Saturday, November 7, 2020

BRIEF: Majik (1991)

This is in the style of the Wizardry dragon, but it's not the same image.
     
Majik
(AKAs: Majik Adventure, Quick Majik Adventure)
United States
Neurosport (developer and publisher)
Released in 1991 for DOS as shareware
      
Neurosport of Rowlett, Texas was an early-1990s shareware developer founded by Bob Kemp and Faron Wickey. The developers produced several RPGs on my master list:

  • Majik (1991)
  • Antkill (1992)
  • Bob's Dragon Hunt (1992)
  • Crystal Deception (1992)
     
The latter three all feature the same engine, called "VirtualDungeon." I initially rejected both Antkill and Bob's Dragon Hunt, but I have recently removed them from the reject list to give them a closer look.
         
This might be the first game to feature "giant flying vampire frogs."
        
All of the Neurosport titles currently in circulation suffer a similar problem: Neurosport tended to offer "teaser" versions of its games to get players to purchase the licensed versions. Unfortunately, these teasers are all that seem to have survived online. In the case of Majik, the teaser is often called Quick Majik Adventure, but the actual in-game title features neither the first nor third word. The "quick" part seems to have been added only to the demo version, and "adventure" was always meant as more of a sobriquet than a part of the title.
     
The demo version shows that Majik was a graphical roguelike, heavily influenced by Nethack. It boasts more than 260 monsters, more than 160 spells (along with a spell macro system), and a method of taming monsters. There are around 16-20 classes, including ranger, knight, assassin, monk, illusionist, necromancer, alchemist, rogue, thief, ninja, druid, and paladin.
          
A character sheet.
         
There are fewer commands than in Nethack, but most of the old favorites are there, including w)ear, q)uaff, and z)ap. Inventory uses an "up in the air" slot like Omega (1988) and Quest for the Unicorn (1990), and I feel like it must go back to some ur-roguelike that I still haven't seen, as nothing else seems to relate the various games that use it.
         
A list of commands.
         
The character has a full set of attributes (strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, wisdom, charisma, to hit, to damage, hit points, mana, speed, and "seeing") as well as an alignment and intrinsic abilities and defenses. Equipment is as varied as most roguelikes and can be cursed. One oddity of Majik seems to be that all equipment items can have random magical enchantments. My demo characters had such items as a turquoise earring of resist cold, a leather girdle of amplify damage, a holy katana of lightning bolt, and a ration of invisibility.
        
Items in a starting character's inventory.
        
The demo version comes with no documentation except for how to buy the full game (send $35 to Rowlett), so I don't know what the main quest is about. It starts a randomly-generated character on Level 75 of the dungeon, at character level 20, with a random selection of equipment (much of it cursed). In all of the characters it generated for me, the hit points seemed awfully low for a 20th-level character, and I inevitably died after only a couple of combats. My explorations showed a typical randomly-generated dungeon in which the player slowly uncovers the "fog of war." Stairs are hidden behind doors that you often have to disarm and unlock. I got "slammed against the ceiling" by a lot of enemies. I noticed that if I did enough damage, the game told me that the enemy "considers running away."
       
This character lasted only seconds before dying at the hands of an "emperor lich."
        
It looks like there could be some fun elements here, but the demo version is clearly not meant for actual gameplay. I am trying to track down Rob or Bob Kemp to see if the full version is available anymore, but I've had no luck so far. Mr. Wickey died in 2019.
    
To make up for the brevity of this entry, we'll have another BRIEF tomorrow before getting back on track with the next game.
     

19 comments:

  1. Good lord what are those graphics.

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    1. At least with ASCII graphics, you can look at the screen without having your eyes swim...

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  2. E-mail incoming. The short version is that if the full versions are still out there, only mail-order buyers might still be in possession of them -- the surviving eveloper looked ME up wondering if I might have a copy, since I had documented the game. But you have better questions than I did, so your conversation might be able to go a little further.

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  3. So much for 'what happens in Texas stays in Texas'.

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  4. I'd say the "up in the air" slot comes from D&D and is used for Ioun Stones, floating gems that originate from the books of Jack Vance and that give a wide scale of benefits.

    As I recall, MUDs also have that slot. For the sake of history and development, you may want to do a BRIEF on e.g. DikuMUD, one of the more popular and widespread ones.

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    Replies
    1. Just wanted to write exactly that. I think that's where these slots come from.

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    2. Yup, exactly, I think this also carries over to gold box games and is the reason you can only equip a single Ioun stone at a time in games that have them. "Weird gem that orbits me and gives me magic powers" is a singular slot akin to "head" or "body armor"

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    3. Good luck getting a BBS door game to work without installing BBS software and registering the game. Besides, DikuMUD without players is an empty, windswept place pointless to explore. It wasn't so much a game as a chat system and primitive form of Skinner box. If you weren't having huge drama with the people on the system and banning them, you were doing it wrong.

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    4. DikuMUD is not a BBS door game; it is very easy to find functional MUDs that can be played via either your webbrowser or the standard Telnet client.

      It would be interesting to see Chet's view on a MUD's mechanics, and that works fine on an empty or mostly-empty sever. I don't see how the online drama (that numerous online communities generate) helps with that.

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    5. I never got that feel from Omega - I always thought 'up in the air' was just inventory management. Ioun stones were very specific things - though they do appear in DnD, or at least Order of the Stick's version.

      How does a ration of invisibility work? You become invisible when you eat it, or you have to choose between eating it as a ration or wielding it to become invisible?

      Maybe you can just smell it somewhere :)

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    6. With every MUD that I've thought about joining, they seem like such small tight-knit communities that I'd feel like a stranger crashing somebody else's party. The roleplay heavy ones especially tend to demand a lot of commitment up-front before you've even begun playing.

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    7. Gerry is right. "Up in the air" doesn't literally mean that, as in an ioun stone. It's just a way of managing inventory. Most roguelikes require you to remove an item from your pack directly to a hand. But this game, Omega, and Quest for the Unicorn have a single "limbo" inventory slot where an item can be temporarily placed with out actually dropping it on the ground. It would make sense if the convention came from MUDs, as I haven't played any of them except the offline MicroMUD.

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    8. In EOTB, it's the 'mouse cursor slot'.

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    9. There's also an equivalent in Skyrim, which allows you circumvent the encumbrance system if you're nimble enough.

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    10. To me, it makes real-world sense to set something aside for a moment without intending to get rid of it while reorganizing your inventory. Think about packing a suitcase, you might set something aside on the bed so you can put it in a better place later; just because it's not in the suitcase doesn't mean you're not taking it.

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  5. I assumed the "up in the air" slot came about because it's a lazy bypass to some otherwise complex coding issues. I remember doing something similar back in high school in a couple of programs because moving everything relevant through a single variable was easier than designing an interface that could parse in a more contextual way.

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  6. There is a Windows game also called "Majik" that looks suspiciously similar to this, but is much more polished and does not look like it was made by the same author given your notes. It's a turn-based, tile-based roguelike with line of sight. It would be interesting if you bump into it, as I'm unable to find any trace of it online (!).

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