Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Game 428: Quest for Glory: Shadows of Darkness

This is the only sequel in the series to not include the game's number in the title.
       
Quest for Glory: Shadows of Darkness
United States
Sierra On-Line (developer and publisher)
Released 1993 for DOS and Windows
Date Started: 5 August 2021
    
Whether the discussion is films, books, or games, it has become de rigueur to complain that everything is a remake or sequel or part of a franchise, that Hollywood has no original ideas, and so on. I prefer a more balanced approach. We should always welcome originality, but there is also an incomparable joy in seeing the title screen of a new entry in a solid franchise, especially when you have a history with the authors and you trust that it's going to be good.
  
I realize that such an opening paragraph is dripping with irony. Fans who purchased the game in December 1993, anticipating the latter experience, were swiftly disabused--and, in equal proportion, abused--by a title so buggy as to be unwinnable. For a series that had always been well-crafted, free of not only bugs but also most "walking dead" situations, Shadows must have been a shock. I've often seen Shadows described as the first game to use the strategy, now unfortunately common, of releasing an unfinished game, using paying customers as beta testers, and following up with a flurry of patches.
  
I'll discuss the issues with the initial release more in the final entries, but for now, I'll just say that 28 years later, playing a version that is not only patched but re-released at least twice, I can let myself feel some of that joy. I'm aware that the final version still has problems (although I've tried to avoid spoilers), but I also know that it's fundamentally going to be a good game.
      
Shadows of Darkness was originally going to be the third game in the series--it is announced as the next title at the end of Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire--but the authors decided that they need another one in between for pacing reasons. I agree with them that it worked out better that way. Shadows features the reappearance of Trial's villain, and it makes more sense to give him time to regroup and plot in between his two games. Fricana helped create a more varied game world for the series, and it allowed the authors to explore the paladin class while the hero still had a paladin to learn from. 
      
As the opening cinematic showed the camera swirling around a mountaintop, a few things occurred to me. First, I'm not in love with the theme. So You Want to Be a Hero opened with the classic "hero" theme, which was re-cast into an "Arabian" style for Trial by Fire. Wages of War opened with a new theme, heavily influenced by African music, with syncopated drumming and shouts. The theme here is credited to the well-known Aubrey Hodges, albeit early in his career. The theme starts out at least adequate. For a game set in a fictional version of Transylvania, you definitely want a minor mode and a lot of low-register instruments, and that's what we get, at first. But it's a bit too fast, and after the wolves howl over the title, it goes off the rails completely, turning into a rock anthem complete with some shredding on an electric guitar that just doesn't fit the game's mood at all.
   
While I'm talking about negative things, I'm also not a fan of the subtitle. I'm not sure whether Shadows of Darkness means "shadows cast by darkness" or "shadows composed of darkness"; the former makes no sense, and the latter describes all shadows. I realize it's probably making a reference to the TV series Dark Shadows, which is similarly redundant but at least gets it out of the way faster. What I like about the previous two games is that they took common cliches and made them thematically relevant in the game itself. In that spirit, I think something like Dead of Night or Shadow of Death would have served it better. 
   
The opening cinematic closes on an image of a castle with a moon behind it. If there wasn't the sound of a wolf howling on the audio track, you'd almost certainly hear it, unbidden, in your mind. The title appears over the moon, the subtitle in a gothic font, arced as if to suggest that that the words are moving from the front left to the rear right of the image. It occurs to me that I've seen this exact title arrangement perhaps a thousand times, but I have no idea what the original example is. Some Hammer film from the 1950s?

As usual, the game lets you import characters or create new ones. I love the character creation screen, which starts with three closed doors. The fighter bursts his way through his door, the wizard dissolves his with a spell, and the thief pokes his head through before cautiously edging it open. You cannot create a paladin; you have to import one from Quest for Glory III: Wages of War
     
The character creation screen offers a cute set of animations.
      
Attributes (strength, intelligence, agility, vitality, luck, magic, communication) and skills (weapon use, parry, dodge, stealth, pick locks, throwing, climbing, acrobatics, honor) have not really changed since the last game except that "Communication" has become an attribute rather than a skill. There are no more "paladin" points, but that's fine, as in Wages they were more a reflection of the player's progress towards becoming a full paladin.
 
The creation process is far more limited here than in the previous games. New characters start with most of their attributes and skills defined, with only a pool of 100 points to allocate to improvements. 100 points is the minimum for learning any new skill, and every character starts with at least two skills at 0, so you cannot create a "jack of all trades."
    
Imported characters have only a slight advantage over new ones. I ended Wages with characters of all four classes. My highest statistics are found with my thief, who has a highest attribute (strength) of 300 and an average of 248. A newly-created thief has a high attribute of 250 (agility) and an average attribute of 208. For skills, my thief starts with the same levels as a new thief except for throwing (100 points higher for the imported thief) and weapon use (31 points higher). My imported fighter, who I rushed through Wages, has no advantages at all over a new fighter except that I gave him the "Acrobatics" skill for some reason.
     
My imported paladin.
     
I asked my Patreon subscribers what class I should play for my initial (and most complete) experience with Shadows, and the most common answer was "paladin." That works well, since I've favored the thief and wizard in previous entries. Every class but fighter got a fair number of votes, though, and unless the game is unusually long or complicated, I'm sure I'll check it out from multiple perspectives.
    
Quest for Glory III ended with the victorious hero seized by some kind of magical epilepsy as two figures watched him in a crystal ball. One was Ad Avis, the enemy from Quest for Glory II, now looking rather vampiric. The other was an unrevealed hooded figure. I said that it was likely the "Dark Master" Ad Avis had spoken of in his villain's speech--someone so evil that his or her portrait had been obliterated in the Wizard Institute of Technology (W.I.T.).
   
The magic apparently teleported the hero away, as he awakens at the beginning of Shadows in a huge cavern full of skeletons, large and small. The narration kicks things off:
   
You awaken from nightmares of flying and falling. You find yourself in this strange place, the only illumination an eerie green glow. You've lost your weapons and the contents of your backpack somewhere during the journey. All you have are the clothes and armor on your back. This leaves you with four burning questions:
   
Where are you?
How did you get here?
Who brought you here?
And how in blazes can you get out of here?

No, make that FIVE burning questions: What city did your luggage end up in THIS time?
  
You have of course taken note of the series' patented humor. But what's more notable during gameplay is that this text is actually narrated, by none other than John Rhys-Davies. This is seven or eight years before he would become famous for playing Gimli; contemporary players would recognize him as Sallah in the first and third Indiana Jones films or from one of his many television roles. I don't think the voice work was present in the original 1993 floppy disk release. My understanding is that it accompanied the 1994 CD-ROM version. 
   
Rhys-Davies narrates everything, including every object you click on with the eye icon and every action that you take, including those that work ("you take the torch") and those that don't ("it doesn't budge"). It is both impressive and spectacularly unnecessary. He does his best, but his voice simply doesn't work well for the many jokes and asides that the authors put into the text. It's particularly jarring for me, as I've always heard those narrations in Lori Cole's voice. I've actually never heard Lori Cole's voice, but for some reason I've always imagined that she sounds like Julia Sweeney.
    
Rhys-Davies's grave voice simply doesn't work well for some of the game's more flippant text.
     
(It's been about eight months since Corey Cole commented, so I don't know if he's still reading, but if he is, this is what I would like to know: Were you aware that the lines would eventually be voice-narrated when you were writing the text in the first place? If so, did that change how you approached the writing process?)
   
(Another parenthetical: After I had been playing the game for a little while, I put it in the background while I did some work. A few hours later, I had completely forgotten about it. I was trying to troubleshoot an SQL statement when I was startled by a deep voice saying, "You are getting very hungry." This was all the more alarming because it was true. It took me a few seconds to realize that it was the game.)
     
The interface is essentially unchanged from the previous version. Everything is still almost completely mouse-controlled. Hovering the cursor at the top of the screen brings a row of icons that allow you to walk, look, talk, manipulate, cast a spell, use an item, perform a variety of special actions (run, sneak, sleep), or go into your inventory or game options. Right clicking the mouse quickly cycles the cursor among these options. There's a new "Jump" option on the "special actions" menu. Some of the problems I've had with previous titles have been fixed, such as the "special actions" menu not staying active. There are no keyboard redundancies except in combat. I don't really understand why "Talk" couldn't have been mapped to "T," and so on.
      
From later in the game: A forest scene with a row of control icons at the top.
    
I will continue to maintain to my dying day that the text parser was a better interface, requiring more creativity on the part of the player. But it certainly wouldn't have worked well in the opening moments of Shadows, which find you in the cave below. If you had the text parser, what would you even type? No individual object or location stands out. There are some blobs that could be skeletons, so I guess you could type SEARCH SKELETON, but otherwise you really need to be able to click to get anywhere.
   
I was a little embarrassed by how long it took me to get out of the first room, but a lot of it depends on clicking on things that have no graphical emphasis. Fortunately, when you click on something useful, the character actually walks over to it, whereas when you click on something useless, the game tells you immediately that there's no point. By essentially clicking everywhere on the screen, I eventually found some money (crowns and kopeks), a dagger, a chunk of flint, and a torch. Lighting the torch involved using the dagger on the flint, which creates a spark, and then using the flint on the torch. 
 
That sounds horribly unpleasant for whatever this thing is.
     
The torch allowed me to see well enough to operate a sphincter on the far wall, bringing me to a new cavern. The second cavern had a weird, glowing pillar in the center and three other "sphincter" doors, none of which would open. A skeleton on the floor had a sword and shield. 
  
Again, it took me a while to get out of the room. It's not clear to me from the image that the southern "wall" is open and thus the room's exit. I had the same problem with caves in the first game, I seem to remember. Eventually, I wandered close enough to it that it triggered a fixed combat with a couple of giant bats.
    
Is it clear to you that the exit to this screen is in the foreground?
   
Combat has been somewhat redesigned from the first three games. In Shadows, you fight from a side view. You have the same number of options as the previous games, including attacks, defenses, and spells, but now with consideration of whether the enemy is high or low. There's a quick combat option if you want the computer to fight for you. I'll cover combat in more detail later, after I've had some more experience with it. For now, let me just say that I really don't like the appearance of the main character in combat. I'm also not sure why my sword wasn't flaming, since that was a paladin ability I acquired in the last game.
     
The combat screen. I've killed one bat and am engaging a second.
    
The graphics are otherwise on par with Wages of War. The forest scenes have a softer touch, almost impressionistic in places, but otherwise I don't notice any major changes. They seem state-of-the-art for the era, and certainly good enough for me. There are some nice background sound effects, particularly out in the forest, with birds chirping and hawks screeching. I like the in-game music better than the title theme. As I commented in relation to Perihelion, music in this series is scored better than the typical title. It shows up to establish a mood, never pushes itself to the foreground when it shouldn't, and goes away when it's not necessary.
  
Getting out of the cave involves crossing a chasm on a rope tied between two stalagmites. I used my "Acrobatics" skill to tightrope-walk. A tentacle swatted at me from below but didn't hit me. I imagine the wizard uses "Levitate" and then pulls himself along the rope, and the thief can use "Climbing" or "Acrobatics." It didn't occur to me until I'd already crossed that fighters and paladins don't normally have "Acrobatics" or "Climbing," so I'm not sure what the proper solution was supposed to be.
       
Maybe the fighter just takes a running leap.
      
As I emerged from the "cave's" mouth, it closed behind me, indicating that I'd been in the belly of some beast rather than a natural cave. My paladin senses tingled. A hooded woman stood next to an archway, and she introduced herself before I could do anything. She expressed surprise that I had made it out alive, introduced herself as Katrina, and said we were in Mordavia. She forestalled any further questions by saying it was dangerous to be out at night, and she suggested I head directly for the town to the north.
    
His first girlfriend had hooves. His wife left him for another warrior. Is our hero's luck about to turn at last?
       
Katrina is voiced by the famous Jennifer Hale, in which might be her first voice acting gig (she had two cartoons the same year; I don't know when they were released). She affects a high-pitched, vaguely Germanic accent. Something surprised me about it, but it might involve spoilers for later, so I'll cover that at the end of the game.
    
The path to the cave had an archway at the entrance. When I looked at it, the game said that it had eight arcane symbols, and I recognized seven of them as Blood, Bone, Breath, Essence, Heart, Mouth, and Senses. The last, which I could take, "looked like a six-armed starfish, or perhaps like the tentacles of an octopus." The game cleverly avoided the word "Cthulhu" here, but it's pretty clear that's what it was going for. I had remembered that the game had a strong Gothic horror foundation, but I had forgotten that it also had Lovecraftian elements. More likely, I simply didn't know anything about Lovecraftian fiction the first time I encountered the game in the late 1990s and thus didn't recognize the references.
  
The game opens up a lot at this point. I spent some time randomly exploring, fighting a few combats, noting a few puzzles, but I really need to start over and map from the beginning. My recollection is that Shadows is like the first game in its geography, in that you simply move between a series of screens rather than transitioning between different types of geographies at different scales the way you do in both Trial by Fire and Wages of War
   
I obviously haven't gotten very far, but I thought I'd use the rest of this entry to talk about the game's documentation. It comes with several booklets, including a manual, a technical guide, and a "hero's journal." The manual and technical guide are curiously misnamed, as the "manual" is more about the process of installing the game and the "technical guide" is more about how to play it. Either way, they're both relatively dry and clinical. The usual Cole humor is saved for a fictional magazine called Hero: The Journal of General Job Adjusting, into which the authors poured every joke, reference, and pun that they could think of. It's certainly funny: the first page is an advertisement for an oversized ladder meant to help adventurers buff their climbing ability. The roles of the four classes are explored in goofy magazine-style articles, including an opinion piece from fighter Carl Atlas, an advice column by paladin Magnifico Mannerly, an interview with Erasmus and Fenrus, and a confessional from thief Matt "The Cat" MacMaster. There's apparently a system of "thief marks" in the game, much like the hobo code of old, which warn you of treasures, dangers, and traps. (Amusingly, the thieves' guild itself is just the letters "TG.") 
    
The contents of Hero magazine.
         
These and other articles offer some clues about the setting. In Erasmus's interview, the reader is reminded of the mysterious Erana, who established groves of safety in Spielburg and Fricana before disappearing. Erasmus also recounts the fate of Ad Avis and mentions his mysterious "Dark Master"--who is rumored to be "holed up in an abandoned castle somewhere in the Land of Mordavia."
   
Mordavia is described in a travelogue by "October Derleth," a play on Lovecraft's publisher August Derleth. It is described as both a valley with one entrance (much like Spielburg) and a town within the valley. Key locations are the abandoned Castle Borgov, the Monastery of the Mad Monk, the Gardens of Erana, some place called the Mouth of the Dark One, and the laboratory of Dr. Cranium. An article by "P. H. Craftlove" (come on; you guys can do better than that) establishes the Cult of Amon Tillado and its goal to summon an ancient horror named Avoozl. Erana apparently died battling the beast during the last attempt to raise him. I'll cover more about this lore as I encounter pieces of it during the game.
   
The manual is fun, but its frequent goofiness undermines what I thought was supposed to be a darker, more serious entry in the series. I certainly hope that the tone of the game doesn't turn too often to the jocular. That there's a mad scientist named "Dr. Cranium" (a clear play on Sierra's Dr. Brain games) somewhere makes me nervous.
      
Despite some points of criticism, I'm already enjoying the game and feeling extremely optimistic about it. I look forward to thoroughly exploring it with multiple character classes.
   
Time so far: 1 hour
   

156 comments:

  1. What would you say has been the most fun class to play as through the series? You’ve got me really wanting to play but as usual, I get decision paralysis at the class select screen (not a good trait for an avid rpger.)

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    1. In my opinion it's the wizard. Of course, the whole point of the series is that other people will have other answers.

      The fighter's solution to the tightrope puzzle is to unaq bire unaq gur ebcr gb pebff vg sebz orybj. Lbh zvtug rkcrpg gung gb pbhag nf pyvzovat be npebongvpf, ohg vg qbrfa'g.

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    2. Thief, always thief! Except maybe in the third game.

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    3. It's always been Magic User/Wizard for me, there's a bunch of fun extra stuff in every game, and using spells to solve puzzles was always fun.

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    4. Straight or maybe gay sometimes

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    5. I'm always drawn to the thief. There are so many locked doors and open windows, and I always want to know what's on the other side.

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    6. My favorite was the fighter, especially in the VGA remake of Quest For Glory II.

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    7. Thief because you start with more skills which means you can invest your points to buy other classes' skills. A magic casting Thief is too much fun!

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    8. So long as you give him magic in the first game, and drop your shield in the second, a thief can end up as a paladin by QFG4.

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    9. When you import a character into QFG4, the game gives you the option to verify the class and to choose any other class. I haven't tried it, but if it works as it looks like it works, ANY character can become a paladin at the beginning of QFG4.

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  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. It is the fourth, but as Chet says, it was originally intended to be the third. My understanding is the QFG series was first conceptualized as a quartet of games, with each being associated with a specific geographic direction and season, and maybe element as well (like QFG II is South, summer, and fire I believe). But then they decided to insert a new game after II, so QFG III doesn't really fit the scheme and Shadows of Darkness (and eventually Dragon Fire) were pushed back a slot.

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    2. I realized I read Chet's first few paragraphs wrong....oops.

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  3. In my recollection, this game's plot relies far more on slapstick and silliness than the earlier three games, as well as on n cybg gjvfg gung vf jnl gbb boivbhf sebz gur irel ortvaavat. So while this is still a great game, I much prefer the second and third entries myself.

    By the way, the first QFG game also moves behind screens in the same manner.

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    1. I think they went extra-silly to counter the grim setting. IN GENERAL though, the silly parts are silly and the serious parts are serious. It more or less depends on which characters are involved.

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    2. I dunno, I replayed it last year and found it rather dark and light on jokes. The silliness is largely limited to Dr. Cranium, the three men in the tavern and the Leshyi.

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    3. I'd call Igor rather silly, as well as Baba Yaga, Lorre, and Punny. And frankly the combat system feels rather slapstick, and the big bad is literally "a foozle".

      I agree with Brent that the silly parts are silly and the serious parts serious, but I find the result... dissonant.

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    4. I've got just one word for you: pizza.

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    5. I enjoyed the silliness, it's one of the charms of the series! There is that dissonance, but I've always found there's a very noticeable difference in scenes that are supposed to be funny vs. those that are serious.

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    6. Personally, I think the line between horror and humor is generally rather thin. Another good example is West of Loathing, which is sort of the opposite of Shadows of Darkness - a completely slapstick game on the surface but with pretty disturbing horror undercurrents.

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    7. I just want to re-emphasize that my problem is never with HUMOR, which can occur in all kinds of situations in both fiction and real life. It's always with goofiness. I like situational comedy. I do not like slapstick and mugging and clowns. I realize that I'm in the minority there, of course.

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    8. I get this complaint in a "proper" RPG (I'm not a fan of those myself), but Adventures have inventory puzzles. And a good inventory puzzle needs to engage one's lateral thinking - in other words to break away with everyday logic and common sense. Otherwise they'll be simple busywork rather than puzzles (see your opening paragraphs from the Captive 2 posting). But then having absurdist puzzles in an Adventure that tries to play it straight narratively would result in a huge ludonarrative dissonance (Gabriel Knight's moustache, anyone?). Thus an Adventure needs a degree of narrative absurdity, either in form of weirdness (Myst) or goofiness (Monkey Island) to ground the absurd logic of its puzzles.

      I also think that Quest for Glory fares much better tonally than Might&Magic or e.g. Divinity series because all the slapstick in QfG is strictly situational and limited to individual gags, while the overall worldbuilding and story remain serious and coherent.

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    9. That's a fair point. If I accept this game as an adventure/RPG hybrid, I have to accept the adventure elements that come with it, and that often includes humor, even absurdist humor.

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  4. An article by "P. H. Craftlove" (come on; you guys can do better than that):

    Lionel P. Hatefield

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  5. Finally! I've been waiting for this for quite some time now.

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  6. Still reading the post, but couple of comments...
    Lori's voice, for example: https://youtu.be/B2tMDVWqMxo?t=690
    (I talk far too much in these, but at least at that bookmark, Lori is talking.)
    Still reading - Yes, definitely. Love the blog!
    Aware that we would have a voice-acted version? No, but certainly wanted it! When Lori plans a game, one of the first things she does is to think of film or TV actors and roles that match each game character. While she writes the dialogue, she has that voice in her head.
    I was disappointed that Lori's Mixed-Up Fairy Tales never got a voiceover version. Since that game was targeted at early readers, I felt it would help greatly to have the on-screen text reinforced with spoken voices.
    Shadows of Darkness "suffered" from having me as a full-time co-designer. With two lead designers on the game, we came up with much more content than fit in the schedule. That's possibly the main reason why the game was largely unplayable on first release.
    Another reason is that we had an immutable schedule. In Lori's and my opinion, Sierra management rushed the game out the door before it had sufficient testing, especially given the large amount of content compared to earlier games in the series. I recall a meeting with management and the lead programmer in which the latter said that the team was too burned out to extend the release date. I am, and was, sympathetic about that. Again with the added content, they had a lot to do in not much time. Management decided to release the game in time for Christmas - their default position anyway - which turned out to be too soon.

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    1. "Sierra management rushed the game out the door before it had sufficient testing." Sure, I don't think anyone blamed you. Even reviews at the time assumed it was fully a business decision.

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    2. It was, but I was present at the meeting and signed off on it. Preserving the sanity of the team mattered too.

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    3. Hey, actually caring about the team instead of treating them as replacable cogs makes you better than a lot of companies these days

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  7. I'm glad you picked Paladin, for me it's either Paladin or Wizard for this game, for certain parts towards the later stages. Having those differences between the classes really makes this series stand out though, and I certainly enjoyed playing them all through as each class!

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  8. As for the mix of humor and horror, we were inspired by such films as Young Frankenstein and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. We wanted to keep the puns and generally lighthearted nature of Quest for Glory, but play off fantasy horror tropes.

    A major decision on the CD-ROM version was whether we should have voice for the narration. We decided "yes," and John Rhys-Davies did an amazing job of it. But we decided that was altogether too much text for a voice actor. If we had voice acting for Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption, we'd have kept the object interaction text silent.

    A similar decision is whether the player characters should have voices (or even voices-in-text) as opposed to letting the player imagine their lines. The Quest for Glory "Hero" was designed to be silent, with the player role-playing the Hero. Hero-U, like Secret of Monkey Island, has distinct protagonists, each with their own voice.

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    1. ("we decided" --> "we later decided")

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    2. Shoulda got Brian Best.

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    3. Yeah, JRD did an amazing job, I loved it. He was able to handle the humor and the grimness. Can't decide whether this or the first one is my favorite.

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    4. Brian Best might be famous now as a sophomore representative in Iowa and "Legislator of the Year" in 2018, in 1993, he was just beginning his career as a respiratory therapist. I doubt his name would have had any particular cachet.

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    5. Oh, Brian Best. I read "Brian Blessed"...

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    6. That's obviously who he meant. I was taking the piss out of Harland because it was an obnoxious comment in the first place. Rhys-Davies was an A-list actor with a recognizable voice who did a fine job (even if I don't think he needed to have narrated everything).

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    7. But everyone would be deaf by the end of the game given Brian Blessed’s usual volume

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    8. Corey, it's "Frankensteen" ;)

      (great movie, love to know QfG4 was partially inspired by Mel Brooks)

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  9. Even though I get the reference it would be impossible in my head to not hear the group as the Cult of Amon "Till Ah Doe", and every time it would drive me crazy. Sometimes word play can be more distracting than fun when it gives a visual that implies a different pronunciation.

    I wonder if you get to brick any of them up in a wall at the end.

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    1. Believe it or not, I completely forgot about the Poe story when I encountered the name in this game. I knew something sounded familiar about it, but I thought it was some phonetic pun.

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  10. Coming from a console perspective, I've never really understood complaining about game remakes. Not everyone has the system the game came out for, and even if they do depending on the game the price might have shot up significantly over the years. A decent example is that later this year remakes of Pokemon Diamond and Pearl are coming out. A quick eBay search says that if you want an authentic copy of Pearl, just the cartridge is going to set you back at least $40, and if you want the case and manual too you'll probably end up paying over $70, and that's for a game that already has a superior version out. You want an authentic copy of that version you can expect to shell out around $80 just for a cartridge. Some people might say you should just pirate the game and emulate it, but that's illegal and even if it's effectively a victimless crime, it's still a crime and a lot of people aren't going to be comfortable doing that.

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    1. I'm banned from Ebay for life because I created an account when the Pokémon go craze started and tried to list all of my original Pokémon games. Must have looked spammy because I got caught by the AI and was banned for life without opportunity to appeal.

      Worst customer service experience I've ever had.

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    2. That's one big advantage for PC gaming: you can play 40 years of games (hello, IBM PC) without too much hassle, and you can mod them to your taste without the need to buy an usually inferior product (with stripped down content) re-packaged and overpriced.

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    3. I emulate games only if there's no remaining way to buy them first-hand. The only people making money from second-hand physical copies are eBay scalpers, not the developers or publishers or even the current copyright holders.

      That's why I make a point of buying games that I've previously emulated or pirated; it's my way of showing neglectful IP holders that the money will come if they'll just let us give it to them.

      As much as I moan about Nintendo's pricing scheme, I have to admit they've done an okay job recently making past games available on their eShop.

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    4. @AdventureMaterials

      The Pokemon games are counterfeited extremely often, far more than other titles on their platform. Somebody listing a bunch all at once almost certainly tripped the "these are fake!" alarm.

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    5. There are a good number of games where playing them by emulation delivers the game *as it was intended* to be seen, bypassing limitations of the original hardware.

      From personal experience, Spyro the Dragon 4 and 5 are both pretty terrible on native hardware, largely for reasons of hardware optimisation, but gorgeous and smooth when emulated.

      Tales of the Abyss was a complete nightmare in its PS2 release - ugly and slow - but emulated in 1080p and widescreen, there's an absolute work of visual art hidden in there that needs to be seen to be believed.

      Also pretty much any game that had limited save points and questionable difficulty is vastly improved by emulation.

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    6. Personally I'm of the opinion that "as intended" includes hardware limitations. I'd rather play a game with the original warts and get something as close to the original experience as I reasonably can, instead of getting a relatively pristine experience that's arguably not a good representation of the game's actual quality. Now to be fair, this is partially because if I'm going to do something that improves the experience I like to have an idea of what's being improved, but I also just tend to prefer my games to stand or fall on their own merits, not on what I can do to improve them 20+ years down the line. The fact I like to use original hardware whenever possible also plays a part in that.

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    7. Twibat, I get what you're saying, and sure, if you want to understand why Spyro 4 and 5 were poorly received at launch you might want to play them on original hardware.

      But the issue with both games is simply that they didn't have enough time to finish optimising for the hardware. The game is the same game - in emulation, it just runs without the hardware stutter, and with diminished loading times. It's the sort of thing that on modern systems would have been fixed with a patch.

      Tales of the Abyss is something of a different story. Emulation does significantly improve performance, but it also unlocks assets included on the game disc but not visible on PS2 hardware, allowing for higher resolution textures in some areas and a widescreen presentation. (For that matter, the Kingdom Hearts games have some of these advantages in emulation, too - the discs hold assets intended to be used with graphics modes that the PS2 won't actually allow.)

      Persona 3 FES is another game that benefits from unlocking a widescreen mode via emulation, and its 2D character bustouts look great in a crisper resolution than the PS2 could provide. One might also argue that using emulation to circumvent its notoriously random combat and reward cards via save states also makes it a substantially more enjoyable and less aggravating game (noting that the PC release of Persona 4 Golden chose to explicitly add options to reduce grind) but I suppose that's a matter of personal taste.

      Someone went to the trouble of making those assets - presumably either out of confusion as to what the hardware would finally permit, or to support future ports - and actually seeing them in use feels like gently sweeping the dust from a poorly-maintained painting to see the art shining underneath.

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    8. O Andarilho, I'd point out that actually there's a number of PC games that are incredibly difficult to get working on modern PCs (the Addict often covers this in some of his posts). Prior to companies like GOG helping assemble patches etc, it was definitely possible to spend dozens of hours trying to get even major game releases working. And good luck if you're trying to play something obscure where no one's likely to have figured out why it no longer loads with modern OSes or hardware...

      Delete
    9. I still will never understand people who will fight to defend the rights of megabillion dollar corporations against the little guy. It baffles me to no end. "It's still a crime" and yes, who bought the legislators to get these laws passed in the first place?

      Delete
    10. I prefer emulating old games vs. remakes/remasters, from a quality point of view. Emulators usually have a lot of quality of life improvements and other enhancements, including hacks made by the fan community, that are usually missing in modern remasters.

      Delete
    11. I'm not trying to defend the rights of corporations. Personally I feel like copyrights last way too long and would love to see them massively reduced in length, but that's not the case. What is the case is that these things are under copyright, which makes redistributing them illegal, and there's a lot of people that don't want to do something illegal even if it's something as simple as downloading a game.

      As for the whole thing about improving games through emulation, I'm weird and absolutely don't want to have my first playthrough of a game be the best experience I can get, I want it to be something approaching what I'd have gotten if I got the game at the time if I can reasonably do it. For example, my PS2's modded and I have component cables for it. Despite this allowing me to get pretty much the best video quality that I can with actual hardware, my plan for when I get around to playing PS2 games is to do it on an old CRT with composite cables, because that's what would have been likely to have been used at the time and there's a not insignificant chance that the games were designed to be played like that. I'm very aware that this is weird, but I tend to subscribe to the notion that if I'm going to be improving something I should know what the original was like so I can properly appreciate them.

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    12. The megabillion dollar corporations bought these laws that make this illegal. It's simple and easy to understand. Do you know why we never get any ancient material released into the public domain? Because Mickey Mouse was invented by Walt Disney in 1928, and to move up the copyright date would be to put Mickey Mouse in the public domain, and Disney will not allow that. It's no crime to refuse to obey the result of corruption, it's what Robin Hood did.

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    13. @Twibat

      You're not wrong here. A lot of older titles look quite wrong with higher-quality output or emulation, because they utilized the properties of a CRT and composite video to good effect.

      The PS1 is a generation earlier than your example, but it is probably one of the easiest to demonstrate this on. The system natively supports S-video output (much cleaner than composite, though not as good as component), although it was rarely used because S-video never caught on. If you use S-video with a number of games, they look really bad because of the lack of blending effects - the fog in Silent Hill 1 can be a big offender here.

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    14. I don't see how "breaking laws is a crime and not everyone feels comfortable doing that" is a controversial statement. I'm not defending the laws, I'm not saying they're right, I'm saying that for plenty of people the fact they exist in the first place is reason enough not to do something, and I think that's perfectly reasonable. You can think that something being illegal is reason enough not to do something while not subscribing to that idea yourself or thinking the laws are right.

      It's funny the PS1 and S-Video got brought up, because that's another system I was planning on playing games on real hardware with, and was considering getting an S-Video cable for. I decided against it partially for the reasons mentioned, partially because I'm cheap, and partially because I'm lazy and don't feel like messing around with the back of my TV.

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    15. I'm enough of a fan of getting "the original experience" that I'll generally prefer to play an original game over its port or remake, unless I'm absolutely assured that the remake will allow me to talk intelligently about the original game.

      But life's too short and there's too many games to play the buggy version of a game when there's a patched version available, which is effectively what emulating games in the PS1 / PS2 / Gamecube era allows. I don't have to personally experience stuttering graphics and long load times to understand how they pissed people off, and if I want to see exactly how stuttery or slow they were, there's always YouTube.

      I've also come to an understanding that my lifespan is limited, and that even if it were not, there are more significant games released in a year than I have time to play, so I'm never going to play all the games that are generally regarded as significant, let alone "all the games", so I need to make some intelligent choices about how I pick and choose my gaming experience. "Maximum enjoyability" is a pretty good starting point. And yes, I enjoy being able to talk knowledgeably about games, so sometimes that involves playing imperfect games in order to learn something, but even then, I need to make sensible decisions about how to use my time.

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    16. I think that it is interesting to note that this very blog scope is allowed by the existance of emulators and, maybe, of a gray legal zone.

      Regarding this issue, I would like to point to an interesting talk that Frank Cifaldi made at GDC 2016 (https://youtu.be/HLWY7fCXUwE), in particular when he draw a comparison between the old games market and the old movies market.

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    17. I always see people call emulation a legal grey area when from my understanding it really isn't. Emulation itself is perfectly legal, ironically because of Sony trying to shut one down. Getting games to use with those emulators is usually going to end up violating copyright, which isn't legal. The thing is, a lot of companies seem to not really give a crap about their stuff being availible as long as someone else isn't trying to make money off of it. And before someone tries to bring up Nintendo taking down a bunch of rom sites, they went after two obscure ones that were outright selling roms, any sites besides those went down of their own volition. If you want to blame anyone for that blame the people that thought selling roms was a great idea.

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    18. Right. Emulation is not a gray area, emulation is flat-out legal.

      Obtaining ROMs is a legal gray area, because some ROMs are legal to possess for everybody, and most ROMs are not, and for some ROMs it's unclear who (if anybody) holds the rights to them, and in some jurisdictions it's legal to possess a ROM image if you own the physical original. And some sites muddy the waters by inventing pseudo-legal terms like "abandonware".

      So yeah, gray area. But downloading an emulator? That's a-ok.

      Delete
    19. Driving even 1 mile per hour over the speed limit is illegal, so if not everyone feels comfortable breaking laws they certainly hide it well on... every road in existence.

      Copyright itself is unconstitutional, violating the 1st amendment, though somehow that gets ignored when corporate money is on the line.

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    20. It gets ignored because it's not true, particularly since the Constitution has a patent and copyright clause. As someone who creates things for a living, I'm sure glad that no one else can legally just copy what I create and that I'm entitled to the fruits of my own innovation. That billion dollar corporations also benefit from this principle doesn't make it wrong. Copyright extensions have gone too far, sure, but the concept of copyright itself is how artists make a living.

      Delete
    21. Ironically I support piracy despite being a writer who makes money from his craft. Just because of the security it adds to the preservation of my work. If pirates copy it and spread it around, there's a lot more copies of it out there. If I worked on a game and it's got DRM that could potentially make it impossible to play years down the line, I am thankful to the pirates who cracked it.

      Preservation is more important than anything else to me. A lot of the games Chet played on this blog wouldn't have been available at all if not for some pirates who copied those floppies back in the day and made backups.

      And it has been proven that piracy doesn't hurt sales in any noticeable way. I genuinely don't mind a pirate reading my stuff for free. If he likes it, maybe he'll buy my next book! No harm has been done.

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    22. That's very progressive of you.

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    23. It's been proven that piracy doesn't hurt sales?

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    24. Personal thoughts, not trying to explain anything at large: When I used to obtain warez, I was getting games that I would never buy. Either because I was too young or because I would never pay $50-60 for most things. In that sense, no sales were affected at all. But it means I played a lot of games - I wonder if I (and those with similar stories) positively contributed to their legacy to the degree that the piracy was "worth it."

      Music on the other hand is interesting - I certainly would pay $10 for a CD at that time, so anything I obtained via mp3 communities or early streaming affected sales. And certainly it mattered: the industry completely overhauled itself and adapted to shifts in technology and consumer expectations, although the transition was painful. Its kind of fun to look back and realize that Metallica was right about streaming and are absolved of all of the negativity they generated for themselves at the time. Or maybe they just distracted us all with a worse crime (St. Anger).

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    25. It's funny, in my work the more my writings are copied and disseminated, even illegally (i.e. without paying the journal where they are published), the more I earn: I am researcher.

      Delete
    26. "And it has been proven that piracy doesn't hurt sales in any noticeable way." I'm skeptical, but even if I weren't, I still would believe that the content creator has the right to determine how it is disseminated. I don't think the many blogs that reprint my entries are costing me any money, but it still pisses me off that they exist.

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    27. The link between piracy and sales has never been conclusively proven. There's data to suggest that piracy hurts sales, there's data to suggest that piracy has no effect, and there's data to suggest that piracy helps sales.

      What is pretty solidly proven is that many anti-piracy measures hurt sales more than piracy does, or cost more than the lost sales would bring in.

      Delete
    28. Ah data. Like opinions, only a lot more work.

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    29. There was a study that found piracy didn't impact sales in any noticeable way, but it was withheld by the EU because that wasn't the conclusion the lobbyists were looking for: https://www.engadget.com/2017-09-22-eu-suppressed-study-piracy-no-sales-impact.html?guccounter=1

      Neil Gaiman once made an experiment where he allowed piracy of his books (rather than sending DMCA requests to sites that hosted them) to see what would happen. Most of the pirates were from Eastern European countries (specifically Russia I think) where people generally earn less money than in the west and living costs are lower. An English language fantasy book priced at western standards is going to be a big investment there. So people like to use piracy to get books and other entertainment, but they also use the piracy as try before you buy. Gaiman noticed that after heavy piracy of his books, his sales in these regions actually increased... because the pirates helped build a fanbase and recommended his books to their friends.

      In China, the first western video game translations were made by pirates. Chinese cracker groups raced each other to who could be the first one to release a cracked Chinese translation of popular western games. Some of these cracker groups later went legit, contacted western developers and offered to translate their games. And Chinese gamers then went on to buy these official releases based on the positive experience they had with the earlier pirate translations. Chinese people are generally not that good at English and the majority of gamers there prefers playing Chinese translations - and the same gamers who used to pirate now support the legit business of the former cracker groups because of how highly they value their high quality translations.

      Those are just a few examples of how piracy can actually be a good thing for you. Personally, I really don't care about pirates ripping my stuff. In fact, having your work appear on major pirate sites is a badge of honor: it means you have been noticed, and someone finds your stuff worth sharing with others!

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    30. Here's an article on Gaiman's stance on piracy: https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110211/00384413053/how-neil-gaiman-went-fearing-piracy-to-believing-its-incredibly-good-thing.shtml

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    31. That EU study finds that the maximum sales displacement rate falls within its error margin (27% vs. 36%). That's exactly the opposite of "proving" piracy doesn't affect sales. In fact, the study states there that "online copyright infringements are much more likely to have negative than positive effects."

      The section on games estimates a positive effect, but we must consider that they were mainly analyzing the effect on premium mobile games, and they counted every legal download as a "legal transaction" regardless of whether money was involved or not. So, it's not very useful for gauging the effect of piracy on commercial games.


      Engadget's headline is, to put it charitably, misleading.

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    32. It's not hard to imagine how the type of media and means of distribution might create variances in the level to which piracy "hurts" the copyright owners. For me, the point is moot, since (as I said above) I think the copyright holder should have absolute authority to determine the means of distribution of his intellectual property. On the other hand, I don't really want governments wasting a lot of time on it. I'm mostly happy with the system we have. Individual pirates generally escape detection or care; copyright holders use their (civil) legal options to go after major distribution hubs; and the criminal justice system mostly doesn't waste its time on it. If measures to stop piracy hurt sales, then economics themselves will take care of that situation.

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    33. For what it’s worth: https://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/no-copyright-law-the-real-reason-for-germany-s-industrial-expansion-a-710976.html

      Quote: “ The German proliferation of knowledge created a curious situation that hardly anyone is likely to have noticed at the time. Sigismund Hermbstädt, for example, a chemistry and pharmacy professor in Berlin, who has long since disappeared into the oblivion of history, earned more royalties for his "Principles of Leather Tanning" published in 1806 than British author Mary Shelley did for her horror novel "Frankenstein," which is still famous today.”

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  11. If I'm not mistaken, the earliest title guilty of being released in an unfinished state was Darklands, which had something like twenty patches before the the game's final version. But here, its sort of darkly amusing to think of someone buying a super fancy CD game and then having to get patches by floppy, as things were likely to be by then. I think the internet was still pretty limiting for something like a patch for a game, assuming you had it at all.

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    1. I'm pretty sure I got the patches via AOL or Prodigy or something, and that was for the diskette version.

      I don't think the voiced CD-ROM version had any patches; it was released almost a year later.

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    2. The Addict covered a few other games. In my territory (Wargames), SSI’s Computer Ambush was so slow at its release in 1980 that a turn resolution could typically take… several hours (not an exageration). It would only be solved in the 1.1 edition in 1982… but you had to pay 20 USD and send your disk to get the fix ; at least 1.1 got extra content.

      Some games never got a fix : Torpedo Fire in 1981 for instance.

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    3. We are getting to 1994 and Darksun 2, that was so buggy that after some patching, SSI decided it wouldn't patch it any more.

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  12. I love this game desperately and will try not to be a huge defensive whiner and complain about every little criticism. :D

    (I love the series as a whole, but I love this game most of all. Yes, even with the handful of serious bugs in the original release, the irritating Dr Cranium section, and the GODAWFUL copyprotection which I believe is no longer present in any releases. I love it so very very much, I can still hear half the voice-acting in my head. IIRC it was a real forerunner of the whole "game voice acting" thing and no one quite realised how much work it would be and JRD did not enjoy the experience, but I still love every word that came out of his mouth.)

    Okay, you're getting the point. I am BEYOND biased here.

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    1. It's a lot of players' favorite. I remember liking it a lot in the 1990s, although I barely remember any specifics.

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    2. Oh, John Rhys-Davies is and was a trooper. He loved doing the narration. The thing about "The CD-ROM from Hell" was a joke based on the sheer size of his role. When Lori and I cleared out our files, she came across a set of photos of JRD and I clowning around together during the production. Now I just have to find them again!

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    3. I'm glad to hear that he enjoyed it. I don't know anything about him personally. You hear some actors and voice actors that really love their pop-culture characters and really get into the lore. I think of Sam Witwer, who voiced Darth Maul. Then there are others, like Charles Dance, who takes all kinds of pop projects but clearly has contempt for anything that isn't Shakespeare. It's good to know that Rhys-Davies is one of the former.

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    4. In 2004, Rhys-Davies stated the following in an interview with World magazine about the Muslim population, stating:

      There is a demographic catastrophe happening in Europe that nobody wants to talk about, that we daren't bring up because we are so cagey about not offending people racially. And rightly we should be. But there is a cultural thing as well. By 2020, 50 per cent of the children in Holland under the age of 18 will be of Muslim descent.[25]

      His comments were endorsed by the British National Party.

      Rhys-Davies is a supporter of Brexit.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Rhys-Davies#Political_views

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    5. So what? I for example didn't agree with Charlton Heston's political views but still think he was a great actor, I love his pulp scifi flicks especially. There are many other examples, Tom Cruise also is a very debated person here in europe because of his involvement with scientology. If you absolutely can't bear an artists beliefs I think it might still be allright to make a distinction between her/his personal beliefs and her/his work, as long as the former isn't expressed through the other. Ppl need to accept each other's differences more often and just deal with it more often is my believe.

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    6. I'm more concerned with the values art represents than I am particular views an artist holds.

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    7. What I hear in that quote is Rhys-Davies expressing an opinion that unchecked immigration threatens local culture and traditions. It's a somewhat conservative opinion, but it's not outrageous. I'm happy to demonize people for overt racism or calls for violence, but not for simply holding conservative viewpoints. If we start doing that, then there's no hope at all for reconciliation.

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    8. Well said.

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    9. @Chet, I think as an American you're missing the context here. Anti-immigration rhetoric in Europe has long been an infallible marker of racists and right-wing populists. Since "native" European population is almost wholly white, and immigrants are almost wholly not, it's became a way for Europeans to express racist sensibilities without explicitly referring to race. For example, the last sentence in that quote above means "50 per cent of the children in Holland under the age of 18 will be brown" and nothing else.

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    10. VK, You're very naïve if you think that fears of unchecked immigration are about skin color.

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    11. As an immigrant myself, I can tell you that there's no such thing as "unchecked immigration". If you had to jump through as many bureaucratic hoops as we do, you'd be screaming authoritarian state in no time. And as a pale-skinned, mostly white(-passing) immigrant, I can see very clearly the difference in treatment that I get and that the darker-skinned people get.

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    12. I'll cede the point that "unchecked" is hyperbole, but people still have the right to call for higher or lower immigration caps without being demonized. And while irrational fears and racism exist, and change inevitable, it is not irrational nor racist to desire a certain level of economic and social stability and cultural continuity.

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    13. It is irrational (and racist) to associate immigration with economic and social instability when the real root cause of it is wealth disparity.

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    14. "Anti-immigration rhetoric in Europe has long been an infallible marker of racists and right-wing populists." I can't help believe that's not the case. Because there must be plenty of people who aren't racist, but who are only concerned about what ududy calls "cultural continuity." And maybe they're only mildly concerned at that. To those people never speak, or is it just automatically assumed that they're racist because we live in a society in which everyone is automatically labeled with the most extreme version of what they actually believe?

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    15. I'll just put that here:
      https://pbfcomics.com/comics/deeply-held-beliefs/

      Delete
    16. @Chet, there's a very simple test: does the person concerned with "cultural continuity" extend this concern to expats from rich European or American (or even East Asian) countries? Fact is, they (almost) never do, it's always the Muslims and the Blacks, and sometimes Eastern Europeans.

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    17. The funny thing is that Rhys-Davies basically express the fear of becoming part of a minority.

      That said, how does it change its acting skills?

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    18. It doesn't have anything to do with his acting skills, but this sub-argument started with my observation that Rhys-Davies seems like a decent fellow aside from his acting talents.

      Mass immigration didn't work out so well for Rhys-Davies' native land (Wales), nor for American Indians or lots of other indigenous populations. Entire ways of life and cultural traditions were destroyed. I can see why someone would fear that it could happen to Europe, or the United States, or any number of other locations during this century. That doesn't necessarily mean that you hate the individual immigrants.

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    19. "Does the person concerned with "cultural continuity" extend this concern to expats from rich European or American (or even East Asian) countries?" That's a fair point, but there's a numbers issue at work, too. I don't see expats from rich European countries trying to immigrate to the U.S. in threatening numbers. Nor are, I imagine, Americans so eager to move to Europe that they threaten to overwhelm European customs (any more than we already do with exported popular culture).

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    20. Let me follow up because I'm in danger of misrepresenting my own position. My concerns about any of these things is very mild. I'm much more concerned about promoting human rights and creating diverse cultures. My core argument is simply that Rhys-Davies is not a bad person for voicing these concerns, and that it's wrong to categorize him with the more extreme people who voice the same concerns, at least without more specific evidence.

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    21. Probably worth noting, too, that Rhys-Davies apparently found it distressing to be quoted by an overtly racist, fascist group such as the BNP.

      As for Brexit, it's a disastrous policy connected to nativist, protectionist, and isolationist impulses that in the best of worlds shouldn't have been indulged to that degree, but support of it is hardly a defining sin in itself.

      None of which is to say that I would support his views or actions on these things, but they should be viewed in context and measure.

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    22. Umm, let's not confuse immigration with colonization.

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    23. Is there any major difference other than quantity?

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    24. Power differential. Imposition rather than allowance (or leak) by a dominant power.

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    25. Great. Since the voice actor expresses anti-immigration feeling, he must be a racist, then we should cancel this game. Oh, JVC is also a sexist since he put Scorpia in MM3. Let's cancel MM! Bard's Tale? Cranford is a sexist and anti-Trans. Heck, let's cancel BT! Pretty soon, this blog should be called "shovelware addict."

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    26. Bravely anonymous, you've added nothing at all to this discussion. No one is talking about "canceling" anything. You clearly missed the part where I was arguing in sympathy for Rhys-Davies. I decide what goes on my blog, and I've never rejected a game for any reason except that it wasn't a CRPG, not even when I have found its content objectionable. The problem with the world today is we can't have civil debates without someone like you derailing them.

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    27. Ironically I was actually in agreement with you and my post is in response to people complaining the VA of being racist because he was opposing immigrants. Oh well.

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    28. It's hard to discuss these issues, which are complex and often emotionally charged, when not talking face to face, especially given that there are thousands of people reading this, with different cultural backgrounds, and anyone can pipe in at any time. Given these circumstances, take away the two Anonymouses and I think this debate has been surprisingly civil.

      I'll try, and will probably punch myself in the face afterwards: The most disappointing thing about his comments, apart from using right-wing extremist stock rhetoric, is the "nobody wants/dares to talk about this." For me, this shows either contempt or ignorance. Immigration, integration, cultural shifts, cultural assimilation etc. are talked about all the time in politics and media, so much that I tend to find it rather tiring.

      But I'm not going to judge someone based on four lines on Wikipedia.

      (The talk about immigration slightly misses the mark, btw, at least in regard to his comments. He's talking about people born in the Netherlands, not immigrants. In the Netherlands, as in Germany, these are mostly descendants from Turkish immigrants. The original immigrants, like the Italians before them, were actively recruited during the post-war economic boom, when the labour was desperately needed. Up to this day, even the smallest village in (Western) Germany seems to have a Pizzeria)

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    29. Sometimes a really bad argument trying to support something can do far more damage than a great argument for the other side. Personally though, as someone who doesn't really buy the idea that cancel culture's this horrible thing that'll destroy anyone that dares step out of line, all the examples of things that "should" be canceled seem pretty bad. Problematic beliefs definately aren't good, but generally that doesn't mean "never touch anything this person was involved in ever again", at worst it might mean "maybe not work with this person from now on". The only reason you really see the more extreme examples tends to be because those involve people that actively act on those problematic beliefs, and do so with money they make off of whatever they were in. This isn't like JK Rowling where she's pretty blatently anti-trans, actively does stuff to advance her beliefs, and massively benefits off of Harry Potter's continued popularity, we're talking about things that are comparatively speaking forgotten about and there's a pretty good chance the original people aren't seeing any benefit at this point.

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    30. The issue is that having an internet mob decide what "problematic beliefs" are and act on it is a terrible idea. And responding to what you believe are "problematic beliefs" with a mark-and-destroy mentality (what so called cancel culture is about) is a very problematic belief by itself. You know what humans need? More empathic and nuanced communication, even (especially) when arguing tough, touchy subjects of much consequence. Censoring and cutting people off is the opposite of what we need.

      Delete
  13. Ooooh, I've been waiting for this. I LOVE this game so much!

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  14. I had no idea Jennifer Hale was going to become as famous as she is when I first encountered her as Fall-From-Grace and Deionarra in Planescape:Torment. (OK, technically, I ran into her first as Dynaheir in BG1, but she really got my attention in PS:T playing two of the most memorable characters in gaming). Interesting that this was her VG debut.

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  15. In this game, you're playing a paladin, and the voice-over is by John Rhys-Davis.

    Of course, in the same year, John Rhys-Davis would perform the role of "Paladin" in Wing Commander 3. (Which is I think primarily where I knew him from at this time, although I'd later be a fan of his role in Sliders.)

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    1. Hmm, next year, sorry. WC3 is 1994. Got my years mixed up.

      Also, QFG4 was a game I immediately bounced off, despite loving the previous games, but I can't wholly remember why. I have a memory of feeling the game balance was off - either it was too easy (with an imported character) or too hard (despite an imported character) or possibly just too unforgiving of mistakes. Not sure.

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  16. Women and heroes don't mix well. So to speak.
    Otherwise the heroes would be husbands, and who has EVER heard of a husband being a hero
    (yes, yes, technically it IS possible, but only if the wife allows it).

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    1. Being a husband (and maybe a father) is altogether a different kind of heroism, if done well.

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    2. I call bullshit on that. Hercules was married; so was King Arthur, and Cuchulainn, and Odysseus, and Odin. And Eddard Stark, and Milamber, and Dalanar Kholin... yeah, the list gets pretty long.

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    3. Didn't Hercules kill his wife? And king Arthur's wife was in love with another guy, so that doesn't count. Odysseus was a grass widower for, um quite a lot of years, and Odin...well, there are other rules for gods, if any at all. Don't know about the other guys, but I bet their matrimony was special, too :-)

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    4. Wow, this is... bizarrely sexist and pretty ignorant.

      (also if you think your wife is preventing you from being a hero or having adventures, you may want to reconsider whether you should be in that relationship)

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    5. Those are some odd interpretations. As Lori points out, Penelope was as much of a "grass widow" as Odysseus was a "grass widower," and she was a heroine in her own right.
      As for wives having relationships with other men, that's actually the norm. The 100% faithful husband and 100% faithful wife have always been rarities. Their choices to step out have nothing to do with heroism.
      Lori likely wouldn't have become a heroic game author and designer without me pushing her, nor would I have had her coattails on which to ride. :-) I'm certainly no hero on my own.

      Delete
    6. I really thought minando was joking in his first comment. I was surprised to see him double down.

      He's not wrong in that in most heroic fiction, the protagonist is a bachelor. That perhaps has less to do with the actuality of being married and more with the perceptions of authors and their audiences. I think it has less to do with misogyny and more to do with wanting romance to be a narrative option.

      Delete
    7. Most heroic fiction tales have the protagonist going off on adventures for months or years at a time. With the exception of soldiers, where you can argue that they're off fighting to keep the war from coming home, it is very difficult to see a character abandoning a wife and/or children as hero.

      Or, looked at in a different way, married men have responsibilities that bachelors do not, and most audiences would consider a character who goes off adventuring as shirking those responsibilities.

      Delete
    8. What's a grass widower? I thought a 'grass widow' was when a pregnant woman claims she got married and the man died in order to explain why she's having a baby out of wedlock. At least, it was that in one fantasy book I read, which may not be the actual real-world definition.

      Delete
    9. The real-world definition is a woman who's husband is gone for a long, long time. Modern usage dates back to British forces in India.

      Delete
  17. This and Quest for Glory II were some of my favorite games as a kid. Being a kid, I appreciated the addition of the electric guitar more than I do now, but it still works in some pieces, such as Erana's Garden.

    The combat, though, is just awful. The controls never seemed to respond in the way I thought they would and I remember spell-casting being a chore.

    Also, the game seems to be designed with the expectation that you'll play a Paladin. The other three games had little side-quests specific to each class, but a fairly large chunk of QFG4 is gated behind simply being a Paladin.

    Still, the sheer atmosphere of the game and the voice-acting (especially the three guys at the tavern!) carried this game effectively and I still replay it to this day. I just automate the combat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The thief still gets break-in sidequests, and the wizard has a magic duel.

      Delete
    2. I liked the combat for this one solely because I didn't want to bother with combat really, and there was a perfectly adequate 'auto-combat' option that would handle it for me so I could focus on puzzle-solving and stat-boosting.

      I don't remember there being THAT big a chunk that was paladin-only? There's the ehfnyxn and a bunch of neat 'detect evil' effects, though they aren't really necessary, but that's not huge. I may be forgetting which bits go where, though.

      My general preference was to play a thief with spellcasting, so I'd get the break-ins and be able to solve MOST puzzles with magic if I wanted to.

      Delete
    3. @Whiner
      The Paladin can eryrnfr gur Ehfnyxn sebz ure npphefrq sbez. V jnf haqre gur vzcerffvba bayl gur Cnynqva pbhyq serr Renan, ohg vg ybbxf yvxr V jnf jebat va gung, nal Ureb pna qb gung, ohg gur Jvmneq trgf n yvggyr nqqvgvbany bhg bs vg.

      So it looks like I was wrong, clearly a sign I need to replay the entire series again.

      Delete
    4. I remember Thief had some special stuff too. Also I'm not sure if it was because I played a Paladin with thievery skills (don't ask - I may have hacked a saved character...) I was able to get into the TG this game.

      Delete
  18. Reading this post and wanting to comment about it, I suddenly realised that it must be at least a year or two since I last commented. Still reading, but irregularly, and somehow every time there's a game that I have something to say about, I end up not noticing it until the playthrough is long done.

    I deeply enjoyed QFG4. It was actually the first QFG game I played... and ironically, given its reputation, the only one I finished. This is because when I first encountered it, it was at a friend's house, where we would play irregularly, and eventually switched to something else. It wasn't until I was at university in 2000, discovering the joys of unlimited internet access, and, ahem, Home of the Underdogs, that I finally returned to this game. I think I even used some online walkthrough to get through it, which means probably in the 1990s I wouldn't have stood a chance.

    I loved the atmosphere at the time. I think that from the perspective of a 19-year-old, there is something wonderful about that combination of serious, dark story and theme, and the crazy humour. It's like a bunch of teenagers getting together around a campfire and telling ghost stories interrupted by teenage jokes.

    In other words - I don't think I would enjoy it now. Even just looking at the jokes in the screenshots above, I find them jarring. But it's not the game that's changed, obviously, but me. This game is definitely a throwback to its time period, when not only the statistical gamer was significantly younger, but also the statistical game developer was less... I struggle for a word here. Initially I wrote "jaded", in the sense of being all too bitterly aware of working in a large commercial enterprise, but that doesn't quite cover it. I think this was the end of an era when games didn't yet aspire to be art, and the developers were simply more willing to insert disruptive jokes into their games, for fun's sake. At least, that's my impression - and it goes without saying, I wasn't in the industry at that time. I was barely even in the target audience demographic.

    Subjective feelings aside, is the humour a good thing, or a bad thing? I guess it depends on what you're trying to achieve. If the objective is to build a world for players to get lost in - then the humour is horrible and disruptive. But if the objective is to build a game - then it's perfectly fine. The fact that the Coles were able to get Hero-U made through crowdfunding definitely shows that there's a lot of people who appreciate a game that doesn't take itself so seriously. At the same time the fact that it took crowdfunding for the Coles to get Hero-U made shows that there's not a lot of game publishers out there that appreciate such games - everything seems to be about serious and ambitious worldbuilding (read: franchise-building) today...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Even at the time, as Rodney Dangerfield liked to say, "We got no respect." Lori and I submitted game proposals to several companies, with no results.
      A notable one was Any River Entertainment, which chose to have the Hollywood-background executives, instead of us, design their first game. The result was "A Fork In the Tale," modeled after the Dragon's Lair arcade game. It was rumored to have sold fewer than 1,000 copies in the first three months, possibly lifetime.
      I used to say, "Multiple best-selling games and $5 will get you a latte at Starbucks."
      I did manage to land a couple of programming gigs, and Bob Bates of Legend Entertainment was happy to hire us to design the Shannara adventure/RPG game, so we did find *some* respect. :-)
      Kickstarter was a choice, rather than an unfortunate necessity. People at the time were immensely excited about Tim Schafer's success with the Double Fine Adventure, and they urged us to crowdfund. I think we did very well there, considering we had no real idea how the site worked.

      Delete
    2. They crowdfunded two games so far: Hero-U, and Summer Daze at Hero-U.

      Delete
  19. Regarding the title, I wonder if it was intended to be redundantly, campily cheesy. It's not the same style of humor as a King's or Space Quest title, or the first QFG game's subtitle, but it would be in the spirit of adventure game titling generally. I agree that this doesn't fit with the more straightforward titles of II and III.

    This was a VERY heavily anticipated game for me at the time, and a major Christmas unboxing. Unfortunately, I ended up being pretty disappointed by it, between the combat, the crash-inducing bugs, and far worse, the "I can't seem to trigger this plot event" bugs. I didn't really love the spooky Transylvanian theme, but I did like that the world felt a little bigger and more interesting, with so many places to go and little plots/puzzles to figure out over time. Wages of War, despite the grandeur of the 'overworld' view, had felt sort of empty to me.

    ReplyDelete
  20. "In a bitter battle, you were better than the Badders. (You kicked some butt, too.)" will always be my favorite line from the series; too bad only fighters/paladins get to hear it.

    ("Gur phgr, vaabprag (jryy, znlor abg rknpgyl) yvggyr ohaal unf orra ivpvbhfyl fynhtugrerq naq abj vg ybbxf yvxr n ebnqxvyy." is my second favorite, and any character can hear it!)

    ReplyDelete
  21. I hope he doesn't get the dreaded domovoi bug.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know which version is being used, but does anyone know of any bugs that haven't been fixed with the game?

      I've run into the domovoi bug in a replay. And I remember running into the Chernovy bug in the swamp the first time I played it.

      Delete
  22. Does the Quest for Glory series have nonsense/obscure puzzles ? i hate Point & click adventurers because of their moonlogic puzzles but the Quest for Glory series looks interesting. Do you recommend this series to someone who doesn't like complicated puzzles ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The QFG series absolutely errs on the side of easy, fair puzzles, usually with multiple ways to solve them aspected to the character classes. The only exceptions I can think of are a couple of "action sequences" in which you have to do things in a precise order, but when you inevitably die in those sequences, the death screen gives you a hint about how to do it differently next time. These sequences are explicitly meant to be tried, failed, and reloaded, and it really doesn't take that long.

      In general, I would recommend this series for someone who normally doesn't enjoy adventure games.

      Delete
    2. If I remember Quest for Glory V correctly (and I'm probably not, I only played it once, 22 years ago), your death messages are written out poetically, hinting at what you need to do.

      Delete
  23. One of the games I've been most highly anticipating! Thanks for prioritizing it. If I weren't so busy, I'd be replaying this series for the umpteenth time as well.

    ReplyDelete
  24. What is a paladin?



    Oops, wrong game....

    ReplyDelete
  25. I'll just say, I wish I had a deep voice that would sound out when I was very hungry. If only because I'm certain I could train myself to wait for that voice to actually eat, instead of just eating whenever. Might help my diet and aid in my weight loss...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry, you'll just get a scratchy synthetic voice: "MaxKnight needs food badly!"

      Delete
    2. Ha! That might not be so bad, either. Been a long time since I last played Gauntlet Legend!

      Delete
  26. I love the fact that on the same blog post we have one of the games creators commenting and then also people calling John Rhys-Davies racist and saying that married people can't be heroes.

    Chet your blog rocks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you don't mean that sarcastically. As long as everyone is respectful, I think it's cool that games prompt such diverse discussions.

      Delete
    2. No I mean it accurately. Crpgaddict is the first blog I open up every day

      Delete
    3. Heck, same. CRPGAddict is a daily visit for me, though I don't comment as often as I used to. That'll change, the schedule is veering back into territory I occupied as a kid.

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

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  28. If I was pressed to answer, Quest for Glory II and IV were my favorites when I was younger. I replayed all the games fairly recently, and while I still love this game my attitudes to it have changed I think. I understand better why I like II and IV though--it's because by the end, you really feel like your hero made an impact on the people you met and the places you've been.

    I appreciate VK's comment above--tonally I think the Coles' games strike a very good balance with humor. The jokes may or may not land, but they never undermine the stakes of the story. The other tonal element I appreciate is the fundamental decency in the stories, and the myriad small ways you can help characters out even though you don't need to. That element is also why I have a hard time with Thief playthroughs.

    That said, in my recent replays, III and IV switched places in some ways. IV has the reputation for being technically unpolished, but it's III that I ran into more game-breaking bugs with. And the third game's approach to African culture was uniquely sympathetic for the time, but today a lot of IV's jokes and stereotypes fall a bit flat for me.

    Depictions of Romani people are still difficult, and more than any of the other QFG games, this is the one I have to painfully accept as a product of its time. It's not like this game is particularly bad or mean-spirited, but I appreciate that Hero-U took the step of dropping the g-word.

    (I've been playing through the D&D module Curse of Strahd, and it's startling how many similarities there are between the campaign and this game; I know the Coles are D&D fans, but I don't know how influential Ravenloft was on QFG. I know I found the role the Vistani play in the game jarring, moreso than in QFGIV, even though Curse of Strahd is much more recent.)

    ReplyDelete
  29. It’s quite telling how many feelings of nostalgia I get from the Might and Magic and Quest for Glory series; to me they are both the best examples just how good crpgs were... so many fond memories
    I was one of those who never got to finish QfG4 because of a freeze on the final part of the game but reading this I have this huge wish to sit down for a long weekend and go through all the games. While this (along with Baldur’s Gate) was the first series where I actively tried for a magic user and enjoyed it a lot my favorite combination was a fighter with some thief skills like climbing, lockpicking and stealth

    ReplyDelete
  30. Long time listener, first time commenter. Wish I'd known about the blog when he was going through the first 3 games in the series.

    I was late to Quest for Glory i. The sense that i didn't know about them or play them until Sierra started putting out compilations of them in the late 90s (i think?) Fell in love hard. Somewhere on my PC sits a folder that has moved from PC to PC with all my saved character files.

    I loved the narration and all the voice acting. I can't imagine this game without it. It brings so much to the game. I also love how in the beginning no one trusts or likes you but slowly everyone warms up to you. It's just done so well.

    The villagers voices (all bad Jack Nicholson impressions i believe used to leave me in stitches...)

    ReplyDelete
  31. This is the first of the series that I played, but never finished, to my memory.

    I do remember the “article” in Sierra magazine about the game: the reporter interviewed Max the fighter (who had previously been a shoe salesman who hated cats) , a wizard whose name I can’t remember (he magically produced salt for the meal the reporter had prepared), and Sammy the thief, who stole her watch. She decided to become a wizard, in case she wanted to move furniture.

    I desperately wanted this game, but our computer was an Apple IIc, and the game was too advanced, I think, for its processor, or something.

    ReplyDelete
  32. I literally got QfG4 and U8 the same day. As a massive Ultima fan, I rushed to play U8 and, guess what, eventually became disappointed (like most Ultima fans).

    So I only installed QfG4 much later, and it became one of my favorite RPGs of all time, and top 10 along with QfG1

    ReplyDelete

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