Thursday, January 17, 2019

Game 316: Caverns of Mordia (1980)

           
Caverns of Mordia
Australia
Lothlorien Farming (developer and publisher)
Released in 1980 for the Apple II
Date Started: 4 January 2019
Date Ended: 13 January 2019
Total Hours: 8
Difficulty: Moderate-Hard (3.5/5)
Final Rating: 20
Ranking at Time of Posting: 81/316 (26%)

Caverns of Mordia is a recently-rediscovered entry in what we might call the "establishing age" of CRPGs--that brief period between 1975 and 1983 (even briefer, between 1978 and 1983, for the microcomputer), when developers repeatedly asked themselves how best to adapt the qualities of tabletop role-playing to the computer.  By 1983, it was clear that the approaches taken by Ultima and Wizardry had answered the question to almost everyone's satisfaction. But during that establishing age, we saw a lot of variance in approaches, most unsuccessful, and while RPGs may have improved in the following decade, rarely again do we see so much diversity. My summary of the early era has links to a number of titles with fun ideas that went nowhere.
     
In the case of Mordia, its unique contribution is to map every potential action that a player might take--subject, verb, and object--into a single numeric command. Where most games might offer a command for "attack" and then let you specify that you want to target the orc, Mordia puts that all together as command 22: Attack the Orcs. It's almost like the game was developed by a police officer, used to describing every potential action or situation in a 10-code. Some of the many commands include:
        
  • 30: Eat Lymphas [a type of bread]
  • 33: Draw the double-handed sword
  • 40: Use the net to trap dragons
  • 50: Climb up one level
  • 63: Remove the gas mask
  • 66: Put on the gas mask
  • 89: Open the chest
  • 90: Attack the balrog

One of three pages of game commands.
            
As I read and annotated the various commands, I couldn't help but imagine all kinds of intriguing possibilities with this system. One problem is that all of the commands are manifestly useful in at least one room. It would have been fun if the author had sprinkled patently absurd commands throughout the list
         
  • 32: Feed Lymphas to the orc
  • 64: Put the gas mask on the dragon
           
I also imagined such a list extending to the complexity of a modern RPG:
             
  • 10318: Stab the necromancer in the back, then run away and hide until he forgets about you, then enter sneak mode and stab him in the back again.
  • 15906: Lead the deathclaw to the raider camp and watch the result from behind a nearby rock.
  • 29055: Position the bodies of Ulfric Stormcloak and Galmar Stone-Fist in an obscene manner.
  • 30117: Lasso and hog-tie the Skinner, heave him onto the back of your horse, ride 90 minutes to the swamps of Lemoyne, feed him to an alligator
            
Of course, such complexity is why the system was doomed to fail in the long run. You can't have a unique command for drawing each weapon or attacking each monster unless you only have a few potential weapons and monsters. Still, it works for this game better than I thought it would when I first read the description.
               
At this moment, I can: (-1) descend the "dropoff"; (3-16) flee to any of the listed rooms; (20) use my Charm Ring on the demons; (21) try to take an emergency tunnel to Room 1 of this level; (22) attack the orc; (30) eat some Lymphas Bread; (33) draw my double-handed sword in anticipation of attacking the dragon; (37) try to blind the monsters with an elven flare; (40) try to trap the dragon in a net; (44) attack the dragon; (55) try to make a passage upward with my magic wand; (70) go invisible by putting on the One Ring; (80) try to blast all the monsters with the Magic Staff.
                          
Caverns of Mordia was written by Hans Coster, with assistance and manual artwork by Tony D'Assumpcao, and published in 1980 by Sydney-based Lothlorien Farming. It is the earliest known Australian CRPG, pre-dating the next known title (Citadel of Vras) by 9 years. It was marketed via direct magazine sales, and by the author's account it did well domestically, but Lothlorien soon shifted to educational software rather than game software. Mordia languished in obscurity for decades--not appearing on any of the lists I used to compile my master list--until 2016, when Neville Ridley-Smith of OldComputerStuff.com happened to buy an original disk as part of a lot, then made contact with Dr. Coster, now a professor and department director at the University of Sydney (Neville's account begins here). Neville's efforts not only produced a meeting and interview with Dr. Coster, but also a new set of disk and manual images to distribute on the Internet. This disk has some upgrades that were not available in the original version, but it's hard to tell exactly what's new because the original versions floating around the Internet are bugged to the point of unplayability. I've annotated the things that I think are new, based on changes to the manual and command list. It's worth noting that even the "new" stuff isn't 2016 material; rather, Coster programmed it in the few years after the original 1980 release but simply never released the second version. [Edit: See the bottom of this entry for more information about the origins of this game.]
           
The subtitle screen from the revised edition.
               
The backstory has you play an agent of the wizard Pallandoin. Your mission is to deliver an Orb of Power to Lady Elleda of Locklorien, whose land is besieged by the forces of the evil spirit Sharnoscet. (In case it's not obvious, almost all proper names in the game are slight alterations of characters and places in the Tolkienverse. "Sharnoscet" is an anagram for "Hans Coster.") To get to Locklorien, you have decided to travel through the Caverns of Mordia, full of horrid creatures and encounters, because it is the route the enemy will least suspect.
             
The game suffers from a few originality issues.
           
Character creation involves answering a few simple but unusual questions. After your name, you're given the option to start at the surface with a basic kit or jump right into a lower level of the dungeon with a full set of equipment--in effect a shortcut for players who have already been through the opening a bunch of times. The normal exit to the game is on Level 25, but at the outset you can also specify that you'd like a second exit on Level 35, in case you fall down a pit or just want to amass a higher score before winning. I'm not sure that there are any drawbacks to saying "yes" to that question.
           
A few questions during character creation.
          
You begin at a dwarven market, where you don't have enough gold to buy anything, but can later return. Your opening resources are a dagger, a dragon net, a magic staff, a wand, a lamp, the Orb of Power, 400 agility, and 400 strength. Strength serves as both literal strength and a health reserve.
          
The game begins in an empty room.
         
Upon entering the caves, gameplay proceeds something like a roguelike with a concept map instead of an actual map. The dungeon consists of at least 35 levels. The manual is unclear, but it's possible that levels are generated indefinitely (I made it to Level 44 before I died). Each level can consist of up to 16 rooms, with the contents of the room and the connections between them randomly established every time you change levels. They can even be reconfigured while you're still on a level if you encounter "tremors."
           
A text simulation of an earthquake.
         
Room 1 on each level is a special room in which you can do a couple of useful things. First, you can (Command 0) use the Orb of Power to return to the dwarven market and buy a gas mask (500 gold), a magic two-handed sword (3000 gold) or extra Lymphas Bread. Second, you can (Command 27) exchange your accumulated experience for extra agility or strength. You don't always want to exchange all of it, however, because your unspent experience is used in some of the formulas for hitting and damaging monsters.
             
Spending some of my hard-won experience.
              
Other rooms can contain all kinds of perils depending on the dungeon level, including:
       
  • Poisonous gas, which depletes your two characteristics unless you quickly put on a gas mask, and then the gas mask itself causes a 5% attribute loss per turn.
             
The game warns you about poisonous gas at the beginning, but you won't be able to afford that gas mask for a while.
            
  • Drop-offs, including ones that you can see and hidden ones that dump you unceremoniously to the next level.
  • Gusts of wind that blow out the lamp and make it impossible to see what's in the room until you make a movement for a turn and the lamp re-ignites.
  • Webs spun by the giant spider Araneida, which immobilize you for one or more turns.
            
             
  • Orcs. You can kill them in regular combat.
  • Dragons. You can also kill them in regular combat or try to trap them with a net first.
               
A dragon and an orc guard this room with a chest. Because I have a Dragon Occular, I can see the dragon's health.
            
  • Trolls. They always appear to guard the Mithril Armor. I believe they're new to the second edition.
  • Balrogs.
  • Giant vampire bats.
  • Demons, which can't be killed through normal combat, only charmed.
  • Araneida, the giant spider.
  • Goblins, who can't be attacked and simply steal one of your potential inventory items (the Dragon Occular) and flee.
            
Mithril armor is guarded by orcs, demons, vampire bats, and trolls.
           
The same rooms can also contain useful equipment and assets, including:
         
  • Gold. You can't directly pick it up. Instead, every time you make a move, there's a chance of grabbing a certain percentage of it.
  • Chests with gold, elven flares, or Lymphas Bread. Chests can be trapped with serpents that bite you.
  • The Charm Ring, which stuns demons.
               
Finding the Charm Ring is a key moment in early gameplay.
          
  • The Dragon Occular, which lets you see the relative strength of dragons
  • Mithril Armor. I believe it is new to the second edition.
  • The One Ring, which works pretty much as in the book. It renders you invisible while you wear it, but the "evil one" can sense its presence, and every turn you wear it carries an increasing chance of a debilitating spell. I also think this is new to the second edition.


Rooms with various assets and dangers are a staple of games in The Wizard's Castle variety, but what keeps Caverns of Mordia unique is that any combination of these things can exist together in the same room. You might wander into a room with poison gas, an orc, 500 gold pieces, and 6 vampire bats, and then immediately have your torch blown out. You might descend into a room with an orc, and a dragon, have your Dragon Occular stolen by goblins, and then immediately fall through a hidden hole in the floor. You might be in the middle of a battle against four trolls for some Mithril Armor only to have a tremor reconfigure the dungeon level before you can defeat them.
          
A fairly simple room with demons, a few room connections, and a way up.
             
You have a surprising number of options for dealing with these threats, all with potential risks. You can run away to another room, or climb up or down if those passages are open, but running carries a risk of getting swatted by enemies as you leave. You can simply attack with your dagger, or spend an extra round pulling out your two-handed sword (after you've bought it), but the sword sucks your strength every turn and only improves your chances against some monsters. You can light an elven flare to blind monsters and improve your chances of hitting them. You can use the staff, which will obliterate orcs, demons, bats, and poison gas and create a tunnel down, but only if it doesn't backfire and damage you instead. You can try to reach Room 1 in a hurry by taking one of Araneida's tunnels, but it carries a risk that she'll bite you on the way. You can point a wand at the ceiling and try to create an escape hole upward.
           
A more deadly room on Level 6 has an orc, a dragon, and demons.

          
In short, every room has a lot of tactical possibilities depending on who and what you find there, your current attributes, and what equipment you carry. Upon arrival in a room, you have to decide what takes priority, and whether it makes most sense to fight or flee. You get experience for every successful action, and it adds up fast. Your fortunes wax and wane with astounding swiftness. At times, I'd be down to a few thousand strength, reach Room 1 exhausted, and then find I had 600,000 accumulated experience points to pump into the attribute. Other times, I'd be wandering around confidently with over 100,000 in each attribute, fall through a few holes, meet a balrog, and get the "game over" screen.

Every nine moves, the game has you camp for the night--sometimes, this happens right in the middle of combat. (The manual hand-waves this by saying that you're magically transported to a pocket dimension for the duration of your rest.) The sleep has a chance of adding 20% to each attribute, and it shows you a current inventory and mission log when you awaken. You can call this report at any time with a numeric command.
          
The "cave report" is a simultaneous inventory screen, status report, and rest break.
         
Overall, the strategy is to build agility and strength slowly on lower levels by killing orcs and charming demons. Rooms get more complex and events more chaotic the further you descend. Once you start killing dragons, and particularly once you start killing balrogs, your experience can increase by hundreds of thousands per level, but your strength and agility can also decrease with equal rapidity, and after Level 15, I was constantly searching for Room 1, often risking Araneida's tunnel to get there. Such gameplay provided an exciting, nerve-racking experience, mitigated only by the fact that you can save every time you find Room 1 and teleport back to the dwarven market.

Although mostly text-based (and without any sound at all), the game occasionally offers some ASCII animation of your character fleeing battles or descending dungeons.
         
Running from monsters sends a little ASCII guy scurrying across the screen.
             
The same guy transitions between levels.
              
If you die, the game gives you a summary of your character's actions and an estimation of how close he was to winning the game.
          
This guy didn't do so well.
        
Winning involves exiting the dungeon successfully on Level 25 or 35, which you do as soon as you wander into the room with the exit. You get a satisfying text narrative and a summary screen of your activities. It took me about six total hours and four characters to win. To do so, I did take advantage of occasional saving. Winning without saving, as in a roguelike, would be a hardcore way to do it.
  
The final text wraps things up nicely.
       
My final stats for my winning character.
            
I recorded about 10 minutes of video to include the opening, exploration, combat, and the ending. The character dies a couple of times, and the encounters leading to his death give you some idea of the "oh, #$@*" nature of gameplay, as you careen from room to room trying to get a break from the relentless onslaught of demons and dragons.
  



              
I don't like to stress the GIMLET rating for early exploratory titles like this. I gave it a 20, scoring it best in "gameplay" (5) for a certain replayability and a difficulty and duration commensurate with its content. It doesn't check all the RPG boxes, but that's not quite as important as the spirit of innovation that the game represents. On the cusp of an era where 80% of their titles will receive their DNA from Ultima or Wizardry, it's nice to see a few games that imagined computer role-playing in different ways.

*****

Update from 19 January 2019: A few days after this entry was published, an anonymous commenter alerted me to the similarities between Caverns of Mordia and an earlier title, The Devil's Dungeon, which was published as code in several editions of Stimulating Simulations by Dr. C. William Engel, Professor of Mathematics at the University of South Florida. Each edition of Engel's book has a variety of programs that readers could type in BASIC. Printed versions of The Devil's Dungeon may have appeared as early as 1977 and definitely by 1978. It was available on media in some catalogs by 1980.

I should have known about this already. In 2015, a blogger named Kevin Smith wrote to me about The Devil's Dungeon, as he had just completed an article, suggesting that it might be the first commercial RPG. (Read it for a full account of the publication history of the game.) I completely dropped the ball on reviewing it myself. I likely dismissed it as an RPG because its character development was so primitive and it didn't have an inventory.
             
A shot from The Devil's Dungeon (1978).
         
I just had a look at a Commodore 64 version that someone typed in. The link between The Devil's Dungeon and Caverns of Mordia is clear. Gameplay in Dungeon takes place on the same kind of multi-leveled dungeon with 16 rooms per level. Room 1 is a special room where you can trade your experience for attributes (in this case, speed and strength) and escape. There are demons, tremors, poisonous gas, and a wand that will clear out rooms and create tunnels downward but has a 40% chance of backfiring on you. Tunnels down are called "Dropoffs," and you use them with the unusual -1 command. Many of the other commands are the same.

Coster's program is certainly more elaborate. The Devil's Dungeon has no main quest. Your only goal is to find as much gold as you can and leave. It has an infinite number of levels and no exit, and you can only move down. There's no Orb, nor any other inventory. It lacks Mordia's text supporting the backstory and setting, and of course it had no full manual with the illustrations and production values.  

Because of the dates, one might easily reach the conclusion that Coster copied the core of his game from The Devil's Dungeon, but I corresponded with Dr. Coster, and he is adamant that he never heard of The Devil's Dungeon and programmed Mordia from scratch. He said that in the years before he was encouraged to market it, he made it freely available, and it was popular among friends and his university. Several copies were made and traded, and he raises the possibility that one somehow made it to Dr. Engel in Florida. As Dr. Engel died in 2011, we will likely never know the story from his perspective.

41 comments:

  1. Very interesting game! I may have missed it but I can't actually see anywhere in the article what platform it was released for, was it DOS?

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    1. Master ranking list has it as an Apple II game

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    2. It's an Apple II game. I played it about a month ago to take screenshots for Mobygames. A fun little RPG from the very early days.

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    3. Thanks for answering, Dungy. I forgot to add the year/platform line to the header info.

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  2. Wow, given its era, it actually seems to be a tight little number that would offer replay-ability and at least wraps up its story tightly enough.

    My favourite post in a while (Since Wizardry VII was finished, but that was pure nostalgia)

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    1. It seems like many of the concepts could be used to make a nice simple roguelike.

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  3. I love rediscovering some of these ancient RPGs with interesting and unusual mechanics from the early days. Much more interesting than Ultima II clone #89 from 1989.

    Three other interesting games I recently discovered were:
    Morton's Fork (1981) - The third part of Adventure International's Maces & Magic series.

    Demon Venture: Reign of the Red Dragon (1982) - Also released by Adventure International. An interesting real time RPG for the TRS-80.

    The Missing Ring (1982) by Datamost - horribly convoluted and slow to play RPG for the Apple II, but does have some interesting mechanics

    Yeah, I'm the jerk that added those 3 games to Mobygames for you to put on your list. :P

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    Replies
    1. Dungy, have you gotten Morton's Fork working? There seems to be some copy protection where a butler asks for your "invitation number," and I haven't been able to figure out a way around it.

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    2. Were you playing the Apple II or TRS80 version? I had the same problem on TRS80. The game was written in BASIC, so it shouldn't be impossible to hex edit out.

      I'll look into it tonight.

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    3. I got it working. It's not copy protection, it's just VERY poor game vocabulary, that I could only figure out by reading the original BASIC. I'll email you.

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    4. I was playing on the TRS-80. I don't know why I assumed it was a cheat code. Thanks for the hint; I hope to get to the game in a few months.

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  4. Well, command 10318 actually works, as every Elder Scrolls Online player knows.

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  5. "You can entrance a demon spirit" looks at first glance like one of those amusing typos... but upon reflection, that is absolutely the correct spelling.

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    1. They are called 'garden path' sentences: for example "The old man the boat" or "The prime number few".

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    2. I can't find the original sentence he or she quotes in the article text. If they're correct that it was "You can entrance a demon spirit", then it was a meaningful sentence, not a garden path.

      You're thinking of "entrance", the noun, the place of entry into something, usually a room or a building. But in that usage, it's "entrance", a verb, to cause something to enter a trance state.

      The noun stresses the first syllable, the verb stresses the second. In spoken form, the difference is obvious, but you need context to differentiate when it's written.

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    3. Garden path sentences are always meaningful sentences that are grammatically correct and make sense when read properly. They are confusing because a word is used in a less common manner that leads you to expect a conclusion that doesn't happen. I'm the classic example "the old man the boat", for example, "old" is a noun instead of an adjective , and "man" is a verb instead of a noun. This confused your brain, because it can't find the predicate of the sentence at first.

      Technically, "entrance" and "entrance" are different words, but it still qualifies .

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  6. Dungy, your Mobygames efforts are well appreciated! Any contribution of knowledge to the field of games history, especially in early and obscure corners of it, yields dividends down the road.

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  7. I really enjoy your articles into the origin and history of RPGs as a way to see what could have been, and this was another great entry. So thank you for that.

    I do have a question though. Are you storing these games somewhere as you acquire them? I ask because, if so, you're accumulating quite a worthy collection. It's practically anthropological at this point and it's worth keeping. Websites can come and go, and old games can be "lost" as a result but as long as you have the ability to backup files and transfer them, the games you've played and written about will be preserved. And yeah, I know you're not the only one doing that, assuming you even are, but I figure one more person can't hurt.

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    1. I agree, sometimes hunting down old games can be difficult, sometimes even impossible since the game has been lost - no longer for sale, website still exists but downloads don't work, developer no longer uses his old email account and can't be contacted, nobody can be found who owns the full version and could upload it, it was never sold on physical media (CD or diskette) so ebay won't help either...

      Even with mediocre or plain shit games this can be sad, because it's a lost piece of history and might hold some spark of inspiration for the next generation of developers. Heck, even the generic Ultima clones covered here are interesting in their own way, if only to show how wide-reaching the influence of one game can be, and how prolific the copycats.

      Archiving all these games and keeping them somewhere so they can be made available to the public again if they ever get fully lost is very important.

      Old Mac games have this problem a lot because of how their full versions worked. You had to register and type in two codes to unlock the full version, and many of these haven't been cracked, activation codes from legal buyers aren't available online, and the dev no longer responds to messages so buying it is impossible too. And some of those old Mac games were interesting, too (Jewel of Arabia: Dreamers but an activation code for this one is floating through the net, I hope it works when I reach the point at which I need it; The New Centurions, for which there's nothing).

      As someone with an interest in game preservationism, a central RPG archive would be great to have. Although I wager most of the games Chet has played are available on myabandonware, if they aren't on Steam or GoG.

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    2. Even some of the games Chet has played are hard to get full working versions for, I've been playing Disciples of Steel the game wasn't hard to find but it was hard to track down the patch that gave the 1000 starting xp and I never have found the versions where the blacksmith shop works though I hear it exists.

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    3. Hi Bakuiel - is that different from Patch 1.013?

      See here for details https://www.patches-scrolls.de/patch/1289/7/23338


      If you could post where you found the patch you used, that might be helpful also to others who in the future stumble on this thread.

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    4. Yeah it is patch 1.013 that I got from here http://www.ag.ru/games/disciples-of-steel-chronicles-of-cyhagan/patches/7568/agc
      Gives the xp but using blacksmiths freeze the game. Still I'll try the one on the site you gave just incase its just a bad download of the patch.

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    5. Yes, I keep permanent copies of all of the versions I tried plus their documentation and any maps and notes I made along the way.

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  8. Here's some useful shorthand commands I could have used in RPGs I played recently:

    57: swap places with the bard, then drop my sword
    126: leap athletically to the next pillar, walk casually off the other side, land in the lava below
    48372: Start talking with Dupre, but say only "Bye". Do it again. Open up my backpack, then open up Dupre's backpack and poke around in it. Close the backpacks. Start a conversation with Iolo...

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  9. WOW! Video! I love videos. They're so, so much better than screenshots for "following along" with play. This game is pretty madcap. I wouldn't have gotten that impression just from screenshots. I hope we can see more videos in the future, this was very informative. Some of the screens went by pretty fast, though - maybe some commentary from Chet's mellifluous, easy-listening voice would be in order for the next video? :D

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    1. I am going to try to do more videos. I've been on a cruise since 10 January, so it hasn't been a good atmosphere for making voice recordings (and I didn't bring the right equipment anyway).

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  10. The animations are charming! This was clearly a labor of love. I guess this game is kind of in the same general ballpark as Wizard's Castle. Using numbers for input gives me a pretty clear idea of how this program must have been written. Given different influences (and maybe more time), I imagine the author would have created a parser-driven game like Eamon.

    I often think it would be fun to make one of these kinds of board-gamey lightweight RPGs for mobile and/or browser use. The ones I've seen all tend to be very 'freemium' in their design, unfortunately.

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  11. If you ever played Half-Life before, you would see that the cheat codes were done the same way as this game's commands. Impulse 101 was all weapons/ammo/health,for example.

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    1. It was common to do this with cheat codes - devs generally tried to make the actual user interface a bit less abstract and forbidding, though!

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  12. The final rating always seems „to come later“, but it never does. Am I missing something, somewhere? Wondering about this for a year now :)

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    1. It does come later; it just might be several weeks to a couple months later. The idea is that by not including it in the header, it preserves suspense for first-time readers of the final entry (though, admittedly, not so much in this case). A couple readers asked for that, anyway, when I first introduced the headers.

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  13. >> "I agree, sometimes hunting down old games can be difficult"

    I'll add "sometimes you can't even remember what the game was" to your list of reasons.

    Example: long ago, back in the BBS days, I recall playing an Ultima-like game that had 3 elemental planes to travel to but you could only get back with an item called the "Rod of Return." I could never find the rod and suspected that might have been due to a bug.

    And that's ALL I remember. For the life of me I can't recall the combat system, the plot, or even whether the game was any good. But I occasionally think about it for some reason and wish I could remember the damned name of it.

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    1. Sorry, that was supposed to be in response to JarlFrank's comment earlier.

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    2. That's what happens when you post without the Rod of Reply.

      (And I did the same thing!)

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    3. Maybe I could just take a level in the Forum Poster class instead?

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    4. Your best hope is that the game is in Chet's list and will be played one day :D

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    5. >> "That's what happens when you post without the Rod of Reply."

      Thou hast posted thy comment in the wrong place and another forum-goer has mocked thee for it. Will thou: A) Humbly submit and accept thy shaming or B) Defend thy Honor and flame him back?



      >> "Your best hope is that the game is in Chet's list and will be played one day"

      I seriously doubt it. I do remember that it was something I downloaded rather than purchased, so it was probably one of a million little personal projects rather than a commercial title.

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  14. This looks heavily inspired by an earlier game, The Devil's Dungeon by William Engel.

    The Devil's Dungeon was published as a type-in game, and advertised in magazines in late 1977 / early 1978. Archives.org possesses several scans of Engel's "stimulating simulations" book, which in later editions contains this game. Actual copies of the program, for various systems (I tried it on the trs-80) float around on the internet.

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    1. Wow. You're not wrong. This is quite a scoop. "Inspired by" it might be a light way of putting it. This is worth an edit to the information above.

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    2. I spoke to Dr. Coster, and it seems to be more complicated that it first appears. Edit made to the edit.

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  15. Really appreciative of the edits as well. Fleshes out the history just that little bit more!

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Also, Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

I read all comments, no matter how old the entry. So do many of my subscribers. Reader comments on "old" games continue to supplement our understanding of them. As such, all comment threads on this blog are live and active unless I specifically turn them off. There is no such thing as "necro-posting" on this blog, and thus no need to use that term.

As of January 2019, I will be deleting any comments that simply point out typos. If you want to use the commenting system to alert me to them, great, I appreciate it, but there's no reason to leave such comments preserved for posterity.

I'm sorry for any difficulty commenting. I turn moderation on and off and "word verification" on and off frequently depending on the volume of spam I'm receiving. I only use either when spam gets out of control, so I appreciate your patience with both moderation tools.