Thursday, December 1, 2022

Game 476: SOTE: Shadow of the Evil (1993)

I'm glad they put this disclaimer. I have a friend who went into a cave with his girlfriend and got sucked into another dimension where he had to battle orcs and ghosts, and I was thinking the authors might have based the game on him.
SOTE: Shadow of the Evil
Ultraforce Software Team (developer); Markt und Technik (publisher, via 64'er magazine)
Released 1993 for Commodore 64
Date Started: 24 November 2022
SOTE: Shadow of the Evil is an unfortunately-named diskmag game from Hungarian authors Csaba Tóth & Viktor Szenczy. Working out the title twisted me in knots. The German language version gives it as Der Schatten Des Bösen ("The Shadow of Evil"), which makes a lot more sense. But the acronymic main title and the English title screen don't give us a lot of room to maneuver. The magazine in which it appeared, the December 1993 64'er, calls it Shadow of the Devil on the cover.
Shadow of the Devil frankly makes more sense.
I originally found two versions of the game, one labeled "English" and the other labeled "German." The English version had an odious "cracktro" screen (I hate to validate it by even using that stupid term) but gives the option to go to a configuration menu after you click past it. But I couldn't get the introductory cinematic to load. The German version had the cinematic but was in German. Thanks to Busca for helping me realize that they were in fact the same version, and you just need to hit SPACE during the loading process on the "German" version to switch to English. 
The cinematic starts with someone surveying the landscape from a castle rampart.
The cinematic offers a modern-day framing story. You play Troy Perkins, who has accompanied his girlfriend, Eve, to a dinner party at the house of their friends, Bob and Sheila, somewhere along the English Channel. After dinner, Troy and Eve decide to go for a stroll along the beach.
Ah, yes, the snow-capped peaks of the Kentish coast.
A ground tremor forces them to seek shelter in a cave, where some kind of whirlwind picks them up and carries them away. Troy awakens on a dirt floor at the feet of an old man who introduces himself as Larome Lan L'Ore ("the arch mage of the northern half"). He explains that the lovers have been sucked into the world of Corlon by Harcon, "arch-mage of the southern half." Larome has managed to interfere and rescue Troy, but Eve is being held prisoner in a castle. Harcon intended to sacrifice the couple to his god, but apparently his god will only accept a double sacrifice, so Eve is safe for now. Larome teleports Troy to the castle with instructions to rescue Eve and return with Larome's stolen Ring of Power, which he can use to send them back. Larome teaches Troy a few spells, then teleports him to the forest near Harcon's castle, instructing Troy to blow a whistle when he's found Eve and the ring. Troy walks to the castle and squeezes in through a crack in the stones.
My confusion often kills my acts.
Gameplay begins in a niche on the other side of that crack, which mysteriously doesn't appear from this side. Immediately, you are confronted with the absolute worst interface in CRPG history. On the right-hand side of the screen are all the game's commands, including some intriguing ones like "Hide" and "Disguise." To activate these options, you don't use keyboard commands. You don't arrow through them and hit ENTER on your chosen selection. You don't use a mouse (which is rarely required for C64 games, though the platform did support it). Instead--I can't believe I'm actually typing this--you use the joystick to move the cursor over the commands and hit the button. Yes, it's just as difficult and annoying as you might think it is for buttons that small. The only saving grace--and the only reason I'm even writing about this game--is that you can map movement and inventory to keys of your choice. [Ed. I owe the author an apology here. Although the joystick is the default interface, as Busca points out, it's possible to change to a mouse in the "Settings" menu. I just overlooked it.]
You'd better believe it.
Once you get past the interface issue, you seem to be in a boilerplate Wizardry or Bard's Tale knock-off with maybe a couple of nods to Dungeon Master. You explore a textured environment. You don't see enemies until combat begins. Combat is turn-based. Yada yada. But slowly, the game reveals some innovations that make it at least slightly more intriguing than the average clone. These include:
  • A long set of interesting options in combat. In addition to the standard regular attack, aggressive attack ("Fiercer"), and defensive attack, plus spell options, you get "Frighten," "Mock," "Mislead," and "Talk," as well as a "Measure" option that gives you a summary of the creature. I wonder if the game was at all influenced by Fate: Gates of Dawn (1991) and some of its similar encounter options.
The "Measure" option tells you something about your foe.
  • The game brings up the "combat" menu for non-combat encounters, too, so you have full access to dialogue and persuasion options even with NPCs. Or you could kill them if you're of such a bent.
  • The aforementioned options to "Disguise" and "Hide" while exploring. Admittedly, I haven't found any use for them. There's also a "Switch" option, which I assume will be used to activate wall switches and such.
  • You can look (straight) up and down. So far, all this has shown me is ceilings and floors, but I didn't try it on every square.
Looking down at the floor.
  • Even though you can't see enemies in the exploration window, it appears that the game spawns them at fixed locations and tracks them from there. You can "hear" them (via textual alerts) as you get close. If they catch your scent, they'll move to intercept or chase you.
  • There are hints of more interesting puzzles than the usual clone. So far, there have been no generic messages on walls. Instead, there have been unusual encounters with clues.
  • The resting system. The game asks you how many hit points and spell points you want to recover, then makes you wait as time ticks by. You recover points at a rate of about one every six seconds at normal speed. Full recovery from starting hit points takes about two minutes. I like this. Too many games make resting and healing too easy. If you're going to offer such a mechanic, it ought to come with some kind of risk or penalty. Usually, this is done through risk or penalty to the character; I'd like to see more games that make the player suffer the penalty. Of course, emulating the game, it's easy enough just to "Warp Mode" through it, but I'll try not to do that.
  • The message window keeps an ongoing log of everything that happens from the moment you load or reload a game. As long as you don't have to reload, you can scroll backwards and re-check messages and dialogue that happened hours ago.
The first level is 18 x 25--at least, the initial part (see below)--with a fair amount of dead space. I bashed most of the walls around the dead space for secret doors, but I don't even know if the game has secret doors that can be found that way. Maybe I'm supposed to "Search" every square instead.
The first level--so far.
There are maybe a dozen enemies of three different types: things that look like monstrous guards, things that look like wolf-men, and dark one-eyed things with catlike ears. I mostly used physical attacks on them, but I tried a couple spells. You start with "Shield," "Read Magic," "Flame Column," and "Magical Violence." I assume you get more later. None of the enemies is individually difficult, but you need to rest after two or three.
I think the authors meant "phew."
Slain enemies drop items, and one of the game's quirks is that you have to watch the little rectangular symbol between the two scroll arrows to the right of the message window. When it changes from blue (or whatever the regular color is) to white, that means there's something on the floor. You go to the inventory window to see and distribute it.
The inventory window is designed in a way that I've never seen before. It has four major sections. The top left shows items on the floor. The bottom left shows equipped items, like helmets, boots, gauntlets, armor, and cloaks, each of which adds to your defensive rating. There are five "belt" slots below the equipped items, but the only thing I've been able to put into the slots are keys. In the upper-right, you have your left and right hands and a "bags" slot for any backpack or bag you find. The items in containers appear in the "Carry" section in the lower-right. Moving items between the areas is accomplished the same way as using the menus: Use the joystick to move the cursor over the item and hit the "fire" button to pick it up, then move and hit the "fire" button again to put it down.
My inventory about halfway through the game.
You start the game with only a lighter in your right hand and a whistle in your left. For a while after the game starts, you have no bag, so you have to drop those items somewhere if you want to pick up a weapon or shield. I did find a single bag on the first level, which allows for eight inventory slots. There's more space in the window, so I wonder if different containers offer more slots. Besides weapons and armor, items I found on the level include a stick, a bag of 5 gold coins, a needle and thread, two unknown potions, a flask of water, and a hammer.
The level is full of locked doors, most of which open to simple gray keys. I found at least three of them on the bodies of monsters. One door required a gray key of a different design. I also found a gold key but I didn't find a use for that yet. There's a "doorbreak" option with an unfortunate message when you attempt it, but I couldn't get it to work on any door. There's a chance it may break your weapon.
Well, the door is to the east.
There were a few interesting encounters on the first level. At the end of one corridor, I found a plaque with some glyphs. The "Search" menu allowed me to read the plaque, and it gave me an odd little poem:
The way is double
Somewhere else,
Ohh! You can't know
How to go,
Use your brain to 
Find which tells
"Worthless is
the better, so."
I don't know if that's deliberately cryptic or just bad English. As you've undoubtedly noticed, English translation wasn't the strongest skill of the developers.
Another corridor ended in a mosaic of symbols. It was dark at first but activating the lighter with the "Use Item" menu lit it up. It depicts a 5 x 6 grid of symbols, many of them repeating. 
It could be a giant version of Concentration.
In a locked room at the top of the map (although the game offers no sense of orientation), I met an old man in what looks like a prison cell. He introduced himself as Woford'Ne'Lions, former prince of Bergisa. He thanked me for his release and gave me a number (25) to "use where [I] can."
Note that I have all the same options as in combat.
There are three exits from the level. In what I mapped as the southwest corner, there's a pentagram that will teleport you to a new area. In the northeast corner is a gateway to a new area. And in the southeast corner, there's a door for which I haven't found the key. It may open a new section of this level or lead to a different one.
One of the three ways out.
Overall, I found my first session intriguing and relatively satisfying. I haven't had the best of luck with German diskmag games, but I'm willing to play it as long as I can find things to do. I still don't know if there's any real character development, however. You have five attributes--attack, defense, magic, speed, and body (hit points)--but the only thing to affect their maximums has been finding new equipment. There's no hint of experience points or any other type of leveling. However, the "Rest" menu lets you specify more hit points than you start with for healing, so I assume max hit points must increase eventually.
The authors of the game are given as Csaba Tóth and Viktor Szenczy. There are a couple of plausible Csaba Tóths out there; I've reached out to two, but with no responses yet. I know I've asked a lot of my German readers this month, but if any of you could read over the three pages in 64'er from the game's original release and let me know if I've missed anything vital, I would appreciate it.
Time so far: 3 hours


  1. It's not a great title, but at least it's better than Shadowy Corrupt Realm of the Evil.

    I'm surprised they went to the trouble to translate a diskmag game into a foreign language. Two, I guess, since maybe it was Hungarian to start with?

    1. The fact that the configuration menu is in English to me indicates that version existed before the German one.

      My guess is they programmed it in Hungarian first, then, having what they considered to be a decent product, translated it into English for a broader market. (Or English came first as per the configuration menu and Hungarian was an 'easy' extra for the home market?) And the authors then potentially thought it would be worth the effort to improve their chances even more by providing also a German version given the importance of the German-speaking C64 market at that time? Or maybe they even did so to have a shot at winning that DM 4000 prize '64'er' offered for the 'program of the month' (as they did)?

      All speculation, of course. Let's see if Chet gets hold of the authors or they or someone else involved happen to show up here independently and tell us about it.

    2. Being from Hungary, the translations gave me a good chuckle - I can picture the developers typing in the text with a dictionary in hand, going from word to word without the faintest idea about English grammar :))
      That being so, I think the "cryptic poem" was probably intended to be something like this:

      There are two ways
      somewhere else
      Oh, you cannot know
      which way to go.
      Use your brain
      to find that which says:
      "This way,
      the better is worthless."

      Still cryptic though.

      About the developers, it'd probably be impossible to find Csaba Tóth, as it's about as common a name here as John Smith, but the other name is pretty unique, it should be easier to follow up on.

    3. Ha. I didn't realize that name was so common. I was so sure that I had identified the author just because he was from Hungary and the right age that I sent an awfully specific email to him. He must have been very confused.

  2. The graphics seem astonishingly good for the C64. It's a C64 game released in 93, but still. The viewport in Bard's Tale was a tiny box in the corner...

    1. I second that notion. I do like the look of this one. Interface issues aside.

    2. And even then, controlling a cursor with the joystick is normal interface design by C64 standards. Mice look obvious in retrospect, but they weren't common in the early DOS days either.

  3. Damn, that first caption caught me unawares when I was drinking coffee. Excuse me while I clean up the mess.

  4. What are the chances that the "good" wizard has a similar plan to the "bad" wizard and he's using the protagonist to conveniently fetch him his girlfriend?

    I'll say that the game looks really good for C64, although of course a 1993 C64 game is kind of an anachronism.

    @Chet, I saw that you removed the upcoming games from the list, any change you plan in that regard?

    1. Chet will reveal that after playing SoccerStar, he's decided to change the direction of his blog and from henceforth he will be known as the Football Management Simulation Addict.

    2. Regarding the framing story, yeah, I was gonna say... Either the developers missed a glaring plot hole the size of Cornwall, or there's a major twist behind the motives of our "good" wizard:

      "Hi there, I am a powerful wizard, and I used my vast powers to save you, a powerless norm, from the clutches of my eeeeeevil rival, who wants to sacrifice you to achieve his goals. So, even though I am mighty and you are a wet blanket, I'm sending you DIRECTLY TO HIM so you can foil his plans once and for all. What a great plan!" 😁

    3. @Tristan I was thinking more on the lines of him starting a Pokemon or Shin Megami Tensei retrospective :)

    4. Nah, you're all wrong. He's just adding all console jprg's to the list, prioritizing those completely full of manga art.

    5. I don't know what I'm doing with the upcoming list. I'm kind of in a funk lately, though, and a MotelSoft game wasn't going to be what pulled me out of it. I need the freedom to just mess around for a while.

    6. Dungeon Hack? Eye of the Beholder meets Rogue.

      Forgotten Realms: Unlimited Adventures? It comes with a stock dungeon that can be reviewed.

      Ultima VII Part Two: Serpent Isle + Silver Seed? It's Ultima, enough said.

      Fun fact: this blog so thoroughly dominates the search results for "CRPG" that it might as well be its own category.

    7. Got it. Other 1993 suggestions to get out of the rut:

      Shadowcaster: FPS meets CRPG (but more hack and slash than Underworld)

      Betrayal at Krondor: unique CRPG based on Raymond Feist books. Lots of riddles, turn based combat, great attention to world building and story.

      Castle of the Winds, Windows 3.1 Roguelike that should be more user friendly than the usual fare. Lots of people’s first roguelike since it was a common shareware to find.

      Ambermoon: Sequel to Amberstar, much improved from its prequel, generally considered to be the Amiga’s swan song

    8. He probably doesn't need suggestions, but I second Dungeon Hack. Not because it's a particularly good game. But it's simple, reasonably entertaining and, I guess... inoffensive?

    9. AlphabeticalAnonymousDecember 2, 2022 at 10:00 AM

      For whatever it's worth, I'd also second the suggestion of Ambermoon. There were definitely a few surprises & twists in that one that caught me unawares.

    10. Given that Chet has just played Angband, Bugs and Drugs and DM2, I'd say Dungeon Hack is the last thing he needs. Betrayal at Krondor, on the other hand, could work very well - it excells at most of the Gimlet categories and is quite likely to overtake the top rated spot, or at least get very close to it.

    11. My own suggestion is to pause a couple of weeks. You have passed the 100 threshold this year, so whatever happens it is a good year.
      Also, stop with the roguelikes. They are draining.

    12. One option for Addict might be to revisit Eye of the Beholder with recently released, fanmade conversion for C64/C128 which is available for free and supports both mouse and the faster CPU of 128. Also, this version includes automap and in-game bestiary; as matter of fact, by using the dual-monitor functionality of C128 it is possible to have automap on one display while running the rest of the game on another.

      Gameplay video

    13. I'll admit I was looking forward to Avecta I, but your enthusiasm for the project is more important. Instead, I'll look forward to your coverage whenever it arrives!

      An unwanted, unrequested suggestion: what game are you most afraid you'll never get to? Take a "break" and play and blog that one, sequence be damned.

    14. If you're feeling burnt out, an easy solution - besides taking a break that is - is to abandon the clean-up list either temporarily or for good. It's getting increasingly unlikely you're going to find any "hidden gems" amongst the dregs that are no doubt left, and while I can't speak for everyone I have a feeling that they have a draining effect on your readers as well. The desire to document EVERY game is an admirable one, but maybe not actually possible or desirable in the end. Some things are better left in the past. We can live without another writeup on a samey text-based terminal game or outdated roguelike, honest.

    15. Well, I have to disagree with anon, Iwas honestly looking forward to a 99.99999% 80s finished moment in this blog (with only the then new additions left because as you said the list never ends). Maybe a good Idea would be to wrap up the last non-indie non-freeware published 80s games if there are any left parallel to taking a more lenient approach to the 90s and beyond as you said you would do in the past. As in not playing games in the order of release and hand picking what you play in the future. So you can switch between modern and good games and the dreg more freely.

    16. That really isn't possible. New games are currently being added to the databases faster than my ability to play them. Maybe that will change at some point in the future, but for now, getting to even 90% is a pipe dream.

    17. As another possibility, if 1993 is just too full of dross, you can change your criterion for "completing" a year. Perhaps it's enough to play 2/3 of that year's games, including all its famous ones. This would also increase your freedom moving forward, since you'd retain the option to dip back into 1993 like you're doing with previous years.

    18. @Chet: I'm not actively following this, but at least for the 80s as mentioned by Fireball I didn't think there are still that many 'new' games added which 1) are classified as RPGs and 2) fulfill your criteria so you can't reject them immediately out of hand since no one will ask about them here or limit to a BRIEF if you think it's worth the time.

      This is just repeating what has been discussed more than once before, but I think the key will be to apply your criteria more strictly (your tighter definition of 'CRPG' since March and - if I recall correctly - the option to directly reject games which are clearly amateur efforts that add nothing new) and at the same time use the 'six hour rule' (or 'sux hour rule') on games that are a pain from the start or where it's clear after that time it'll just be a long boring slog, overcoming your (understandable) urge to win as many (numbered) games as possible.

    19. The dynamics of the list in the last 5 years or so :

      [CRPG Addict] Great ! I have finished 1983 ! Again !
      [Mobygames] The theme of this month is : Exidy Sorcerer games ! We feel like we don't have enough of them
      [Hoeksma] Exidy Sorcerer ? Let me check my secret stash... I think I have at least 40 of those ! No time to check in detail. The first screen of these look like Temple of Apshai so I will tag them all as "RPG"
      [CRPG Addict] What are all those games that appeared on Mobygames ? Exidy Sorcerer ? EXIDY SORCERER ? HOW AM I GOING TO EMULATE THAT !


      1 year later :
      [CRPG Addict] Great ! I have finished 1983 ! Again !
      [Mobygames] The theme of this month is : Bavarian games ! We feel like we don't have enough of them.
      [Hoeksma] : Bavarian games ? Hey, my copies of the Telespiel & Lederhosen magazine I bought on ebay are going to be handy

    20. LOL - and probably true.

    21. This comment has been removed by the author.

    22. TWG wasn't being literal on "theme of the month." He was just remarking that games tend to be added in batches as they're discovered in catalogues or shovelware disks or whatever.

      While I have been prone to such thoughts as MK's in the past, it is important to keep in mind that:

      A) MobyGames does not exist to service my blog.

      B) Its goal is to be as comprehensive as possible, so newly discovered games belong in its database.

      C) Genre definitions are sometimes kind of difficult for many early games. Getting them wrong has consequences for my blog, but I'm one of the few people for which it has consequences, and see Item A.

    23. In other words, criticizing people for using a web site as it was intended to be use is both unfair and futile. It's more reasonable to expect me to change my approach than for MG and its contributors to change theirs.

      I realize this contradicts several rants I've made in the past, but those were made it fits of pique, whereas right now I'm calm and rational. I still do criticize MG, however, for allowing entries on games for which there is no proof they existed.

    24. This comment has been removed by the author.

    25. Wow MK, passive aggressive much?

    26. A peculiar hill to die on, MK
      I did not expect to create such a acrimonious response from what was a tongue-in-cheek comment. I feel like those who document every single game in Mobygames are doing the Lord's work, and Hoeksma that I mentionned because he contributed so much actually put screenshoots of a session of all the games he adds to the database, so it is really helpful to find the game you would be looking for.

      Generally speaking, it is weird to blame Mobygames for something every other site is doing (going for quantity rather than quality / proof of existence, and not being very strict on the categories). Overall, I find Mobygames better than Wikipedia, and it has much less of an impact. The
      Selft promotion moment ( : The most dramatic example may be Cosmic Conquest. TLDR, a lot of video game "experts" (big youtubers, video game "journalists" and even research paper / thesis) started from 2015 to state that a game called Cosmic Conquest was one of the most important precursors of RTS. Now, fun-fact : the game is not a RTS, and absolutely no one had played that game (because it was de facto lost until 2021), they just kept one another's "research" on the topic without checking it, and the first of those "researcher" had found the game on the Wikipedia RTS list and then added a few random comments to pretend he or she had played it for real. Why was it on Wikipedia as a RTS ? Someone had found it on and trusted the "marketing" description of the game. To this day, Cosmic Conquest is not on Mobygames where the criteria for inclusion are actually stronger.
      Less dramatically, War of Nerves! is improperly called a RTS on Wikipedia (source : an old Mobygames-like called, but not on Mobygames, so again Mobygames beat Wikipedia.

      But now, I am the one ranting so I will stop here and just say I praise Mobygames for existing and the hundred of anonymous contributors for adding games in it, whatever the quality of said games.

    27. MK, I didn't see your original comment before you deleted it, so I'll just say based on your second one I'm wondering if you had a bad day.

      Regarding your argument in that latter one, yes, mistakes are made and indeed often get replicated elsewhere like anything else. That's a general problem not limited to mobygames as TWS' example above illustrates. And yes, that can be frustrating sometimes.

      However, the realistic alternative to me would be not that everybody becomes perfect, but that people are turned off due to criticism and stop adding to such sites for free in their spare time. Instead of an impressive database with some errors, we'd then have no database or a woefully incomplete and sparse one, the result being you'd have to search much more in many more cases. To me it's clear which scenario I prefer and even if some mistakes or shortcomings on/of mobygames might be frustrating at times, I still think it's great many people contribute to it.

      Hope you get over this and we go back to jointly commenting on all the interesting subjects this blog brings up through its articles and comment section.
      (And @TWS: I hope you are not discouraged from posting further tongue-in-cheek comments. I found it pretty funny.)

    28. @The Wargaming Scribe I certainly appreciated that you correctly associated Lederhosen with Bavaria instead of Germany in general.

    29. Chet, I've followed your blog for a long time. I'm just one guy, but for what it's worth, a couple points.

      1) I'd much rather read you when you're having fun rather than when you're performing joyless historical chores. The posts that have stuck with me and that I've come back to again and again have been the ones about games I loved or that you loved.

      2) To me the most useful, unique, and interesting part of this blog is the grand sweep of CRPG history written by a single voice against a single set of criteria, not a detailed accounting of every minute shareware title created for every minor platform. I'm here for the GIMLETs that tell the meaningful progression of CRPGs through time, not the GIMLETs that waste your talent and experience on CRPGs that were thrown together by people with a fraction of your knowledge and experience and played by fewer people than read this blog.

    30. Interesting post, Arthegall, as my experience is different. For me the most memorable posts are the ones that are in some way distinctive, be the experience a positive one or a negative one.

      Sometimes the Addict brings something distinctive in his writing to an unremarkable game, but usually it's the experience of playing the game itself -- whether its content or its hassles -- that seems to be the trigger for a memorable entry, at least for me.

      Per your #2, my philosophical objection is this: you don't know what's insignificant until you play it. After all, the 1982 game of the year is on a minor platform often viewed with mild disdain. Easy enough to say "Nothing of value ever happened on that stupid machine" and never give it a look, right?

      I've worked on several projects not dissimilar to Chet's, including one that required me to spend hundreds of hours going through a massive archive of media and writing a detailed review of every single one. Sure, 95% of the time, my first impressions were correct and obvious crap was crap.

      But it's that 5% that gets you -- the 5% that doesn't present itself well but turns out to be awesome, or unusual, or at least interesting. I can't tell you how often I found that most reviewers seemingly hadn't actually watched, played, read, or listened to the work in question, but instead had relied on everyone else's received wisdom, right down to basic factual errors.

      The fact that Chet doesn't do that is the fundamental key to this blog for me. We don't need more reviewers in any medium who take shortcuts, and Chet is generally a breath of fresh air in that regard. That doesn't mean I want to see Chet spend 20 hours on an unplayable shareware title, but it does mean that I appreciate the fact that he takes the time to investigate each title for himself, whether it's famous or obscure, critically-acclaimed or reviled, and makes up his own mind.

      (It's the job of commenters, I suppose, to help filter that list according to his criteria. That's part of why people get weird about those criteria -- taking them seriously, and wanting to get it right -- but the danger of lapsing into some kind of weird legalistic thing is always present.)

    31. "That doesn't mean I want to see Chet spend 20 hours on an unplayable shareware title." In that spirit, PK, I'm afraid I've had to reject Avecta. No character development--not even any attributes. I hated the interface, too.

    32. But I appreciate your comments on the blog.

    33. I get what you're saying PK, but it doesn't seem sustainable for Chet or honestly very interesting (to me at least) to have him continually rehashing the 80s.

      I want a Deus Ex GIMLET before he hangs up his cleats--should that day ever come--nevermind one for Oblivion and WoW.

    34. Great comment PK, 100% agreed and couldn't have said it any better. Which doesn't mean I'm not glad to see Chet rejecting games which clearly lack any substantial RPG ingredients.

    35. @Chet: No worries! I didn't realize Avecta was so devoid of development -- I see it doesn't even give XP for fights, if I understand it correctly? (Virtual Hydlide does the same thing, so at least you never have to even consider playing that one!)

      I imagine you can see how I mistook Avecta for a CRPG, as it takes pains to present itself as one. Others have been fooled too, it seems, as all the usual indices list it as one. Don't know what I'd call it instead: a pseudo-RPG, I guess?

      @Arthegall: I personally don't look forward to entries on the most famous games nearly as much as I look forward to learning about something interesting I've never heard of. (Selfishly, I also prefer old-school, limited-tech aesthetics and gameplay to newer game styles.) But, I understand your point of view.

      @fireball: Thanks!

  5. Again several captions that made me chuckle there - the disclaimer, the Kentish coast, your confusion... .

    So the evil Harcon needs Troy for his double sacrifice. Sounds like a great idea then to send exactly this one clueless guy from another dimension right into Harcon's castle just equipped with some basic spells... .
    Just see "El despertando" said the same thing now already.

    Maybe the "belt" slot is only intended for keys? Makes a certain sense to e.g. have them attached to your trousers/belt on a keychain and this way you don't have to search them in a container/bag.

    1. Yeah, like I said, unless there's a big twist coming up concerning our good wizard Larome, this sounds like an incredibly stupid idea. What vexes me most is that the developers spent all these walls of texts setting up the premise and then came up with that, when the premise could actually be improved only adding or changing a bit

      Like, have Larome explain the situation to Troy, but instead of teaching him basics and then sending him out to defeat Troy, he goes "So you see, the best thing for you is to just stay put and wait here, where Harcon can't reach and sacrifice you! Meanwhile, I'll go and try to recruit a local hero to try and save your girlfriend." But Troy gets crazy worried what might happen to his fiancee while he sits around doing nothing, so while the wizard is away, he decides to take action, grabs whatever weaponry and valuables he can find that might help him (which isn't much because Larome never intended to fit him out for such a task) and equipped with a spell book he barely understands and can only get a few basic skills to work with (but, as he gains experience, he gets better to grips with, resulting in more powerful spells), he sets out to try and save her on his own. This would work much better as a setup, and has the additional side effect of properly explaining the tired old cliche premise of why the hero setting out to save the world isn't already equipped to his teeth and a trained, properly skilled magic user from the get-go.

  6. Speaking only for myself, of course, you really do not need to worry here about asking too much from your (in this case German-speaking) readers. You do all the heavy lifting and often grapple with emulator and other technical issues, infuriating interfaces and/or tedious gameplay, still producing well written and interesting blog entries for our enjoyment without necessarily expecting anything in return.

    I for one am happy if I can help a little bit in this process by contributing to solve issues like language.

    Looking at the '64'er' pages and having run a quick test myself, a few comments:

    - It might be possible to slightly improve the terrible interface. The "settings" menu (lowest command on the right hand side menu) allows, i.a., to switch to "mouse". This could make navigating between and selecting the options to the right or the inventory somewhat more bearable. However, before doing that, in order for the game to register the mouse clicks, you have to click on "click" in the same menu.

    "Fast" and "Normal" refer to the mouse cursor speed according to '64'er'. No idea about "Get-hold" and "Put-Swap", though. They are the same in German (abbreviated versions of "Fassen-Halten" and "Legen-Wechseln", but no further explanation given). Maybe toggle the function of certain selections?

    - By the way, just in case you hadn't noticed yet, the same "settings" menu allows to turn each music and sound effects on/off separately (plus there is a separate "silence" option, not sure if that's both in one click or if there are other additional sounds besides those two). "Pics" allows to turn graphics (on/)off.

    - The command shown as "doorbreak" appears to be somewhat misleading. The German version calls it "Einstoßen" - "Push in" and the explanations on the commands in the '64'er' give its function as "Destroy brittle/fractured walls", so it might be usable on those (as well).

    - "Switch" is indeed intended for levers according to this.

    - "Handswap" is just "Swap" in German and its function given as "change weapons".

    1. Note that the mouse has to be in "Port 1", maybe this is something you have to change in the emulator settings.

    2. The funniest part is the recommendation (in the comments) to play the game in English because the German translation is so bad.

    3. The text in the magazine even states that it can be played with the keyboard. I am pretty surprised I haven't even heard of this game, me being from Hungary.

    4. ... and a very active player back in the days.

    5. Sorry, wrong button.

      @Adam: My understanding is this refers only to movement + looking up & down and opening the inventory since these are the only keys you can remap in the configuration menu (as Chet also discovered). So playable "partially" by keyboard might have been a more accurate description.

    6. @Adam The Hungary-Germany connection on Commodore platforms was very strong in the early 90s, mostly (I believe) because Commodore Germany used the recently raised Iron curtain to offload most of their old C64 and Amiga stock there, which unlocked a new market and breathed new life into the 8bit publishing scene. So Many Hungarian developers reached out to German mags and publishers to help them get started and help them distribute their software. Quite a few Hungarian-developed games reached Germany that way and are probably better known here than anywhere else (concise names escape me now, but 2001s Newcomer might be such an example, albeit quite a late one).

    7. Busca, thanks for alerting me to the "Mouse" option in the "Settings" menu. That does make the interface a lot more tolerable and my mockery thus unwarranted. Also thanks for the translation help.

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    9. Could "Get-hold" and "Put-Swap" be something like "hold the mouse button down while dragging items around" vs. "click once to swap the item that is glued to the cursor with the item underneath (or nothing)"?

  7. Some questions from someone new to the platform about why Commodore 64 games have different pixels:
    You can see that some objects are 1x1 pixels (intro screen, the text), and some (like Larome, the enemy portraits, and the frame) are 2x1 pixels - "wide pixels" or "fat pixels". What's with the intro scene and text having 1x1 pixels? I thought C64 background elements could only be rendered in wide pixels, and only single-colour sprites could be 1x1 pixels. Though, there are some games like The Trap Door, ported from the ZX Spectrum, that use character-based, 1x1 pixel tiles to make graphics. I would be willing to bet that the intro screen and The Trap Door are using some kind of graphics mode - except that this doesn't explain how the 1x1 pixel text can exist alongside the 2x1 Larome, enemy portraits, and frame. I thought the text would be counted as a background element, right? Too many letters for them to be sprites. Is it actually possible to mix 2x1 and 1x1 background elements in the same mode?

    I'll admit that the inconsistent pixel width drives me off the aesthetic for many of these games or making art for the system myself, but I do appreciate the technical wizardry going on and how the games are trying to tackle what they need to show within the system limitations by prioritizing readable things such as text to be 1x1 and the more "painterly" elements are allowed to be 2x1. I'm really interested to here more about how clever feats like this were accomplished.

    1. Hi-Res has "1x1 pixels" (i.e. 320x200) but you can only have 2 colors in graphics mode (or 2 colors per 8x8 character block if you can use text mode with a modified font, i.e. if you limit yourself to 256 different 8x8 blocks).

      Multicolor mode is 160x200, so it has "wide" pixels, and can do 4 colors per 8x8 block, but you can do arbitrary graphics (i.e. you're not limited to 256 different 8x8 pixel characters).

      Sprites work the same, i.e. they can be either hires (2 colors) or multicolor with half horizontal resolution. So while you cannot natively mix hires and multicolor, there are some tricks that you can pull off that make it seem like you're using full 16 colors on a 320x200 image, either with redefined character sets, or with sprites (and sprite-multiplexing) etc.

    2. Most C64 games work in charset mode, in which hires and multicolor chars can be mixed with some color restriction. Bitmap mode and charset mode could also be combined via rasterline interrupts, so you could have wide pixel multicolor bitmap in the upper half and hires text mode in the lower half of the screen. Btw. have you noticed the Eye of the Beholder port for the C64 which is just awesome...

    3. Oh man, that's awesome. I've seen several "brand new fan ports" of action games kind of flounder to someone like me who knows the original game feel/player physics in great depth (C64 Super Mario Bros., MSX2 Super Mario World) but there shouldn't be much leeway to screw up RPG-like games aside from maybe the speed of moving dungeon objects (monsters, fireball traps, etc.). RPGs aren't my thing but man this sounds like a treat.

  8. I remember 'Pathfinder: Kingmaker' having a decent rest system, which was clearly inspired by 'Realms of Arkania - Blade of Destiny'. It doesn't pose a penalty, but makes you think about prioritising watch/heal/repair duties and there's always a risk of getting ambushed, depending on the location of your campsite.

    1. That's a good one. Forcing the player to make a number of decisions while resting would decentivize abusing it.

    2. The sequel Pathfinder: Wrath does this even better, since setting up who is doing what role is relatively easy and doesn't change a lot. In Wrath, part of the gimmick is you're only able to go into the demon-infested outside for certain lengths of time before you have to have yourself cleansed at a holy altar, and excepting in major plot dungeons where there are some one use 'cleanses' this means trekking back to your home base and then going back to wherever you were. You got increasing penalties every 2-3 rests on average, and even the first is a bit of a doozy.

      It disincentivized resting constantly while never making you feel like you couldn't rest, just that you should you know, fight 5-8 battles and use a bunch of resources first instead of constantly topping off.

    3. You mean the bit in Baldur's Gate 2 where I dropped as many traps as I could by a dragon (which is peaceful before engaging combat), leaving, resting, coming back, and repeating over and over again for about 70 traps, before activating the dragon combat and having it die instantly, isn't normal behavior?

    4. That's probably how I'd handle a dragon in real life, so I dunno about that. Just piling claymores around its ankles while it's asleep and blowing its ankles to kingdom come the second it wakes up.

  9. I appreciate the Clarence Carter reference.

    1. It is not a reference that I would normally have known. I started listening exclusively to music from the first half of the century when I was in my teens. But I once had to take a car ride with my boss, and when we got in the car and he turned on the ignition, that number started blaring from the speakers. He hastened to turn it off, but not before I heard enough to have it stick in my head for the next 20 years.

    2. That song is the strangest earworm. I heard it on a Time/Life Music Collection Commercial back in the 90s and its been with me ever since.

  10. In the context of your comment on the "odious "cracktro" screen", I find it slightly ironic authors of this game apparently originated from and (at least up to around its release) were part of that 'cracker' (& coder) scene themselves.
    No intention to start or rather rehash debates about cracking and piracy. Just wonder what they did or would think about it.

    Anyway, given what Kris above says about the name 'Csaba Toth', unless one of the two you contacted turns out to be the right one, the music and sound creator Arthur Keleti could be another lead (to comment himself on the game and its genesis and/or to find the other creators).

  11. It might be ADHD talking, but having to actually wait while you rest and heal sounds hellish to me. The one thing I have no tolerance for in games is feeling like my time's being wasted, and having to stop and wait potentially minutes to heal is the exact sort of thing that'll either get me to break out the cheats or drop it for something that respects my time better.

    1. I get that, but I see it more as incentivizing the player not to do the easy thing and just rest constantly. This was a problem in Might and Magic, for instance.

      I guess I tend to be a little sadistic in this area. I wouldn't mind, for instance, if most modern RPGs had a built-in timer that forced you to wait 15 minutes before reloading after every time you die. (Or otherwise do something annoying, like complete a long quick-time sequence.) I want to be afraid of the consequences of dying.

    2. Personally just having to redo stuff is already consequence enough, adding more on top of that is more likely to just frustrate me out of wanting to play than make me want to try harder. My prefered death consequences is what Dragon Quest does, where you just lose half the money on you and get sent back to the last save point, because then you still get punished while not completely losing any progress you made.

    3. When I originally played M&M2, I rested so much, I didn't realize my characters were naturally almost 100 years old...

  12. Fun fact: SOTE is the short name of a Hungarian university -

    I'm not sure if it is intentional, but I wouldn't be surprised if it were.

    1. AlphabeticalAnonymousDecember 2, 2022 at 10:10 AM

      Fun fact #2: Semmelweis University was named for one of the first physicians who tried to get serious about hygiene in the medical setting... but who eventually died from an infected wound. A pretty sad story... thanks, middle school history class!

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  14. This looks good. Great write up. I can't wait to get it to it in about another dozen years lol

  15. Ha, those translations are killing me...

  16. I know the C64 was popular in Germany, but it's remarkable that this magazine ran until 1996. This game was published the same year as DOOM, a game designed for 32-bit processors running at around 50MHz.

    Even the C128 was still using 8-bit CPUs designed in the 1970s.

    1. I remember the early 90s here in Germany when I still had a C64 and no PC as the late and last active era for the old "Brotkasten". Almost all big publishers had since then lost interest but in their place was an active scene of indie developers, most of them working for or publishing through (disk) magazines. Besides C64er there were those magazines directly published on a 5.25" like Game On and Magic Disk 64 together with one or more indie games. The same publisher offered a special issue called Golden Disk 64 which had like premium game for a higher price and no magazine content. Of course many of these cheap games were forgettable, but a surprising amount was in fact competently programmed and offered enough fun I still remember them fondly even today. Die Dunkle Dimension which you played already was also part of these. Back then I envied the rich kids with their PC's but now I'm glad I witnessed what I'd call a thriving indie era for an almost dead computer which I'm sure prolonged its "life"for many like me who still hadn't got the chance to switch to the Amiga or PC.


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