Friday, May 27, 2011

Omega: Everything is a Reference

The stuff that dreams are made of. (Incidentally, it turned out to be worth 0.)
Okay, first off: I didn't "interview" Laurence Brothers. I don't know how to properly conduct an interview. I did trade some e-mails with him and got some background information on the game. I'll drop in his quotes when appropriate. His most important insight was that "almost everything in the game comes from some fictional reference," including mythology. I'm catching some of them. There's The Maltese Falcon above, and I found a (useless) "sword that was broken" that I imagine is a Lord of the Rings reference (I also have some lembas wafers). Is the Goblin King a reference to Labyrinth, or is that too generic? We have deities from different pantheons: Odin (Norse), Athena (Greek), Set (Egyptian), and Hecate (Roman), and of course the Oracle is Greek. The "Lords of Destiny" might be a reference to a 1985 Dr. Who roleplaying game. The curse in Romani, which an anonymous commenter translated a couple of days ago, comes from a book by Charles de Lint ("yeah, it turns out that curse is a lot more vile than I thought"). I've probably missed a million others.

I don't think Mr. Brothers looked at my blog even after I invited him to, but it's funny how similarly we write and think about games. "One of my proudest achievements in school," he writes, "was winning a Rogue game fair and square without hacking it at all." Indeed, this is what started my blog! He notes that when you die in Rogue, "you just gnash your teeth and start a new game," which I had phrased as, "dying, screaming, and reloading." He does say that he intended Omega to be as hard as it is, and he deliberately implemented permanent death with Rogue-style difficulty in mind.

However, he notes that, "Omega is actually not that hard if you know all the tricks and secrets," and he suggested that one of them was hacking the ATM machine in Rampart for some extra cash (I haven't done this yet). Ironically, since I announced a couple of days ago that I would be cheating at Omega by backing up my saved games, I have only died twice. An anonymous commenter wrote yesterday that once you gain a few levels, "your character becomes much more durable," and I'm finding that to be true.

Let's talk about the things I've done and discovered since the last posting.

  • I owe a debt to yet another anonymous commenter (what's with all these anonymous folks lately?) for explaining the "Combat Maneuver Sequence." Not only was I being inefficient in my combat, I also wasn't using all of the actions that I could have taken. No wonder the fights were so hard.

  • I got down to Level 6 of the Goblin Caves. I still haven't found the king yet. I keep returning to Rampart every time my pack is full, where my kind associates at the Thieves' Guild identify all my items for 5 gold pieces each. Man, I wish there was a similar option in NetHack. On my first trip to the caves, I realized belatedly that I had wandered over there with just a club. I got a great axe from a goblin chieftain, but Kibfizma turned out to suck with it for some reason, and I ended up using a dagger until I found something better.

The best advantage I've ever gotten from a guild.

  • I've joined two more factions. I became an acolyte of the Lords of Destiny and an associate of the Sorcerer's Guild. It appears that as you gain experience, your various guilds promote you and give you new advantages (the Sorcerer's Guild gives spells, for instance).
  • I've won maybe eight combats in the arena (where I am a gladiator). These winnings entitled me to credits at a local gym, where I find that working out buffed up my statistics considerably. I went from 15 strength to 18 after a few turns on the weight machine. I'm guessing that the Collegium Magii (which I have not yet enrolled in) does something similar for intelligence and power.

Slightly higher prices than Planet Fitness.

  • As I said, I've died twice. Once was in the arena, when I faced Tyron the Apprentice Ninja. I was confused when I couldn't see my opponent at first. It dawned on me that he's a ninja just as he disemboweled me.

You don't see ninjas until they want you to see them.

  • That freaking ghost continued to chase me around town for ages, immune to melee attacks, immune to magic missile. It wasn't until I got firebolt from the Sorcerer's Guild that I was finally able to kill the bastard.

  • I won a fair amount of money at the casino. The slots advantage the house as bad as in Vegas, but roulette seems to offer roughly even odds.

The roulette wheel is obviously a reference to The Pickup Artist.

  • I found a brothel in town and paid a few hundred gold for the night. It wasn't really worth it.

"Honey, I swear! It was just 'educational'!"

  • I took a break from the Goblin Caves to go find the Archdruid. It was a bit anticlimactic. He lives in a forest hut surrounded by priests, angels, and demons, and the only thing he did for me was to offer a "ritual of neutralization" that recovered my alignment from chaos. Returning to Rampart, the Oracle now tells me to check out the Goblin Caves. Great! I was already on that.

Finding the ArchDruid's hut in the forest. You get hungry absurdly fast in the game. To make it here and back, I had to carry 25 buckets of fried lizard parts (from Chronicles of Amber?).

  • I'm developing a reasonably good inventory. A cutlass +2 for my primary weapon, a blessed round shield +2 and blessed soft leather armor +5. I got some boots of agility and a "ring of brass and glass +4" whose purpose is actually slightly confusing to me.

I thought the moon's phase as "gibbous" must be another fantasy reference, but it turns out that's a real word, meaning between half and fully illuminated. Another thing I learned from CRPGs.

For his inspiration to write the game, Mr. Brothers credits the "obvious" realization that Rogue-like gameplay "could be expanded out of its one simple dungeon to...a larger world." However, he says that the real reason was "mainly to avoid working on a Ph.D., which I in fact never got, so it was a successful project from that point of view." Ironically, I am blogging about Omega to avoid working on a Ph.D., but Mr. Brothers consoles me that "you can stay ABD forever if the chairman likes you." I guess I'd better stop playing so many games or start sucking up.


  1. Just stopping by to say great post. I really hope Mr. Brothers stops by to read your review! I dug up a colorized version of Omega and quickly committed suicide by confirming I wanted to attack a guard.

    I'd be playing Four Crystals of Trazere (loved that game when I was a kid), but it wants me to use F10 to save which is currently inaccessible on my laptop keyboard through the emulator (on OS X). :-/

  2. Is it odd to get a feeling of accomplishment from catching up to your blogs current postings? Anyway I am glad you are enjoying omega, that and Moria in my youth account for my love of rogue-likes. I would suggest you keep at it, trying a few different guilds for as long as you find fun.

    I was more excited to see that you were playing this game than any of the gold box games. The next most anticipated game for me to see you review is Wasteland which is coming up, I want to see how you deal with three legged hookers.

    Have fun and peas shout!

  3. UbAh: I sure did when I caught up! Second hardest blog to catch up on that I've read...Also the only blog in which I regularly read all the comments on.

  4. The druids are one of the temples you can join, and IMO give the best bonus ability: you can walk through hedge/bush squares as if they weren't there. I usually begin my Omega games by making the long trip to the druid grove, before doing the goblin caves.

    The brothel turns gold to XP (at least I'm pretty sure it does).

  5. roguewombat, if you're dosboxing Trazere, dosbox offers the possibility of remapping keyboard keys I think. Look it up in the readme!

    if you're running Trazere in an amiga emulator (as you well should!) then don't forget you can always just snapshot the rom! WinUAE is a lot stabler with that than it used to be. It might also have keyboard remaps, not sure. that I've said all that, please explain to me how to make any headway in Four Crystals of Trazere :P

  6. Awesome, a PhD-procrastination game! I made one of those during grad school, it was a combination of a dungeon crawl and Dance Dance Revolution. I think Dwarf Fortress also got its start as research-procrastination...

    Looking at it now, Omega reminds me very much of ADOM, another roguelike with a big complicated game world. There's a lot to love about ADOM, but there's also a lot to learn by trial-and-error in the mid-to-late game. That makes permadeath even more masochistic than it is in Rogue or the early game doesn't actually prepare you for the late game.

  7. Also, roguewombat Start Menu > Run > "osk" for on screen keyboard.

  8. oops, you're running OSX so that on screen keyboard thing won't work, but I bet there's a similar application you can get somewhere that does a similar thing.

    Also I felt I should clarify why I suggested the Amiga version of Tranzere. It isn't out of any loyalty to old girlfriend, as a matter of fact besides a few transition fades that are lost in the PC version, it's a solid port. It even keeps the nice music.

    The problem is that the pixel art on the PC is duller. Look at this comparison animation

    The Amiga 500 chipset has 5 bits per channel whereas standard VGA is 6 bits if memory serves. If you just transfer art from Amiga to DOS and you do not bit-stretch, the graphic files will have a less vibrant high end. Soddy PC ports that often use the exact same assets without any care by the people doing the port often suffer from the non-bitstretched versions looking duller, lower contrast. You can spot a lot of Amiga ports by this effect!

    I'm afraid I don't think Dosbox has a gamma/brightness adjustment hack.

    I realize all this is not related to Omega, sorry for the derail.

  9. UbAh, it's no more odd than the feeling of accomplishment I get when I post an entry.

    Anon, thanks for the note on the brothel. It gives 100 experience for 500 gold, so I'm not going to spend a LOT of time there, but it helps.

  10. Helm, thanks for the tips. I'm using DOSBox on OS X, so I'll look into remapping that F10 or figuring out how to disable the OS feature for that button (it's odd that it's just not working at all... but it may also be because I'm using a Bluetooth keyboard that doesn't have the Function key the laptop has keyboard has).

    As for the Amiga version, I didn't even know such a thing existed. : D

    We always played on DOS, and all I really remember about it is clearing the first dungeon and then duking it out with monsters when they started roaming the land. I was pretty young, so I can't remember if we actually completed the quest, but I think my older brother has recently taken it back up to and moved along a bit.

    I'll let you know if I find anything out... can't imagine I'll be waiting for CRPG Addict to get around to showing me all the spoilers. ^_^

  11. Funnily enough, the only time I have gotten any work done on my PhD is when I have played cprg's (Pool of Radiance goldbox). It keeps me in front of the computer, I play say 30-40mins, then my conscience tells me to do some work, so I do for 2-3 hours, before rewarding myself with some more crpg'ing time. Now that I have finished PoR (another case of a game I grew up playing and a favorite without equal) and not started another game, so has work on the thesis ceased.

  12. Yeah, the problem I have is where my conscience tells me to do some work, and I keep playing games instead.

  13. Buck, it SOUNDS reasonable, but I have learned that my conscience is a little yappy dog, and when I'm playing Wizards & Warriors or whatever, I'm pretty good at ignoring little yappy dogs.

    Membrane model proposal? Psh! I can play for a few more minutes...and then a few more minutes turns into six hours without my noticing.

  14. The lizzard partes were great to see. Keep up the good work! This is somehow critically important.

  15. Strange. I learned about gibbous/crescent waning/waxing from Ultima IV due to the moon phases required for moongate travel. I'd have thought that you'd have knew about it some time back.

    1. I might have encountered this in U4, but I didn't retain it.


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