Monday, July 10, 2023

Warriors of the Eternal Sun: Temple of Doom

The early game fooled me into thinking that the dungeons would be small.
The dungeons got a lot bigger, more complicated, and better-staffed during this session, and I had a chance to fully explore the combat options in the 3-D interface, so let's jump right into an analysis of that.
Cheesing the Combat System
We've had a lot of discussion on this blog about "combat waltzing" and other tricks made possible in most Dungeon Master-derived games. The waltz in Dungeon Master specifically depends upon exploiting the timing of attacks and movements in the combat engine. Specifically, enemies move in predictable patterns and with exact timing, and they must be facing the characters to attack. They always enter a square adjacent to the characters, turn to face them, and attack, with an exploitable pause in between those actions. Even a clumsy player (like me) can react fast enough to attack when they enter the square and as they turn, but step aside before they get to attack themselves.
As long as they're facing that way, I can attack.

The effectiveness of the combat waltz is possible not just because of enemy movement but because the timing of the characters' movements and attacks don't seem to depend at all on the enemies'. That is, the game doesn't insist that enemies get to "finish their turns" before the characters can go. Moreover, characters are capable of much greater movement in any given time period than the enemies are capable of. Enforced cool-down periods between uses of weapons means that they often can't attack any more often than the enemy can, but that's irrelevant since the characters' much greater flexibility in movement can keep them safe during the cool-down. Characters are also not restricted from moving after an enemy has begun an attack.
The combat waltz works in other games, but often with a different flavor based on that game's variables. I had more trouble with the pattern in Eye of the Beholder because (if I remember correctly) enemies don't have a side-view. When they enter a square, they're already facing you. Their attacks are thus faster, but not impossible to dodge. [Ed. I did not remember correctly; enemies do have a side view. I'll have to fire up the game and remind myself why the "waltz" works a bit differently. I'll update when I do.] Beholder also has a timing issue by which if a spell is cast, you have to wait for all of its animation to finish before you can move. I think both Dungeon Master II and Eye of the Beholder II introduced some randomness to movement patterns that made waltzing enemy groups in a four-square area difficult, but you could still lead them around a central pillar or exploit twists and turns in a long hallway.
Note that I can attack while they're halfway into the square ahead of me.
Another common exploit with 3D engines is missile weapons, often used while backpedaling down long corridors or around loops. Again, games can try to foil this exploit by giving enemies missile weapons of their own or by simply having the enemies refuse to follow you. 

This brings us to Warriors, which offers some AI changes that force some modifications of the traditional exploits. I frankly don't know whether some of them represent more advanced AI or the opposite. One obvious example of the former is that enemies won't dumbly come directly at you while you're firing missile weapons at them. They'll step out of their way to avoid them, take parallel paths, turn and flee, and sometimes avoid entering long corridors that offer no avenue of escape. This setup paradoxically helps the player, though, because it generally keeps enemies from just charging for the characters. Instead, all the dithering they do to avoid missile weapons keeps them at bay, and you just have to wait until they occasionally wander into range. 
Killing a whole tribe of troglodytes from afar.
The traditional waltz, meanwhile, is difficult for a combination of reasons. Like Dungeon Master, enemies enter adjacent squares facing perpendicular to the player, then turn. However, they turn almost instantly and attack almost instantly after turning. The game does give you an exploit in that enemies take a half-step into a square before fully entering, and you can attack during this time. The bigger issue with the traditional four-square waltz is that enemies won't commit to an adjacent square if they're exactly one square diagonal. They just won't move at all. They wait for you to do it, then attack the moment you're next to them. They waltz you. This is either brilliant or the result of a simplistic pathfinding calculation producing two equal results and thus paralyzing the enemies in place.

But although you can't dance around the same four squares, you can still do a more complicated dance, mostly because enemies don't ruthlessly come in your direction like Jason Voorhees. If you get some distance from them, they tend to go home. Sometimes, they're curiously reluctant to come around certain corners, so if you just wait for them to poke their noses out, attack a few times, and then back off, you can eventually kill them with no damage to your characters.
For some reason, these owlbears didn't want to come down this hallway.
We've had some debates in the past about whether using the combat waltz is effectively cheating. I have always maintained that not only is it not cheating, it's not even an exploit. The authors of Dungeon Master clearly designed the engine to give players the opportunity to step out of the way of attacks; otherwise, there's not much purpose to a non-turn-based engine. The combat waltz is just stepping out of the way in a way that follows a pattern. If the authors didn't want players to do it, they should have made enemy movement less predictable (as they did in Dungeon Master II). Dungeon Master is a part-action RPG, and it's absurd to argue that in an action RPG, you shouldn't move your character in the best way to avoid damage.
The issue with these tactics in Warriors, like in Eye of the Beholder, is not that waltzing and backpedaling violates the spirit of the engine, but that the engine itself violates the spirit of Dungeons & Dragons gameplay. Combat in Dungeons & Dragons occurs in turns and rounds, with enemies and characters alike getting a defined set of actions during those periods. I grant that I'm not experienced in tabletop D&D, but I'd be surprised if there was a mechanic by which you could stand right next to an enemy and both attack and side-step during your round and the enemy only gets to turn during his.
The use of missile weapons is a little more justifiable. Even in real life, someone with a melee weapon is going to be at a disadvantage if he has to charge down a long hallway towards someone with a missile weapon. The problem here is that, I think, characters get an unrealistic number of attacks. The game doesn't have a "cool down" period like Dungeon Master. Once one character acts, the action passes to the next one, who can act immediately. I can sometimes fire a dozen shots in a couple of seconds.
Shooting trolls from a few squares away.
The consequence of all of this is that dungeon combat in Warriors is far too easy. In this session, I killed red dragons, giants, bears, and other high-level creatures without taking a hit. And once you know how to do that, what are you supposed to do? Stand there and get hit just to avoid breaking immersion? Again, this is an author problem, not a player problem.
The Beastman Caves      
The session began with a return to the beastman caves, clutching the staff (given to me by Marmillian) that will force passage through the blockade of vines. I poked my head into several of the other beastman caves before going to the one that had the obstruction, and I'm pretty confident at this point that named enemies don't respawn but all other enemies do. Treasures do not.
Parley? No?
Past the vines, which parted automatically when I approached, the dungeon was large and twisty. I estimate it at 30 x 30. I considered mapping it, since the automap disappears when you leave and return, but I decided that just following one of the walls would take less time than making a map. Little did I know that I'd have to traverse the place four times. 
Enemies were carrion crawlers, giant lizards that I'd never met in a D&D game before called tuatara (named after real reptiles native to New Zealand), crab spiders, and a huge pack of troglodytes, including a troglodyte chief and sub-chief. None of them were hard, though, because of the twisty nature of the cave network. I was able to take out almost everyone at range. I found a "Haste" spell during my explorations.
My mage updates her spell list.
Carrion crawlers caused a "stuck" status effect on my characters. I had to rest to get rid of it. What does "stuck" mean?
The final chamber of the caves was guarded by a phobosuchus, named after an extinct giant crocodile. He would have been tough if I'd had to fight him under normal rules. 
This game doesn't really have a strong sense of ecosystem.
In the final chamber, where I expected to find the exit, I instead found a wall with "a strange pattern of holes," which is the same thing I had found in the caverns in the northeast corner. I couldn't figure out any way to pass through for now, so I made the long journey back out of the caverns and into the wilderness. 
If only I had turned and faced to the right.

Behind the Waterfall
At this point, I thought that every way forward had been blocked, so I decided to start looking for other caverns. I knew there was one behind a waterfall somewhere, and I still hadn't searched for secret entrances along some of the cliff lines. I began with the waterfalls. There was no cavern behind the one at the north end of the map. I moved next to the north end of the central island, and I got lucky here.
The cavern was in two sections. The first was a dirt cavern with giant toads, flying vipers, tiger beetles, and owlbears. I found a couple potions of healing, a potion of cure poison, and a little gold. There was a gelatinous cube behind one wall, which terrified me for a couple of seconds until it died. I frantically checked all my equipment and found nothing missing.
A common D&D enemy but rare in CRPGs.
There was an exit door at the back end of the cavern that took me to a man-made dungeon of worked stone. It consisted of a long corridor with rooms off to the side. The rooms had combats with zombies, ghouls, trolls, and gargoyles, and they were much more difficult than most battles because enemies never go through doors. I had to fight all of them within the confines of their small rooms. My cleric's "Turn Undead" ability took care of the undead nicely. If the ghouls were capable of paralysis, then all my characters made their saving throws.
Turning undead.
The trolls were quite difficult, but their room was the largest of the batch, and I had some success running to the end, turning around, and shooting them. I couldn't defeat the gargoyles, even buffed with "Bless" and "Haste." I stubbornly blasted them with the last two charges in my Wand of Lightning, and the wand disappeared.
The stone dungeon disgorged us at the top of a mesa that we'd been unable to reach before. The exit was hidden by a bush, making me wonder how many other hidden caves dot the maps. I followed the mesa to the east and south, where my explorations culminated in a battle with a black dragon. He had only 21 hit points, and against any logic, we defeated him on the first try.
Just hanging out in the sunshine.
Finding nothing else on the mesa--although I confess I didn't check every bush--we returned the way we came. We stopped in town on the way back and found +1 slings and bows for sale but no new dialogue.
Red Dragon
The next and last new cave I discovered was a bit south of the beastman caves. It was on the north face of a cliff that, because of the perspective, I couldn't see. (Amy K. pointed out how silly those hidden entrances are, since surely the characters would be able to see them.) The cave's monsters were, on paper, the most difficult we've seen so far: a fire giant, hellhounds, saber tooths, and a red dragon. But the cave network was sprawled and twisted enough that we could defeat them with our tricks. I reloaded once because I stood there facing the dragon long enough to get a cool screenshot.
The red dragon's treasure was fantastic: a +1 plate mail, a +1 bow, a +2 sword, a +2 shield, and enough gold, gems, and jewelry to add thousands of gold pieces to my total.
He probably worked hard to accumulate this stuff.
The Lizard Swamp
By this point, I had decided I must have missed something in the beastman caverns; otherwise, I'd have some kind of hint from Marmillian. I traced my route back through them, fighting all of the enemies a second time, went to the final room, and realized that if I'd just turned right from the wall with the pattern of holes, I would have found the exit door. 
The swamp map I eventually found.
The door took me to a new outdoor map, not nearly as large as the original, where fingers of land poked their way into a dense swamp. As I explored, I was attacked by "robber flies," lizardmen, and other creatures that make sense in a swamp setting.
I followed the rightmost path and eventually wandered into a lizardman village. "Potential allies for the duke!" I thought, just before the lizardman chief yelled, "Deathhh to the humanssss!" and a dozen or so of them attacked. Fortunately, they all started some distance away, and I was able to pick most of them off with my missile weapons before they made it to melee range. (None of them had any missile weapons.)
No alliance, then? Just checking.
After the battle, I wandered around the lizardman huts and found gold, a map of the area, and "peculiar artifacts." The chief was still alive when I approached his hut, and he said: "Curssse you . . . and your gold skinned brethren to the north . . . hisssssss . . . " It's 50-50 whether those "gold-skinned brethren" are the allies we seek or more people that we'll end up killing.
A little late for that.
There were only two other things in the swamp, neither of which made a lot of sense to me. The first was a pool of dark water, where I was told: "You see the reflection of your fallen comrades." What fallen comrades? From the goblin attack on the castle? The second was a large tree that made us feel "strangely rejuvenated" when we approached. I didn't note any effects of either encounter on our statistics.
I was kind of hoping there would be some kind of teleporter or other fast travel back to the castle, but alas we had to fight our way through the beastman caverns a fourth time.
Personae non Gratae
Back at the castle, people were pissed at us. "We should have sent a blind man for aid!" one groused. "More enemies! We need friends, not enemies!" another scolded. Even the healer tended our wounds grudgingly.
Sounds like my primary care physician.
The duke dressed us down thoroughly. Even though something seems to be affecting the moods of the castle denizens, I can't say that he's exactly wrong. While we were gone, he threw Marmillian in irons, then released him. "Both actions were without warning or explanation." Marmillian said he needed more clues to figure out what is driving people mad.
Lord British was always too polite to say this.
We hastened out of there before people started attacking us. The caravan costs are ridiculous, but we had the money, and I didn't feel like fighting random wilderness combats all the way to the northeast corner. I paid the 2,000 gold.
I do wish "fast travel" in many other games had a higher cost.
Azcan Nation
The pattern we'd observed on the wall in the beastman caves allowed us to pass through the similar wall in the Azcan caves. Beyond was another huge dungeon, something like 40 x 40. I fought a stone giant, cave bears, giant ants, a troll chief, and a giant worm called a caecilia. There were potions and scrolls in several locations, enough that my inventory was strained by the time I exited. I took a few potions when I didn't need them just to make some room.
You're breaking my heart.
One of the scrolls was a "Fireball," so I naturally scribed and memorized it, though I've barely been using spells because it's so much of a pain to swap out the weapons slots for spells temporarily.
The caves spat us out in a jungle, where we were almost immediately attacked by an "Azcan wokan." Is that a typo for "woman"? I'm not sure.
The jungle map, which I must have picked up in the pyramid. I arrived on the east side of the map, about 1/3 of the way from the top, between those strips of trees. The temple, as you can see, is just to the north. I made the mistake of going south.
I headed out looking for something, and man did it take a long time, especially with no area map to help. The jungle was a pain in the neck to navigate, with plenty of dead ends among the dense trees. Later, I discovered that if I'd adopted a counter-clockwise pattern of exploration, I would have found the next dungeon quickly. Instead, I did the opposite and circled the entire map before coming to the Azcan pyramid in the northeast. I found another pool along the way, though this one healed my party instead of showing me pictures of my dead friends.
The dozen or so Azcan warriors at the top of the temple gave us no opportunities to offer an alliance. 
"We come in . . . ah, screw it."
We entered the pyramid and found ourselves in a dungeon of yellow or orange or green or red stone. Little did we know we were about to explore the most hateful dungeon of any game in recent memory. It was four levels, each getting larger as we went down. The trouble wasn't the enemies. I'm not sure that the various Azcan warriors (of several levels), shamans, and wokans ever managed to even hit me. The problem is that the levels were full of traps--traps that the game offered me no way to detect, skirt, or avoid--traps that remained active even after we had set them off. Some corridors had traps literally every step. My thief managed to disarm maybe 1 in 10. I have no idea what the purpose was of having a thief if she wasn't capable of a better success ratio.
The party blunders through three traps before meeting two enemies.
Compounding the problem is the fact that the relatively compact, square levels (with no worm tunnels as in other dungeons) meant that until I cleared the levels completely, enemies were always "nearby," thus preventing rest. And of course, retreating to earlier levels simply restocked the traps and enemies there.  
The levels are also full of secret doors, some of them offering paths around traps, but you have to know that both are present before they're of any value. I thought about mapping but ultimately rejected it, and just used up all my healing potions and scrolls on the way. At a couple of points, I had to walk back and forth for dozens of steps and let my Ring of Regeneration do its job, swapping it around as  necessary.
On the fifth and largest level, we entered a very large room and were confronted by the Azcan high priest and maybe a dozen warriors. What should have been a hard battle was rendered easy by the fact that the chamber was at the end of a very long hallway. We just had to back up and pound our missile weapon buttons, and most of the enemies, including the chief, died without us even seeing them. A few, including two pairs of guards flanking the door, refused to budge from their positions, but that just made it easy to run past them, turn around, and pelt them with arrows and sling stones. 
I can imagine what gestures he's making.
When everyone was dead, we looted the chamber of the treasure we obviously came here for: four Rings of Fire Resistance. I'm pretty sure I know where these are going to be used. 
Allocating Rings of Fire Resistance.
The game offered no shortcut from here, either, so I sighed and made the long, careful trip back up the pyramid. When I got outside, I discovered that we had acquired a map of the area at some point (I didn't notice where), which makes it easier to get back to the caves. I'm still not looking forward to the trip back to the castle. For 2,000 gold, the caravan should go both ways.
End of the Adventure
As I close, my mage is Level 6 and everyone else is Level 7. I  noticed that the memorized spell list goes up to Level 6, requiring a character level of 11, so either there's a lot more to the game or you can grind far above what you need. 

Except for the pyramid, playing Warriors hasn't been an unpleasant experience, and although combat and dungeon exploration go a bit too fast, I'd rather a game err on that side than make it as slow and cumbersome as Ambermoon sometimes is. On the other hand, I just can't help but feel that combat in a Dungeons & Dragons game ought to be more tactical than this.
Time so far: 12 hours


  1. Carrion crawlers can paralyze, but they have some tentacles that you might be "stuck" on. If you weren't paralyzed by the ghouls then does the engine lack such a state?

    1. Could be an attempt to shorten strings: "stuck" is shorter than "paralyzed", after all. Might and Magic II (for example, and admittedly this was 5 years or whatever earlier) is full of abbreviations.

  2. Wokan isn't a typo. It's another name for a shamanic spellcaster.

    1. An Azcan Wokan...

      Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?

    2. Adamantyr, do you know if the term comes from D&D or if there's a cultural origin? I've been Googling, but most of the references seem to be to D&D or marginally pop-culture stuff that post-dates D&D. It's tough because there's a lot of people with that last name.

      BESTIE, I like the congresswoman, but I still laughed at the joke.

    3. Whew, been awhile since I had to dig out more than one box set...

      So in the Hollow World player's guide, they reference the Master rules DM guide on "non-human spellcaster classes" in regards to Shamans and Wokan. So I checked there, and they list Shamans and Wicca, which are clerics and magic-users respectively. My guess is Aaron Allston (the principal author of Hollow World) decided to spruce Wicca up a bit. Sadly he passed in 2014 so we can't ask him for clarification.

      Honestly, a lot of the old game designers LOVED digging up words that have long lost meaning. Gygax resurrecting an old welsh word "Dweomer" comes to mind; literally the only references to it online are going to be D&D related.

    4. Another possible source is that (according to Wikipedia, I'm no expert) "Wakan" means "holy" in the Lakota, as in Wakan-Tanka, the Great Spirit.

      Of course the Lakota are a continent away from the Incans and Aztecs, and Lakota civilization is several centuries older, so using a Lakota word for an "Azcan" would probably be kind of like setting your game in medieval Europe and calling a cleric a Bodhisattva. But it wouldn't be too surprising if a term from one Native American civilization got applied to another here, IMO.

    5. I used to own an old 0e D&D book called "Tall Tales of the Wee Folk", which listed nonhuman mages as 'Wicca', and the later Rules Cyclopedia listed nonhuman mages as 'Wokan'. I don't think there's an official explanation, but my suspicion is they wished to avoid offending real-world Wiccans and/or real-world Christians with hostility to Wiccans as 'witches', so they made up replacement term in 'Wokan', kinda like how Marvel Comics called the big organized crime organization 'the Maggia'.

  3. "I grant that I'm not experienced in tabletop D&D, but I'd be surprised if there was a mechanic by which you could stand right next to an enemy and both attack and side-step during your round and the enemy only gets to turn during his."

    Tabletop D&D doesn't have any concept of anyone facing in any specific direction but does have the concept of attacks of opportunity, so trying to do combat waltz would only give the enemy additional chances to hurt you.

    "And once you know how to do that, what are you supposed to do?"

    You could just run past the enemies; it's not like they'll follow you.

    "The first was a pool of dark water, where I was told: "You see the reflection of your fallen comrades." What fallen comrades? From the goblin attack on the castle?"

    Dead members of your party. If you had any, you could resurrect them at the pool.

    "I do wish "fast travel" in many other games had a higher cost."

    Keep this in mind for Betrayal at Krondor.

    "We entered the pyramid and found ourselves in a dungeon of yellow or orange or green or red stone."

    Mostly brown with some highlights in yellow.

    1. Attack of opportunity was introduced in 3rd edition, well before this rules set. In old D&D there was no facing rules, just a "If you break combat and flee the enemy gets a free attack" because the war gamer mentality of the older systems hated a coward.

    2. I would like to see if enemies getting a free attack at a bonus whenever you leave a tile next to them would balance this kind of combat.

    3. This would be a fun mechanic, and the bonus hit could be linked to character stats like dodge, luck and armor.

    4. "enemies getting a free attack at a bonus whenever you leave a tile next to them"

      This means that the player's movement would either have to be delayed until the enemy attack concludes -- this would feel frustrating, as if the application is unresponsive for a split second -- or, if the player's movement is not delayed, the enemy attack needs to happen instantaneously during the player's movement, regardless of any cooldown from a previous attack, giving the enemies an unnatural advantage. Or rather, the enemies should do this only when they're normally able to (i.e. not blocked by a cooldown) -- which *is* the case if the player moves in, attacks, and tries to move away again before the enemies can retaliate. This should work.

      Another method is to take the approach of Warriors of the Eternal Sun even further: let the enemies act like the player can. That is, they side-step into the tile next to the player and attack immediately, like the player would do. If the player moves into a tile next to them, they also attack immediately. They try to face the player at all times. The result might be a bit similar to the evolution of FPS enemies from the original Doom to modern shooters (which have enemies who know how to strafe). But this increases the effect of manual dexterity even more.

      Neither Eye of the Beholder nor Lands of Lore have either this hypothetical side-stepping behaviour, nor WotES' "wait and see" enemy waltz.

      In general this large effect of the player's dexterity seems like a fundamental issue of the Dungeon Master genre, and in combination with the fundamental issue of games which don't lock the player into a small area for each combat, it's often easy to run circles around the enemies, flee, heal, and fight again. This can turn supposedly tough combats into a simple matter of diligence and time. When keeping the free-roaming gameplay, increasing the challenge might require a significant upgrade to the enemies' movement capabilities and aggression (like DM2's boss battles), or a significant reduction of the player's capabilities (like some of the narrow corridors in Chaos Strikes Back that don't even give the player a 2x2 room to waltz around in).

      There must be other tools to make this fun and challenging for both dexterous and slow players, with different enemy behaviours, status effects, environments, etc. Supposedly Legend of Grimrock II does this well. Personally, I love this genre, but I think it's a genuine issue -- and an interesting design challenge.

    5. Legend of Grimrock 1 and 2 have monsters that can step sideways, attack to the side, cast spells, shoot missiles, charge you and are VERY fast. Grimrock 2 also has monsters that can float up and down layers in a multi-layer level.

    6. Just remembered the monster in Grimrock 2 that jumps squares. Also, the thing in the middle of the desert.

    7. Didn't the gold box games have something like an attack of opportunity? I could swear I remember getting a free attack on enemies if they disengaged, or if I messed up and had to step away from an enemy.

    8. You are correct. If you stepped out of combat, enemies got a free swipe. We learned that if those enemies had breath or magic attacks, they never used them that round after taking their free physical attack, so one way to cheese combat with dragons or mages is to run up to them and run away. They may slash you in the back as you flee, but they won't be casting "Fireball" later.

    9. I noticed some incongruity here and thought I'd clarify.

      I do not have any 0th edition original d&d texts to refer to, but in 1st and 2nd edition AD&D the combat rules specify that each combatant has a directional facing, with flank and rear positions illustrated by diagrams. B/X describes rules for rear attacks but doesn't go into detail about how everyone always designates a facing. In fact in the basic books, the rule is only found under the section on free attacks against a retreating opponent (see #2 below), implying to me that you only use the rule in that situation and don't track facing otherwise.

      In the BECMI rules and 3rd edition onward, there is no character facing mentioned in the texts. However, in BECMI it gives the same attack modifiers as older editions only for the retreating opponent situation! 3.0 does have two game elements that you specify facing for--the shield spell and the tower shield. Those rules were changed in 3.5 to remove the "facing" components.

      Backstabs could be difficult to set up in the gold box games because a defender would set their facing by turning towards their first melee attacker each round. This facing reset when their turn came up. So you would have to use a melee attacker, then attack with your thief from the exact opposite side before the opponent's turn came in the same round. In tabletop play, I only ever saw facing set by the direction of movement during a character's own turn, or the target of their declared attacks (when actions were chosen prior to initiative rolls). But it's not totally unreasonable to implement the rules the way the gold box games did. Later editions without facing use "sneak attack" mechanics with rules that differ from the old backstabs, some of which emulate facing in a way.

      Taking a free attack on someone moving away from melee is present in all editions and versions of d&d that I have seen. In basic rules and in 2nd edition (and with the 5th edition action "disengage"), there is also an option to withdraw at reduced speed without receiving a free attack. Presumably this was to reduce the lethality of the system, especially at low levels, by allowing a wounded melee character to retreat behind allies and start using ranged weapons or heal up.

  4. I've always been a big gold box and Eye of the Beholder fan, so must get round to playing this.

    One thing you mentioned about EotB not having side view graphics for enemies - I think this is incorrect. As far as I know you can see enemies from the side and from behind if you walk round quickly enough, it's just quite rare. I've certainly seen the side and rear views of enemies when playing EotB myself.

    1. As an example, extracted sprites:

    2. Isn´t this a lot of disk space for something almost no player remember...

    3. I suppose the side views did at least give you the knowledge that you weren't going to be attacked until they were facing you with their front. The rear facing sprites worked when using spells such as Fear (making enemies turn their backs on your party and run away). But yeah, a bit of a waste when they have such limited use.

    4. Damn, I thought I remembered that correctly. Now I have to fire up the game again to remind myself why the "Waltz" works differently there. Thanks for the correction.

    5. Just an addition, EoB sprites are mirrored, to save work for artists, disk space, and memory; the games that have a sprite for the left side, and one for the right one are rare.

  5. "...don't ruthlessly come in your direction like Jason Voorhees."

    A1 horror movie reference there.

    1. Chester did well to specify the family name. If he wrote just "Jason", I would have thought of either the Ancient Greek hero or the member of "Take That", dismissed both, shrugged, and moved on without understanding.

    2. I would have assumed Jason Dyer, of Renga in Blue. I mean, you do need a steadfast determination to play through an entire genre of games.
      Come to think of it, it's probably a really unfortunate thing to share the same name as a spree/serial killer, even a fictional one.

    3. I've never watched any Friday the 13th movie, but remember the name from playing the C64 game. Not much in the way of actual gameplay, but the sound(s) and soundtrack plus the 'shock pictures' made up for that when young me was playing it in a dark room.

      Nice action-adventure movie reference in the title, too, coinciding with the latest release in that series.

    4. I only learned Jason Voorhes last name from AVGN episode. I never watched the movies, though, maybe it's said explicitly there.

    5. @MorpheusKitami: especially Ferret, mah gawd

    6. I really didn't expect a throwaway reference to lead to such a long thread.

      Apropos of nothing, let me state that I've never understood why people see The Temple of Doom as the worst film in the trilogy. I think it's enormous fun and has some of the most iconic scenes in the franchise. For my money, it's no better or worse than the other two. I feel the same way about X-Men: The Last Stand, too. Then again, I'm the guy that thinks Fallout 4 is a good game.

    7. I liked Temple of Doom myself, you just have to remember it's based on pulp early 20th century films, so the presentation of Indian culture is WILDLY inaccurate. (Apparently the whole dinner scene was intended as a joke, but it was too subtle. In the novelization, Indy notices pork is on the table, which signals to him something is off about the whole thing.)

    8. I think most of the pushback against Temple is just that when you've got a list of three, one of them has to fall behind. The effect is more profound because there's less consensus about the comparative ranking of the other two.

      I have heard that some of the depiction of Indian culture in Temple is deliberately awful: that Speilberg harbored some petty resentment that E.T. had lost out on Best Picture and Best Director in favor of Ghandi at the 55th Academy Awards.

    9. I can't speak for anyone else, but the only reason that I haven't included India in my travels is that I didn't want to be forced to eat chilled monkey brains.

    10. I like all three of the (initial) trilogy, but will go on record saying I enjoy ToD the least (not by a large margin, mind you). Why? Mostly because I found both the 'comedic sidekick' Short Round / Ke Huy Quan and the 'spoiled and clueless damsel in distress' Willie Scott / Kate Capshaw a bit over the top and annoying at times and the black magic voodoo-style thingy too much of a worn-out cliché for my taste.
      Yes, I'm aware the whole movie and franchise is over the top pulp action-adventure fare and full of clichés, but there you go.

      I have no issues with X3, though.

    11. @Lorigulf, yeah, they say Voorhees in all the movies. In fact they might say Jason in fewer films than they say Voorhees. (this reference is going to go over everyone's head, isn't it?)

      @Matt, yeah, unlike Mr. Voorhees, Dyer will come after you no matter where you live, if you've released a text adventure.

      On Temple of Doom, I heard the food was intended to scare off the guests so they wouldn't pry into their affairs. At worst, I suspect it was intended to be some grand but disgusting to western sensibilities meal. The bit about being deliberately awful strikes me as someone trying to smear Spielberg.

    12. Yeah, the intended joke was that the Indians didn't actually eat cockroaches, monkey brains, eyeball soup, etc. They were just serving it for laughs to the foreigners who really thought they ate that sort of thing. And, as MorpheusKitami said, to deter them from staying.

    13. I've never seen the movies because I do not like horror, but I know of Jason Voorhees because I worked with a guy named Vorhies.

    14. I'm not sure that interpretation of the film works.

      1. When the food is served, we see all the palace natives enjoying it with relish. Are we supposed to believe they're all faking? Not only do they seem to be enjoying the food, they have a "system" for eating it. They're clearly comfortable with it.

      2. The British captain is present. He's stationed in India, clearly knows a lot about the culture, and would certainly comment if anything is amiss.

      3. Dr. Jones's end of the table gets relatively normal food. We'd have to believe that they were trying to scare off Short Round and Willie, who weren't exactly the primary threats.

      4. Willie specifically ASKS for soup, that turns out to have an eyeball in it, so the palace would have to have anticipated the request and prepared a disgusting soup just in case.

      5. In the film, it is shown that the Thuggee cult "converts" people by force-feeding them a potion. Later, when Short Round "burns" the potion out of the Maharaja, he immediately helps the heroes, so he must have been roofied, too. The maharaja clearly hasn't been "converted" yet during the dinner scene, so he would have no reason to try to scare away his guests.

      6. After dinner, Jones is almost immediately attacked by assassins. Why go through the trouble of grilling snakes and bugs to scare someone away when you're just going to try to kill him anyway.

      I think it was an attempt to find humor in the fact that other cultures eat things that westerners often find distasteful or unpleasant. The specific examples used in the film might be fictitious, but I doubt we'd have to look hard to find Indian dishes that would make Americans gag. This is no insult to Indians. It's just a reminder that the world is a varied and interesting place.

    15. I didn't realize that dinner scene was meant to be funny -- I always took it to be foreshadowing the evil that lurked beneath the palace.

    16. I always figured the dinner scene was a standard kind of hazing for tourists and newcomers rather than anything sinister. Put on the extra "exotic" food for them just to see their faces. That's why the Captain doesn't say anything, he went through the same thing when he first arrived and he's seen it 100 times since.

    17. I haven't seen the movie recently to remember what the reactions of everyone to the meal was, so perhaps you're right, but I note that the whole "scare off" bit was apparently from the novelization, which I think would pass for something of an official explanation. Wouldn't be the first time a George Lucas film had a somewhat controversial statement about the film in there...*cough*Attack of the Clones*cough*...

    18. I personally always felt that ToD is a nice movie but the weakest of the 3 for some "cheapening" of it as a form of art. There's sections of it clearly just to disturb/disgust the viewer (the aforementioned dinner, the corridor with bugs, hearts pounding out of chests etc) that add little to the story. The incessant INDDDYYYYY AAAAAHHHH screams from the sidekicks only make things worse. Speaking of which, not the greatest choice of female sidekick in the movie, but hey, I guess Spielberg saw something special about her... ;)

    19. Temple of Doom is my favourite one.

    20. ironically, since the indian government didn't give them permission to film apparently due to inaccuracies, ToD was actually filmed in sri lanka. it was particularly funny to see short round floating in the river being called to in sinhalese by the village people who were sri lankan actors. the hongkong scenes are a mix of japanese and chinese "oriental" things so you can see that the americans filming just saw east asian and south asian as just interchangeable cultures.

    21. Or Steven Spielberg et. al. might share my own opinion that one does not have to come from a particular ethnic or national background to play a character of that background. One of my favorite character actors, Cliff Curtis, would have appeared in maybe one movie under your philosphy. Tom Holland wouldn't have played Spider-Man, nor Christian Bale batman, nor Renee Zellweger Bridget Jones, nor Yul Brynner the King of Siam. We would have lost John Wayne as Genghis Khan, so I'm not saying your point of view doesn't have some benefits.

    22. I missed the Indy love boat. I think I saw all three at some point during my childhood and found them unmemorably enjoyable.

      I recently watched all the 'good' X-Men films (according to various websites) and X3 did not make the list. I did check out the final scene though and thought 'Oh boy'.

      Possibly controversial opinion: The X-Men franchise at its best is significantly better than the MCU at its best.

    23. @Chet: gamerindreams might clarify him/herself, but I understood the comment somewhat differently. Sinhalese is a language spoken in Sri Lanka, but not in India, I understand, so the scene he describes would be akin to say people who are supposed to be local Germans in a movie all speaking in Dutch because it was filmed in the Netherlands with Dutch extras. It's not about their nationality, but the language they use in the movie which does clash with the intended setting.

      And I can also see how mixing Japanese elements into a presumed Hong Kong scene might feel jarring to some people, especially given the history / relations between those two countries.

      I recently watched the first season of 'Narcos' for the first time and learned that there was considerable discussion in Colombia and Latin America in general because many characters are played by actors from a different country than the respective (mostly real) character, starting with the Brazilian actor who plays (the Colombian) Pablo Escobar. Not sure if it's about culture, national egos or them really not nailing the respective local accent. I'm a native Spanish speaker, but couldn't judge if someone truly sounds like a real Colombian or Chilean or Mexican.

      @Tristan: To each his own - I would usually try to form an opinion myself unless several sources say it's a total desaster and I know each of these sources has my taste or I'm otherwise quite sure I'd agree with their judgment.

    24. I accidentally deleted a comment by gamer indreams while trying to reply to it. This was the text:


      Agreed with busca - my favorite comedy when i was young was the party with peter sellers, despite how problematic it is now, so i don't have a problem with actors playing different races, nationalities, etc.

      what I do have a problem with is mixing up different countries culture and languages - as busca says, just the same as if you set a movie in china and had the people speaking japanese - as it shows a lack of knowledge or respect.

      it wouldn't really bother me if it was a low budget b movie - i mean i didn't expect street fighter the movie to be culturally accurate - but this is spielberg/lucasfilm/20th century fox and i really expected better.

      Guess i was wrong.


      My reply is: this kind of melodramatic nonsense about background characters in a 40-year-old popcorn film is why people sling "woke" pejoratively and vote for people like Ron DeSantis.

    25. Anyone who wants to analyze "Americans'" cultural sensitivity through a 40-year-old window needs to be prepared for how the analysis goes when we open up a second one.

    26. Busca - In principle I agree, but there are just too many movies/shows/games out there which the wife or I are interested in. Gotta use the wisdom of the crowd to prune the list here and there.

    27. Well, I personally think that's going a bit far.

      If it was established as 'canon' by the movies that Indy grew up in the western US (example just for the purpose of argument, haven't checked), but Ford had played him with e.g. a fat NY or Texan (or - heavens beware - any kind of British) accent, I'm sure quite a few people (maybe not only) in the US would complain on the net about a lack of realism and professionalism (and yes, possibly even respect, depending on their stance) on the part of the movie's makers, no matter if it's popcorn fare and 40 years old.

      If any weapon was used in a way that is maybe not 100% historically and technically accurate, you could bet there would be more than enough persons showing up in forums and lecturing the world that the XYZ model wasn't yet in use in [whenever the respective action is set in time] or did actually not fire that number of shots in a row without reloading.

      Some would see it as legitimate criticisms, some as exaggerated nitpicking, your choice in each case. It's a big world and everybody has their pet peeves and a different willingness to engage in suspension of disbelief depending on context.

      But dare pointing out that Sri Lanka is not India or China not Japan and people will shout "woke" and vote for someone because of it, so you better shut up about that "melodramatic nonsense"? If this is the case, it's a sad state of affairs indeed in my view.

      Sorry, no desire to go into politics here, especially given the fraught history of it on the blog - I just hope we can continue to discuss not only CRPGs, but other subjects like movies that crop up through association, in the civilized way that has been a hallmark for most of this blog"s community life, without being limited too much by such aspects.

    28. PS (apologies, can't edit my comment): Yes, Indy is the main protagonist, not a background character. I still believe the first example would also apply (to a lesser degree, no doubt) to minor roles, that people would notice and have something to say about it.

    29. You're talking about something completely different now. You're talking about movie quality. Sure, if Indiana Jones had showed up in Temple weighing 300 pounds and sporting a thick Brooklyn accent, people would complain. But they wouldn't complain because the portrayal was culturally insensitive to . . . whatever the real Indiana Jones is supposed to be.

      Plenty of movies set in "New York" are actually filmed in Toronto. You can say that this makes them worse movies, or ruins your immersion, or whatever, and I'll probably agree with you. But say that it's *disrespectful to New Yorkers,* or even worse that it allows you to make blanket statements about Americans' cultural attitudes, and I will persist in believing that it's melodramatic nonsense.

  6. "Again, this is an author problem, not a player problem."

    To me it's both. Game designers should absolutely have a clear idea of what their game is about and build the challenges around that concept and seek to avoid exploits that allow players to circumvent that vision. When they fail that is a flaw. But at the same time, games are going to be flawed to varying degrees and it's in the player's interest to approach each game in a way that they'll get the most out of it.

    It's interesting to me how differently people are wired. I guess it is just difficult to impossible for some people to leave an easier but boring tool on the table? Is combat waltzing cheating? If it results in less interesting play then you're cheating yourself. (But of course if you find it's more fun then the alternative then go for it!)

    1. Excuse for the nitpicking, but: is it "if it results in less interesting play, then it's cheating but if it's more fun then it's NOT cheating, go for it" or is it "if it results in less interesting play, then it's cheating but if it's more fun, it's STILL cheating, BUT go for it?".
      I, for myself, find "fun/not-fun" distinction much more meaningful than "cheating/not-cheating", so I see little of difference between "non-exploit trick", exploit, a legitimate (built-in) cheat, or even a cheat engine. As far as it makes game into something more fun than the authors created - even cheats are okay (TES4:Oblivion, I'm looking at you and your boring, BORING "efficient leveling style" that is vanquished by cheating, making TES4 great again). But as far as it reduces fun - even if it IS legitimate, why do it?

    2. I like to avoid exploits and I hate the combat waltz but Dungeon Master was literally built with it in mind as an intended game mechanic so if you’re gonna play that game you should use it. Likewise, many of DM’s ancestors like Grimrock. Basically the main reason I don’t personally enjoy that genre…

    3. Dungeon Master can be played without using the combat waltz. I think it's more enjoyable that way. And it makes those Magic Boxes that freeze enemies something you use (especially against Golems and the Dragon) instead of collecting.

    4. I would content that Dungeon Master cannot be played without ever using the action-oriented nature of the engine to step out of the way of an enemy attack. The "combat waltz" is just doing that repeatedly.

      But whether the game can be played a certain way isn't relevant for the purposes of my point. Clearly using the nature of the interface to avoid enemy attacks was intended by the developers, so by suggesting that a player not use the interface to its maximum benefit, you're suggesting that he play with the equivalent of a "conduct." That's fine. I sometimes adopt conducts myself. Pool of Radiance with an all-mage party or no missile weapons in Baldur's Gate. NetHack as a vegetarian. Whatever. But these are all conducts with hard lines. By saying something like, "Sure, use the interface to occasionally escape an enemy attack, but don't use the 'waltz,'" you're saying to me the equivalent of, "Deliberately get hit when you know you can avoid it, but only sometimes." As asimpkins says, some people are wired differently, and I'm not wired to adopt such ambiguity in my uses of a conduct.

    5. I can appreciate that. I haven't played the game, so I don't know if some code of conduct could be made to distinguish between fair uses of evasions and bad ones. And maybe it's not possible, the game is too much of a mess, in which case I agree with your point. But sometimes I see gamers act as if they are completely helpless as they optimize and exploit all the fun out of a game, which I find confusing.

      Lorigulf: To me the idea of cheating must mean that somebody is getting screwed. So if you're playing against another human and you cheat to win, you're robbing your opponent of a fair game and their chance to win. But if you're playing solo, I don't think you can cheat the software, it doesn't care. You can only cheat yourself by diminishing the experience. So there's no hard definition to what actions are cheating, it's all about what effect it has on the player. Some players cheat themselves by turning on god mode, other players cheat themselves by not turning on god mode.

    6. A lot of gamer culture harbors some competitive spirit that would hold that even in a solo game, certain behavior is, in its way, screwing over other players whose victories were legitimate. That such things are akin to stolen valor. See things like Mike Mattei's tirade about people who use assist mode daring to call themselves Real True Gamers.

      I don't personally think this is an especially healthy part of gamer culture, but I don't want to paint with too broad a brush.

    7. "I would content that Dungeon Master cannot be played without ever using the action-oriented nature of the engine to step out of the way of an enemy attack."

      For a first time player, maybe.
      But I replayed DM quite recently without ever using the waltz. I thought I would have to use it against the dragon, but I had enough magic boxes to kill him before he could breath fire.
      Biggest difficulty spike was the Purple Worms when they first started appearing.
      DM is relatively easy, so I only had to reload once (due to a poison cloud trap). And I'm old enough now that I have become noticeably poorer at FPS games.

    8. I have some sympathies towards the point of view Ross is talking about. Not enough to "tirade" or gatekeep about it, though.

    9. I used to play DooM almost exclusively with the shotgun, but every now and then the game trapped me and I was going to die within seconds. I'd scramble to type IDDQD and if I managed to in time then that's legit. I'd get out of the trench and turn it off.

      If there's one thing to agree on its that everyone gets to play their own game however the F they want. The only line is cheating online vs others (aimbots and the like).

  7. Also, nice Simon & Garfunkel reference.

    "I considered mapping it, since the automap disappears when you leave and return, but I decided that just following one of the walls would take less time than making a map."

    What about just taking a screenshot of the automap before leaving (as you seem to have at least partly done for the blog anyway)? Or would that be against the 'gameplay as original as possible' spirit? I'd consider disappearing automaps a design error to be remedied thus.

    1. Seems to me that taking a screen shot of the auto-map doesn't really take away from the original experience as it just saves the time of copying the auto-map to a paper-map. Also, most auto-maps, at least by this time frame, are somewhat incomplete (door, stairs, traps, etc.).

    2. I remember a friend's older brother whose game-playing notebooks included the occasional taped-in Polaroid of some symbol or another on screen that seemed too complicated to draw at the time. It seems like a legitimate technique to me.

    3. No, I wouldn't consider that cheating, I guess. I could blame the fact that the automap doesn't fit on one screen, and I was too lazy to stitch multiple screens together, but I'm afraid the real answer is that I just didn't think of it at the time.

  8. Several days later as the new post about Ambermoon popped up I said to myself "I thought we just got a post about Ambermoon". Turns out I had read this whole article thinking it was about that game what with the dungeon/overhead split thing going on.

  9. This moment with the pyramid temple and the lizardfolk... that was what I mentioned, the "wow" moment for me that I said I'd tell you about when you got to it (well, I'm a couple weeks late). I don't know if anyone would be wowed about it with today's games, and I don't even know if it would amaze me if I had came across it for the first time as an adult. But when I was a kid... I don't know, it just fired my imagination, in a time when you kind of had to use your imagination whilst playing games like this. I had never fought lizardfolk in any other game either. I remember being disappointed that you could only kill them. I wanted to parley!

    The Carrion Crawler gave your character a "stuck" status effect. I'm thinking it's similar to the D&D Web spell.

  10. "[Ed. I did not remember correctly; enemies do have a side view. I'll have to fire up the game and remind myself why the "waltz" works a bit differently. I'll update when I do.]" It looks like you didn't, if you still want to.


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