Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Game 354: Ragnarok (1992)

United States
Norsehelm Productions (developer and U.S. distributor); distributed in Europe by Optyk as Valhalla
Released in 1992 for DOS
Date Started: 28 January 2020
What a treat. I had no expectations of Ragnarok before firing it up, and I was in love with it within an hour. This is exactly the evolution that I've always wanted to see from the roguelike subgenre: retain the same complexity of commands, the same variety of objects, the same underlying mechanics, and keep costs down with graphical minimalism but not necessarily graphical famine. Keep things complicated, but give the player a little help. Make it hard but don't be so insistent on permadeath. The result is brilliant--easily one of the best discoveries I've made since starting the blog.
Exploring a forest in Ragnarok. I've just killed two enemies and am fighting a wild dog. Apparently, I took a random potion in the middle of the battle, and it was a Potion of Experience.
Ragnarok was created by two California-based authors, Thomas F. Boyd and Robert Vawter, both of whom had played and loved Rogue and NetHack. The game's allegiance to previous roguelikes is obvious in its commands, inventory items, and monsters, and I daresay a veteran NetHack player could dip into it with little problem. The most common commands are the same (e.g., [w]ield, [W]ear, [u]se, [t]hrow, [i]nventory), and objects like Wands of Cancellation, Wands of Wishing, and Scrolls of Extinction (i.e., Genocide) do expected things. But Ragnarok introduces a number of new elements that put the game above NetHack, at least through the versions of NetHack that I've played. These innovations include:

  • A detailed game story and more interesting main quest, rooted in Norse mythology.
  • A graphical user interface.
  • More character skills, attributes, and options, which is saying a lot because NetHack was generous in this area.

The best part, at least for someone uninterested in the "hardcore" permadeath of a "true" roguelike, is the saving system. You can quit and save at any point, but the game destroys your save file upon reloading, just like most roguelikes. But you also have the option to create a game-sanctioned "backup" of your game--but only once every 200 turns. (The European version, Valhalla, has an "expert" mode that increases this figure to 4,000 turns!) 200 turns represents about 5-10 minutes of gameplay, a reasonable amount to "lose" to make dying feel like it has real consequences but without making the player start completely over. This is just what I've always wanted.
The game opens in a peaceful village which, oddly enough, is not sacked by raiders.
The story is drawn from Norse legend and is very similar to Event Horizon's Dusk of the Gods (1991): It is 999 CE. Ragnarok is approaching, and in their in-fighting and intrigue, the gods have managed to bollox their chance of prevailing against the evil forces. (The evil forces consist of the two universe-devouring wolves, Fenrir and Garm, the chaotic fire demon Surtr, the evil serpent Jormundgand, and the trickster Loki.) Balder has been killed by Loki's trickery, and Hela won't let go of his soul unless the giantess Thokk weeps for him. Odin has lost his spear, Gungnir, in battle with frost giants. Freyr has traded his sword (Mimming), and the invulnerability it bestows, for a bride. Fenrir managed to bite off the right arm of Tyr, who can no longer fight. Thor has lost his hammer (Mjollnir) in a cave. And Heimdall has managed to let a trickster steal his horn, so he can't even warn the Asgardians when Ragnarok begins.

It's up to a human hero to save the day. He sets out from his village with six quests:

  • Get Thokk to cry and bring her tears to Hela so she'll release Balder, or alternately kill Thokk. (Hela required that every living being weep for Balder, and Thokk was the only one who didn't. Thus, Hela's demand can be satisfied by making Thokk weep or making her not living.)
  • Find and return Mjollnir to Thor.
  • Find and return Gjall (Heimdall's horn), which has been turned into a snake and trapped in a well.
  • Find and return Mimming to Freyr.
  • Find and return Gungnir to Odin.
  • Figure out how Tyr can fight with only one arm.

There's a suggestion that you only have to do some of these things--to tip the balance for Ragnarok, not make victory a surety. But I could be misinterpreting.
Fortunately, you're not locked into your starting choice.
Character creation consists of only a name, sex, and choice of a profession under which your young character has apprenticed. Choices are viking, woodsman, sage, alchemist, blacksmith, and conjurer. These classes affect starting hit points and strength, and each one gains certain abilities at higher levels.

Other attributes are constitution, luck, speed, eyes, and fingers--the latter two literally tracking how many of those things you still have, as it affects aspects of gameplay (for instance, the number of rings that you can wear). Besides attributes, the character can earn a variety of skills (e.g., alchemy, ironworking), powers (e.g., spellcasting, mind control), abilities (e.g., sixth sense, telepathy), and resistances (e.g., acid, cold). Some of these are earned by eating corpses as in NetHack, but others come from magic blessings, scrolls, polymorphing, and a variety of other rare means.
My character sheet at the end of this session.
Gameplay begins on Midgard and promises to progress eventually to Asgard and Niflheim as well as several "minor planes." Game maps are 76 x 18, and the area around the character's village (I'm not sure yet if this is all of Midgard) is 3 x 3 maps--unless it later turns out that mountains are crossable, in which case I have no idea how big it is.

The interface is fantastic. A small-scale map occupies the upper half of the screen, showing the overall area map as far as you've uncovered it. A large-scale screen is set in the bottom half along with character attributes and buttons for most of the game's commands. Each command also has a letter or function key. Thus, you could play with a mouse or entirely with the keyboard. I think this comes close to a near-perfect interface for a top-down game, although I concede that a perfect one would let me call and dismiss the command buttons as I needed them.

Map content is randomized for each new game, but the opening map always seems to have a player's house with a few items and a store. The store works like in NetHack: you pick up items you want and then (p)ay when you're done. From the first item you pick up, the shopkeeper blocks the door until you pay.
Early-game shopping.
In this opening session, I concentrated on mapping the starting area and learning as much as I could about the game's conventions. Enemies in the starting area included bears, goblins, orcs, rats, homunculi, patches of nauseating grass called "retchweed," and annoying enemies called "slywerts" that were nearly impossible to hit. I chose a viking class, which is one of the stronger physical classes, and I didn't have much problem with the enemies, particularly after I found a Ring of Regeneration and was thus able to recover my hit points quickly after each fight. I dealt with the slywerts mostly with wands when I had them and running away when I didn't.

Like any good roguelike, Ragnarok features an enormous selection of equipment, and most of it is unknown when you first pick it up. Scrolls, potions, rings, and other magic items are given descriptors (e.g., a "murky potion" is a Potion of Curing, a "birch wand" is a Wand of Fire) randomized at the beginning of each new game. As you learn them through experience or Scrolls of Identification, the game lists new ones that you find under their proper name. Any of them can be blessed or hexed (cursed), and there are scrolls that add blessings and remove hexes.

If I have one complaint, it's that the game is a little bit over-generous on providing these items, both as random treasures and enemy loot drops. By the end of the first 9 screens, I had two Rings of Agility, a Ring of Crystal Skin, a Ring of Regeneration, a Ring of Protection, a Ring of Third Sight, and I'd found a bunch of Potions of Strength (which add permanently to strength) and Potions of Experience. But co-creator Robert Vawter says that many players considered it "less forgiving" than NetHack despite the lack of permadeath, so perhaps it gets a lot harder after you leave Midgard.
My overloaded inventory towards the end of this session.
Combat has the same tactical considerations as Rogue and NetHack, which means that it's far more tactical than it first appears. At a basic level, you bash yourself into enemies to fight them, and your melee weapons, shield, and armor either do their jobs or not. But with more experience comes a greater understanding of the system's depth and breadth, which include a strong consideration of surrounding terrain, the use of throwing items and magic items, and finding ways to trick, delay, or evade some foes.
Tossing a throwing knife at a "dreg," which can splash you with acid.
The only regression I see from NetHack is that the game doesn't give you an explicit way to interact with NPCs, and there are friendly creatures wandering most of the maps. However, there are ravens who wander up to you and spontaneously give you hints.
Good to know.
There were some interesting moments across the first nine screens. One object that I found repeatedly is a Scroll of Wonder. I don't remember these from NetHack. When you read them, they seem to do random fantastic things. One of them created a river on the map I was standing on, obliterating some enemies as it did so. But another caused my character to hulk out, causing his armor to burst off his body. Unfortunately, his rings were made of stronger stuff, and instead of the metal giving way, the flesh did. I decided to reload rather than continue with no fingers. This was the third death I suffered after a couple of throw-away characters; my first was at the jaws of a bear. The second was when I accidentally took a Potion of Phasing (while testing potions) and rematerialized inside a tree.
Why do video games always make bears so dangerous?
I read a random scroll and it turned out to be a Scroll of Elimination. I wasn't near far enough in the game to have developed a particular hatred for any monster race, but I didn't want to waste it, so I looked through the monster list to find a worthy candidate. I assumed it wouldn't work on unique monsters (Fenrir, Loki), so I used it on the first enemy that appeared on the most dangerous but non-unique list: archmages.
You have no idea how many jokes I wrote and later deleted for this caption.
Among the nine maps, I found three whirlpools which take you to other realms. I'd barely stepped out of one when I ran across Skinbladnir, the magical ship that folds small enough to fit into your pocket. I also found a stairway down into a dungeon that I explored briefly.
Sometimes there are brief 3D cut screens between maps.
As I was near finishing the village area, my character reached Level 10, and I got an option to change to a different character class. I chose a "woodsman," which changed my icon and gave me some new weapon skills. I achieved the "Weaponmaster" ability upon reaching Level 9 as a viking.
Reaching apex level as a viking. I hadn't even pillaged anything.
There are still a lot of things left to learn about. Each character comes with a Ring of Soul Trapping, which stores the soul of the latest enemy killed, but I don't know why (except there's a suggestion that I could use it to bring Thokk's soul to Hela). There's an alchemy system that the alchemist character can use and a weapon-forging system that the blacksmith can use. The conjurer gets spells. You can apparently mix potions to create more powerful combinations. There's a whole polymorphing system to explore, and some entire commands I don't understand like "Aid Fellow Norseman."

Late in this session, I came to realize that I might have made a mistake with versioning. In the United States, Norsehelm retained the rights to the game and marketed it themselves, eventually distributing it as freeware. They updated it a few times--the version I found was 2.5--so I figured I was playing the most advanced release. Later, I discovered that the European version distributed by a London publisher (Optyk), is actually more advanced in some ways. First, it offers a choice between "beginner" and "expert" modes. A beginner can back up the game every 200 turns, an expert every 4,000 turns. Either one is better than the typical roguelike, but I have to say I'm happier with the harder "expert" mode and the sense of angst and danger that it brings (but not the utter terror that you get with a pure roguelike).
Well, that was a hell of a sequence of events.
Perhaps more important, Valhalla has improved audio. Ragnarok features just a few whiffs and clangs during combat, but Valhalla has more advanced combat effects plus ambient sounds such as birdcalls as you walk through the forest. I don't know if those sounds are worth four hours of gameplay, but if the saved game ports from one to the other, then the decision will be made.

Time so far: 4 hours


  1. Really happy to see this gem here, I had many happy hours with it. I also know the secrets back to front so I look forward to seeing you learn them too.

    Good job on the Archmages.

    Do not bother with the "improved sound" not only is it godawful (imagine a low quality file called "bird-scream.wav" on permanent loop), but it also pauses gameplay. To make matters worse it also remembers your keypresses so often you'll hear a terrible noise followed by a mess of movement. If you do end up with the audio version, use Alt-s to toggle the sound.

    Good luck!

  2. Lot of good candidates for elimination, the Monaco Grand Prix always seemed like the most pretentious.

    1. This is the absolute safest joke you could have made with that set up, well done.

    2. No, no, you've gotta eliminate the negative (and accentuate the positive).

      *walks off, whistling*

  3. Oooh, I remember this one. Right from the BBS days, it was. I never really got into it, though. I couldn't follow the Norse stuff, my eyes just glazed over. The world was too big, the commands too many, the deaths too frequent. The game beat me down with complexity.

    It was on every BBS back then, though. It's not shareware? I thought it was. I guess I got it from warez boards. It must have been a small download.

    1. It looks like it was later made freeware. Not sure when that was. Might have been part of the decision to make it freeware if it was already everywhere.

  4. Bifrost & Asgard go back to Norse legends, of course, but the title screen art definitely looks like it's inspired by Jack Kirby's depiction in Journey into Mystery.

  5. Just from those screen captures, I think I'll love to play this one xD (also, I had a millisecond of hesitation when reading the title of the post due to the MMORPG with the same name e.e)

    Aside from that, I've found the ".do" file of "Sin'geom-ui Jeonseol/Dream Traveler Part 1" for the Apple 2. Does anyone knows if is possible to hack this type of file and translate the game? I would love to try a little on that since I have a friend who knows a thing or two on Han'geul.

    1. It would be possible, yes, but it is not a trivial task. There are utilities that will allow you to open the disk image that your .do is, and extract the files. Then you'd have to figure out the character encoding and dump the script. Then you'd have to fit the English script in the same space for the easiest method. There have been some impressive fan translations that actually rewrite the game code to move the script pointers and implement compression so they don't have to worry about the space as much.

  6. Vaguely reminds me of dwarf fortress adventure mode, although this has a specific plot and characters. The two scale map is a nice addition, has this been seen before? (more common being the front view and top down view maps of some dungeon crawlers).

  7. On this note of early '90s roguelikes, I look forward to when you get to 1993's Castle of the Winds, which has the historical distinction of being one of the first Windows 3.1 games ever, if not THE first. At one point I swear I had read that it was the first, but can no longer find the source. I believe Rick Saada was an internal Microsoft developer and had early access to the SDK, and made liberal use of scrollbars, icons and frames. He should be communicative and might be able to give some insight into this question.

    I have always loved the game, but it is relatively simple and easy compared to games like Nethack. You can save and load at any time so death is not an issue. I think it was because of this easiness that I found it a great relaxing time-waster, but you may find it too trivial.

    1. That's funny, as I was reading this I thought to myself "Wait, Castle of the Winds hasn't occurred, yet, right?" The second chapter of CoTW was the first PC game I ever spent my own money on. Money well spent!

      As I recall both chapters were completely silent, but being able to import your own .ico file for the hero made up for it. Many a dungeon was conquered with Dinopark Tycoon's dapper icon.

    2. Very fond memories of Castle of the Winds. :-)

    3. I played it as a kid, and emailed the developer while he still had a website up and email listed; Got a nice reply for him. He put out both games for free some time ago. They are probably why I enjoy nethack so much.

  8. I played a lot of this in the '80s, but never completed it. It has a lot of interesting ideas, but it definitely gets hard once you get past the woodland area.

  9. The ravens are interesting. I wonder if it is supposed to be Odin quietly aiding your quest.

  10. I've never even heard of this game, and I was (and am) a big fan of roguelikes. Harland says it was all over the BBSes, so that might be why... somewhere in this time frame the Internet came to my area, and I was hopelessly lost. I assumine this game wasn't popular in whatever areas of the Net I'd found by then, as the word never reached me on Ragnarok.

    Once the 'right' version is settled on, here in the comments, I may try to chase it down. It certainly sounds interesting.

  11. German reviews at the time trashed the game, criticizing, well, just about everything about it. Considering that Optyk demanded a higher price for it than Origin did for Ultima Underworld, Sir-Tech for Wizardry VII and New World for Might & Magic IV, which were released at around the same time, I can't say I blame them.

    I must admit that I have rather limited desire to play the game either, but I'm still somewhat curious to see where this will go.

  12. I really like the premise of this one, tapping into a great mythology and helping to shape the climactic battle. Maybe it's just me, but I'd always imagined the lore to lend itself well to a lot of speculating about "what if things went a little bit more this way, or so-and-so had made a different choice there?" It's easy to imagine Ragnarok as a cycle, with a sort of theme-and-variation approach to each successive iteration.

  13. I'm glad you seem to be into this. The ASCII Roguelikes (or, depending on who you ask, the only real Roguelikes) always seem to have a high barrier to entry, between the limited GUI and difficulty. Having all those separate goals probably helps: you can spend time figuring out which ones are going to be more or less of a headache to achieve.

    Hopefully you can get that enhanced Valhalla version working, but even if you're stuck with Ragnarok at least it's not the end of the world.

  14. I was heavily into Norse mythology as a kid and this game seems to get it surprisingly right.

    Also, nice to see you being so immediately enamored with a game. Have fun!

  15. Since this is freeware, do you happen to have a link to a working version? Every one I download seems to freeze in dosbox right after name entry.

    1. Actually never mind, the version at works fine. Should have checked there first instead of dodgy abandonware sites, heh. For anyone else who's interested:

    2. It does not work. Got into a room, the door closed behind me and no way out.

    3. @Lord Hienmitey I'm sorry. I haven't run into anything like that. I haven't even seen any buildings with doors, it's all been open doorways. Maybe it's a trap?

    4. No. It was a shop. :)

    5. Did you perhaps take an item from the shop without paying? Chet says in his entry that shopkeepers bar the door the moment you take something...

  16. I remember playing an earlier version that was just ASCII, like other roguelikes. Even without the graphics, it still was pretty slick. I played a lot of this and Omega, both of which I liked more than NetHack for some reason. I haven't ever ascended in any roguelike, though, so my streak remains unbroken to this day.

  17. Excellent blog, excellent review.

  18. My favorite roguelike ever. I played it several times until I finally finished it.

    Polymorphing is a blast, there's even a specific creature that experts recommended to be the ideal target for it (I think because it had 12 fingers or so).

    I vaguely remember there's also an interesting death system, where you can interact with your ghosts when you start a new game?

    1. I was recommended a different one because it is strong and has great armour.

      I doubt fingers are very important... because you can get more fingers!

  19. A roguelike with an emphasis on the plot/quests and not overly punishing with the permadeath. Indeed, that sounds pretty good. And I either missed it or wasn't really paying attention to that game if seen it on the gaming sites, lists, etc.

  20. I was really looking forward to you playing this game. It's one of the great old roguelikes, yet woefully underappreciated and unknown.

  21. Looks great! Reminds me of a Norse mythology version of Mission: Thunderbolt which I'm hoping you can get back to at some point. :-)

  22. I've beaten this a few times (playing with permadeath). It's obviously inspired by Nethack, and has some of the same balance issues: since the game has everything and the kitchen sink, some strategies are just too good - wishing breaks the game in half; it is possible to become effectively invincible on turn 1 with the right character class; there's an analog to NetHack's pudding farming exploit; and instadeaths abound for the unprepared player but are usually trivially avoidable with enough experience. The biggest problem I had was that the game would run out of memory and overwrite my save file with one where my character has no items! It's a fun diversion but, once you've won once or twice, you really need to handicap yourself to make it challenging. It also has what I consider a major bug in the final battle (which I won't spoil yet).

    1. Can you ROT13 that minor bug? Don't remember it myself, but then I only finished the game once (with all mainquests complete)

    2. Sure. ROT13ed:
      Lbh qba'g npghnyyl arrq gb pbzcyrgr nal bs gur dhrfgf - V cynlrq ng yrnfg bar tnzr jurer V whfg jrag qverpgyl gb Ivtevq, jnvgrq, naq gur tbbq tbqf jba. Vg jnfa'g nf pyrne-phg nf jura V pbzcyrgrq gur dhrfgf - V guvax vg raqrq hc jvgu gjb be guerr tbqf fheivivat engure guna nyy bs gurz - ohg vg jnf fgvyy n jva.

    3. Interesting, thanks! I wonder if it was intentional from the developers. Like as in Temple of Elemental Evil that has one "good" ending without even getting into the Temple itself iirc.

    4. Pedro - You are correct. I have it on good authority that the developers intended that as a potential outcome. Odds aren't particularly high if you fail to complete quests.

  23. "Why do video games always make bears so dangerous?"

    Have you ever seen a bear? They ARE dangerous.

    1. A bear? Bears are sweet.
      Besides, you ever see a bear with forty-foot feet?

    2. I was always thinking about my dream job: a shepherd in Transsylvania.
      But I realized it would not be fun when comes the bear for the sheep.

    3. This is your first comment in like two years. I guess I should have talked about bears sooner.

    4. This makes me think of one of my all-time favorite video gaming stories, from a panel/interview with Scott Adams:


      Jerz: Oh, Scott, could you tell us the story about the bear and the parser.

      Adams: Ok, here’s a very good example of an unintended side effect. I told you about my first game Adventureland. Well, to conserve space in the 16K world, I only looked at the first three letters of the nouns and verbs that people typed in. There’s a section where there’s a bear on a ledge and you’ve got to get past this large bear and, being a pacifistic game, you’re not going to be able to kill the bear no matter which way you try. You can give it honey if you want, but honey is one of your treasures and you’re going to end up wasting your treasures.

      Jerz: That’s why I didn’t get the full score!!

      Adams: There is an alternate solution. What I wanted the player to do was to yell at the bear, to scare it off. You could also “scream” at the bear too, as an acceptable synonym.
      Well, I got a fan letter in that just had my whole company rolling in the aisles. It said:

      We got to that bear on the ledge. We tried giving it the honey and he ate it up and boy that was a treasure and that was no good. So we reloaded the saved game and we went back to that bear. We pushed that bear, we prodded that bear, we tickled that bear, we have gotten so upset with that bear we could get nowhere.

      Now the following is rated PG-13 so if you don’t want to hear it, please close your ears. Ok. Continuing...

      So we finally said "Screw the bear!!" And the game replied, "The bear is so startled he falls off the ledge!"

      (Roaring laughter.)

      They thought I was a genius programmer!


  24. Is this the same game that was called Valhalla in Europe

  25. I spent a lot of hours on this back in the day, it's a delightful game. And how many roguelikes let you wear ten rings?

    1. Technically, it's believe it's possible to wear 16 rings!

  26. CRPG Addict wrote: "If I have one complaint, it's that the game is a little bit over-generous on providing these items, both as random treasures and enemy loot drops. By the end of the first 9 screens, I had two Rings of Agility, a Ring of Crystal Skin, a Ring of Regeneration, a Ring of Protection, a Ring of Third Sight, and I'd found a bunch of Potions of Strength (which add permanently to strength) and Potions of Experience. But co-creator Robert Vawter says that many players considered it "less forgiving" than NetHack despite the lack of permadeath, so perhaps it gets a lot harder after you leave Midgard."

    Ragnarok is definitely a lot harder after the forest.

  27. I notice the distinctive gradients of DeluxePaint in the cutscene graphics. That itself has a certain nostalgia.

  28. Each time you play a roguelike, you make me want to go back and try to beat Nethack.

  29. I love, love, love this game. I was going to write a whole panegyric to it, but I realized the resulting wall of text would eat my entire Sunday. So I'll just leave you with a couple of things:

    1. Early on, the running out of physical memory thing isn't all that likely or common. It becomes all but inevitable late in the game, especially if you have long play sessions and a ton of stuff in containers. All you have to do is save your game BEFORE you run into errors. When physical memory is starting to get low, exit, reenter the game and load. You can check the physical memory by pressing F10. If you check your world map, or other memory intensive tasks, you'll lose your inventory, or the contents of storage, or objects depopulate. Don't let that happen -- it's very easy to avoid once you know how.

    2. The "better" sound isn't all it cracked up to be. Valhalla has a 4000/200 turn save limit choice that enhances the experience, and a few other nice features, but the sounds get repetitive quickly, add little, feels a bit hokey, and, most saliently for a roguelike, slows play. I Alt-S when I play Valhalla.

    3. I was a big enough fan to write one of the creators in '10, who was kind enough to write back and answer some of my questions. If your interested I could send him a message and see if it would be okay if I could release the Q&A. It was a lot of dumb fanboy questions on my part, written in a haze of sleep deprivation stress, caffeine and procrastination while I was supposed to be studying for my Board of Certification exam, but I thought you might find it interesting.

    4. As far as the difficulty is concerned, from the versions I've played, they were constantly tweaking the permadeath. Of the versions I've played, I THINK 1.9 and 2.1 deleted your saves. 2.5 had 200 turn "permasaves", and Valhalla had the 4000 turn permasave. Which version you play greatly changes the difficulty, as does the number of exploits, powers, polymorphs, and resistances you use. One of the things I love about the game is how unbalanced it can become. You can end the game teleporting into rooms, killing everything with heat radiation in 1/6 of a turn, and moving on. You can also end up fingerless and legless, dragging yourself from fight to fight with a grappling hook while periodical going insane. It's not the hardest roguelike I've played (I think I'd have to give that to Nightmare mode Zangband) but it's my pick for most fun.

    1. Please share your Q&A with one of the creators!

    2. These were my dumb fan questions:

      1. How did you first conceive of Ragnarok?

      2. How did you and Thomas Boyd meet?

      3. To what degree did other rogues influence the creation of Ragnarok?

      4. When you started Norsehelm, did you envision it as a way to make a profit on games you created on the side, or did you see it as a fully formed business venture?

      5. Whenever I play the game, I am struck by the unusually depth of the mythology. Was research required, or did you always have an interest in Norse mythology?

      6. Were the two of you in charge of different aspects of the game?

      7. Did the game make a profit (If I can be crass enough to ask)?

      8. Many of the creature names I haven't seen in any mythology books I've read - Secitts, Zardons, and Sandiffs, for example - did these come from other sources?

      9. Did you feel that any other books, movies, or games influenced Ragnarok's creation?

      10. How did you get started creating games?

      And here is what Rob Vawter replied with:

      Tom and I were good friends in college who played video games together, including Hack, Rogue, and NetHack, all of which were fun, but not as satisfying to us at they could be. One day, Tom proposed that we make our own game. I initially laughed, but then realized that although we were not CS majors, we were both tech-oriented with some programming background, and could actually do it. The game started out with no real design and a non-graphical interface.

      We were hobbyists who eventually saw an opportunity for business. We thought Norse mythology was a very interesting and unique direction to take the game. I performed extensive research to expand my rudimentary knowledge. We both had limited D&D backgrounds, and used some of those ideas for items and creatures. However, we added our own ideas to expand in interesting areas, both in names, and in creature powers/types - secitts, zardons, bartoks, and sandiffs are some examples.

      Not really. We each did approximately equal parts of everything: programming, art, design. Tom was the superior core implementation programmer, and I was a better adaptive re-use programmer. Tom is much better at the larger scene artwork, and I like to think I led on the smaller art assets. Both of us were heavily involved in level, creature, and item design; AI; and game balance implementation. Both of us lacked business experience. Which segues nicely into...

      If you accept the traditional definition of "profit" as a monetary output that is greater than the monetary input plus the resource input plus the loss of opportunity, then no.

    3. I appreciate you sharing this here. I've been in e-mail contact with Mr. Vawter, and now I can avoid asking him the same questions!

  30. I strongly suspect that Scroll of Wonder is a reference to the Rod of Wonder from D&D, that also generates random effects.

  31. "Why do video games always make bears so dangerous?"

    In early eras bears were terrifying; There is evidence early Europeans wouldn't actually say the proper name for them, for fear of summoning one; and that our word 'bear' is descended from the term they used to avoid saying the true name of the bear species.

    (If you want citations on that, I'll have to ask my fiance, they are the linguist, not me)


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