Saturday, May 7, 2022

Lands of Lore: Respawn of Satan

The worst thing in the entire world.
        
I ended this session steaming mad at Lands of Lore, and if I'd written this entry at that point, it would have been full of fury. Instead, I (unintentionally) let a couple of days go by, and now it's hard not to think of it the same way as any other six-hour period with a game in which I faced some obstacle, overcame it, and was in the end glad to have overcome it. 
   
It's hard to say why one type of obstacle delights us, another annoys us, and a third infuriates us. When I hit a traffic jam on the way home, I never think, "Aha! An opportunity to assess my capacity for patience!" And yet when I get around said traffic jam, tossing obscenities into my rearview mirror, I happily rush home to confront myself with a crossword puzzle or several hours fighting monsters in a CRPG and regard it as entertainment. When the obstacle posed by a CRPG is logistical, I tend to pursue it to its end, but when it relies on manual dexterity, I'm quick to abandon it. You could argue that I'm clearly good at one and not the other, which is true, but why should my enjoyment of a puzzle come down to how "good" I am at solving it? You'd think the opposite would be true--that I would delight in overcoming obstacles that require speed and reflexes because I so rarely do.
    
We've got "Trouble!"
     
No matter what obstacle I face, however, I suppose my key criteria for finding it enjoyable (versus annoying or infuriating) is a) it's fair, and b) it operates according to an understandable set of rules. This is where I have problems with Lands of Lore. Its approach to respawning is not only unfair; I'm not sure it's even decipherable. Enemies seem to respawn partly based on geography and partly based on time. That is, if you cross certain tiles, you're bound to spawn a few foes. But even if you stand still and do nothing but fight, you'll face a steady supply. But respawning seems to diminish after you've achieved certain plot goals, so maybe it's partly tied to progress or inventory. I can't figure it out.

Plenty of other games have featured respawning, of course, and generally I like it. Respawning is an opportunity to grind for gold and experience, try new tactics, experiment with spells. But now I realize I have to qualify that appreciation: I don't like respawning when it happens so fast and frequent that an empty corridor fills with enemies in five seconds, trapping you from both ends. That's taking it too far.
      
A mystic key in the form of a scarab or something.
   
Of course, if you can just mow them down, I suppose such respawning is a minor inconvenience at best. It has to be coupled with a high difficulty level to be truly diabolical. And this is what I found in the White Tower, mostly on a single level.
    
The White Tower was inviting at first, with its white marble walls and polished floors. We thought we might find some succor there. But a few doors into it, we were attacked by what the manual calls "Amazons." There were also "archer slugs," which spit missiles at us. Neither were terribly hard. I only fought for a little while before taking a trip back to Gorkha Swamp to offload some excess inventory, even though I suspect the money we're amassing will do no good for us. 
    
Amazons punch and kick us in the White Tower.
    
There were several levels to the tower, with progress blocked by a series of doors that opened to "mystic keys" that we had to find scattered all over the place. There were a couple of other puzzles that involved putting items in slots. For the first time, I faced a button on the floor instead of a wall.
 
On Level 2, we met a third enemy type: one-eyed chickens capable of casting "Fireball" at range. They died in one hit once we got into melee range, but we had to be careful of them suddenly spawning at the end of a long corridor.
       
I was impressed that they have little shadows.
     
At some point, we came face-to-face with Jana, the leader of the Amazons. She took one reload to kill. I thought at the time that she was the "boss" of the tower and our woes were over. Hah. 
    
I have to be honest: "Amazons" don't really seem to fit with this dungeon. Neither, come to think of it, do chickens.
     
As we ascended the stairs, a ghost appeared and suggested we flee the tower and save ourselves, but we of course ignored him and pressed on. Then we started to encounter several types of ghosts. It was these ghosts that led to the rage referenced above. There were three varieties. These hooded and cloaked phantoms were the easiest. Two others had the same graphic--translucent figures wearing armor and holding swords--but different colors. I think only the blue one had the power to execute what is perhaps the most annoying attack of any CRPG in history: the summoning of a phantom snake, which rushes up to the party, hisses, and halves your hit points. You're frozen while this animation plays; there is no way to dodge or counter it.
     
We should have listened.
       
Meanwhile, the ghosts themselves hit pretty hard, and they can fly through walls, so they can start hitting you while you can't even see them (in adjacent walls), and they can come out of nowhere to block passages. 
   
After a few reloads, I took a save by the stairs down to the previous level and started gingerly trying to make it as far into the level as I could. I kept getting surrounded, overwhelmed, and killed. Spells didn't seem to help. The ghosts seemed to take a little damage from "Fireball" and "Freeze," but offensive spells deplete your mana bar fast, and I needed to save as much as possible for healing. 
    
Two of the hateful phantoms.
       
Experimenting with different weapons, I found that two "emerald blades" that I'd found in previous dungeons did a lot more damage to the ghosts than conventional weapons. These made a huge difference. I now know I could have used Vaelan's Cube against them, too, but I hadn't unscrambled the ROT-13s yet, and anyway I don't know how much a difference it would have made.
    
Early in the level is a pit trap that you pass by throwing an item across it to depress a button on the far wall. Before I figured that out, we fell down the pit to the lower level and found ourselves in an isolated area of Level 2. It was a god-send because no enemies spawned or respawned in this area except the one "boss" enemy, a minotaur, who had to be approached to be triggered.
     
You don't have to be disgusting.
     
The minotaur was comparably easy. We led him around the central pillar in his chambers while attacking him--a variant of the old "combat waltz" from Dungeon Master. When he died, he left a horn that was the key out of this area. We rested and returned to the fight against the ghosts.

Gameplay for the next four hours involved:

  • Resting and saving at the entrance to the level;
  • Moving into the level and trying to explore one more square than the previous time;
  • Getting overwhelmed by ghosts;
  • Trying to fight our way back to the entrance;
  • If we couldn't make it back to the entrance, at least making it back to the pit;
  • If not making it back to the pit, dying and reloading.
    
I can't convey in words how annoying this process was. The phantom snakes are the worst element. They do way too much damage. And yes, I know I could have taken the edge off by lowering the difficulty, by this time finishing the game on "Ferocious" was part of my religion.
  
There was one door I never managed to pass through. When I hit the button next to it, a face appeared and yelled, "YOU HAVE NO FAITH!" But regardless of what's behind this door, I found the items necessary to complete the tower. First, a ghostly woman appeared behind one door to give me a crucible. She told me to "place it on the Altar de Blanca to receive the ingredients for the Elixir."
     
I am true of heart . . .
. . . but have no faith.
      
The Altar de Blanca was on the first level, behind a door I needed a key from Level 3 (I think) to open. I placed the crucible on it, and it said it was ready to make the Elixir, but of course I only had three of four ingredients. 
    
I like how Conrad keeps his enthusiasm.
     
Relieved to at least be done with the ghosts, I left the tower and kept following the corridors of the forest. They led me to a second barrier, which I destroyed with the second Vaelan's Cube. 
     
The streets of Yvel.
    
Behind it was a path to a dismal, mostly-abandoned town called Yvel. I don't remember it being mentioned before. As I explored, I encountered:

  • Numerous abandoned buildings (several with doors that had to be picked) with various treasures, including three playing cards called "Ace of Dominion," "Ace of Infinity," and "Ace of Oblivion."
  • A fifth magic spell: "Hand of Fate." 
      
I later cast "Hand of Fate." It has an amusing graphic but doesn't actually seem to hurt them.
      
  • An herbalist who gave me the Earth Powder I need for the Elixir.
       
I wonder what happens if we didn't rescue Lora.
   
  • A building in which Geron Arbroath, King Richard's chamberlain, was meeting with other staff members from the castle. He was extremely rude to us. He started making demands of Paulson, but Paulson said that he follows me now. He demanded that we bring him the Elixir when we have it, then kicked us out.
   
What a jackass.
    
  • A tavern called Bruno's Lodge. There were three patrons. The first was someone who said that I helped him in his hour of need. He gave me a "Cape of Concealment," which doesn't seem to do much in terms of protection, and I'm not sure the game really has a stealth mechanic.
  • Bruno's other patrons were a man and a Thomgog. The man was clearly modeled after Cliff from Cheers, and the voice actor did a competent John Ratzenberger impression. Just like Cliff, he was full of trivia, and he relayed a long and rambling story about the history of the region. I don't know if it's all important, but it was interesting. It's a weird way to convey what is ultimately about 50% of the lore of the setting.
   
You can hear Ratzenberger's voice reading this text.
   
  • You would think the Thomgog was therefore a riff on Norm. He did ask us to buy him a beer, but the voice actor didn't otherwise try to use George Wendt's voice or mannerisms. If the bartender is supposed to be based on Sam Malone, it's only in the broadest sense. He has some comments about women.
  • A bow shop. I've mostly given up on ranged weapons.
  • The armorer from Gladstone, having apparently set up shop here in exile. He bought most of the excess stuff I was carrying, including a bunch of named swords. I bought a great sword from him but still had over 3,000 silver. I could spend most of it on a jeweled dagger, but I'm not sure why I would. It would be nice if some shop sold those "bezel cups" that provide full healing. Those would be worth some money.
       
Could you tell me anything about what it does?
       
I haven't said much about equipment in this game because there's not much to say. Any game that's linear and doesn't randomize any of its equipment locations provides essentially the same experience to every player. There's no joy at a particularly "lucky" chest or triumph after sneaking into an area several levels above me to make off with a piece of armor. Occasionally, you find a weapon or armor that provides slightly better offensive or defensive scores than your last piece, and you make a swap. If any of these items do special things, the game is so obtuse about it that I don't bother trying to figure it out. As we've discussed, it's one of my complaints with this entire sub-genre.
        
The map of the City of Yvel.
     
As for levels, I ended this session with the following:
     
Character Fighter Rogue Mage
Conrad 7 4 4
Baccata 7 4* 4
Paulson 6 5* 4
*Increased by one by magic amulet
 
You can tell me whether that's high, low, or about right for where I am in the game. I've been trying to improve mage levels for all characters, but magic just disappears so damned fast.
   
Baccata at the end of this session.
     
With all the ingredients, we returned to the White Tower, went to the Altar unopposed, and mixed the Elixir. "We must find King Richard quickly!" Conrad said. There was the rub. Untrusting of Arbroath, I decided to go back to Dawn, even though she was several maps away.
     
This sounds like an insult, but I can't quite parse it.
      
On the way, I tested out the new "Hand of Fate" spell, which I only have enough magic points to cast at Level 1 or 2. It makes a giant spectral hand appear and shove or slap enemies, but as far as I can tell, it does no damage to them. I'm not sure what it's for.
       
Thanks, that was useful.
      
Back at Dawn's wagon, we found the wagoner dead with a spear stuck through his back and no sign of Dawn. With no other ideas, we returned to Yvel and the Council, where Arbroath refused to give us his key and demanded we find Dawn.
     
Conrad stands up to the chamberlain.
    
We wandered back out into the woods and soon encountered Dawn. She said she'd get the key from Nathaniel but needed her own key back. I thought something looked off about her, checked old screen shots, and verified that the real Dawn has blue eyes. With this one, I chose "argue."
        
Scotia, the Nether Mask is kind of lost on you, isn't it?
    
She immediately turned into a giant dinosaur. In her new form, she had a "tremor" attack, just like the Lahrkon back in the mines, and it caused us to drop weapons and shields. I tried to fight her with spells and even the green skulls that worked on the Lahrkon, but she wiped us out. I'm sure there's a way to defeat her, if nothing else by rest-scumming in nearby Yvel, but I'll try a few other things when I pick up the game again next time.
 
(Incidentally, I did reload and give her the key just to see what happens. She smirks and flies off but I can keep playing. Does anyone know the impact on the rest of the game if you do this?) 
     
I didn't have the patience for this one tonight.
       
My only gauge for how close I am to the end is that I've met every monster listed in the book except for, I think, "Cabal warriors." Another gauge may be that I only seem to have room for one or two more spells before the scroll fully unfurls in its allotted space. I hope I'm right. I continue to enjoy the evolving story, the cheesy voice acting, and the graphics, but it's about time for this one to start its final act. 
   
Time so far: 24 hours

104 comments:

  1. I wonder if Jana is an Ultima reference? It's a very uncommon name.

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    1. It’s “Jaana” in Ultima, and it’s quite common Finnish name.

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    2. "Jana" is quite common e.g. in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, you can also find it in other countries like Germany. And apparently it's a name in additional languages as well:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jana_(given_name)

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  2. Hand of Fate definitely seems like a reference to the second Kyrandia game by Westwood.

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    1. Those games are fantastic - some of my fav adventure game series.

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    2. Which is ultimately a reference to Manos' hands of fate.

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  3. You do note this in the description, but you seem absolutely dedicated to making a game miserable for you by playing on a harder difficulty than is fun. I can't really judge you for this, I've been there myself, but as I aged more I did eventually get to 'you know, I can just turn it down to where it's fun' and it's been a huge improvement on my enjoyment of titles, especially when I go back to older ones like this.

    Like you, I'm great at the tactics but my reflexes aren't as good.

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  4. I completely agree about puzzles that require manual dexterity. I have been forced to abandon playing several CRPGs (that I otherwise enjoyed) because of mandatory action sequences that I was just unable to get past. No amount of grinding is going to improve my reflexes.

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  5. Yes, you can find the key later if you give it to "Dawn". As for whether Vaelan's Cube would have made a difference, vg nygreangrf orgjrra na vgrz gung xvyyf gur tubfgf vafgnagyl naq bar gung erfgberf lbhe ZC, nyybjvat sbe arne-vasvavgr urnyvat. Arguably not the right approach to take for someone who wants to finish on Ferocious mode. :)

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    1. Yep, that's the thing I tried to alert Chet about, with the help of Valean's Cube you can tackle the second level of the White Tower basically like any other dungeon (but subsequently lose it forever).

      I'm glad that he didn't throw the towel, while still baffled that he didn't lower the difficulty.

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    2. I would have been sorely disappointed if he had just cleared the level with the cube. In a your favourite athlete fails a doping test kind of way. :P ;)

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    3. Hmm, Chet's first few paragraphs are entirely about him nearly rage-quitting, while the dungeon floor is clearly designed to be played with the cube, and the game infamously doesn't document important items.

      I'll leave it at that...

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    4. Do you have any evidence that this floor was "clearly" designed to be played with that particular item?

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    5. Well, that sounds like the cube would have helped, but I'm not sure how I would have gotten through the second barrier if I'd consumed it in the tower. I imagine a lot of players must go left when they enter the area and get to Yvel before the tower anyway. Wouldn't they lose the cube at the barrier without even seeing the tower?

      I found the level a bit frustrating, but I was not on the verge of rage-quitting.

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    6. On not lowering the difficulty, I got the impression that the level is a nightmare no matter what. "Ferocious" mode doesn't DOUBLE the difficulty or anything. It probably adds 15-20%.

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    7. The barriers are the only thing that consumes the cube, otherwise it's infinite use. Personally, I heavily used the cube in the tower, and it made it go from something that would have gotten me to drop the game to something I still hated for other reasons.

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    8. Not having played LoL myself, reading the comments here and elsewhere it sounds as if:

      - Using the cube changes Lv 3 of the White Tower from extremely difficult, frustrating and time-consuming - to the extent it might make players less hardy than Chet quit the game - to challenging, but doable.

      - There is no indication about this or hint to do the Tower before dispelling the second barrier.

      - The game in general gives you many named artifacts without telling you anything about them, some being essential for a specific purpose and others apparently just being filler or at least not better than unnamed weapons.

      To me, this is bad game design. If it led to real walking dead scenarios, that would be even worse, but it's still bad in my book nonetheless.

      YMMV, of course. Others may see this as a welcome challenge and/or features to separate the 'true hardcore gamers' from the 'mass'. But I wouldn't be patient (/ masochistic) enough / willing to invest so much time for something that could have been easily avoidable with a slight hint or other small change in design - not outright spoilers, maybe a puzzle or riddle. (Then again, I'm not writing a blog about CRPGs, just enjoying reading this one.)

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    9. Personally my experience with a decent chunk of the game was getting stuck, wandering around for a while until I got annoyed enough to look up the answer, only to find out the solution was something the game doesn't hint at and I would have never thought to try on my own. Issue is, some of those are really basic things like "you can break some walls with weapons" and "just because something happens doesn't mean it's the right answer", so I'm not sure how many issues were because of the game and how much was just my incompetence in action.

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    10. From Busca's list, the underlying issue is simply that the game doesn't tell you what items do. This is admittedly a genre convention for blobbers, but it's not a good one.

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    11. The good thing about the third level of the white tower is that it is a relatively small area. I found it stressful and a challenge, but not frustrating (except for the snake spell), and pretty rewarding when I made it through (I usually suck at these games). I played it with Kieran and Ak'shel, I don't think either of them took me much more than half an hour.

      Ak'shel is probably the easiest here, as he has a huge mana pool that can be used for healing, with Baccata doing the fighting. Kieran at least hits fast. Conan might actually be the worst fit for this level. So finishing this level at Ferocious with Conan - I think you might as well just keep it on Ferocious.

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    12. There were indirect hints about this in the Gladstone library at the start of the game, which were mentioned by Chet in the first post:

      "An emerald blade can be of great assistance when dealing with the long dead. It is said that these tired souls despise being disturbed, but no longer fear the threat of plain iron."

      "The reputed powers of Vaelan's cubes appear highly exaggerated. Surely no object could truly drain the magic essence from a living being."

      Admittedly, that's a large distance to the point in the game where these hints become useful.

      The design decision to not tell the player what items do has come up here several times before, so I don't want to rehash it in full, but I'll reiterate that some of us like it this way, at least in general. For example, I like Dungeon Master's design decisions about item information and don't want the game to tell me everything. Let's be sympathetic to each other's tastes. And I'd say that the majority of CRPGs cater to players who want unambiguous information about every item. (Some limit this a bit by making item identification expensive or conditional on a "lore" attribute.)

      In the case of Lands of Lore, I'm not sure. Subjectively, I didn't have problems with the game. On the one hand, some item uses are obscure, and missing them can lead to frustrating situations. On the other hand, it seems that all of these situations have alternative solutions that, though much more challenging, are actually quite interesting. I wonder a bit if these situations stick out that much because the rest of the game is unusually comfortable (well, on "normal" difficulty).

      A seperate difficulty setting regarding puzzles and hints might have been a solution. In LoL, the developers implemented the nice feature that changing the monster difficulty setting has an immediate effect. To apply this to the puzzle difficulty setting would require some more work. Potentially, on a low puzzle difficulty setting, when stepping on specific locations, some of the characters could wonder out loud, like this:

      "Another one of Scotia's barriers! Should we expend our Valean's cube here or explore elsewhere first?"

      "These magic creatures seem immune to normal weapons! If we had some way to drain their magic, then we could overcome them."

      This would be equivalent to LoL's feature that the automap marks hidden buttons automatically. (Which would be disabled on a higher puzzle difficulty setting.)

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    13. I'd argue the ghost level is designed for using Valean's Cube because it's a 300% difficulty spike compared to what comes before and after without it.

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    14. @Bitmap: Thanks for pointing out the indirect hints in the Gladstone library which I wasn't aware of. Fair enough for the emerald blades if you check your notes carefully. On the cubes, though, unless I'm missing something, it's not clear to me how "drain the magic essence from a living being" should point you to use it specifically against ghosts and wraiths.

      Regarding the general hints on uses of items (and how explicit they should be), as we both note, YMMV. A potential solution to cater to different tastes could be / have been some kind of optional hint system, maybe even with different steps or degrees - something like what the Universal Hint System does or at least tries to do: http://mobile.uhs-hints.com/uhsweb/lol.

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    15. I didn't replay again just to go to the White Tower before breaking the second barrier, but I have good reason to think clearing it out with the cube makes it closer to "trivial" than "challenging but doable".

      Arne gur raq bs gur tnzr gurer'f nabgure yriry jvgu tubfgf. Fvapr ol gung gvzr lbh'er thnenagrrq n guveq phor naq gurer vfa'g na bccbeghavgl gb hfr vg gb qrfgebl n oneevre guvf gvzr, V hfrq vg ba gur tubfgf jurarire V sbhaq gurz. Guvf punatrq rnpu tubfg sebz "uvg jvgu sveronyy, znlor trg na rzrenyq oynqr uvg be gjb va, unir rirelbar ybfr unys gb gjb guveqf bs gurve uc, eha njnl, urny, ercrng guerr be sbhe gvzrf" gb "ubbenl! zbafgre vafgnxvyyrq, serr znan ertra!"

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    16. Those hints in the Gladstone library were only added on the CD version of the game. I remember the original just saying only "this explains the history of the lands" or something like that

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    17. Damn it. I really enjoy games that make you take notes and want you to solve puzzles by consulting those notes. I just completely forgot about them. This is all fair criticism. I should have remembered to check those notes periodically, and I would have had an easier time with the level if I had.

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    18. Haven't seen it mentioned here, but I did it before under rot13: while emerald blades are indeed good vs ghosts, the color hint may lead you to another useful item: the green skull is a decent weapon vs ghosts as well.

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    19. On the other hand, I'd guess that the designers didn't intend note-taking to be necessary in this game. As shankao said, they might have added the library's hints in the CD version as a stopgap solution to the problems that players of the earlier disk version reported.

      If note-taking is supposed to be a part of a game, I think the game should make this clear soon after the start of the game. For example, by preventing progress unless a simple puzzle is solved which requires writing down some information from somewhere else in the game. This establishes the expectation early on that the player is supposed to keep and consult written notes.

      Otherwise, if note-taking is unnecessary for many hours, most players won't see a reason to take notes. Then when they encounter a problem later on, they won't have any notes to consult in order to piece together the solution.

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    20. Personally as someone that only takes notes if it's absolutely required, I never once thought of taking notes on the hints at the beginning from a combination of not knowing they were hints, and not realizing the books tell you more than one thing. I thought it was just a bit of flavor text for worldbuilding, not something actually important.

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    21. I'm glad Chet resisted the temptation of unscrambling the ROT13.

      While I also consider this part bad game design (especially allowing you to backtrack fron the tower and decide to check the city first, thus expending the cube, which is exactly what happened to me) it is still doable and for me ended up being the most memorable part of the game.

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  6. On respawning: You can find some thoughts here, though these appear to be assumptions gathered through playing and not an analysis of the code or an explanation by a developer - and you might want to wait until you've finished as it could contain spoilers:
    https://gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/38074/how-does-monster-respawning-work.

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  7. I agree the White Tower is probably the most frustrating part of the game. However, I always felt the third level had some of that mysterious, dark and eerie Eye of the Beholder 2 vibes made by the same developers.
    The warning ghost at the beginning, the haunting music, the ghosts almost appearing out of nowhere and
    the feeling of overwhelming dread/helplessness made for a very special experience I still remember today.

    I played the game first when it was released in 1994
    and rage-quitted it several times, first in the Urbish Mines,
    then, using a friend's savegame, in the White Tower and
    a third time later in the game...I tried several times during
    the last couple of years to give the game another go but under the surface it still feels disjointed and messy to me.

    Hope you finish it soon and get some fun out of it.

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  8. Congratulations, doing the top White Tower level with only the swords on Ferocious is quite the achievement.
    Hand of Fate and an item you picked up: Gur uvture fcryy yriryf qb fgneg qbvat qnzntr. Npr bs Qbzvavba vf onfvpnyyl n yriry sbhe unaq bs sngr.
    You Have No Faith: lbh pna cnff gur qbbe bapr lbh unir gur pehpvoyr bs snvgu.

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    1. Oops, the above comment was mine.

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    2. Adding re "No faith" door - others may confirm:
      Ohg nccneragyl gurer vf bayl "zrqvbper gernfher" gb or sbhaq oruvaq vg.

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  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  10. Even at level 1 Hand of Fate is useful. It doesn't do damage, but vg fubirf rarzvrf onpx n fdhner.

    Separately, the ghosts in the White Tower aren't any less frustrating on normal.

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    1. Is the "Cape of Concealment" of any use in avoiding ghost detection?

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    2. If it's supposed to shove enemies back, it doesn't seem to work on the great orcs in the forest.

      Thanks for the second line. That's what I suspected.

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    3. Lots of creatures are immune to something. I suspect great orcs happen to be immune to Hand of Fate, or to a broader class of effects that happens to include HOF.

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  11. I really enjoyed the third level of the tower, except for the snakes. Animations that take control away from the player are very annoying, especially if they happen repeatedly. Apart from that, it plays out like you did on normal difficulty - thin out the ghosts, keep retreating, use the pit as a second escape point, use the emerald blades and keep the spell points for healing. It just takes considerably less time on normal, though.
    You didn't mention the beggar in the tavern. If you helped him when you met him in the forest, he'll give you an item that might help you in the white tower (it seems to be unclear if it actually has any effect, though).
    I think your mage level is a little low, but you're probably fine for the final part of the game. Spells at higher levels can have different effects (Frost at level 4 is fun, especially if you are able to cast it early in the game).

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    1. He mentioned the beggar as a tavern patron giving him the Cloak of Concealment, but didn't realize it was in gratitude for helping him in Opinwood.

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  12. I worry that the difficulty level will negatively impact the GIMLET. If the game ends up too long or too frustrating, someone playing on "Normal" might have a different experience.

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    1. Even if it did, that would only affect the gamplay score, and I doubt it would make more that a two point difference. Besides that can happen to any game. Miss a money sink during the single playthrough, and the economy score takes a hit. Etc.

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    2. I wouldn't punish the game for my choice to play on a high difficulty. And aside from a couple of places, I think the difficulty has generally been right on target anyway.

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  13. Call me shallow but I am very impressed by the translucency effects with the phantom snakes and Hand of Fate. I think the only game you played before this one that had effects like that was Ultima VII when the Guardian's face appeared.

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    1. Whoops, forgot to tag myself.

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    2. Yes, that's not easy to pull off on a system with only 16-20 MHz and only 256 colors to work with.

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  14. The cursor by Jana's mouth makes it look kinda like she has a cigarette dangling from her lips.

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  15. Yeah, the ghost snakes are the worst. I can see why you'd be all "boo hiss" about them.

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  16. I think you have to pay for the ingredient if you didn't rescue Lora.

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  17. I do remember the White Tower level with the ghosts being the most frustrating in the game.

    The hand of fate spell pushes back monsters at lower levels and does damage at higher levels, though I'm not sure if the damage is comparable to damage only spells like frost or fireball.

    The design of Dawn was reused for the box art of Legend of Kyrandia 2. I haven't played that game so I don't know if Dawn or a Dawn-clone is in the game or they just used the art on the box.

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    1. I was thinking that Xanthia looked a bit like Dawn. Now I see why! It's not the only time Westwood reused assets between games (noticed some gems that appear in both Kyrandia 1 and in Eye of the Beholder).

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    2. I think she was Zanthia right? For some reason, Xanthia got me thinking of the blonde in Xanth (but her name was Nada iirc)

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    3. Yup, you're correct. Always getting Zanthia and Xanth (which I was reading through when I first played Kyrandia) mixed up!

      Delete
  18. My thoughts on respawning in general are similar to my thoughts on random encounters: as long as every battle isn't a matter of life and death, it's perfectly fine. With Lands of Lore, the issue is that there's a lot of regular enemies that can wipe out your party in a few seconds, and when those are the ones that respawn it can very quickly turn every fight into an important one you have to actively pay attention to and can't autopilot, which for me very quickly goes from being fun to just being exhausting.

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  19. I thought the historian was meant to look like Rick Gush, the producer, but also probably did some writing, since he was a writer.

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  20. you can buy fireball wands on gorkha swamp as money sink and then use them for raising mage levels. i used them a lot on tower level 3. i once bought tens of wands by selling every expensive item to merchants and putting every junk on the mouth of swamp statue. using all the wands on non-immune monsters netted me an increase of one level for one character.

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  21. from what i read i guess a traffic jam on the way home is not fair and does not operate according to an understandable set of rules

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    Replies
    1. I've found a way to deal with them that isn't a joke or road-rage. Just back off the car in front of you by about 3 car lengths and keep that distance. Let other cars merge in front of you. Just keep moving and letting people merge. The jam will clear up right before your eyes.

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    2. No, it actually works. The thing is not to block the left hand lane. You can see multiple demonstrations of this technique online. Traffic jams form when drivers tailgate and refuse to let other drivers merge.

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    3. Anonymous is correct -- this technique is well-known to ease the flow of traffic with no negative consequences. Even one car that lets people in, and doesn't try to play "fairness cop", makes a huge difference in the flow of traffic, and makes very little difference to the ETA of the person who's behaving altruistically (plus this behavior mode will lower their blood pressure).

      It's a good life lesson, really: stop trying to enforce rigid standards of fairness, and focus instead on what gets the best results, and it leads to better outcomes. It just takes one person who doesn't insist that they must be right, and must have the dominant position to which they're entitled, to make a difference.

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    4. When I wrote the above, I was thinking more about backups caused by accidents, but we got a nice PSA out of you guys going your own way with it.

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    5. It also helps a lot not being the person who drives really fast to the end of the merge lane and then expects to be let in, even though you're now driving on the shoulder. Even more so if you deliberately pulled into the merge lane to do it.

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  22. I can still remember the tune on the White Tower while fighting the ghosts after all this years since playing the game. I find it quite adept to the moment. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkwecKQoUZk

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  23. Yesss! Frank Klepacki at his best. Definitely Eye of the Beholder 2 vibes!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Hey, I told you the ratmen level was the < second > most frustrating level in the game. You passed the most frustrating.

    I also wonder what happens if you give your stuff to Scotia-in-disguise.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can get it back later. Not that you would deserve it if you fell for that.

      Delete
  25. The Valean's Cube is the most powerful item in the game from my memories. I remember you could kill all the ghosts in the tower with it...every time you kill a ghost with the Valean's Cube (it's both a weapon and an item) ...the cube is recharged with mana and becomes white.You could duplicate it infinitely in the inventary so at the end you can use it as infinite stock of mana potion for the rest of the game.

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  26. Respawning is one thing. I've played multiple games where there's no such thing as clearing a level or an area. But this seems ridiculous. I have no experience playing this game, but based on the description, it almost feels like it's bugged in a way. But then I also remember that Chet has the difficulty maxed, which makes me wonder if the respawn mechanic is tied to that in some way.

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    Replies
    1. afaik difficulty changes only monster hp and monster damage

      Delete
    2. It might be more complex than that. Monsters seem to swing faster on Ferocious. Some discussion that was linked in an earlier comment datamined that your cooldown decrease (which is tied to rogue levels) is not as potent as the difficulty goes up.

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  27. I have to say I have always been frustrated by the Amazon and the flying chickens. Up to that point, the enemies had been realistic. Orcs & their allies in the forest, ratmen and troglodytes in caves, monsters of all sorts in the mine. And then, suddenly, the tower has amazons occupying only one level for no good reason. Who are you ? Why are you attacking me ? Who is that Jana ? And how did you negotiate with the flying chickens so they get the second floor and you take the first one.

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    Replies
    1. Bu, vg'f nobhg gb trg jrveqre guna gung. Nf lbh ragre gur svany pnfgyr, lbh ner fhqqrayl qenttrq gb nabgure qvzrafvba ol n ohapu bs gragnpyrq rlrf naq sybngvat oenvaf, naq nfxrq gb qrpvqr n pbasyvpg orgjrra gurz ol zheqrevat bar snpgvba. Guvf vf arire uvagrq ng naq arire oebhtug hc ntnva; va grezf bs jrveqarff vg'f ba cne jvgu gung hsb fprar va gur zbivr yvsr bs oevna.

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    2. Jbj, ernyyl? Gung fbhaqf n ovg yvxr gurl unq na hahfrq tnzr pbaprcg ylvat nebhaq naq qrpvqrq gb fubr-ubea vg vagb guvf tnzr sbe n ovg bs rkgen pbagrag.

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    3. Vg pna'g or nabgure qvzrafvba, gur svany fgnvef yrnq hc gb gur pnfgyr, naq lbh pna qebc qebja sebz gur pnfgyr gb guvf qhatrba. N cerggl haarpprfnel naq obevat yriry, gubhtu.

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    4. That confused me too, since I thought they said some synonym of "qvzrafvba" too, and I went through that whole part of the game thinking that was what was meant. (Gur bgurejbeyqyl-ybbxvat jnyy tencuvpf qvqa'g uryc.) Turns out that the actual word used is "ernyz".

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    5. I had forgotten about that Big-Lipped Alligator Moment (appears out of nowhere, does not make sense in context, no impact on story, never mentionned again). There were not even good levels. My suspicion : they had an idle level designer at some point toward the end of the project, and he went all "what if I added a level in your level folks !"

      Delete
  28. This list of "The 19 worst game design crimes" deals mostly with modern games as examples (it's from 2017, there might be some spoilers in there, but I'd say usually avoidable the moment the game's name pops up), but several of the points have come up (sometimes more than once) on this blog, too, both in "Special Topic Postings" and in game-related entries and comments, including the present one:
    https://www.pcgamer.com/game-design-sins/.

    Some I'd assume are uncontroversial, like "Unskippable Cutscenes" (or for older CRPGs e.g. unskippable slow battle animations). Some are a matter of taste like having crafting recipes (or here: object statistics and uses) available in-game or finding out / having to find out yourself through experimentation (the author also suggests an optional function to look them up in-game for those who prefer it).

    Another related one that has come up in this game and quite a few others: "Inventory junk that isn't marked as junk" - a typical (C)RPG issue. Or "Invincible locked doors": again, should this be obvious or do you prefer to bash your head - maybe even literally, in-game - against it repeatedly? Some text after a couple attempts might at least hint at it.

    Then there are those aspects that break or at least lessen the immersion feeling if not done well: physically limiting the game world in a believable way or at least one that makes sense within the confines of the respective game universe. Creating a game world with separate parts/maps that go together well. Unkillable NPCs.

    Especially relevant for our esteemed host, the fourth point in this list is: "No options for colourblind players". I was honestly quite surprised to learn that "[a]ccording to the National Eye Institute, as many as 8 percent of men and 0.5 percent of women have some form of colour blindness"! Didn't know it was so many and that there is such a huge difference between men and women on this. Another thing I wouldn't initially have thought I'd come to through this blog.
    And with this in mind, Chet, I admire your patience and tenacity with many games even more - I'm quite sure in the period(s) you've covered so far, this was not something considered by game designers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good article. It's interesting that about half the things on that list could be fixed in about ten minutes if the game's programmer realized it was an issue. Similarly, a regular complaint from Chet is having mouse controls with no keyboard shortcut; such a thing is also a ten-minute fix. But many programmers don't know the importance of UX.

      Delete
    2. In modern games there's usually a UI/UX designer working with the game designer. The programmers are "merely" the execution.

      As such, they get to know all the inner workings of the game. To be fair, It's quite hard to detach yourself from all this knowledge and evaluate the UX from an objective perspective of a new player, even if you did recognize It's important to do so.

      By comparison, back in Chet's timeline, the field of UI/UX was still in its infancy. It was indeed part of the programmers'/game designers' role to consider such things. I'm not sure how widespread were beta testers at the time.

      Delete
    3. AFAIK Red Green Colourblindness is passed by the X-Chromosom, women need both of them "defective" to get this kind of colourblindness, men only have one, so there is no "spare". That's why there is a difference between the sexes

      Delete
    4. stepped pyramidsMay 14, 2022 at 12:18 AM

      Some of these things aren't too objectionable to me. I'm kind of indifferent to "essential" characters. In my experience, if you start killing people you're not supposed to kill, you're going to end up hitting something "immersion-breaking" no matter what, and "this important guy won't die" is not really that much more immersion-breaking to me than "nobody really notices that this important guy is dead". The least immersion-damaging option is to have an immediate Game Over when you murder someone important, which is the Metal Gear Solid approach, but I think people would find it really annoying in a game like Skyrim.

      Similarly, I would rather the game occasionally just cop to "you've reached the end of the map" than bending over backwards to enclose the entire world in conveniently insurmountable obstacles. I don't think Fallout 3 would have been notably improved by wrapping the entire perimeter of the map in mountains, impenetrable building ruins, etc.

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    5. I think that the conveniently-insurmountable obstacles can give a Ye Olde World Map feeling like you see in old maps and Tolkien's maps, which are an obvious tribute to the idea. However, this does obviously restrict itself to more "medieval" settings, which isn't very conductive to Fallout 3.

      Delete
    6. Virtually everything on that list is a matter of taste, if you take the accompanying paragraph into account.

      "Unskippable cutscenes" is a good example. The author isn't just advocating for a "look, I watched this once already, I don't need to watch it again because I died" button. He's saying that cutscenes should be very rare "because this is a game, not a movie", and that if you skip them you should have no downsides because you can put everything together later. That goes well into "this is just a thing I hate and I decree that I am objectively correct" territory.

      The only two items on that list that are not "Any game that does not cater to me and my specific tastes is BAD and WRONG and should NOT be allowed" is colorblindness options and "where are the saves?".

      Delete
    7. I actually found myself getting mad reading the "Unskippable Cutscenes" paragraph. When I saw the title, I nodded in sympathy, thinking of reloads. But it turns out that he just wants to ignore the game's plot (but still have a Cliff's Notes version spoon-fed to him) and play like a jackass.

      I'm similarly mad about "crafting systems that force you to leave the game to find recipes" because he seems to be railing here against any game that requires you to take external notes. If I wanted to sit with a controller and drool, I wouldn't be playing a game on the PC.

      Many of the items on this list are just inevitable consequences of certain game designs. I like open-world games, but I recognize that not every game can be an open-world game. When it's not, I don't much care if the barrier is an actual wall or a thigh-high fence.

      Delete
    8. Most RPGs have easy modes to cater to players who are only there for the story. I don't see what's so wrong with wanting a "story-easy" mode for players who don't enjoy detailed plots.

      Delete
    9. Marc, I think your comment has the potential to end all this confusion over sex and gender and binary and non-binary and whatever. Instead of asking about those things, forms should just ask, "What is your base risk for red-green colorblindness?"

      Delete
    10. Re crafting systems, I don't think the issue is needing to take notes, so much as there not being any way to find out what notes to take.

      It's just irritating, not a sin, if, say, you can make steel from iron, or more efficiently from iron and either carbon or cobalt, or more efficiently than that from all three; the game tells you at least the first two recipes; and it makes you take notes about them yourself.

      It [i]is[/i] a sin when only the first recipe makes any sort of sense, the second isn't Fe+C/Co but moon logic like scrapmetal and wood, and the third is so obscure you can't even stumble on it by accident like dirt + silver + cliffracer claws; the game tells you about only the first; and the only way to find out about the second and third is to exhaustively try every combination of a couple hundred items, look them up the recipes on websites that are several game versions out of date, install an ad-ridden smartphone app, or try to make sense of the game files.

      Anyway, I don't know what this has to do with Lands of Lore. None of the items in that list seem to apply to it, and it has plenty of sins of its own. We've already talked at length about the Larhkon and ghosts being so frustrating to kill unless you use the single item designed for them, which is either unhinted or mishinted, and which in the latter case the game goes out of its way to encourage you to expend as a key. There's also multiple places that you solve puzzles and quests and get either nothing at all as a reward, or an objectively useless item like a key that unlocks nothing in the game or a weapon or piece of armor that's no better than what you near the start of the game. And I guess it's still a minor spoiler that lbh trg gur orfg jrncbaf orgjrra unysjnl naq gjb guveqf bs gur jnl guebhtu gur tnzr, naq vahaqngrf lbh jvgu jbefr - bsgra zhpu jbefr - bcgvbaf sbe gur erfg.

      Delete
    11. And here I was, thinking there was something not right with ME for getting angry about this "good article" full of subjective dislikes presented as objective "sins" of games. "Cutscenes" rant was what angered me, too - "if I want to watch a movie I watch a movie" - well, then, if you don't want to play a game with cutscenes, you don't play it, rather than dictating authors what to create, or, God forbid, dictating players what to like!

      Regarding "base risk of color-blindness" - well, "do you or did you ever have a prostate?" question can help, too, in determining SRY-status of a person.

      Though the sex and gender question is about different things actually, about being treated with respect no matter if your assigned gender matches your real one or not. Transphobes certainly hate trans-people not because of the color-blindness issue; and trans-people are bitter at transphobic comments not because of colorblindness either *sigh*.

      P.S. I don't know if you really care, Chet (and I certainly don't claim you are obliged to care), but your comment may have been involuntarily offensive to some LGBT readers of your blog.

      Delete
    12. Ok, I agree the article I linked is not very good (and, as most of these, quite subjective). I especially agree with the criticism on the "Unskippable Cutscenes" statement made there - didn't read it well enough, was thinking of reloads, too. I just stumbled on the article while looking for something else and thought it could provide some food for thought and discussion. As far as I recall (have been following the blog for quite a while and read older entries as well, but only recently started to (re-)read chronologically from the start, so might be missing something), there hasn't been a specific post about this subject.

      Sure, individual aspects of good and bad CRPG design have come up quite a bit in Chet's Special Topics postings (the index with all links can be found in the upper right in the desktop view) like the one explaining his GIMLET, in his series on "The perfect CRPG", on Linearity, "What where they thinking", "A CRPG wishlist" or "Breadth, Depth, and Immersion". And, as mentioned, in many discussions of individual games like this one - which is what triggered me to post it.

      So maybe this could be made into a Special Topic posting? I recall Chet writing somewhere he doesn't do (many of) those anymore because they weren't very well-received. Given the interesting discussions on many "general" subjects that develop in the comments sections and my overall impression of the "commenter community" here, I find that surprising. On the other hand, if Chet thinks he has enough on his plate and you can find most of that already in the mentioned posts and elsewhere, that's understandable, of course.

      Delete
    13. If we do not get a Special Topic posting here, you can always check out this article by Jimmy Maher (The Digital Antiquarian) - that one I have fully read and find it quite well-written like most of his blog:
      https://www.filfre.net/2017/05/the-view-from-the-trenches-or-some-deadly-sins-of-crpg-design/.

      He reproduces two interesting letters from CRPG players (one of 1988, covering many CRPGs, to a game magazine, the other one - undated - to Interplay on "The Bard's Tale II") and adds his own thoughts to the former. There might be spoilers in it, though I think all games mentioned have already been covered on this blog (except for "Realms of Darkness" - although maybe that'll change now it's off the "Missing and Mysteries" list page) and mostly they should be avoidable by scanning ahead for game names popping up.

      And for those still wishing for more, there is this discussion thread (from over 15 years ago) on gamedev.net (haven"t read through that one):
      https://gamedev.net/forums/topic/329106-what-have-been-the-bad-elements-of-past-crpgs/3135051/?page=1.

      Delete
    14. The point of these articles is to generate many clicks (ad revenue) while taking little effort to write (cost). In that regard it's a pretty good article. Best/worst articles always do well, and by just complaining about some things that annoyed you in the last couple of games you played, you really don't have to do much research. Nice touch making it exactly 19 items, 20 would have looked arbitrary, with potential filler items to get it up to an even number.

      Delete
    15. Having 19 items looks even more arbitrary.

      Delete
    16. I suspect that the trick with asking about sex or gender is to ask the actual thing you need to know rather than asking a proxy question. "Should we do the extra screening for (condition more common in AMAB people)?" or "Could you be pregnant?" rather than asking about one's professed sex, birth-assigned sex or even genotype (I mean, most people don't even KNOW their genotype, just have a good guess. Certain sex-chromosome abnormalities are common enough that every fertility clinic has a few stories of "It turns out the reason this couple couldn't conceive is that between the two of them they don't add up to 3 X chromosomes and a Y, and they just never noticed")

      Delete
    17. Concerning "sins of games" it seems that this is, at least in part, somewhat subjective topic: one that changes with generations, too. For example, when arcade games only appeared, they were nightmarishly difficult for the cynical purpose of milking players for more coins just to continue. This shenanigan had unexpected consequence of brewing a certain kind of pride in players, who were proud for their prowess at games, so when later there were NES (and other console) platformers created, they catered to this pride, too - they were hard (Nintendo hard), there was only so much of lives, so those playing it were able to feed their pride when defeating these games. But nowadays many gamers would call the neccesity to play ALL of the game again if you die three times and spend all your "lives" a grievous SIN for game to have; so "what constitutes a sin" has changed. I remembered arcade games and platformers not as a pure offtopic, though - there is some connection of this topic and "sinful" adventure games of Sierra On-Line, with a lot of "dead man walking" scenarios and absurd puzzles. Sinful by standards of today (and by standards of LucasArts and Monkey Island), but for those who did pride themselves on solving those illogical puzzles - again - this was "not a bug, but a feature". What I am getting at is this: a lot of RPG sins may be just as subjective, when someone's sin is somebody other's source of charm. Permadeath? Random dungeons? Neccesity to draw your own map? This all may very well be what draw SOME players towards this game. So, at most, we can get 'agreement of majority" on what constitutes sin.

      But this all being said - why the need to put down people who create cutscenes for games with quips like "people who create movies do this professionally"?

      It's quite a mean thing to say, - and, besides, it presupposes some kind of "just world hypothesis" - that all people who are talented and good at making movies end up professional movie-makers.

      But it does not work like that. And sometimes people who create animation for games actually have some good work to show to us, too!

      Delete
  29. Hmm, seeing Chet's 'quick update' post on a Friday 13th about something having come up that led him to having to take a week off would get me thinking if I was superstitious. But I am not because being superstitious brings bad luck.

    Silly jokes aside, I hope everything is OK and you're doing well, Chet. Real life always takes precedence.

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    1. I'm sure he was just dusting off the old hockey mask for a trip to camp Crystal Lake to visit the kids. No biggie. :)

      Delete
    2. I, too, hope he is allright. We cannot invade Chet's personal life and question what happened, even if we are worried, but we still can BE worried and not indifferent to his troubles. After all, he goes out of his way writing this blog for us, it's only natural that we feel grateful, that we care.

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