Monday, February 18, 2019

Missing and Mysteries

I thought I would centralize, in this entry, all of the games that we either can't find or that I've found unplayable or unwinnable in some mysterious way. This should make it easier for readers who stumble across the blog to offer hints. I'll remove titles (or otherwise flag them) when we find solutions and add titles as I verify their "missing" and "NP" status.

I appreciate any leads, but please do not take it upon yourself to reach out to the original developers unless you somehow know them personally. Chances are, I've already tried to contact the most promising leads, and I don't want the authors (or people with their names) to get repeated contacts. If you feel you have a promising lead I may have overlooked, please verify with me first.

Amulet, The (1983, DOS, Numenor Microsystems). Plagiarized version of The Valley. Can't write juicy expose because I can't get it to run. Every version I try crashes with an overflow error after character creation.

Bugs 'N Drugs (1977, PLATO). An early game of the DND lineage. The lesson name was BND. It isn't part of the lessons catalogued on Cyber1.

Castle of Tharoggad (1988, Tandy Color Computer 3). Nothing seems to happen upon reaching top floor and killing monsters. See this entry.

Dragons Shard (1992, DOS). This game, also known as Terradyne, seems to only exist online in shareware versions. I need a full-featured version without the shareware restrictions.

Dungeon (1975, PLATO). A game of this title exists, and it's possible to load the title screen, but there doesn't seem to be any way to start the game. (Note: this is not The Dungeon, or pedit5, which I have already played and reviewed. This one is by John D. Daleske et. al.)

Dungeon (1975, PDP-10). This game by Don Daglow no longer seems to exist. See this Wikipedia article.

Dungeons of Avalon (1991, Amiga). Culminates in seemingly unwinnable final battle. If you cheat your characters to high enough values to win the final battle, nothing happens. See posts here and here.

Empire III: Armageddon (1983, Apple II). No one seems to have turned up a disk image.

GayBlade (1992, DOS). Famous lost RPG with LGBTQ themes. Some of my commenters were pursuing some leads, but that was weeks ago, and nothing seems to have turned up. Reviews, box art, and various commentary prove that the game existed, but no one seems to have a copy. See here for more.

House of Usher (1980, Apple II or Atari 800). Weird little quasi-RPG from Crystalware. May have some ties to an early Japanese RPG. The only Apple II version I can find is part of a compilation and the House of Usher option crashes. The only Atari 800 versions I can find crash the emulator.

m199h (1975, PLATO). Perhaps the first CRPG ever written, deleted by PLATO admins.

OrbQuest (1981, CP/M). Rare CP/M game derived directly from PLATO Game of Dungeons. No known publicly-available disk images exist. (Note: if you're going to try to help search for this one, please do not bother the individual with the initials B.L. who posted on his site that he acquired the game about a decade ago. Multiple people have already written him and he clearly either can't or won't supply the images; there's no point in continuing to harass him.)

OrbQuest: The Search for Seven Wards (1986, Macintosh). I've been unable to find a place to download this first Mac-only RPG.

Seven Horror's (1988, Atari ST). Read my entry for the full experience. I assembled the seven artifacts I was to find, and got a three-part code word, but never found the key for the final dungeon. I lacked documentation on the game in general and was never sure what I was doing.

Star Crystal: Episode 1 - Mertactor: The Volentine Gambit (1985, Apple II). It seems that this game was never officially released. Edit: Solved in the comments!

TaskMaker (1989, Macintosh). I've been unable to find a copy of the original version, just the color remake from 1991.

Twin Morg Valley (Unknown, Commodore 64). See the bottom of this entry. We still don't know when this was released or what its "deal" is.

55 comments:

  1. I found the CP/M OrbQuest manual here (registration required to download):
    http://www.newbrainemu.eu/component/option,com_docman/task,doc_details/gid,294/Itemid,52/

    On that site I also stumbled upon Nemesis, a 1981 game. The site calls it a text-adventure, but based on the manual it's a very elaborate real-time dungeon crawler (15 character classes, attributes, equipment, spells, traps, lots of monster types, etc). Seems quite interesting.

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    1. Nemesis is on my list, but that's yet another emulator I have to learn for one game. I'll get to it eventually, I suppose.

      Delete
  2. The archivist/collector/historian in me is very sad that many of these games are lost, particularly m199h and other PLATO games. I'm very glad your blog exists to do the work of cataloging all of these games before they're lost forever, not just as a Wikipedia-style facts recital but as an honest experience of playing the games as faithfully as possible to their intended form.

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    1. The Addict noted recently that he may have some further information forthcoming on the legendary m119h... it would be note to just know if it was a playable game or not, even if it is lost to history. Also... there has always been questions about the timeline for the writing of The Dungeon (pedit5), The Game of Dungeons (DND), and which of these was first. Not too mention a fourth early game in the Daleske Dungeon mentioned above.

      It may simply be lost in the time of legends!

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    2. There's a customer review for a Plato book from one of the developers of Bugs n Drugs. He mentions a printout of the code that was "several feet tall stacked up". Probably wouldn't be of much help even if it still existed (same with the m119h printout), but maybe he could be a source of information, too.

      https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/RLPQLJ9ROKZP3/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1101871555

      The book sounds interesting enough that I might buy it. Maybe the Amazon affiliate program, if it still exists, would also be a way to generate some money from this blog?

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    3. The book by Brian Dear is fascinating reading - the name is "The Friendly Orange Glow" (I have no connection here, if I am violating any terms please delete!). It does go into quite a bit of detail on the various Plato games, including the CRPGs, although his dates and timeline are somewhat muddled. Actually... maybe not so much muddled as reflecting the unknowns about which games were made first.

      I do have a good bit of curiosity about the timeline of the Plato CRPG games concerning which came out first and which ones were actually playable productions back in the day.

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  3. Dungeons of Avalon, heh. That was the Dungeon Master clone where the players met the Dark Lord at the end, and the Dark Lord won. Even after cheating, the developers apparently didn't put an end screen.

    I lean towards them doing it deliberately. It was a magazine game, a sketch really, and why not do something crazy like make the Dark Lord win the final battle? I can picture the developers giggling as they increase the Dark Lord's stats until they figure he'll win every time against the strongest party this dungeon can output. By the time everyone figures out the joke and has been had, the next issue of the magazine is out and the matter is forgotten.

    These lost games are all very obscure. It's gratifying to know that the list has been so thorough. This blog is a great reference and I hope it gets backed up regularly, along with all the photos and videos. And comments! :D

    "an honest experience of playing the games as faithfully as possible to their intended form."

    That should be the motto of this blog.

    I wouldn't be surprised if someone can unearth some nuggets of gold here. No matter what the game is, it is somebody's favorite. After having been around so long with such good, original content, this blog gets a lot of followers who have a very broad background. I've seen people post about things I never heard of, games they had when they were 8, no matter how obscure or shareware only or limited release within 50 miles of my uncle's house.

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    1. " Even after cheating, the developers apparently didn't put an end screen." If you'll recall the discussions, I couldn't get an end screen to appear, but apparently it existed among the game files.

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    2. Considering there is an endgame I think its either that they forgot to implement the right path to win the game into the game (i.e. there was way of defeating the big bad without or with little fighting and since that wasnt triggered - and it was rendered impossible to reach the end in another way- the end screen didnt appear) or it was one of those nasty 90 copyright protection things in where if the program realized youve played with a copy made the game unwinnable instead of just s stopping it. It was a fad in the 90s, but since this is a magazine game (IIRC) that is the less likely possibility.
      If anyobe had a walkthrough for this, it would help (but it being a magazine game the chance is low).

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    3. I wouldn't call it less likely. I got several games that way which asked for checks in the manual, but without providing the manual or at least a list with the codes, rendering them unplayable.

      Or worse, there was a manual, but that one was translated into German/French (whichever applied to the specific game), but the game was still in English, making the game incompatible with it's own manual.

      Delete
  4. I had a copy of non-color Taskmaker, but it was on an ancient mac that died about 20 years ago. Wish I had saved it somehow. All I know is that the game had been installed by the previous owner.

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  6. I don't know if you've tried them already, but disk images for 3 disks of Star Crystal are on the Asimov archive, tucked away in the Adventure directory instead of the RPG directory:

    ftp://ftp.apple.asimov.net/pub/apple_II/images/games/adventure/Star%20Crystal%20(1985)(Ba'rac%20Limited)(Disk%201%20of%203).dsk
    ftp://ftp.apple.asimov.net/pub/apple_II/images/games/adventure/Star%20Crystal%20(1985)(Ba'rac%20Limited)(Disk%202%20of%203)[data%20A].dsk
    ftp://ftp.apple.asimov.net/pub/apple_II/images/games/adventure/Star%20Crystal%20(1985)(Ba'rac%20Limited)(Disk%203%20of%203)(Data%20B).dsk

    Mocagh has docs: https://mocagh.org/loadpage.php?query=[publisher]Ba%27rac - likely the images are the same pre-release disks Mocagh mentions, which no-one knows if they hold the full game or not.

    Full game or no, they do seem functional. I haven't tried them very far, but in Virtual II it does boot, allows you to start a new game, and responds to typical text adventure commands (INVENTORY, GET ARMOR, etc -- ALL CAPS is required).

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    1. Thanks. I really thought I had checked there. One solved already!

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  7. You should link this page on the right sidebar.

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    1. That was always the plan. I just didn't get here fast enough after it posted automatically.

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  8. I am impressed this list is so small, I figured there were a lot more games you found unplayable, I guess I'm just thinking about games that didn't meet your defn of a rpg and conflating the two. Still very nice work with this.

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    1. There are quite a few more, but I wanted to make sure I was exhaustive in searching for them before I added them to the list. I'll be updating this a lot as I make a second pass (sporadically) through the 1980s.

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    2. Ah, that makes sense. It is a testimate to your dedication how thorough you are.

      Delete
  9. I guess a game like GayBlade couldn´t be released in our world today as there might be too many offended by it.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. It offended people back then. It was considered by some as evidence of the 'homosexual agenda'. The guy who made it just reskinned another game he'd made and made the things that had made his life crap into enemies, then 'released' is as what he called charity-ware. ie Game is free, please donate to a charity (he specified AIDS-related charities).

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    3. While some conservative folks might be offended by it, it would probably be somewhat accepted by the queer crowd. It's an LGBT game made by a gay man in the 90s where the enemies are evangelicals and homophobes.

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    4. The differnce is that in the 90´s homophobe was still the norm and accepted by sociaty, nowdays the tone have shifted wich makes homophobes stand out and actually be responsible for their oppinion

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    5. And the difference is that games were pretty minority stuff in the 90s and stuff like Phantasmagoria 2 (a psychosexual horror FMV from Sierra with, among others, s&m and gay overtones) could not be done today. And this is not anything closer to the popularity of Sierra.

      Homophobes became noisy when games got totally mainstream.

      Delete
  10. Empire III: Armageddon seems really interesting, hope someone can find it.

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  11. Surely more people would have been offended then than now as (hopefully!)gay people today are much more accepted (some neanderthals out there notwithstanding!)than they were in the early nineties?

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    1. Really depends on the exact content - Will And Grace comes across as borderline homophobic today because of the heavy stereotyping, but was considered incredibly progressive when it came out.

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    2. But don't compare to Will and Grace but to something that has the same place in the subculture, as "Taxi Zum Klo"

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    3. Intentions of the author aside, the game has very politically incorrect humour. Back then the game like this could be seen as brave or "subversive" by the left, now it would probably be criticized for its portrayal of homosexuality. American political debate tends to move between extremes, it seems to me true libertianism never has the mainstream influece. There are of course shows like South Park who will target anybody, but majority of maerican comedy isn't like that.

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    4. Things used to be "controversial". Now it's "problematic".
      There will always be censors and moralists, no matter the current political climate.

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    5. We use "problematic" because it acknowledges that media isn't wholly perfect or awful, and that a technically brilliant work can have flawed elements, or that good intentions can yield bad results, or that an unpleasant person can make great art.

      We also use it because it acknowledges that they *are* problems. Gay stereotyping *is* a problem, we accept that, and then we talk about the context it happened in, the intentions of the author, whether the game is otherwise a good game, etc.

      "Controversial" is less helpful for critical discussion because it invites a polarised all-or-nothing discussion of "is it great, or is it terrible", and then it implies that if the "great" argument wins then the stereotyping isn't actually a problem.

      In the future we might find better words than "problematic", and yes, we're using it so much these days that there's jokes to be made about that, but the intention is to invite a deeper and more nuanced critical interaction, not a shallower one.

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    6. "Poblematic" has become extremely overused and has become an SJW buzzword to bash anything that isn't ideologically left. Sexy female characters? Problematic. The player can do anything he wants in an open world game? Problematic! Even games like Civilization have been called problematic by now because you can engage in colonialism. The transsexual backgrounds of some characters in Rimworld were recently criticized... despite them having actually been written by backers of the game who are trans themselves.

      "Problematic" is used by a certain crowd of people to police content, and that's harmful to art and entertainment because that crowd loves intimidating creators for producing "wrong" content.

      Delete
    7. I like Greg's rationale for the word, but yeah, it makes me roll my eyes.

      I was pretty surprised when I saw I had an option to declare a 'Colonial War' in Civ. I mean, it's kind of what you do, whether it's given a name or not, but I thought the optics were dicey.

      Let's avoid terms like 'SJW' perhaps, as they're nothing more than political snarl worlds that don't really advance the conversation.

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    8. JarlFrank, if you're not in the market for critical analysis, or you are but not *that* analysis, then avoid those threads. It's cool. You're allowed to just play the game and enjoy the game and not have a discussion about its politics.

      Some people like having that conversation. More importantly, some people *need* to have that conversation, because it's an important conversation. If you loved games, but every time you sat down to a game you kept encountering some character saying, "Hey, that JarlFrank is a giant douchebag," you'd probably be going, "Hey, why is this here? Is it necessary? Can we have a talk about why games keep doing that?" Everyone deserves to have games that they're represented in, and everyone deserves to have what we call "mainstream" games not be needlessly and casually offensive to them. And getting that right involves conversations, including conversations that sometimes seem trivial, petty, or taking things too far - because that reaction is exactly why the conversation was necessary.

      When we have these conversations, we're not coming to take anyone's games away from them. You can be assured that no one is going to stop making great games for straight white dudes any time soon, or any subset of those three adjectives, and in fact if anything the rise of Kickstarter and indie games generally means that you're getting *more* games that directly target the specific intersection of things you like rather than less.

      Responding to the specific issues you raise is almost certainly not a conversation Chet wants on his blog. Discussion of how we criticise games is, I think, on topic, but wider political issues probably not. I'd just say that there's nothing about a trans character being written by a trans person that makes it perfect or beyond criticism (although we'd want to be careful in how we approach that criticism as someone who isn't trans themselves). Trans in particular covers a very wide range of identities and backgrounds - it's not a single homogeneous group united in perspective. It's generally better to just listen to people's criticisms, ask respectful questions, and then if you're not convinced just say, "Well, I don't find it a problem personally, so I'll just go enjoy the game, thanks for your time."

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    9. (A little research suggests that neither of us are describing the issue around RimWorld correctly, it's way too complicated and off-topic for this blog, maybe let's just drop that topic entirely.)

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    10. I don't doubt that some people have an interest in political analysis of games, for valid reasons. But as the anonymous poster wrote in the comment below this thread here, the term problematic is nowadays often used by radicals who clamor for censorship and want to make an issue out of everything, and push it into the faces of people who just don't care. It's just like back when conservative politicians wanted to censor violence and other controversial content in games, except now it comes from the other side of the political spectrum. Rather than offering constructive criticism, there is this tendency to just call things "problematic" and blame the developer for not having the right mindset, rather than offering ideas on how to fix these perceived issues.

      Let's not continue this thread before it becomes too political, but I'll leave it at "The thing I find problematic is the way the far left is interacting with games, and art and entertainment in general". Right now they're at the same stage as those hardcore Christians back in the 80s who demonized D&D for promoting witchcraft.

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    11. I think "problematic" is the right term, while "censorship" is way over the top. People who hate, discriminate against others or otherwise demonstrate misunderstanding without trying to get a correct picture, better shut up, because they add nothing to society. That is not about forbidding somebody to speak, but about living together peacefully.
      There has never been a handbook of "political correctness" trying to shut up unwelcome opinions, like often claimed. But there is resistance against discrimination and hate and hopefully will always be.

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    12. I think we should avoid pretending that criticism comes from one side of the spectrum. When games are released that are perceived to pander to 'political correctness' you can be sure that there will be big complaint threads.

      The 2013 RPG 'Expeditions: Conquistador' was repeatedly criticised on the steam forums for having an ahistorical number of women as soldiers. It's an ideological battleground out there and both sides are trying to control the narrative and influence future games.

      I agree with Greg though, video games as cultural expression feel appropriate for a blog about the history of RPGs, but the particulars of Civ 6 or RimWorld probably aren't :)

      Delete
    13. *conversations about video games as cultural expression

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    14. Calling something problematic and bashing it are not complete synonyms. The real problem (hah) is that specifically calling out certain works as problematic incorrectly gives the impression that NON-problematic works exist.

      There is no perfect idea that is free of negative repercussions. And it's worth talking about the potential downsides of any portrayal. RPGs _as a genre_ for example tend to come with a very blase attitude to killing people and taking their stuff. OBVIOUSLY this doesn't mean all RPGs should be banned, but it is worth talking about sometimes.

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    15. Re: D&D moral panic of the 80s, I think we would have welcomed the hardcore Christians to the conversation on D&D if they had actually played the games, were basing their concerns on a love of the medium, and were having a conversation about how they could find a place within that medium that represented them.

      ... noting that Christians in the US aren't a minority, and one arguable answer would be that literally every word on the page represented them to the exclusion of other people. But we probably could have moved past that and worked something out, and while I think the change of demons and devils to tanari and what have you in 2e specifically to accommodate this group was a bit silly, it didn't exactly get in the way of anything and it arguably made that demographic feel more welcome in the medium.

      Point is, listen to people, work out what it takes to make them feel included, think about whether there's any reason not to do it other than a kneejerk aversion to change, and then maybe just do it. Making people feel welcome in our hobby feels good.

      Delete
    16. The tabletop RPG/computer RPG "One Deck Dungeon" uses only female artwork to depict the Player Characters. This has spawned multiple threads on discussion boards for the game, complaining about the lack of choice.

      https://steamcommunity.com/app/770100/discussions/0/1693788384129538709/

      https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1721002/why-are-all-hero-characters-game-female

      It just goes to show that there are plenty of men cheesed by the lack of choice.

      Also, word choice is the equivalent of clothing in an online discussion forum. You may have the freedom to walk around in outrageous or offensive clothing, but don't expect to convince people who are offended by your word/clothing choices to give your thoughts much respect in return.

      Delete
    17. Eugene was responding to comments that I deleted for offensive language.

      I don't even really understand what this thread is about. Until someone actually advocates for a particular outcome or policy, I don't see why words like "problematic" or "controversial" should bother us at all. I don't see any particular outcome being advocated here.

      Delete
  12. Problematic? Everything is problematic.

    "I used to endorse a particular brand of politics that is prevalent at McGill and in Montreal more widely. It is a fusion of a certain kind of anti-oppressive politics and a certain kind of radical leftist politics. This particular brand of politics begins with good intentions and noble causes, but metastasizes into a nightmare. In general, the activists involved are the nicest, most conscientious people you could hope to know. But at some point, they took a wrong turn, and their devotion to social justice led them down a dark path. Having been on both sides of the glass, I think I can bring some painful but necessary truth to light."

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  13. A number of years ago, there was a sealed copy of OrbQuest: The Search for Seven Wards for sale on eBay. I bid a pretty large amount on it, but ended up not winning. I do collect sealed games, but in this case I probably would have opened it up and tried to archive it. Someone out there has a copy of it, though, and a pristine one at that.

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    1. There's a current ebay listing for TaskMaker
      https://www.ebay.com/itm/TASKMAKER-GAME-FOR-VINTAGE-MAC-IN-GREAT-LOOKING-WORKING-ORDER-AND-IS-COMPLETE/264075010576?hash=item3d7c18e210:g:4joAAOSwy3JcCE-N:rk:2:pf:1&frcectupt=true
      Expensive though...

      Delete
  14. Well, I bought it. I have a Mac SE/30 that I need to fix up a bit, but theoretically I should be able to get the files transferred to PC with a little work. I’d be happy to scan the manual as well. It’s worth noting that you can still buy shareware keys for the game if you search for “Storm Impact Robot Room” on Google. They can only provide the updated color version, though, as has already been determined. As a result, before distributing any files I’ll need to contact them to see how/if they want to proceed.

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    1. Sorry, this is in reference to Taskmaster. I thought I replied to the thread about the eBay sale.

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  15. Guys guys...I´ll be "dad" here a minute and state that we´re only talking about games. Who cares if we get female only character portrayals. Who cares if the gimlet is not perfect. It could be tweaked a little but lets remember that invalidates all the old scores. I´d rather it not be messed up. To me the scoring is not as important as the gameplay, pics, comments, grips that Chet finds in each rpg title.
    If you don´t like a game, don´t play it. All female and hate it? don´t play it. Find the gimlet all wrong? Fine, you can comment on each game and give an "alternate" score if you want, or set up your own blog.
    have a nice day people! smile! stuff in life ain´t that important!

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    1. Thanks Dad. I'm glad you've been around my whole life to let me know what's important and what's not.

      Love

      Your son

      PS Mum says you missed your last child support payment.

      Delete
  16. Chet, I would like to make a suggestion for your list above, specifically for the games that are unplayable, unwinnable or "broken". If you could list the version number of the game you are using then we could keep an eye out for a newer version or a patch that might have been released after your version. Provided there is no identifiable version you could maybe list the predominate date of the files or something like that.

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    1. Yeah, that's a good point. I'll try to go back and add them here soon.

      Delete
  17. Loremaster is a 1991 DOS RPG I recently heard about.
    There is very little about it on the Internet. All I could find was an incomplete entry about it and a speedrun:
    https://videogamegeek.com/videogame/246794/loremaster
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZQzss7l5Q0

    Someone on Twitch played it (there are more videos, this is the first): https://www.twitch.tv/videos/421852432

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