Friday, March 15, 2024

BRIEF: 2088: The Cryllan Mission - The Second Scenario (1990)

The Pai brothers had a unique thing with goats. They were a big part of The Secrets of Bharas, too.
2088: The Cryllan Mission - The Second Scenario
United States
Victory Software (developer and publisher)
Released 1990 for Apple II GS
Rejected for: Insufficient differentiation from previous title
Here's a game that invites us to reflect on the distinctions we make between "games," "expansions," "quests," "remakes," "versions," "patches," "sequels," and even "engines." So much of it comes down to marketing. We regard The Knight of Diamonds as a "sequel" to the original Wizardry even though it required Wizardry to run and was labeled a "scenario" at the time. Origin wanted us to see Ultima VII, Part 2 as a second half to Part 1 just because it used the same engine and basic mechanics. I'm playing a 1993 "version" of NetHack even though it adds so much plot that if it were commercial, the publisher would probably market it as a wholly different game. 
Look close for that small gold sticker.
I've said before that I believe instead of waiting 15 years between games, Bethesda should have just taken the mechanics and landscape already developed for Skyrim, whipped together a new plot (with associated quests and NPC dialogues, of course), and sold it for another $75. But would a new plot set in the same game world, using the same engine, be an "expansion" or a brand new game? Does it all come down to what the box says?
For the Pai brothers, the authors of 2088, the pressures that led to these questions were not philosophic but economic. Vivek Pai related the story to  me almost six years ago, when I was playing 2088: The Cryllan Mission (1989). In the late 1980s, Victory Software--relying on marketing from Apple--thought that the Apple IIGS was the platform of the future. They fused their interests in popular culture with their own Indian heritage to create 2088, optimistically spending tens of thousands of dollars on around 5,000 full-color game boxes with impressive, professional art. A year later, it was clear to everyone that the IIGS didn't have much longer to live, and the Pai brothers were looking morosely at the thousands of expensive boxes still sitting in their garage. Figuring that once you already have the game engine, commands, menus, graphics, sound, enemies, and combat, it's virtually no effort to write new dialogue and mix around some tiles, the brothers got to work and ordered a couple thousand gold stickers that read "The Second Scenario," slapped them awkwardly on the boxes under the title, and started shipping it.
Creating a character in the "academy."
2088 isn't a sequel to, but rather a re-imagining of the original game. It opens with the same plot (after all, the back of the box didn't change, nor did the manual): It's 2088, and the U.S.S. Houston has gone missing on the planet Crylla. You're part of a rescue expedition gone to find them. The mechanics of gameplay have not changed except for the addition of an "Ask [for] Object" option during NPC dialogue and a slight tweak to the way doctor and nurse characters operate (they can now only heal if adjacent to the character). Graphis have been marginally improved. Otherwise, this is the same engine we've seen in 2088 and The Secrets of Bharas (1991).
The game begins as you use an "Academy" application to create a team of six party members, all of whom can be soldiers, science officers, nurses, or doctors. The game randomly rolls for marksmanship, intelligence, kinetics (avoiding enemy fire), dexterity, and stamina, and you can distribute a bonus pool to adjust these statistics. The character then goes through the academy and might get additional development in those skills.  
There are roaches behind the counter of the food store in this town.
I made a party and started exploring the land, making comparisons to the first scenario. The content is definitely different. The starting continent is 128 x 128, the same as the first game, but it's a different shape, uses slightly different tiles, and does not wrap (it's surrounded by water). There's talk of other continents accessible by boat, though, which the first scenario didn't have, which suggests the overall game world, like the engine, is going to be a little more like Bharas than the first game. 
Exploring outdoors. The first 2088 had cities you couldn't enter without passes, too.
The name of the starting land is Soonye. It has a couple of towns, cities, and dungeons, all of which have different names than in the first scenario. Inside those towns are NPCs, also with different names than the first scenario. And yet, the themes so far are all the same. Before they disappeared, the Houston astronauts identified the people of Crylla as peaceful and trusting, but we find them to be armed and suspicious. NPCs tell us that this is a recent change. They blame it on "misanthropes"--it's not clear if they're supposed to be a race or a philosophy--doing everything from infecting the government to robbing travelers on the highway. The towns have force fields that stop anyone from entering at night. Cities require passes to enter. All of this is the same as the original mission. I didn't take (or keep) extensive notes on NPC dialogue in the original, so I haven't been able to identify any obvious examples of simple paragraph-rewriting, but a couple of the dialogues have felt awfully familiar.
This exact dialogue did not exist in the first game, but the same themes were there.
Also identical (or near-identical) to the first game are the inventory system, character development system, and combat mechanics. Each character starts with rifles and thermal armor and can upgrade, as money becomes available, to stronger versions of both. Characters level up at fixed experience thresholds.
Combat occurs in the same rather innovative turn-based tactical grid, with characters trading moves with enemies and able to  move, attack, rest, or cast grenades during their rounds. The game has a relatively sophisticated (for its time) auto-combat system, in which you can set a variety of preferences and watch the action. Pathfinding is poor, and it treats rifles like melee weapons, but otherwise works out relatively well. 
Dungeons look to be the same bland, multi-leveled creations that they were in 2088 and Bharas, probably necessary for a few key items. It also has that weird "transport" system in which you can have, like, a laser-enabled hover car, but every character has to enter and exit individually, and once you're in a transport, combat uses its weapons and "armor" instead of your personal ones. 
Encountering some local fauna in the Linkronite Mines.
As I explored the land, I had the overwhelming sense that I had already played the game, thematically in its predecessor and mechanically in its successor. It felt like the same themes and quests were taking shape. I imagined spending between 12 (2088) and 63 (Bharas) hours with it only to find another variation on the Star Trek episode "Patterns of Force"--another revelation that the Houston crew had overthrown and militarized the Cryllan people--only with different maps and rewritten dialogue, and I asked myself if I would regard such time as well-spent. I decided I would not. Hence, the BRIEF.
However, I must now confess two things:
1. This decision was highly influenced by my growing distaste for Ultima-style games with iconographic interfaces that do not either a) have a coordinate system, or b) provide at least a rough map in the box. I started to map the land of Soonye because it's the only way I know to ensure that you've found all locations. I screwed up at some point, as I always do when I try to map a large overland world without any coordinates. I'm honestly thinking I'm going to refuse to play such games in the future unless Andrew Schultz has posted a map on GameFAQs.
About as far as I got with the map before I realized I'd hopelessly bungled it.
2. Part of me wants to verify for sure that the plot was going to resolve in the same way. I tried opening the disks with CiderPress, but I wasn't able to extract text from the relevant files. I don't know Apple IIGS disk formats, so I'm not sure what to try. If anyone else wants to take a stab at it, I'm 99% sure that the relevant disk is the "outdoor" one and the relevant files are the ones named PLAYER.TEXTS:LandX:TownX:PersonX.
Barring any further developments in those areas, I'm inclined to leave it a BRIEF. I don't know if this precedent will always hold, but in general, I think if the box, manual, plot, and engine are the same as a previous game, it's not really a "new" game. That doesn't mean I wouldn't happily play it if I really liked the game.


  1. "Encountering some local fauna in the Linkronite Mines."

    And isn't he just adorable?

    P.S: No problem with skipping Ultima Clone XLVIII which you've basically played before.

  2. "if the box, manual, plot, and engine are the same as a previous game, it's not really a "new" game. That doesn't mean I wouldn't happily play it if I really liked the game."

    This is where roguelikes excel, where every play session grants access to an entirely new scenario adhering to an old and familiar ruleset.

    1. Due to the flood of roguelikes and roguelites, I've grown extremely tired of procedural generation and its false promise of "infinite content".

      In truth, it's just the same content slightly shuffled around, over and over. And the quality isn't remotely comparable to proper hand-made level and encounter design.

    2. Yeah infinite content is basically a lie. The real benefit is in game systems that can’t be bested by content memorization, if the mechanics take sufficient advantage of them (as in Nethack, Spelunky, etc).

    3. Right. There's a place for both. I agree with Jarl in that I have a preference for hand-made worlds, NPCs, encounters, and so forth, but I'm also aware that takes an incredible amount of time. I'd rather have some randomization, even at the expense of hand-crafted worlds, if the alternative is literal same game over and over.

    4. The appeal of roguelikes is not "infinite content". Games that try to use procgen to create large/infinite amounts of content (i.e. Daggerfall) inevitably fail. The appeal of roguelikes (and game randomizers) is unpredictability, the metagame of preparing for contingencies and being forced to improvise. It's the same reason that RPGs typically have a random element in combat.

    5. You should think of them as strategy games. The object is to figure out how to win, regardless of what random configuration the game has thrown at you. Like Solitaire too, if you like.

    6. Excellent analogy. Traditional CRPGs are to Roguelikes what crosswords are to solitaires.

    7. Nethack and Daggerfall (and I'll throw Diablo into the mix) have in common that they're not really about procedural generation. It's a tool, not a selling point.

      I see the point about strategy games but I can't think of many (any?) that are as unforgiving about mistakes as nethack.

    8. Pretty much any game you're playing ironman can be unforgiving, almost by definition. I've had game-ending blunders deep into X-Com runs and Civ maps.

    9. So, basically, the appeal is being forced to something unpleasant? That explains why I can't derive any enjoyment out of it - I've heard that this business of "being forced into unpleasant" relies on "safe, sane and consensual"... and for me, losing hours of your life you're never getting back on being forced into unpleasant is neither consensual nor even very sane :D Joking aside - as for "any game on ironman being unforgiving", I believe there's a reason why games like Nethack HAVE to rely on ironman to keep being interesting enough, while Civ or X-Com can be interesting to the point of "addicting" WITHOUT ironman: games like Nethack have "all-or-nothing" mechanics in that sense, either your mistake is deadly and costs you all of the hours of your life poured into this run, or is completely trivial, with consequences being negligible (retreating at the upper levels to rest, finding some more monsters to grind, farming some more loot...). Civ or X-Com are both spectrum-like instead of so black-and-white, with mistakes having steps between "die here and now" and "completely no consequences", and also do have opportunities for long-term mistakes that do not doom you outright but set you up for much harder game down the line (like placing your cities in bad starting places for example).

    10. Games are fun for many reasons. When a player experiences fun via the challenge, taking away the challenge takes away that aspect of the game's ability to generate fun.

      Lots of games (including most roguelikes, intentionally or not) allow the player to set the level of difficulty, and lots of gamers enjoy playing roguelikes with less punishing difficulty than playing them 'straight'.

      Most Roguelikes have the same spectrum of mistakes as any other strategy game. Losing important gear, getting 'doomed', wishing for the wrong item - such errors can take hours to correct, or even permanently reduce your likelihood of winning.

    11. As far as strategy games go, I tried Fieldrunners and it seemed to me like when I lost I had to start over, without save points. I guess most tower defense games have multiple levels that you can retry, though. But Fieldrunners seemed far more unforgiving than roguelikes to me, because a suboptimal layout early on could mean you were doomed fifty waves later. You can get into some walking dead-ish scenarios like that in roguelikes, possibly by using your best resources too soon, but usually your doom comes much quicker.*

      Anyway I think the necessity of improvising in roguelikes really is a kind of infinite content. I've played a ton of Brogue and am still facing scenarios I've never seen before. But it's not going to be infinite content like radically different level layouts or anything, let alone story.

      The whole discussion is complicated because they've started calling just anything roguelikes and roguelites. I read something about this new poker-based "roguelike" Balatro that said "What makes Balatro a roguelike game is the shop you visit between rounds, where you can buy upgrades or take a chance on booster packs with a random assortment of cards. Here, you can purchase some of the 150 collectible Jokers, each unlocked by completing challenges..." and what are we even talking about here? Unlockable collectibles? Shops?

      *Unless you burn all your candles as light sources. (Joke, Chet! as you have described it you have enough candles)

    12. Roughly speaking, aren't most board games also more similar to games with procedural levels and permadeath than to games with hand-made levels and saving & loading? The challenges arise from the game systems (procedurally, so to speak) and your opponents (~=AI), and you can lose. And usually people don't consider a lost game as "losing hours of your life".

      You could say that the approach of hand-made levels and saving & loading is the odd one out!

      (Ok, maybe that's stretching the analogy too far.)

    13. And couldn't it be argued that having to replay the exact same static level from the point of the last savegame or checkpoint is more like "losing hours (minutes) of your life"?

      (I think one mark of a great game is that even replaying the same part is a lot of fun, but that's difficult to achieve.)

      What has rarely been done is to have a long traditional campaign, where the player is reset to a recent checkpoint upon death (instead of the start of the game), and the subsequent parts of the level are procedurally generated anew.

      What's also rarely considered is that procedural generation can be combined with a hand-made, densely plotted campaign, by combining both types of level parts: Hand-made introduction => procgen corridors and rooms => hand-made NPC encounter => procgen battles => hand-made boss encounter => etc.

    14. As someone who enjoys boardgames but not roguelikes, I would say that the fundamental difference between them is that boardgames 1) typically last a couple hours at most, 2) have on average a much higher win rate and 3) are as much about social experience as gameplay. So not really comparable.

      The problem with roguelikes to me is the time investment needed to win - both in terms of the number of sessions and an average session length. If a typical spoiler-free first win took about 5 hours (not talking ), it would have been a lot more palatable. But knowing for a fact that I'll have several characters die after 10-20 hours each before I figure out a winning strategy just makes it not worth bothering.

    15. Sorry, sent an infinished comment. The sentence in brackets should read "not talking about people who know the game by heart"

    16. Board games in real life aren't really "lost hours", because they are spent socializing with real people made of real meat, and emotions, and interactions, which is a neccesity (hey, even the Sims included social needs! :D). Roguelikes, sadly, include much less socializing - unless you're spending time on roguelike forums and discussing your games, "Yet Another Stupid Deaths" etcetera with others. Come to think of it, if you post your "Yet Another Stupid Death" and get some comments and reaction to it, it wouldn't count as "lost hours" for me, either. But I personally never visited those forums, so for me roguelikes were always a solitary experience, so... yeah. When I've lost, I'm back to my empty room realizing that it had no meaning to no one except me, it was not experience for anyone else. Not so with board game - at the very least we spent time playing, talking, maybe eating something tasty in the meantime...

    17. Yes, it could be argued, that replaying the same part of the same level until it finally "clicks" and you get it just right is as much "wasting time of your life". But that's this thing with arguments - in complicated enough a topic, you could argue for both sides with good arguments. There is an important difference about "replaying the same part of the level, getting better each time" - it's the aspect of learning/self-improvement, it feels that every time you get better, until you get good enough that you are able to pass this exact challenge. It's the same drive, I guess, that makes people play the same song on "Guitar Hero" over and over until they get it perfect. Or the people who play some puzzle game level over and over again until they get it, without even a bit of randomization. It's a sort of "continuity of an object" , concentrating on a task until you get it right, until you get it done. Which is destroyed if you're permakilled and never get to solve the SAME task again. What permadeath and randomization forces you to do is not ONLY lose hours (after all, Final Fantasy X made me lose more than 200 hours, and let's not get started on Stardew Valley...), but you lose your ability to retry this very challenge again and again, to get an answer to the question - is this dumb luck, is this a systemic error committed 5 hours earlier, or is this just a skill issue? That being said, people prefer different "comparative weights" of luck, skill and longterm strategy to matter in their games, and, for some people, this increased weight of luck (to the point of not even knowing if you're really not skilled enough or not, not to mention not being able to hone your skill) must be the very thing that attracts them.

      What I still don't get is why people are praising being forced into the uncomfortable, though. It reminds me of this "safe, sane and consensual" stuff, I don't get how would it be worse if playing ironman was an OPTION, what's so tempting in being FORCED.

    18. Roguelikes don't really take that much time really

      A 3 rune run of DCSS takes around 3-5 hours, depending of how fast you play - A run in nethack is super variable but my average is 8 hours and i play rather slowly.

      Other more modern roguelikes like ftl and such have run times of 2 hours or less.

    19. > What permadeath and randomization forces you to do is not ONLY lose hours

      Permadeath doesn't make you lose anything, not really. That's a key insight to understand how roguelikes work.

      The progress is all done outside of the game, in your head. You (not your character) become better at playing. Permadeath can't steal your skill.

    20. I guess for this to be true (ALL of the progress is outside of the game) roguelike would have to have NO rpg elements (no levels, experience) and no equipment either, at least no rare equipment. In that case, yes, you would really have nothing to lose. But imagine getting a wish early or finding a really nice piece of equipment or simply getting to a high level by luck. You have a LOT to lose. If roguelikes did not have all f that, then your words about ALL of the progress being outside of the game would ring completely true!

    21. Well, the thing - getting an early wish, finding a good piece of equipment, none of this is specially rare. New player think it is - they thing they they have to keep trying until they have a "good run" and that is how they will win, that they need the luck - but the thing is, all runs are good runs. The dungeon gives you all you need if you know how to play.

      Like for a concrete example, each Nethack game you have around a 30% chance to find a magic lamp in the mines, that's not rare at all!

      Like i just won 5 Nethack games in a row (Then i lose the 6th due to getting cocky). And honestly i am not even that good, actually good players can keep streaks of dozens of wins without an sweat.

      Random chance, luck with gear or whatnot, that doesn't matter as much as knowing the game, knowing what enemies are dangerous, which ones are not, knowing how to move tactically, learning to use escape items, etc.

      Nethack in particular is very generous on this (compared with modern roguelikes) giving many EXTREMELY powerful escape items that can instantly save you from a bad situation if you just remember to use them.

      Like Chet likes to talk about how teleportitis is very powerful and can allow to easily escape fights, but it's hardly the only example.

      Wands of fire/lighting/digging allow to engrave perfect Elbereths, which will stop 99% of dangers.

      Scrolls of scare monster can be dropped to the floor for a similar effect to Elbereth.

      Wands of teleport can move a full line of enemies way, of you can teleport yourself.

      scrolls of earth can create a Boulder fort around you

      A cursed potion of gain level will instantly level port you one level up.

      Or a wand of digging can instanly drop you down one level.

      A tooled horn can instantly and without fail scare most enemies in the game.

      potions of extra healing (early game) or full heal (lategame) can instantly top all your hp

      Etc etc etc, this isn't an exhaustive list by any means.

      Like the most dangerous part of a Nethack run, by far, is the first 5-6 levels when you don't have anything yet. Once i have survived that and found a wand of digging or a few scrolls of teleport or something like that, i know i won't die unless i really mess up.

    22. I don't understand this recurring "forced into the uncomfortable" claim. Being forced to improvise isn't uncomfortable, it's thrilling. Being presented with new challenges that you have to develop skills to overcome is one of the core reasons to play games in the first place.

      Anything you gain in a game is eventually going to be "lost" when you stop playing the game. I just recently completed the game Moonring, and it was a lot of fun. But now I'm done with that save. I have a powerful character with a bunch of abilities and loot, and all I can do with it is go and beat up random encounters. That's fine! The game is done. I can play it again if I want, but I won't have all the stuff I gained. Even games with New Game Plus features eventually run out of challenges.

      If this is about being "forced" to play games with permadeath, backing up your save is trivial in virtually any roguelike, and it's not uncommon to offer some kind of way to avoid permadeath (even the conservative NetHack has explore mode). I don't personally find that method of play entertaining because the game isn't designed to be fun that way, but everyone can make their own choices.

      Online socializing is definitely a big part of the roguelike experience for many people, and it always has been.

    23. > Roguelikes don't really take that much time really

      Er, as an aficionado of Angband, I have to say it depends - I’m also a reasonably slow player but can win fairly consistently, and I’m guessing an average victory takes 30ish hours? Angband, at least in its modern incarnations, is pretty forgiving though and has comparatively few of the learn-by-dying elements that NetHack seems to have, so I suspect it’s quicker to get an initial win though subsequent ones probably come way quicker in NetHack.

      My sense is ADOM and ToME are also pretty long, though I’ve never gotten especially far in either.

    24. "Nethack and Daggerfall (and I'll throw Diablo into the mix) have in common that they're not really about procedural generation. It's a tool, not a selling point."

      I used to listen to Roguelike Radio and I recall one of the older designers talking about why he liked procedural generation: When he was a kid, someone else showed him how to win at a specific game, and to do it you had to move your ship into position before the enemies showed up on screen, and the only way to do it was to memorize their positions from a previous game. He felt like that was unfair and wrong, since as the guy in the cockpit you had no way to know those ships would be there.

      Procedurally generating the level and monsters each time is his tool to get around that problem; each game tests the players skills, not their ability to memorize what is behind door number 73.

    25. Also, I'll take "BDSM Terms" under the category of 'Things I didn't expect to read on Chet's blog" for 500 points, Alex.

      What is next, SSC vs RACK as it applies to Ultima? ;)

    26. @Broken25, roguelikes may take 5-8 hours for an expert player to win. But as you can see from Chet's Nethack blog, even he - who's far from a newbie - is taking much longer than that.

    27. For this use case there's Rapid Brogue, which is supposed to take around 30 minutes for a run.

      On the roguelite side there's Spelunky, which is so fast that a failed run takes merely minutes and even a successful run until the end doesn't take more than 40 minutes, due to the condensed levels with time limits. I'd love to play a real-time RPG roguelike-/lite with this arcade approach to game length.

    28. How long a roguelike takes depends on the roguelike! And also your play style--Broken25, you say you're a slow player, but I'm pretty sure I play a lot slower than that. It also depends on experience, as someone who's not very experienced with DCSS I'm pretty sure I've sunk 3-5 hours into a game and I've never got anywhere near a rune or the Orb.

      But yeah, Rapid Brogue is for instance designed to not take that long. Also to give you most of the information up front (you still have to identify unknown things, but once something''s identified it gives you a pretty clear statement of its capabilities). And I think action roguelikes/roguelites are usually pretty short too, because you can't stop and think.

      The one thing I'd emphasize is that most roguelikes aren't "put twenty hours into a session and die because of something you didn't know." Usually deaths happen earlier, before you've ramped up your character's power and your in-game knowledge. (As we can see in Chet's current NetHack run, where having got to the midgame he's steamrollering everything.) So not as much time is lost. And when that happens, like I recently lost a run of Cinco Paus on the 25th jogo out of 50 because a teleport landed me in the middle of a bunch of monsters, I was like "That sucked but it was also bad play on my part and I can always start another!" I guess it's a lot worse if this happens when you've never won the game.

    29. Oh Bitmap, have you tried Crypt of the Necrodancer? I have not but I think runs are not that long--it manages to blend real-time and turn-based by having you and the enemies act on the beat of the music. (Which might be an issue if you don't like rhythm games.)

      Unexplored is also supposedly basically real-time Brogue, there's a playthrough video that's a little under 2 hours but I don't know how typical that is.

    30. I note that everyone stating that roguelikes aren't that long keep bringing out roguelites, which are not the same thing. There are coffee break roguelikes, but I note those are distinct enough from the usual fare that the roguelike database had them as a distinct category last I checked. (but frankly, even those tend to last a good hour or two on a successful run)
      Describing the game as basically obtaining metaknowledge seems to ignore that a lot of people who play RPGs aren't doing so because they like metagaming. Having metaknowledge in a RPG either means you play too many RPGs or you played that game too much. Requiring that to win a game in any reasonable length of time is not a lot of people's idea of fun.

    31. Surely coffee break roguelikes are still roguelikes? Rapid Brogue has all of the features of the main game.

      You know, I do wonder whether a player might win a fairly designed roguelike like Brogue after very few attempts if he took every risk extremely seriously, like risks in real life. How much metaknowledge really can only be learned by dying?

      @Matt, thanks for the suggestions. I've played both of them. Crypt of the Necrodancer is very close to roguelikes and yet not. I think you can dodge all attacks if you learn the enemy attack patterns and move correctly. This makes it somewhat like a single-character chess navigation game.

      (Note that choosing the Bard character disables the rhythm aspect and lets you play at your own pace.)

      Unexplored is very good, one of my favorites, and has maybe the best procedurally generated levels. One run, which consists of about 16 levels, is a bit long for my taste though. I couldn't do it in 2 hours. Maybe in 4 hours, and the first half is a bit easy and boring. In contrast, Spelunky is lightning quick and difficult from the get-go.

      Unexplored also has a "Makeshift Time Trial" mode, a shorter dungeon, which should be just what I want. But that mode is set to the highest difficulty level and so far I haven't been able to deal with the monster hordes in there. Should try that again.

      (Similar to how Crypt of the Necrodancer allows you to play without time pressure, Unexplored can be played by frequently using the pause button to calmly plan your actions in any difficult situation.)

    32. @stepped pyramids - yeah, sure, when you're over with the game, everything you did in this is "lost". But there is one crucial difference - you've finished the game, you're over with it, you have no obligation before yourself (of sorts) to pour any more time into it, getting more and more frustrated and angry. You're DONE with it. I guess, in the same vein, if I did ever win Nethack without backing save games up, I would be DONE with it and had no reason to continue to torture myself with it =) It's like being released, being let out of the cave or of the dungeon. Time spent on it is not "lost" because you are separated from attachment to the game finally.

      But if you spend a lot of time and effort and then you "go back to starting square, do not take 200$", your time is precisely lost - you did not get closer to winning the game and becoming free from it, you did not gain anything, you did not even have any fun, only frustration.

      Regarding backing up your savefile - oh, sure, I know about that technique! I used it once to play ADOM with persistent saves to almost the very end and had HEAPS more fun, than I ever did with "permadeath, back to square one, lose everything lol" style of play.

      But still, that's not intended way of play, isn't it? What I'm bafled about is the fact people are preaching that being precisely forced to suffer permadeath, to suffer frustration of losing everything is some kind of "virtue", which I simply don't get. I mean, if the game had it as an option, without forcing you into it, in what sense would it be worse? Yes, you can screw up "game as intended" by copying files if you know what you do, but why would an option to do so easily and legally so horrible that it stirs indignation (or, maybe, fear) of some sort? I guess I'm accentuating more "being forced" here than the exact amount of uncomfortable/frustrating, after all, this exact amount is subjective and depending on the player. But why such love of submission and being forced? That's why I keep making those BDSM jokes, because at some level it seems deeply uncomfortable to see people loving being voluntarily forced to something. Not to mention that "voluntarily forced" sounds lkie a bit of an oxymoron, too...

    33. @Matt, again, using Chet's run as an example - he got at least 15 hours in before he got to the Medusa. I highly doubt anyone playing without spoilers would go through that level without dying on their first try. And there are quite a few "gotcha" moments like this down the line.

      I've never won Unexplored (not honestly at least) but its length indeed felt much better balanced. It also helped that due to far superior generation algorithms it didn't feel as repetitive as regular roguelikes. But it also felt because of its level generation it didn't really need permadeath? Like, it would be perfectly replayable even with the ability to save at will.

    34. About the coffee break roguelike vs. regular roguelike distinction: Rapid Brogue probably does take an hour or two if you're not a pretty quick player, but this is a far cry from blowing twenty hours on a losing session. And it si definitely a roguelike. Not sure which database we're talking about, but if we're saying coffee-break roguelikes don't count as roguelikes because they're too short, then it's no surprise that we aren't finding any short roguelikes. :-)

      There are Broughlikes that tend to revolve around careful square-by-square maneuvering, usually on small maps, also usually with single-digit HP totals and deterministic 1 HP attacks, but still with lots of other roguelike characteristics. Including permadeath but these games are often truly short, so you don't lose so much time at once. (Though not always, a full Cinco Paus run is long, and I kinda think of Hyperrogue as a Broughlike even though it's huge--also you often have to stop and ponder every move in these games.)

      About Medusa, yeah, that's a trap that could cost you a lot of progress... but I was thinking that it's pretty rare for a player to get that far into NetHack without having started to look at spoilers. I know I didn't and I'm pretty sure Chet didn't. (Or did he start looking at spoilers after the first time reaching the castle?) If what people are complaining about is getting spiked by a secret you didn't know about after double-digit hours, I agree that's not much fun. But insofar as metaknowledge means that you learned more about good strategies in a fair way, that's just increasing your skill, which can be fun. Though increasing your skill by losing a whole run and starting over is not to everyone's taste!

    35. Yeah, Temple of the Roguelike's database (well, Rogue Basin) has a category for coffeebreak roguelikes, much like they have a category for Angband variants or demos. A characteristic that distinguishes it from other games. About 1/5th of all roguelikes on their site is a little bit out of the ordinary, ignoring whatever relative popularity all these titles have.

    36. "you did not get closer to winning the game and becoming free from it, you did not gain anything, you did not even have any fun, only frustration"

      None of this is true! Why do you think people would play roguelikes if they didn't have fun with it? Losses in roguelikes can be frustrating, but they don't have to be. All but the quickest wipes have many little victories to enjoy, and you do come out of it with a stronger understanding of the game and better preparation for the next run. At this point it seems like you're just flatly denying that what other people tell you about their experiences could possibly be true.

      As for "suffering" permadeath being a "virtue", you're the only person to use that term here. The combination of permadeath and procgen creates qualities in games that certain players, including myself, seek out. You don't have to enjoy that. I don't enjoy bullet-hell shooters, MOBAs, competitive RTS, and plenty of other genres, but I'm not upset that people like those games.

      In the language you seem bent on using, all games "force" you to "submit" to restrictions. I don't get to write a really good speech to convince my Democracy in Civilization to reject a peace deal. I don't get to ban 13-year-olds from a Halo deathmatch. I don't get to switch StarCraft to turn-based mode so I can think about what I want to do rather than clicking nonstop. Roguelikes are the same way. You don't have to like them!

      (And, frankly, if liking roguelikes is the computer game equivalent of BDSM there's nothing wrong with that. Although we all know the kinkiest kind of gaming is speedrunning Kaizo romhacks.)

  3. For these Ultima clones, instead of trying to map all of the squares exactly, maybe just draw out a general outline of the coastline, forest, roads, etc., similar to maps included with some games? It seems less necessary to be exact with the top down view, where you're not trying to find secret doors or the like.

    1. Honestly, I've tried. I don't know what it is, but something won't let me get away with "good enough" when it comes to mapping.

    2. Some things in life feel reasonable to do in a half-assed way, and others feel like an all-or-nothing proposition. Which is my way of agreeing with you: if I'm going to bother to map a game, I too am compelled to do it right, capturing every detail I can.

      I've been known to draw vague freehand sketches if I think I can get away with it, but once the graph paper comes out, it would annoy the hell out of me if I can't see it through. (Looking at you, Double Dungeons for TurboGrafx-16, with your absurdly oversized end-level maps.)

    3. For Doomdark's Revenge on the Speccy in the early 80s, I didn't even have graph paper - just a big sheet of wallpaper, I think, on which I inscribed the 128x64 map.

    4. Sometimes you're looking for hidden squares that don't show up on the map, that you'll need to return to. Or just knowing which squares you've already checked when hunting for hidden things.

      As long as you need to check each square, you need to know exactly where you've already checked. Even in an overworld map.

      If there's no searching involved and everything's visible on the map, then a rough map is usually good enough. But most RPGs go further than that.

  4. The funny thing about your comment about what Bethesda should have done with Skyrim is that Nintendo did basically that with Breath of the Wild. They took the overworld, modified it, changed around some of the mechanics, and put a new story on top before putting it out for $70 as Tears of the Kingdom. Personally I'd say it worked with flying colors, although that's definately not a universal opinion

    1. AlphabeticalAnonymousMarch 15, 2024 at 10:58 PM

      Not universal, indeed -- I thoroughly enjoyed the first one, but never played more than about an hour of the sequel. I thought to myself, "if this introductory island (where most attention must have been given!) already feels bland and needlessly confusing, what hope is there for the rest of the game?" I haven't gone back since.

    2. I didn't have the same negative response to the introductory island as you did, but the game substantially changes after you leave. The intro felt like an attempt to recreate the effect of the Great Plateau in the first game, but I don't think that particular lightning could strike twice. I would have gladly accepted a "skip tutorial" option.

    3. Note that even there, there was a six-year gap between Breath Of The Wild and Tears of The Kingdom. Even with large chunks of the map copied from the previous game, actually building a game on top of it that would sell wasn't quick or easy.

    4. @AlphabeticalAnonymous, I had a similar issue but it turned out to be because the game doesn't force you to go get all the special abilities right away. Once you do that, it's a pretty compelling little tutorial area to figure out all the neat interactions they've added (but I also agree the game opens up a lot more and gets a lot better once you finish it).

  5. Your comment about Skyrim made me think of Dragon Warrior. I've played four Dragon Quest games: I (beat), II (Didn't get that far) and a little III, all on Gameboy when I was in elementary school and XI on and off over the last year.

    Do you know what is different between Dragon Quest II and XI? Well, there is more writing. There are minigames. You can craft items. Oh and it is 3D instead of top down (But there is a setting that puts you back into SNES era graphics if you want. I am not joking).

    As I understand it the team basically just puts out the same game about once every 3 years with a few upgrades each time. It is kind of refreshing actually in an industry that drools at 'innovation' and shiny new things. They've found a formula that works and just do it over and over.

    1. I’d argue there’s more innovation in Dragon Quest than in Pokemon, sadly…

    2. I can't comment there; I haven't played one of them since Gen 2 on the Game Boy Colour when I was a kid.

    3. Pokemon tends to alternate between more traditional entries and more experimental ones. The latest pair's one of the more experimental ones, and outside of performance issues are some of the best games in the series

    4. Hey, some of the games in the middle had monster taming. And occasionally your character isn't a hero foretold in prophecy. V actually feels kind of innovative when you compare it to II. But it's true, Dragon Quest is arguably the most conservative major RPG series. (It has a number of more innovative spinoff series, though.)

    5. Oh fair, I wasn't counting Monsters or Builder or anything else, just the core series.

      Also, that isn't a bad thing. You know exactly what you are getting, and they don't rush them out so fast you get sick of the idea. I think we could do with a few more teams that just put out a good, reliable game every 3-4 years.

  6. "Pathfinding is poor, and it treats rifles like melee weapons, but otherwise works out relatively well."

    Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln...?

  7. With regard to the PLAYER.TEXTS files, if you open PLAYER.TEXTS/Combo.Land0/string.table you'll find a collection of English words stored as null-terminated ASCII. My guess is that the text in the various files is compressed, using string.table as a dictionary. The nearby "indirect.table" file may also be involved. You'd need to dig into the game engine to sort it out.


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