Sunday, June 5, 2022

The Return of Werdna: Abandon All Hope

 
Halfway through this session, reader octavius reminded me I need to set the graphics to CGA. Sorry that some of the shots in this entry are still using the wrong setting.
      
Werdna takes me back to a style of gameplay that I probably haven't really experienced since I won Wizardry: Scenario #3 - The Legacy of Llylgamyn (1983) in 2014. It is prevalent in all of the early Wizardry games, Might and Magic, and The Bard's Tale. In this approach, the player spends most of his time--well over half--doing things that are destined not to be saved. You march down a corridor, check out half a dozen rooms, fight three combats, and die in the fourth. You reload and try again. This happens multiple times before finally, on one of those reloads, you do something that you absolutely want to make sure to preserve, such as beating a boss, finding a key item, or finding the way to the next level.

If this sounds horribly frustrating, well, it often is. But the good news if you're making your own maps (and players using someone else's maps are, in my opinion, not really playing the game) is that your mapping progress is never lost. The map, in fact, is the greater part of progress. Once the level map is finished, you can see that you have to start at point A, pick up items at points B and C, and then hit the exit at point D. It takes less than 10 minutes. 
 
My map of Level 9.
     
In Werdna, all of this is doubly true because the game doesn't offer any experience points. In a regular RPG of this ilk, even a difficult and frustrating one, you typically earn enough experience from the parts that you can save. If not, you can grind for a little while. In Werdna, a party that fights for several hours and manages to save their progress is really in no better place than a party that fights for several hours and dies. I guess the small exception to that statement is that money plays a minor role, but I don't get the impression that you need much of it.

Thus, for this session, I started by saving at the pentagram. I then summoned a set of allies, headed out, and continued filling in my map and taking notes. If I got low on allies, I tried to make it back to the pentagram to get new ones and make a new save, but I didn't worry very much if I couldn't make it. If I died, I reloaded and headed for the next unfilled part of the map. If I got a unique item or unique encounter, I likewise tried to save afterwards, but I was more interested in making sure I annotated such locations so I could eventually return and get them if I died in the meantime.
   
Level 9 of this dungeon was perhaps more tedious than most. It consisted of a single corridor, looping around the level several times into a central room. Practically every step of the corridor had a two-square room branching off on either side. In the corners, presented as "towers," were battles with escalating groups of guardsmen. I tried to win every battle at least once because that's the only way to know if you find a unique treasure after the battle. There were a couple of corners I couldn't complete, though, and I'll probably need to come back later. In one of these towers, I found something called "Lander's Turquoise."
     
Werdna offers more atmospheric messages like this than the first three entries.
    
The center of the level had a couple of messages ("Dante was here"; "Bring your marshmallows?") suggesting fire before putting me in battle with a hellhound with something like 250 hit points. I was surprised, but my party of anacondas, no-see-ums, and witches managed to defeat it. He dropped "wired bones," which resolved into an artifact called "demonic chimes." There are some squares to the north of the hellhound that I can't seem to get into because every attempt just repeats the encounter with the hellhound. I marked those for later, when I have MALOR ("Teleport") or something.
 
I surprisingly defeated him, even with a sub-optimal party.
       
The stairs up are found in a section of hallway that you reach via a secret door in one of the nondescript two-square rooms. I was fortunate to have MILWA ("Light," which reveals secret doors) active when I wandered into it, but I remembered the solution from last time and would have found it anyway.
       
These two artifact items and the exit took about five hours of slow mapping, fighting, dying, and reloading. In such slow, repetitive, and involved gameplay, you learn both your allies and your enemies very well. For allies, I learned to prize mummies, ashers, no-see-um swarms, and Level 3 priests. The priests were a must. They cast healing, MANIFO ("Paralysis"), and MONTINO ("Silence"). Mummies level-drain enemies (it's nice to have that on my side for once!), ashers can paralyze them, and no-see-um swarms (I guess they're supposed to be insects?) have a breath attack. Witches can only cast up to Level 2 mage spells, and Level 2 mage spells suck. Poltergeists, creeping cruds, crawling kelps, rogues, anacondas, huge spiders, and dusters all have decent physical attacks, but in this game, it's magic or special attacks or GTFO.
        
This level's choice of allies.
    
As for enemies, I repeatedly encountered two parties: Talon's Tigers and Greyhawk's Ghostbusters. Talon's Tigers have mostly names bastardized from Tolkien, and they shout "Roar!" when they attack. I defeated them several times and each time found a Novice's Cap, which casts MONTINO. The Ghostbusters for some reason yell "Bell Werdna!" I couldn't defeat them no matter what I did. They have Level 4 spells, which include mass-damage spells, and the leader, Greyhawk, seems to be about Level 7. On my map, you see a yellow mark in a random square in the corridor, reminding me to return and defeat this party and make sure they don't have any important loot.
 
Random individual enemies included Persia, an evil mage;  Kyoko, an evil priest; Brightblade, a good samurai; Alannon, a good bishop; Jetstream, a good fighter; Full-Strike, a good fighter; and Rastlin, a good mage. Rastlin must be at least Level 3, as he can produce MAHALITO, a mass-damage spell. None of them was terribly difficult--single enemies almost always get paralyzed by one of my mummies--and none had anything important.

Trebor got me a few times. I also met the Oracle for the first time. He appears as a glowing square on the floor and he tries to keep out of your range. You have to actively chase him down. I purchased his first clue--"The egress will set you free!"--the obviousness of which infuriated me the last time I played this game.
     
Yes . . . that's what "egress" means.
        
As I got to the end of this level, Werdna's inventory was completely full. He has a dagger, robes, a jeweled amulet, a Black Candle, a Bloodstone, a Novice's Cap, Lander's Turquoise, and Demonic Chimes. I know that eventually, I'll find a storage device, but until then, I guess I'll have to dump my generic robes. But in a larger sense, I'm not terribly worried because I've annotated where to find things and I know I can return from higher levels. Still, if there are any pitfalls to inventory, such as some items cannot be found a second time, or there's a point of no return after which I can't return to earlier levels, I guess I wouldn't mind a hint in ROT-13.

I'm not looking forward to what's coming up on the next level, but as tempting as it is to use the map I made in 2012, I'm going to force myself to go through it from scratch. It helps to take it slow, have a television show going at the same time, and have another game to play in between.
   
Time so far: 8 hours
 
 


 
 
 

72 comments:

  1. Kind of like how Ash in Alien admires the purity of the monster, I admire the purity of this game. They made what is probably the most difficult RPG to ever get a major commercial release. Though it's probably more correct to classify this as a puzzle game than as an RPG. I wonder if the whole "expert level scenario" is also similar to what Infocom was doing with their games. They would release their games with different difficulty levels.

    Despite the purity of the game, according to Robert Sirotek, this was the worst selling Wizardry game and had horrible word of mouth because people would get frustrated and give up on it. I guess even in the 80s, artists had to compromise on their ideals for the sake of commercialism. It would've been interesting to see what Roe R Adams would've done if he continued as a game developer since he was a key figure in the gaming world in the 80s (Ultima, Bard's Tale, Wizardry).

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    1. I think it probably also sold poorly because it was still, in 1987, made with the same engine as was used in 1981’s Wizardry I, with no visible improvements that would jump off the back of a box shelved next to Ultima IV, Might and Magic I, or the first two Bard’s Tale games, much less Dungeon Master! At a time when technological progress was highly visible and highly desired by players, I can’t imagine a six year long run for the same engine being anything other than a death sentence regardless of the content.

      (Of course the gold box games had a long run too, but they made substantial engine improvements over time, including to graphics, and they too saw a significant tapering-off in sales as the line went on and customers perceived it as old news).

      Note for Chet - when I was checking release dates in your list of games played by year, I noticed you have the old entries for Wizardry IV listed under 1986 (which is also what the first entry says) but at least from a quick Google the 1987 date you’re using this time seems correct.

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    2. The box kind of scares you away, too. "FORE EXPERT PLAYERS ONLY!" That either means it's going to be a challenge or it's just going to be sadistic. Either way, I'm not sure it's worth risking $40.

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    3. The comments on Wiz IV by Robert Sirotek which I guess TK refers to above
      (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=kKQgDCbcJ1o, starting at ca. 15:10 min) and Robert Woodhead
      (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=cu7P8iHlclw, at ca. 15:45min) in their respective interviews with Matt Barton reflect that tension / balancing act between the "artistic desire" of the developers to make "their" game on one side and the need to be able to sell it to a public beyond the most hardcore Wizardry fans on the other.

      @Chet: No spoilers I could distinguish in those parts.

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    4. My suspicion is that their copy protection scheme was also a real barrier to sales. It was a booklet of codes that you had to enter every so often. Not terrible in itself but they printed it on dark red paper in tiny text... and there were pages and pages of codes. I found it painful to read even as a teenager. I bounced off the game because of this -- eventually playing a cracked version a few years later. It is my (personal) gold standard of user-hostile copy protection.

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    5. On IBM (specifically), Wizardry 2 was an improvement over early-version Wizardry 1, which both looks significantly worse than later-version Wizardry 1, and differs significantly in gameplay. Almost all references to IBM Wizardry 1 are to the later version ... which is what Chester actually played.

      (I should get out my earlier-version disks and see if I can get them to work on a modern computer.)

      Come to think of it, all Wizardries other than 8 have different versions on IBM. It only makes a gameplay difference (as far as I know) with 1 and 7; I've played multiple versions of all of IBM Wizardry 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 beginning-to-end and I don't recall seeing any difference, other than banishing the copy protection which is awful in 4, 5, and especially 6.

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    6. IceyX, I remember Team17 using black-text-on-black-paper copy protection codes for its last few Amiga games. That was great fun, he says with sarcasm.

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    7. The black text on dark red paper (which I, too, clearly remember from my early-Mac copy of Wizardry I) was itself a second, more literal form of "copy protection"—making sure that the copy machines of the era couldn't effectively duplicate the "secret code books".

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  2. (that comment was a repost since it got buried at the bottom of the last article)

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    1. Luckily, Chet gets a notification for every comment, even on old entries.

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  3. It has been a while since I played but not being able to get past the hellhound sounds like a bug not a feature of the game. You should be able to defeat it and just take another step.

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    1. Greater Mailer-DaemonJune 5, 2022 at 9:06 PM

      That’s correct. You need to be able to get to the next spot to continue with the game at a later point. If it’s not possible, it might be bugged, in which case, Malor (attained much later) might be the only workaround.

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  4. It hadn't occurred to me when I read the first entry, but now I see it. It is a perfect example of the convergent evolution in gaming. People on different sides of the ocean play Wizardry an like it. Then, at the roughly same time an idea comes to the different minds. What if you play this game as a single character with the ability to summon the usual enemy mooks to do the fighting for you? And, voila, we have Wizardry IV in the US and Megami Tensei in Japan, both coming out in the 1987.

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    1. I think that the "Megami Tensei" series is the evolutionary link between Wizardry and Pokémon. My hypothesis is further supported by the "Shin Megami Tensei: Last Bible" series, a cutesy open-world spin-off released before the first Pokémon games.

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    2. stepped pyramidsJune 5, 2022 at 9:16 PM

      Dragon Quest V (which came out in 1992) also had monster recruitment.

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    3. @Abacos
      In Japan, Megami Tensei definitely pioneered and made popular the concept of recruiting enemies to fight alongside the party. Pokémon took it a bit further by making the main characters a pure "summoners", not participating in combats themselves.

      Which was a very smart move. In Megami Tensei games the main characters usually could wipe most random encounters without additional help. The summoned demons were mostly needed for the boss fights. That made the whole mechanic almost superfluous and kind of wasted.

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    4. I guess some things never change: Chet maps in Excel, Google sends out notification emails BEFORE running the spam filter, and people find a way to mention Shin Megami Tensei on Chet's blog XD

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    5. Don't forget Chet's horrible luck with Japanese games and the fact that he still hasn't gotten to any of the Megami Tensei titles.

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  5. Greyhawk's Ghostbusters are likely a reference to the 2nd oldest D&D setting, Greyhawk. That was Gary Gygax's personal campaign and it became the default D&D setting for a number of editions, with the default pantheon being based on it in 3rd and 4th edition even when it wasn't the default setting anymore.

    (Trivia: The first D&D setting was Blackmoore by the less-known co-creator of D&D, David Arneson)

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    1. Apologies for the nitpick, but there’s no e at the end of Blackmoor. But yeah, there’s a lot of interesting stories about that game - apparently clerics are in DnD because someone played a vampire in the first Blackmoor game, and they had to invent a Van Helsing style character class to beat him.

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    2. Yes, of course, and "Rastlin" despite its spelling is a reference to Dragonlance, and Falstaff is from Shakespeare. I figure there's no point in calling attention to the obvious ones.

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    3. Thanks for pointing that out! I should have checked the spelling.

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    4. I assumed Brightblade was also a Dragonlance reference, and Alannon to Terry Brooks Shannara chronicles... originality never seemed high in the 80's

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    5. Since Wiz IV is (at least partly) populated by parties imported from player discs, spelling errors and kooky references all.

      I think I'd prefer a consistent tone in my game design (like Chet I'm not a fan of goofy), but I do like the novelty and uniqueness of the idea too

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    6. I didn't know how much overlap between TTRPGers and CRPGS there was; With the Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance references, sure, everyone will get those, since there were the Gold Box games and Baldur's Gate, but were there any computer games set in Greyhawk?

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    7. @Canageek:. Temple of Elemental Evil. Which is... Ok. Some of the Fan Mods fix a few issues but it's really kinda dull overall. The missing link between Gold Box and Solasta.

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    8. Ah fair, the one with graphic glitches so bad my Dad had to return it to the store as his characters wouldn't render in.

      That is cool, did it...matter that it was in Greyhawk, or was it mostly self-contained to Homette and the temple?

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    9. As I heard it, TOEE was mismanaged on Troika's end and pushed out early by Atari. Atari extended the schedule specifically to give Troika time to fix bugs, but Tim Cain had promised various features (e.g., character origins) thart weren't yet fully implemented. The devs were adding features when they should have been polishing, and there you have it. The game cratered and Atari canceled an adaptation of Ravenloft that was in early development at another studio.

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  6. Ended up going back and reading the old posts, and the most fascinating comment (by our host, after an intensely frustrating level) is "I'm too old for this".

    Maybe it really was ... too young for this?

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  7. No-see-ums are a kind of very small biting fly, also called sandflies or punkies. They are difficult to see because they are so small, and their bites hurt.

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    1. I got eaten alive by these in the Bahamas - they are the most terrifying monsters that exist in the real world. Will have to adapt them for my next tabletop campaign...

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  8. "...in this game, it's magic or special attacks"

    That is the way I like my games! You are making it sound almost interesting (almost, because I like dungeon crawlers less than open worlds).

    By the way, how can you concentrate on something while watching something else on television? I would understand radio or your own music playlist, but a television show? How many times did your party get killed because the television caught your eye? Vice versa, would you be able to tell the plot of the show you half-watched? Can you really focus on two things at the same time?

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    1. Well, the game is turn-based, so I assume that, if something interesting is happening on the TV, you simply stop using the keyboard for a while. :)

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    2. You just have to find the right show. W4 really only requires half-concentration, so you find a show that also requires only half-concentration, like something you've seen before, or a generic sitcom.

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    3. Unfortunately, the ghost of Trebor DOES move in real-time. It's that kind of game.

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    4. He doesn't move if you're in camp. I've made a habit of camping when I pause to map.

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  9. In 1987 I was moving from Spectrum to Amiga, so I was out of this particular battle. Neither system was greatly served with pure RPGs, though they balanced it by having quite a lot of cross-genre - or indeed sui-generis - stuff. I did play Wiz5 on the Amiga, but the earlier ones meant nothing to me.

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  10. I played through this a few years ago. A minor spoiler per your request (in ROT13): VVEP, gurer vf n cbvag bs ab erghea. Bapr lbh'ir ragrerq gur pbfzvp phor, gurer'f ab tbvat onpx hagvy lbh'ir rkvgrq gur znmr. Vg fgnegf ba yriry guerr, fb znxr fher lbh unir n fnir ng gur raq bs yriry sbhe orsber lbh tb hc. Gung vf gur bayl guvat, NSNVX. Lbh nyfb zvtug jnag gb fnir evtug orsber lbh hfr gur fgbar, vs lbh jnag gb frr nyy gur raqvatf (jvgubhg ercynlvat gur uneqrfg cnegf bs gur tnzr).

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    1. I looked at this. I appreciate it. I'll just make sure to save in a new slot on every level.

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  11. I hate mapping and have since the 80s. Its rarely fun or even fair most of the time. As far as I'm concerned people who like mapping or act like everyone should do it are misguided at best, completely insane at worst. (Now built in auto mappers as you explore? I'm good with that. Making me constantly look off screen to write on paper? Hell. No.

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    1. That's quite harsh. Everyone has their own preferences plus the addict wrote some reasonable thoughts why he (and others) likes the mapping process.

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    2. I should add that I meant he wrote his reasons in past entries.

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    3. @CR: To each his own. The "mapping is part of the experience" vs "mapping detracts from the experience" has been discussed more than once on this blog in the past twelve years, so I won't rehash it here.

      I like mapping, but in case that's what's keeping you from diving (again) into the old Wiz, MM or BT games, you could check out the automapper tool made for them mentioned in my comment on the previous Wiz IV entry: http://crpgaddict.blogspot.com/2022/05/revisiting-return-of-werdna-fourth.html?showComment=1654373583460&m=0#c7805218483152315928.

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    4. Its a shame the Ps1 Arranged version isn't in English as it in fact has an auto mapper (like most of the JPN versions of Wizardry do actually..) and lots of stuff that stop making it a hate filled war crime and bring it more into just entertainingly abusive. Sort of like what Deathlord Reloaded does.

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    5. Also, I didn't read Chet's statement above ("players using someone else's maps are, in my opinion, not really playing the game") that much as being directed against automapping features as more against following already completed maps from walkthroughs, i.e. missing out on the experience, the thrill, the fun of un- and discovering the game world yourself, step by step.

      Despite what his "Automap" entry in the Glossary says, I got the impression, depending on the game (features), he sometimes doesn't mind an automap. But he might clarify himself.

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    6. See to me thats the thing. It at least feels like gate keeping or elitism. If you enjoy hand mapping that is totally cool. I don't. I enjoy discovering stuff and built in automapping as I explore but physically drawing suuucks hard. At least for me. You might enjoy and thats also fine n good. But the way he phrased it? Way uncool. Its approaching some RPGCodex kind of elistism crap except without all the slurs.

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    7. Generally, I hate lack of auto-mapping. Hell, I even like quest markers, at least in large game worlds, and especially markers for quest-givers - I often found myself wandering around in Fallout 2, because I forgot where the god-damned quest-giver stands.

      But occasionally, it can be an interesting break - I played Underrail before auto-mapping was added, and I drawn my own maps. It was somewhat tedious (for some reason, I decided I need to count the number of tiles in every isometric location, which made it so much slower than just linking exit-to-exit) - but at the same time, somewhat fun.

      What I could never stand in Wizardry and other such games, however, is indeed the same thing Chet is OK with - the need to constantly replay the same level over and over again until you map all necessary parts, grind to necessary level and only then proceed further. For me, replaying any amount of content longer than one battle is frustrating and infuriating. And for longer battles, I love when the game allows you to save inside the battle, so that I don't even need to replay the whole thing (why, yes, I loved the new X-Com games).

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    8. Personally I'd say I have a disinterest in mapping. I don't have a problem with doing it if I have to, and it can even be fun in the moment, but at the same time I'm too impatient to ever do it voluntarilly and tend to go out of my way to play with an automap. As for using premade maps my opinion's that I don't care how you play a game as long as you don't try and claim it's the "right" way to do it, seeing as how different people get enjoyment in different ways.

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    9. I discovered first person RPGs by the time automapping was becoming the norm (Underworld 2).

      When a few years later I got around to playing older games that expected manual mapping (EotB, Pool of Radiance) through the first abandonware sites that cropped up, I could not get into them as the concept of manually mapping was something totally alien (I don't think the possibility even occurred to me).

      But, after discovering the blog many years later, reading how manual mapping was basically expected by the games of the era and how Chet enjoyed the process, I finally came around and, after setting up Excel properly, I have been able to enjoy many past gems: M&M1-3, the Krynn Goldbox trilogy, Eot 1-3, Amberstar, Dungeon Master are all games that I played to completion in the past 5 years or so using my own maps.

      I still would rather have a built-in automap, but I don't consider manual mapping as an obstacle to enjoying those games anymore, just an additional mechanic that comes with the genre.

      In any case, the prompt availability of internet maps and fanmade tools for anything but the most obscure games, should make the point moot nowadays, if you don't like mapping, you don't have to.

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    10. I guess what I would say is that obviously in 1987 nobody was going to give you a premade map. The developers knew this, and therefore they balanced aspects of gameplay around the knowledge that the player would be periodically pausing to fill in the lines on a map. Plus, half the challenge of the game is finding your path to the next level, and you can see how this game subverts expectations in that regard.

      Naturally, we have to adopt a certain “you do you” attitude when it comes to anything that’s supposed to be entertaining, but in my view, if you play this game without making maps, you’re getting a warped perspective of the game’s intended pacing and difficulty. If I was unwilling to make my own maps, I think I would just conclude that I don’t like this kind of game, and move on.

      If the game comes with an auto map, then presumably the developers have found other ways to balance different types of gameplay. not all developers have a great sense of pacing, so your mileage may vary depending on the game. Anyway, I was going flesh all this out in my next entry, so what I’m saying here is a bit of a preview.

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    11. Chet said what I was going to.

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    12. I can't imagine also having draw your own maps in UnderRail given how much of that game is already designed to hinder you at every turn. It's actually the first game I thought of when Chet opened his W4 coverage discussing how there are certain games of such high difficulty and/or antagonism that you need a surfeit of patience to see them through. (Too bad it's a 2015 game, I would've liked to have seen a CRPGAddict blog on it eventually. Either way, it has enough modern conveniences that I'm sure it's not as tough to handle as W4.)
      It's been brought up before I'm sure but there's also the Etrian Odyssey franchise and how it initially saw a lot of attention in part because it forced the player make all their own maps, which was treated as a novel feature after two decades of every dungeon-crawler having auto-mapping. I always found it curious how taking a quality-of-life feature away became a feature in and of itself. Then again, in EO's case, the map drawing tools were part of the in-game interface which I'm not sure I've seen any game do before or since.

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    13. As someone who cut their teeth on the original Fallouts, is Underrail worth playing? I don't have a ton of patience for rough edges (these days) and poorly written dialogue, and I think those things turned me off after giving it 15 minutes a while ago.

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    14. Yeah, not doing your own mapping breaks the navigation puzzles that developers from this era seemed to love. Spinners and darkness squares and teleporters completely fail to confuse if you have an automap to track your location. Traps like that are specifically designed to complicate mapping and don't make any sense otherwise.

      I will say that I played Bard's Tale Remastered and it included some interesting compromises to help the game's dungeons work even with an automap, like restricting the automap in dark areas. Spinners were still pointless, but that's ok.

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    15. My biggest problem with Underrail is that its main quest takes about 20 hours to start properly. Before that you're just doing boring chores, without much context or plot throughline. And I only know that from reading walkthtoughs because I could never master enough patience to get to the exciting parts.

      But then again, I find the main quest in either Fallout to be complete snoozfest too. I think, the difference is that it's less restrictive - in Fallouts, the world is immediately open, while in Underrail your access is gated by stages of MQ.

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    16. I loved Underrail, but more for its mechanics than for writing or quests. It has a fun combat (until the last level) and a fun crafting system. Dialogues... They exist and covey the story well enough that I was able to understand what's going on and what are my goals. They're probably better than the original ATOM RPG's translation from Russian.

      I wouldn't call them bad or rough, but neither they're great, and the story itself isn't all that unique or nuanced, compared to, say, Spiderweb Software games which I love for their philosophical takes concentrated in different factions, even though those games also have very bland dialogues.

      Anyway, I think if you loved Fallout, there are just not that many games in the market that you can play to scratch the same itches, so take another chance with Underrail - setting enemies on fire with pyrokinetics never grows old.

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    17. To return to the main thread re mapping being the way games of this era are meant to be played, I'll strongly agree -- I recently went back and played the first three Might and Magic games, and especially for the first one, I'd imagine it'd be paradoxically frustrating to play without mapping. The game has no compunctions about ambushing you from time to time with very hard encounters that are almost guaranteed to kill you. If you were playing to win from the get-go, that seems like it'd really suck, but if you'd managed to get a good chunk of mapping done, you get a solid sense of accomplishment that makes reloading and trying again much more palatable. Mapping also reduces the amount of pointless grinding you need to do, since you're more likely to spend time exploring and getting treasure and XP rather than making a beeline for the critical path and then finding out you're dramatically underlevelled.

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    18. Having not played any games that required manual mapping until a year ago, I can't say I found it too much of a problem to get used to, outside of the rare dungeon crawlers with vast areas of nothing. What should get more shade thrown at it are games that expect you to make your own quest journal, because you don't know what you should write down, so its a good idea to write down most of it. I, someone who has written notes down for adventure games in the past, finds that to be too much work for generally no reward.

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    19. I quite enjoy mapping, I think when done with a game that's designed for mapping it does help with the pacing.

      There are two side effects I quite like, the first is that once you've finished the game you're left with the maps, it's a personal thing but they feel like a certificate of success and it can be nice just to look back at them. The second thing is that you're much more likely to take notice of what the game's saying by writing it down. Every small comment has you looking through your notes to see where you've seen "Mount Gygax" mentioned elsewhere and it allows a plot to from from relatively small number of obscure messages.

      I guess I'm lazy enough that if the game offers me the option of just following a marker and not really getting involved in the story I'll take that option.

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    20. I wonder if manual mapping was an intentional feature or if it was merely the consequence of not having the resources to include an automap?

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    21. Some of both, perhaps. But in the original versions of D&D and AD&D, the players were supposed to make the maps of the dungeons themselves based on the DM's descriptions, and the DM was encouraged to put things in the dungeons to confuse the maps the players were making. I never played this way and I didn't know anyone else who did, but it could be the origin of the Wizardry-style mapping and confusion.

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    22. Another thing people did was to just play so much, you'd just memorize all the hallways for each level as you went along. This was only practical before there were just too many games available.

      Another problem with that is if you're expected to either (1) teleport to the last explored spaces in a space-filling map, or (2) the walls of the map spell out something, then you probably won't notice either. Chester already probably thinks one or both is likely enough that he's not going to even think about that anyway.

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    23. For this game a large part of the gating of game progress is creating the maps. I went back and replayed the entire game to get to the ultimate ending about 10 years after my first play through. I reused my old maps and it didn’t take long at all. If you know where stuff is you can pick up everything the puzzle pieces that drop from encounters pretty fast. A lot of the challenge is how they make the game difficult to map. Also teleporting in Wizardy requires precise maps. There are games where you can memorize the maps. This is not one of them — you would find it easier to memorize most 3D maps than this. I can’t think of a game with a more complicated map.

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    24. I was too young to have witnessed the age of paper mapping. Born in 88, and the first games I played were point and click adventures. I only got into RPGs later.

      When I did get into RPGs, graphics were advanced enough that mapping isn't necessary at all. Even early 90s games like World of Xeen could easily be played without looking atthe minimap, and the later Might and Magic games? Yeah, totally. Free movement rather than grid based, and 3D graphics advanced enough to give every area some recognizable landmarks.

      I never felt the need to look at the map in games like M&M 6-9,
      Wizardry 8, Morrowind, Gothic, Wizards and Warriors, etc. I have a pretty good sense of direction so I can easily navigate these games by looking at the surroundings and learning the lay of the land.

      When I tried playing older dungeon crawlers, the difficulty of navigating just by looking at what's on the screen initially put me off. All hallways having the same texture, if they even have a texture at all, combined with step based movement... you'll get lost easily without a map to reference, because there are no landmarks to navigate by.

      From the early 90s onwards, maps mostly become unnecessary for me. But in 80s games, they're pretty much a necessity.

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    25. Yeah, paper mapping is very much a hold-over from the early tabletop RPGs that the Wizardry series is particular imitated. Game sessions were rarely narrative, since your knight in plate mail could be insta-killed by a small child with a butter knife who got a lucky role; mostly what you did was descend through the various of a dungeon, killing monsters avoiding traps, and carefully mapping so you could find your way back to the surface. Wizardry feels more like early D&D than just about any other classic CRPG series, and the careful hand-mapping is part of that whole experience.

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  12. These are the no-return gotchas of the game I can think of offhand (ROT13, I'm going to keep this relatively unspecific though):

    * Ba yriry 7, gurer'f n cbvag jurer lbh trg n pubvpr orgjrra bar bs guerr jrncbaf. Guvf pubvpr qrgrezvarf gur sbex orgjrra guerr bs gur zhygvcyr raqvatf. V'q nibvq znxvat guvf pubvpr hagvy nf yngr nf cbffvoyr, vs lbh pner nobhg gur raqvat sbex.
    * Ba yriry 4, gurer'f n fznyy nern gung'f ohttrq va fbzr irefvbaf, jurer whfg ragrevat znxrf gur tnzr hajvaanoyr. Bapr lbh trg pybfr V pna yrg lbh xabj rknpgyl juvpu fdhnerf gb nibvq.
    * Qba'g tb hc sebz yriry 4 hagvy lbh'ir gubebhtuyl rkcyberq gur ybjre yriryf. Fbba nsgre lbh ragre yriry 3, lbh'er pbzzvggrq hagvy lbh ernpu gur pnfgyr. V pna yrg lbh xabj vs lbh'er zvffvat nalguvat.
    * Lbh'yy riraghnyyl svaq na vgrz gung fgbcf vafgnag-qrngu nggnpxf. Vs lbh ybfr vg gb rvgure xvaq bs cbffvoyr enaqbz ebyy, naq lbh pna'g tb onpx gb jurer lbh bevtvanyyl tbg vg, lbh fubhyq erybnq. (Abg fgevpgyl arrqrq, ohg lbh znl rnfvyl erterg abg qbvat fb.)

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    Replies
    1. Lbh pna qebc bar bs gur jrncbaf naq tb onpx naq cvpx nabgure hc. V qvq gung gb rkcyber gung frg bs raqvatf. Vs V erpnyy gur ernyyl pevgvpny cbvag vf gb fbyir gur tngrf bs uryy orsber ragrevat gur phor. V’z cerggl fher gur tnzr jnezf lbh nobhg gung.

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    2. Huh, interesting. Did you play the standalone version, or the Ultimate Wizardry Archives one?

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    3. The level 4 one is the one where:
      You can rotate walls around and lock yourself into a room?

      Yea that one was a bit annoying.

      If I remember rightly, last time Chet looked ahead at that map and felt confident in his decision to quit.

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  13. I do rather like the flavour texts added here in W4 - they tend to be written from Werdna's insane evil internal monologue.

    This and the other unique elements of the game, summoning up your hordes, playing the bad guy, climbing out of your tomb. It all kept me with the game through the nastier difficulty spikes.

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  14. Chet, there's one more thing, more advice than anything, and maybe it's already been covered. But because the game is SO difficult, I'll mention it anyway (rot-13 style): Ba nal yriry, jura lbh svefg yriry hc ng n cragntenz, FNIR VZZRQVNGRYL. That might be sorta common sense, but (rot13) vg'f fbzrgvzrf rnfl gb sbetrg qhr gb gur jrveq fnir zrpunavp bs erfcnjavat nyy gur rarzvrf. Vg'f fnsre gb fnir nsgre lbh'er n yriry uvture. Nal cerivbhf rarzvrf lbh'ir snprq ner abj rira rnfvre gb qrsrng, naq lbh pna erghea gb gur cragntenz nalgvzr lbh jnag. Lbh bayl yriry hc bapr cre cragntenz gubhtu, fb bayl qb vg gur svefg gvzr. V guvax gur bayl gvzrf gb fnir gur tnzr, cre yriry, vf jura lbh svefg yriry hc ng gur cragntenz, naq evtug orsber gur rkvg gb gur uvture sybbe. V fhccbfr lbh pbhyq nyfb fnir ng gur irel ortvaavat bs gur arkg sybbe, ohg qba'g birejevgr nal fnirf, whfg va pnfr. Whfg pbcl gurz gb nabgure sbyqre be fbzrguvat.

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  15. The way you describe the explore/map/die loop really reminds me of games nowadays that use meta-progression as a main mechanic, like having some form of xp and/or skills carry over to the next run of the game after you inevitably die. It's just your map, but that's a huge part of the game and like you said, it's not like your losing xp or anything.

    ReplyDelete

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