Monday, May 4, 2020

The Black Gate: My Way


Regrets: I've had a few. But then again, I'm riding a goddamned magic carpet.
           
There he was in front of me: Batlin of Britain. The anti-Avatar. The con man with a shuck-and-jive so powerful that he even seduced the in-game narration. "At once humble yet dignified, his gentle eyes exude caring for his fellow person," the game fawns.
     
He knows who I am immediately. I pretend to be ignorant about him. He tells me he's the Fellowship founder and leader. "It is rapidly growing throughout Britannia," he brags, "and keeps me very busy as thou canst well imagine. Ha! Ha! Ha!" He doesn't laugh; he actually says, "Ha! Ha! Ha!" God, I hate everything about him. 
    
I ask him about this "voice" that people talk about; he says I have to take a test to learn more. I ask him about the so-called "Meditation Retreat"; he says that it's east of Serpent's Hold but only active Fellowship members can visit. Finally, he gives me the Test.

Oh, it's a clever device. He poses questions just like the gypsy of yore who first started me on this path. But he twists every answer I give into his own foul interpretation, becoming less charitable and more irritable as the questions go forward.
            
  • "Thou art feeling depressed right now. It is more likely because A) thou hast disappointed a friend or B) a friend has disappointed thee?" Answer A) and you take your responsibilities seriously and put too much pressure on yourself. B) means you trust people too much even when they're not worthy. He smiles and nods after this interpretation.
          
I don't even understand this question.
       
  • "Thou art at a feast hosted by a very high-ranking official. Thou dost believe the food he has ordered to be served is little more than swill, and thou dost notice that the other guests certainly think so. When thine host asks if thou dost like the food, dost thou: A) Tell the truth, or B) lie to him." A) means you're bluntly honest but your intentions are noble overall; B) means you're concerned about others' feelings. Batlin follows either with a sweeping hand gesture.
  • "Thou hast taken the last room available at an inn. Upon entering it thou dost find that it is filthy. It is the middle of the night; there is no one to clean it and there is nowhere else to stay. Dost thou: A) clean up the room thyself, or B) just go to sleep." A) means you think you're responsible for everything. B) means you refuse to accept your fate and expect life to offer protection. Either way, Batlin sighs.
  • "At a festive gathering thou dost tell a humorous anecdote, and thou dost tell it very well, creating much amusement Didst thou tell this story because: A) thou didst enjoy the response that thou didst receive from thine audience, or B) because thou didst want to please thy friends. A), you're using your friends for self-gratification. B), you feel unworthy of having friends and have to buy their attention. Either way, now Batlin frowns.
  • "If thou wert to become a person of leisure, one who had amassed a fantastic fortune of wealth, would it most likely be because: A) thou hadst discovered an infallible method of stealing the money of others, or B) thou hadst discovered an infallible method of illicitly duplicating the coin of the realm?" Either way, you feel that you're incapable of achieving success legitimately (not that that's one of the options!) and either have to exploit others or present the illusion of success. Now Batlin is sadly shaking his head at my answers. It was all I could do not to cut it off.
  • "While travelling thou dost find a man in terrible pain. His arm has been grievously injured. A healer tending to him tells thee that the man's arm will have to be removed and that he will require thine assistance to do it. The man says he will recover from his injury and asks thee not to let the healer amputate his arm. Dost thou: A) heed the words of the healer, or B) respect the wishes of the injured man?" This is an odd one, colored by Batlin's hatred of healers. But either way, Batlin reverses himself and interprets your answer positively. You either believe in mercy or value human life. 
  • "Thou hast just killed a small dog by throwing a rock at it. Is it more likely that thou hast done this because: A) the dog was going to attack thee, or B) the dog was going to attack someone else." You're either overly-defensive or overly-aggressive. Batlin is now stroking his chin.
  • "Thou art in a boat with thy betrothed and thy mother. The boat capsizes. In the choppy waters thou canst only save thyself and one other person. Who dost thou save from drowning?" Whichever you choose, Batlin reacts with horror that you didn't choose the other.
         
This reminds me of a joke: A woman buys her husband two ties for this birthday. To please her, the next day he wears one. She looks at him and says, "What's the matter? Don't you like the other one!?"
        
Finally, he concludes that you're a person of strong character, but "troubled by deep personal problems that prevent thee from achieving thy true potential for greatness"--in other words, perfect for the Fellowship. He welcomes me to the fold.

"No," I say.

"I'm sorry?" he replies, concern on his face.

"No. I won't be joining your corrupt little organization. You think I don't see through you, Batlin? You think I can't read between the lines of your vile little book? You think I don't know what a 'loaded question' and a 'spurious interpretation' are? Sod off. I don't know what you have to do with these serial murders and this 'Guardian' fiend, but I know you're involved. I'm going to figure it out, come back, and nail you to the wall. And if I can't find proof, I'll just kill you anyway because this world is my sandbox and I can do what I want."

He was non-plussed. "Until we meet again, Avatar," he said dismissively, betraying nothing.
          
Smug bastard.
      
Okay, obviously the game doesn't give that dialogue option. You can't even refuse to join the Fellowship after answering the questions. You can only refuse to do the little errand that Batlin wants to send you on, involving the delivery of a sealed document to Minoc. I reloaded to before taking the test and refused to join.
    
Time for a little reconnaissance. Batlin clearly sleeps here, so we can't wait until the place is empty. We wait until he wanders outside instead. There's nothing in the collection box, and only clothing in his dresser. There's a yellow healing potion on his shelf. On the shelf underneath is a key, which opens a magically-locked chest in the next room. It has 48 gold pieces (which I don't steal) plus a note that says, "once the construction is complete, store the blackrock in the hold of the Crown Jewel." That ought to be enough right there. Batlin has a clear association with the ship that carried the murderers from Trinsic, and he's building something that involves the substance that's driving all the mages insane. But the note opens up no new dialogue options.

It's 19:00, so we wait for a couple of hours for the Fellowship meeting. As the members file in, we observe from the back. Batlin gives a sermon and the various members offer platitudes about how the Fellowship has helped their lives. At least my party members aren't fooled.
        
You said it, Shamino.
        
As we prepare for bed, we look over our notes and try to figure out the best next move. I've got:
        
  • Britain: Buy swamp boots
  • Castle: Buy spells and reagents from Nystul (this and the above await my accumulating the funds)
  • Cove: Deliver bill, check on Rudyom
  • Great Forest: Check on Nikademus
  • Jhelom: Pick up Dupre
  • Minoc: Consult gypsy fortune-teller
  • Terfin: Report to Lord Draxinusom the death of Inamo
  • Vesper: Pick up ship and check out the Isle of Fire
        
In a broader sense, I can look for the Crown Jewel by visiting ports across the map. After studying the map, I decide to go east to Cove first, then pick up the ship in Vesper, and then probably visit Moonglow to see if Mariah has uncovered anything (or is at least okay).

Before leaving town, I stop by the Royal Orchards to talk to Figg, who I saw at the Fellowship meeting. He's the caretaker whose testimony got Weston thrown in jail. He's unrepentant, still selling apples for an absurd 5 gold pieces, and denies giving them for free to the Fellowship. There isn't much else I can do with him.

On the way out of town to the east, I meet a farmer who I missed before. His name is Brownie. He ran against Patterson in the last mayoral election, but Patterson had the support of the Fellowship. Brownie could have won--he knew about Patterson's affair--but he refused to stoop to that level. We also run across another farm run by a guy named Mack. There's an alien spaceship inexplicably in his field. He claims that a "mean, ugly, liontiger" came out of the ship and attacked him, but Mack was holding his magic hoe and managed to kill the creature. (The ship and creature are references to ORIGIN's Wing Commander. There's a fan theory that Wing Commander's villains, the feline Kilrathi, allied with Mondain in Ultima; hence, the space fighting sequence.) The hoe, it transpires, was accidentally enchanted by a mage to be the Hoe of Destruction. Mack keeps it locked in his shed, but he lost the key on the shores of Lock Lake. I stop by the shores of the lake in the way to Cove--they are indeed polluted--but exploring the circumference is going to require swamp boots.
         
On the other hand, it doesn't look like the ship could fit many of them.
      
On the way into Cove, the first thing I see is the Shrine of Compassion, which has a ring on the altar. A sad young woman is moping nearby. She introduces herself as Nastassia. She turns out to be the great-granddaughter of Ariana, the little toothless girl from Britain who gave me the Rune of Compassion in Ultima VI. Arianna apparently later took on the responsibility for caring for the Shrine of Compassion, a tradition that carries to this day. Nastassia is cagey about her personal reasons for upholding the tradition, but she warns me that not all the shrines of virtue are in the same good condition.

In town, we find Jaana running a clinic. She was elderly and white-haired the last time I saw her in Ultima VI, but now she looks like a young Olivia d'Abo. She immediately wants to abandon her post, join the party, go find Dupre, and have a drink. I reluctantly take her, but something's gotta give soon. Jaana oddly comes with a hawk in her bag and can equip it as a weapon. She otherwise has no armor, so I gave her the Avatar costume to wear.
          
Does it bother you that you're saying that in front of two wounded men who you're about to abandon to the care of no other employees?
         
More Cove notes:
         
  • Pamela runs the Out-'n-Inn, a deliberate double-entendre since Cove is the "city of love and passion." 
  • Lord Heather is the mayor. He says the Britannian Mining Company out of Minoc is to blame for the pollution of Lock Lake, so he happily signs the bill and takes it out of my hands. He also calls his city the "city of passion" and says that everyone in town loves someone else (he himself is in love with Jaana), save Nastassia who has a sad story. 
        
Jaana says goodbye to her lover, who's like 150 years younger than her.
        
  • I don't know about the mayor's explanation for the pollution. Visiting the shores of Lock Lake, we find discarded garbage, broken cutlery, fishbones, furniture, and other things that look like they probably came from Cove itself. There's a dead cat north of one of Cove's houses, and "opening" it finds a dead rat, and opening the dead rat finds a piece of cheese and a Ring of Regeneration.  
          
I'm keeping this cheese for the next person who complains he's hungry.
          
  • Zinaida runs the Emerald Tavern at which her boyfriend, the bard De Maria, performs. De Maria tells me the tale of Nastassia, the only unhappy person in town. Her mother, Nadia, was impregnated by a cad who abandoned his young family and got himself killed by some monster near Yew. After Nadia gave birth--prematurely--she committed suicide on the Shrine of Compassion, and Nastassia was raised as an orphan. Yikes. I guess I can see why Nastassia didn't want to talk about it.
  • I returned to see Nastassia after hearing her story. She mentioned that Ariana had met the Avatar, which gave me the opportunity to tell her that I am the Avatar. She begged me to try to find out what actually happened to her father, Julius, in Yew, and I agreed. Then she suddenly kissed me.
            
This is a little uncomfortable given the age difference and the fact that you've clearly got some issues.
        
Rudyom is indeed a little odd, but this is the mage who kept a drake in his foyer in the last game, so the bar was pretty low already. He says he went mad when he was doing experiments with blackrock but he can't remember any of them; his nearby notebook reveals that blackrock can only be shaped with magic and may have something to do with teleportation (say, a Black Gate)? He offers me his wand, a "blackrock transmuter," which actually causes blackrock to explode violently. He also says the magic carpet isn't working quite right, either, and that some adventurers borrowed it recently and "lost it near Serpent's Spine, somewhere in the vicinity of the Lost River."
            
Call our travel agent, Jaana, 'cause our itinerary has just changed.
       
Rudyom's revelation about the magic carpet changed everything. There's no point heading to Vesper and a clunky boat when a method of conveyance exists that will get me across both land and sea. Serpent's Spine surrounds Lord British's Castle to the east, north, and west, and the Lost River enters the mountains to the west, ending in a pool. I figured I could circle around the western part of the mountains and the river and see what I could find. I stopped by the castle for food on the way, and to return the signed bill to Miranda.
       
Not with any kind of coin, I notice.
        
I left the castle, cut across the orchard to the east of the mountains, and started following them around to the north. We looped around the north, then south along the west side to the Lost River, where a thin sliver of land allowed us to walk along the banks between the mountains and the river. And suddenly, right outside a dungeon entrance, there it was: the magic carpet. With seats for eight passengers and everything.


     
Before we rode off singing "A Whole New World," we figured we should search around the dungeon for the adventurers who had come here on the carpet. After all, if they were to emerge, broken and bleeding, to find their ride had been jacked, I'd feel pretty bad about that. As we entered, someone announced we were entering the Dungeon Despise. I thought Despise was more to the north and Shame was here, but whatever. I have Spark light up a torch and we enter.

Moments later, the party's first combat ends in disaster as we encounter a ghost and mongbats in the dungeon corridors. After reloading, I try exploring in a different direction and encounter an obelisk spewing fireballs from all sides. The party is soon destroyed again.
          
Maybe we need to peek around bends in corridors from now on.
         
When you die in Ultima VII, you're not resurrected in Lord British's throne room. Instead, you wake up in the Fellowship homeless shelter in Paws. The proprietor explains that two Fellowship members, Elizabeth and Abraham, found you and brought you there. Screw that. I don't know what those monsters did to me while I was unconscious. I reload instead.

So I guess we'll assume that if we can't survive Shame right now, some amateur party of adventurers couldn't, either. The magic carpet is an interesting contraption. When you double-click on it, everyone takes their seats and it rises a few dozen feet into the air. To land it, you have to find an area with a carpet's amount of space clear, and you have to position yourself to land above and to the left of the actual landing zone, as from the game's axonometric perspective, the carpet descends down and to the right. It takes some practice. Otherwise, it's pretty cool, and not for the first time, I wonder why the game bothered with horses and carts and ships and then put such an easy method of conveyance in the player's hands so early in the game. Of course, such a statement reminds me that I have the Orb of Moons, too, and should probably investigate its various destinations when I get a chance.

Miscellaneous notes:
      
  • As with Ultima VI (but not Ultima V), the game does not require NPCs to travel between appointed places. They won't disappear while you're watching them, but otherwise they can simply teleport where they need to be.
  • The "Books of Britannia" page has been updated with practically double the number it had before. Cove had a lot of books.
  • Looking in a crystal ball in Rudyom's place causes the Guardian's face to appear and say "go away!"
           
I wasn't even looking for you.
         
  • In a reversal of what we saw in Lord British's castle, Cove's city hall has enough chairs for more people than exist in the city.
          
Why doesn't the Great Council just meet here?
       
  • I know this is probably the most frequent complaint about Ultima VII, but it bears repeating: God, is the party members' constantly mewling for food annoying.
         
Now that I can go anywhere, the choices are a bit paralyzing. From a role-playing perspective, perhaps I should keep searching for the Crown Jewel. On the other hand, I already know (not from previous plays, just from logic) that the Fellowship is behind the murders because of some dispute they had with Christopher. Maybe I should head directly for their so-called "Meditation Retreat" and see what I can find.

On the other hand, my experience in Shame showed me I can't just blunder into dangerous situations. I need more money, better equipment, and some character advancement. I also have space for two more party members (even if I keep all the people I already have), and it feels wrong to keep going for much longer without Dupre. Then again, I've been gone for 200 years, and I have no idea where the best place would be to grind for riches and experience. It's a tough call. Next time, we'll see what I decided.

Time so far: 12 hours

*****

Karkoth's Keep (1983) was supposed to be next, but I can't get it to run. If I say I don't have an existing character at character creation, it doesn't run the generator. If I try to run the generator myself, it quits after a few questions for which it doesn't seem to accept my answers. These things happen with the versions I can download and with the online version hosted by Archive.org. There are screenshots from beyond this point online, so I know it's possible. Fiddling with DOSBox cycles doesn't seem to solve anything. I thus rolled again for a random game and came up with Morabis 1: The Dungeons of Morabis.

86 comments:

  1. I do not like this olde english language. I do not understand why the developers have to use it.

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    1. My 13-yo self found it cool and original, at the time.

      Now of course it seems childish and gimmicky, but the original target audience was probably closer to my 13-yo self.

      Delete
    2. You would think that the Earthlings would drop into contemporary English when they speak to the Avatar, having to keep up this foreign dialect all the time...

      "Yo, Avatar! Wassaaap! Remember that? That was awesome... Do people still say that? I could go for just a simple macrobrew right now.

      "Eh? Oh, never mindest thou, Coop! Ascendent Avatar business. You are merely to tendeth mine shoppe, not evesdrop!"

      Delete
    3. stepped pyramidsMay 5, 2020 at 1:59 AM

      Ultima is basically Ren Faire: The Series, with many of the characters (Shamino, Iolo, Dupre, etc.) being based on the SCA alter egos of people Richard Garriott knew, so not only would I expect the Earth characters to talk like that but I also imagine it's their fault the Britannians talk like that.

      I personally don't mind it. It's appropriate for a game that has not one but two self-insert characters of its creator, one of whom is an invincible magic king named "Lord British".

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    4. I don't understand the hate here. It doesn't require that great a suspension of disbelief to just think of it as Britannian English, rather than inconsistent Elizabethan English. And I much prefer this to (for example) Fallout 3 and 4s indefensible "Irish" accents in some NPCs.

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    5. As someone who lives in Boston, I can tell you that you will certainly run into some Irish accents here just from hanging around the right pubs...so that makes sense to me for Fallout 4, at least. (I got nothing for Fallout 3 though)

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    6. The Irish accents are explainable, but the two Russian guys running a bar talking with a Russian accent in 23rd century post-war America? How come they have a Russian accent when there hasn't been any immigration since the war? Their native language should be English! I can't explain their accent in any way that would be consistent with Fallout lore. The Soviet Union never collapsed in the FO timeline, and America always hated commies, so any Russian immigrants would have tried to assimilate as quickly as possible. Post-war, people would have founded new local socities for the purpose of survival, and teaching your kids the native language of your grandparents wouldn't be a priority in anyone's mind.

      So how come there's two brothers with Russian accents running a bar in Massachusetts 200 years after the bombs fell?

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    7. I think the Irish accent is almost as unlikely as the Russian one. It was silly.

      The only way accents could be preserved like that, is if there was a Russian vault, or an Irish vault (And even then the accents would be mostly lost within a generation) The former is something Vault Tec could have conceivably done, for the lols.

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    8. Congratulations! You've officially put more thought into this one location than Bethesda puts into ANY of their worldbuilding.

      Delete
    9. Seriously, who cares if they have accents? They add charm, and debating whether or not there would be accents here or there or anywhere is pointless.

      Do they make the game more interesting? Do they add character and charm?

      If yes, then good!

      And they do. Ultima 7 is better for this, same as Fallout 4 is, or any other game or literary work.

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    10. I care about coherent world-building. I find it jarring when characters or scenes aren’t in keeping with the expectations the piece has gone out of its way to establish.

      https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/WillingSuspensionOfDisbelief

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    11. Accents are great... if they make sense. Irish and Russian accents in the middle of Massachusetts in Fallout 4 though? Not really.

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    12. Biff Rapper, If you find the accents charming, great. I find them horribly irritating. My point was just that I like the fact the Richard Garriott put some thought into how Britianians would speak - even if he messed up a few things. The Irish/Russian accents in Fallout 4 indicate that the developers gave exactly no thought to what the accents of the commonwealth would be like after 200 years of forced isolation from the rest of the world.

      Delete
    13. Again, you can find Irish and Russian accents in Massachusetts right now. All you have to do is imagine that there was a Brookline vault with a bunch of Russian immigrants (maybe they fled the Soviet Union), and a Southie vault with a bunch of Irish immigrants, and bam, the conditions of Vault living are such that those accents are probably going to be more pronounced.

      Really, the real issue should be why there aren't more people speaking some kind of Vault accents dialect or slang that's totally incomprehensible to someone who didn't spend hundreds of years in that particular Vault, or accents based on one family's speaking style that have become even more pronounced. Which probably speaks to "they didnt think about these things enough", but in a totally different direction.

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  2. PetrusOctavianusMay 4, 2020 at 12:20 PM

    "And suddenly, right outside a dungeon entrance, there it was: the magic carpet. With seats for eight passengers and everything."

    Behold, the Avatarmobile!

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  3. Jaana wasn't elderly in Ultima VI. She's one of the companions from Earth so she's around the same age as Dupre, relatively.

    I can see why you'd think that though because her portrait in Ultima VI has her hair white. I believe the intent there was that she has fine light blonde hair. (The cartoonish look is another matter entirely.)

    On a side note, in the hint book series "The Avatar Adventures", the Avatar has a crush on Jaana dating back to Ultima IV.

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    1. Hmm. Here's the portrait:

      https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/u5lazarus/images/4/4d/Jaana_U6.GIF/

      I guess maybe not "elderly," but she's kind of gaunt. I'd put her around 50. Either way, it's clearly very different from the one in U7.

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    2. stepped pyramidsMay 5, 2020 at 2:11 AM

      Jaana is arguably not even the most dramatically changed of the Companions. The three main companions and Geoffrey are the only ones who look more or less the same between games (although Iolo looks super old in VII for some reason).

      Of course, the portraits that did change from VI were all pretty unflattering, so I'm not surprised they changed.

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    3. I suppose Iolo looks old to highlight how very much time has passed since you last were in Brittania; and then they forgot to do the same for all the other recurring characters.

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    4. Interesting that the Avatar is into Jaana there, when Julia is revealed to be into the Avatar in 9. 9's terrible and all but I do actually like Julia being attracted to the Avatar, even if her never saying anything for centuries is dumb.

      Have any of the other companions, besides Iolo and Gwenno, ever expressed feelings for each other?

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    5. Katrina's real-life husband appears in U6 and U7, but they're not shown together in-game. Nyfb, va na rneyl qensg bs H9, fur vf gbtrgure jvgu Fragev, naq certanag.

      Dupre is repeatedly called a womanizer, but is never actually seen together with any women. For that matter, Iolo and Gwenno are rarely seen together throughout the series, to the point where Nakar makes a running gag out of it in his Let's Play.

      Shamino has a girlfriend in this game (based on Garriott's girlfriend). Nyfb, ur hfrq gb or xvat bs bar bs gur aba-oevgnaavn ynaqf, juvpu gheaf bhg gb or gur frecrag vfyr. Va gung tnzr, ur'f erirnyrq gb or zneevrq, naq nccneragyl jnyxrq bhg ba uvf jvsr sbe ab ernfba. Ure tubfg sbetvirf uvz va, yvxr, svir zvahgrf.

      Finally, Jaana hits on you in the parody game Ultima IV part 2, does that count? :)

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    6. When I was younger, I decided my Avatar was in love with Katrina. I didn't know she was married. That makes me sad.

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  4. Was just looking randomly through the U7 wiki about dungeons, and came across this (non-spoilery) bit which would explain our host's confusion:

    "Note that this dungeon actually is Shame, but an error during production accidentaly swapped it with Despise"

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    1. So the text notification is broken? The odd thing is, both dungeons are connected so effectively it IS all Despise.

      Ultima VI and VII are pretty fast and loose with the dungeons, compared to IV and V where they are critical to your quest.

      In VI, Wrong and Covetous are the same dungeon, which is disconcerting, given you can walk a few paces and jump over a massive bay of water. And several of the classic dungeons don't ever need to be visited at all.

      As for VII, besides the Shame/Despise problem, Hythloth is never mentioned at all.

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  5. One of the more interesting things about Batlin is that he's basically a Bethesda style essential character. It is completely impossible to kill him until the game allows you to,to the point where even Armageddon can't kill him

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    1. Delete this post quickly, let Chet find it out for himself!

      Delete
  6. I mentioned before (in ROT13, because you hadn't found the carpet yet) that you can stack some containers on the magic carpet, and it's very useful for carrying your excess gear and food.

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  7. "At once humble yet dignified, his gentle eyes exude caring for his fellow person,"

    I might be seeing it through rose-tinted nostalgia glasses, but I find the the writing excellent, especially in these small descriptions rather thatn in proper dialogue (in which the "ye olde English" silliness is a definite liability).

    "It has 48 gold pieces (which I don't steal) plus a note that says, "once the construction is complete, store the blackrock in the hold of the Crown Jewel." That ought to be enough right there."

    Ehhhh, Batlin is pictured as resourceful enough that he could worm his way out of that quite easily. More than anything it looks sloppy on his part to have left that lying around.

    But, as you say, it would have been interesting to confront him about it.

    "Mack keeps it locked in his shed, but he lost the key on the shores of Lock Lake."

    I don't think I ever found the key to the shack in any of my playthroughs. At least in this case, they did a good job of not making an OP weapon overly easy to find.

    "Rudyom's revelation about the magic carpet changed everything."

    I remember finding the carpet relatively late in my first playthrough. You really "need" to go there much later on (BTW you remember correctly, the locations of Shame and Despise ARE sort of inverted in this game... probably some rogue earthquake still going after the destruction of Exodus /s).

    Honest question, without having the memory of your original playthrough , would have you prioritized looking at the Magic Carpet without knowing it was the ultimate transport medium, and not some quest item?

    But yes, they should have definitely hard-gated it or not given a lead to it so early in the game.

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    1. Yeah, when I replay the game I try to go without the carpet because I feel the game is genuinely less fun zooming everywhere with no boundaries and dealing with the fiddly landing conditions.

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    2. I'd also vote for not using the carpet until later in the game (not that I get a vote). You'll miss out on a lot from walking between places, and it would be nice to do some sailing too. It makes the big world too small.

      Also, I think Batlin will tell you the Crown Jewel was headed to Minoc next, but I do like the idea of not necessarily following it all of the time.

      Finally, there's a possible bug in Minoc, so make sure to save before you go there:

      Gurer'f nabgure zheqre va gur fnjzvyy, ohg vs lbh qba'g tb fgenvtug gb gur fnjzvyy jura lbh neevir gurer'f n punapr gung bgure npgvbaf pbhyq pnhfr gur fprar gb or pyrnarq hc orsber lbh pna frr vg.

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    3. Oh, and I guess the magic carpet also makes this Minoc bug more likely, perhaps because you can approach from an unexpected angle? (There's also a magic carpet related bug with the Isle of Avatar that someone already mentioned.)

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    4. I'm pretty sure I'm actually following the same path from the first time I played it. I joined the Fellowship that time, but still decided to stop at Cove on the way to Minoc, still heard about the magic carpet, still turned right around to go look for it. This is my third time playing, and I don't believe I used a ship at all either of the previous times. You're right that I should at least check it out.

      Batlin doesn't have anything to say about the Crown Jewel. He sends you to Minoc with a box. If the Crown Jewel's trail picks up after Britain, I don't know where.

      Delete
    5. I liked having the magic carpet relatively early, because flying everywhere meant much less time spent on the ground in combat. Shorter travel times also means less layovers to feed your party.

      Besides, if you weren't meant to have it this early, they could have made it a lot harder to find--they could have put it on an island far from the mainland, or deep in a forest or swamp. Ten minutes' walk from where you start the game, with a pretty strong clue to its location, it's hard to think of it as a big secret.

      Delete
    6. So someone left their Bentley, with keys in the ignition, outside an UrbEx site?

      And you just took off with it after a half-hearted attempt to locate the owner?

      Oh Avatar.

      Delete
    7. I have spent a lot of time looking for that damned key to the shed and never found it. I tried blowing open the door with a powder keg, and that didn't work. I wondered if I had to put the keg on some kind of pedestal, because the door is a step up, but I don't think I found anything suitable...

      Delete
    8. The carpet is also an interesting ranged combat platform. Can solve some of the more tricky fights you can run across in the wilderness - sure, many enemies have some ranged option, but many don't. Load your party up with crossbows/magic bows and go to town: death from above!

      Delete
    9. You should be able to blow the door off the shack, so I don't know why it didn't work for Iffy Bonzoolie.

      They key itself is right where the farmer says it is, but at the same time it's not easy to find because the sequence of steps to get it is not intuitive. That said, my friend and I found it when we played U7 in the days before internet walkthroughs.

      Regarding the magic carpet, I'm in the camp of "if you find a magic carpet, you should use the magic carpet". It's great fun zooming about on it and it makes the game feel like a true fantasy setting.

      Delete
    10. "if you weren't meant to have it this early, they could have made it a lot harder to find"

      I wouldn't count on designer intent much in this era. Sometimes stuff just gets put into a game without thought to the end result and playtesting was in its infancy.

      If you enjoy the magic carpet, go crazy. If you enjoy invincibility codes, go crazy. But both these things allow you to skip a game's challenges and that has its own consequences on the experience.

      Delete
    11. That's right, I was getting the Crown Jewel mixed up with the information Batlin gives about Elizabeth and Abraham.

      Delete
    12. I'd argue there's a pretty big difference between invincibility codes and "OP item that can be found early on" - the former is pretty clearly an exploit, for the latter a new player has no way of knowing whether or not its overpowered compared to other options or even if it may be required.

      Delete
    13. The closest analog to an invincibility code vf gur uvqqra pnpur va gur Gevafvp oynpxfzvgu, gung pna bayl or ernpurq ol fgnpxvat purfgf gb ernpu n cbvag jurer lbh jbhyq arire rkcrpg fbzrguvat gb or.

      Delete
    14. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    15. >>You should be able to blow the door off the shack, so I don't know why it didn't work for Iffy Bonzoolie.

      It might be something else "explosive" other than a powder keg than you need to blow the dorr down .... :)

      Delete
    16. So, fired it up again and spent some time looking for the key. I think "The key itself is right where the farmer says it is" is a bit disingenuous, as Mack just says he lost it fishing at Lock Lake — so that's still the entire circumference of a modest lake.

      I cleaned up the entire lake, putting junk into piles, and looked inside any corpse I found. I enjoyed feeding the edible fish to my teammates.

      While cleaning the lake was a little therapeutic, I still didn't have a key at the end. OK, time after all these years to look up the answer.

      Lots of answers for this on the internet, with coordinates and pictures with circles and arrows. But, I'd definitely cleaned up that area...

      Turns out that I piled it up with a bunch of other garbage from the area. Maybe I was getting too into the cleaning and forgot the searching.

      It's probably not the first time.

      Delete
  8. I'm a sucker for space ships in fantasy games. When the time came in Might and Magic 7 to switch swords with laser guns, armors with diving suits and go travel to the deep sea to enter a wrecked space ship, I loved every minute of fighting robots in it.

    Therefore, I hope this game will make something more of this space ship stuck in the muck besides making some references and leaving a slowly decaying lion-tiger. If not, it's cool, I'll only be slightly disappointed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've never had a problem with space ships in fantasy games or movies. Star wars is space mixed with fantasy. If anyone says the force is not just another name for magic they are special pleading.

      Delete
    2. May want to ROT13 the first bit, with the new rules that game could be here before you know it.

      Delete
    3. I don't think it's a spoiler for any Might and Magic game to say that you eventually end up with lasers and robots, providing you've previously played any game in the series.

      Delete
    4. I think HoMM: Armageddon's Blade was initially going to feature a futuristic city, but there was negative feedback from people unfamiliar with the M&M franchise, so 3DO just made it a city of elementals.

      Delete
    5. PetrusOctavianisMay 5, 2020 at 2:59 AM

      Yes, that was sad.
      The Elemental Conflux is easily the most boring and uninspired faction, while the Forge sounded very interesting.

      Delete
    6. Science fantasy is definitely a well-established genre.

      Delete
    7. I wish science fantasy was more popular in game settings. There's the old M&M games, Wiz 6-8, Albion, and recently there was ELEX.

      I love the combination of classic high fantasy with classic pulp scifi. There's just something awesome about having space aliens (or spacefaring humans) invade a fantasy world, or fantasy wizards and warriors stepping onto a spaceship.

      I guess these days it's generally considered too cheesy or silly, but let's be honest, your typical D&D inspired elves and dwarves fantasy world isn't particularly serious anyway.

      Delete
    8. Science-fantasy is a popular genre in Japanese rpgs, at least. Probably more so than straight fantasy. I'm not sure why that is, but it's an interesting divergence.

      Delete
  9. In U6 in Jhelom, you needed Sherry to enter a mousehole. As I recall, it did contain exactly one rat, one piece of cheese, and one ring of regeneration. And the rune, of course. So, a little in-joke at Cove?

    I recall that even as a teenager I found the Natassia romance plot badly written and basically coming out of nowhere.

    And I hadn't realized earlier, but it really doesn't make sense for Elizabeth and Abraham to find you (in a dungeon, no less) and bring you safely to Paws. Vg fubhyqa'g or zhpu bs n fhecevfr gung gurl ner gur crbcyr pbzzvggvat gurfr evghny zheqref. Gurl nyfb ernyyl qba'g jnag gb zrrg lbh, nf lbh fcraq zbfg bs gur cybg punfvat gurz. Naq gurl irel zhpu jnag lbh qrnq.

    ReplyDelete
  10. One nice touch you may have missed from having music off is that when you approach the space ship the regular music is replaced with the Kilrathi leitmotif from Wing Commander II, composed by legendary VG musician "The Fat Man".

    ReplyDelete
  11. Replies
    1. Ha. I meant Olivia d'Abo. There's a funny reason behind my d'Abo/Arquette confusion, but it takes too long to explain.

      Delete
  12. Does Nastassia kiss you when playing as a female avatar?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, from the conversation files:

      "Oh, Avatar, I do wish thou wouldst try to find out something about my father. How did he die? What happened? Please! Wilt thou search for the truth and come back and tell me?"
      "Bless thee! I shall be waiting here for thee."
      (if female) "I know we have a strong kinship now. We shall be like sisters."
      (if male) Unexpectedly, Nastassia pulls your head down to hers and kisses you on the mouth.

      Delete
    2. Oooohhh. Where can one find the conversation files ?

      Delete
    3. I found them here:

      http://bootstrike.com/Ultima7bg/cool.php

      Delete
  13. Am I remembering wrongly, or does the farmer off-handedly mention eating the "Kill Rathy"?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. stepped pyramidsMay 5, 2020 at 2:21 AM

      Yes, and he says it was quite delicious.

      Delete
  14. I like all the world building that the questions do. Lots of the ones from U4 talk about lords and battles and such and made me think that Britannia was politically a lot more dynamic than it really is. I guess there are other lords besides British (Serpent's Hold, Lyceaum and Empath Abbey) but I've never heard of any actual battles or wars. Unless they're talking about fighting monsters?

    When I played the game I never found the magic carpet at all. So I walked, used horses or used the ship. The orb of the moons and the moongates don't really work because of how magic is broken.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. stepped pyramidsMay 5, 2020 at 2:23 AM

      Your last sentence should have been ROT13'd, since Chet hasn't discovered that yet.

      Delete
  15. In writing Batlin's questions, it seems almost impossible that the writers weren't aware of, and deliberately referencing:
    a) the "personality tests" aimed at recruits to Scientology, which were big news around then with a range of high-profile celebrity Scientologists. A large portion of these tests are a kind of push-polling to make the person taking the test realise they are depressed and unhappy with their life; and
    b) the Voight-Kampff test from Blade Runner - particularly the turtle question from the film - which places the person answering the question in stressful situations, often where they're posited with the person having just done something repellant, and asking them why they did it, or their emotional reactions, to examine stress reactions and empathy.

    My memory of playing this contemporaneously is that I made both those associations at the time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The meditation retreat, prosperity gospel and other elements of the Fellowship area also drawn directly from Scientology.

      (We'd associate them with evangelical Christianity today, but back then I'm pretty sure it would be Scientology they were riffing on.)

      Delete
    2. A ways off, but an even more thinly-veiled Scientology parody awaits us in Fallout 2...

      Delete
    3. The hubologist with Juan Cruz as their testimonial?

      Delete
    4. The Digital Antiquarian dedicated a long post to the Scientology situation in the late 80s/early 90s, and its relationship to Ultima 7. Very worthwhile read (as is most of his stuff, btw).

      Delete
    5. Thanks, Paul, that's a great article.

      And helpful that it starts with a quote from Richard Garriott straight up saying "the Fellowship is Scientology"...

      Link here:
      https://www.filfre.net/2019/03/scientology-and-the-fellowship/

      Delete
  16. re: Karkoth's Keep (1983)
    I got this to work successfully at least to start playing the game. I will email you details Chet. In case someone else stumbles here looking for answers, I will list what worked for me. These assume you are running in DOSBox and not emulating disk drives:

    1. turn "Caps Lock" on as soon as you start the game. It is old enough that lower case letters don't suffice for some things. Use upper case for everything.

    2. Run the "Config.exe" first to set the drive letters to "C:". Or alternatively edit the "KEEPFIG.DAT" file and make sure all 3 lines have "C:". (capital letter may be crucial)

    DOSBox cycles at 100 seemed to be about right, but this is probably not important for this game.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I do really like the way the Fellowship test is written here. A lot of the questions present the kind of day-to-day moral dilemmas that most people who aren't out saving the world tend to encounter, where virtue ethics don't really provide clear guidance. I can easily imagine people living in a morally complicated world finding it difficult to apply the traditional virtues of the Avatar, and being reassured by an organization like the Fellowship seemingly doing a better job of acknowledging that moral complexity.

    Of course, it then segues into questions that don't even acknowledge the possibility of a moral answer, which nudges people into losing faith that virtue is even a possibility outside of the forgiveness seemingly offered by study with the Fellowship.

    It's just a really well-written example of how an evil cult could convincingly recruit people.

    ReplyDelete
  18. There is a potential bug when using the magic carpet. Do not fly over the Isle of the Avatar with it. If you do, you'll prematurely trigger a door to lock and it will make the game unwinnable.

    ReplyDelete
  19. >>I wonder why the game bothered with horses and carts and ships and then put such an easy method of conveyance in the player's hands so early in the game.

    I seem to recall (I could be mis-remembering) that there are some locations in the game you can't get to in the flying carpet.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are quite a few. For one thing, anything underground or inside a building can't be reached--this rules out a very, very large number of quest locations.

      There are also a number of above-ground locations that are difficult to land at. This can be due to terrain features, or hostile NPCs that mob underneath you and prevent landing.

      Delete
  20. The nice thing is that I can tell when your enjoying getting into a game and having fun just by how much detail you give and by your prose.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, what was the last game the Addict really enjoyed? Darklands in July, nearly 10 months ago? Too long.

      Delete
    2. The roguelike Ragnarök not too long ago. He even said that's the kind of game he started the blog for (an enjoyable game he had never heard about before - a true hidden gem).

      Delete
  21. Doesn't having seats on a flying carpet kinda defeat its purpose of being a carpet - i.e. something relatively easy to fold and carry around?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe they're folding chairs.

      Delete
    2. It’s a covertible hovercar with horrid upholstery.

      Delete
  22. "... the party members' constantly mewling for food ..."

    just for educational purposes (non-native speaker here) - is this correct English (apostroph vs. 'ly')?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It could be: "constantly mewling for food" = participle clause with adverb "constantly" in the medial position.

      Compare "despite my constantly being late"

      Delete
  23. Whew ... finally caught up on your posts. Where has this blog been all my life?! I grew up with these games and had a bad habit of buying them as soon as they came out, but never finishing them (mostly). I've also found a number of gems that I didn't even know existed.

    A little while back I had put a large number of these on my Android phone to play while on travel. Thank you for playing through these and letting me see which ones are worth my time playing and which ones I can skip.

    I also love the writing style and humor you put into your blog entries and picture captions. It's been a very enjoyable read in my downtime. Now I think I can start joining in the conversations. :) Thanks!

    ReplyDelete

I welcome all comments about the material in this blog, and I generally do not censor them. However, please follow these rules:

1. Do not link to any commercial entities, including Kickstarter campaigns, unless they're directly relevant to the material in the associated blog posting. (For instance, that GOG is selling the particular game I'm playing is relevant; that Steam is having a sale this week on other games is not.) This also includes user names that link to advertising.

2. Please avoid profanity and vulgar language. I don't want my blog flagged by too many filters.

3. Please don't comment anonymously. It makes it impossible to tell who's who in a thread. Choose the "Name/URL" option, pick a name for yourself, and just leave the URL blank.

4. I appreciate if you use ROT13 for explicit spoilers for the current game and upcoming games. Please at least mention "ROT13" in the comment so we don't get a lot of replies saying "what is that gibberish?"

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

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

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

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