Sunday, February 28, 2010

Wizardry: Going Slow, Mapping

I'm really having trouble picturing this encounter.

I hope no one feared that my lack of posting this week signaled a waning interest in this project. It was, rather, a result of some unexpected business travel arriving right after some expected business travel. It's one thing to play games when you ought to be working on the quarterly report; it's another thing to do so when your colleagues are waiting for you in the bar.

One thing is certain: Wizardry isn't going to go as fast as Ultima I. I have finished mapping two of what I guess are 10 levels, which sounds like I'm about 20% done, but I have a feeling it's going to get harder as I press forward. A few things I've discovered:

  • My strategy of rotating my characters is working well. On the couple of occasions in which my entire party has been wiped out, it's been relatively easy (albeit slow and expensive) to rescue and resurrect them. Hopefully this deals with the permanent death problem through the rest of the game.
  • Getting poisoned gets old fast. My useless rogue seems to trip every poison needle trap, and there are several creatures that poison you. My priest hasn't acquired the cure poison spell yet, so every poisoning means a trip back up to the surface. Thankfully, paralysis wasn't the problem that it used to be.
  • Your characters age in this game, when they change classes or spend a week resting in the inn. I'm guessing there's a danger (if somewhat remote) if getting too old and dying. I remember that happening decades ago in Might and Magic. I can't think of other games where the characters get older.
  • When you embark from the castle, your spellcasters have a certain allotment of spells per level. As far as I can tell, the only way to refresh this allotment is to return to the castle. This forces you to "budget" your spells as you adventure because there's no "resting" in the dungeon.
  • Leveling is a bit odd. You have to rest in the inn to gain levels, and when you do your statistics change--not always for the better. Sometimes you gain strength but lose vitality, or gain agility but lose intelligence. I'm not sure how the game decides what you gain and lose. One theory is that it's based on what you used (e.g., someone who "(f)ights" a lot gains strength), but that seems awfully advanced for a CRPG of this era.
What I really want to talk about tonight is mapping, though. It's one of the things I enjoy the most about old CRPGs and one of the things I miss the most when playing new ones. It would of course be functionally impossible to map Oblivion or Baldur's Gate without the automap, but manual mapping works great in these older, "tile-based" games.

Wizardry levels are arranged on a 20 x 20 Cartesian grid and the DUMAPIC spell tells you where you are on the x- and y-axes. Games that I remember sharing these square, limited grids are the "gold box" Dungeons & Dragons games and the Might and Magic series through #5. This makes mapping them somewhat easy. As I posted before, I'm using Excel to draw the maps on the computer screen, although it's been hard to find a border style that makes a good door. I use letters to indicate special encounters.

Level 2 of the Wizardry dungeon.

If I recall correctly (and I could be wrong), the Might and Magic games used every square, so if you found yourself walling off an area, it was a sure sign of a secret door. Wizardry doesn't seem to use every square, although walled-off areas are sometimes signs of secret doors (I didn't have any on this level). If you have a walled-off area, you have to test it by (k)icking at every wall square around its perimeter (something I have fun picturing my characters doing). If, having done so, you can't find a way in, it's a good sign that those squares aren't used. I color them in at that point. But there's always a chance that some alternate staircase or teleporter will toss you into that area (perhaps with a one-way secret door for an exit).

The maps in Wizardry also have another odd characteristic: they double back on themselves. If you look at the one above, space 0,10 is theoretically at the westernmost extent of the map. But there's an opening to the west. Take it, and you find yourself at square 19,10. Without the DUMAPIC spell, this would all be a little tough to figure out.

I suspect I'm going to run out of things to say about the game long before I win it, but I don't want to wait too long between postings. So here's a discussion topic for the next post: coming up with character names. How do you do it? Probably some of you can figure out where the names of my party at the top of this post came from, but this isn't my usual modus operandi.

Later edit: I was getting cocky, apparently. Level 3, in addition to featuring numerous pit traps, plays host to legions of ninjas who can decapitate your characters with a single blow. I've run out of money to use for resurrection, and it will take hours of killing low-level monsters to build up my finances again. I'm going to sleep on it, but Telengard (the next game on my list) is starting to look really good right now.


  1. Quick note, will have to return to read in more detail later, but characters also aged in the Phantasie series of games, and it was such a kick in the teeth to have built up a really high-level character for some serious butt-kicking and then have him die of old age when we slept at an inn.

    1. How do these games show aging? Do you celebrate your characters' birthdays?

    2. Honestly, Fate: Gates of Dawn (1991) is the earliest game I can remember to acknowledge birthdays when they occur.

  2. What bothers me more is the idea of these characters spending their entire LIVES in a single dungeon of 10 200ft. x 200 ft. levels. I feel I almost owe it to them to say, "You know what? Screw Werdna and his amulet."

    1. Don't characters age a week every time you have them stay at the inn? Who's to say that they don't have "normal" lives outside of the dungeon, and that dungeoneering isn't just a side job they spend an hour a week sometimes on?

  3. I was beginning to wonder if Wizardry was beating you down. Beating it will be a pretty momentous occasion, and I wish you the best! I began playing it when I was a kid but never made it through; I fell in love with the Bard's Tale and Ultima games instead, and Wizardry never occupied me similarly.

    As for mapping, man, I am in complete agreement with you there. Somewhere in my old files is a complete collection of Bard's Tale I and III maps, hand-drawn on graph paper with specialized notation marking certain things in the dungeons. Mapping was not tedium for me; it was almost a zen activity and I loved it. I cut my teeth on mapping in Legacy of the Ancients, but it took a while for me to really get into the swing of how to do it. I'm not I would do it similarly to you (that is, with Excel) but only because I so much prefer the tangible feel of pencil and paper when doing activities like that.

  4. For those who really miss map making in RPG's, I wanted to make mention of the Etrian Odyssey series on the Nintendo DS. One of the primary activities in this series is creating maps of the dungeons you explore. The map making process is integrated very well with the touch screen and stylus so that you are actually drawing the map as you progress.

  5. Could you upload your excel maps. I know they are available at other sites, just wanted to see how you set your spreadsheet up.

  6. smileyninja, I didn't save the ones for Wizardry, but next time I play a game in which I use maps extensively (probably MM2), I'll upload them.

  7. I usually put my name on the main character and for the others it's up to my mind and moment.. Maybe real life friends or totally random names.. Or completely identifying ones such as Conan for fighter, Redcaster for sorcerer etc. ;)

  8. Heh I think I use the same border as you for doors, when I used to draw these manually I'd use a line with a dash through it for doors and the dash would be an s for secret doors and one way doors the dash/s sould end half way through. When I came to my first door I had to map in excel I went to the list of borders and jsut thought 'ugh, none of these look good.' Oh well, how do you get those nice arrows for the stairs?

    You don't have to kick thru walls you can just walk through them, in fact k just moves you forward like the forward arrow.

    It's been years since I've played crpgs that had you controlling more than one person so when I came tot his and bards tale and had to think up more than one name I quickly ran out of names and just used characters from books as well. When I was a kid I actually made up the names, i remember my cleric/priests were always female and always named serena, also my main fighter was always dren taf (fat nerd backwards), cant remember the rest...i do kinda like the way dren taf sounds though, i might have to bring that back.

  9. The stair arrows are under Insert | Symbols. Dren Taf does have a ring to it.

  10. Now a days my main character is usually one of my dogs then I move to the kid's names. Makes it more personal I guess. When I was younger i made them up or took names out of books.

    1. Hmm. My post here looks fine. But on the side bar it reads differently and amusingly not what I intended. However, I was trying to suggest I name characters after my pets and my children.

    2. Doesn't it disturb you to see them die all the time?

  11. The gold box games also had you age, but I don't know if it ever had any impact in the game.

    As far as names, I have a small handful I tend to use. Weasel is normally my online nickname, so in single character games, that's usually my pick, sometimes swapped for "ferret" if it's a lady.

    Other times, I go with something that signifies their class, or just go lazy and use names from books (many a Sparhawk knight/fighter).

    1. I would have used mink for a lady, but that's probably more due to the cartoons I watched as a kid.

  12. I can tell you don't have the original manual... you don't have a Derf. Every game I've ever played has had a Derf since I borrowed Wiz1 from a friend

  13. I never did any mapping in Wizardry. I just did grinding on the first level until I learned it really well. Then I did the same with the second level. At a certain point I stopped doing this though, because there are chutes that will take you to lower levels. Once I got to that point, I rested up and just went down to the lowest level and beat the final boss.

    Anyway, I never felt like I needed to map things out, but I understand some people like doing that sort of thing.

  14. This is old ground, but it's occasionally fun to retread again.

    "You have to rest in the inn to gain levels, and when you do your statistics change--not always for the better."

    The DOS version is bugged. Every other version has the occasional stat loss amid the usual gains, but the IBM version takes it to a whole new level.

    I can thank that flaw for improving the nostalgia, as it's driven me to emulate my original experience on the Apple II+ with the green monitor :)


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