Monday, February 8, 2021

Spelljammer: Won! (with Summary and Rating)

 
A chest of gold and a text crawl brings an end to Spelljammer.
       
Spelljammer: Pirates of Realmspace
Canada
Cybertech (developer); Strategic Simulations, IncF. (publisher)
Released 1992 for DOS
Date Started: 20 January 2021
Date Ended: 5 February 2021
Total Hours: 22 (two characters; more like 10-12 for the winning one)
Difficulty: Moderate-Hard (3.5/5)
Final Rating: 31
Ranking at time of posting: 247/404 (61%)
      
Summary:
Spelljammer is a minor Dungeons and Dragons title, commissioned by SSI from one of its independent developers but under-resourced and under-funded. The result is a buggy, incomplete game whose positive elements do not outweigh poor balance, a truncated storyline, and a lack of product testing. The player commands a ship that flies through the cosmos of the Forgotten Realms, trading and ferrying passengers between planets. Officers on the ship are named characters of the usual Dungeons & Dragons classes and attributes (although the player can only create the captain), while unnamed fighters serve among the crew. First-person space navigation (albeit on a two-dimensional plane) occurs between menu towns on the planets; there is no planetary exploration. Occasional hostile encounters may be resolved by action-oriented space combat or by boarding ships and engaging in turn-based, top-down tactical combat. The combat system is the most promising feature of the game, but it's poorly utilized here.
     
******
     
I solved the crashing problem by disabling the sound. Of the solutions offered, it made the most sense to me--the crash was happening right when the game transitioned to a victory screen, when you'd expect some kind of triumphant music to load. Instead, the IRQ settings must have caused a floating point error in the sound buffer or whatever.
    
Once I figured out the problem, I continued with Hortense and her all-female crew. (It's curious that the game insists on making the officers the same sex as the captain. Is it some Puritanical fear of what will happen if a co-ed group serves on a confined ship for a long period of time? Does that mean all the miscellaneous crew are supposed to be the same sex as well?) Through a variety of trading missions, Hortense gained levels and fame, until she was finally offered the same quest as my previous Captain Chester: end the Neogi menace.
    
With Hortense, I spent a lot more effort trying to upgrade the ship and crew. I kept a spreadsheet of all the officers' inventory, checked every shop on every planet I visited, and bought upgrades when they were available. Soon, my fighters and thieves all had long swords +3 and a variety of armor upgrades. Many of my mages had cloaks +2. I never found magical weapons that mages could use, however, and my two clerics never did any better than maces +1. Hortense found a Ring of Invisibility at one point, but I never got the sense that it did anything in combat.
    
My crew towards the end of the game.
   
Money is relatively easy to make in this game. Sometimes, you get 6,000 gold pieces for a simple escort mission. But it's also easy to spend, particularly on repairing damaged ships, taxes, and the aforementioned equipment upgrades. For this reason, I didn't look into upgrading the ship itself until late in the game. I don't think I ever won a space-based battle.
   
For most of my playing time, I assumed that the developer did not intend anyone to level up except for the captain. Then, suddenly, late in the game, my fighter gained a single level. It was the only time that any of the officers leveled up or, as far as I can tell, even gained experience. Having won, I now believe that the intention was that all officers would be able to level up, and indeed that the player would postpone the final missions for quite a while, bringing the officers to maximum level first. I base this on the difficulty of the final combat, which I'll cover in a bit.
    
The best part of Spelljammer is not the space bits. Navigating from planet to planet takes too long. Space combat has too few tactics that actually work. The best part is the tactical combat system. It's possible that with the right balance, and after solving some of the bugs, it could have been better than the Gold Box system. It has most of the strengths of the Gold Box, including careful programming of a very large variety of spell effects (most of which the player will never see if he doesn't create a mage). The use of "stacks" for some enemies and for random crew is a weird bit of abstraction, but in the long run, I didn't mind it. It really was the only way to offer epic battles in a confined space.
   
Almost every battle completely exhausted my characters' spells, to the point that I started to think the creator should have allowed characters to rest and re-learn spells in the middle of combat under certain circumstances (e.g., they're more than x steps away from the nearest enemy, and in a closed room with a locked door). But I otherwise loved how important every "Cure Light Wounds" and "Magic Missile" became to victory.
   
There are some issues inherent with the combat system, such as it only supporting human-sized character icons. You'd never be able to fight a dragon. But the biggest problems are bugs. Low hit-point characters would sometimes die all of a sudden for no reason (this happens to enemies, too). Characters under the player's control will suddenly respond to the computer's control in a random round. Under the computer's control, they often unequip their weapons. The unnamed fighters have missile weapons if the computer controls them but not if you control them (late in the game, I figured out how to take control); if the computer controls them, their AI is horrible.
   
The most significant of these issues is how both computer-controlled characters and enemies behave around doorways. First of all, they're extremely reluctant to use them. Anything under the computer's control is far more likely to dither around its existing room than try to go through a doorway. If the doorway is locked, they never go through. Computer-controlled entities never attack anything standing in doorways, nor do they ever attack while standing in doorways themselves. They also never attack through doorways to visible enemies on the other side. Player-controlled characters can cast spells and shoot arrows through doorways, but only if they don't have doors. Anything with a door is treated as if it's always closed, even if a character is standing there keeping it open. These issues are particularly important because all combat takes place on ships, where doorways are everywhere. There are particular implications for the final battle.
    
When Chester got the quest to destroy the Neogi, he immediately heard from Clive the Fearsome's agent and headed to Garden. Hortense had to work a few missions between these two events. But eventually she visited Clive, heard about the dwarven citadel, and visited the derelict fortress. By now, I had solved the post-combat crashing issue, so I wasn't worried about it happening again. Oddly, the fortress this time was staffed not by undead but regular fighters and mages. This happens a lot in the game. You'll be tasked with destroying a "ghost ship" and you'll find regular fighters on board, or you'll be asked to take care of regular pirates and find out that they're surprisingly undead. It appears that the game has a fairly limited slate of potential foes that the characters can face. They never mix and match. You never find a mummy fighting alongside a couple of Neogi, for instance. It's always something like fighters + rangers + mages, zombies + ghasts + mummies + specters, or Neogi + umber hulks.
    
Anyway, the enemies were no harder than the undead. My clerics were able to make good use of "Hold Person." Hortense had gotten "Fireball" by now, and it's nerfed a bit for this engine, only affecting a one-square radius from its centerpoint. "Lightning Bolt" is much more damaging, but wow, do you have to count the squares carefully. It's easy to accidentally catch your mage in the bounce-back otherwise. As you can imagine, on the confines of a ship, there are a lot of places in which casting it is unwise.
     
Picking up where we left off.
     
At the end of the battle, we found the Scepter of Disguise and brought it back to Clive. The device apparently lets you make your ship look like any other ship, so you can get close without being attacked. I found that it worked fine on Neogi and not at all on anyone else. (And I was flying a Neogi mindspider by now, so I'm not sure it was the scepter.) Clive related that one of his ships had recently destroyed a Neogi vessel that was on its way to a rendezvous with another vessel. Clive wanted us to disguise ourselves as the Neogi ship and make the rendezvous ourselves. 
       
We see Clive for the last time.
    
We flew to the rendezvous point, where the other Neogi vessel dropped something in space and flew away. The object turned out to be a scroll, which ordered us (or, more accurately, the destroyed Neogi whom we were impersonating) to meet The Cleaver, captained by Master Akk'ais, and participate in a joint raid to capture umber hulk slaves.
   
We spelljammed to The Cleaver's location and hailed the ship. Without even trying to fight, Akk'ais surrendered to us and offered to tell us the location of the Neogi mother ship in exchange for his freedom. "I was against this banding together from the start," he explained. 
    
This may be the best graphic in the game.
    
Reaching the mother ship offered a few problems. First, it is surrounded by Neogi vessels--or perhaps one very persistent Neogi vessel. As you try to approach, you get sucked into encounters with regular Neogi vessels repeatedly. You can just sail away, but you get into another one almost immediately. I got fed up and tried to destroy them and found that my crew was no match for stacks of umber hulks. They run up, confuse, and slaughter any of my characters (or stacks of fighters) in a single round. And combat always started on the decks of the ships, so there was no opportunity to use the doorway trick.
           
Approaching the Neogi mother ship.
      
I had to keep fleeing and trying again, but eventually I managed to encounter the mother ship. It's a large single-level craft, full of doorways and small rooms. The party starts on a landing deck with no enemies, so it's easier to get started by creating barriers in front of the doors. Nonetheless, a combination of poor tactics, a lack of spells, and those goddamned umber hulks ruined my first attempt at the battle.
    
Reloading, I tried to take on the mother ship in ship-to-ship combat, but I had somehow unwittingly sold most of my ship's weapons, so that was a no-go. Ultimately, I had to withdraw, vowing to improve my levels, my items, and my ship's weapons before trying again.
    
I flew around doing random missions for a while. Hortense reached Level 9 and got one Level 5 mage spell: "Cloud Kill." None of my other characters leveled. I managed to get plate armoring for the hull and purchase new ship's weapons, plus upgrade some personal gear, but nothing that would really make a difference against umber hulks. Nonetheless, after a while I decided to try again. This time, I had my four mages load up on "Stinking Cloud," as it seemed like the only thing that would affect them.
    
This arrangement against umber hulks is not survivable.
    
All I can say is, thank the gods for the doorway bug, because otherwise I don't see how it's possible to win this combat. The umber hulks are just too strong. (Even if you didn't want to take advantage of the doorway bug, it's nearly impossible not to, because the enemies lurk on the other sides of the doorways, and you have to clear them before you can move on.) I should point out, however, that it takes a long time. Some of the rooms had three stacks of 5 umber hulks each. Each one takes about five hits to kill, and you miss about 50% of the time, so you're looking at over 100 rounds to clear out some of the rooms. You can't set the characters to computer control and walk away because they won't attack if they're standing in doorways. Fortunately, a few locations were a bit easier. There was one hallway in particular where my mages managed to "Lightning Bolt" a few stacks of hulks into oblivion.
    
There was one room with hulks immune to the bug. They insisted on staying at the north end of the room, and the doorway was to the south end. I had thought to have Hortense delay until the end of the round, pop in, cast "Cloud Kill," and hopefully get lucky with the initiative and run out at the beginning of the next round. But "Cloud Kill" was mysteriously absent from my spell list despite my having memorized it before the battle. I managed to kill them first by softening them up with a "Fireball," then by having a mage run in and cast "Stinking Cloud" to immobilize them, then bringing stacks of fighters into the room manually, then reverting them to computer control so they'd use their arrows. The whole thing took hours, though.
     
Trying to deal with those last two umber hulk stacks.
    
Once the battle ended, I got a bunch of gold. The mother ship still lurked in space. It had no crew to fire back at me, but still took about 15 minutes of firing my own weapons to destroy it.
       
Having blown this thing, it's time to go home.
    
As soon as it was gone, I was approached in space by an elven ship. I hailed it and the endgame sequence commenced. A cinematic showed a representative of the Council of Lords presenting us with a huge chest of gold. A text scroll told us that the Neogi were unable to maintain their fragile alliance, and the elves were able to drive them off.
   

 
From there, the game took us to the DOS prompt. I had expected that we'd actually be able to spend the gold and continue having random spelljamming adventures in Realmspace, but apparently not.
   
A truly great game could have been made from this setting and some of the mechanics the creators demonstrated. Imagine if the player could not only visit the menu towns on each planet but also explore dungeons, solve local quests, and find better equipment. Imagine if the character development system applied to everyone. Imagine if you could sail into the phlogiston (you can't here, not even manually) and take the crew to Krynn or Greyhawk. Imagine if space fights used the same mechanics as Space Rogue.
  
Alas, we get:
    
  • 4 points for the game world. That's a compromise. In the manual, the Spelljammer setting is like nothing we've ever experienced. In the game itself, it's not much like the manual.
    
It would be nice if these different planets really felt like different planets.
      
  • 3 points for character creation and development. I like the AD&D system to an extent, but it's not that exciting when applied to only one character. Possibly because of the bugs, methods of earning experience are opaque and inconsistent. Having to accept a large number of randomly-generated characters (with horrible attributes) sucks.
  • 2 points for NPC interaction. You get some tips from other captains and bar patrons, but it annoys me that of the dialogue options with other ship captains, most are useless or jokes.
  • 2 points for encounters and foes. Dungeons and Dragons has a nice bestiary, but not many of them are pressed into service for the game. There are no non-combat encounters or puzzles.
  • 5 points for magic and combat. An 8-point system is ruined by bugs.
    
The animation shows the "Fireball" spell affecting one ring more than it actually does.
     
  • 4 points for equipment. There are a lot of characters and a lot of equipment slots, just not a lot of equipment to find.
  • 4 points for economy. That's another compromise. I like games with a lot of economic complexity--lots of ways to make money, and lots of ways to spend it. Here, you theoretically have a variety of quests, trading, and piracy for the one and personal and ship upgrades for the other. But so much is unbalanced and broken that it feels like a much simpler game.
  • 3 points for quests. You get no choices, but you have a main quest and an infinite series of randomly-generated side-quests until you finish the main quest.
      
Picking up another random quest in a bar.
      
  • 4 points for graphics, sound, and interface. The graphics are adequate but rarely fantastic. There are some sparse sound effects that I had to turn off midway through my experience. The interface is up to SSI's usual standards, which means that the mouse or keyboard can be used exclusively or in a pairing. I had to subtract a point for the amount of time that spelljamming takes, especially where there's no automatic way to tell the helmsman to keep trying until you get there. 
  • 3 points for gameplay. Rating Spelljammer in this category is tough. Until you get the main quest, it's nonlinear, but what good is nonlinearity when you have the same basic experience on all the planets? I suppose it's somewhat replayable for different classes, but only because the character development system is broken. It has the right level of difficulty--but only by accident, because if not for the doorway bug, it would be far too hard. The duration is good for its content, but only because it has far too little content.
    
The sum of 34 is still far too high. I'm going to subtract 3 points for bugs and things that just don't work right, giving us a final score of 31. In some ways, that still seems too high, but the game did have some promising elements.
    
This ship looks like it would be disgusting to live in.
      
The March 1993 Computer Gaming World review by Jeff James mostly agrees with my take. James got more out of ship-to-ship combat than I did, and he encountered problems with hard drive performance that of course are no longer an issue. Overall, though, he felt that the tactical combat was very good but everything else was rough around the edges. He experienced many of the same bugs that I did, too. Ultimately, he concluded that Spelljammer "is a product with a good deal of promise, thwarted by an unfortunate number of defects." Pretty much every contemporary and modern review, including mine, says the same thing. A lot of them say that the game is part of the Gold Box series, though, when it demonstrably is not. I doubt the creator even had access to the Gold Box assets. It would have made more sense if he did--if the game had simply re-used the programming from Buck Rogers and the art from the Pool of Radiance series.

Spelljammer makes sense if you understand that SSI was facing a ticking clock. By 1992, TSR was unhappy with the stagnation of the Gold Box series and the consequent decreasing sales (echoing my opinion, none of the games from the TSR/SSI partnership ever sold better than Pool of Radiance). TSR did renew their license with SSI--they would ultimately extend it until the end of 1994, and they allowed SSI to keep publishing games developed under the license until mid-1995--but the writing was on the wall. SSI sank most of its development efforts into the forthcoming Dark Sun: Shattered Lands (1993) but also commissioned a number of titles to squeeze as much as they could from the Dungeons & Dragons cachet. Between 1993 and 1994, we see games like Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom (1993), a rushed Eye of the Beholder III (1993), Al-Qadim: The Genie's Curse (1994), and Menzoberranzan (1994). I haven't played these games, but I know something of their reputation, and thus understand when "Digital Antiquarian" Jimmy Maher characterizes them as having "something of the feel of a lame-duck session of government."
     
In this light, Spelljammer was just one of many under-resourced, half-assed productions that SSI funded during this period, hoping that something would stick. They gave the project to Al Escudero, a Canadian developer who had come to them looking for work after Electronic Arts made a hash out of Deathlord (1988), a game I found admirable but unplayable. Escudero wrote a space strategy and tactics game called Renegade Legion: Interceptor (1990) for SSI and was ready for another project after a sci-fi follow-up was canceled. (I'm getting a lot of this account from a Wikipedia article that has been flagged for citing no sources for 10 years, so take it with a grain of salt; however, some comes directly from Escudero's account in a 2012 RPG Codex interview.) Given the development conditions that followed, it's amazing we got a game as good as we did. Escudero had only one primary programmer on his team, a young man named Alex Russell, whose younger brother went to high school with Escudero. They took pictures of friends in the Society for Creative Anachronism to digitize for character portraits. They worked on 386 machines in Escudero's basement and kitchen, and had to hastily rent an office for "Cybertech" when SSI executives came up for a surprise visit. In the middle of the project, SSI significantly curtailed what Escudero had intended for it, which would have included exploring dungeons on the various worlds.
      
Escudero ended up staying in the space he rented to impress the SSI executives. Cybertech worked on online games but was purchased by Electronic Arts, and the team dispersed to other projects, before they could bring a game to market. Escudero eventually transitioned into console games; his only other RPG credit is for design (though not lead designer) on Dungeon Siege: Throne of Agony (2006) for the PlayStation Portable.
   
Listings conflict as to whether Escudero was on the design team for SSI's Dark Sun: Shattered Lands (1993), but either way, there's a good chance that will be our next Dungeons & Dragons game.

118 comments:

  1. Good analysis that I agree with based on my few plays of it. It showed promise, but was too buggy and underdeveloped.

    I read somewhere that you can actually win the final mission by simply destroying all the ships from space by hit and run tactics, so you never have to face the umber hulks. I'm sure you'd have to practice ship-to-ship combat more and maybe get a better ship

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    1. Yeah, tetrapod confirms it below. I just assumed it was impossible.

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  2. Oh, wow, that final battle sounds painful. I never even attempted a ground assault -- I found it way easier, and *way* quicker, to take out the mothership via ship to ship combat. Getting through the gauntlet of smaller ships is a bit grueling, but even with the starting galleon, if you purchase a full complement of ship's weapons (which I think is significantly cheaper than fully outfitting your crew) and target the other ship's weapons, you can render them helpless in only a volley or two. The mothership definitely took a bit longer, but a dozen or so hit-and-run passes gets the job done just as well.

    When I played, the game did keep on going after the victory sequence -- though I used up pretty much all of the reward on repairs and as far as I could tell nothing changed post-victory. The promised Major Helm (which I think is supposed to allow you to fly bigger, stronger ships?) also never materialized.

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    1. No kidding. After I suffered a few shots from the mother ship, I just assumed that it would kill me before I killed it, and I grappled. I'm glad to hear there was another option, I guess.

      I don't understand by what mechanism the game could have kept going for one of us but not the other, though. I'd replay to see what I missed, but I don't want to fight that battle again.

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    2. Major helms are faster: your ship speed rate is half your pilot's level for a major helm, one-third for a minor.

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    3. Which means nothing in this game, since nothing is timed.

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    4. That suggests that they wrote in "you can upgrade to a major helm" early, and after they decided nothing would be timed, accordingly scrapped the actual upgrade but not the line saying it could be obtained.

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  3. Nice review, faster than I expected.

    Really curious on whether you know about the Dark Sun setting. It is in my opinion the most interesting AD&D setting, and all together one of the most interest tabletop (or PC) RPG setting, but we'll see what you think of it.

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    1. I've always found Darksun overly angsty and grimdark, but it's at least way more original than all the cookie-cutter fantasy-kitchen-sink worlds like Forgotten Realms and Greyhawk.

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    2. Dark Sun takes a fair amount of inspiration from Tekumel. Although it does have ideas of its own, too.

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    3. Yeah, it's a bit Tekumel, a bit Princess of Mars, and a bit Mad Max 3, but it is more than the sum of its inspirations.

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    4. Wow, I never saw the connection with Tekumel before. Neat!

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  4. I have the feeling you are going to love Dark Sun The Videogame.

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    1. Dark Sun: Shattered Lands is a criminally underrated gem. It has one potentially gamebreaking bug but that's easy to avoid as long as you explore thoroughly, and its difficulty curve is kinda unbalanced. It starts challenging, then becomes rather easy, until the final battle which is really hard.

      Other than that it is an excellent RPG though. I personally find it better than the overhyped Baldur's Gate. It's just that good.

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    2. The final battle in Shattered Lands is pretty intense. It's also the only place in the game that that the amazing spell/psionic system gets a chance to really shine.

      The smallish combats throughout the game don't really encourage players to start experimenting with things like barriers to limit enemy movements or visibility as a hedge against spells and missile fire. Players only generally need that stuff when they end up frustrated and stuck at the final battle. Once Chet discovers that there are different ways to landscape the battlefield with walls of fire/stone/force, webs, stinking clouds, fog, etc. in ways that weren't possible in the gold box series, then I think he'll probably enjoy the novelty of the large-scale end combats quite a bit. Here's hoping, at least.

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    3. Shattered lands early game is actually pretty easy as long as your party includes a psionic three-keen and you use the two buffs that turn them into a terrifying murder machine.

      (Three-kens have four unarmed attacks normally not that good since the base damage is only 1d4 - but there is a psionic buff that increases unarmed damage to 1d10, and another buff increases their str to 24 - giving you a monster that hits for 4d10+48 damage each turn - almost from game start).

      This method falls in utility later after you have proper magic weapons and whatnot, but is amazing early.

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  5. Another intriguing 'if only' game. In an alternate history where it received adequate resources, it might have been quite a good one.

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  6. Dark Sun has some similarities in that it's clear they had far less time or money to put into bugfixing and testing, but it's good enough in the areas that matter that it's still a good game and worth playing. It's a shame they didn't have a chance to really capitalize on it, but I suppose the writing was on the wall by then.

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    1. The first Dark Sun is not that buggy, most people will never experience its issues in a playthrough.

      The second one is an absolute mess, although it sounds like still not to the same degree as Spelljammer.

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    2. Eh, I played Wake of the Ravager when it was first released and yeah, it was pretty rough, but I played the GOG version a year or two back and it was reasonably solid modulo some wonkiness in the pyramid bit. In my experience at least, Spelljammer is significantly shakier even than the unpatched version of Wake.

      (There are of course big balance issues in the Dark Sun games -- an all half-giant party facestomps like 99% of the first one -- but that's a different thing than the game not working as advertised).

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    3. I've played Shattered Lands three times but only finished it once due to getting the "Endgame not triggering" bug two out of the 3 playthroughs. Fingers crossed Chet avoids this as it is a superb game otherwise.

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    4. To avoid the endgame not triggering bug, I have read it is sufficient to pick up and read a message you find early on after leaving the starting area. Since there are two ways out, if you don't find a message after leaving that area, just circle around the map and approach it from the other side. Or go back in and use the other exit.

      The important part is to pick up that message and read it. You can do it at any point before the endgame.

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    5. I played the first one all the way through back in the 90s, and loved it. The second one I had to abandon due to save game loading taking longer and longer as I went along, until it was over an hour per load before I could finish the game.

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  7. Is it possible that the low-HP characters that randomly die are poisoned; or that the sudden computer takeover of your characters is a result of morale rules? 2E has rules for both of that (which doesn't mean they're implemented WELL here, of course).
    Lightning bolts bouncing back like that is also a 2E rule (that most groups ignored because of how annoying it is, but hey). As you say, the small fireballs are a bug.

    Oh, and neogi don't employ mummies; that's for setting reason :) I am, however, surprised that the game contains no Giff, Gnome, Illithid, or Beholder ships. A major part of the charm of this setting is the bizarre races in space, and the weird physics. The game doesn't seem to do much with either of that. To any Baldur's Gate fans: yes, Spelljammer gnomes have ships powered by Giant Space Hamsters.

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    1. Gnomes do show up in battles, but I don't remember fully manned or "gnomed" ships when I played. There are Illithid ships as well, but they usually have a dwarf/gnome/elf crew. The Illithids are mostly immune to magic except stinking cloud, and they stun the mess out of your troops but harmless in my experience.

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    2. I met some illithid early in my first character's game, but not in the latter hours. I had trouble with them. I thought about some of your other explanations for the mysterious happenings. Poison doesn't work because it happens to enemies, too, and I'm definitely not poisoning them. As for morale checks, I suppose it's possible, but the manual doesn't say anything about them. I figure that in a game so full of other bugs, Occam's Razor.

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    3. No Illithids is particularly galling. They're pretty much the iconic race for the Pathfinder setting. Even people who have never played it or read the books - such as myself - know it's the setting where mindflayers tool around space inside huge living nautili. There's even a freaking nautilus on the cover!

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    4. Whoops, guess I should have refreshed the page before I posted that. I blame Chet for not actually mentioning them before now.

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    5. I mentioned them in my first entry.

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  8. I would have appreciated another screenshot in between paragraphs four to nine, further illustrating your observations with a witty caption.

    But that's just me...

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  9. I can't believe the game is over already. At the end of your last entry, it sounded like it was barely beginning.

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    1. I expected there to be at least 3 more entries in this game. At 10 hours for one playthrough, it's really on the short side of RPGs. Seems like the game really was rushed out the door!

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    2. What I heard of this game before Chet covered it, was that is a buggy collection of mechanics with barely any curated content.

      I was surprised there was a winnable main plot at all, I expected Chet messing around for a bit and calling it quits after a while (funny how the same comment could easily apply to Legends of Valour).

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  10. On an earlier post, I commented that I expected Pirates of Realmspace to score lower than any Gold Box game or Pirates! or Space Rogue... And still, I was thinking: "I am sure it will do better than Buck Rogers: Matrix Cubed".

    Surprisingly, it is worse! Pirates of Realmspace received the same score as Hillsfar, of all the things!

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  11. Are the remaining cleanup games, the games in the master list , listed as unplayed and before 1992? If so, then I count another 45 right?

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    1. I've been trying to avoid counting them, but that sounds about right. As you can see, I've been interweaving them with the 1992/1993 games so I'll get through them eventually--by which time we'll probably have discovered another 45 games from the 1980s that I haven't played yet.

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    2. Fun fact: In your 1991/92 transition post you wrote "There are 38 games remaining on that "old" list, although I can tell a lot of them are destined to be cut."

      Since then you have covered 76 games pre-1992 (plus a few BRIEFs) and the list is bigger! Hmm, maybe not such a fun fact...

      Delete
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      Delete
    4. "Chilton Programs" kinda sounds like an early 80's one-man CRPG developer.

      Delete
    5. I won't hire 'Chilton Programs' until they can beat Activision's Hacker II on their first try in one sitting.

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    6. contracthacks@gmail. com

      Seems legit... ;-)

      Delete
  12. Congrats on yet another "Won!". I am glad you found a solution that worked so quickly. I was thinking this one may be stuck in the mud for a while.

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  13. I agree with you Chet, that a game where you explore space but then also go down to do some dungeon delving on the planets would be awesome. That's why I like the flawed Planet's Edge more than it deserves. It's the only game that combines space travel and combat with proper planet exploration.

    Seriously, why has nobody made a game like this yet?? It should be a total no-brainer! There's plenty of space exploration games with RPG elements, but none of them feature fully realized planetary expeditions. I'd buy a game like that at full price on day one. And it wouldn't even be that expensive to make: your regular RPG tends to feature large worlds with different biomes too. Having a handful of different planets and condensing them into one or two areas should work well enough.

    The only games I'm aware of that come somewhat close are:
    Precursors, a janky Russian FPS-RPG that combines planetary exploration with some space combat. It's a fun game but space isn't open to explore, sadly.
    Starbound is a Terraria clone with interplanetary travel, but it lacks a proper space element.
    The one game that comes closest is Stellar Tactics. It's still early access but I'm highly looking forward to its full release. It's still a little wonky but it's exactly what I'm looking for.

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    Replies
    1. I would like to see something like old-school XCOM where you're defending a planetary system with ship-to-ship combat plus boarding and going down to planets for combat/exploration missions. Maybe add some more RPG flavor of XCOM2 into the mix for your squad as they level up in experience. I would also want a tech tree to improve your equipment and survivability on various planet environments and enemy ships of increasing difficulty.

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    2. "a game where you explore space but then also go down to do some dungeon delving on the planets would be awesome...

      Seriously, why has nobody made a game like this yet??"

      I mean... Mass Effect.

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    3. It sounds like a no brainier at first, but consider how much work would be involved in doing it. Can we land on every planet? If not, the explorable area needs to be small enough that the content that is there doesn't feel too thin on the ground, which may cause players to complain. If you can land regardless, then planets will have to be copy-pasted (obviously bad) or procedurally generated (makes for often uninteresting locations/exploration when too heavily relied upon). Plus you have to design multiple kinds of combat and make them all enjoyable or players will try their best to skip the stuff that's bad, wasting your effort.

      Look at Pillars 2, which has ship combat/mechanics that nobody really likes and which Obsidian has admitted burned a ton of man-hours for no real gain.

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    4. The ship combat system in Pillars 2 was just too abstract and simplistic in my opinion. It would have been better had they made a system similar to the standard land combat, except that the piece of land your characters stand on can move.

      It worked for games like Sid Meier's Pirates! You just have to remember to make your systems fun... which the Pillars series isn't very good at in general. I'm not even a huge fan of D&D but I'd rather play a decently implemented D&D game than Pillars' lame system.

      Something like Planet's Edge would be quite sufficient for me, except with better RPG systems (actual levelups for your chars) and more side content on each planet.

      And not every planet has to be visitable. Let's take our own solar system. We might colonize Mars one day, and a couple of Jupiter moons are prime candidates for space bases too. But Venus is out for its toxic atmosphere and hellish heat. Jupiter and Neptune are out too unless you like swimming in gas clouds. Earth and its moon, Mars, and maybe some of the Jupiter moons would be all that's populated.

      Other solar systems would be similar. One or two planets viable for habitation, the rest is dead rocks only good for mining resources. But dead planets could contain ancient alien ruins...

      It would work well enough if you put in the effort. But I guess putting in the effort to make something unique isn't that trendy among developers... and less profitable than just copying whatever works. Sigh.

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    5. As said above, the original Mass Effect is literally this; the sequals not as much.

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    6. You explore space and delve into dungeons in Ultima I and II.

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    7. And Ultima 4.5!

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    8. Knights of the Old Republic doesn't really qualify IIRC because it doesn't have a properly developed space layer, does it? It's been over 15 years since I played it so I don't remember too well, but space only existed as an abstract layer you would fast travel through on your way from planet to planet. No actual exploration in space and space combat was just a turret minigame you occasionally got to play upon leaving orbit, but that's it.

      I have to play Mass Effect. I tried it back when it came out but it was frontloaded with so many unskippable cutscenes, it put me off from playing. Gotta give it another chance.

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    9. JarlFrank. Mass Effect does what you're asking for, but there's no ship to ship combat - only space exploration. A common criticism of the game is that is that the space layer is mostly empty. Ive always thought they missed the point. Space should be mostly empty. It's space.

      In any case, the game is good if you like the mid-00s Bioware design. Lots of story. Some of it truly great. Uncomplicated mechanics.

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    10. I think we're going to get one of such games pretty soon, with Whale's Voyage. I remember when it came out, reviews were okay.

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    11. The first Phantasy Star does have two forms of space travel, but they are more or less non-interactive fast travel cut scenes rather than anything approaching proper exploration.

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    12. Whale's Voyage has all the elements - space travel, trade, planetary exploration - both dungeon style and by glider. But the exploration part is rather ugly and nausea-inducing, combat is messy and the dungeons (cities, really) aren't that interesting.

      MegaTraveller 2 had all these elements, too, I think? But likewise, exploring the planets wasn't particularly interesting.

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    13. Right. MT1 and MT2 technically had the elements, but they were just mostly boring. I have a lot of high hopes for the upcoming Starfield.

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    14. Apparently some remastered version of the ME trilogy is coming soon. That's the one you'll want. Getting ME 1 to run on windows 10 is non trivial. I'll probably buy it, because I'm an addict in my own way...

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    15. Well, Windows 10 issues won't be an issue because I still use 7, and a pal gifted me the first two ME games on Steam a long time ago, so I can easily give them a proper shot.

      Issues with older games is exactly why I'm still on Windows 7 ;)

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  14. This game definitely seems like a tale of unrealized potential. It would be a better game without the bugs and an even better game if the amount of content was then doubled. I always liked the Spelljammer setting and it makes me sad that this didn't work out well.

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  15. Probably you should play Warriors of the Eternal Sun as next D&D game before Dark Sun. It may be Genesis-only, but was developed by Westwood and seems to be a western-type RPG in every respect.

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    1. I second this. It's a console game, but it's pretty good and definitely an RPG by Chet's criteria. It has an Ultima style combination of isometric overworld with first person dungeons, but the dungeons are more like Dungeon Master. Plus, you get to fight dinosaurs.

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  16. Just out of curiosity: I remember reading a walkthrough of this once and I think it mentioned as the easiest winning strategy: "Buy a hammership, start ramming. Easy win." Is that even possible in this game?

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    1. You can definitely ram, though I'm not sure this is all that great of a tactic (I've tried ramming with other ships, but never bought a hammership). You take some hits on the way in, which isn't likely to be sustainable if you're trying to fight the bigger enemy ships (like the Neogi Deathspider or mothership). And between the outlay to get a hammership and the cost of repairs, it's likely going to be way more expensive than just loading up your starting galleon with heavy catapults and doing a couple hit-and-run passes to disable enemy weapons.

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    2. Yeah, I didn't try ramming (or any ship combat) much, but even buying a Hammership would require the player to make a lot of gold in other ways first.

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    3. It works. The hammership ram does 48 damage to the ship and you take single digit damage in return. That adds up fast.

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  17. "We spelljammed to The Cleaver's location and hailed the ship. Without even trying to fight, Akk'ais surrendered to us and offered to tell us the location of the Neogi mother ship in exchange for his freedom. "I was against this banding together from the start," he explained."

    Captain Fwiffo of the Spathi would be proud.

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    Replies
    1. Ha! Good call-back. I was thinking of the Spemin in Starflight, too: "GO THERE AND DESTROY OTHER SPEMIN BUT SPARE US!"

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    2. This post sponsored by Frungy! (The Sport of Kings)

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  18. Dark Sun is a very good game. A kind of "missing link" between Gold Box and Infinity Engine games. It looks and plays surprisingly like both of them.

    Al-Qadim: The Genie's Curse is a good game too, just not fully a CRPG. It is a Zelda-like Action-RPG, very much like 16-bit console games, but on PC, benefiting from more storage space and memory.

    Menzoberranzan actually came out in the middle of two Ravenloft games, all from DreamForge Intertainment, Inc., previously known as Event Horizon Software (DarkSpyre, Dusk of the Gods and The Summoning). A nice games, for dungeon crawlers with nearly nonexistent role-playing options.

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    1. I got ds: shattered lands, Al-Qadim, and ravenloft: strahd's posessiosion on the same cd. A cd I still have safely to this day because it has shattered lands on it.

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    2. I gotta say the Ravenloft game is pretty bad, though. As I remember it, it's mostly a generic attempt to join the 3D-hype, and it does neither storyline nor combat particularly well.

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    3. Eh, it's not amazing (and like Menozoberranzan, it's too dark), but I played the Ravenloft game a couple years back and thought it held up OK -- there's a fun atmosphere, the world is reasonably open, the dungeons are nicely themed and fun to explore, and there are explorable towns and joinable NPCs with their own stories. Viewing it as an attempt to take the EOB formula and expand it, I think it works OK -- though if you think of it as a Gold Box successor it'd of course be disappointing. The second one (Stone Prophet) has a fun setting, too.

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  19. It's really quite sad how Spelljammer was handled.
    Around the same time, TSR wanted to make a "sequel" to Dragonstrike, that would've taken place in AD&D space, but they canned it.
    https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/595589/wildspace-game-never-was-released

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    Replies
    1. THAT's interesting. Dragons would be a natural addition to the cosmos as laid out in Spelljammer. It's too bad this game didn't implement them.

      Delete
  20. Also, there's a reason why that Neogi art looks so nice.
    It's ripped stright from the cover of the first Spelljammer monstrous compendium
    https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51z+OCXR3QL.jpg

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    Replies
    1. Odd choice for cover art, considering the Neogi doesn't appear in it, and neither do the Illithid or Giff also pictured on the cover.

      But all is forgiven as it has Giant Space Hamster listed, including the "miniature" sub species (gnomes breed the bigger ones to run in huge wheels that power their Rube Goldberg machines

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  21. Of course, Tower of Doom is an arcade game from Capcom, but i hear it has RPG elemenets (character progression and branching paths), and I personally would like Chet to try it (on MAME?) and contrast its use of D&D to others. I'm sure I'll enjoy a stub post on this.

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, seconding this! There's definitely a lot of DnD elements to the game, (albeit all run through an action-y, anime-y filter) plus it's actually fun to play and reasonably short given infinite "quarters."

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    2. There are very few absolutes on this blog, but one of them is that anything that requires me to use MAME is dead in the water.

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    3. I'm not familiar with the game, but as far as I can tell it's basically Golden Axe. That is, a side-scrolling beat-em-up. It has no character customization, the spells largely don't match their tabletop counterparts, its D&D ability scores are just for show, and it uses XP as a score instead of as a leveling mechanic.

      This is not an RPG by any stretch of the word. That said, if you want to play this genre, the ur-example Golden Axe is available for pretty much every console, as well as DOSbox.

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    4. That's maaaaybe a ballpark characterization of Tower of Doom, though certainly by the sequel (Shadow over Mystara), there's heavy level-branching and multiple endings, a full inventory and shops, vancian magic, experience-based levelling, interactions between different character class choices if you're playing co-op... They're still beat-em-ups, don't get me wrong, but there's far more going on in than in Golden Axe, which I always found pretty boring.

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    5. You wouldn't need to use MAME, they have the games on GOG. But I agree that they aren't RPGs.

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    6. @tetrapod, both Tower of Doom and Shadow over Mystara have more complex mechanics than Golden Axe, BUT that doesn't make them RPGs.

      Their FAQs and wiki pages make clear that neither game has "level-branching" of characters (you get choices like "after stage 2, you pick 3A or 3B and both lead to 4", no backtracking); nor Vancian magic (you cannot choose what spells to prepare); nor XP-based leveling (you get more powerful per area crossed, XP is purely cosmetic).

      In addition: zero character customization; ability scores are meaningless in the first game and removed entirely in the second; and the spells are named after D&D spells but are mechanically mostly unrelated.

      Yes, the games have multiple endings; but so do platform games. They have equipment shops, but so do shoot-em-ups. They have interaction between characters, but so does Golden Axe. Overall, the setting from these games is D&D, but their mechanics have nothing to do with D&D or with RPGs in general.

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    7. Oh, totally agreed that they're not RPGs -- as I said, they have DnD elements run through an action-game filter and I definitely don't think "basically Golden Axe" is an informative way to characterize them, but they're obviously beat-em-ups. But they're fun, surprisingly-robust games and considering that Chet played the far-inferior War of the Lance and Dragons of Flame, which are also action games with DnD elements, it doesn't seem out of bounds to suggest he give them a whirl.

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    8. Fair enough. I'm just a big fan of Golden Axe :) It goes without saying that later games in its genre have vastly improved on it.

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    9. Both the games have remastered editions on Steam anyway. No GOG, no MAME. Shadow over Mystara is an improvement over Tower of Doom in every way and is worth at least 15 minutes of Chet's time.

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    10. MAME really isn't hard to use. The only reason most people struggle with MAME is because many of the usual sources for ROM images don't keep up with the standards MAME has for its ROMs, which isn't really something you can blame the project itself for.

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    11. Despite the universality of your claim, *I* find MAME very hard to use. Nothing about its interface makes any sense to me.

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    12. Let me elaborate because it might actually do some good. To me, a good multi-machine emulator would have an obvious two-step process: 1) select the machine that you want to emulate; 2) select the media. In MAME I seem to be doing both at the same time? I honestly don't know. If someone can solve that, we'll move on to the issue of bringing up the configuration options while a game is running.

      Delete
    13. The only reason most people struggle with MAME is because many of the usual sources for ROM images don't keep up with the standards MAME has for its ROMs, which isn't really something you can blame the project itself for.

      Heh, I can absolutely blame the project for that. It's beyond irritating that MAME doesn't retain compatibility with (or even the ability to use) anything but the latest anointed set of ROMs. Plus the error messages it gives when it fails (and boy, does it fail) are totally unhelpful and do nothing to identify the exact problem with the kind of helpful precision that ought to be obligatory. I've spent hours chasing my tail with MAME, totally unsure of whether the issue is that I have the wrong set of BIOS ROMs, or game ROMs, or the directories just aren't set up properly, or what. It's maddeningly opaque.

      Frankly, I've found myself wondering whether they deliberately do everything possible to break compatibility so that only a small, elect group has the "right" ROMs to proceed, and the great piratical unwashed is left out in the cold. Much as I appreciate the tremendous amount of good work and preservation done by people at MAME, using it can feel as though someone took the most insular and user-hostile aspects of the open-source community and made an emulator out of them.

      Delete
    14. "So that only a small, elect group [can] proceed, and the great piratical unwashed is left out in the cold." Ha! I have this feeling all the time about a lot of things, particularly when games or utilities are released only in source format. Don't know how to compile this code? Screw you, you don't deserve to use it.

      Delete
    15. Well, if you wanted to play an arcade game, you would begin by typing the name of the game into the searchbar that comes up when you launch the executable. This would be “[selecting] the machine that you want to emulate”. The name of the zipped ROM required to play the game is listed in the big green section at the bottom next to “Romset:”. Sometimes the game is a “clone” of another game (i. e. it shares most of its required ROMs with another game, as is often the case for bootlegs and localized versions of Japanese games), in which case the required parent ROM will be listed next to “driver is a clone of:”.

      If you pull up the command line and run “mame64 -listcrc gamename, in most cases, the required ROM or ROMs will be listed in the middle column. (I say “most” because there are cases like Metal Slug and other Neo Geo games where the Neo Geo BIOS is not included among the list of ROMs.)

      After acquiring said zipped ROM from a reasonably recent romset (the romset version doesn't need to be an exact match, but the closer the two are, the more likely it is to work), all you would need to do is place the zipped ROM in the “roms” folder, launch the executable again, type in the name of the game again, and hit Enter to start playing. Once you're in, you can configure controls by pressing Tab and going to “Input (this Machine)”.

      For example, if I wanted to play Pole Position, I would begin by launching the MAME executable and typing in “Pole Position”. I'm interested in playing the Japanese version, so I would select “Pole Position (Japan)” and see that because it is a clone of “Pole Position (World)”, I need “poleposj” and its parent ROM “polepos”. After obtaining “polepos” and “poleposj” and placing them in the “roms” folder, I would then start MAME and select “Pole Position (Japan)” again, then hit Enter to begin playing.

      I will say that the error messages produced when the user is missing ROMs are less than helpful, to put it lightly. You do get a slightly more detailed message if you attempt to run a game from the command line, but I'll admit that it could stand to be more verbose, and that the documentation on MAME's website can be a little roundabout. It's nothing you can't figure out with a little Googling, though – not much harder than getting a game running in DOSBox. The impression I get from having looked around is that the devs have basically given up on making the error messages more helpful because people complain no matter what they do.

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    16. Coming across these anointed ROMs you mention was definitely more difficult back in 2008, when nobody labeled their software properly, but as someone who can count himself among the piratical unwashed, I can profess with great confidence that the devs have not been quiet about directing people to a Dome of Pleasure and a certain Archive on the Internet.

      Delete
  22. I have a vague memory that you could only level up the named crew by winning space combats, not boarding actions, but someone would have to test that claim to see if it’s true.

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    Replies
    1. Hmm, seems unlikely -- I did the minimum of boarding combat in my playthrough (i.e., just the dwarven citadel) but won a bunch of space combat, and nobody besides my captain ever leveled up.

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    2. If I remember correctly, you also gained xp for distance traveled for the helmsman. I played this thing way too much as a kid and ended up with a captain that was several levels higher than the rest.

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    3. When I played it officers only got XP for killing a monster. It meant it took a long time to get them to level up. As a result I only ever got my mages to level up due to all the creatures they ligthing bolted in the game.

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  23. Also, I'm reading about Order of the Griffon for the Turbografx-16 (of which I knew nothing before). It was also developed by Westwood and combines Gold Box combat with Eye of the Beholder exploration. All three non-DOS games (Order of the Griffon, Warriors of the Eternal Sun, Tower of Doom) are based on the D&D setting of Mystara, so it might be nice to be exposed to a new setting as well.

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    Replies
    1. No promises, but I wouldn't mind a recommendation for a TurboGrafx-16 emulator that works with Windows 10, because I've had no luck with three versions in a row.

      Delete
    2. Retroarch is my usual goto for that, although setting it up can take a bit of effort

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    3. I've recently used Turbo Engine (v. 0.32) to play through Ys IV from start to finish, on Windows 10.

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    4. I tried both. Can't remember the problem with Retroarch, but Turbo Engine just showed me a blank screen no mater what PCE I tried to load.

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    5. RetroArch is a horrendous PITA even after you get it working. I use it because it's more convenient than having separate emulators, but not by much.

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    6. (Note - the Turbographix-16 is the American name of the Japanese PC-Engine, much as the Genesis is the American Mega Drive and the NES is the American Famicom. If nothing else works, searching under that name might find something)

      Magic Engine works fine for me, but appears to have gone payware (I have an older version lying around from quite a few years ago).

      Bizhawk seems to work quite well for every other system (which could be quite handy), but most PC Engine/TG16 roms fail.

      I've found something called PCEjin that seems to work - it loads my copy of Order Of The Griffin painlessly, anyway.

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    7. That's strange. I just downloaded a fresh copy of Turbo Engine and the OotG rom, and it works out of the box for me. I also tried BizHawk and Mednafen (with Mednaffe front-end) and they both played the game just fine. Sorry, I know that doesn't really help you.

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    8. While I didn't use a fresh install, I also didn't have issues starting the game in Retroarch. Maybe Chet's just cursed when it comes to emulators, it'd definately explain a lot.

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    9. If every dev had volunteers to put together basic instruction manuals for their emulators, no one would have any issues with them, because the vast majority aren't very hard to use at all. Mednafen is currently the best PC Engine emulator available and will play most games as long as you have a proper dump and syscard3.pce in the firmware folder. Drag the .pce file or .cue file of choice onto the executable, press Alt + Shift + 1 to configure controls, and that's it, you're playing. All of the configurable options are in a .cfg file, but being that this is a blog for CRPGs, I don't expect Chet to have too much trouble with that.

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    10. Seconding the comment about RetroArch being a massive pain to use. The only reason it's popular is because dozens of tech sites decided to publish RetroPie guides at the same time. Not only are most of its emulator cores taken from other devs (to say nothing of them being poorly maintained or modified in ways that said original devs doesn't agree with), its lead, TwinAphex, is also a huge asshat that has driven multiple contributors away from the project with his antics.

      Delete
  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  25. I've been trying to find again, but it looks like the age of the page means it's gone forever, a website that looked into the code of Spelljammer that I found as a younger man. (No, it's not The Cutting Room Floor. There's no page for such an obscure title on there.) The author basically dug around trying to do minor bug fixes and found a whole mess of dummied out items and content, or found out whole sections of the armory don't work. Was really hoping to revisit that in light of this review.

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    1. Have you tried archive.org?

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    2. I would if I could recall an address. My guess is it was a Geocities or similar site that's long gone since I see no trace or mention of it on major RPG discussion hubs anymore.

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    3. It's always a bummer when a good site just up and disappears. There used to be a website that did a similar thing for Koei's Gemfire. Turns out the simple strategy game had a massive chunk of code to handle kingdom successions and inheritance...but the events to prompt those requirements were dumbed down to make them nearly impossible to trigger.

      The site disappeared many years ago, but I still remember it. Sigh.

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    4. I can't help with finding the site, but have you tried looking through the files yourself in a hex editor? It'll only reveal dummied out text if you don't know what you're doing though.

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  26. I am so glad you played this . . . essentially so that I no longer have to!

    I had a pirated version of Spelljammer back in ooh, 1993. As a gold-box CRPG junkie the initial taste I got of playing this was wondrous. The tactical combat seemed to step beyond what I had experienced in the gold-box games by adding scale, via the squads & the sheer duration of some combats, and the ability to gain loot from those combats that could upgrade your ship - something for which there was no parallel in any of the gold boxes.

    What stopped me cold is hitting the sound setting bug that crashed the game. When I experienced this it hard-reset my 486-DX-33 and this scared me. This was pre-internet and I had no idea why this was happening and I ceased playing.

    The upside of this game-stopping bug is that I never experienced the disappointment with what this game kind of began but could not deliver on that you persisted through. The fact that it contained the bare bones of an open world, character development, well formulated tactical combat, but for the reasons you describe failed to deliver on them was something beyond my limited exposure. Therefore it remained in a fond nostalgic place.

    I know if I actually went back to replay it the negatives would quickly kill my interest. Thanks to your writing I have gotten to experience the very best I possibly could without the labours. Thank you!

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  27. One thing you didn't find out was if you have a crew member die, you can recruit a replacement, and the replacement can be any level from 1 - (one less than the captains level). I usually played a Mage Captain, got them to level 11, then once my officers died I got level 10 replacements. They last a lot better in that final fight and it can be won without the doorway bug then.

    However if you do that, all mages will not have any level 4 or 5 spells. For some reason they never had newly recruited mages have any spells there.

    ReplyDelete

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4. I appreciate if you use ROT13 for explicit spoilers for the current game and upcoming games. Please at least mention "ROT13" in the comment so we don't get a lot of replies saying "what is that gibberish?"

5. Comments on my blog are not a place for slurs against any race, sex, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or mental or physical disability. I will delete these on a case-by-case basis depending on my interpretation of what constitutes a "slur."

Also, Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

I read all comments, no matter how old the entry. So do many of my subscribers. Reader comments on "old" games continue to supplement our understanding of them. As such, all comment threads on this blog are live and active unless I specifically turn them off. There is no such thing as "necro-posting" on this blog, and thus no need to use that term.

I will delete any comments that simply point out typos. If you want to use the commenting system to alert me to them, great, I appreciate it, but there's no reason to leave such comments preserved for posterity.

I'm sorry for any difficulty commenting. I turn moderation on and off and "word verification" on and off frequently depending on the volume of spam I'm receiving. I only use either when spam gets out of control, so I appreciate your patience with both moderation tools.