Monday, August 14, 2017

MegaTraveller 2: An Important Stop


And the whole "dog-person" thing gets creepier.
       
I continue to struggle with the differences between MegaTraveller 2 on paper and in reality. Part of me wants to hail it as an important stepping stone on the way to today's open-world games, with hundreds of explorable locations and an equal number of side quests. There's no denying the figures: MegaTraveller 2 has 117 planets with about 350 cities, and just about every one of those cities has something to do. There really hasn't been anything like it in CRPGs before.
       
The MegaTraveller 2 "game world."
       
The problem begins, I suppose, with the fact that the planets and cities are incredibly boring. There's one basic city map that has a few modifications for each city. Except on planets with Ancients ruins, things are rarely found outside the cities. There are only about 4 interior maps that all buildings with explorable interiors conform to. In some ways, this repetition is welcome: it would be exhausting to have to learn a brand new layout with each city you visit. But it also means that, for all the developers do trying to establish different governments, law levels, technology levels, and populations on each planet, the cities and planets are mostly undifferentiated except for their skins. There were many times, particularly when exploring the cavernous interiors of universities to find a single NPC, that I wished the developers had just used menu cities instead.
        
Pretty much all cities in this sector look exactly like this.
    
This city has different textures but otherwise has the same buildings in the same positions.
       
The more serious problem is the lack of solid RPG mechanics as you go about your galactic explorations. As much as I might love the many textures, building styles, and histories of the locations in series like The Elder Scrolls, I don't think I'd enjoy them for very long if all there was to do was walk and look. Those games offer open worlds with hundreds of locations--but in the context of the RPG mechanics to which I am addicted: fighting, leveling up, finding better equipment. MegaTraveller 2 is so weak in these areas that it strains to justify its RPG label.

But I have to give credit where it's due. Paragon was an exceedingly mediocre developer who fundamentally never understood RPGs, but against all odds, this game has managed to evoke some of the most enjoyable and addicting elements of what we'll see in the next two decades: nonlinear gameplay, long quest lists, complex plots that only slowly come together, and an inability to bring oneself to stop playing, even after a long session, because the next quest resolution is just around the corner.
      
Another quest gets added to my long list.
     
Despite having started over to ensure that my party had a ship, I ended up leaving it in the dockyard on Rhylanor for most of this session. I used commercial transportation to get around. Towards the end of the session, I found myself back on Rhylanor, and I'll probably use the ship from here, because I have to visit some interdicted worlds and the price of charter flights to those worlds is off the wall. I also can't end the game without having experienced space combat at least once. But in general, trading, piracy, and space combat will probably remain alternate approaches to the game that I'll never experience in detail, having made my fortunes on planet-based quests. I'm sure it's possible to win the game without setting foot in your own ship.

I settled into a pattern very quickly. It has basically consisted of the following steps:

1. Arrive on a planet. If it has a naval base or scout base, sneak out through their back doors rather than visiting customs and giving up my weapons. Otherwise, give up the weapons and hope for the best.

2. Check my "Locater" device (for which I eventually found batteries, as I'll describe below) to see if the planet has any Ancients ruins.
   
3. Fully explore the "Startown" of each planet. Chase down any wandering green NPCs. Visit any enter-able buildings and talk to those NPCs. If any of them give me a quest, enter the quest location in my notepad. Kill anyone who attacks me. Solve any quests self-contained to that city.
     
Chasing down NPCs in a new city.
      
4. This step didn't appear until late, but it eventually became important: if the planet has a police station, visit it and see if they want any of the IDs from any of the outlaws I've killed. It's a pain to figure out which outlaws are wanted on which planets, and you sometimes encounter them systems away from whoever has the bounty. Since about the 24-hour mark, I've had a dozen or so ID tags in my inventory at any given time, and it's always a nice surprise when a planet takes one or two and rewards me.
       
"Scars Pacino." Really strained yourself on that one, huh, developers?
      
5. Use the travel agency to visit any other cities on the planet for which I have business. Repeat Steps 3 and 4.

6. If the planet has an Ancients site, rent a grav vehicle or ATV and find it. Explore and loot whatever it has.
      
I couldn't get into this site on Regina.
     
7. Hopefully, by now I've solved whatever quest brought me to the planet in the first place. If not, I may have to take a second loop to find the NPC I missed the first time.

8. Return to Startown. Visit the equipment shop and sell any excess weapons and armor that I may have looted from enemies on this trip.
      
A good portion of my income comes from weapons looted from bad guys.
       
9. Occasionally, stop in the casino, play roulette, and weigh down the ENTER key on my keyboard so it keeps betting and spinning while I use the bathroom or make a snack or something. As per my previous entry on the subject, I make an average of $10,000 every 10 minutes that way. If I forget about it and leave it weighed down for hours, my party gets kicked out of the casino after earning $100,000.

10. Head back to the space terminal and check the destinations for commercial and chartered flights. Head for the nearest planet for which I have a quest on my quest list. If none of the destinations are on my list, consult the map for the closest destination that will get me closer to a quest planet. Either way, upon arrival, start over at Step 1.
       
I don't know. It looks pretty comfortable to me.
      
There's plenty to do on the planets besides whatever quest may have brought you there in the first place. About 1 in 4 cities have a wanted criminal to kill and loot. Many have fetch quests contained to a single city, or at least contained to other cities on the same planet. A few, of course, have special encounters that advance the main quest.
      
Something like this happens in about 25% of cities.
      
These side-quests, as I noted in earlier entries, are vital to help maintain your bank balance so you can keep traveling, renting vehicles, buying artifacts, and replenishing equipment and ammo. There isn't a strong correlation between the difficulty of a job and the amount it pays. I spent over an hour on a bunch of interrelated quests between Yres and Alell, helping some engineers on Yres manufacture a new sealant for the planet's domes, and earned less money than it cost me in passage. Other times, I might kill a wanted criminal with no difficulty at all and make $150,000. A lot of fetch quests that require you to travel between planets, even between systems, pay only $5,000-$10,000, while a few that don't require you to leave a single city pay as high as $40,000-$50,000. It makes no sense.
       
$5,000 will barely get me off the planet.
        
I have completely ignored those NPCs willing to pay a few thousand for generic items. Occasionally, you'll run across someone who wants a laser rifle or a vacuum suit and will pay above what the shop pays, but never by much, and I can't believe anyone makes serious money this way. There are a ton of NPCs running around who will buy Rech Fruit, but any player who actually bothers to go to the planet Rech, pick up loads of the fruit, and sell it across the galaxy for $2,000 a load wants to extend this game a lot longer than I do.

Mostly because of the casino winnings, bounties, and selling looted weapons and armor, my bank account has swiftly grown, and I probably could have shaved a few hours off the game by prioritizing the planets with main-quest stops rather than those with side-quest stops.
       
Looting a gun after a successful combat.
      
Combat remains idiotic. It's completely bi-polar. A handful of enemies have PGMPs, which are capable of killing my characters (even those in battle dress) in a single hit if they get close enough. Since my characters have a tendency to rush enemies even when wielding ranged weapons, this is almost all the time, and fighting such enemies has become a frustrating exercise in attacks and retreats. Usually, though, I can defeat them in a few reloads. Then there is the occasional enemy with an FGMP, which can kill my characters in one hit even at a distance. I've just had to learn to give up on them.
      
Fighting some random attackers on the streets of this city.
       
The vast majority of combats, though, involve not the slightest hint of danger to my characters. My vacuum suits absorb most of the damage, and if the occasional bullet or laser shot gets through, I can just use my medic's kit to heal it immediately. Thus, my characters are perfectly capable of winning 80% of the game's battles with their bare hands if my weapons have been confiscated at customs.
      
Killing someone in an office building.
      
The characters are completely uncontrollable in combat, except for the lead character, who is theoretically controllable but never seems to actually attack. He particularly won't move to attack the way the others do. Repeatedly, I'll arrive at a Startown and get attacked by some enemy agents. My lead character will stand dumbly in place while everyone else chases the enemies through the streets. I could manually move the lead guy, of course, but that's a waste of time since, while being moved, he won't shoot.

Finally, I'll note that there remains almost no character development during this entire process. Skills don't increase as you use them, nor do they ever seem to appear in the training ceters. Only once in the entire game has a training center offered me the ability to increase a skill, and that skill was "ATV," which I maybe used once. The whole system is enormously frustrating, and even this late in the game, I don't understand the connection between, say, combat skills and success in combat, particularly since you can't see the damage that individual characters are doing. Does it make sense to equip a powerful weapon for which you have no skill? What about wearing a powerful suit of armor? Are my characters without "laser weapons" skills hitting anything when I equip them with laser weapons? How have I been able to kill so many enemies with my fists despite no "brawling" skill? Why am I never offered the opportunity to increase that skill despite using it repeately? I fear I'll reach the end of the game still not understanding any of this.
      
The one time I was able to level up, with a skill I rarely used, assigned to a random party member.
     
A couple of notable side-quests have included:
    
  • On Ohian, King Klem wanted my help routing out an underground rebellion. I only found out about this by wandering into his house by accident. But since he said in the same breath that his primary motivation was to "corner the oxygen market on Ohian," I declined to help him. He and his palace guards immediately attacked. I only had fists for weapons because his customs service had impounded everything else, but we still killed the king and his guards easily. I stole some "oxygen factory blueprints" from his house and later sold them to the leader of the rebellion.
  • On Effate, I went the other way. A guy named Viddi was raising a rebellion, but it was clear that he and his followers were full of hot air. For killing him in a fairly easy combat, I made $150,000.
     
The game could have perhaps been more subtle in this characterization.
            
  • I wasted a lot of time on the planet Alell, searching the mountains for the ruins of a crashed ship. Unable to find it, I re-consulted my screenshots and saw that, according to the NPC who told me about the supposed crash, the name of the ship was Blatant Lie. I guess maybe that should have been a sign. 
  • On Regina, a woman named "Marilyn Monrope" wanted my help putting her demo cassette in the hands of a talent agent. I took it to a guy in another city who listened to it and told me to give her an appointment slip. When I returned to her, the game called us "naughty, naughty travellers" and said that Monrope "showed her appreciation in a most special way." In case that wasn't clear, it also noted that the experience was "most . . . aaahhmmmm . . . satisfying.
           
Okay, gross. There are 5 of us.
           
  • On Alell, a woman gave me a "birthday present" to deliver to her brother in another city. It turned out to be a drug shipment, and her brother had been replaced by an undercover police officer, who arrested one of my characters for trafficking narcotics. I had to bail her out of jail for $3,000. That seems to be the end of it, though--there's no word on having to return for a court appearance or anything.
          
I get arrested for no reason whatsoever.
            
  • The Vargr planet of Vreibefger was suffering a rabies epidemic. I don't even remember where I got hold of a vaccine, but I brought it to a scientist there, and he gave me a "bronze star" signifying the planet's gratitude.
           
The Ancients sites are all accompanied by textual cut scenes.
      
As for the main quest, there are three basic "avenues" that I've been exploring:
     
  1. Visit the Ancients sites and see what I find.
  2. Visit the Ancients experts and see what they can tell me.
  3. Visit the agents for the various mega-corporations and interrogate them about the corporate conspiracy that caused the disaster on Rhylanor in the first place.
     
On the first topic, I've explored three sites, on Inthe, Fulacin, and Victoria, and I found a fourth site on Regina that won't let me in. On Inthe, just as with the first party, I only found a single "coyn." I suppose I'm destined to eventually collect the entire group of 36.
      
Finding batteries to power Ancients devices.
     
The Fulacin site was a big yellow cube that seemed to have no entrance until I prodded at its circumference and was eventually teleported inside. It had a small maze in the interior that led me to 2 more coyns and a pile of 10 batteries. One of the batteries inserted in the "locater" I received from Trow Backett causes the device to emit a green light if we're on a planet with an Ancients site, and an orange light otherwise.

I found the site on Victoria because of the locater; I was otherwise only there to talk to a professor at the university. The site took the form of a huge checkerboard that had two piles of 5 coynes each.
      
19 down, 17 to go.
       
The Ancients experts have offered varying degrees of help. On Zivje, Karim Flored sold me an Ancients shield with an inscription on it. On Moughas, a guy named Rahjel Dramahern translated it to say, "Grandfather's proving ground of intelligence, wisdom, and cunning," with a map pointing to the Regina sector. Deghrra Szan on Efate just expressed confusion that the Ancients would build a device to destroy a world. Beckett Senchur spoke of the importance of finding all the coyns and suggested some might be found in a cave-in, in which his grandfather was nearly killed, on Gerome.
      
An early "collection quest."
     
The last Ancients expert I visited, Sawert Weston, attacked me when I introduced myself. On his corpse was a note directing him to kill "anyone who comes looking for information on the Ancients." It was unsigned, but noted that the author works for a megacorporation and that his "plans to destroy Rhylanor can't be ruined by any meddlesome fools on a hero's quest."
 
The incriminating note.
    
This ties, then, to the murky corporate conspiracy. I noted earlier that I've been attacked upon arrival on a lot of planets. Upon interrogation, one of the attacking thugs told me they'd been hired by Vemene, the special security service of Tukera Corp. But this made little sense, as Tukera has a headquarters on Rhylanor and stands to be destroyed by the slime. On Ohian, I spoke to Aran Ashkashur, head of Vemene, who claimed that someone hacked his computer to issue the orders to kill me. A Tukera agent named Lorn Denveldt suggested that Sharushid or Imperiallines might be responsible.

Chabon Art, representing Sharushid on Efate, said his company had nothing to do with the disaster and suggested something might be going on internally at Tukera. In the game's only callback (so far) to the first MegaTraveller, he recalled Konrad Kiefer's betrayal-from-within at Sharushid a few years prior. "Dont rule out an internal traitor," he said. "I can attest to the fact that it can easily happen."
     
Until now, I wasn't even sure that the first game took place in the same continuity.
     
A few NPCs opined that another corporation, Oberlindes, was behaving suspiciously, and one of my side quests involved stealing some of their client files for who I think was a Tukera agent. But on Regina, the Oberlindes representatives, even under interrogation, called their company "honorable" and its founder "a man of unwavering honesty and fairness." Later, on Extolay, Marc Oberlindes himself claimed innocence. "I'm a competitor of Tukera," he admitted. "But I'm certainly not out to ruin them."
      
Oberlindes resents my interrogation.
     
On Ruie, the thuggish representatives of Naasirka also denied involvement. Amusingly, they offered that the slot machines at the casino on Garrincski are programmed to pay off, as if all slot machines don't do that in this game.

I did get some traction on Enope with some Imperiallines agents. One of them told me that the company is up to "no good" and gave me an antique pistol to give to another agent as a sign. He, in turn, gave me a message for "Axl Rows" on Menorb. For his part, Rows directed me to a Vargr named Gryfythh, "head of Imperiallines' Aramis subsector" and suggested I search his office on Junidy. That remains outstanding on my list.

The "interrogate" skill has been invaluable in these discussions. I don't see how you'd get far without it, although I'm not sure that solving the corporate conspiracy is necessary to winning the game. I should also note that a lot of the NPCs remained green even after I interrogated them, meaning there's still something they have to offer. 
     
Before using the "interrogate" skill...
...and after.
       
There are still lots of places to visit, including Ancients sites on Gerome and Lablon, Ancients experts on Heroni and Treece, and more corporation representatives on Junidy and Treece. Most of my other "to do" items involve visiting salesmen who sell passes to interdicted worlds. As yet, I don't have any particular reason to go to those worlds, but there might come a time when I'm out of clues and just have to start visiting random planets looking for Ancients sites.

If you can ignore the goofy NPC names, the story isn't bad. It just takes a little too much wandering through nondescript cities and corridors to find these individual pieces of the puzzle. Here's hoping I can push through and win it for the next entry.

Time so far: 30 hours

45 comments:

  1. Aw, come on, do the evil quests. Is this the first game to allow you to complete quests either way?

    That should be a list: "Games in which you can advance in some way by weighing down the space bar."

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  2. "Axl Rows"...wow that is pretty bad. Gotta love that suspension of disbelief.

    -Chris

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    1. There are worse to come, unfortunately.

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  3. In Mongoose Traveller, you need 1 skill level of Battle Dress to operate the armor. For Battle Dress 0 you get -2 to all your skill rolls, -4 if you don't have the skill at all. Either way, you get the full protection and +4 to strength and dexterity. It also has little weight since it is a powered suit.

    Not sure how it works in MegaTraveller (tabletop) but I think the systems are pretty similar. However, I'm not sure if the game follows the tabletop rules closely, apart from character generation.

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    1. A FGMP at highest technology level does 16d6 damage, btw, plus a deadly dose of radiation to anyone nearby who isn't sufficiently protected (again, Mongoose tabletop rules).

      I'd say that's slightly oversized for shooting at people...

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    2. Maxim 34:
      If you're leaving scorch-marks, you need a bigger gun.

      These guys just noticed the scorch marks the other fights left....8-P

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  4. "combat skills and success in combat, particularly since you can't see the damage that individual characters are doing."
    -- This was one of my issues while playing Might and Magic III. Hopefully the DOS version does a better job at conveying combat proficiency.

    As for training skills, any chance the trainers on each planet only teach a certain subset of skills? I'm just guessing, haven't played the game myself, so not sure if that fits what you've experienced.

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    1. I grew up with MM2 as my first real CRPG, so when MM3 came out I had a really hard time with it for that reason and more. Only recently has it grown on me, although I still prefer more MM2-like CRPGs for this reason, as well as for the increased diversity in spells.

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    2. "any chance the trainers on each planet only teach a certain subset of skills." I thought about that possibility, so I've been visiting the training center every time I arrive on a new planet. But no, I never get offered anything.

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    3. Zenic: SNES version of M&M3 is a pretty faithful port, the only indication you get of how much damage you're doing is the size of the graphic that appears when the damage is done.

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    4. I don't remember any differences. Sometimes there would even be a graphic for a hit, but it'd do no damage.

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  5. I've had characters improve skills when using smgs and pgmps, as soon as the skill went up they started shooting with one of them at a faster rate, and the other seemed to be fired at a slower rate (I forget which way around.
    If you give your lead character a 4cm ram gl he/she won't be as useless during fights in the town as it can fire over buildings. This is also why I tend to have a character oneshotted putting one step into wypoc startown.
    Oh, and the locator actually has 3 colours for lights, I think Fulacin and Regina should have shown different ones for example.

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    1. "As soon as the skill went up" suggests you had a different experience with the game than I'm having.

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    2. A dialog box would come up in combat where they would say 'hey guys I think I am starting to get the hang of this (weapon)" , I have no idea if this would happen with the brawling skill. I gave up trying to use the training centres for anything other than replacing dead characters. I have a feeling the one time it ever let me train there was also for atv.

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  6. Interesting. I am curious whether futuristic CRPGs have a fundamental technical problem in the 1980 to early 1990s era (perhaps the computational resources required to do it right were too great in the early days of computing)? Perhaps the high fantasy trope is so commonplace because it is so much easier to code as a CRPG? (That would not explain its popularity for pen and paper though.)

    Along those lines, it would be interest to see a "best of" for the atypical CRPGs...those that do not use a traditional setting...such as "top futuristic CRPGs". Of course this is a slippery slope...how many categories should there be? It would be interesting nonetheless at some point to get a recap of the non-traditional setting CRPGs up to a certain point, maybe at year end if there are enough for a meaningful comparison.

    Also, the small amounts of praise you have yet again compel me to mention Darklands for preserving the praise, while having elements that you also praise The Elder Scrolls for (though not entirely so due to technical limitations of the time). Darklands has a unique solution to the problems you mention, while preserving much of the good that you mention. (It is not space-based, but it is a unique setting without embracing the traditional approach.)

    Next year (in game year time)...!

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    1. Hmmm...I'd argue the problem with high-tech/sci-fi has more to do with background issues. Unless you are converting a licensed property you have to spend at least some time explaining the tech itself and how it works in general (i.e. the rules of the universe.) whereas with a fantasy property "a wizard did it" is an allowable shorthand especially for a game. Heck even inventing races can run you into trouble in sci-fi universe since you have to explain how they fit. At least with the fantasy stuff most people are familiar with basic tropes from fairy tales and Shakespeare (at least with the target audience at the time...nowadays we can spend more time and memory to the backgrounds in game as opposed to manuals.)

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    2. I dunno, I figure if something analogous appeared in Star Wars or Star Trek then you can probably just use it without explanation.

      I don't recall Mass Effect being particularly verbose with its technical stuff, but maybe it was and I ignored it because I don't care about such explanations.

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    3. Good suggestions. Along the lines of tropes, I wonder if it is in part that people are less knowledgeable about the potential future than the actual past (or conceivable past, with magical extensions). I think there may also be an element of expectation that planets differ substantially from each other--layout, races of inhabitants, atmosphere, distance from their star, etc, which may have been harder to convey in a CRPG of the first decade or so until technology caught up and allowed larger game worlds with more variety. How much does one city or countryside differ from another, versus one planet differing from another? Different expectations.

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    4. I remember a few paragraphs being devoted to the creation of worlds and how they fit into your campaign in the GURPS Space RPG manual.
      They brought up the physical aspects of a world and what differentiated them from another. If you made a world with an ammonia-heavy atmosphere you'd either need a race that breathed ammonia or your PCs would need breathing gear. When that happens then what's the point of either? If everyone breathes ammonia then it really isn't necessary as far as the story goes and if everyone wears breathing equipment then you're playing a SCUBA simulator or you just ignore it eventually. Those planetary differences needed to matter as far as the story goes.
      With a high fantasy wizards & warriors settings then anything can happen and it's always relevant to the story.
      I don't know if planetary differences were hard to simulate but they may just as well have been needlessly difficult to justify.
      Did I just say the same thing you did, but differently? :/

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    5. I think we're getting at similar things, but with different supporting details.

      It is harder to convey the meaning in 16-color EGA with 640 KB memory and a 3.5" floppy if you are using the latest mass-produced technology of the era...and carbon copies for planets are less believable than carbon copies for grasslands. One expects most worlds to be foreign in nearly every aspect, so either you do this well for a few worlds or you have a regularly repeating structure for a lot of worlds.

      There is another option viable for that era...use a lot of contextual text. However, by the early 1990s people expected more graphically-conveyed context than in the 1980s.

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    6. It's just that... finding an unsigned note about a conspiracy is... so D&D.

      Are there even enough trees that produces enough paper which is non-toxic to every known galactic race available to be harvested anywhere in the game?

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    7. It could be synthetic paper, or plastic

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  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  8. I wonder, what if RPG system in this game is actually bugged? But nobody ever reported it, because they thought it was just quirky and made that way.

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    1. I wonder that about a lot of games.

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    2. Yep, every game I'm bad at ^_^

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    3. With that many skills, and thinking of MT 1, it's a given that most of them do nothing. And if you barely improved after 30 hours of playing and can't even tell what the skills are affecting, your RPG system is about as broken as it gets. I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out that none of the skills do anything.

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  9. I hope you win the game! I want to know how the plot ends in your words!

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    1. I'm glad I stirred up some anticipation! I'm sure I'll make it.

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  10. I can't think of anywhere else to put this, but I remembered something about Might and Magic III that I wanted to point out when you got there. The last time I tried playing the Xeen games (which share an engine with III, as far as I know) it was an enormous hassle to get the game sounding right due to technical details of the Windows audio system. I am not entirely sure if the same problem exists in III (since I only loaded it up after fixing the problem for Xeen, because I'm not a big fan of the early 90s "replace all text with iconography" fad, and thus found the later M&M games hard to get into), but I wanted to make sure you were aware of the possibility, rather then spending your first session or two wondering why a telephone rings whenever you open a door.

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    1. That should not be not an issue as long as DOSBox is used. It runs fine with it, no problems with sound I can recall.

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    2. A concerned reader named Sam e-mailed me about this. I'm sure I'll figure it out. But when you say "sounding right," do you mean in terms of sound effects or music (or both)? Because you know I don't care about music.

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    3. @VladimIr V Y

      The problem showed up in DosBox. Because of the way DosBox handles MIDI sound, it still relies on the soundfont used by Windows.

      @CRPG Addict
      I mean the sound. The game (at least the Xeen games) outputs sound through the MIDI device, and with the default "soundfont" Windows uses for MIDI it winds up playing the wrong sounds completely - for example, opening a door is supposed to have a creaking sound, but sounds like a ringing telephone.


      As I said, I'm not entirely sure that III had the problem in the first place due to fixing it before I tried playing III, and even if it does happen it is fixable (otherwise I'd suggest using the Mac version or PCem) with a little effort. I did, however, want to make sure that you would recognize that it WAS a problem and not just an odd stylistic choice if it does show up.

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    4. Thanks for the specific. I bought the GOG version, and they usually configure things right, but if I open a door and it sounds like a telephone, I'll know I have to delve into the configuration files.

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    5. @Gnoman

      Never had problems with MIDI sound, at least with DOSBox Daum build. And I generally use a Roland MT-32 emulation for music plus a Sound Blaster 16 emulation for sound effects. Sometimes SB for both, if I don't like how music sounds or for nostalgia factor, since I had only a SB Pro on my PC in mid-to-late-90s.

      And yes, with GOG versions it should be OK in most cases.

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    6. I know I'm late to the party, but I can confirm that the GOG version works perfectly fine on Windows 10, and so presumably on every system from Windows 7 upwards.

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    7. As a possibly helpful note, it's been a while since I played M&M 3-5, but as far as I recall, while the interface did go fully graphical, almost all of the same keyboard shortcuts from M&M1 and 2 still work.

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    8. I am the concerned reader Chet mentioned; here are the details:

      I found a great YouTube sound version of MM3 here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3a4g-gYDSM

      The quality is much higher than the default DOSBox incantation on my machine, but there is more intense setup. That said, on my machine I never got the telephone when opening a door so for me it was an enhancement, not a necessity.

      It turns out the difference is due to Roland v. General MIDI and other technical differences; here is a good (but long) video on the history: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hDyKdVbuSc

      Disabling sound is one solution, but I at least wanted to make Chet aware of it because sound/music is a part of the rating system and soundcard standards were in a state of flux during that time. I also wanted to enhance his experience if Chet wanted; I know he doesn't care as much about music now in these early games (and I can't blame him--even enhanced it is still repetitive), but for those of you who do, those two YouTube videos may help enhance your experience.

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  11. The only game with the Traveller-esque RPG system I ever liked was Darklands, probably because your skills actually increase in that one.

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    1. That's based on Runequest in all but name.

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    2. Traveller and Darklands have very little in common except for the life path character generation process. Character generation is very different, too, with Traveller treating it as a mini-game, whereas Darklands has no random elements at all (minus saints and equipment, I think).

      I don't know any other games / systems that use this kind of character generation.

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    3. Darklands starting equipment is not random (perhaps quality, but even then I do not think so). IIRC, it is based on your last profession. Saints and starting formulae are semi-random (in total number, but it is not equally likely to obtain each Saint or Formula at the beginning and your stats influence the total number you start with for each).

      Skills in Darklands are all useful. Some are more useful than others, and some are harder to level up than others, but all of them have a use in the game at some point. That is another very important difference.

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  12. If you feel that this game is big and boring, Chet, I'd love to read your thoughts on Daggerfall later on. XD

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    1. I did think about the parallels between the two games before, with the large open world and also some glaringly obvious bugs. Daggerfall has actual character development and is just way way better though, as long as he doesn't try to visit every settlement :D . I think part of the charm of Daggerfall for me is knowing that there are some towns that no-one will have ever visited.

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  13. Pen and paper Traveller RPG was famously stingy in skill improvement after character generation completed, so I don't think it's necessarily a sign of a bug. It was generally possible to achieve level 0 of a practical skill with some familiarization, but IIRC it required time away from adventuring to gain levels in anything the least bit academic.

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