Monday, February 28, 2022

BRIEF: Bob's Dragon Hunt (1992), AntKill (1992), and Crystal Deception (1992)

     
Bob's Dragon Hunt
AntKill
Crystal Deception 
United States
Neurosport (developer and publisher)
Released in 1992 for DOS as shareware
       
The "Bob" in Bob's Dragon Hunt is Robert Kemp, co-owner of Neurosport, which he founded with Faron Wickey in 1990. The developers produced several games:

  • Majik (1991)
  • Antkill (1992)
  • Bob's Dragon Hunt (1992)
  • Crystal Deception (1992)
  • Spacekill I: Defender (1992)
  • Spacekill II (1992 or 1993)
    
There are several problems playing the company's games today. First, they used a shareware model for dissemination, and all but demo copies of the titles seem to have been lost. The second is that even some of the full games, while completely playable, are meant as "teasers" for longer cousins. Bob's Dragon Hunt and AntKill are meant more to showcase the technology used for Crystal Deception than to constitute full RPG experiences themselves; the same is true of Spacekill I and Spacekill II (neither of which are RPGs). Third, the technology doesn't hold up well 30 years later via an emulator. Kemp mentioned in correspondence to me that they implemented timers using CPU cycles, so calibrating the games in DOSBox is something of an effort.
      
Starting out in Bob's Dragon Hunt.
      
To illustrate these issues, we turn to Bob's Dragon Hunt, the first of three "games" to feature Neurosport's "VirtualDungeon" technology. Their game manuals suggest that they intended "VirtualDungeon" to be the master title for the series (e.g., VirtualDungeon I: Bob's Dragon Hunt; VirtualDungeon II: Antkill), but none of the title screens reflect that.
   
I have no idea what's happening when you first launch the game. It mimics the sound of a telephone ringing, and then a digitized voice says: "Hello? Wow! You got it! Goodbye!" just before a bloopish version of John Philip Sousa's The Liberty Bell March plays on a loop. (In an e-mail, Kemp says they threw in the sound "on a lark" because they liked the freeware program that generated it.)
   
The pre-title screens cover the backstory: You are Bob, a young lad in the town of Wontbe in the kingdom of Neverwas. Every year, dragons fly down from the mountains in the spring and slaughter the town's livestock, an event the simple townsfolk are helpless to prevent. But one day, Bob discovers a magic ring that turns him into a different sort of hero every time he slips it on. He formulates a plan to invade the dragons' caves and kill them so that his town will grow prosperous.
      
Part of the backstory.
   
There is no character creation. The game jokingly offers you the ability to specify a name, but then insists that you are "Bob" no matter what name you choose. ("After all, it's Bob's Dragon Hunt, not Leroy's," Kemp joked in an e-mail exchange.) You are then thrust into the dungeon "in the body" of a character whose class and level are chosen at random from roughly Levels 18-24 and classes of knight, ranger, fighter, druid, assassin, monk, and thief. Your pack is stuffed full of items, and in fact the game has no problem starting you so overloaded that you can't move and trying to execute any command simply informs you that you have "collapsed under the load." You have to waste time, while getting attacked by dragons, equipping and dropping items.
   
The commands and inventory items show, as with the previous Majik, a heavy roguelike influence. The long list of key commands uses both upper- and lower-case variants of the same letter (e.g., d)rop and D)isarm trap) and includes such roguelike derivatives as q)uaff and z)ap a wand. Any item can have seemingly any condition attached, so you might start the game with a Potion of Cure Blindness, a Mushroom of Invisibility, a Earring of Resist Lightning, a Silver Executioner's Sword of Tunnelling, and a Shield of Bashing. Items can be blessed or cursed.
      
Some of the many randomized starting items.
       
The interface showcases the company's unique graphical approach in which walls, floors, and monsters' body parts are depicted using filled polygons. While I grant that it's an original approach, I'm not sure that in practice the graphics are notably better than the wireframes we already had in games like Wizardry and Might and Magic. There are some odd consequences to the effect, such as all the walls appearing to be octagonal pillars. It works well for the dragons' wings.
      
Multicolored polygons create decent wings but weird walls.
       
The rest of the interface, including movement, is occasionally incomprehensible. You get a hit point and mana meter, which I guess are easy enough, but I have no idea what the two radars beneath the bars are attempting to show. The left one just rattles around constantly. The right one almost seems to be telling you what direction you're facing, but it moves unpredictably. For instance, it's pointing north as I face a particular wall. I turn right and it points east. So far so good. Then I turn left, facing the original wall, and the pointer turns to point south. The automap at the bottom of the panel is a tiny mess.
      
"Cold breath" depicted with a variety of polygons.
       
The arrow keys and numberpad take a long time to get used to, partly because there are eight facing directions (that is, each "turn" turns you only 45 degrees). The numberpad keys move you without changing the direction you're facing. Only the + and - keys actually turn you right and left. It's an absurd system for a first-person game. I think I speak for 99% of players when I say that in a first-person view, I want the right arrow to turn me right, not move me east.
      
A high position on the leaderboard seems to be the only point of the game.
      
Combat comes along in a cacophony of screeches, static, and flashing colors. A jagged line of polygons meant to represent a dragon's breath hits you--green for poison, white for ice, and so on. You get points for every enemy you kill. When death comes, and it will come swiftly, your final score is tallied on a leaderboard, which is a little pointless since all the characters are "Bob."
   
Although the enemies' attacks are animated, the game still maintains the turn-based nature of its roguelike sources. You have time to plan and think. The respawn rate is a bit high though.
     
Fighting a curiously-angry townsperson standing in a pool of water.
    
Enemies are mostly draconic: dragons, dragon lizards, dragon bats (plus separate dracobats), dragon snakes. There are more pedestrian foes, too, like druids, townsmen, and anacondas. These enemies have a wide variety of special attacks and defenses, some at least partly randomized. The thought and programming that went into these special attacks and defenses is admirable, but Hunt doesn't showcase it very well by dumping you into a single level in which any enemy can appear right away, rather than letting you build your knowledge base slowly from level one (which, admittedly, is what Crystal Deception is for). Some players might compliment the freshness of this approach, but I found it too much at once.
   
I did my best to last as long as I could on each randomly-generated level. The best I got in a few hours of playing was 1,218 points (which included leveling up a few times). I found trees, bushes, and water squares in some of the levels but never any stairs up or down. I'm not sure if they exist.
        
The title screen for VirtualDungeon II: AntKill.
     
AntKill reskins Bob's Dragon Hunt with colors that suggest a desert setting. Most of the monsters become varieties of ants. The player has no defined class, starting level is around 10, and starting equipment is both reduced and nonmagical.
     
A more limited selection of starting equipment in AntKill.
    
AntKill begins on an outdoor map swarming with so many ants that, just to move, you have to jack the emulator to speeds that era players could only dream of. You can descend into the ant hill via a network of tunnels, with enemies getting harder as you go down. I didn't find any equipment in my travels except for food. As with Hunt, death puts you on a leaderboard with your score. In this game, however, you can specify a unique name for each character. AntKill also allows saving and reloading, which Hunt does not.
       
Fighting a swarm of ants in the outdoor area.
    
I can't claim that either game isn't an RPG. They both feature experience and leveling (which grants more maximum hit points and mana) and both have RPG-style combat and inventories. Hunt's is particularly extensive. I don't know for sure if either game has a winning condition. Online, there's some talk about a three-headed hydra in Hunt and an ant queen in AntKill, but I don't know if killing either ends the game. Overall, though, comments from Bob Kemp have made it clear that both titles (plus an unreleased VirtualDungeon III: Night on Bald Mountain) were intended as teasers for the real game, which no longer seems to exist: Crystal Deception. It was sold only by mail-order, and it was reportedly a full game, starting at Level 1.
   
The idea of fusing roguelike mechanics with a first-person interface is good on its surface, but this specific interface either hasn't aged well or was always chaotic and confusing. In some ways it's too bad that Hunt and AntKill aren't more playable, as the developers clearly spent a lot of time on the combat, spells, and inventory mechanics. Hunt has a whole mechanic for taming monsters that I was unable to figure out. What you really need is the opportunity to learn this engine slowly, from Level 1, acquiring each item one at a time--not suddenly thrown into a packed dungeon at Level 20 with two dozen items. If Deception ever turns up, I gather that's what it will offer.
   
Frequent CRPG Addict commenter Rowan Lipkovits forwarded me some correspondence that he had with Kemp in 2019, which led to some further correspondence between me and Kemp this week. I shared with him a draft of this entry, and he clarified some points but couldn't remember others. He bore my criticisms well, though reminded me several times that the company consisted of two guys feeling things out for the first time in an era in which there was limited technology and few established standards. Kemp remains proud of his innovations, some of which (as a non-programmer), I didn't fully understand. I'll offer this paragraph for the more tech-oriented among my readers:
     
The VirtualDungeon was a mini operating system that managed all the objects in the game. We were doing object oriented programming before it was invented. The monster/item behaviors were lists of functions in the data structure. The VirtDun code cycles through them all choosing behaviors/actions randomly (or by % in the structure) and calling those functions along with any data they need as specified in the data description. It also handled timer calls and dispatches. This allowed the spawner to create random monsters/items from data structures which also had included "must have" and "may have" flags. All the functions followed a required template which allowed all the "spells" to be portable and used by any method (zapping, invoking, on impact, etc.) on any item and mostly by any monster (e.g., the fireball spell was used by the red dragon as a breath attack). As a core, the Virtual Dungeon would be usable today as-is and I'm seriously hoping to find a copy and not having to rewrite it.
     
Both Kemp and Wickey had left more lucrative technology jobs to make an effort at running a game company, and they had the misfortune of trying to market a 3D engine in the same year that DOOM was released (Kemp notes ironically that id Software's headquarters was just a few miles away from Neurosport's). While Neurosport made money, it wasn't enough to compete with the offers the pair were getting in other industries. Both partners took other jobs, and Neurosport quietly dissolved. Wickey, a quadriplegic since a sledding accident at age 21, died in 2019 at age 63, a year after suffering a horrific assault from his mentally-ill roommate.
       
Kemp has plans to get back into game programming. He's currently exploring options using the Unity 3D system. If it results in a full game, perhaps I'll get to it in a few years. In the meantime, Kemp still hopes a CD with Crystal Deception will turn up. If anyone reading this has one, I'll be glad to pass along your contact info.


60 comments:

  1. According to Wikipedia, Object Oriented Programming was invented around 1960; and the C++ language (which was commonly used to teach OOP in university classes) was created in 1985. To claim that a 1992 game was using OOP "before it was invented" is absurd.

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    1. Smalltalk, one of the earliest examples of a full OOP language, was developed in the early 70s. The other concepts he writes about are at least as old, too. Anyway, any "first" in programming is likely to have been in the 60s/70s.

      But for two non-programmers in the early 90s, making a game with these concepts is still pretty impressive.

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    2. It probably refers to use OOP on a language that doesn't support it explicitely

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    3. Checking the executables, they were programmed in Borland Turbo C. These guys are clearly not the first people to try OOP in C, as doing OOP in C was what lead to the development of C++, seven years before this game was created.

      So that's a no :)

      I mean yes, writing this game is an impressive feat, but claiming they were the first to do object-oriented strikes me as rather ignorant.

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    4. As as software developer, I can say that what the two did on their own is technically impressive, even if Kemp's statement of doing OOP before OOP is a bit of hyperbole. I'm not familiar with the common programming of that time frame. Maybe OOP wasn't widely used professionally, at least for game development. I mean, back in 1985, if you were developing for a Commodore Amiga in C, it had a very OO feel to it even though it wasn't strictly OOP.

      But also, his description of calling VirtualDungeon a mini OS, wouldn't we just call that a game engine? And game engines also existed long before this game did. Again, not to disparage the effort put in, which is impressive in its own right, but these concepts were used by others before them.

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    5. Well I for one am glad someone is here to completely ignore the review and nitpick a quote from the creator. Where would the internet be without petty pedants?

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    6. I think the author is being misunderstood here. Granted the use of "invented" for OOP is probably not what was intended. They were probably not aware of OOP at the time they wrote the code.

      OOP became a trend or "thing" later in the 1990's. This is what I think the author was referring by use of the word "invented".

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Object-oriented_programming#:~:text=In%20the%20early%20and%20mid,the%20techniques%20became%20widely%20available.

      "In the early and mid-1990s object-oriented programming developed as the dominant programming paradigm when programming languages supporting the techniques became widely available."

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    7. I don't know much about OOP, but I think LanHawk has the right interpretation. Harland also has a good point here.

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    8. Harland has a good point? Wow, I thought I'd never see the day! :P

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    9. I don't see pointing out an error that may not be clear to a person not familiar with the subject as pedantic. Pedantic would be pointing out that you can't really do something before it's invented, because you'd invent it by doing it.

      The technical details are super interesting. Sounds like they implemented some form of vtables. Nothing new or super-rare, but I can understand that he's pround of it, and he probably made a bad choice of words.

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    10. Kids today, unable to conceive a time when the internet didn't proliferate every advancement instantly.

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    11. Also keep in mind that OOP systems prior to the mid-90s tended to be less efficient than their functional counterparts and (as far as I understand) led to them not being used much in things like game design where cycles were so critical.

      This is very impressive work from an amateur team. Few of us could have done the same in 1992.

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    12. His description reminds me a lot of what we call a "Component-Entity-System" structure in the modern day; it's a very very popular approach to game development now (Unity itself is a CES engine) but was certainly a rarity when this was developed; I think Kemp is rightly proud of their work in these games. The idea that behaviors (like a fire attack) could be individually attached to whatever and have it use that behavior "correctly" is very CES-like and really cool.

      It may be baffling and broken, but it's baffling and broken in really fascinating ways. I do hope a copy of Crystal Deception turns up someday. At least it's something that *did* exist, so there's always a chance.

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    13. While it IS pretty cool, it's also a pretty obvious way to design games, certainly in 1992: code reuse is one of the fundaments of good programming. For example, Ultima 6 pretty obviously uses this approach as well, and you'll likely find the same design in DikuMUD, or certain roguelikes, or (although not an RPG) Infocom's Z-Machine.

      I'll agree with Lanhawk that the authors of this game likely were unaware that their paradigm was already in use in lots of other places.

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    14. I'll argue that several people in here are reading the wrong thing into what the devs are saying. As a coder, my overall feeling is that they are self-aggrandising on what they did. Really the idea of putting behaviours in functions that gets called is incredibly common place to the point that Wizardry did this. The idea it was new (or they did OOP before it was invented) just shows that they were, and seemingly continue to be, ignorant of what others were doing in game coding. Heck, calling it an Operating System when it's just a game engine (again Wizardry was also a game engine) to me just shows a lack of understanding.

      That isn't to say that they didn't do an achievement. Making a game is always a big task, and that it's working relatively bug-free is great. However, to put into perspective, this kind of 3D engine is both pretty easy to code if you know the basic math (I know as I was coding these things as a teen on the Amiga) and it's not technically impressive compared to what other people were doing. For instance, that the walls seemingly had to be hex columns is just weird and there's little reason for that in any competent engine.

      Sorry if this sounds negative -- again, they did release some games which is always cool. But in terms of coding, particularly in 1992, this just wasn't that great.

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    15. By that, I mean in technical level. In terms of an artistic one, it's definitely got a distinctive look and that's something few games ever get to boast.

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    16. As an example, all functions are really seqeuences of commands stored in memory. You can build a table of these functions, which basically is just a list of the memory addresses of each function, and then for each creature associate the behaviour: "when they attack, they call the 5th function; when they get hit, call the 16th function". You could associate a set of different behaviours to the same event, and then call one of these at random "when you attack, 50% change call the 3rd function, 50% chance of the 4th function".

      This is pretty typical to how some AI was coding in the 8bit days, since this is an obvious way to code in assembly. By 1992 it's just a standard way to do things.

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    17. I'll note that Garriott was a bit of an oddball here and took it as a point of pride that no Ultima game reused code from a previous one (This, allegedly is why Serpent Isle is billed as "Ultima VII Part 2" rather than Ultima 8, since it uses the same engine).

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    18. That is indeed the reason it's Ultima 7 Part 2. In some fairness, while completely remaking the engine for every major version is definately extremely weird in the era of things like Unreal Engine and Bethesda using the same engine for 20 years, the idea of not reusing engines wasn't entirely unusual. Origin took it a bit further than most companies, but they also had a habit of trying to stay on the cutting edge of the tech, and you can make an argument that the Ultima gamee were just as much technical showcases for exactly how far Origin can push the hardware of the time as they were games

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    19. The whole point of an engine is reuse, so Origin was definitely an outlier in that aspect. Major companies like Sierra or Apogee would routinely make six or twelve games on a single engine.

      And with the notable exception of Ultima 7 (and Underworld, which was not initially an Ultima game), none of the Ultima engines are impressive as a technical showcase or as hardware-pushing.

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  2. Thanks for helping entrench this curio in the annals of CRPG history! It's an interesting failure, which I always prefer by far to a boring success 8)

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  3. I'd like to try on the 'cursed pair of spectacles of level 26 hallucination'.

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  4. I have a high tolerance for crappy automaps, but I think this is the first I've seen where I'd say hand mapping is the better option

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  5. The graphical aspect is pure creepypasta fuel and I love it.

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  6. Wonder if Chet will check out Elden Ring.

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    1. Yes, I want to. I probably won't have time until the summer break, but all the reviews have the phrase "open world" in them, which always catches my attention.

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    2. Maybe I'm just getting cynical in my old age, but the phrase "open world" always makes me instantly lose interest in a game - almost as fast as "crafting system". As far as I'm concerned, they're both synonyms for "padding".

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    3. Most of the blog's top-20 would be described as open world. I don't really see a link between that concept and padding.

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    4. I mean... no offense, but have you played any games released in the last 15 or so years? That stuff is like a cancer that infects developers' brains and makes them turn their games into bland watery soup for the sake of trend chasing. Give me a well-crafted linear experience over these endless 200-hour games where you crawl around an aimless map filling out a checklist of collectibles and copy-pasted enemy camps. Making your game open world is just an excuse to smear a tiny amount of actual content across a giant expanse of nothing. I'm surprised Elden Ring doesn't make you climb a bunch of towers to uncover all the map clutter.

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    5. You're comparing modern RPGs with the Far Cry series, which are among some of the highest-rated titles in any year that they were released. It's fine if you like linear games, but I don't. Open-world games only have to last 200 hours if you're the sort of player that insists on seeing absolutely every corner.

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    6. Or maybe you mean the Assassin's Creed series. Either way, it's hardly a negative comparison.

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    7. I think it's worth noting there's a lot of room between the specific aesthetics of what's called "open world" and completely linear games. You can be non-linear and not necessarily open world.

      Open world stuff generally doesn't work for me either (nor do most AAA games), but I'm happy with both linear and non-linear games.

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    8. Essentially all modern Ubisoft games follow that formula, sadly. Elden Ring is something special, in an "explore the map, find new and unusual things to absolutely wreck you" way.

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    9. Anonymous, your complains are too full of invective to take seriously.

      Fallout IV is great. It’s open world, it has crafting, it has plenty of padding even, and its all optional. You can spend as much or as little time on radiant quests or settlements as you please.

      Queen’s Wish is great. It’s open world, it has crafting. it also looks like its from the 1990s, so people who resent graphical improvements in games can enjoy it too!

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    10. For a non-RPG example, Breath of the Wild is great. Open world where for the most part if you see it you can go there, are usually rewarded in some manner for going out of the way, and if you don't want to do any of that, you can just rush straight for the final boss the second you leave the tutorial area.

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    11. Minecraft is nothing but open world, crafting and non-linear gameplay.
      It has also given me more thrilling expliartion experiences than any linear CRPG has managed to deliver.
      But that's my thing, YMMV.

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    12. Boo me all you like, but anyone who's played any of those "highly rated" Far Cry or Assassin's Creed games knows exactly what I'm talking about. Every game is the same copied and pasted boring routine where you climb towers and empty camps, but it's set on a big pretty map and has a famous person playing the villain so people just eat it up. It's lowest common denominator slop.

      Breath of the Wild is a little better because they actually put some interesting places to find, but way way too much of that game is just picking up crafting materials and Korok seeds that it ends up being the same repetitive open-world grind as everything else these days.

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    13. You haven't played FC2, have you?

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    14. I think my problem, really, is that this is EVERY game these days. If you don't like open world games and you prefer a more deliberately crafted adventure, too bad! They don't make those anymore. Dark Souls, Zelda, even Pokemon are committed to being bootleg Far Cry knockoffs for the foreseeable future, and those were some of my favorite franchises. I write all this not out of rage but sorrow. It sucks in this industry and I want to leave.

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    15. This is an unproductive discussion, full of personally opinion presented as objective fact, and it has nothing to do with attached article, so let's just let it end here.

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    16. Just want to add: Elden Ring is really "fun" to play. I've spent just 10 hours but I didn't went anywhere with the main story, it was just killing and exploration. It doesn't follow the "Ubisoft formula" (which I actually like too), but I would choose a more linear experience like The Witcher 2 than this well-crafted open world. Both are good = )

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    17. I must say I also low key hate the open world genre. I get the gameplay loop but it exhausts me. I rage uninstalled Skyrim after 100 hours and that is one of the less repetitive, Breath of the Wild is one of the purchases I regret the most and Far Cry 2 is a beautiful looking game filled with the respawning and repetitive mechanics I hate the most. But don't worry, I know the answer: the problem is me, I am the minority, etc. As a note I am playing Horizon Zero Dawn now and that is the better balanced open world game I recall playing: there are collectibles, time wasting fetch quests and a lot of repetition in "hide from foes" but the lore is given in careful doses. That is my unwelcomed opinion!

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    18. I don't understand "rage uninstalling" Skyrim. The main quest takes far less than 100 hours. After that, you pretty much get to choose how long you play before you simply retire the character. Getting enraged about it makes as much sense as getting enraged at Paris because it's too big for you to visit every street.

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    19. Ah, well. I forgot what I said two days ago about this thread.

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  7. AlphabeticalAnonymousFebruary 28, 2022 at 1:57 PM

    What a weird set of games! If I had realized these were next up on the docket, I would have saved my comment about the pre-king Arthur's time as an ant to post here instead.

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  8. Chet checking his master list as he went through 5 games in one update : "Well, that went fast".

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    1. AlphabeticalAnonymousFebruary 28, 2022 at 8:52 PM

      OK, three are in the title... but what are the other two?

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  9. The approach of flat-colored filled polygons isn't that uncommon in early 3D games from the late 80s and early 90s. The most well-known engine that uses such graphics is the Freescape engine which was first used in 1987's Driller. Check out screenshots of Castle Master for some particularly nice examples of the style.

    The engine was turned into sort of a game creation tool in 1992 with the release of 3D Creation Kit, a simple brush-based level editor.

    Car racing or driving games from around 1990 also use this visual style a lot (check out 1989's Vette! for a great example).

    Alone in the Dark, the precursor of the survival horror genre, uses a mix of pre-rendered backgrounds and flat-colored polygonal characters to create a visually detailed 3D environment in a time when using actual textured 3D architecture would have been way too much for PCs to handle.

    Another curiosity that uses this visual style is the puzzle platformer Alpha Waves, an early game in full 3D that uses flat-colored polygons for everything. It's a very abstract game, and it gives me vaporwave vibes. One of the very few actual 90s pieces of media that feel like that.

    I find the Freescape engine to be the most fascinating of all of those, mostly because it was a very early (long before Ultima Underworld!) full 3D engine. And by full 3D I mean full: bridges, rooms above rooms, etc. Not like Doom where it's impossible to have a space where you can walk both above and below. As a tradeoff for this full polygonal 3D world, the visuals are very simple and performance isn't exactly smooth. But it's an incredible artifact of early 3D development, and as someone who's really big into 3D level design (I love Thief and Quake maps in particular) I'm really fascinated by these early attempts at real 3D level design.

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    1. AlphabeticalAnonymousFebruary 28, 2022 at 8:11 PM

      The Digital Antiquarian had an informative article on Alone in the Dark a few years back, for those interested in reading more:
      https://www.filfre.net/2019/08/alone-in-the-dark/

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    2. Single color polygons still saw a good amount of use into the 2000s. Higher polygon counts meant it could be used to texture things while keeping actual textures to a minimum, which was great if you had a situation where technical limitations meant you had to keep texture use low, or where storage was at a premium considering polygon shading takes up considerably less space than textures

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    3. Kind of surprised you of all people know that much about the subject, since I always had the impression that you absolutely hate all those pre-mouse look first person games. Can't actually imagine you playing one of those Freescape games since those controls are frustrating beyond imagination.

      Couple of things to point out. By the late '80s basically everyone did the flat-colored filled polygons for 3D, the only exceptions were a few who did sprite based characters. Before that they were just using wireframes or making not really 3D titles.
      Fredrick Raynal did both Alpha Waves and Alone in the Dark, though I suspect that article AA linked probably mentions that.

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    4. You are correct that I don't enjoy their control schemes, they feel very awkward to play. But I still find the technology fascinating. These games tried to go with fully 3D level design with technology that wasn't really ready for it yet. Very cool stuff.

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    5. The Freescape engine also worked on many of the computers of the day. It ran much more slowly on the C64 and Spectrum than it did on the Amiga and ST, but it ran nonetheless!

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  10. I played Bob's dragon hunt back in the day. I distinctly remember the whole "appearing randomly at a high level with random powerful equipment" thing. I remember being pretty befuddled by the whole experience at the time.

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  11. While the engine looks cool in retrospect, its worth pointing out that this wasn't a unique case. Quite a few of the shareware developers at this time were making these kinds of 3D games. The issue was that outside of those 3D engines they didn't really have anything going for them, possibly because they spent all their time making the engine rather than filling it with any quality content.

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  12. Chester: "Now that I'm back to the computer, home of the most mature role-playing experiences, I'm sure I'll get to fight fearsome foes more legendary than a giant pig in underpants."

    AntKill: "hi"

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  13. Off topic Chet, but has anyone else had Patreon payment issues this month?

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    1. I'm not aware of any. Contact me by email if you want to discuss the specific problem you're having.

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    2. Eventually went through on the 18th. No changes to the card, or anything else... was an odd one!

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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. I will delete comments containing profanity on a case-by-case basis.

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?"

5. Comments on my blog are not a place for slurs against any race, sex, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or mental or physical disability. I will delete these on a case-by-case basis depending on my interpretation of what constitutes a "slur."

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.

I will delete 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.