Monday, December 12, 2016

Fate: Land and Sea

Somebody please stop me.
   
At some point, I got the idea that Fate's game world was 400 x 400 squares. Maybe because the furthest north coordinate was around 400, and all of the interior maps have been square, so I figured the easternmost coordinate would be around 400, too. Then I got into my ship and tested my hypothesis. A few hours later, I found myself at what I believe is the real southeastern coordinate, which is around 650 squares east. That suggests a map of 260,000 squares. I guess the Britannia of Ultima VI is still bigger--almost five times bigger, in fact--but it really doesn't seem that way. It's probably a mistake comparing tile counts in top-down games versus first-person games anyway.  So put another way, the overworld of Fate is more than 50 times as large as the overworld of Might & Magic.

Learning that the size of the world was 63% larger than I had believed should have driven home the point that I cannot possible map it all, and it's folly to try. And yet I persisted in mapping the places that I visited--mainland, islands, the water in between. I mapped (and searched) dozens of little one-square islands off the coast. I sporadically mapped the southern border of the world. I don't know what's wrong with me.
    
Navigating tight waters.
   
Sailing the ship is fairly easy if a little time-consuming to hop on and off. It works very much like a first-person Ultima IV or V. You board the ship from any adjacent land square and raise the sails to get going. Clicking on the compass tells you the wind direction. If the wind is "calm," you either have to wait or cast the "Storm" spell to whip up a gale. You get the best speeds running before the wind or at a broad reach, the worst close-hauled, and you can't move at all facing into the eye. (Did I learn these terms from Pirates!? Yes, I did.) 

You can steer in 45-degree increments but you can only face in the cardinal directions (just as on land), and you can look around independently of steering, so the view is sometimes a bit weird. When you want to land, you just run yourself ashore at the desired point; the ship takes no damage. The game won't let you leave the ship unless you've furled the sails, so there's no chance of losing the ship. You just have to remember where you parked it.
   
"Docking" on an island.
    
You can sail anywhere that there's a single square of water, even way upriver. You're out of luck if you hit a bridge. I actually bought a second ship at one point because I'd sailed the first one all the way up to Fainvil and I didn't feel like going all the way back.

I'm finding that jewels are particularly useful for sailing. Even if I was going to map the entire overworld, I wouldn't be so pathological about it that I would insist on sailing on every bit of water. (You find nothing on the waves; if you try to "dig," the character sarcastically asks if you mean to put a hole in the bottom of the ship.) So the jewels help determine where there are islands, and where I can just fill in squares with swaths of blue.
   
Checking my position at sea.
    
I started by mapping some of the little 1 x 1 islands I could see from the shore, then progressed to some larger ones. Commeters had told me of fantastic treasures to be found on islands, but so far I haven't had much luck. I did manage to find a "warphammer" in the far southeast corner. It's a great melee weapon that weighs less and does more damage than Winwood's previous weapon, the "hulkhammer." 

A couple of the islands have offered names, such as the island of Laria and the island of Wym.

When I got bored, I made my expedition to the ends of the world, then started using the jewels to look for islands with cities. There was a large island in the southeast corner that seemed to qualify, which is how I found myself exploring the city of Katloch.

Katloch was full of monsters, such as insects, giants, and undead. There were hardly any usual NPCs. A lot of the enemies were capable of one-shotting my lowest-HP characters, so I relied heavily on the Banshee "Freeze" spell and the Enchanter "Tornado" spell to take parties out of commission. One monster, the Bane Giant, was one of those I talked about a few postings ago, where they never seem to die by hit point loss alone. I learned to rely on various stoning spells to kill them.
    
I wasn't prepared for these guys.
    
The city had some of the more advanced guilds (anti-fire +8, magic points +4, invulnerability +8), so I spent a lot of my training slots (and money) here. Oddly, the taverns wouldn't allow me to "go around" the way you can with the mainland taverns. There were no shops or smithies.

The entire city is an odd shape: a kid of spiral that culminates in a large open square with a small lake and a little 3 x 3 platform in the middle of the lake. I was surprised when I encountered nothing here. On the far end of this open area is an inactive teleporter. I assume both mysteries will be resolved at a later date.
   
The odd-shaped city of Katloch.
    
Miscellaneous notes:

  • Leveling isn't all that satisfying in Fate. I wish the game gave you any indication of the number of experience points needed for the next level as well as the number of experience points earned for various enemies. As it is, leveling is always a complete surprise.
  • You can sail between islands that are connected to each other on a diagonal.
  • I experimented a bit with using crystals in combat. You have to pay at guilds (and sacrifice some spells slots) to learn how they work. They summon demons, essentially, which act like greater melee weapons for one round, doing damage to all opponents. 
  • This black monolith appeared in a graveyard that I explored on the mainland, leading to the dumbest comment from an NPC in the game so far.
    
    
  • Every once in a while, I find a mysterious item like this, which given its name and location must be a powerful item, but the statistics suggest that it's worse than leather armor. I'm not sure what to make of it.
    
Is it called that because I'm doomed if I wear it?
    
  • I think I might have mentioned this before, but party members will often refuse to do something, like insult a powerful enemy or make rounds in the tavern if the character is a shy woman.

On the main quest, most of my hints have come from wandering mages since there were so few NPCs in Katloch. A big group came from a guy named Gideon on a random island I explored. As we discussed last time, to defeat Thardan I apparently have to enter his "Forbidden Zone," which in turn requires a Cassidan mage wielding the legendary Moonwand. The mage in question is almost certainly Bergerac, whose statue awaits the return of its heart.

I've had no information about the heart, but I have been getting clues about the wand and the "Agyssium," which might be the same as the Forbidden Zone--I'm not sure. The Agyssium is supposed to be a maze beneath Katloch with hallways somehow formed from living creatures. To enter, I have to use the Moonwand in the middle of the "Blood Circle." 
   
I guess that's useful to know.
    
The Moonwand has been broken into seven pieces--groan--and scattered across the land. I guess I'll have to recover them one by one. A wizard in Katloch told me that he'd once met a mage in Laronnes who spoke of the Moonwand and a piece of it called the "Dreamstone." Another part is called "Spiralgem."
    
I supposed it was too much to hope for that this Moonwand quest would be easy.
   
Before making my way all the way back to Laronnes, I decided to try to find the one other city that I knew was out here somewhere: Pirate Rock. Again, I sailed around using jewels liberally until I found a likely location: a mountainous island surrounded by a ring of smaller islands. Pirate Rock was a smaller city with useless NPCs and a surfeit of taverns, but I found the guild that increases dexterity by 2 and spent most of the remainder of my slots on these upgrades.

A short post representing about 20 hours of gameplay. In the next one, we'll have an exhaustive tour of the magic system and see if I've made any progress on the pieces of the wand.

Time so far: 151 hours

60 comments:

  1. This is a mighty game which sounds incredibly dull yet so compelling due to the OCD kicking in.
    Best I stay away from it.

    Did you write about the skill system yet? I am curious as to how invulnerability is treated like a skill :)

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    1. Well those aren't really skills. The manual says: "Each character is surrounded by a number of invisible magical spheres which
      protect and aid him in his actions."

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    2. They're more "saving throws" than skills.

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  2. So... this looks like a good candidate for largest RPG ever, doesn't it?
    (if we exclude games like Daggerfall where the world map has been built by a random generator rather than being hand-made)

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    1. Largest RPG so far, no doubt. I guess the real question is how you measure Fate against later non-tile games. If you were to use a measure such as the amount of time it takes to travel from one side to the other, I think we'll find that open-world games in the Elder Scrolls and Fallout universes are larger.

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    2. But you wouldn't even try to manually map those, I hasten to add.

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    3. Yeah, I'm thinking of raw landmass. It's possible that some later games like Skyrim or even Might and Magic 6 might surpass it, but a direct comparison is hard because they're not tilebased. Something that is also hard to objectively quantify is the density of content. Many modern open world games are gigantic in landmass, but there are long stretches of nothingness with little actual content in them, so a large modern open world game with long stretches of empty wilderness might actually feel smaller than Fate even if it's larger.

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    4. It's going to dominate the 'longest played'-list for quite a while, that's for sure.

      But I'm worried about games such as Everquest. You could easily sink in fifty times as much time and not see everything. MMORPGs and OCD are not a good combination.

      ...fortunately, Everquest was released in 1999. Not a problem anytime soon.

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    5. Wait till we get to Deathlord, which combines an immense world with permadeath...

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    6. Chet's surely skipping MMOs, right? In the unlikely event the servers are still up by the time he reaches them, he still wouldn't be able to play them in the state they existed when first released, both by dint of the gaming having been updated and expanded and by the player count being lower and more experience. Plus there's no win condition.

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    7. As far as I am aware, he isn't skipping posting about the first MMO, should he get it to run, namely NWN.

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    8. I'm not playing MMOs unless they have an off-line, single-player mode.

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  3. "I found myself at what I believe is the real southeastern coordinate, which is around 650 squares east."

    It's 640.

    "I don't know what's wrong with me."

    Just a healthy RPG player's addiction to the shiny. You heard there are treasures to be found, and you must have them all! :)

    "I wish the game gave you any indication of the number of experience points needed for the next level as well as the number of experience points earned for various enemies."

    Party / Info / Level tells you the first. The second is unfortunately isn't really scaled to the difficulty of the encounter. A bane giant doesn't give significantly more experience than normal wilderness enemies.

    "Every once in a while, I find a mysterious item like this, which given its name and location must be a powerful item, but the statistics suggest that it's worse than leather armor. I'm not sure what to make of it."

    Not much, I'm afraid. The developers just came up with random names for everything. Some of them make more sense in German, but the translators had to work around the UI size limitations, which is why it's Vixhammer and not Witchhammer.

    ""Agyssium," which might be the same as the Forbidden Zone--I'm not sure."

    No it's not. By the way, I wonder if "Agyssium" means anything in German?

    "To enter, I have to use the Moonwand in the middle of the "Blood Circle." "

    Well you can probably figure out which area of Katloch that was, even though the "blood" part doesn't make much sense.

    " A wizard in Katloch told me that he'd once met a mage in Laronnes who spoke of the Moonwand and a piece of it called the "Dreamstone.""

    Now this is another thing that nobody will tell you in game. Maybe the "dream" part is supposed to be a hint, or it's just a mistranslation. In any case, the mage is only present from midnight to 1 AM.

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    1. Agyssium has no meaning that I can glean whatsoever. The only thing that I can find is that it's a Belgian HR consulting firm... but it's definitely not a German word.

      Sounds cool, though.

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    2. It's faux latin - at least the second half follows latin conjugation for a singular noun, often seen in words for rooms or buildings (sanctum, coliseum, etc) but an applicable suffix for "one" of just about anything. I've tried to determine what "agyss" might mean but been similarly stymied. It does appear to be a very uncommon name of some kind of eastern european origin, but I can't find any translation for it.

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    3. "Witchhammer" translates to "Hexenhammer" in German, though, that wouldn't be any shorter. I was always under the impression that often English words are shorter than their German counterparts.

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    4. I imagine "Agyssium" is a play on "Abyssus" - the abyss (singular accusative being "Abyssum"), which is ultimately Greek in origin.

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    5. "Agys" could be a twist on Aegis or on Argent depending on which set of language morphology rules is in play.

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    6. Given that "b" and "g" are right next to each other on the keyboard, I'm willing to bet the term started out as a simple typo of "abyss".

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    7. Perhaps the item was called "Hexhammer" in German, as "hex" is a meaningful shortening here that makes a lot more sense than "wix" for "witch".

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  4. Forbidden zone is a north-eastern area and if you cross the bodred of the zone you will be instakilled.
    Agyssium is "just" another 7-level dungeon under Katloch :-D

    I give you an advice - be very careful when you manipulate items in inventory. I once lost 3 days of gaming, because i realized that one piece of Moonwand disappeared from my inventory (i think of some accidental missclick) so i was forced to load older savegames until i foud one with this piece in inventory. Very frustrating.
    Maybe you should make a backup savegame after every piece and every time you acquire any must-have item.

    There is no recovery option in the game - like in Might & Magic 6 where is some monk who spawns lost must-have items.

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    1. Okay. That makes me think that the heart of Bergerac is in the Agyssium. So I'll have to assemble the wand first, then do another huge dungeon, then enter the forbidden zone.

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  5. This post mirrors my experience with Minecraft: I want to explore everything, then I get lost, bored, or killed, and I give up for a few months.

    The 'Win' post for Fates, in 2018, will be the most satisfying piece of literature any man has ever written.

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  6. Fate sure makes an excellent candidate to a collaborative mapping system.
    Only, each of its characteristics, as a game, are both intriguing and intimidating, too much of the latter to ever give in to the temptation of playing it.
    Still your going on with the game is really commendable, and reading this campaign very enjoyable! :)

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  7. You should continue with your map, its beautiful !

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    1. I'm struggling with this other project, which coincidentally also involves a lot of Excel work, where I'm not sure if I'm doing it right. It's hard, complicated, frustrating, and fills me with doubt. The times that I'm filling in colors for Fate, on the other hand, I know exactly what I'm doing, and there's no way to screw it up. It's a real struggle to stop myself from doing it full-time.

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    2. Now that is what games are for!

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    3. Maybe once you've finished with Fate you can occasionally return to spend time finishing the mapping, perhaps when you're particularly frustrated with whichever game you are playing at the time (which would be very ironic).

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    4. If only someone paid for mapping old games, right? You'd have your dream job. :)

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  8. Let people help you with this game. Give other people the saves, ask them to map one or two areas of the overworld, and maybe provide some guest text and screenshots going with it. Only this way will you finish this game before you die of old age.

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    1. But then I won't have finished it.

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    2. I don't understand, do you only finish a game if every explored area was explored by yourself?
      I didn't mean let other people play part of the game, I meant save at a point, give the save to others, let them map the overworld and indicate where there are possible encounters (with a X mark or something).
      Once they give you the overworld map info, resume your game at the save you gave others.

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    3. If all I cared about was knowing what the final map looked like, and where the important items were, I could use any number of spoiler sites.

      I play games because I like the process of mapping, exploring, and discovering things for myself. I also try my best not to cheat, and letting other players make the maps for me would be the same as cheating.

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    4. Okay, fair enough. Happy mapping then! :-)

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  9. I think the primary difference between Fate and U6 is that U6 has a single-scale world, while Fate's is double-scale.
    I hope you won't feel the urge to map Daggerfall's overworld.

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    1. You may have to elaborate on what you mean by that.

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    2. I mean that in structure Fate is closer to U4 in that it uses different scales for overworld and for cities/dungeons. So a single overworld tile in Fate represents a lot more area than in does in U6.

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    3. I guess, but is that what we really mean when we're comparing relative sizes? The portion of the "real world" that the tile is supposed to represent?

      I'm actually beginning to question my own recollection on U6. Is it really possible that there were over a THOUSAND tiles in each direction?

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    4. By looking at the overworld map size of Ultima VI here (http://ian-albert.com/games/ultima_6_maps/) and estimating a tile size of 32x32 pixels, that'd make them 512x512 tiles.

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    5. Checking again, the tile size may be more like 16x16 pixels, that makes for 1024x1024 tiles

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    6. Oops... see below for an Ultima IV world map size that I found...

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    7. I would say that the relative size of the tile does in fact affect the way we perceive the size of the gameworld. Not to mention that you have to factor this in when measuring distances - i.e. travelling from a bank in Larvin to a guild in Katloch means traversing more tiles that just the distance between them on the overworld map.
      Another factor might be how much content can fit into a single tile. In a first-person game a single tile can represent a whole room (or, in Fate's case, a whole island), with enemies, treasures, special encounters etc. In a game like U6 an equivalent of that would be maybe a single screen, but certainly not a tile.

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    8. It seems weird to me that Ultima 6 is so big, because I always perceived it's version of Britannia as having shrunk compared to Ultimas 4 & 5. I guess the different scales fooled me.

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    9. Aye, Ultima VI and VII definitely seemed much smaller than Ultima 4 and 5 due to the difference in map scale. In the older two games, for example, the town of Britain was (IIRC) three squares away from Lord British's castle, which was enough room to have two thriving towns in between the two, and it felt like a journey of at least a few hours. Going between towns felt like a major journey.

      In the newer games, Britain was just outside the gates, and going between towns required an apparently short amount of time.

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    10. Ultima VI was definitely 1024x1024, and Ultima V had a 512x512 overworld map. But on the U5 map, every single square could be relevant, while on U6 a random civilian house would already take up 4x4 spaces without actually contributing to the gameplay.

      But beyond comparisons of tile numbers, I think that the amount of time necessary to make your way through the world is a major component here. I remember the Knightmare post where Chet compared a dungeon - "30 minutes in Fate, 5 hours here in Knightmare". Might & Magic III and IV have nearly exactly the same amount of tiles in overworld and dungeons, but IV seems so much smaller because making progress in III takes so much more work and time - you have to retreat and heal much more often, and regularly need to leave a dungeon halfway through and continue somewhere else because the difficulty level rises sharply in the dungeon's later parts. IV is a linear romp in comparison.

      And running through U6's Britannia goes ridiculously fast because the Gargoyles at the shrines are pretty much the only thing that can stop you for a relevant amount of time, whereas in U5 you have to be cautious every few spaces.

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  10. I couldn't easily find an answer... but it appears that the Ultima IV surface world was 256x256 tiles. I've linked a map below and found one other website that seemed to indirectly correlate with this. For 1985 the world of Ultima IV was pretty big!


    http://geocities.bootstrike.com/Ultimatrix%20Homepage/En/Techfile/U4worldmap.html

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  11. Oh, and about Pirate Rock: there's a separate area accessed by a teleporter. The shop there is the only one in the world that sells Restore potions, which restore all magic points. Buy as many as you can, you'll need them.

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    1. Thanks for the heads-up about that. I found that store, but I didn't realize its significance. I'll go back.

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  12. You might find these links interesting Chet (and others).

    http://www.pcgamer.com/obsidians-feargus-urquhart-on-the-future-of-rpgs/

    http://www.pcgamer.com/pc-gamer-presents-the-ultimate-rpg-handbook/

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    1. Of the currently active companies, Obsidian probably comes closest to my idea of what makes for an excellent RPG in terms of plot, quests, and encounters.

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  13. Reading the posts on this game is strangely satisfying.
    I think you love it in an unexpected way. This might be the first game that really allows "random exploring". The island hopping even reminds me of the coast in front of Morrowind's Vivec City.

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    1. While this is true, we're still not seeing any "side-quests." Side-treasures, at best. There's a lot of possibility in an open game world, but neither Fate nor anyone else is really capitalizing on it yet.

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    2. My assumption is that if they had filled the world with six campaigns, as Skyrim did, the game wouldn't have felt so drawn-out. The space would definitely have sufficed...

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  14. Seeing your developing map and reading your comment about the world size of Might & Magic made me curious.

    I collected a few maps from different sources and overlaid them on top of the Fate: Gates of Dawn overworld map, just to compare. Might be cool to share with others in a post, just to portray the magnitude of space here.

    This image contains map spoilers for Fate, Might and Magic 1-5, Pool of Radiance, and Wizardry 1, but most people probably won't be spoiled on too much at a brief glance. Phlan is an inaccurate map in some areas as I just jammed a few districts next to each other. Scale should be accurate for all maps, every tile is 4x4 pixels.

    http://i.imgur.com/DFZm4La.png

    My first thought is, looking at Phlan, wouldn't it be really cool if city maps were actually in the world space of Fate, and you could see them from the outer-space-eye-view of a map like this?

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    1. It's taking a Herculean effort not to look at this, but I don't want be spoiled as to what the rest of the overworld looks like. I assume your maps show that Fate dwarfs everything else. Bigger than all of them put together?

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    2. Oh, sorry about that, I thought an earlier post of yours had implied you'd already seen the world map.

      Here, I remade it using your map-in-progress at the top of this post:

      http://i.imgur.com/Xd4w0CW.jpg

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    3. I think Faery Tale Adventure is of roughly comparable proportions to Fate, though much of the map is empty:

      http://romlaboratory.dbwbp.com/games/fta_map.png

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    4. How's Fate compare to Ultima V's Underworld? That's my benchmark for YUUUUGE. I remember trying to map it...it was just vast, empty, and packed full of dangerous monsters.

      In the late 90s when Ultima web pages were new and exciting, I finally found a partial map of the Underworld, and it was vaster than I had ever imagined. I was super glad I never tried to map the whole thing.

      Stupid Faery Tale Adventure. Just looking at the Witch's Forest maze again gives me the shivers. I can hear the theme song in Amiga three voice harmony right now. Oh no, the combat song is on...

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    5. I'm guessing U5's underworld is the same as it's overworld, which I believe is 512 x 512, so that's a reasonably good portion of Fate's. U5 might feel bigger because it's more dangerous and harder to navigate.

      I could believe that FTA was as big as Fate, given how long it takes to walk anywhere.

      Thanks, anonymous, for the update. It's amazing to see how Fate dwarfs those previous games.

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