scratch because getting a skill from 0 to 10 costs 30 points, and the thief lacks both "magic" and "parry"; he's otherwise the closest by far.

During import, you can re-assign your character's class, but the attributes don't change. So if I decide my paladin is really a thief, he's going to be in tough shape with 0s in "Stealth" and "Pick Locks." You get the same 50 points to modify an imported character as you do a new one, but that's only enough to get one skill slightly above 0. I don't want to do that anyway. I prefer to adopt a path and try to follow it in-character rather than have my thief use magic to solve his problems.

I decided to start with my wizard since Alex over at The Adventure Gamer is playing as a paladin. Naturally, you may see me try other paths before the end, just as I did in Quest for Glory II, depending on the length and complexity of the game.
           
My imported character.
        
Wages of War picks up three months after the defeat of Ad Avis in Quest for Glory II. The enchantress Aziza summons me and the liontaur Rakeesh to discuss the events of the game. You may recall that Rakeesh is a paladin and former ruler of his people. Injured in battle against a demon, he left the throne in the hands of his brother and made his way to Shapeir, where the player found him hanging around outside the adventurers' guild.

Aziza recounts how the player defeated Ad Avis in a class-specific way, so I got the mage version  in which my "Reversal" spell protected against his magic while I bounced a "Force Bolt" off the wall, knocking it into the brazier, which fell over and pushed Ad Avis out the window. In case you don't remember, Ad Avis had been trying to summon a demon named Iblis, partly to break control of his yet-unidentified "dark master." Aziza relates that Ad Avis's body was never found.
          
A fun, class-specific recap.
       
Aziza has just received a message from a sorceress in Tarna named Kreesha, asking for Rakeesh to return home and help forestall a war. Aziza thinks something demonic is going on, perhaps related to Ad Avis and Iblis, and suggests I accompany Rakeesh to Tarna when a portal opens in three days.
         
Aziza outlines the main quest.
        
Three days later, there's a little farewell ceremony in which the sultan says goodbye to me, Rakeesh, and Uhura (head of the adventurers' guild in Shapeir), who has decided to return to her people, the Simbani. She is bringing her son, Simba, who was born in Shapeir. The sultan is particularly distressed to see me go, as he has adopted me as his son and named me Prince of Shapeir. Nonetheless, when the portal appears--looking like an ankh cross--we all enter and find ourselves in Kreesha's magic shop in Tarna. Uhura immediately sets out to return to her village.
        
I'd say that this is an Ultima homage except for the rest of this game's Egyptian influences.
       
I take stock of my inventory. I have 200 dinars, a fine dagger, a throwing dagger, 4 poison cure pills, 13 healing pills, 9 mana pills, 20 rations, a water skin, a sapphire pin, and a note from Shema to another Katta named Shallah, whom I'm supposed to find in Tarna. I also have a mysterious gift package from Keapon Laffin, the magic shop owner in Shapeir, which blows up in my face when I open it. The wrapping paper contains the instructions for a new spell called "Juggling Lights."
          
I mess around while the linotaurs discuss serious business.
         
This is the first Quest for Glory title natively written for the Sierra SCI1 interpreter, a point-and-click interface that probably most players prefer, though I rather enjoyed the greater challenge of figuring out actions and dialogue options in the text interpreter. As usual, the authors did a great job supporting the "look" icon. Every individual object in the room has some kind of description attached to it.
            
I preferred when I had to pay attention and note potential keywords.
          
Unfortunately, I have the same issue I had before with the "action" sub-menu--the menu where you can switch between "walk," "run," and "sneak," sleep, or check the character stats. From the moment it appears, any tiny use of the mouse causes it to vanish. You have to click it and use the arrow keys to move through the items. I also have the same issue where the game doesn't take me to the next screen when I try to run off the present one. Overall, there isn't quite enough keyboard redundancy in the interface.
        
The command bar has options for walking, looking, manipulating, talking, casting, using an item, checking the inventory, disk options, and a "special actions" button.
       
A conversation with Rakeesh and Kreesha first establishes, surprisingly, that the two liontaurs are married, something I don't think Rakeesh bothered to mention in the last game. The "war" referenced in the introduction is between the Simbani and the "Leopardmen," strange shape-shifters who live in the jungle. There are some among the liontaurs who think they should be neutral in the war, others who think they should try to stop it, and still others who think they should actively take the Simbani side. Tarna's Council of Judgement (on which Kreesha sits) will meet in a few days to discuss what to do.

Meanwhile, a delegation sent to talk with the liontaurs was ambushed, and only one human returned. The leader of the delegation was Reeshaka, Kreesha and Rakeesh's daughter, and no one knows if she's alive or not. Rakeesh's brother, Rajah, the king, is a hot-head who actively favors going to war with the Leopardmen.

As I head out the door, Kreesha says that she's reserved a room in my name in a nearby inn. Rakeesh says he will speak to the Council in two days and urge peace. He asks me to accompany him, after which we can journey to the Simbani village.
            
What does . . . how do . . . where is . . . you know what? I'm just gonna go.
         
Outside, Tarna is cleverly situated on a large pyramid with many openings and shops around its base. I decided to try a top-down approach to exploration. On the next tier, a guard gave me the layout: The top of the pyramid is the Temple of Sekhmet (the liontaur goddess); the next tier has the Hall of Judgement and the king's chambers. Shops are found further down, and workers live at the base. Liontaurs mostly live in the eastern side of the upper sections, and humans aren't welcome there.
              
Any chance you call the upper tiers the "Cloud District"?
            
I didn't get far into the Temple of Sekhmet before the priestess kicked me out, upset that a human was "defiling" it.
           
Well, that's just racist.
         
It becomes clear talking to some liontaurs that Rakeesh is a bit of a controversial figure. Some feel he abandoned the kingdom when he abdicated the throne; others feel he did the honorable thing. Usually, to become king, a candidate has to challenge the sitting ruler, endure a series of trials, and fight him to the death. Rajah's rule is slightly tarnished because he didn't go through the usual challenges.

Next door to Kreesha's shop is Salim's Holistic Health and Happiness Eclectic Energy Emporium, a head shop run by a familiar-looking proprietor. He sells health, anti-poison, and mana pills, but I need to change my dinars into local currency before I can buy any. He asks me to help him make health pills by bringing him feathers of the honey bird, but I the honey bird has to be alive and happy when the feather is collected. He also says he can make me a "dispel" magic potion if I find some water from the Pool of Peace, a gift from the Heart of the World, and the fruit of a venomous vine. Why does every place have a different recipe for dispel potions?

Salim's been having dreams about finding a tree on golden sands a dancing with it; it then somehow turns into a beautiful woman. This sounds a lot like Julanar back in Shapeir, but I don't get an option to tell him about that. Salim also tells me about a tree somewhere in Fricana called the Mother of the World.
          
He also has a talent for ripping off Grace Slick.
        
Night is already falling when I leave Salim's, so I head next door to the inn, a beautifully-composed location full of people (including, for some reason, a clown) sitting on cushions around short, round tables. (Is there a name for these?)
         
What a great scene. I want to go here.
         
A nearby message board has the simple list of the "laws of Tarna," including a prohibition against using magic on the streets.
          
A whole council had to come up with these?
         
Nobody at the tables can speak common, but the waitress does. Among other things, she tells me that the human who returned from the peace delegation was Khatib Mukar'ram, and he hasn't had much to say since he got back.
           
The city is quiet and eerie at night.
          
Checking outside, I quickly assess that the rest of the city is only about 5 more screens, so I'm not worried about running out of time before running out of things to do. I head up to my room in the inn, where there's a chest to store excess belongings. I sleep until morning.

This seems like a good enough place to wrap-up the first entry. Be sure to check out the coverage at The Adventure Gamer, of which I'll have more to say now that the initial postings are done. I'm letting them set the pace on this one, so my own entries may not be as regular as usual.

I know that many fans consider this the least of the series, and that many of the things I said above about the series as a whole may not apply here, but I don't really remember this game (despite playing it before), so try not to ruin my experience with premature discussions of the story, length, difficulty, or what other classes may or may not experience until I've had a chance to experience those things for myself.

Time so far: 1 hour


105 comments:

  1. I advise reading the manual for this game. There was a function that wasn't available in KQ5 that had a similar engine. It was either clicking the mouth or the eye icon on yourself? It did something different from KQ5.

    I wouldn't consider this game to be the least of the series though. It's not the enthralling, brilliant, outstanding, masterpiece that was QfG4 though ;)

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    1. clicking the "mouth" icon on yourself is very necessary for this game, it adds different dialogue options.

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    2. Thanks, that's the one. I think it's essential to finish the game. And I'm pretty sure KQ5 didn't have that option in the engine (or it did something different).

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    3. I only figured this out after a few days of game time and it explained why the conversations weren't going how I expected. I had to restart.

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    4. Thanks! I completely would have overlooked that.

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    5. I overlooked clicking the mouth icon on the hero to speak when I first played this game, and couldn’t understand why Rajah kept getting mad at me.

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    6. Now I have to start over. I'm glad I only got an hour into it.

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    7. Remember 1) to greet everyone every single time 2) say good bye every single time

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  2. Looking forward to this Chet!

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  3. "Tight" seems like a pretty accurate adjective, actually. Maybe "holistic" as an alternative.

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    1. I like to say “well-crafted.” There’s an art aspect to these games as well as a craftman’s attention to detail. It really shows.

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  5. Possible alternatives for ‘tight’:
    - Harmonious
    - Meticulous
    - Orderly
    - Exact
    - Deliberate
    - Disciplined

    It is something that I value in a game regardless of what the mechanics are otherwise; even types of games I don’t normally go for can grab me when the design hangs together.

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  6. "Yet are they just influences?"
    We know that Egyptian civilization from which those influences came began forming at about 4000 years BC when climate in Northern Africa changed for worse, forcing people to gather around Nile and thus forming first large cities. Sadly, there are no evidence of liontaur from back then) More likely this is a parallel universe when those creatures existed, and the city itself, judging by its architecture, is from about 1500 BC.

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    1. I really wasn't asking whether the game PLAUSIBLY takes place in the real world, but rather what the creators' intentions were.

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    2. Yes, sorry for confusion. It was just loud thinking. What I mean is it could possibly have been our Earth aside from one or two big "fantasy" assumptions - like the existance of liontaur. Game's environment allows to identify it - more or less - with a cetain time period and place whether or not it was creators' intention.

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    3. But, again, taken as a whole QfG series doesn't make much sense in that regard. QfG 1 and 4 clearly take place in a different, more recent, time period.

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    4. Corey and Lori have stated before, on Facebook, that Gloriana is loosely based on our planet Earth. I'm sure Corey will comment on this post soon.

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    5. I had forgotten about the name. Does anyone know where it first appears? I don't think it's in the documentation for QFG1-3.

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    6. "Loosely based on" Earth is fairly accurate. Country locations match Earth countries - for example, "East Fricana" is East Africa, roughly Kenya, and we drew from languages and cultures in each area.

      Beyond that, the games are fantasy - made-up Kingdoms and tribes, Heroes having disproportionate influence over events, magic, and monsters. Time periods are also ambiguous. So I'd say Quest for Glory games are a fantasy reimagining of Earth rather than a parallel world.

      Gloriana is the name we used for this alternate Earth in our tabletop role-playing games and in some auxiliary materials for Quest for Glory. We also had a parallel world (accessible through spells and magical portals) named "Coriann" after our names. That one actually saw more tabletop gaming and is definitely *not* an Earth-cognate world.

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  7. I believe Lewis pulsipher defines what you call "Tight" as Harmony:

    “everything in the game feels as though it belongs there and contributes to the purpose and feeling of the game as a whole.” That's harmony

    source:https://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/LewisPulsipher/20170424/296624/Harmony_and_the_Kludge_in_Game_Design.php

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    1. I think the sentiment is good, but to me "harmony" invokes some additional characteristics that I don't necessarily intend with the description.

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    2. Among my friends we use graceful, but those discussions are more about design. As a word for the final product it's a bit too abstract, I think. I've sometimes used solid and economic in this context, but even those require extra emphasis to be understood.

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    3. Elegant is another word I've heard used, but it may not be the best descriptor for a genre that mostly revolves around hitting orcs in the head with a sword.

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    4. Nah, elegant works. There’s a certain elegance in smiting foul beasts that cannot be denied.

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  8. I have read about 20 of my fanboy-comments for Dungeon Master (mainly those below EoB), where I describe DM being "tight" a lot, but the only adjective I ever tried was "pure".
    I generally prefer games with a closed engine and a limited set of rules and options to games where basically anything can happen or be done. Not sure why.

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    1. Dungeon Master definitely qualifies.

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    2. I have reread everything now, but didn't find anybody bringt up a better term. But wow, what a great comment to discover below the final rating of DM!

      Another idea to find a term: I have played (and enjoyed) two games which actually do the opposite: Magoc the Gathering and Path of Exile (the PoE devs are MtG-players btw, so that's not by chance). In MtG, the rules state that every card can change the rules and boy, do they abuse it. Unless you know every single card (which was already kind of hard when I played 20 yrs ago), you can be taken by a lot of surprises. PoE has a similar approach, a lot of skills and unique items chance basic rules, like getting damage out of attack rate, disallowing critical hits or increasing your evasion rating by your cold resistance. That allows very different approaches and opens new angles to see the game from. Both are centered around creating a character/card deck and allow absurd levels of customisation.
      Not sure if my description fully catches the essence of that. But maybe there's a term. I didn't find one either, though. ;-)

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    3. sucinum: generally speaking in game design:

      1. few game verbs, clear feedback when you use them, constant flow of challenges to use your few verbs on = tight game
      2. many game verbs, opaque feedback when you use them, take-your-time and set-your-own-goals type of flow = sprawling, sandbox kind of design

      Magic the Gathering is a sprawling game. Chess is a tight game. Both are fun and cool and useful to experience in different ways.

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    4. Guess I can stop looking for other terms then ;) Thank you :-)

      What I liked about MtG is not only the customization, but also bringing my deck to life and duelling. I always had a clear goal of winning a duel, but of course also the secondary goal to make it painful for my opponent.

      But after a while, my interests change. I concentrate on building and creating, but never actually play my creations, because playing gets somehow tedios. And then I start losing interest in creating as well, because it seems pointless without the intention to use the creation.

      In a tight game, I play more and spend time thinking of strategies and trying to abuse the system. Many games have some weak point or shortcut, at least older ones. ;-)

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    5. In what way does MtG have 'opaque feedback'?

      Do you mean that it's not always easy for a player to determine how two cards will interact?

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    6. Yes. It's the same when you play Civilization for the first time on a computer. You can act on a lot of game verbs very fast in the game and whether you chose to irrigate around your town or not in turn 68 may or may not come back to bite you in the ass numerically well down the line. You switch your government from feudalism to capitalism, though you won't always be prepared what sort of effect your choice will have because the feeedback is hidden under a lot of other signal noise.

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    7. Also you never know what the game looks like when you play the card. You think of a lot of options for a card when adding it to a deck, but when it comes up, it's always a unique situation. Like when I added a Hurricane to my green weenie deck, because I was afraid of flyers. In the end, it won me the tournament, but in a situation when I had a life lead, but lost board control and was due to be overrun. Totally unexpected. I later added another 3.

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    8. I think there is mechanical opacity and strategic opacity.

      Not being able to predict how two elements interact is the former. This often happens in MtG!

      Not being able to predict how a decision will impact the game in the long term is the latter. This is compounded when decisions are 'front-loaded', as is the case with Civlization. Your decisions regarding early game growth/expansion are way more important than just about any other decisions you make, and the feedback has lots of lag and noise, so it's hard to learn from mistakes in that area.

      I think you can have games with minimal opacity that still allow for emergent strategy and unstructured gameplay.

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    9. @sucinum

      I had a couple tournament decks where some of my card choices took on unexpected roles:

      I played hurricane at a regionals and like you, found it was often a fireball to the face, which nobody expects from mono green!

      When I ran a deck with 4 vindicates, at least 50% of the time they were stone rains :)

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  9. Looking forward to seeing you play through this game! Glad you're going for a Wizard, it's my favourite class and I do enjoy the use of magic in this particular game (the series in general has some wonderful variations on magic use through each different game).

    For anyone playing along, I would recommend either Paladin or Wizard to get the most out of it, but there are class specific things for all classes.

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  10. You can tell Salim about Julanar once lbh svther bhg gung pyvpxvat gur zbhfr phefbe ba lbhefrys yrgf lbh gryy bgure crbcyr nobhg guvatf. I remember not knowing that until pretty late in the game, and it does become crucial for another character.

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  11. When I mentioned that QFG1 was the only game which sucked me in that I'd played as a result of this blog, the phrase in my mind was 'It's just a tight experience'. That is something rare to rpgs of all eras, but particularly the early days. I think it involves a persistent coherence of story and level of quality, and a minimum of superfluous content.

    I think most of the games you've played so far that offer 'tight' experiences are non-traditional rpgs. They've largely been action rpgs, adventure rpgs or roguelikes.

    I think Curse comes close though, at least in terms of level design and story. There are a few too many irrelevant races, items, and spells however, and Charisma is dangling out there like a vestigial tail.

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    1. I think 'tightly written' is the term I've most often heard used to refer to music and literature that's been carefully crafted.

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    2. Yeah tightly written seems to fit well, harmony which I know was mentioned above just doesn't fit well to me when I say it.

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    3. I think, maybe, clockwork?

      Every gear is compact and necessary.
      Every cog is lean and precise.
      And, when put together, it's a piece of art with many working parts that are as efficient as it is elegant.

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    4. Speaking as a musician, if I described music as being tight, I'd be talking not just about the careful crafting, but also about the execution - well rehearsed, technically sound, all the elements gelling together, no fluff, no mistakes. It's a good description for a game in the way Chet's used it, I think.

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  12. Don't know about the average fans but to me this is the most beautiful game of the series.

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    1. Three and four are very closely tied in my books for best in the Quest for Glory series. Three slightly edges it out due to nostalgia factory; it was the first game in the series I played. I have incredibly fond memories of spending hour upon hour in it when I was a kid.

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    2. Same! I also think it edges out 4 because of its characters- 4 is a lot of fun, and has a great story, but getting to know Rakeesh and Uhura is impossible to beat... Rakeesh will always be one of my favorite video game characters.

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    3. I’m with you Risingson. Something about the colors and the composition of the layouts really pops. To me, and this may be blasphemy, Silmaria in V is a close second.

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    4. stepped pyramidsApril 8, 2018 at 3:03 PM

      I agree that this is the best-looking game in the series. IV looks good and all but the setting is a bit too dreary and the character portraits are a bit too detailed and exaggerated.

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  13. I understand your idea of tightness as an element of game flow. Every game has a flow loop. In rpgs usually the flow loop is : go out from a town, kill monsters, get money, go back in town when your resources are depleted, upgrade your stats and weapons, go out of town again. Even simple games that use this flow can become very addictive (I am thinking of Legacy of Blacksilver, here for ex.) but good, fast flow isn't an end in itself. Blacksilver starts feeling empty really fast. So does Wizardry I for example.

    A tight game is well and good but I think the Quest for Glory series has something more than that going for it. The QfG games funnel you towards meaningful interactions that serve their theme: not killing orcs and buying a better suit of armor, but caring about the characters in the game and trying to help them.

    Think for a moment what a stunning invention it is that you can click the mouth icon on yourself and game-verb 'tell' NPCs hello and goodbye, first and foremost, and also share about your life. This is optional, but reinforced through 'honor' and 'communcation' stats. The game is telling you that it is observing this behavior. This tells us about the priorities in the design of these games, where part of its flow includes treating npcs with kindness and respect. This is part of how you get to be a hero in these games (and very few others).

    Theme comes first, game systems underpin the theme, useful feedback funnels the player towards meaningful progress within this structure, hopefully with a modicum of flow.

    The feeling of flowing with a game is a feeling of harmony, it's a pleasant and playful conversation between player and game designer. This is why it feels so bad when one game overs and hasn't saved in a while, losing progress upsets flow immensely, it rolls back this pleasant conversation.

    The Quest for Glory games have very interesting flow because they're hybrids, so they inherit the stop-start 'let me think about this, I'm stuck' cerebral flow of adventure games but also have the incremental progress of rpgs to alleviate tedium. I like their flow even if its a bit uneven but it's the heart of the game, the thematic underpinnings that really help elevate their designs. There's other adventure/rpg hybrids and none of them feel as 'together' as QfG. It's not because all the other hybrids are bad game designs, it's because they don't have the heart.

    Is it any surprise that for so many players, the Coles feel like lifelong friends even though they might have never spoken to them in real life?

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    1. It's nice to know that if I ever need to give up this blog like Trickster, I have at least half a dozen commenters who would do it justice as a group effort.

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    2. Well put. The QfG series are easily among the best games ever made because they are more like a really good tabletop campaign, not just a videogame-derived loot cycle. They transport you to exotic locations, creating an almost travelogue-like experience that I've never really seen replicated.

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    3. Thanks for the great comment, Helm - not just because of your admiration for our games, but because you've caught the heart of what we tried to do with them.

      Chet, "together" or "unified" is a pretty good word for "tight", although any one-word description will be incomplete. Maybe it's especially appropriate that we're using the Unity engine for Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption. :-)

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    4. So fantastic to have devs chip in.

      I only played QfG1, 20 years ago, but what the fox says there has stuck with me "It's worth it to be nice, even to rude people."

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    5. Chet, I love this blog, I hope you keep going for as long as it feels good and makes sense to you. It's the only website I don't have bookmarked, I just enter the url every time I visit.

      Corey, a great big thank you to you and to Lori Ann for having a very positive influence on my imagination and moral center as a young man, I'm sure I'm not the only one that feels this way <3

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  14. I'm experiencing a weird bug where it doesn't get dark at night time. It was fine for the first few game days but now it's always daylight, even though night-time events seem to be working as normal. It's probably not a big deal but it's disconcerting. Has anyone else seen this or know how to fix it? I'm playing through ScummVM so it's possible that has something to do with it.

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  15. Man two great games back to back. Have fun addict!

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  16. So... Being one of the younger folks in this crowd, this is the first game you are playing that hits the real deep nostalgia for me. It's probably one of the very first pc games I played- it's mouse only interface made it the most accessible qfg game at that age. So I've grown up playing it and finished it many times. I think gameplay-wise qfg2 is my favorite mix of rpg and adventure, but qfg3 will always be my favorite of the series- partly b/c of my nostalgia, but also I think it's a great culmination of themes, characters and atmosphere that was built up from the previous games.

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    1. It's good to hear so many positive opinions of this installment. I understand that a lot of it is nostalgia, but nostalgia usually just leads you to remember a good game as even better, not to remember a truly bad game as good.

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    2. For me the QfG series are ranked like this:

      Quest for Glory 4
      Quest for Glory 1
      Quest for Glory 2 (2 and 1 sometimes I reverse)
      Quest for Glory 3

      But the great thing about this list is that all of them are in the 'from an 8 to perfect 10' category. So you can't really go wrong. 3 is a bit short, perhaps, needed more stuff to do, but it was an extra game, making an intended trilogy into a tetralogy, so probably had to be made faster. From QfG2 to QfG4 there's a drastic change in tone and maturity that I totally appreciate that the Coles said 'hey, wait, we need a new game between these two to be a thematic bridge'. QfG3 has such a great campaign milieu, I really love it. Keep in mind that when I played it as a kid of the first time it was ridden with game stopping bugs, though. The experience of playing it now with patches and forewarning about how to avoid bugs helps smooth out the experience.

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    3. I think I agree with your ranking and assessment, Helm. I spent more time with this series of games than any other, by a large margin. I still own my Wages of War in the original box, but I do remember it being a bit shorter back when I was first playing it. On the other hand, the tone does firm up a bit, which I also appreciated since I too was aging along with them. I also adored the overworld map and accompanying theme. But before this turns into its own mini-review, I will echo your sentiment that all of of them are expertly made and fall in the 8-to-10 range.

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  17. I played through about half of this game back in the 90s, but for whatever reason it didn't grab me as much as the first two.
    Part of that was definitely the interface. I vastly prefer the text parser of the earlier Sierra games to the point-and-click interface of later ones.
    I also seem to recall this game taking itself a little more seriously than its predecessors, but it's possible I'm imagining that.
    Anyway, my attempt at this game stalled out at a village where I just couldn't get the plot to progress any further. I have a dim memory that it was something to do with my stats being too low? Again, it's so long ago that I could be completely wrong.

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    1. It's glad to hear a complementary opinion on the text parser! It's not that I prefer things "old school." I just like to see some effort on the part of the player to pay attention, take notes, and figure things out. I feel like a lot of adventure games damaged the reputations of such interfaces with poor syntax or too few synonyms, but the Coles did it brilliantly in QFG1 and QFG2, and I could have happily continued with that interface into the modern day.

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    2. I agree completely with you. Part of the charm of QFG1 and 2 was figuring out all the "ask about.." and "tell about.." keywords. Now you just need to regularly check the dialogue trees for new topics and click through them.

      I wouldn't mind if all the basic conversation would be through dialogue trees, but there was an additional option to type in specific keywords. Similarly to UU.

      If I remember correctly, the AGDI remake of QFG2 implemented this.

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    3. The text parser, for me, seems to give more freedom in the actions you can take. That freedom is almost certainly an illusion, but it's an illusion I like.

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    4. I also totally agree that parser gives way for better interaction and creativity freedom than point and click.

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    5. For players that like to be immersed in a world to be explored and discovered, the text parser gives the player unlimited depth in what they choose to explore. The player can ask the game or its inhabitants anything. Of course there are limited responses, but being creative is often rewarded, and with a text parser, you never truly know how fully you have explored the game. The player never knows with they will discover a new gem in the game world. I played the original Hero's Quest many times since it was released, just to enjoy the world that was created. It wasn't until I had run the game through SCI Studio and examined all of the graphics and text did I truly know I had explored the whole game*.

      (Speaking of which, as a child I recall that the wandering Brigands had either red or blue shirts, however in the gog QfG1 release, they all have blue shirts. Am I crazy, or did something get changed?)

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    6. QfG1 and QfG2 with their parsers were perfect UI for what sorts of games they were, for me.

      The stroke of brilliance is that they both had strong parsers but you could right click with the mouse anywhere and you'd get a textual description of what you clicked on if it's important. This alleviates nearly ALL the problems with 'guess what these 5 pixels are' and parsing commands. It's still the second best adventure game UI in my opinion, only behind Legend's classic Gateway parser which also combined a full parser with a list of all verbs and objects in any given room *and* a beautiful, high-resolution picture of the same room where you could click on anything to look at it and get its in-parser name.

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  18. I played hours upon hours of Hero's Quest and QfG2, however I only recently started on my... well quest... to play through all 5 games in the series. I recently finished QfG4, and am just stating on QfG5.

    Regarding QfG3... My *take* is that it was a 'transition', or learning experience for the team at Sierra. With the 'loss' of the text parser, and the move to 256-color graphics learning was needed. Good game yes, but it was no where near the masterpiece that QfG4 was. I would be interested to know if the Cole's would agree, of if they have a different take.

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  19. "Robust" is the word that comes to my mind when you define a game (or any piece of software) that feels solid, doesn't break apart, all its features are well put together, and all in all, it feels that it isn't missing anything or having anything too much.

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    1. "Robust" for me focuses a little too much on the "not breaking apart". How about "polished", which emphasizes the designer's effort to make the final product perfect?

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  20. Keapon Laffin? Sure, keep on laughin', Keapon Laffin.

    As for that chilling scene, it's a common sight in Turkish hookah bars and Arabian shisha cafes.

    A soft clean rug and firm cushions or pillows to lounge around while the muffled sounds of the bazaar buzz around ears beneath the soothing beats of a tabla. Ahhh...

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  21. Quest for Glory is the best computer game series. Don´t think any series (even Ultima) surpass their creativity and world building. I backed the Hero U and I do hope they had mantained the quality there.

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    1. I backed Hero U as well, but I have no doubt that we'll see the same magic Quest for Glory was crafted with.

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    2. Try Heroine's Quest. It's a freeware fan-made spiritual successor, but it's extremely good (also in production values) and definitely captures the magic of the old series.

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    3. Heorine’s Quest is fantastic. I can’t say enough good things about it.

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  22. My alternatives would be "fitting" or "gripping" instead of tight because in these games everything works as it should and you are therefore capitivated by the gameplay.

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  23. Another name I've seen for what you describe as "tight" is "unity of effect." I first came across it in discussions of game design, as I remember, although I don't remember exactly where now, but according to Google it is most closely connected to Edgar Allan Poe, who used it in "The Philosophy of Composition" to describe what he claimed was his ideal method of writing: purposeful, extremely deliberate, and resulting in something short.

    As you say, the usual thing is for a game, if it is any good at all, to be somewhat of a sprawling mess. This is natural for something that is essentially made up for the sake of entertaining people, and which probably came about more or less through avoiding actual work. I suppose the remarkable thing about unity of effect is just that you are observing the result of someone putting a great deal of effort and, well, work, into, well, something that is not real work. But when they really try to make it so, and if you want to avoid real work badly enough yourself, you can almost believe that it is.

    There was a stage magician, who I am told is very highly regarded as a magician, but whose name I have also forgotten now, who did a stage trick involving candles that appeared to light as if by magic. He did it well, and as part of his routine he made the more or less rueful observation that what you were observing was the result of thirty years of his life.

    The fact that you know that you are an addict and are therefore deliberately attempting to justify it by doing something that appears to be productive, is, at the same time, perhaps the most effective thing about this blog, and, if I dare to say so, also the worst thing about it.

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    1. LoL at "... probably came about more or less through avoiding actual work." That might be the goal of many developers when they get into making games, but it certainly isn't the process. "Burning the midnight oil" was normal for Sierra - and most other companies' - developers. Seven day weeks - also normal.

      Today, I spend plenty of time goofing off reading the web and doing other stuff, but somewhere in there are also an awful lot of hours doing stuff such as proofreading, tracking down scripting and other programming errors, tracking developer hours, and other "exciting" tasks.

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  24. After reading the post, but not other comments... I'd better make multiple comments to avoid a wall of text.

    1. Hero as a blank slate - intentional. That's why we allow players to name him; he's the player's avatar. And why I cringe when a wiki calls the Hero "Devon Aidendale" - that was just one player's name for him. Costume design in each game came from the artists, but was approved by Lori. The Hero's Quest character was based pretty closely on Lori's original drawings.

    Why no choice as far as gender, race, or species? We wanted that originally, but were disabused of the notion that it could be done in a late 80's game. Then once the Hero was specifically a blond male human, he stayed that way for the rest of the series.

    Remember that most computers did not have hard drives in the late 80's. We needed to design the first games to minimize 360KB floppy disk swapping. That means that every character animation that could be used in a particular section of the game had to fit on the diskette for that section. Look at that number again - 360KB, not 100MB. If the Hero can walk, run, pick things up, etc., those actions had to go on every disk, so not much was left for actual content.

    Brian Moriarty, writing about making LOOM after having worked on Infocom text adventures, said it best. "In graphic adventures, you have to show everything — and you can't afford to show anything!"

    Lori did her best to keep the Hero "neutral" throughout the games so that players could inject their own personalities on him. But he had to be a him due to technical constraints.

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    1. I always wanted to say this, your lead pixel artist/animator that did the original hero sprite work and his many animations for Hero's Quest is a true legend. I am a pixel artist too, and I learned a lot about what can be done with just EGA and few animation cells on a floppy disk. The hero in QfG1 may be a blank slate but he exudes personality through his animations for when the player has dictated to him what he must do. In adventure games we do a lot of dumb things because we are experimenting and we can always reload if we die, so there's so much humour in QfG1 in the various bespoke verb animations, we get the sense that the hero avatar is kind of playing along being dumb for our amusement, very slapstick, ultimately heartwarming and childlike in a sense. Thinking of the Antwerp landing on you a couple of screens after you've disturbed it, for example. Or the backing out animation after he gets kissed by the healer in her hut.

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    2. Interestingly, your description of "animation" actually covers three roles - the animator, the game designer, and the programmer.

      For the look and specific character animations, that would be the animator - most likely Jerry Moore, but joining us later, Kenn Nishiuye. Kenn also did some marvelous backgrounds using dithering to create colors not in the EGA palette. Jerry was a big Star Trek fan, responsible for the Star Trek Easter eggs in several Quest for Glory games as well as other Sierra games. He also had great technical art skills - he designed the brigand maze and the "overlay" technique we used to make all those QG2 desert scenes look unique.

      The Antwerp was a combination of all three skills. We called for artists to create unique monsters. Jeff Crowe came up with the Antwerp design, then Lori and I figured out what might happen with it, and Jeff and a programmer (probably Bob Fischbach) made it work and look hilarious.

      Similarly on the "backing out of the healer's hut". Lori wrote the dialogue, but Bob likely used cleverly-programmed existing animation to choreograph the scene. Before making computer games, Bob was a "roadie" for several major rock groups. He had a great sense of theater and how to make the most of the available animation.

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    3. Thank you for the clarifications and stories!

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    4. Corey, as always, thanks for your visits and elaborations.

      "Then once the Hero was specifically a blond male human, he stayed that way for the rest of the series." I admire the consistency. Ultima goes back and forth several times, and it's a bit annoying.

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  25. What is a "tight" game? I agree that it's hard to define. Our design goals included being "fair" - everything needed to solve a problem, including information, had to be available inside the game.

    Puzzles also had to make sense in the game context, and consistent with the setting and characters. We referred to this as "internal self-consistency". In a fantasy world, it's ok to have magic, but that magic has to have guiding principles, rules, and restrictions. It has its own form of "science". The player can understand most of what other characters say because it wouldn't be fun otherwise.

    I guess that all ties into our "Rule #1: The Player Must Have Fun." Games should be designed to favor the player and allow the player to be the star.

    Ref "wasted space", I had converted King's Quest IV to the Atari ST prior to starting Hero's Quest. It's a great game in many ways, but it bothered me that many of the scenes were space fillers. The player walks through them, and they give a sense of scale to the land, but otherwise nothing happens there. We wanted our games to be "full of stuff".

    Admittedly, Quest for Glory 1 has many forest scenes without specific puzzles, but there are at least combat opportunities. The QG2 desert has the same purpose, besides making a barrier between Shapeir and Raseir. In Quest for Glory III, there is a vast jungle, but it is mostly abstracted onto an overhead map rather than having boring empty scenes.

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  26. The ability to reassign character class on import - not actually a feature. In this "bug-free" series - Lori and I cringed at that - there was a significant bug in the Quest for Glory II character export code. As a result, we couldn't be sure of a character's class. Since the game might guess wrong, we let players specify. If they instead chose to change class, no problem, although it might be rather hard to play a class with low prime stats and skills. Player choice wins.

    As for bugs, Quest for Glory II almost shipped in a state where it was impossible to finish the game if you were slated to become a Paladin. I caught that in last-minute playtesting; fortunately an issue with SCI delayed release long enough to fix it.

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    1. I suppose a "relatively" might have been in order before "bug-free." I did encounter one in QFG2.

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    2. Addict, you should try clicking on the scorpion in HQ's title screen.

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  27. Team impact on every one of our games - who we had on a particular team greatly influenced the feel of that game. Music is one obvious area - Mark Seibert worked on both Hero's Quest and Quest for Glory II, along with Chris Braymen on QGII. After that, we had a different composer for each game; their composition style helps create the mood of that game.

    Bob Fischbach did the first scene prototypes in Hero's Quest, and he wrote the first puns and silly "look" descriptions. That helped set the tone for the rest of the series.

    So why is there a silly clown in the inn in Tarna? Because an artist put him there. It might have been a reference to the "Silly Clowns" menu item in QG2, which in turn was a reference to pointless non-working menus in early productivity software.

    But there are plenty of other Easter Eggs in QG3 and all of our games. I'm sure you'll run into some of the ones later in this game. One came about because a sleep-deprived artist misread the word "Ego" at the top of a character sheet. Ego was Sierra's generic term for the main player character in any game.

    Why are we even in Tarna stopping a demonic invasion? This game wasn't even part of the original series concept. But one day Ellen Guon (now Ellen Beeman) stopped me in the hallway and said, "I know what the next game is going to be about!"

    Well, of course it was supposed to be "Shadows of Darkness", based on a combination of Gothic horror and horror comedy films such as "Young Frankenstein". But Ellen had a different idea.

    "The player is going to go back to Rakeesh's homeland and follow up on his story. He left to find help against the Demon Prince who injured Rakeesh's leg. The Hero will be the one to stop the invasion."

    "Ah, yes, you got it, Ellen! Very astute to catch all the clues we slipped into Quest for Glory II." Those might not have been our exact words. :-) But Lori and I had misgivings about putting the Hero in Mordavia two years or more after the previous game, so inserting a less dark, tense, and moody experience as game 3 made sense. (We were both off creating educational games - Castle of Dr. Brain and Mixed-Up Fairy Tales - in the year between QG2 and QG3.)

    So in some senses Lori and I design and write all of our games. In another sense Lori writes almost all of the character dialogue and I just fill in "incidental" text for interacting with things. But really it's a collaboration between us and everyone else on the team that makes a game. Switch out an artist or two, or a couple of programmers, or the composer, and we would have come up with different game experiences.

    Incidentally, Quest for Glory III was the QG on which I had the least input. I helped Lori with the initial design, then was assigned to port SCI to the Sega Genesis CD system. Close to a year later, we determined that it didn't have the power to run a Sierra game, and management cancelled the project. That brought me back at the tale end of QGIII, where I proofread and corrected the game text and added a few messages. But unlike 1, 2, or 4, GQ3 is 95% Lori's work.

    That was actually pretty cool for me as a gamer - this is the only one of our games that I played (as a tester) without knowing everything that would happen in it.

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  28. Thanks for the insightful post, Corey! The series is certainly not bug-free (I'm assuming part 4 shipped somewhat prematurely), but i think it's safe to say that it influenced a while generation of gamers through its casual (in a positive serve) amalgamation of point & click adventures with rpg elements, humor and - at least for me - unmatched sense of progression and achievement through the import feature. A the classic and I can hardly wait for Hero-U!

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  29. I've always thought of this abstract quality as "concise." In speech, to me, it means that every word in a sentence is necessary, and that each word conveys its intended meaning precisely, leaving little to no room for misunderstanding. Not sure if it means what you want to express, but that's how my brain works.

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  30. Reading about this game, I really want to fire up QfG5 now and finally play it. I have been avoiding it for years despite playing all of the others multiple times. Maybe now is the time?

    The real issue is that Windows software dated itself much worse than DOS software. I can play anything ever written for DOS (or Apple, C64, etc.) on my Mac, but getting a Windows game working properly just isn't always possible. I may see how Wineskin Winery fares these days. If anyone has any advice, please let me know...

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    1. There's also two patches for QFG5 on the sierrahelp website that is supposed to help with running the game on modern systems. I don't know if the GOG re-release includes them.

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    2. The GOG version worked fine on my Windows 10 rig when I played through the series a couple of years ago, so it probably does. Even QFG4 was error-free, which was notoriously buggy back in the day.

      For gaming on other systems, installing the recommended operating system in a virtual machine like VirtualBox or VMWare might bring better results than emulators.

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    3. The best option I've seen for Windows 9x games is PCem. Virtual machines don't emulate period hardware, which can actually matter in this era even beyond the potential "Windows 9x needs drivers to make use of it" problem. This is still an era where games often had to be tailored to support individual hardware, a problem which DirectX only partially ameliorated until version 5 or 6.

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    4. The GOG one works. Played it a bit last week.

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  31. If you like this adventure/rpg hybrid, I can really recommend "Quest for Infamy" from Infamous quests. It was funded via kickstarter in 2014 and I really enjoyed it without having played any Quest for Glory game before. Availabe at GOG.com or Steam.

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  32. "Normally, I'd object to having only one option, but I don't really mind role-playing this guy [...] a blank template while not feeling like a 'blank.'"

    I love this series of games with all my heart, but it's interesting to compare this to your comments on the increasingly specific Avatar (with pole-dancing centaur poster and all) as Ultima progresses. Is the blonde white male really a "blank"? Most humanities scholars would say no, and add the assumption that this is a "blank" identity essentially goes hand in hand with treating other identities as, well, "other."

    This isn't to accuse the Coles of constructing a racist game (or you of being a racist critic!). But during these years of exploding graphical detail but still-lean memory and floppy disk space (as Corey Cole outlines a few comments above) there were real trade-offs in play, and the choices made were, for whatever reason, not towards a "blank" but to a blonde white guy. You couldn't depict too many options in a fully-animated game (or at least, it would have required seriously cutting back the game in other ways), but the purely abstract ASCII characters or stick figures of much earlier third-person games obviously had to go. We'd probably all agree that you couldn't have this gorgeously realized 256-color world and then have a featureless outline wandering around in the middle of it! But when push comes to shove and limitations force a single default, what someone at Sierra seem to have favored is a Hero who resembles the denizens of Spielburg far more than those of Fricana or Shapeir. I wonder if every player finds this character "blank" in the same way I did as a white suburban boy. Put another way: there are games out there which are described as "you'll play as a black woman..." or "you'll take on the role of a kung fu master in feudal China..." but how many descriptions of a game like QFG3 highlight "journey into a fantasy world where you'll don the identity of a buff blonde guy"?

    I do agree that the decision to give him basically a mushy indistinct non-face was the smart play. At the level of the character sprite this was typical of the engine, if you'll compare to Space Quest IV and King's Quest V... but those games give you a much more detailed face in other sections like cut scenes or pop-up portraits during dialogue with NPCs. Here, conversation only shows the person you're talking to, and most of the cutscenes (IIRC) are carefully framed so the Hero is always from behind or over-the-shoulder. Much better than seeing his poster collection and being stuck thinking of him as a singular individual... even in combat he retains that mushy non-face! I'm reminded of Scott McCloud's idea of the "masking effect" in comics illustration (published 1993) where we identify more with more vaguely- or abstractly-drawn characters, and don't find it dissonant or uncomfortable if the things around them, or characters we're not meant to identify with, are drawn with a greater degree of realism.

    "Bug-free and error-free" - oof. Sadly, QFGIV was not permitted to continue that track record - a shame as in many other regards it was the most interesting and rich entry in the series.

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    1. "It's interesting to compare this to your comments on the increasingly specific Avatar." The difference is that the Ultima series took pains to set up a fairly meta backstory and make it clear that the Avatar was quite literally the player's Avatar. You weren't just controlling a character or role-playing someone else. The character in Ultima IV was YOU, transported to another world, with YOUR backstory. QFG and other games had no pretensions and thus I just take them as I find them.

      "Is the blonde white male really a "blank"?" It's a decent question, but my designation of him as such was less about seeing a white male as the "default" race and more about a lack of specific mannerisms on the character. You can project attitudes and intentions on him, but the graphics never betray those--even better, just about anything he does can plausibly be interpreted the way the player wants. If he's running mad-dash through the forest, it looks equally interpretable as fleeing for his life and courageously rushing to the next quest. I think this could have been achieved with other races and sexes and my comment would have stood unchanged.


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    2. QfG1 states that the hero comes from the east. Well, east of Spielburg so it might by another German inspired state. It's pretty clear to me that a person from there might be white and blonde.

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    3. My recollection is that there's literally no other way to enter the valley.

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    4. The fair blonde hair that the hero sports is actually rather uncommon in Germany. Even more so in the south which seems to have inspired the setting.

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    5. I agree totally about the lack of specific mannerisms - hence my praise for his "mushy non-face" and the McCloud "masking" effect. I really think it's a good design decision, in an engine that certainly would have allowed them to throw in little conversational character portraits or other things that would make him more of a specific individual "character," and inadvertently increase the distance between him and the player.

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  33. Addict, a word of advice on the interface. Once you have selected the character sub-menu (Not sure of the official term for it, but the one that allows you to choose running, or sneaking, etc.) then you can use the left and right arrow keys to select the option you want.

    Hope this helps alleviate some frustration.

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  34. Actually, if I recall correctly, the entire icon-interface can be accessed through the keyboard... I think Esc calls it up, then the keyboard moves among the icons? I think some degree of redundant keyboard control of the character is also present... at least as far as moving in a particular direction.

    And I believe the keyboard is also still mapped onto the 'buttons' for combat and certain other physical challenges... its been a while since I've played, but I'm relatively certain this is the case, and made some of the puzzles a lot easier for me, as it was simpler to just 'walk' left or right rather than try to click on the exact spot I needed to walk to.

    If you continue to have interface issues, I'll reinstall the game and try to help. Its always been one of my favorites, but the interface suffers somewhat from the transition away from the text parser.

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