Friday, September 9, 2011

Ultima V: Not Bumping

Slimes divide when you hit (but don't kill) them, so fighting them with bare hands ensures they'll multiply prolifically, giving you plenty of experience when you finally kill them. The downside is that it's boring as hell.

Tonight, I killed: 17 slimes, 4 sea serpents, 3 orcs, 4 trolls, 3 more sea serpents, 8 sharks, 15 bats, 2 rats, 6 skeletons and a mage, 3 more trolls, 12 more slimes, 2 gazers, and a lone spider.

Then, later, I killed: 2 gazers, 3 insect swarms, 9 sea serpents in three different battles, 4 slimes, 3 pythons, a ghost, 4 skeletons, a spider, another ghost, 3 more spiders, a bat, 2 more slimes, and a reaper.

After that, I killed: 3 slimes, a python, 2 spiders, 4 gremlins, 6 bats, 4 reapers, 4 insect swarms, 18 bats, 2 skeletons, a mage, 4 headless, 2 wisps, 6 ghosts, 4 daemons, a troll, 3 trolls, 4 trolls, 2 trolls, a troll, 4 trolls, 2 trolls, a troll, 3 trolls, 3 trolls, 4 trolls, 2 trolls, and a troll.

Okay, I realize this will get old fast. Suffice to say, I spent about 4 hours killing foe after foe in an attempt to raise my characters one more level before taking on the final dungeon. I'm not sure if it's bad game balance to require so much grinding, or if I just finished the main part of the game much quicker than the creators intended.

Donn's clue about being able to attack creatures behind walls with polearms was much appreciated.

I couldn't make up my mind whether to do my grinding on the surface, in the Underworld, or in dungeons, so I vacillated among them. I did find one square level in Wrong that seemed to spawn a new foe--often reapers--every time I turned a corner. I stayed there for a good long while. Later, on the surface, I sold my accumulated loot and bought 99 of every reagent (again), mixed 99 "great heal" spells, 99 regular heal spells, 99 "kill" spells, and a bunch of other spells. I bought 9,999 food, 99 each of keys, gems, and torches, and I still had more gold than I knew what to do with.

When I was done, Lord British at last raised my Avatar to Level 7 and all my other characters to Level 6. Getting Level 8 would take exactly double my current experience, and I couldn't see doing that. Thus, I prepared to return to the final dungeon and win the game.

I don't even want to tell you this next part.

Grinding was boring, see, so I had been watching Scrubs on Netflix Instant Play in one window while I played in another. Well, I'm having this recurring problem where my computer crashes if I'm watching a video in a window and messing around in an application in another. "Crashes" doesn't go far enough. The screen goes blank and the computer starts shrieking at me until I hold down the power button long enough to force it to shut off.

When I restarted and tried to go back into Ultima V, I got this:

My save game is corrupted. And, no, I haven't been making any backups.

I'm devastated. I can't not win this game, but the idea of starting over with a new character is too much to think about right now. Suggestions welcome.

[Later edit: It turns out my standard backup also backs up my "games" folder. This is good news, but I last ran it on September 1. I am currently re-doing all the stuff I did after the "Finishing up on the Surface" posting. After that, instead of grinding, I will hex-edit my characters to the experience levels they had when my game got corrupted. Thanks for all your suggestions. While the method I'm following takes a lot more time than a pre-saved game, I just don't feel right completing the game without my "real" party.]


  1. That's terrible man.... Are there save files available that you could sort of start from? That would be pretty lame, but it might be preferable to starting over or not finishing it. Alternatively, are there any save file editors available? Or documentation on this? It seems like this kind of stuff should be doable on a PC title.

  2. - Something to consider

  3. - Something else to consider. Maybe you could edit this game to look like yours.

  4. - This might be useful as well, although I sorta doubt it.

  5. I appreciate the suggestions. I thought about trying a epic hex edit, but I don't have the heart tonight. I really wanted to finish with my own party, but I might just go with one of those save files just to see how it ends.

  6. On the grinding front, you may have gone slightly faster than usual, but not a huge amount. When I played it (first CRPG ever, in 1988!) I wound up with my Avatar at level 8 and the rest of my party at level 5 (so slightly less experience divided amongst my party than you have), and it was enough to win the game with accidentally going into the final dungeon with only 3 mandrake.

    As for the savegame -- it shoud be pretty quick to get a new game to the same object state as the old one (since you still have all the notes and can skip right to the end), it's just the level grinding you'd have to do again. Perhaps judicious use of a savegame editor to set the character levels combined with a few hours of replay?

  7. Sorry to hear that.

    I know it's extremely unlikely, dependent on the version of Windows you're using and who set it up etc but there's a slim chance there may be previous versions of the file. For example on my Windows 7 PC if I right click on a file there is a "Restore Previous Versions" option - though I don't have it running on my PC. Worth a quick check just in case.

    Whatever you decide about U5 will be fine with me anyway - you've done a great set of posts about U5.

  8. You definitely want to see the ending. I think the final dungeon was one of the best designed challenges in any 80s CRPG.

  9. The Savegame Editor looks like the best option, since it would restore everything with a simple point-and-click interface... There's a screenshot at an archive of the original site that makes it clearer:

    About the game possibly being lopsided vs. you going through faster than expected... The team leaders knew there's a wild variety of how people play games because they were used to in-person role-playing, and that what seems balanced to one kind of player is going to seem too easy/hard/repetitive to another.

  10. That's a real bummer :(

  11. Is it possible that the savegame file itself is unharmed, and it's just whatever tells Ultima V what the "active game" is that got corrupted?

  12. You've probably already started thinking about this, but in the future you could keep all of your savegames in a dropbox folder (which lets you revert to previous versions)... some sort of "set and forget" backup system like that seems important, given the historical significance of your ongoing CRPG research.

  13. If you are going to do something like Max suggested, why not go all the way and set up something like Mercurial or Git? That lets you revert old file versions with ease, and it has command line & GUI interfaces, so you could set it to backup every X often pretty easily. I just finished setting something similar up for my undergrad thesis and could help you with setting it up if you wanted.

  14. An alternate option, which no one here seems to be suggesting, is that you can move on. Play some other games, and then come back and restart the game from scratch after you review a few more games. Sometimes, restarting a game isn't so bad if you do something else for a while.

  15. The speedy path to victory doesn't involve a party, or a large party (going from speediest to speedier). Rings will last longer, resources like potions will stretch (since you have less people to use them on). Your avatar or small party (Janna + Mariah or Mariah + Johne) will level much more quickly.

    And you need to head to the epic farm room (there's no need to get the magic axe from Jhelhom if you do this as one will show up quickly).

    That spot is wrong 6:

    One of those rooms is epic. It contains a couple of reapers, some lesser mobs, and hidden mobs in a corner behind as secret door. You evacuate everyone but a single invisibility ring wearing character (the avatar to start, typically). Have that character use a bow to take out the reapers (I want to say there are 4). The rest of the visible monsters will flee. you can then loot the 4 reaper chests - a reaper chest is *probably* the 3rd best chest in the game behind a dragon chest and the chests you find in rooms deep in the dungeon. Just go back outside, save, rinse and repeat. Pretty soon you'll be drowning in rings, magic weapons, magic axes, scrolls, potions, gems, keys, and ferraris. You'll wind up with enough regular loot to max your gold, sell more stuff, and max it again. Because you never do anything about those hidden monsters in the top corner(s), the room resets. The valor hits you take from exiting before the room is finished are easily made up via donating the insane piles of gold you have.

    Fun story - Ultima V is the first Ultima Garriot wasn't the quickest to beat during the "pre-release race" Origin used to have. He lost because he went with a full party and whoever beat him (I'll have to check Shay Addams' book to see who) went solo.

  16. Oof, that's pretty awful. I think the sanest, if not the most satisfying thing to do would be to take one of the above saves and finish the game with them, after reequipping your party as you saw fit.

    I enjoy this blog a great deal and admire your determination, but I do worry about you burning yourself out on this crazy/fun to read quest of yours and I think starting from the beginning again with Ultima V may contribute to that if you're not careful. On the other hand, if you don't finish it, it will probably nag at you something awful.

    Given that all your party members excepting The Avatar are pregenerated by the game, is using another person's save going to result in a party sufficiently different from what you had? You could even go kill Shamino off again!

  17. "Given that all your party members excepting The Avatar are pregenerated by the game, is using another person's save going to result in a party sufficiently different from what you had? You could even go kill Shamino off again! "

    Another thing to consider is that, while this game is fairly open, you're pretty much passed the open part. I mean, once you go to the end-game, AFAIK, there's pretty much one path to take. If you kill off Shamino (or at least take Shamino out of your party and act like that means death) and get the levels the same, you should be at pretty much the same situation. Since you already had practically unlimited gold, it doesn't seem like that's really a concern. Honestly, I don't see any reason why you should feel bad about using and editing a save file given the situation. As long as you recreate your situation with some precision (no leveling your secondary characters passed 6!!!), you will be effectively continuing your own game.

  18. Shame about the save problem. I'm going to second the save files suggestions - you definitely don't want to do all the grinding again, but it would be a shame not to finish the game and to quit it on such a low, especially since you had been enjoying it so much until this.

    Like peacedog said, U5 is MUCH easier if you go solo. The NPCs don't have anything to say once they're in the party (like they do in 6 and 7) and there are two advantages: first you save on utility items and reagents (especially food; I ended up dumping everyone just because in the very early game I couldn't afford to keep the full party fed!), second and most importantly, the Avatar is getting all the experience. Once you have the magic axe soloing encounters becomes quite feasible, and with the crown and judicious use of rings and spells it's pretty easy. Even WITH this I never get to level 8, but then I don't have the patience to grind.

  19. "Grinding was boring, see, so I had been watching Scrubs on Netflix Instant Play in one window while I played in another."

    Grinding isn't really needed, IMO. Just explore all the dungeons and your party should get tough enough. As long as your Avatar is lvl 6 you have access to spells like Tremor, Charm (great against Dragons I've read) and Confuse (great against Mongbats). You can do fine without lvl 7 and 8 spells.
    Invisibility won't help you in the last dungeon, so don't rely too much on that.

  20. From Swords fo the Horseclans, pg 9: "Don't ever do that at sea, Aldora. There are not very many ways to kill our kind, bur drowning is one of them."

    This just after the 4th immortal dies.

    I will admit I stopped reading after the next novel, as having the main character casually mentoin having been a rapist, even if it was historically accurate, isn't my cup of tea.

  21. Sorry, feel free to delete that, I posted it to the wrong blog somehow.

  22. If you're using Windows 7, check previous versions of any files (right click the folder, select previous versions). If you're lucky, there'll be a restore point from the day before (if System Protection is on).

  23. Ouch, I feel for you.

    I suggest you skip to the next game, finish it, then come back to ultima 5 and start again. With your notes it won't take too long (apart from grinding).

    Maybe it's just me, but the idea of using someone else's characters is just wrong, it makes the game feel somehow less 'personal' and more mechanical taking all the enjoyment out of winning.

  24. Oooof. It really sucks losing a save game for RPGs.

    I am fine with either using somebody else's savegame though, you are approaching the part of the game with less variation in save files : P

  25. Oh. My. God. :(

    Unfortunately I can't offer much advice for your current situation, but I hope this inspires you to make daily backups of your save files in the future.

    I highly recommend checking out CrashPlan if you're not feeling organized enough to do manual backups of save files. It's free for backing up your own computer(s) to your own computer(s) once every 24 hours (or as often as you like if triggered manually), and it's completely transparent once you have it set up. When you're on the go, it will also automatically back up to your home computer over the Internet without any extra setup (each CrashPlan-enabled computer registers with the CrashPlan web site, and only computers that know about each other via a LAN or a code can back up to each other).

    I run CrashPlan on my computers at home, and have them back up non-OS, non-program files to a 2TB hard drive in one of my desktops. I also set up my mom's laptop to do backups while she was here, and it now automatically continues to do backups over the Internet.

  26. You already have detailed knowledge of the parameters of your old party- I would use the same game editor for certain.

  27. Thanks for all of the suggestions. I will try to take steps to avoid this in the future. See my "edit" at the bottom of the original posting for some semi-good news, and hopefully I'll have a new posting later.

  28. Woot! Let me know if you want help setting up Git or Mercurial. You've implied you have academic affiliation in the past- That means you can get a free offsite backup account with Bitbucket to store up to 1 GB of data privately.

  29. To respond to a few other things that were said during my crisis: it never occurred to me to go through the game without companions. It might be easier, but somehow I just find the idea less fun.Now, I would have happily done Ultima IV with no companions, since there's no "select active player" option there.

    I didn't read Jeff's comment until I posted my own, but he nailed it. I wouldn't have felt I'd really won if I'd used someone else's characters.

    I wish Canageek hadn't posted his follow-up to the "Swords of the Horseclans" posting. I thought he was drawing an analogy, and I just about had it figured out when I read the second message.

  30. A little point of order - you -cannot- finish Ultima IV without all eight companions. The Abyss will balk you.

    So it's just as well you didn't try it that way.

  31. For future reference, computers that go into that failure mode are generally overheating. If it does it specifically with a video application, then it's probably the graphics chip getting to hot and it's halting to avoid damage.

    Blow out the air vents. If that doesn't work, laptops tend to have their screws vibrate loose over time, open it up and tighten them all. If that doesn't fix it, well, some machines are just badly designed.

  32. I remember playing the heck out of this game and over-levelling up. It was trivially easy with the charm and clone spell once you reach that level.

    1. Make sure you go to areas where Dragons spawn.
    2. Kill all the dragons except one.
    3. Make sure the one dragon is badly wounded.
    4. Charm the dragon.
    5. Clone the dragon.
    6. Attack the cloned dragon and then use your lowest XP member to finish of the cloned dragon for XP gains.
    7. Clone the dragon again and rinse and repeat.

    1. Er... how do you "over-level" a game that has a level cap?

  33. Man. I can relate, having lost save games for Ultima IV, V and IX (plus several non-Ultimas), and having had save games playable but irreversibly broken for IV (twice), V, VI, both parts of VII and VIII.


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