Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Updates on Perihelion (1993) and Arcan (1993)

I just finished and rated Perihelion a few days ago. I had written to author Edvard Toth, but I hadn't received a reply by the time I finished the game. Later, I noticed that he had replied, but that his e-mail had gone to my spam filter. We had a brief exchange that led to a little more insight into the game. He also said he had read the series of entries and enjoyed the commenters' discussions, and he sees you as a "very committed and knowledgeable audience."
Toth said that he had never heard of Sentinel Worlds: Future Magic (which was a long-shot; I thought there were similarities between the Guardian and the Key of Thor), but he had absolutely played some of the Gold Box games, which serve as a base model for Perihelion's combat. "Those games usually looked like crap and were quite terrible from a technical point of view, but they had fantastic combat design and team-based strategy." He was also an admirer of other games from Psygnosis and Cinemaware, particularly It Came from the Desert (1989/1992), an atmospheric action game.
He confirmed that the names and places dropped throughout Perihelion were not just words; he had extensive lore, sketches, and short stories for the game's various creatures, locations, people, and factions. Carnivore's avatar was a "vile, bloated, cadaverous baby with razor-sharp teeth," for instance, and he had written a short story about "a procession of Carnivore priests moving through a city slum, their life-draining auras inadvertently affecting the residents, setting off a series of crazy events." He mentions trying to write in the nature of Robert E. Howard, which was ironic given that I used a quote from Howard in my coverage.
Toth had planned to set several sequels in the world of Perihelion, perhaps with a unique focus on psychic powers and the toll they take (which was a minor feature of Perihelion's backstory):
I'm . . . quite obsessed with the premise of emotion-based psi powers and the dramatic (often tragic) potential in [them]. The sacrifices that practitioners have to make, the traumas they have to endure, and the discipline they have to develop to experience, recall, and sustain sequences of emotional states is very powerful material. I have the 'metaphysics' worked out, along with several pretty impactful personal stores. Maybe one day . . .
Toth doesn't see much hope of a direct sequel at this late date, though. He sees the original Perihelion as "too simplistic, stale, and one-dimensional." He noted that one of the "hooks" of the original game was "the very high production values, execution, and atmosphere," something that requires a lot more investment of time, labor, and money today, after 30 years of development in graphics and sound.
Nonetheless, he thinks about it, and he has some models in mind:
I'm a huge fan of George Miller's Fury Road [the 2015 Mad Max film], an unbelievable achievement that conjures up a lush and intricately detailed universe utilizing minimal dialog and exposition. Another great piece of poetic world-building is China MiƩville's Perdido Street Station [a 2001 novel]. A new Perihelion would certainly be more along the lines of these sensibilities.
Part of me wants to disagree that a "modern" game would require anything more than the graphics, sound, and music of the original, but I guess I'm a rare player. And even I admit that the idea of exploring a world like Perihelion's in a contemporary first-person interface is thrilling.

Well, I've tried a new version and made another two tours through the areas I was able to map for my first entry, but I still can't make any more progress. The issue may be that only demo copies exist, or that it's bugged in the way that Dungeons of Avalon II was, but I can't help shake the idea that I'm just repeatedly missing something. Irene is always accusing me of "man-searching" when I fail to find something that's right in front of me, but sometimes I can look at the same shelf (or wall in a computer game) repeatedly and miss the object of my search despite it being right in front of me. I'd be grateful if any of you have a chance to download it, play it, and let me know if you got any further with the map than I did.
In the meantime, I ran through a quick GIMLET and put the game at 20. There were a lot of 0s and 3s. But I hardly experienced anything of the equipment and magic systems, and for all I know there's a more interesting story, better enemies and puzzles, and other features later in the dungeon. I updated the original entry to tie it off and added it to the "Missing and Mysteries" list.
[Ed. Got the help I needed, faster than I expected. Look for more on Arcan.]
Bandor III: The Final Encounter
This one also goes on the "Missing and Mysteries" list. If it ever was finished, I can't find it.


  1. I don't know if the Robert Howard resonance was ironic so much as just confirmation that you were both vibing on a similar worldbuilding wavelength! (Howard may have even specifically been in his head if as you say he's been reading your entries 8)

    The game that's given me the most Perdido Street Station feels has likely been Echo Bazaar / Fallen London, a novel RPG approach to storytelling on a tight multimedia budget, that sadly you will possibly never reach as a 2009 release.

    1. I'm interested in whether Fallen London actually qualifies for the Addict's list, because as a web game with social features it technically was not released for personal computers nor does it have a pure single-player mode. In addition, it doesn't have "stat-based combat" as a distinct mechanic. And I suspect that if Chet fell into a time warp and somehow ended up in the late '00s he would quickly consider adding a "no fuel systems" rule in any case.

    2. Alexis Kennedy Always creates such interesting lore but the Games He worked one don't Spark with me gameplay wise. Never came very far in fallen London or Sunless Sea. At least Cultist Simulator I enjoyed enough to Finish some paths

    3. I saw the same similarity.

      Fallen London and especially Sunless Sea are two of my most favourite games. The writing is simply amazing and I'm deeply in love with the world as a whole. Very much looking forward to Sunless Skies on the Switch this summer holiday.

  2. I fully agree with his statement on Fury Roads world building. George Miller did a phenomenal job on just the right amount of info but never slowing the action. Less is more.

  3. Do you need a good grasp of German to play Arcan? I don't know the language, but I have a good hand at figuring out how to advance in obscure titles like that. Most of the time anyway.

    1. No, not really. There isn't that much text. You figure out what's happening in combat pretty quickly by context.

  4. There's a lot of work and skill in good still graphics, and when done well a lot of people like them more than fancier ones. Me, I feel better the less graphics there are.

    1. 'Part of me wants to disagree that a "modern" game would require anything more than the graphics, sound, and music of the original, but I guess I'm a rare player.'

      Probably not rare amongst your followers, but, also, there are many indie games released now that have lower production values than Perihelion, some even successful ones (e.g. Flappy Bird).

      And, I agree that there's a ton of skill in pixel art, still art, or just 2D art. I have been obsessed with Oxygen Not Included, and it's absolutely beautiful, has amazing sound design, and sophisticated physics, but it's all "just" 2D drawn art. I don't think anyone likely to play it gives a damn.

    2. Check out Aeon of Sands for a recent oldschool dungeon crawler that goes for a similar visual style. There are many modern indie games with early 90s graphics (actually, most of them have pixel art that looks WORSE than early 90s games).

      The adventure game genre has seen a huge revival after the success of the first couple of Wadjet Eye games. They are all made in the free to use AGS engine which is comparable to the engines Sierra and Lucas Arts used in the 90s. These revival adventures started out looking way more amateurish than the original 90s games that inspired them, but by now the AGS developer scene has reached an art quality that's at the same level as games like Monkey Island 2 or King's Quest 6.

      For a really gorgeous pixel art adventure, check out the upcoming The Sundew. It's made by a Frenchwoman who started out as a pixel artist for hire, and now decided to make her own game.

      In the FPS genre we've seen a revival of oldschool shooters with Dusk, which has 3D graphics of Quake 1 quality (in fact, most of the visuals in Dusk look even more primitive than Quake 1!) and the game was a huge success because it perfectly captured the oldschool FPS gameplay experience. In the wake of its success, we've seen Ion Fury, a game made in an updated version of the original Build Engine that powered Duke 3D, Shadow Warrior and Blood. And the upcoming Wrath, which is already available in Early Access, is being made in an updated version of the Quake 1 engine, with many of its level designers being people from the Quake modding scene.

      In RPGs that have a lo-fi look, the upcoming Space Wreck is a good example. Its art looks somewhat amateurish, but extremely charming. And then there's Underrail, which looks very similar to Fallout 1. And many more examples.

      These days, people (especially fans of niche genres) have realized that artstyle is more important than the fidelity of visual effects. Games that look like they were made 20 or 30 years ago are commercially viable as long as the artstyle looks decent and the gameplay is good.

    3. Even simpler than that, "retro" is highly marketable. Everybody wants to be a fan of the classics and things that resemble them. I don't use Reddit anymore, and when I did I never browsed r/gaming, but I'm sure Addict has seen plenty of gilded top posts along the lines of "(retro game) was my childhood" or "Who needs (modern game) when you have (retro game)."

      Besides, there's got to be a reason that Nintendo will never ever let you forget the NES existed, and it probably has something to do with the fact that they still charge money for almost-40-year-old games on their eShop.

    4. JarlFrank - you pretty much noted the same things I was about to write:)
      A few additions:
      On Aeon of sands:
      it is an oldschool dungeon crawler with dithered svga graphics similar to early win95 based games something like "betrayal at antara" (except this has no "real-time" movement). The setting and graphics are oozing atmosphere, but I found the writing itself offputtingly bad.
      On adventure games:
      We truly live in a renaissance for the genre. For some shocking reason, some game publications are still pushing the "adventure games are dead" narrative, even though the indie-scene is swarming with new titles.
      Obviously, they can't compare in sales to AAA titles, but that was never really the case anyway. Aside from Myst, adventure games have always been a niche genre.
      On FPS games:
      We have a deliberately retro-resurgence right as we speak. I wont even try to list all the new, but old-style shooters that are coming out in rapid speed. I don't know what exactly lead to this boom, the latest doom-games, Ion fury, and New Blood's shooters have to be the most important catalisators. Just type in something like "new retro shooters" or "boomer shooters" and you'll get tons of games in this style, that aim to emulate both the graphics and more importantly the gameplay-style of those great fps games of yore.

    5. I have nothing to add really but I wanted to thank you JarlFrank for that amazingly detailed post that brought some games that flew under my radar to attention as I have been hankering for some non high fantasy RPGs.

      I love the way both space wreck and Aeon of Sands look.

      Aeon of Sands really does feel - from the screenshots anyway - like M&M 3 in a post apocalyptic setting. Although since it has outdoors as well, maybe calling it a dungeon crawler is too limiting?

      And space wreck looks like it could be disco elysium in space which is the highest compliment i can give anything.

  5. Ahh, QfG4's coming up, very nice. The only title in the series I never played for no specific reason so I'm curious. I hope Corey Cole is still around to offer some insight while you're at it.

    1. I'm sure Lori and him can be alerted. They're fairly accessible on Facebook these days.

    2. Once patched, QfG4 is a wonderful game. Really takes the series back to the feeling and structure of the first entry but with additional atmosphere.

  6. "Irene is always accusing me of "man-searching" when I fail to find something that's right in front of me, but sometimes I can look at the same shelf"... etc

    It's not necessarily a man thing, it's just a physical impossibility to find the ketchup.

    It's like the ketchup in our fridge, Chet, it's only possible to find once another bottle of ketchup is bought. Then we find the one we bought weeks ago, like it's in some weird time loop or something. I'm not saying it's the only explanation... but it's one.

    There are other explanations for other things... but we'll get there when we get there.

    1. There are differences between men and women's vision (on average) that can explain these experiences. Some are described in this article. I didn't find out how large the discovered differences are, though.

  7. Really sorry again. Arcan is no match for DM and Steem seems to emulate the slowness of an ST.

    1. You can crank things up in Steem. It's one of my favorite emulators, to tell the truth. It's easy to remap keys and keyboard shortcuts, and its save states always work.

  8. Is "Stronghold (1993)" in the upcoming list the DnD one? If so I'm pretty sure that won't meet your criteria, as it's a strategy game -- primarily a city-builder, though there's also of course some combat.

    1. That's the one. MobyGames says it's an RPG. If I disagree, I'll BRIEF it and move on.


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