Friday, April 3, 2020

What I Can Tell You About DragonBlade, GayBlade, and Citadel of the Dead

Where fortune and fame await the oold? What does that mean?
             
An awful lot of administrative work and emulator-fighting went into tracking down, sorting out, and running the three variants of this exceptionally mediocre game. This was not time well spent. When Dragon magazine, home of the modal five-star review, gives your game no stars and calls it the "worst dungeon-crawl, you-do-the-mapping, oops-you're-in-a-trap-and-your-torch-went-out, mindless click-the-'attack'-button game I've seen in a decade," you know you have a problem. This is an account of why I didn't get very far with these games and why, at least for now, I'm not interested in trying harder.
   
To judge by the manual and character creation process (the only part of the game I could really experience), DragonBlade offers essentially nothing that Wizardry (1981) doesn't except for color graphics. But even worse is the re-skinned GayBlade, which bills itself as the first gay-and-lesbian-themed CRPG, which it probably was, but only in the most superficial way. If I were a gay CRPG Addict, neither game would satisfy my gayness nor my CRPG addiction. That GayBlade received so much press in its day goes to show how starved the genre really was for authentic gay representation in games.
      
The timeline is a little confused because a lot of sites give GayBlade as a 1992 game and DragonBlade as a "straight fantasy variant of GayBlade." In fact, the reverse is almost certainly true, particularly since the "About" screen for GayBlade is still titled, "About DragonBlade." There are a lot of sloppy bits like that in GayBlade. (That double-entendre is gayer than anything in the game.) Making things more confusing, author R. J. Best went on a Macintosh Garden forum last year and claimed he wrote GayBlade and released it for free in revenge for a distributor withholding royalties from Citadel of the Dead. But it's clear from both news accounts and magazine reviews that GayBlade was available in 1993 while Citadel didn't come out until 1994. Citadel, as far as I can tell, is just DragonBlade with a new title screen and a few bug fixes.

Let's talk about DragonBlade first. The manual offers the most generic backstory possible: Once peace reigned in the land, led by a community of knights and mages who followed "the gentle philosophy of DragonMagic." They were headquartered in the DragonKeep and ruled by High Wizard Alastor. But a demon army led by Lord Xygor invaded the land, lay waste to the keep, and imprisoned Alastor in a "dimension of frozen souls." A party must brave the now-monster-ridden keep to rescue Alastor.

The game opens on a menu town with a "training yard" (character creation), tavern, general store, guild (for level advancement), magic shop, healer, and dungeon door. Classes are fighter, mage, priest, samurai (fighter/priest), wizard (fighter/mage), and master (fighter/priest/wizard). Races are orc (c. 10%), ogre (10%), elf (40%), gnome (20%), and dwarf (20%). When you roll a new character, his race is randomized along with his attributes: strength, wisdom, intelligence, constitution, dexterity, and hits. Each attribute is rolled from 1 to 15 (there are no racial modifications), and the aggregate determines your available classes. So far, with the exception of the monster races and no human race, things are identical to Wizardry.
           
Except for low hits (which prevents him from being a "master"), this character has some unusually high stats.
             
The manual doesn't tell you the prime requisites for each class, so I spent far more time than made sense noting the minimum scores every time an option came up and then figuring out the associated probabilities. First, there isn't an equal probability of each number between 1 and 15 appearing for each attribute. For some reason, 8 is heavily weighted, accounting for about 15% of values. The numbers 1 and 15 are weighted low, accounting for about 3% each. Everything else is in the 6-8% range. Priests require at least a 12 in wisdom and mages require at least a 12 in intelligence; each comes up as an option about 21% of the time. Samurai require 13 strength, 12 dexterity, and possibly smaller values for the other attributes. They come up only about 5 times in 1,000. Wizards require at least a 12 in wisdom and dexterity and a 13 in intelligence; they come up 6 times in 1,000. Masters have at least a minimum requirement of 12 or 13 in all attributes (I'm guessing a bit) and come up less than 1 time in every 10,000 rolls. I only ever got one once, and I forgot to click the "Master" option when selecting him, so I accidentally made him a fighter. That hurt.
          
Starting items in the store.
        
It turns out that much like Wizardry, it doesn't make a lot of sense to sweat through thousands of re-rolls for the perfect character anyway, since Level 1 characters might as well be wearing red Star Trek uniforms. This is particularly true for DragonBlade, where enemies attack the moment you enter the dungeon, before you can even light a torch, and never stop. Combat is also Wizardry standard. Each character can attack, parry, use an item, or cast a spell, although it executes the action immediately (more like Might and Magic) rather than running through the entire round at once.
           
Combat against giant rock ants.
           
The game uses Wizardry's "slot" system (e.g., a Level 6 priest gets 3 first-level spells, 2 second-level spells, one third-level spell), but there are only 11 spells for each spellcasting class. Mages get "Light Wound," "Evade," "Light," "Heavy Wound," "Invisibility On," "Invisibility Off," "Locate," "Lightning," "Fireballs," "Ice Storm," and "Castle" (as in, "return to"). Priests get "Disarm" (the only way to disarm, since there are no thieves), "Light Cure," "Compass," "Cure Poison," "Resist Fire," "Resist Ice," "Raise," "Heavy Cure," "Eye of Death," "Cure All," and "Restore."
          
Looking at spell options while facing an undead.
            
It soon become clear to me that the programmers had built DragonBlade to serve up a combat once every n clock cycles and hadn't accounted for faster models. (If I don't have that quite right technically, I'm sure someone will correct me.) Thus, the combats never end and you never get to explore the dungeon or even retreat out the back door. I tried Citadel of the Dead and ran into essentially the same problem. I could actually get a torch lit and occasionally move a step, but generally speaking I was trapped in an endless succession of combats from the moment I entered until they finally overwhelmed the party. Death is permanent in the game, although one weird feature is that enemies continue to attack slain party members in combat, slashing and bashing their helpless corpses. I guess that's good news for the survivors but still somewhat gruesome.
           
An inevitable message in my DragonBlade experiences.
        
The Basilisk emulator that I use for Mac games doesn't offer dynamic clock speed scaling the way that DOSBox does, and I was unable to find a Windows version of DragonBlade even though it existed. (I think Citadel was Mac-only.) I fiddled around with other models and settings in the Basilisk GUI, but I couldn't find anything that wasn't too fast. Thus, I tried GayBlade, for which I could only find a Windows version. This was my first experience emulating Windows 3.1, and it went about as smoothly as all my experiences with a new emulator, which means it took several frustrating hours to get it right (and would have taken longer if my commenter Lance hadn't given me a head start with his configuration).
           
There's no way it's the world's first. What about Leather Goddesses of Phobos? What about the game version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show?
              
GayBlade is a gay-themed game if by "gay-themed" you mean taking all the trappings of a typical computer role-playing game and replacing them with trappings of gay life. Not real gay life, but stereotypically flamboyant gay life, and not "replaced" in any thoughtful way but clumsily and senselessly. Let's start with the classes. In place of fighters, samurais, wizards, and priests, we get queers, drag queens, guppies, and lesbians. Mages and masters aren't even translated. Prime requisites are lowered significantly, and instead of default-naming every character "Dufus," this game picks names that begin with the character's class. You can only create four characters instead of being able to create up to 8 and only assign 4 to the party the way the other games work.
          
Assembling a gay party.
          
Then we get to inventory. Instead of useful items like armor and swords, we get aprons, mace (not the weapon, but the chemical spray), blow-dryers, press-on nails, and condoms. If the relative positions are any guide, purses are substituting for cloaks, tiaras for helms, press-on nails for gauntlets, and condoms for shields. Okay, I just got that last one. That's a little clever.
     


The ostensible goal of the game is to rescue someone named "Empress Nelda." But once you enter the dungeon, you're just in the same medieval dungeon as the straight versions. Some of the monsters are replaced with menaces to gay people, such as "FBI Probes," homophobic thugs who say "you fag" when they attack, televangelists, KKK grand dragons, and spineless politicos. You even have to face some external representations of inner demons such as suicidal tendencies and age spots. But there are also regular monsters carried over from DragonBlade, like giant insects and rats. The spells aren't "translated" at all. Drag queens get the priest spells.
             
The characters face an "FBI Probe" led for some reason by a naval officer.
            
I tried to last long enough to explore the first level. I'm pretty sure it's only 10 x 10. I didn't find any special encounters or navigation tricks. But my queers and lesbians and their mace and hairdryers were far less effective against enemies than the swords and armor of the fantasy versions. I hate the control system in all three games: they're mouse-buttons only, even for movement. I also hate the perspective, which insists you've hit a wall (not only subtracting a hit point but making you acknowledge a message) even though it looks like there's plenty of space.
            
Sure, it was "plainly marked." ONE SQUARE AHEAD of where I am.
             
I'll leave it to you, gay readers: what impressions do you get from this description? Are you happy to have any acknowledgement, even if the best it aspires to is high camp and doesn't really succeed even at that? This will be better served in a longer entry specifically on the topic, but milestones that I can remember for gay representation in RPGs are:
           
  • Ultima VI (1990): Earliest game that I can remember that allows same-sex sex, albeit with a gypsy prostitute.
  • Ultima VII (1992): Continues the tradition, albeit at a brothel.
  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (2002): Made things equal-opportunity for creepy sex predators, as Crassius Curio will sexually harass males and females alike.
  • Jade Empire (2005): Introduced BioWare's from-then common theme of offering at least one same-sex partner, often a bisexual who could also be romanced from the other side. I remember accidentally falling into a gay relationship based on some tricky dialogue options.
  • Fallout: New Vegas (2010): In a game famous for not introducing "romance options" with its NPCs, the only exception (sort-of) is for lesbian characters.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011): Introduced full equality. Any character who could be romanced, married, and bedded could be done by both men and women with no additional commentary. Unfortunately, all relationships were a bit boring and bloodless. 
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition (2015): Kicks up the complexity a notch with a wide cast of characters with a variety of racial and sexual preferences--plus mature attitudes (and a sense of humor) about sex and sexual situations.
              
I'm sure more experienced readers can think of more, but for 1993, I think you'd be better off playing a regular CRPG and just imagining the protagonist as gay rather than paying homage to this penis-lollipop take on gay themes. Even if you feel differently, I simply can't bring myself to fight rednecks with press-on nails and blow-dryers for 13 levels.

Thus, I guess I'm rejecting the entire group on "notability" grounds, although I'll hold myself open for taking up one of the medieval versions if I can get Basilisk to slow it down. I'm done with it for now; the game has kept me too long from Ultima VII.
           
Note: The title of the gay version is perhaps a reference to Zorro: The Gay Blade (1981), which not enough people have seen. Ironically, the authors removed swords and daggers from the game so that the characters no longer have any blades.

*****

I've put Planet's Edge on the back burner because it's clear that I'm going to have to start over. I'll pick it up again after a couple of games have gone by; this isn't going to be another Magic Candle III. I just hate doing the same things I've already done, and I needed some space in between.
     

181 comments:

  1. This seems like a fake game 4chan would make up, not something that actually exists.

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    1. Yeah, I feel like reading about this was like witnessing a hate crime.

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  2. Why did you even need a Windows emulator? Dosbox can run Windows 3.1 and its games just fine.

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  3. The probability curve you're describing for the stats suggest they're obtained by rolling 2d8-1, producing a curve from 1 to 15 with 8 being the most common number (the product of the largest number of dice combinations).

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    1. I addressed this down below. 2d8-1 gives a triangular distribution of probabilities. What I get in actual observation looks more like a curly bracket on its side.

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  4. Also in talking about queer representation in games it's worth remembering the point which came up strongly in criticism of Dragon Age Origins, and which Bioware subsequently learned from:

    Characters who are contextually straight or contextually gay depending on your character's gender, or who will romance either gender, isn't the same things as gay, lesbian or bisexual representation (although it's a damn sight better than having everyone straight).

    DA2 and DA Inquisition thereafter gave NPCs a predetermined and fixed sexuality.

    And why did Origins get the criticism when earlier games had received less? Mostly because its gay romances were otherwise so damn *good* - it got people to care enough to want to see it be even better. Even as a straight guy, I find the queer options in the DA games often more emotionally compelling than the hetero options.

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    1. Having party members who'll swing any way suits me as a player, as I dont want to factor in romance when I'm picking my character's gender.

      You can still explicitly represent sexualities in the game world via any of the non-romanceable characters strewn throughout the game.

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    2. FWIW, and getting into the weeds here, I believe the complaint is that (a) it's important for a lot of queer people, for reasons that speak to queer lived experience, to have the option of dating someone who's actually *gay*, not just "flexible" - there's a lot of queer cultural baggage in that that I'm not sure I can do justice to;
      (b) "contextual sexuality" perpetuates the trope of bisexual = slutty, and the trope that bisexual = literally the same kind of interests in both/all genders, while still not actually providing representation of an actual bisexual;
      (c) contextual sexuality perpetuates that trope that gay people are "convinceable", and might try out another gender under the right circumstances, which leads to a whole bunch of unpleasant culture;
      (d) In a world where somewhere around 10% of people are gay, they should expect to see somewhere around 10% of characters as gay, which shouldn't be limited to a creatable protagonist and minor NPCs.

      It's also sometimes worth thinking about the issue of how romanceable characters who are always available to the protagonist plays out culturally, which I guess depends on what the game is for. If it's primarily a sexual/romantic fantasy that's *about* available partners, sure, go nuts. But if you're telling a serious story that happens to have romance in it, it does justice to the characters to have some of them say, "Sure, I would romance a protagonist, but not *you*, no matter what you do."

      Dragon Age Inquisition does this extraordinarily well. I have many complaints with that game but the variety and nuance in the romances was superb, save only that it didn't really seem to recognise that Blackwall was nothing but red flags and that he wasn't romantic, he was abusive.

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    3. I agree with @GregT and generally come down on that side of the argument, but the flip side is that there's a pretty long-standing convention that gender choice has no mechanical impact in role-playing games. When the character's gender is more than purely presentational in the game, it is more difficult to play a nonbinary or otherwise gender nonconforming character unless the game is explicitly designed to account for that possibility. And I wish BioWare luck in figuring out how to implement "this companion is attracted to feminine-presenting characters with penises" without treading on a few land mines.

      (My bias here is that I've never found BioWare-style romances appealing; love stories are a totally valid subject for games, but it's much harder to do them well when one side of the romance has no inherent personality.)

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    4. I feel like there's two ways to look at it. One is that while your PC is mutable, the NPCs in the game are fixed. Thus, if Leliana responds to both male and female PCs, she must be bisexual. If EVERY character available for a same-sex romance is such, that gets into some of the issues that GregT is talking about.

      On the other hand, you could regard each new game as generating a new batch of NPCs, some of which have the same names and backgrounds as ones from previous games but not completely the same personalities. If you romanced Leliana as a man last time and you romance her as a woman this time, that doesn't mean she's bi-; it just means that she was straight in the first game and gay in the second game.

      That second argument was more convincing in my head before I typed it out, to be honest. Now I'm not sure I can give it equal weight with the first.

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    5. For me as a straight person, I also prefer to see fixed sexualities in any game where they're attempting to present complex characters.

      A gay man is a different *person* from a straight man (or a bisexual man, for that matter) even in a fantasy setting. They've had different experiences in life that have made them a different person - particularly so if the setting has any level of different cultural treatment of gay men, or oppression.

      Dorian, Cassandra and Iron Bull are three good examples from Inquisition of this principle in action. Dorian is a gay man, as part of his character. He's not flaming, he's not in your face, but it's there and present and informs him whether you're romancing him or not. Cassandra is hetero, and that allows her to have the wonderful little subplot about enjoying Varric's pulpy books. Iron Bull's penchant for BDSM informs his relationships with people outside of sex, and his understanding of power relationships, in a fairly mature and honest-to-life way.

      You don't get to do those kinds of stories if the NPCs are malleable to the desires of the player.

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    6. I still have to play DA series properly, so I'll guess I better ride the bull and get back to you.

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    7. I entered this comment section with absolute fear, and scrolling a bit down... GregT nails it. And I say that as a more or less happy cis gay man, which we are not that bad considering. Our experiences in life are different, for a good number of us teenage emotional learning was delayed (and this psychologically leaves a huge mark) and yep, not the same.

      Also I must say that on one hand I welcome representation (you know, it helps avoiding that though that you are lonely, weird, and deserve to die as you will ever be unhappy and never fit society) and on the other I hate romance mechanics. And in any way the best representation I got for a long while was Phantasmagoria 2.

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    8. I used to think in this manner. If it was possible for the NPCs to be not interested in the protagonist (and their gender) I would still buy the new character for each new game concept. As it is, the NPCs are too directly in service of the player.

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    9. @CRPG Addict:

      I generally don't mind the Schrodinger's Decision/All Roads Lead To Rome effect in stuff like tabeltop RPGs where the replayability is usually intended to be 0, so it's convincing that the NPC just so happens to be gay, or that the BBEG just so happens to be sieging the town the players picked to go to, or that the new DMPC just so happens to be a cleric when the party doesn't have one.

      However, with video games, it's usually that you're playing the same game multiple times, and it's really annoying to have your new playthrough contradict the old one. It's often really confusing to have the game try and subvert metagaming when other parts of the game reward metagaming (finding good grinding spots, using enemy weaknesses, beelining to a quest in your new playthrough to get its unusually good loot).

      It feels especially cheaty with NPC personality traits such as sexuality, gender (I swear to God that I've seen less progressive games literally do gender swaps for the MC's romantic interests while keeping the same character role otherwise), or feelings. Like in one playthrough the boss blames you for killing their brother, and so next time if you don't kill that character the boss makes up a whole new excuse to have the destined fight! I know real life doesn't let you metagame/use your knowledge for a redo so why should a game play along with that, but that's what it ends up like when you replay a video game.

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    10. On a side note, if you haven't played Christine Love's visual novel "Don't Take It Personal, Babe, It Just Ain't Your Story", it specifically deals with the problems that arise from the player assuming that the NPCs are there to service their fantasies.

      It's laid out as a traditional Japanese visual novel, with the player as the relief teacher for a class of attractive girls, and you're given the typical eroge gameplay about getting to know them, but as the game goes on it becomes clear that none of these people can or should be romance options for you, you should have known that from the start, and that behaviour that assumed they were is creepy and inappropriate.

      Not saying that there's not a place for escapist romance/erotica fantasy in the world of gaming, but it's an interesting analysis of the problems in never having an NPC say, "Yes, I'm a romance option, but not for *you*."

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    11. So it's essentially Spec Ops: The Line for eroge VNs? ;)

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  5. Also, I know it's the word that the Ultima games use, but "gypsy" is a slur. In the real world, use "Romani". In fictional settings, if they're not clearly meant to be Romani, I think "traveller" is preferred (though not sure).

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    1. Romani wouldn't make much sense, considering that Ultima is not set on Earth and there's no Romania.

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    3. The word Romani is unrelated to Romania. It may be fully independent, or at best a distant cousin as one of the theories is that it comes from the Sultanate of Rum, "Rum" meaning "the Romans" which were actually the Greek-speaking Byzantines that were occupied by the Sultanate. And of course the Romanians would have also inherited their names from the Romans, making the word "Romanian" and "Romani" cousins of sort.

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    4. Many English words don't make sense in the context of Brittania. For starters, gypsy is derived from the word 'Egyptian' :p

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    5. I heard a fascinating talk by a Sinto community leader once, who told me that his people remember their origins as being located somewhere in the Indus valley. Sinti are a subgroup of what is collectively referred to as Romani - a bit of a catchall term if I remember correctly, which mostly describes a common language of the same name? That would be a bit like calling native peoples of northwestern South America "the Quechua".

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    6. You mean like calling white Americans "Caucasians" ? :)

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    7. Not really, since they don't speak any common language from the Caucasus, that I'm aware of. ;)

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    8. The origin of the word isn't super important. The reason we don't call black people in Ultima the n-word isn't because we don't think Britannian etymology would have arrived at it, it's because we don't call people the n-word.

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    9. stepped pyramidsApril 3, 2020 at 9:42 AM

      Well, a more obvious reason is that Ultima doesn't call black people the n-word (not that there's many opportunities...). I think there's a stronger argument here for putting the word in attributive quotes rather than substituting the word.

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    10. This is one of those words where "what part of the world you live in" makes a big difference. It is much more likely to be considered offensive in Europe than in the Americas, including among the Roma themselves.

      I can't find accurate polling data, probably because persecution has made the people in question suspicious of information gathering, but quite a few groups use "Gypsy" to describe themselves.

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    11. This is one of those ones where I’m just too old and stubborn. To my perspective, “gypsy” has a long, noble, and romantic history. I’m not going to call one of my favorite music genres “Romani jazz” or find some other word to refer to Ethel Merman’s most famous performance. It’s offensive if I use it offensively, which I’m not, or if someone of gypsy/Romani heritage shows up and says he’s honestly bothered by it.

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    12. I don't know about the specifics but you are not the one to tell if a word is a slur to a minority, addict. If anyone from this specific minority could speak up it will be awesome.

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    13. Exactly what Gnoman said. In America, the name Eskimo is used to describe the native people of the far north and Indian is still used on American census forms. In Canada, these terms are considered discriminatory, and we use Inuit and Native American. So I think gypsy being considered a discriminatory term really depends on where you are from. In North America it is considered quite acceptable.

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    14. It really depends where you live. Here in Portugal gypsies is a very significant minority, and the word "cigano" (literally gipsy) is The accepted word and not even the gypsies themselves say "Romani" or anything close. It would sound stupid in our language.

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  6. If we step outside of CRPGs, the text adventure Castle from the mid-70s had an ending where you could sleep with a prince, a princess, or both at the same time. I don't think the protagonist had an assumed gender for that one, but given the choices available it wouldn't matter either way.

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    1. Haunt (1979-1982) explicitly asks you to pick if you like "male, female, etc."

      And as I believe Nathan discovered when he played it, you can sleep with everyone but the vampire in Mystery Mansion (1978).

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    2. Man, I was so disappointed about the lack of vampire sex.

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  7. Arcanum (2001) also allowed same-sex prostitution.

    But as far as I can recall, Fable (2004) was the first CRPG that portrayed homosexuality as a fact of life. Some male NPCs simply were receptive to the protagonist's flirts, and that's all there was to it, no fuss made about it.

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    1. Vampire - the Masquerade: Bloodlines (2004) had homo- and bisexual NPCs, as romance options but also self-contained in their own story arcs, if memory serves. Also, your relationship to your (possibly same-sex) Ghoul had strong sexual undertones.

      One of my personal top 10 CRPGs, by the way.

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    2. Arcanum also had some fun inter-species prostitution.

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    3. While I appreciate inclusion as well as the next guy, it always bugs me to see almost all videogame worlds supporting sexual diversity in a way mirroring modern progressive values. Even our own world, in its most modern urban centers, is probably less comfortable for same sex relation than the average CRPG world today. It just sugarcoats the difficulties and flattens the personality of the world and its inhabitants.

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    4. Fable had representation in that my male character was able to marry a male character but it was.... not good. "I'm so happy with my man from the guild"

      It did not feel like marrying a male character, it felt like marrying a character full of female stereotypes who happened to be flagged "male".

      It really bothered me.

      (The Ultima VI representation, on the other hand, as tiny as it was, felt more progressive because it was more matter of fact about it, there was at least custom dialogue).

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    5. Yeah, the "morality" of fantasy world is always a bit weird, as it's clearly influenced by off course our contemporary and our imagination of kind a European medieval age with Christian influence but often without such a "moral instance" like the church in place. It's entirely possible that in such place it's even less a problem than nowadays, or in the other direction much worse, or an entirely different approach to it.

      (I'm not in the only religion can grant morality but the influence of religion in the past and today in even secular states and societies can't be denied)

      Interestingly ultima has with the virtue system an approach to the morality of the world, but don't touch this subject.

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    6. I also don't want Christianity to give the sole reason for how non heterosexuals are and were treatend, it's kinda sounding so, but imho it's priority of procrastination in its view of sexual morality has an influence on it societies which are influenced by it.

      Also many RPGs have religions and churches of course but their portrait are kinda flat mostly

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    7. Also procrastination should miean procreation :)

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    8. RPG worlds often reflect a lot of other contemporary values about justice, authority, individual rights and liberties, romance, family relationships, and so on. Similarly, they tend to have political, economic, and social structures that make more sense from a contemporary perspective than they would in the real-world time period they superficially imitate. It's rare to see anything resembling actual feudalism in games. Instead, you generally get several layers of reinterpretation of how the Victorians interpreted feudalism, mixed with several different sources of outright fantasy ("Merrie Olde England", the Matter of Britain, Tolkien and Wagner, etc.).

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    9. To be clear, I don't want feudal realism or any other sort of full-on historical society realism. I DO want complex, individual, problematic worlds, not cookie-cutter "this is how a PC fantasy world should be" utopias.

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    10. Yeah, I meant this with our "imagination" of medieval Europe mixed with our contemporary morality. It's interesting when they do a complex and justified in itself world.

      And tbh sometimes the cookie cutter world is also sufficient. Often it's kind of an analogue to the uncanny valley, when you see those who created the world put clearly thoughts into it but sadly not enough

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    11. I go back and forth on this. There are fantasy series like Malazan and Wheel of Time where homosexuality is just blithely accepted, if rare, and no one makes a fuss about it. Sometimes, when I read those, I think, "Really? This primitive society manages to be progressive in this one particular way?" But then I think, "Do I really want fantasy to directly reflect real world struggles? Isn't it enough that gays face discrimination and harassment in modern society without having them face the same thing in Westeros?"

      Usually, when fantasy holds up some kind of social mirror, it's at least abstracted a bit. Both Dragon Age and The Witcher deal with serious racial issues, but it's elves and dwarves. Imagine if a fantasy game came along that had fictional races but they were literally light-skinned and dark-skinned, with the former oppressing or enslaving the latter. That would be a little too on-the-nose, even if you could role-play an enlightened character. So in that sense it's probably best if fantasy creates different-but-similar socio-demographic problems for its characters that invite us to reflect on their real-world counterparts without actually reliving them. Then again, actual fiction (not fantasy) doesn't shy away from those realities, so I don't know.

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    12. I tend to dislike the metaphor approach, because it has the effect of the work talking down to the audience; as if they wanted to teach children about discrimination without directly touching the subject matter.

      I feel like Star Trek had this issue a lot, particularly TNG. The issue of the episode would be under so many layers of sci-fi metaphor that it got very confused and ultimately not applicable, if it made it through at all. PTSD sure looks easy when it can be solved by a computer chip ("The Hunted") and language/culture barriers
      in real life are a lot harder than just spending ten minutes on Google ("Darmok.") Satisfying episode resolutions but not really useful or engaging social commentary.

      If a work is going to set out with a clear message then I'd rather they just say it than try to soften, obscure and bowdlerize it. That's what gripped me about Game of Thrones: it's got magic and heroes, but also all the gross aspects of the human condition that fiction usually ignores or covers up.

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    13. Did you watch Mad Men? There's an episode where one of the characters writes a Star Trek spec script about a planet where the "Caucasons" have enslaved the "Negrons," only the "Negrons" are white. It's treated like it's completely absurd rubbish, and I was thinking, "I swear I saw that episode."

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    14. @Alex

      The problem with Game Of Thrones is that Martin made many of what you call the gross aspects if the human condition far worse than reality. The only noble families in that setting that would survive five years in the real world are the "designated idiots" - the rest would have either been deposed by peasant risings or driven into poverty by their gross mismanagement.

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    15. I’d get sick of fantasy worlds presenting typical medieval representations of gender/race/sexuality. I’m more interested in the ‘everyone can be a hero’ aspect of fantasy. Yes, using ‘specism’ as an analogue for other sorts of discrimination can feel trite, but plenty of representations of racism, sexism, homophobia etc feel trite as well, I think good writing and world building can explore these themes whilst retaining the sense that games are for everyone.

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    16. There's nothing inherent about historically-influenced fantasy that makes progressive treatments of race, gender or homosexuality anachronistic. Many pre-Christian cultures accepted homosexuality either within certain contexts or generically. Many European nations operated in wildly multicultural ways at points in their history. Likewise with gender.

      Saying that "realistic" historical fantasy has to conform to racial, gender and sexuality oppression is just saying that one actively prefers medieval Christian repression over other periods of history.

      There's no need to go there unless you have a story to tell that's specifically about that repression. (See "The Witcher", in pretty much all its incarnations, or Game of Thrones.)

      Even if the historical argument doesn't take you - if one can accept elves, dwarves and dragons, but can't accept people fundamentally not caring whether two men are screwing each other, then one has a strange and limited imagination.

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    17. @GregT and @Tristan-- I don't think that a work HAS to have realistic or "realistic" oppression. But if a work is already trying to have a broader message about a real-life social issue (not just homosexuality) and tries to soften the blow by obscuring it with fantasy jargon, that's when it starts to feel contrived. I want to tell the show/game/book/movie "Okay, I get the metaphor, you don't have to baby me."

      Since TNG is already part of this discussion, a good example is Worf's status as an absentee father to his son Alexander. It's real, it's very personal, and it's not something you can fix by having Geordi do some technobabble to the warp core. It's about the people, not the setting--which, I just realized, is the real core of my opinion. I could buy the moral dilemma inherent in Picard's choice not to commit genocide against the Borg. The episodes I mentioned above, where Star Trek plot magic is the grand solution to a very real problem? Those I'm less excited about.

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    18. I find fantasy worlds that mirror modern 21st century morals to be of limited imagination, to be quite honest. It's like the author managed to conjure up fantastic races and a magic system, but he couldn't give those alien societies beliefs that clash with his own. So these fantasy humans have powerful magic at their disposal, trade with beings from other dimensions through magic portals, have domesticated ten-legged giant ants as beasts of burden, etc etc etc, but their social values are freedom and democracy and nobody has ever had a racist, sexist or homophobic thought? It's especially bad when every single citizen of that fantasy culture has the same liberal beliefs. Really? Even in today's world there are dozens of different opinions, but in a wizard empire spanning an entire continent, literally every single person supports equality?

      I'd rather have fantasy settings that feel strange and alien and look at moral issues from wholly different perspectives rather than slapping current mainstream values on the fantasy people and calling it a day. Exploring society from a different angle is one of the strengths of scifi and fantasy. If you just copypaste your own progressive beliefs unto a fantasy world, you're not exploring anything, you're just using your fiction to validate your own beliefs.

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    19. What's an example of a game which looked at an ethical dilemma from a 'wholly different perspective' ?

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    20. It's more common in books than in games. I really enjoyed the themes and setting in Hugh Cook's The Women and the Warlords, for example. The morality of that world is very bronze age, and characters have beliefs and motivations that aren't 21st century in any way. It follows the struggles of a slave-priestess who often gets the shit end of the stick in a society where she's worth little, and while I've seen many reviewers call it a feminist book, that's entirely due to them looking at the characters and their struggles through their own modern lense. No character in the book has viewpoints from the 20th century. Even the protagonist, a woman we get to empathize with, has goals and perspectives that fit into her world rather than being a 20th century woman placed into a fantasy world.

      In games it's rarer, of course. Game settings tend to be more generic (as are a lot of book settings, but there's more books than games and books are easier to make) and don't focus on worldbuilding and examining issues as much. Planescape Torment would be a good example of a game with an interesting world with its own rules and strange factions. Morrowind, too, managed to create a world with its own philosophy, but the player mostly experienced it through reading in-game books and asking questions to NPCs rather than making his own moral decisions within that framework.

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    21. Fundamentally I wanted to say, there are reasons why we think about things, sometimes they are good and sometimes not. There could be valid reasons for a medieval inspired world has today's view of social issues, but most worlds fall flat to Justify or even show us that reasons and it's the same the other way around, why there is a worldview fitting our medieval times (or how we think it was) in a world which has entirely different conditions.

      IMHO that's the king discipline in worldbuilding and it's not necessary in a game settings, where the world may only is a loose framing. Also it has some difficulties, a discrepancy between the character who grow up and know the values oft the world and the player thrown into it, this results in the famous line of ultima 9 where the avatar of asks what a paladin is(the avatar should know the answer, but a player who never played a ultima game before can't). Tyranny solved this with hoover text when npc mentioning part of the lore.


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    22. I'm not sure I'd describe a Bronze Age philosophy as being from a "wholly different philosophy". We have ample stories and treatises from our own bronze age to inform us of the popular thoughts of the era. I get it that it's not a modern sensibility but there are in fact plenty of modern works of fiction that don't invoke modern sensibilities. And the author may have intentionally written feminist themes into the work without rely on modern feminist language. I dont know personally I haven't read the book (and even if I had I don't know the authorial intent behind it).

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    23. Well, sure, it's not completely alien because it's still an inherently human way of looking at the world, and similar to what our own ancestors once believed. But it's different to contemporary culture and morals, and therefore much more interesting to explore than a fantasy world where everyone behaves like a modern day American.

      There are historians who say that you have to treat the past as a different culture, as so much has changed since then and using a time machine would be like traveling to a different, unfamiliar country. So our contemporary assumptions need to be left behind when looking at history. I feel the same about fantasy. It's a different place with a different history and different circumstances (including magic!) so why should the people there believe the same things 21st century Americans do?

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    24. The only game I know that really tries to employ any sort of alternate ethical construct is 'King of Dragon Pass', and that's because it used a setting (Glorantha) which was effectively the life's work of it's very talented creator.

      I don't find attempting to do things the 'Gloranthan way' all that satisfying tbh, but I admire the game for doing something unusual.

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    25. There's a lot of fantasy that's not from a 21st century, American moral compass though (and one could argue that compass isn't exactly the most forward thinking in the modern world). As others have pointed many ancient civilizations were much more sexually open than medieval Europe, for example. I would like to see more creative fantastical societies but I'm also not going to get out of shape if they have supposedly more progressive mores than their real world analoge. Who's to say some powerful sorcerer was openly gay but everyone respected his power too much to be openly hostile to him, and eventually not treating gays as inferior just became the norm.

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    26. There are also episodes in history where there was a lot of experiments in living/loving that were weirdly common despite being quite far from the mainstream, but based on a different interpretation of mainstream philosophy/religion. For instance in the peasant revolutions in Europe following Martin Luther/protestantism there were deeply socialist experiments, communal living/loving societies etc. that all based their societies on different interpretations of biblical scripture.

      So a "historical" premise doesn't necessarily preclude "liberal/modern" thought modes.

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    27. There's an interesting issue here, in that a lot of the way we view things is very modern. For one example, there's pretty solid data to suggest that the homosexual "identity" was invented in 1920s Germany.

      Prior to that, you have same-sex relations, which are viewed differently at various times, but this was not a defining aspect of somebody's identity the way it is today. There's also cases where the social rules were set up in ways wholly alien to modern ideas - the Romans, for example, cared more about who was doing and who was being done to than they did about the relative genders involved.

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  8. "In place of fighters, samurais, wizards, and priests, we get queers, drag queens, guppies, and lesbians. Mages and masters aren't even translated." - Well, masters still fit the theme, even untranslated. They should come with an "enslave" ability though. Not sure about mages.

    Personally, I don't get the complaint about lack of gay representation in the RPGs of that era. It's not like straight representation is through the roof - these games just don't give any indication of the characters' sexuality. You Wizardry party might consist of polyamorous lesbians in a six-way relatioships just as well as it could of straight incels, there's nothing in the game that'd tell you otherwise.

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    1. I think the point is, when there is representation of sexuality, its almost universally heterosexual.

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    2. But the representation of sexuality is usually abstract and rare, so it being heterosexual makes sense (since that's the majority of people, for good biological reasons).

      Hero marries princess. Kings have their queens, peasants have wives; sometimes those serve as quest objects (orcs took my wife! Please return her!). They're not real people with personalities and preferences.

      Any kind of "representation" of sexual preferences (or preferences of any kind, really) isn't even a matter of discussion as long as most NPCs aren't even portrayed as real people, imo. With the early 90s we're just entering the time where NPCs have actual characteristics and sexual orientation isn't on the first place when it comes to characterization priorities of NPCs. I care more about a villain's motives and personality than which orifice he likes to stick his johnson in, for example.

      Primarily, characters should have traits because they make them more interesting characters, not just for representation or whatever. And if you do include characters with non-straight sexual orientations, please don't make the mistake of bland tokenism or being overly pushy about it. A former colleague was gay and I've known him for months before I heard about it, and then only because he told a travel story where he mentioned his boyfriend. That's it. Theoretically I could have gone through that entire job without ever learning about my colleague's homosexuality.

      Meanwhile "representative" characters in media are often pushy about it and have being gay as their main personality trait. That's when it becomes almost insulting. It's like the devs wrote that character just so they could say "Look, we got a gay guy! Aren't we progressive?" rather than writing a compelling character who also happens to be gay.

      Sure, it's not quite the same thing, but I got a massive foot fetish and never had an issue with games not letting me compliment female NPCs on their cute feet, or there not being any NPCs who tick that way. RPGs usually sell the fantasy of being an adventurer in a fantasy or scifi world, not the fantasy of being a Casanova style seducer or the fantasy of having a relationship.

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    3. One of the worst examples of representation is Mizhena in Siege of Dragonspear. She was written by "progressive" writers but it's such a tokenish and cluelessly written character that it ends up being insulting.

      She's a transsexual character who tells you as much in your first conversation with her. Okay. I know some transsexuals, they usually try to pass for the other sex and don't tell every random stranger that they're trans. But Mizhena straight up tells us that she was "raised as a boy but in time we all came to understand I was really a woman". She picked her new name from syllables of different languages (wait, what?) that all have special meaning to her (again, what?? Syllables? Meaning? What???).

      Thie character, as far as representation goes, is plain insulting. The story of how she chose her name makes no sense at all linguistically, and is an insult to trans people who do choose a name with actual meaning to them. The way she pushes her backstory on you, a random stranger she just met, is completely unrealistic and makes her look like an attention whore. And finally, this is the Forgotten Realms we're talking about here. One of the first magic items you find in BG1 is a cursed belt of sex change. Forgotten Realms lore has a lot of powerful wizards who lived as the other sex for a while because high magic easily lets you transform yourself. Being trans is not an issue in this world. It's not a big struggle you have to work through, you just go to a wizard for a sex change spell and if you don't like it you return to the wizard and let him turn you back.

      This entire character makes no sense and feels like a caricature of trans people. No representation at all is better than this kind of misrepresentation, really.

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    4. DikuMUD, one of the earliest popular online multiplayer RPGs (dating from 1991), likewise has a sex change spell that is low-level and usable by player characters. Since the game is text-based, it does little else than swapping the pronouns.

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    5. "I think the point is, when there is representation of sexuality, its almost universally heterosexual."

      Good.

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    6. JarlFrank - the opinion of someone who's not trans on whether Siege of Dragonspear did trans representation well is not super relevant to anything.

      If the trans community want to have a discussion about whether they think it's better than nothing, worse than nothing, or entirely sufficient, they're welcome to, but it's no one else's business to have it on their behalf until they say, as a community, "Hey, okay, we're not happy, back us up on this."

      And I'm not aware of that happening. Certainly my trans CRPG-loving friends don't seem to care one way or another. They're mostly just, "Look, do it properly and make it a major character, please," and also, "A well-intentioned trans character that doesn't quite ring true is 100% more effort than almost any other mainstream game has ever made, so thanks for that," but mostly, "People who aren't trans using us as cover for their uncomfortability with gender is way more insulting than anything in this game, please stop."

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    7. Yeah, I'm not buying the "Mizhena is bad because it's bad representation" nerdrage either. She's not terribly different from hundreds and thousands of RPG NPCs who are just dying to tell the PC their life story, but where's nerdrage about them? And having a trans character in a setting where sex change magic exists makes just as much sense as having "kill the foozle" quests in a setting where resurrection spell exists and resurrection services are indiscriminately offered by the temples. Where's nerdrage about those?

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    8. Nice point GregT. Isn't Hexxat the vampire in BG2 a lesbian as well?

      My memory escapes me at this early hour (here in Aus), but I've a feeling it was an EE addition...

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    9. In the video game called ‘outside’ (which is currently experiencing technical difficulties), I see plenty of couples going about their lives. They aren’t token characters, they aren’t making up some sort of quota, they don’t exist to make some political point. Quite a few of those couples are same-sex, and like all the others, they’re just there, just like I am.

      I feel the same way about couples represented in fiction. They’re allowed to be just there. Just a regular ol’ part of life. Doesn’t have to be a statement. Doesn’t take any special effort. Any special dialogue or characterisation.



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    10. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    11. I don't have a strong opinion on Mizhena, I'm aware of the controversy, and to me it was just another storm in a teacup at the tail-end of a movement fixated on such teacups.

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    12. GregT - So eh, kinda like a "straight persons" opinion on the current fidelity of homosexual representation?

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    13. "...the opinion of someone who's not trans on whether Siege of Dragonspear did trans representation well is not super relevant to anything. If the trans community want to have a discussion about whether they think it's better than nothing, worse than nothing, or entirely sufficient, they're welcome to, but it's no one else's business to have it on their behalf until they say, as a community, "Hey, okay, we're not happy, back us up on this."..."

      So, is the trans community going to post this statement on their website, or are they going to take out an editorial in a newspaper? How does the official trans community issue its diktats?

      The idea that any group of people is monolithic and homogeneous in its opinions is one of the most dangerous and stupid ideas (at least in America) right now.

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    14. @Unknown
      You know what you could learn from transgender people? How to pick a name.

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  9. Regarding your question (if it really was one) on the starting graphic: I'd say it's a funny written 'b'. "... await the bold"

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  10. Fallout 2 (1998) has NPCs that are picky about gender (all hetero though), and NPCs who aren't. You can also have a same-sex marriage.

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  11. Well, at least GayBlade has a nice color scheme. The UI in general is extremely 1992 in the best possible way.

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  12. I was struck by the randomization of the race during character generation. I do not recall any RPG that I personally played in which the race of my characters was randomized. If we consider the approach to gender issues here, maybe there was some anti-racial agenda behind this approach to character creation?

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    1. In a sort of related vein,

      "First, there isn't an equal probability of each number between 1 and 15 appearing for each attribute. For some reason, 8 is heavily weighted..."

      Reminds me of some of the mathematical gymnastics required from the early D&D manuals. They'd say something had a range of 3-18 and everyone would understand you'd roll 3 six sided dice. Then they'd say something had a range of 4-13 and you'd have to figure out what combination of dice would yield that range. 3d4+1 gives 4-13. It got really crazy when they'd give a range of 20-50 but no mention of how that should be puzzled out.

      If this game followed D&D rules you would used 2d8-1 or a funny d8 marked .5, 1.5, 2.5 ~ 6.5, 7.5

      The results would be weighted towards stats in the 7-9 range with 8 being the median while 1 and 15 show up roughly 3% of the time and 7,8,9 coming up 11% each.

      I got slightly different percentages because I'm using permutations not combinations, since 1+2=2+1.

      To address your question about a possible anti-race agenda; maybe they were pushing a "just born this way" angle rather than bias?

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    2. Right. I'm mathematically-savvy enough to recognize it if it was simply 2d8-1. The probability function looks linear, rising from a 1.56% chance of a 1 to a 12.5% chance of an 8, then falling back to a 1.5% chance of a 15.

      But in tracking of nearly 1000 DragonBlade rolls (I was watching TV at the same time, but I agree that that still doesn't excuse how crazy that sounds), I got 3% for a roll of 1, then between 6% and 8% for 2 through 7, then suddenly a bump up to 15% for 8, then between 6% and 8% through 14, and finally 3% again for 15. I can't figure out a die combination that explains that.

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    3. The real distribution kind of looks like a squiggly bracket turned on it side.

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    4. I don't mean to question your results or methods, I'd have a hard time arguing with your brute forcing the character generation system. I just love me some old school D&D and your observation dug that memory up.

      That is a really weird bell curve for your results. It certainly doesn't lend itself neatly to any combination of D&D dice.

      Maybe they used a weighted set of random variables like averaging dice used by wargamers?

      I love dice, so I find this all pretty fun to figure out.

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    5. Might just be a wonky implementation of RNG. Especially given the emulation and the fact that the game polls CPU cycles directly.

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    6. I've played with it a bit and the easiest system I can come up with is is pulls numbers from a weighted data set.

      Seems like it's time stick a fork in it.

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    7. Feels like straight 1d30/2, except with a roll of 1 or 30 assigned to a net of 8.

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    8. @PoorKay Yeah, that could work but the results wouldn't skew towards 15% for 8, there's all those odd numbers that leave fractions when divided by 2 and then if you treated a roll of 30 as an 8 then you wouldn't get any 15s at all.

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    9. And I just remembered Sicherman dice are a thing. I'd bet that something similar can be done with d8s but it's probably like VK said, more of an issue with the emulator and wonky RNG.

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    10. My money is on a bad RNG implementation, since the game seems a bit wonky overall.

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  13. Pardon me to say, but I liked the Magic Candle series and I had no problem completing number 3 with the same zeal as I applied to 1 and 2. I´d almost review it as a proxy for you, if permitted. Of all the games you´ve played, some quite bad, I don´t see why you´ve finger pointed MC3. My younger brother nods in agreement with me. Fair enough everyone has their weak point, but do you have some undiagnosed internal bias against Ali Atabek´s works? Or what am I missing? What makes it such a mountain for you to climb, compared to other difficult or tiring role playing games?You can´t punt it off into the never never. Your goal is to complete every computer role playing game made. If you renege on that your credibility is inevitably shot. I use my freedom of speech and freedom to critique here.

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    1. This seems unnecessarily hostile. The Addict's goal is his goal. He has no "credibility" to maintain here. It's his prerogative to choose what games to play and not to play, as well as when he wants to play them. And it's unfair and unreasonable to accuse him of "undiagnosed internal bias" for not liking a game.

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    2. "I use my freedom of speech"


      What freedom of speech? This is an Internet comment section, not Congress.

      By the way, free speech doesn't mean that society owes you a free platform to say whatever you want. Common misconception.

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    3. Embelish, aside from just being generally unpleasant, you completely misunderstood my comment about The Magic Candle III. I have nothing against the game. I made a mistake last year taking a "break" from the game which ended up stretching a lot longer than I intended. Hence, when I said, "This isn't going to be another Magic Candle III," I meant I'm not going to make the same mistake with Planet's Edge and let my break go on too long.

      That was more of an explanation than I owed you. I wouldn't be bothered if I didn't hear from you again.

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    4. I'm guessing he didn't read your posts on the original magic candle and where it became one of the three finalists for top 1989 game..

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  14. There is a ready to use build of DOSBox Daum + Win 3.11. The obvious problem, Win 3.11 there is pirated, unless you already own a copy. Of course the MS can't make even a 26 years old OS a freeware for non-commercial use.

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    1. I don't think any lawyer would care about that. Not even Microsoft's lawyers.

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    2. Do the old systems that still use 3.1 have to pay royalties? Because if not, yeah that reluctance to make it freeware is weird.

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  15. You got me replaying Planet's Edge myself and I'm on a major nostalgia binge for that game, so if it's something you'd consider, I'd be happy to provide you with a savegame played up to where you've progressed so far.

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    1. I'd love to take you up on it, but I did the Sectors in an odd order and did specific things. I suppose I could live without the EXACT game, but are you really in a position to give me a game with Algieba and Caroli solved but nothing else?

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    2. Sure. I don't mean to say I have a savegame of that state available now, but I'll start a new game and follow the order in your blog updates, while you can keep yourself occupied with other games. Should be ready in a day or two.

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  16. I kind of like the idea of characters being attacked after they're dead. It's weird in games that everyone knows the moment their opponent hits 0 HP and immediately moves on. You could have some fun with this.

    Less intelligent beasts could be more likely to keep attacking. Overkill damage could limit your options at healing or resurrection. More intelligent characters would be faced with a choice of finishing off an opponent or turning their back to a disabled opponent. And characters in trouble could play dead to escape attention.

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    1. I mean . . . I think they'd at least fall to the ground, which would be kind of a sign.

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    2. If you lop their head off you can be pretty sure, but just landing a blow that sends them to the ground is pretty ambiguous. They might be coming right back up immediately, or a little longer after gathering themselves. Or they might be faking it.

      So you have the tactical decision to spend a round finishing them or turning to some more urgent threat. And the enemy AI has to deal with the same thing which could make for more rich encounters.

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    3. Okay, I grant you that could be cool, but I honestly don't think that's what the developer here was doing. I think he just didn't bother to program combat in a way that checks for death when determining who the enemy is targeting.

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    4. @asimpkins Like Mogadishu drills, only with melee weapons.

      GURPS 2ed had a system by which a character might be beaten down by wounds in combat but as long as they kept making saving rolls against death they'd still be alive. Powerful magic or high-tech medicine might even be able to bring them back.

      There was a particularly gruesome sidebar in the rule book detailing a pack or orcs beating a guy to a pulp. Only by the grace of the writer's sadism did the PC keep making saving rolls.

      I'm with the Addict on this.

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    5. Yeah, I'm sure the developer wasn't thinking anything along those lines. I was just trying to salvage some inspiration from an otherwise awful game.

      I like the idea of magic users being notorious for playing dead at the first opportunity when they find themselves in melee combat. Sort of like sports players flopping for the foul.

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    6. I've always been in favor of characters being downed before they die. D&D does that (at least 3E and beyond, not sure about earlier editions) : you die at -10 HP, 0 just puts you on the ground bleeding out.

      As Mr Pavone mentioned, GURPS also has you going into negative HP before you die (and is more forgiving than D&D since the negative HP you can go into scales with your HP rather than being fixed at -10).

      Temple of Elemental Evil implemented the negative HP rule, and enemies will sometimes attack a downed party member (but usually switch to higher priority targets that can still fight back).

      I wish more CRPGs had that. It would make a lot of situations less silly, like arena fights always ending in death and the player genociding the entire gladiator population of the city in one weekend, including celebrity tier gladiators. Yeah, that's how you run an entertainment industry...

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    7. Goldbox (1e) and EotB (2e) have down/dying/dead.

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    8. There's a console RPG series that uses SaGa in their names that have a system like that. Characters have their HP and LP. If their HP drops to 0 they lose an LP. Additional damage takes one LP, and they're only really dead at 0 LP; otherwise they come back with 1 HP at the end of battle.

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    9. I liked the Drakensang (i.e. later edition TDE) system best: if you lose all your HP, you're just unconscious. But if an enemy at any time makes an attack roll higher than your Constitution, you get a wound and an associated debuff. After 5 wounds you're dead irrespective of HP.

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  17. When did you find this game, out of curiosity? I had heard GayBlade was this mythical "lost" game that a lot of people were searching for, and you just... seem to have stumbled upon it.

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    1. Popped on the Internet Archive a few months ago, Lance mentioned it was found on the lost/mysterious games thread (see the sidebar for a link).

      Empire III also showed up recently.

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    2. Empire III??? The weirdest game ever made???!! Addict! But you must!

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  18. Mass Effect had a number of gay and bisexual characters throughout the series.

    The first game (2007) has Liara. She's an Asari, which the game insists are genderless but come on. They all look like busty human supermodels with blue skin. She can be romanced by male or female characters.

    Jack doesn't have a full "romance" in Mass Effect 2 (2010) but both male and female Shepards can have a fling. Samara and Morinth (both Asari) can have romantic encounters (though not quite sex or relationships) with both genders.

    Mass Effect 3 has a gay male side character on the Normandy, and it's probably one of the most tasteful depictions out there. You don't sex him or anything, you just help him mourn his husband by being there for support when he visits a memorial.

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    1. Jack absolutely has a full romance in ME2, not sure what you are talking about there (it's truncated in 3, as are all the ME2 NPCs that don't carry over as squadmates into ME3). Also, femSheps can't have flings with her, if you try she flatly rejects you and says something like she tried it a couple times and it isn't her thing.

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    2. I never actually did it once--not a fan of Jack or ManShep. That's just what I recalled reading in a walkthrough once.

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    3. That makes sense, because some of your other information is incorrect. You can't really have any sort of romantic encounter with Samara (you can kinda flirt with her, but she doesn't reciprocate) and you absolutely can have sex with Morinth, it's one of the more amusing endings.

      And ME3 has at least one squadmate that can engage in same-sex relationships, not just side characters.

      Delete
    4. That scene with Samara counts as a "romantic encounter" for the purpose of a discussion of same-sex characters in games. A female Shepard can express interest, and Samara would go along with it but for being a Justicar. It's not a date or kissing or sex, but there is romantic tension. And I'm not sure that what the Ardat Yakshi do counts as sex... More like vampirism. I never had Morinth in my squad though, so I don't know if you can do anything with her after that point.

      Delete
  19. Regarding the issue of release dates, all I can say by searching through the old usenet files is that Gayblade was probably released in April 1993, as indicated by this release list for Macintosh: https://groups.google .com / d / msg / comp.sys.mac.games / bAvHQH0fz2Y / vZH3Tsfsa4YJ and this message from a user: https://groups.google.com/d/msg/comp.sys.mac.games/rsX3J16qeEc/5tUsY1c2o9oJ
    The issue of the date of Citadel of the Dead is more complicated but everything indicates that it is the last to go on sale, as Chet has written. An Info-Mac Digest dated January 1994 provides the link to a demo of this game: https://groups.google.com/d/msg/comp.sys.mac.digest/YOMqjPGg7AY/pAdECL79SPcJ and in this message, A user comments that he bought it on January 16, 1994: https://groups.google.com/d/msg/comp.sys.mac.games/x0PY6BWwvkU/j0_recOmWNkJ.
    About Dragonblade I have hardly found anything useful. It appears to be indeed the first to be released, but the only thing I've found useful is this February 1993 message, the oldest one in which this Macintosh game is mentioned: https://groups.google.com/d /msg/comp.sys.mac.games/I_5_8gGrrMk/V2x8f2RUFxsJ

    ReplyDelete
  20. one weird feature is that enemies continue to attack slain party members in combat, slashing and bashing their helpless corpses

    It looked, from one of your screenshot animations, that the same happened in Ishar.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It should not...if there is a screenshot with an attack on a corpse character is probably depicting the killing blow itself

      Delete
  21. Its claims of being the first Gay/Lesbian computer game are 100% bullshit. Caper in the Castro did it first (and presumably better, since it was designed to be gay in the first place).

    https://archive.org/details/hypercard_caper-in-the-castro

    ReplyDelete
  22. I see this game as a satire, or personal catharsis of the developer. I don't think representation is the point of the game. But since it got picked up by the media, maybe it made people realise that gay people are creating and playing computer games, too.

    I've tried the game out shortly, and while it's rather primitive, I think the campy reskin offered more entertainment value than a straight fantasy version of the game, if not for long.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I love the comments section of this blog, I really do. A thank you to Chet and (almost everyone) else participating for a very nice level of discussion, almost always something interesting to learn and of course lots of shameless nerding out.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Too lazy to give an extended Important Opinion From Gay Man but:

    - some NORMAL people do not understand how important is the representation, and some NORMAL that were not before think that everyone should take that trip to normalcy/normativity and call it a day. Growing up with no gay references around me and just melodramatic "if you're gay you are doomed to death, drug addiction and unhappiness" from books and films got me in a bloody dark place for a long time that I don't wish to anyone. So please shut the f up when saying that only displaying heterosexual life is ok. Thanks.

    - I am loving this comment section thanks.

    - the gay blade as stated above is a gay camp view. Because we need that and probably in the early 90s a simple campy gay thing in a crpg was way more punkish, radical and all than having a sex scene with an elf.

    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  25. PetrusOctavianusApril 4, 2020 at 4:24 AM

    Doesn't matter if you call them gypsies, Rom people, Romani or "Roma". They still have a largely destructive, partly parasitic, and even partly racist culture. In a few decades the current PC term "Rom people" will probably have developed to be regarded as a slur too, and a new name will have to be used.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Probably should have backspaced all of this.

      Delete
    2. I mean, the people who dislike gypsies the most live in countries with lots of gypsies. Strange how frequent contact with them makes people like them less, huh?

      Delete
    3. PetrusOctavianus and JarlFrank - this is straight-up disgustingly racist.

      Delete
    4. PetrusOctavianusApril 4, 2020 at 8:59 AM

      Is that based on any facts or empiri, or is it just something you feel?
      Myself I would probably have reacted the same way 10-15 years ago, when I had a much more romantic view on gypsies. Ironically enough I still think "gypsy" is rather neutral, while I have only negative associations with "Rom people".

      Delete
    5. I think this sort of commentary lowers the tone of the blog. There are plenty of other spaces for you to discuss which groups of humans you feel negatively towards.

      Delete
    6. Interaction with Gypsis is kinda the biggest culture clash you can have in modern Europe, there is so much surface for friction. Nonethless there are IMHO many prejudices without any basic

      I only encountered the semi nomadic ones, the town I grew up was a resting place for some weeks every odd year. And nothing special happend during that time, even as I stumbled often drunken on the track besides their camp on my way from the bar home.

      But I think in modern Europe they have not really a place anymore, you can't live as nomads where every ich of land is owned by somebody and the public land and the trades ad odd jobs they used to do are regulated.

      Some country forced them to settle down and IMHO those make it even more complicated, as they don't really like that and that's showing in their behaivor.

      Idk it's not an excuse for their behaivor but I can understand both sides of the conflict. I don't really thing their is a solution other then they are giving volunterly up their traditions, but that's hard for everbody.

      Delete
    7. btw That's could be an instersting framing in an RPG, the clash of settled and nomadic societies. Idk if this was already done.

      Delete
    8. Noting that I don't believe the relevant people actually do need this explained or are in any doubt that they're appalling racist...

      "Poor people are over-represented in crime statistics" = a statement of fact.

      "Poor people are criminals" = bigotry.

      If you do it with race, it's racism. Not a difficult discussion.

      Four of the chief vices in it are:
      (1) you've characterised an entire group (the poor) based on the behaviour of a different group that overlaps with it (people who commit crimes);
      (2) you've chosen a negative characteristic that allows you to demonise this group without paying equal attention to other similar groups (property and drug crime prevalent in poor demographics, securities fraud prevalent in upper middle-class privately-educated white men, each with a huge and roughly comparable economic cost, but you've chosen to go after the group that you already didn't like);
      (3) you've implied causation in the characteristic (they commit crimes because they're poor) which may have some validity in that particular example of the poor, but has very little when it comes to race - in fact, it's much more likely going to be because of the poverty. 75% of Roma in Europe live below the poverty line;
      (4) you've implied causation in public opinion (people don't like them because they commit crimes) when there are plenty of studies - and our personal experience right here, of you - showing that racist persecution occurs independently of any causative behaviour, resulting in horrifying specific and systemic abuse, leading to the oppression and disadvantage that we know put people in the danger demographic for committing crime.

      Delete
    9. Thank you, GregT.
      I've had to ban a particularly large romani family from every coming to my establishment again.
      Another romani family are frequent patrons of mine, and are very cheap people who don't tip my staff well. But they're otherwise decent people and help keep my business afloat.
      A smaller family, related to family two, don't come as often but are very gracious with me and my staff.
      And I've been a guest to a close friend of mine's wedding, and yes, she's part romani.
      People are people. Some of them are pretty shit. But others are rather lovely. Cultural norms will obviously influence which category you throw a person into. But it doesn't excuse you throwing an entire people into one, either.

      Delete
    10. PetrusOctavianusApril 5, 2020 at 1:38 AM

      GregT, if that was directed at me, then it is the biggest straw man I've ever seen,

      Delete
    11. and if you live in a country (sweden) that have the goverment burn "gypsy" camps it is hard to not see the predjucis of humans

      Delete
    12. Petrus and Jarl, good for RPG commentary, but horribly demonizing of a minority people. I have no "romanticized" view of people, but I don't cast all people in a group as undesirable.

      Delete
    13. PetrusOctavianusApril 5, 2020 at 3:12 PM

      Ha ha, "demonizing". Unlike you I expect the same from "minority people" as I do from the majority, and I don't want to see a destructive life style based on begging and crime being perpetuated through more generations.
      Are you familiar with the term "the racism of low expectations"?

      Delete
    14. Well that's all good, but have you thought about that these minority groups may not have the same opportunities in life as you do? Not legally, of course, I'm pretty sure they're equal before the law in your country as well. But in my opinion as a resident of Hungary, a country with a large gypsy minority, they have a similar stereotype and face similar problems as African-Americans do, as detailed in this article. They too are over-represented in crime statistics and over time the society has come to internalize the criminal stereotype of gypsies, at least as petty thieves, but often as violent predators preying on the weak and old.

      Indeed, it is difficult to remain calm and rational when news like this appear: just two days ago, a 25-year old man was riding the tram in Budapest with his tiny dog. Three gypsies got on the tram and started bothering his dog. When he complained, they stabbed him to death. Just like that. One strike, and a young, promising life was snuffed out, by members of a racial minority. I'm sure you have your own stories too.

      But I believe this behavior is not primarily caused by their culture, or skin color, or whatever racist spin people might say about them. The real reason is the self-perpetuating spiral of poverty, squalor, employment discrimination and segregation they endure every day, a situation that is extremely difficult to break out of. And as action begets reaction, if they're viewed as dangerous as a whole because of the actions of a few, they too will come to hate us in turn and will think nothing of harming us, which leads to these tragedies.

      Don't get me wrong, murder is not excusable no matter who does it, and the perpetrators should be brought to justice. And I'm not blaming you for feeling anger when you hear such stories. But I sincerely believe racism solves nothing, it merely upholds this vicious cycle.

      Yes, you might say that I'm a wide-eyed liberal idealist, preaching naive sermons from my ivory tower, that I'm going to change my tone if something like this happens to my loved ones, and whatever visceral reactions this thinking usually gets. But remember, I'm not the one creating these problems, I'm just telling about them as I see them.

      Delete
    15. Funny enough all of this is featured as a theme in Ultima VII. Blatantly. Seems like racists read what they want when playing that game.

      Delete
    16. @PetrusOctavianus,I simply don't subscribe to entire people groups being "beggars and criminals". Yes, that is demonizing people. People are largely the result of their circumstances. See what they lack and what trials they face (put yourself in their shoes), and one wonders how an impoverished community that people have hated for a long time could not be rank with desperate behavior. Often they are hated not for anything they have done but for and by the people who did something bad to them (the book 'Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me)' details this quirk of human psychology).

      Delete
    17. PetrusOctavianusApril 7, 2020 at 1:44 AM

      Circumstances? The fact is that Rom people refuse to assimilate into the majority population, but instead prefer to work off it, and refuse to give up their destructive life style.
      Why is it that the Rom people are the only people (that I know of at least) that don't want/demand their own country, you think?

      I'm of course generalizing. Not everyone are beggars and criminals, but of those migrating back and forth between Romania and their chosen host city (which are the ones I have personal experience with), very few if any are seeking employment, and the majority of them can be classified as "opportunity criminals".

      As long as nothing is demanded or expected from them (like you would from the majority population), and as long as idiots give them money, nothing will change.

      Oslo city spends millions each year cleaning up after Rom people, but I have yet to see anyone suggesting they clean up after themselves, which is what you would normally demand and expect from adults. I guess you call such a demand demonizing; I call the lack of it patronizing and demeaning, like dealing with pets or children who don't know better.

      Delete
    18. How are you supposed to assimilate into a population that dislikes and shuns them? Would you even want to? Would you steadfastly continue to seek employment when they refused you the minute they saw you're Rom, or even before if you have a typical Rom surname, without even looking at your qualifications, each and every time? (Yes, it's illegal to do that, but there are workarounds.)

      That's what racism does to people.

      I'm not sure what people not demanding their own country is supposed to signify. Why don't, say, the Cumans demand one? They assimilated well into Hungarian society, yet their own culture is very much alive.

      Sounds like a convenient racist argument though. Things like "they only want the benefits money the majority provides! Why do they get free meals at school, books, electricity, etc. and I don't?" I've heard millions of times. Guess what, those are low income benefits, also received by everyone in the majority who qualifies because of their financial status. In fact, there are plenty of people in the majority who are born into and live the same destructive, crime-ridden lifestyle many Roms do. But that rarely ever gets mentioned because they're the majority, so they don't provide a convenient outgroup to hate.

      Delete
    19. PetrusOctavianusApril 7, 2020 at 2:28 AM

      Virtue signaling about racism will certainly not help anyone.

      But maybe the Rom people should make more of an effort at sending their kids to school and get an education so that they actually have something to offer?
      It worked for the Jews in Europe.

      Delete
    20. You know what won't help anyone? Starting a thread about how you don't like Romani folk on a blog about CRPGs.

      Delete
    21. PetrusOctavianusApril 7, 2020 at 4:29 AM

      Didn't mean to start a thread; it was meant as a reply to a message further up.
      Anyway, me message was more about nomenclature than about my likes and dislikes.

      Delete
    22. Not helping your case with Jews reference, Petrus. They get crapped on even more commonly than Romani world-wide. Virtue signaling accusations also raises a big red flag for me. Maybe just let's end the conversation here.

      Delete
    23. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antiziganism

      Sounds like half of this discussion for anyone interested.

      Delete
    24. All right. I let this go on for a while partly because I was seeing arguments that I hadn't seen before (in the United States, we really don't have this particular debate), but this sub-thread got obnoxious quickly and never really turned around. It's over.

      Delete
  26. "homosexual thugs who say "you fag" when they attack"

    Possibily you meant homophobic? Feel free to delete the post, either way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Could be either way in e.g. BDSM context ��

      Delete
    2. Yikes. THAT was an unfortunate typo.

      Delete
  27. Are these the first games that are so bad that they did not get a number?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't give games a number if I can't get far enough to really evaluate them. But I usually cover it in one paragraph at the end of another entry, not in an entry by itself.

      Delete
  28. I remember on RPG Codex (I think) there was someone who created a lawful good female character, put her in front in Treasures so Jabarkas would fall in love with her, and then switched her to male through hex editing to have a gay romance.

    Not really part of the game, but I thought it was clever.

    ReplyDelete
  29. The Exile trilogy from 1995/6 has an openly gay couple, to my knowledge a CRPG first.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I'm just glad this one is over with. The hype machine had been running in overdrive and it's a relief to be done with it at last.

    "I shall always be glad to have seen it--for the same reason Papa gave for being glad to have seen Lisbon--namely, 'that it will be unnecessary ever to see it again.'
    -- Winston Churchill, on Calcutta, in 1896 letter to his mother

    ReplyDelete
  31. just to open another can of worms, what games give good representation of black peolple?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Any that dont treat ‘black’ as a character trait.

      Delete
  32. "I'll hold myself open for taking up one"

    PLEASE tell me you did that on-purpose.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Now that you mentioned it, what is going to happen to Magic Candle 3? Did you apply rule number 6?

    ReplyDelete
  34. I like the idea of using a gay party to pull a "No Man of Woman Born" thing. Imagine villains having to use an equal ratio of succubi and incubi to be the most efficient. Or having no sexual interest and the poor demon is working its pointy tail off trying to be appealing.

    ReplyDelete
  35. I think one of the more interesting ways this sort of thing was the difficulty slider in the in South Park: The Fractured, but whole. The darker it got the harder the game was supposed to be. Of course its played for laughs, along with a couple of "classes" if I recall correctly. Because South Park. It would be nice if more games made it about how the rest of the world reacted to the character being the character no matter how much good they did. Then again there would have to be a lot more endings where the dark lord wins, the nukes drop, and the aliens take over as someone put in that position might decide say no when asked to save the world. That or have a ending where history was altered so that the "chosen one" of course saved the day, which would wouldn't work because the point would be missed and the screaming would start immediately these days. So we get the whoever you make is the hero type of stories. What would be interesting is if one of these indie games that made off beat stories would be allowed to work in one of their stories on something like Halo or G.O.W. Like a few other comments in here have said it's got to be part of the story, not something that sits on top of the story smacking players over the head.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Have you tried using Mini vMac with a Macintosh II variation? I'm a lot more confident in this emulator's accuracy than Basilisk II's, and it does have CPU speed control. Could be useful to you moving forward, even if you aren't thrilled with the idea of playing more DragonBlade / Citadel.

    I can help you with the initial setup if you like. Mini vMac has some idiosyncrasies you'll probably hate, but I'm sure Basilisk II does too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know Mini vMac only emulates older machines. I wasn't sure where the cutoff in its utility is.

      Delete
    2. Mini VMac goes up to Macintosh II, but anything other than a basic Mac Plus requires a $10 "donation" to remove an overlayed "Demo" from the screen.

      There's some hoops to jump through via ROM files, and Mini vMac seems really picky about which ROMs will work.

      So far, I've found it to be the best solution for Mac Classic, but later models are probably best handled with Basilisk II or Sheepshaver (which emulates PowerPC Macs, but MacOS 9 is designed to seamlessly run software for 68000K Macs and this works fairly well). Admittedly, I've only focused on the Mac versions of Might And Magic I (which runs best on a Mac Plus) and II (which you want a II or better for), so there might be issues with later titles.

      Delete
    3. Mini vMac works pretty well with Mac II games. Myst *almost* works (it's playable but the Quicktime videos desync). I've tested DragonBlade and it seems to work well, though I didn't test it all that much.

      The demo overlay only applies if you use the variation server. You don't get the overlay if you use a standard Mac II build, or if you build it yourself from source (which is what I did).

      Delete
  37. So, guess what I belatedly learned?

    This game's creator actually was gay, and made it as a way to cope with the horrible shit he endured in Illinois.

    So, yeah, this game's actually 100% authentic. https://lgbtqgamearchive.com/games/games-by-decade/1990s/gayblade/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I knew that Ryan Best was gay. As for the rest of it . . . it's just hard to imagine that making a parody game (and not a very good one) with shlock characters based on gay stereotypes could be all that therapeutic, but I guess it's not my place to comment on what works for someone else.

      The article also repeats the assertion that: "Best explained that he originally had written a more mainstream game called Citadel of the Dead, but having signed a bad contract did not make any money from the sales. He decided he would use the 40,000 lines of DragonBlade coding to make a gay and lesbian spoof … and GayBlade was born." I simply can't make this work with what the evidence shows about the release dates of Citadel of the Dead and GayBlade.

      Delete
  38. There is no way I could have guessed that the RPG episode of High Score on Netflix would not only mention this game, but make it the final "story" of the episode.

    ReplyDelete

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