Thursday, August 11, 2022

The Return of Werdna: Grandmaster! (with Summary and Rating)

 
I won't tell you how to win. I'll just tell you what I did to win.
           
The Return of Werdna: The Fourth Wizardry Scenario
United States
Sir-Tech (developer and publisher)
Released 1987 for Apple II; 1988 for PC-88, PC-98, and DOS; 1989 for FM-7 and Sharp X1
Date Started: 23 May 2022 (9 October 2010 originally)
Date Ended: 2 August 2022
Total Hours: 70 (84 including 2010)
Difficulty: Hard (4.0/5)
Final Rating: (to come later)
Ranking at Time of Posting: (to come later)
    
Summary:
 
This famously-difficult entry in the Wizardry series casts you as the evil wizard that you would have defeated in Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord (1981). With limited resources you must make your way up 10 levels of a hostile dungeon, emerge into the sunlight, and seek your final destiny in the castle. Billed as a game for expert players, Werdna requires a lot of patience, careful mapping, some knowledge of previous games in the series, and a generous tolerance for reloading. The sparse graphics and lack of sound are well out of date by the game's release year, and it lacks most RPG mechanics. Character development occurs at fixed intervals; combat is more about luck than tactics; and there is essentially no economy. The plot is threadbare and rife with in-jokes, pop culture references, and nerd humor. But for all that, the game succeeds very well in its primary mission, and it offers a rewarding experience for an old-school mapper.
    
*****
    
The so-called "Grandmaster" ending commenced with my arrival in the hidden Level 11 of the dungeon. It was a highly-symmetrical level with no combats, just a lot of riddles at regular intervals.
   
The theme of the level is made clear with Oracle hints about the Qabalah and the Roots of the World. I was primed to see it because I had been trying to figure out what "Live the Qabalah!" had to do with the game, and thus I had been Googling QABALAH and its alternate spelling, KABBALAH. With every search, I kept seeing the same images.
     
Various images when Googling QABALAH.
     
I'll let you do your own reading on Kabbalism if you're really interested. For our purposes, we need to know only that a key concept of its theology is the sefirot, or the ten "emanations" by which the infinite god (Ein Sof) manifests in the material world. Each emanation has a name, and they are usually presented in a complex "tree" diagram in which the top emanation, Keter, is the most esoteric and the bottom, Malikhut, is the most concrete. There is a long tradition of overlaying this diagram with the human body, or replacing it with an image of the human body, and thus each emanation ends up associated with a body part.
   
I originally put a table here with the ten emanations, their traditional body parts, and Werdna's interpretation of those body parts. I decided to remove it because I'm not an expert on Kabbalism and I didn't want to get into arguments about what is "traditional." My understanding, for instance, is that usually Chochmah and Binah are associated with the left and right brain whereas Werdna has them associated with the left and right cheek. Similarly, Yesod is usually associated with genitalia while Werdna associates it with the stomach. Nonetheless, there are a lot of books about the sefirot, both traditional and modern, and for all I know, Roe Adams had a book in front of him that gave the ten parts exactly how he included them.
      
The final level, looking a little bit like the sefirot tree.
      
While having that specific book or any book about Kabbalism might help the player understand exactly what's happening on this level, I think you could probably get through most of the riddles without it. The level is presented as a squashed sefirot diagram (Adams had to fit it into a square). You arrive in the south-center and make your way to the "mouth" via a linear path (with a lot of one-way doors that take you back to previous areas) that walks you through the emanations in traditional (reverse) order.

Along this path, you face a series of riddles whose answers are body parts. The riddles are relatively straightforward if you ignore the first sentences. For instance, the first riddle is: "I am discrimination at my best and avarice at my worst. I symbolize the part of the boy upon which all the rest stands." The answer is FEET, which makes sense with "all the rest stands" but not really with "avarice" or "discrimination" unless you're cramming together your location on the sefirot diagram with traditional teachings about the associated emanation (Malikhut).
   
Similarly, the next riddle is: "I am independence yet I am idleness. I symbolize the part that fuels the body with energy." The answer, STOMACH, works great for the second sentence. You can concoct an explanation for why it works with the first, but you'd never get it organically unless you knew you were walking through a giant sefirot diagram.
   
I had the most trouble with this one: "I am unselfishness, yet I am lust. I am the foundation of the body upon which the main rests. What am I?" FEET and LEGS had already been used here, and SPINE and BACK didn't work. I tried some frankly embarrassing guesses based on the first sentence before finally getting the answer with HIPS. Fortunately, getting a wrong answer only knocks you back a square.
   
Having read about the sefirot did prepare me for some answers needing to be qualified with LEFT and RIGHT, which makes sense in the map only if you imagine it represents a figure facing you (i.e., the riddle whose answer is LEFT ARM is on the right side of the map). The RIGHT CHEEK gave me some trouble ("I am the part of the face upon which the sun rises each day"), but by then I was used to just listing body parts anywhere near that part of the diagram.
      
CHEST is obvious if you only read the last two sentences.
      
The final body part riddle is clued with: "I am attainment. I am that part of the body that is above all the rest, yet beyond mere touch. What am I?" I tried MIND and then got it with BRAIN.
   
You then move south into a room that appears roughly where the mouth is. On the sefirot diagram, this place is given to Da'at, an "eleventh" emanation that I guess is understood as a part of Keter, the top emanation and the one associated with the conscience. Werdna had an entirely different riddle here: "The answer to the Greatest Question is also the simplest. Upon what paths have you trod? Where are you?" I tried several spellings of SEFIROT to no avail. I remembered the Oracle hint about the "roots of the world," tried that, and also failed. It took me some more Googling to find that the tree of the sefirot is often called the TREE OF LIFE, which was the answer. That might have been a tough one in 1987.
      
You also need the Void Transducer at one point, but I forgot where this happened.
      
The game told me that I was "truly to be counted among the wise." I then met a being dressed in a miparti: "I am knowledge. As a seeker of truth, I present you with this gift. With it, you can cut the veils of illusion. Now go. You have a destiny to fulfill!" The item shows up in the inventory as a Kris of Truth, a kris being a Malaysian dagger with a wavy blade.
  
The Kris of Truth doesn't help if you want to become king, but it can take the place of one of the swords when you go to confront Kadorto. After you defeat the Softalk All-Stars and Hawkwind as before, the endgame sequence commences with you using the Holy Limp Wrist on Kadorto and Kadorto tossing you the amulet. Only after you catch it does the text start to change:
      
You draw your dagger of clear light, and face Kadorto unafraid, for you are whole and secure in your knowledge of the Tree of Life. Kadorto stops his laughing when he sees your blade. "No, no, not that!" he cries. The kris blazes forth. In its clear penetrating light, no lie or illusion can remain. Kadorto's motions become jerky, and smoke begins to pour out of his knees and elbows. His head pops open, and a singed high priest climbs out of a concealed control cabin. Now you see the real truth! Kadorto is a fake, an invention of the priests, a cunning device to perpetuate their social position and control over men!
        
If this is true, how did I get stuck in statue form for centuries? And why would this kind of ruse be necessary with Hawkwind guarding the door?
    
You laugh at the ridiculous sight of a high priest with his robes smoldering. It feels good to be alive. You take out the amulet, and in the light of the kris, you see it for what it really is: a dangerous trap for those unwary. A joke of the gods. For it is neither good nor evil, but fashioned out of pure chaos. You vow to "return it" to its makers, and you are sure the Kris of Truth will aid you. But that can wait for tomorrow. Today is to be enjoyed!
   
Outside, into the beautiful sunshine, you walk, feeling at last free and alive. You have returned to the world. You look back at the temple for a moment and wonder . . . Have you forgotten something? You laugh, for you know that you have not. You are master of your fate, and the winding paths of the Tree of Life illuminate the shape of your destiny!
         
I'll take it.
     
A couple of congratulatory screens follow, including one that offers a special number to call to inform Sir-Tech about your victory. You also get a screen bestowing the title of "Wizardry Grandmaster Adventurer" upon you and a series of goofy "P.S." screens, including another "Have you forgotten something?" and a follow-up that assures, "Don't worry, you haven't." Is it just me, or would this repeated question have made more sense if it had been "Have you overlooked something?" or "Have you missed something?" Not having found something in an obtuse maze isn't the same thing as "forgetting" it.
      
Thanks for the reassurance.
      
It's an interesting ending, although not a perfect one. I must point out that it conflicts a bit with the others. The Kadortos that you fight in the various sword endings are manifestly not just priests in giant suits. I like the idea that the amulet is just a device to draw out megalomaniacs. I'm not sure why "return it" is in quotes above, and I find it amusing that the ending specifies that Werdna is "master of [his] fate" but also that he has a destiny. As with the whole business of bathing in pools of water to change alignments, Werdna's transformation in this ending is a bit too easy. I don't know if Roe Adams had some personal belief in the Qabalah, but it's a bit odd to introduce it in the eleventh hour when he could have made it a persistent theme throughout the 10-level dungeon. Imagine a game in which each level gave Werdna not only mechanical challenges but moral temptations to overcome, with the multiple endings determined by how well he had achieved enlightenment during his journey. It's just another way that lore, theme, and storytelling aren't really the strong suits of this game or this series.
   
But we should remember that at this point in CRPG history, nothing quite like this had been done. It was rare enough to find a game with multiple endings, let alone one with a hidden "true" ending. I wonder if I would have found it without a hint. I'm certain that I would have known that there was something to find--there are too many unused Oracle hints otherwise. But I'm not sure how I would have hit upon the idea of trying to teleport below Level 10. I probably would have needed some kind of hint that led me to realize the dungeon was deeper than it first appeared; something like "Seen Inception lately?" or "the dungeon is primed with levels." I otherwise probably would have spent a long time trying to get something to happen at the lych-gate and then given up. I wonder who the first person was to find the hidden ending, and how long it took him.
     
Twelve years ago, I gave Werdna a 30 on the GIMLET without explaining it. Today, I would rate it:
   
  • 4 points for the game world. It's an original approach, and the backstory as presented in the manual and opening screens are clear enough about the nature of your quest. Unfortunately, the lore of the setting is hopelessly tangled in SCA in-jokes and nerd references, diminishing the impact of the various endings.
     
I would like to never hear this question again.
    
  • 1 point for character creation and development. There's no creation, and you develop only at fixed intervals (pentagrams), once per level. Everyone plays the same Werdna with the same abilities and spells.
  • 2 points for NPC interaction. I'm basically using this category to give some credit for the variety of allies you can summon at the pentagrams; learning their strengths and weaknesses are key parts of the game. There really are no individual NPCs otherwise. I don't think the Oracle is worth a point.
  • 4 points for encounters and foes. It gets this for both the variety of enemy "do-gooders" that you have to analyze and learn and for the inventory puzzles and riddles throughout the game, most of which are fair.
  • 3 points for magic and combat. Combat tactics come down to knowing what spell to cast, what allies to keep with you, and when to flee. It's still worth a few points.
      
I'm going to miss my monster allies.
     
  • 2 points for equipment. Most of the stuff you find in the game is for puzzles. Regular equipment for Werdna is not a big part of the experience.
  • 1 point for economy. You get tons of money that you need only for the Oracle and for the weregild in one of the potential endings.
      
In retrospect, many of the Oracle's "hints" turned out to be spectacularly unhelpful.
      
  • 4 points for quests. You have a main quest with several alternate endings. My only quibble is that these alternate endings have more to do with luck than with role-playing, and some of them feel a bit arbitrary (e.g., a good ending for choosing a blue sword but a horrible one for choosing a green one).
  • 2 points for graphics, sound, and interface, all for the keyboard interface. You don't play this series for graphics or sound. 
  • 4 points for gameplay. I'm giving full points on the "difficulty" variable. Although I might rate the game as "too hard" if it was a regular game, it's the right difficulty for what it both intends and promises. It has some replayability at the end, and although it's a bit too long, it's mostly too long because of that replayability.
         
The subtotal of 27 is lower than my original rating, but I was overly generous during my first year or so, and I think this better represents how I feel about it now. It is not a very good CRPG, but it is a good game in a category for which it is essentially the only representative. You get exactly what the box promises. Although I didn't like it when I first encountered it, I was playing it wrong. This is a game to be taken slowly, in long sessions where you map a whole level at a time and then take a break for a while. It's a perfect game for my current practice of alternating at least two games, and it's a perfect game for someone who has a summer off to concentrate on it.
     
     
Having now finished it, I think the hyperbole about Werdna being "the most difficult game in CRPG history" is mostly wrong, particularly for any ending. It requires time, patience, and careful notes and maps, but with those things, there are only a couple major stumbling blocks. With someone else's notes and maps, it would hardly seem difficult at all. I would reserve "hardest game in CRPG history" for titles in which knowledge and skill aren't enough to save you, where battles are titanically impossible or rely on incredible odds. Almost any game with permadeath is objectively "harder" that Wizardry. For all the time it takes to map Werdna, what happens on those maps is relatively straightforward. Many Dungeon Master derivatives like Knightmare and Chaos Strikes Back are "harder" in that you have to note complex chains of cause-and-effect often in remote locations. "The hardest CRPG in history" would have something like an invisible button on Level 2 that opens a door on Level 9, but only if you press it twice.
   
(This issue has made me think about what it really is that I'm measuring with my "difficulty" rating. It's really more of a "fairness" rating, I think. I should clarify and perhaps differentiate the two variables at some point.)
    
I've had my disagreements with Scorpia, but somehow I had faith that she would "get" this game, and thus I had been looking forward to her review. I wasn't disappointed. In the November 1987 Computer Gaming World, she said "the answer is a resounding 'Yes!'" to the question of whether the wait for the game (originally promised in 1984) was worth it. (She uses the term "vaporware" in the review; it amuses me that there was a time that word was used after a delay of only three years.) She warns readers of its difficulty but also says that the game "is eminently fair and is perhaps one of the most finely-balanced games I've ever played." She had complaints about the lack of advancement in graphics and long disk access times, and she "had trouble accepting" the resurrection of all enemies every time you save the game. (I thought it made saving a tactical decision and added nicely to the game's challenge.) "Unique, and not to be missed!" she concluded. 
   
Dragon didn't get to the game until February 1989 and only gave it 3.5 stars, but their complaints were more about the graphics and copy protection system than anything else. "No other scenario can offer more bang for your buck" for the experienced player, they said. Curiously, the magazine had offered a "preview" a year earlier, after the actual release of the game, in which they noted that Sir-Tech's hint line would only offer help after a certain amount of time had passed. You could get hints for the first level on release, but you'd have to wait a few weeks before they'd give you a hint about Level 5. They really wanted gamers to figure it out for themselves.
   
Despite positive reviews, Werdna sold abysmally. It was Sir-Tech's worst-selling product in history, probably because of a combination of the outdated interface, word-of-mouth, and multiple box warnings not to even think about buying the game unless you were an "expert." Robert Sirotek, interviewed by Matt Barton in 2014, indicated that he was always skeptical about Adams's approach:
   
There were other hard-core players in the market that loved it. They said, “Ah, why doesn’t everybody do this?” Well, we don’t because you guys are a minority. If you’re a glutton for punishment, you’re going to have to get your pleasure somewhere else because nobody can survive catering to such a small number of people.
    
I don't know under exactly what circumstances Adams left Sir-Tech; all I can say is that this was his last game for the company. The delays and reception couldn't have been great for his future prospects, although the delay seems to be less his fault and more that of programmer Robert Woodhead, who had decamped for Japan and had one foot out Sir-Tech's door.
   
I tried hard to track down Adams to interview him for this series. He supposedly lives in Maine. (As always, please don't make any attempts to contact authors on my behalf. Chances are, I've already tried whatever methods you're using and they didn't respond to me, so further attempts are just harassment.) He'd shown a lot of promise as a game designer, contributing significantly to Ultima IV and The Bard's Tale. In fact, there are some accounts that indicate he had more to do with the plot to Ultima IV, including the creation of the eight virtues, than Richard Garriott. An interest in the religion and philosophies of other cultures does seem to unite both Ultima IV and Werdna.
    
The game's difficulty was, I'm sure, a marketing challenge, but there must have been a better way to meet it than by putting a "warning" on the box.
         
Werdna may have been a commercial failure, but it wasn't an artistic one. Nonetheless, either discouraged by Werdna's reception or just eager to get on to other things, Adams went back to writing game reviews and founding AnimEigo with Robert Woodhead, a company that licenses Japanese animation and films for redistribution in North America. I'm not sure if Adams actually moved to Japan with Woodhead or just served as the U.S.-based representative of the company. Either way, he all but disappears in the 1990s, showing up on only a couple of obscure games as a consultant. Although his LinkedIn profile indicates that he was a game designer all the way through 2017, I can't find anything about what he was working on for the last two decades of that period, and I can't find any evidence that he was ever interviewed after about 1992.
    
Werdna took a good chunk out of the year, but I'm satisfied that it was time well-spent. I have a friend who was a respected professional for decades but always felt bad because he had never even finished his bachelor's degree. He finally went back to school at the age of 45, got the degree, and told me that although he didn't "need" it, it makes him feel better about calling himself an expert in his field. That's how I feel.

180 comments:

  1. Congratluations. You certainly have improved in skill and stamina since last time you tried this game.

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    1. More than anything, I think it was the practice of alternating games.

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  2. Congratulations on going back and finishing the game. I was disappointed when you abandoned the game -- I had really enjoyed it. I'm not surprised it rates lower on the GIMLET it doesn't really satisfy many of your criteria for a good CRPG -- and in many ways it is an adventure game in CRPG clothes, especially once you reach the castle almost all the challenges are ones you would find in an adventure game. I found it satisfying when I played it, and it was certainly an ambitious undertaking. Not surprising it didn't sell well with that warning on the box. I don't have enough knowledge about the Kabbalism to know if his version was at all respectful. The game was difficult, but with patience it was certainly doable (aside from the conceptual leap needed to find the last level). It actually went out of its way to be fair, warning you when you reached a point of 'no return' going from the 4th to the 3rd level.

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  3. As an aside, I’ve played numerous crpgs over the years and had only vague memories of what occurred. I remembered more about this game than many much more recent games that I’ve played since. Despite the sparse graphics it was very memorable.

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  4. The multiple contradictory endings and arbitrary good/bad results from seemingly innocuous choices reminds me of choose your own adventure books from when I was a kid.

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    1. I agree. I was reminded of this not too long ago. I'm always looking for stuff to read while waiting in lines or to watch while waiting to fall asleep, or while playing games, and I decided to consume all canon Star Wars media in chronological order. One of the books listed was a choose-your-own-adventure book involving Obi-Wan and Anakin. I mostly ignored the young reader stuff, but it was free on Kindle Unlimited, so I thought I'd at least see what the story was about.

      There was one "good" ending and about a dozen dead-ends. At each dead end, the book asked, "Can you help Obi-Wan and Anakin make better choices?" Except that you didn't reach any of those dead ends by making "bad" choices. Most of the time it was completely arbitrary. I was pissed on behalf of the young readers who got the book.

      Here...I don't know. All the "bad" endings require you to continue on your original mission to get the Amulet, so I guess I can see why they'd be a bit evil. The problem is not so much that certain choices don't lead to certain outcomes, but that it's not always clear that you're making a "choice." Sometimes, you just wander into a particular room and the choice is made for you.

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    2. CYOA books are capricious. It annoyed me when I was 10.

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    3. The interesting thing is that JRPGs often have multiple endings of this type, where you have to do some really obscure stuff in a game that doesn't really offer many role-playing choices apart from those obscure actions that lead to the different endings.

      But in JRPGs that only appears in the 90s,as far as I'm aware. So it can't be a Japanese influence on the designers, even though they had a connection with Japan.

      I guess Wizardry 4's approach to different endings may have influenced JRPGs though, considering the popularity of Wizardry in Japan.

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    4. @Chet, I remember that there are other SW CYOA books set during the OT which were more in line with what you expect. Still children's material, and probably not on any online sources these days.
      I was going to say that JRPGs are exactly what this reminds me of, since the "Oh, whoops, one more dungeon" is exactly what I've seen dozens of those do, as well as the surprisingly flat decisions you can select to influence the story.

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    5. @JarlFrank I apologize for my poor English skills, to get to the point, Japanese RPGs implemented multi-endings faster than Wizardry. Influenced by Wizardry, Dragon Quest 1 (1986) had four multi-endings.

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    6. Dragon Quest doesn't really have multiple endings the way Wizardry 4 does, but a single ending that gets slightly altered depending on the completion state of the game's only partially optional quest.

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    7. In my experience with JRPGs with multiple endings a lot of it stems from Megami Tensei which used a similar "summon enemies to fight for you" mechanic as Wiz IV. Grant in the MegaTen games it's more that they do a lawful ending, a chaotic ending, and a secret neutral ending.

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  5. Congratulations! The execution might leave a lot to be desired, but the Grandmaster ending was really innovative (was it the first "secret ending" in RPGs, period?) and even to this day it's pretty unusual for games to offer an ending where your character more or less transcends the plot.

    "I wonder who the first person was to find the hidden ending, and how long it took him."

    I know Brenda Romero was able to beat the game without hints, but I don't know if she specifically got the grandmaster ending. But she was working for Sir-Tech at the time so of course she'd have a head start over a regular player.

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    1. This reminds me of Planescape Torment, where arguably the best ending is achieved by yvgrenyyl jvyyvat lbhefrys bhg bs rkvfgrapr.

      Or for that matter, IF game Slouching Towards Bedlam, where arguably the best ending is to erfgneg gur tnzr (naq gurer vf na va-fgbel ernfba jul lbhe punenpgre pna erjvaq gvzr yvxr gung) naq vzzrqvngryl xvyy lbhefrys vafgrnq bs qbvat nalguvat ryfr.

      Arguably.

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    2. The TV Tropes entry "Golden Ending" (i.e. the best out of several possible endings) has a long list of examples from different genres and mentions Wiz IV as "possibly the first instance of this trope in any video game".

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    3. The Drakengard/Nier series is kind of famous for weird, meta endings. Actually, there's kind of a common mechanic that you see a lot more in Japanese games where there's a large number of endings, and you're expected to replay part or all of the game repeatedly to see them. Usually the endings have an associated letter, and seeing particular endings unlocks other endings. It's pretty common for games like that to have a "true" ending that has some kind of retroactive impact on the storyline, contradicts other endings, etc. Wiz4 feels like a primitive take on that structure.

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    4. @Busca Metroid (1986) had different endings, with one being the best of those. Of course, those were not narrative endings, but still.

      Also, Castlevania 2 came out only 3 months after Wizardry 4.

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    5. Does Pirates! count as having different endings?

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    6. Bubble Bobble, a 1986 platform game, has a golden ending that is notoriously difficult to reach.

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    7. Another example from around this time: Sierra's 1986 adventure game The Black Cauldron (a licensed title connected to the Disney adaptation of the Lloyd Alexander novel). Programmed by Al Lowe, of "Leisure Suit Larry" fame! If I remember right, there are at least three or four endings, with some being clearly 'bad,' at least one being 'okay' with one 'great.'

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    8. The Black Cauldron was one of the first proper books I read (as opposed to had read to me).

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    9. I prefer the ending that has Werdna becoming an enlightened despot. Reuniting the land's strife-torn dominions sounds far more noble than the selfish path of the Grandmaster ending. The winding paths of the Tree of Life illuminate the shape of your destiny? Pass.

      I mean, come on, Master Werdna leads the land to a golden age of pace and plenty. Grandmaster Werdna lets mass human suffering continue, as long as he can feel free and alive? It should be called the self-absorbed jerk ending.

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    10. I think Metroid and Castlevania are a different category of "multiple endings" because they're score-based endings, rather than being different outcomes of branching gameplay. (Bubble Bobble is a fun example that should totally count, though.)

      I agree with Harland that the Grandmaster ending isn't exactly the "best" ending. I think it's notable that it's the only ending where Werdna is completely independent and doesn't rely on anybody. In the good ending he relies on the various nobles (and the witch, perhaps to his doom). In the evil ending he relies on a god-given sword to prevail and then on the priests to rule his new domain (as well as the power of the amulet).

      I think you're supposed to think of the Kris of Truth as something Werdna attains himself, but obviously that's muddied by having a "figure" give it to him and tell him he has a "destiny to fulfill".

      The moral indifference in Wiz 4 could be said to be a homage to the original. After all, in the first game you're working for the titular "Mad Overlord". There's really no reason to believe Trebor is any better than Werdna. And of course in this game it's made explicit that there's no love lost for Trebor among "his" people.

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    11. The grandmaster thing I think is a throwback to early text adventures, which didn't really have multiple ENDINGS, but they had score systems and would award the player a rank based on their score upon them beating the game. The highest rank was typically something like "master adventurer", and was generally quite difficult to obtain, requiring optimal play and the completion of several optional tasks.

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    12. The Black Cauldron as the first "proper" book you read for yourself is jumping in the deep end of juvenile literature. Big accomplishment. I think I read it in sixth grade, and it's the first book I remember reading for school where I never felt like I fully connected to the narrative and was just sort of slogging through the words. I should give it another shot now that I'm older

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    13. I read most of it in a day, laying on the carpeted floor of our living room, and have memories of being scared, exultant, and sad. I had no idea how to pronounce most of the names. I'd say it was because I was eight, but Welsh names still trip me up at 40 :p

      I must have read The Book of Three first, but the memories associated with it aren't nearly as vivid.

      Looking back, I'm surprised I tackled the series when I did (there are certainly easier reads in my childhood bookshelf). The third book in particular, The Castle of Llyr, was a real slog.

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    15. I tried reading Book of the Three to my 6 year old earlier this year and it was just such a painful LotR (we love LOTR) pastiche that I couldn't get through it. Does the rest of the series improve?

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    16. I think that the books improve, however if you found the Book of Three an unbearable slog then I doubt they improve enough for you to enjoy it. The structure is interesting the first two are major adventures, the next two are a minor adventure and almost a slice of life finding yourself book and then ending with another big final story.

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    17. Both Middle Earth and Prydain are influenced by the Mabinogion, I suspect most of the similarities are the result of the authors having lived in the same time and place, consuming the same mythologies. It's been too long since I've read it for me to be able to give a proper recommendation though.

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    18. The Chronicles of Prydain, along with The Once and Future King, and The Belgariad are what I consider the trifecta of coming of age tales for young boys.

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    19. I hit the Belgariad too late. I was 15 and had read enough fantasy that Eddings felt redundant.

      I'm meaning to give White, Stewart, and Bradley* a go. I read a few of their books as a kid but dont remember much about them.

      *If I can get past the allegations.

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    20. It's far from the first game to feature multiple endings, but Chrono Trigger is what I always think of when the subject comes up. The game has, I think, 14 endings, of which 13 are various win conditions arrived at by defeating the final boss at various stages during the game's time-travelling narrative.

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    21. The Disney film (and the adventure game it spawned) are really adaptations of The Book of Three, with the exception of the cauldron stuff. Just introduced my niece and nephew to these books. Like the Harry Potter series at its best, the Prydain books grow along with their audience. If The Book of Three felt too juvenile, stick it out at least to Taran Wanderer and see if you change your mind.

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  6. Looking at the photo of the back of the box, it says "*At least* 10 levels". Does that qualify as a hint that there's a secret level?

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    1. Nice catch. That is indeed oddly phrased if that wasn't an intentional hint.

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    2. I think the problem is, I would have assumed that the castle level and the ones "above" it counted as the extra levels.

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    3. Shades of Might and Magic I's remark about the location of the Inner Sanctum.

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  7. Wow, AnimEigo! That makes complete sense given what you've covered about their games here. Of all the early US anime translator/distributor ventures, AnimEigo had by far the greatest commitment to the hardcore fan. Behind a few crowd-pleasing action titles that I'm sure helped keep the lights on, they toiled on for years with labor-of-love efforts like the Urusei Yatsura TV series (something like 200 episodes), one VHS at a time, with liner notes explaining all the Japanese cultural background and puns and so forth. Feels very Werdna-esque in terms of embracing a niche that they personally loved.

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  8. "Hard" isn't as straightforward as it seems. I'm thinking there are two useful sub-components at work here.

    The first is just how difficult a task is for your mind/body to pull off. Can you press the buttons fast enough or with near perfect timing? Can you process the information provided and calculate what's needed? Of course, this is going to vary between people. What's hard for one person is effortless for another.

    But the other part of this involves tasks that you aren't necessarily likely to fail at because of any incompetence, but that become tedious because you have the game requires you to go through so much of it. This could be grinding for experience, dying and replaying content, maybe mapping or note-taking requirements, and even sitting through cut-scenes. It's a question of can you persist? Again, what one person finds tedious another person might not.

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    1. I agree with the distinction, but I haven't been keeping it. I don't think I've ever rated a game hard because it was boring or required a lot of effort. I use "hard" to refer to your first characteristic and the intuitiveness of puzzles.

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  9. Matt Barton mentioned Robert Sirotek's scepticism about the commercial viability of Wiz IV to Robert Woodhead in his later interview with him. You can hear RW's thoughts about that here, starting at ca. 15:45 min: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cu7P8iHlclw.

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  10. Regarding difficulty and fairness, TVtropes has lengthy texts on what they call FakeDifficulty, such as pixel hunts, trial-and-error or overly luck-based gameplay, and solutions that players wouldn't reasonably find without a hintbook (e.g. that button on level 2 that controls a door on level 9). This may be what you're thinking of regarding "unfairness".

    I'd suggest that "real difficulty" (or fairness) in an RPG consists of either tactical battles where you really have to learn how to use your maneuvers and spells; or the roguelike principle of having to learn how the world works in order to survive.

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    1. On a board game thread specifically about coop games(which come closer to computer games in some ways) many years ago I remember someone else saying "challenge" and "difficulty" are not the same thing.

      It's easy to make a "difficult" board game. Draw four cards from a deck of 52. If you don't draw four aces in a row you lose and must shuffle up again.

      Challenge instead is something you can actually get better at, something reasonably fair but hard. My prime example is a board game called "Space Alert" which is a 10-minute realtime coop game that AFAICT is completely fair in that I've never lost a round and not thought "oh, here's where we screwed up" (Some bad luck might leave you with forced damage, but we never found an "unwinnable" game that required perfect information)

      So yeah I'd think the button on level 2 controlling the door on level 9 is "difficult" but not a good "challenge"

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    2. In the Thief fan mission community we call that "Russian difficulty" because for some reason Russian authors love to put impossibly hidden switches into their maps. A great example is Soul Tear's Keeper of Infinity, an absolutely gorgeous level whose gameplay is utterly tedious because of all the obscure things you need to do to progress. It feels more like an old Sierra adventure than a Thief mission.

      And of course, you can get stuck in an unwinnable state if you tackle your objectives in the wrong order.

      There was a general trend towards hidden switches in the late 00s,when people wanted to make "challenging" missions for experienced taffers. But I don't see the challenge in looking for a hidden switch that's so hard to find you pretty much have to check a walkthrough.

      In a thief FM from 2007 called Forgotten Forest 2, there was a switch so well hidden it took me ten minutes to find even after checking the walkthrough. It was squeezed so tightly behind a bed and a flowerpot that I had to lean between the objects and blindly hit the right mouse button until I heard the sound of a switch turning. There is absolutely no way you can see that switch, it's hidden so well.

      And what does it open? A door in a completely different location, of course. And there's not a single hint that the switch would be there. You have to search for it completely blind.

      I don't exactly see how this is "challenging". It's just plain frustrating.

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    3. Mozilla Firefox sucksAugust 11, 2022 at 7:04 PM

      There's fair challenges, like Wiz 4 and Chaos Strikes Back, and then you have Uninstall.exe difficulty. Like the Conflux mod for Dungeon Master, where if you click on a chest or something a monster party appears behind you. There's no escape and at lvl 1 the party is too weak to defeat them. This is the kind of force save scumming that I have no patience for.

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    4. "So yeah I'd think the button on level 2 controlling the door on level 9 is "difficult" but not a good "challenge""

      Right, because there's no way you can possibly possess or build expertise to solve this. The only viable approach is to greatly widen the scope of interactions you must systematically make and the possible game states you must track until you stumble on the solution.

      It's not hard because it's cognitively challenging (for most people), but because the amount of actions involved is so tedious (to most people) that you want to give up or search in vain for some other approach.

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    5. There's also the fact that even when something is legitimately difficult, not all players will react to it the same way. Especially when it's physical difficulty.

      I'm never going to even try most of the 3d action games. I'm just not capable of reacting like those games require, and I'm not disabled. I've played Dead Cells (a 2d action platformer, not an RPG), and I've never won on the 2nd difficulty, even using the recommended tactics. I don't care if some people can win almost every time on difficulty 5. I'M not able to beat difficulty 2, no matter how much I played.

      Please remember this before you tells someone "get good, it's easy". Just like I'm never going to be a sharpshooter even with practice. Just because it's easy to YOU doesn't mean it's easy to most other people.

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  11. "The hardest CRPG in history" would have something like an invisible button on Level 2 that opens a door on Level 9, but only if you press it twice - isn't the castle password sort of like that though?

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    1. The unfair thing about Chet's example is that there's no clear connection between the action and the outcome, and no feedback about whether you've made the right choice. The castle password is very straightforward: you need to type in some kind of text, or else you can't pass. If you get stuck, you at least have a very clear understanding of why you're stuck: you don't know the password.

      Further, I'd argue that the password itself is, at least in formal terms, fair. Wiz 4 is explicitly meant for people who have played the previous games. The hint says the password is Werdna's ancient battlecry. Werdna shows up in exactly one place in the previous three games. Is it ridiculous to expect someone to go back and replay that game to the end just to beat this game? Of course. Is it unfair in the puzzle design sense? I don't think so.

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    2. It's the kind of logic that only works backwards. It's not possible to conclude, from the hints given in the game, that you have to look for the password in another game.

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    3. It's so hard to tell given that I had the puzzle spoiled a long time ago, but I THINK "Seek amongst the historical writings of Trebor's foes for the password"

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    4. ...would have gotten me there.

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    5. The logic I'm thinking of here is that "Password is your ancient battlecry" indicates that 1) it's something Werdna said 2) before battle 3) and it's "ancient". Considering that the only time Werdna had previously appeared in the series was almost a decade prior, and all you did was fight him, it seems reasonable to assume that the hint is referring to something related to that fight.

      Chet, you know what the real funny thing is about that clue? I'm pretty sure it doesn't refer to Wizardry 1 at all, but instead to Roe Adams' article in Softline magazine, where the Softalk All-Stars were introduced. That article explicitly refers to "Trebor Sux" as a "war cry". That's right: the clue is referring you to, essentially, the author's fanfic.

      https://lparchive.org/Wizardry-IV/Update%2014/

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    6. Also worth mentioning that the front of the box says "experience with Proving Grounds required". Not "recommended", but required.

      I think it's a fair puzzle, all things considered. "PS: Trebor sux" is such a memorable line it definitely stuck around in the memories of the intended target audience, and the hints the oracle gives are good.

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    7. You need to remember as well that to play Wiz 2 or 3, you had to have Wiz 1 to create characters and have advanced characters to even survive one battle in Wiz 2. If you have Wiz 1 you probably played it and probably made it to level 10 where the message with this password is in the square you land in. This is the only message ever 'written' by Werdna, so with the clues given it is absolutely fair. If you never made it to level 10 in Wiz 1, you probably weren't going to play Wiz 4, especially with the warnings right on the box.

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    8. Trebor Sux was the hardest part of the game for me (aside from the secret level) I had played the previous games — but it has been years, I didn’t have walkthroughs or other information for the password and while I remembered ‘the wizard is in’ I certainly didn’t remember the password phrase. I ended up using a hex editor to find the password — it was a dead stop in the game unless you remembered a random phrase from years prior.

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    9. Whereas "Trebor Sux" gave me no trouble at all. It was one of the most memorable of the castle graffiti in Wizardry 1. I was amused by it at the time, and never forgot it.

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    10. The one that gave me the most trouble was the riddle in The Knight of Diamonds scenario. I tried KOD, Knight of Diamonds, and several other answers. I either got a hint, or came back to it later, to realize that "The" needs to be part of the answer.

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    11. @Corey: Ha! I had the same issue and had to sector edit my Apple ][ disk to find out what the full answer was! Boy was I pi..ed!

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    12. @Ken Bru: That's basically how I got the final point in ADVENT (Colossal Cave Adventure). I found the name of the programmer who converted it from FORTRAN to ZOPL, contacted him, got a 9-track tape with the source code, built the game, and added debugging code to find out what room triggered a piece of code that had a cryptic comment ("Do the right thing with . . .")

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  12. I feel like the game might seem 'eminently fair' to people like Scorpia and yourself, but I suspect that the entry barrier is pretty high. I'm not sure I'd have made it out of the first room.

    From the perspective of a reader, I would rank this gaming accomplishment alongside your Fate playthrough, probably only surpassed by your ascension.

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    1. You'd definitely have made it out of the first room, since the game comes with a sealed envelope telling you how to do it. But yes, you're right that the entry barrier is high by design, and that's also the point of starting you off with such a difficult puzzle - the box is full of warnings that this is intended for experts, and that envelope also tells you that if you needed to open it, you really should consider just playing something else instead, this game probably isn't for you.

      Part of how it is "eminently fair" is how it makes it extremely explicit that this should not be your first Wizardry game. It's not all THAT different from modern games selling dlc content you can't access unless you've beaten the regular content first, and nobody considers those unfairly hard just because a newcomer to the game would probably struggle immensely.

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    2. Scorpia is in Wizardry IV's credits as a playtester. It's probably difficult (but not necessarily impossible) to give a completely impartial verdict in that case.

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    3. On the other hand, at least she definitely played through the whole thing, unlike many reviewers...

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  13. Regarding difficulty and fairness, Jeff Vogel (Exile,Avernum,etc) wrote a very interesting post on the subject using Elden Ring as a case study: https://bottomfeeder.substack.com/p/elden-ring-is-fair-and-just-except

    As a sidenote, many fans of his games (me included) are a bit put out by how "simplified" his games are as time goes by. Long gone are the days of complex character creations for example, replaced by simple number allocations.

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    1. That dispute in the Spiderweb community goes back many years. I was part of the Blades of Exile community and I remember complaints about how Avernum and Geneforge were "dumbed down". (How times have changed. From a modern perspective, first-gen Avernum and Geneforge are quite crunchy.) Vogel also made a comment at one point about how his main audience was teenage boys and that audience was primarily interested in "killing monsters and getting fat loots" (semi-paraphrased from memory). This resulted in a kind of ridiculous situation where there was a community of creators and players who all more or less kind of hated the guy who made the game they all liked. I was definitely one of the haters, but in retrospect I was mostly just a dumb arrogant teenager with no respect.

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    2. Very interesting article, many good points IMHO, thank you for sharing.

      It's really funny how much of the discussion about the "Sadism" might apply to Wiz4 as well.

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    3. I kinda feel like character creation in the Avernum series gave you lots of options, but with hardly any of them being good. I don't know how much character variety was actually lost due to simplification.

      I think I preferred the combat back in the day though.

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    4. Exile definitely gave you a lot of ways to build worthless characters, but that's the kind of game it was. Feel free to spend all of your skill points on Poison, Throwing, and Assassination if you want to have a cool ninja character who sucks like 99% of the time!

      I think the original Avernum trilogy was kind of the low point in the crunch/accessibility curve, in that it mostly just cut stuff that was in Exile but didn't really streamline or rebalance what was left. The Avernum remakes do a better job of that. The funny thing is that Throwing actually sucks way worse, though.

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    5. Assassination is good, though. Not at low levels, but you absolutely should be throwing skill points to it consistently past level 20 on anyone you're sending into melee. (which should be everyone, imo)

      No argument on Poison or Thrown, though. Archery and First Aid were also pretty much drek.

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    6. Oh, Assassination is great on someone who can actually fight. It's just that the wide variety of skills can trick you into making a party of specialized characters, when in reality you want six hybrid spellswords with modest specialization on top of a common base.

      I just realized that it's been two decades since those times. The forums and the Arena and everything. Yikes.

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    7. Funny thing, I *just* started playing through the first Exile the other day, and I've been having trouble understanding the "dumbed down" argument. I played a fair chunk of original Avernum some years back and found the character development to be fairly "crunchy," whereas with Exile, it felt clearer to me which abilities would be good and which ones would be worthless (with the exception of archery being pretty disappointing past the very early part of the game). Having played a tiny bit of Avernum: Escape from the Pit, the suite of abilities doesn't exactly seem small. I know one complaint I've seen several people make is that a lot of the cool spells from the original Exile trilogy were dropped, a lot of which were in the second and third games... so maybe that's part of what I'm missing. But with Exile, I feel like I'm using a pretty narrow selection of spells, given that certain ones are clearly more useful than others. I dunno... I'm having trouble putting all this into words, but it seems like some of the things that are removed in later games are things that were arguably kind of superfluous to begin with. Then again, I haven't played through nearly as much of Spiderweb's catalog as some of you all have (although I have a lot of Vogel's titles on GOG and would like to play through everything he's released eventually).

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    8. I loved on how in Exile games you could give your characters flaws in exchange to other bonuses. Daggerfall and Battlespire did the same.

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    9. @Pedro Q - that's pretty common in tabletop RPGs. GURPS and the World of Darkness games, among others, let you take flaws for extra character creation points.

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    10. @Elkovsky - Yeah, part of it is that a lot of the variety of spells in Exile just never worked all that well, and people were sad that Jeff decided to just axe the majority of them rather than have actually working versions in Avernum. That, and the first Avernum trilogy had some "interesting" balance decisions, between the damage cap in 1 and 2 leading to a weird strategy of specializing until you hit the stopping point, and the lack of a damage cap or that much in the way of diminishing returns turning 3 (and Blades) into a rocket launcher tag. Still wouldn't really call it dumbed down, but I definitely had less fun with Blades of Avernum than I did with Blades of Exile in the end.

      @stepped pyramids - Yeah, the old forums were mostly fun. The Arena was cool, even if I was mostly mediocre at it. :p I miss modding communities like the Blades ones though, at least since Neverwinter Nights 2 I haven't really found almost any games with that kind of design. Solasta comes close, and you can tell how much people want to make stuff for it but their editor is a little too limited.

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  14. For me, this "Return to Werdna" series is one of your best ever. Your commentary on what was and wasn't intuitive and separating the mapping challenge from the adventure game challenge really connected with me. The last 2 entries in particular were stellar and really satisfying after all that buildup.

    As a 2008/2009 DS title, you may never get to it, but keep in mind "The Dark Spire" if the opportunity ever presents itself. To me, it felt like the game Wiz4 could have been and is a true love letter to the original Wizardry games. It's so niche, it always felt like they made the game just for me specifically, but it's a real treat and I think would be very much up your alley.

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    1. Agreed, the series in itself has been totally interesting and fun to follow, really great coverage of the game.

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    2. +1 on this series of posts not only being a great achievement, but also a great read.

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    3. Thanks, everyone. I'm glad to know it was well received.

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    4. Agreed. I enjoyed this series of posts a lot more than I ever enjoyed playing this game.

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  15. Congratulations! This has got to be one of the more unique achievements of your tenure here. I'm sure I'm not the only one who greatly appreciates your effort in bringing us the ultimate conclusion of the hardest Wizardry game!

    I'm somewhat fascinated by the extra depth they put into the Grandmaster ending, and the fact that Werdna, built up as something of a paragon of evil in the first game, has the opportunity to find enlightenment and become, at the very least, not a threat anymore.

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    1. I agree; I just wish the mechanism of that enlightenment had been more sensible and, by the player, role-playable.

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    2. Funny that the 'paragon of good', Trebor has adventurers going into the dungeon and indiscriminately slaughtering thousands of creatures for the sole purpose of recovering an object allegedly stolen by Werdna.

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    3. I mean he WAS nicknamed "the mad overlord" because he was psychotic enough to treat the demon-haunted lair of an evil wizard as "training grounds" and urge his subjects to enter it and see how they fared. I don't think he was really meant to be much of a paragon of good.

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  16. Wow, done and dusted. Kudos for turning a loss into a definitive win. Thanks as well for a really thorough look at a game I'm sure I'll never have the cojones to play.

    Fortunately, since you're in 1993, it'll be at least four years before you have to worry about dealing with a "sefirot" again.

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    1. I'm curious what game that will be.

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    2. Final Fantasy 7's my guess. It does have a Sephiroth if nothing else.

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    3. Final Fantasy VII. Last time I played it was too long ago so I don't remember if there's a stronger connection to the Qabalah other than Sephirot=Number (there's a reason for that) but the themes of the game tie nicely with the concept behind the Tree of Life

      P.s
      I'm suddenly "worried" that I could just have missed an obvious joke, in that case sorry ;)

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    4. Nah, you guys got it. FF7's just been on the mind again recently because of all this Remake business.

      It's also not the last Japanese RPG to take an odd interest in the Qabbalah (Tales of the Abyss is steeped in it) but discovering how prominent it is in a Wizardry game - famously popular in Japan - makes me wonder if that interest didn't start here.

      (Given how hard this ending was to find though, maybe just a coincidence?)

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  17. "The answer to the Greatest Question is also the simplest."

    Given all the nerd humor, I'm disappointed that the answer was not "42"...

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  18. I'm sure it must have been mentioned before: Hardcore Gaming 101 has a 17 entry series of articles on Wizardry. The one on Wiz IV by Sam Derboo describes quite a few differences between the western releases and the Japanese PC Engine CD, PlayStation and Windows PCs versions
    (http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/wizardry-the-return-of-werdna/).

    (@Chet: Don't recall your policy on which platforms you mention at the top, just noted HG101 lists a couple additional ones in the header of its article.)

    According to the article, the PC Engine CD version was much simplified:
    - Some puzzles are omitted, including the introductory one, so Werdna can simply step out of his inner cell without any resistance.
    - This version also allows to command the monsters directly, though not as minutely as the heroes in the earlier games. It’s possible to choose whether monsters attack or use a spell, but not which one to cast.

    Derboo goes on to explain that PlayStation and Windows PCs feature the original game alongside an arranged mode:
    - The latter makes it possible to control the monsters.
    - It also increases Werdna’s entourage to five monster groups instead of three and allows direct selection of their spells.
    - Furthermore, it adds a few additional monster types per circle, offering abilities that are completely absent in the original game.
    - There is a revised black box – it completely replaces the standard inventory, sorts the items in handy categories, offers limitless storage and provides detailed illustrations for easier recognition.

    - An automap is freely accessible for both variants.
    - Separately switching between the new and old graphics for monster sprites and dungeon walls is possible in both original and arranged modes; the latter features added illustrations for events and different visual representations in the dungeon for special locations.
    - In the arranged version, as Werdna makes his way through the maze, info on all the items and adventurers he encounters gets unlocked, and a database can then be accessed from the main menu.

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  19. "It's really more of a "fairness" rating, I think. I should clarify and perhaps differentiate the two variables at some point."

    Though tooled for an adventure game context, you might find the Zarfian "cruelty scale" to be interesting: https://eblong.com/zarf/essays/cruelty-revisited.html

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    1. It's an interesting way to approach it, but I feel the considerations are a bit different for RPGs, particularly in that they tend to involve lots of combat.

      I'm not much of an expert in adventure games, but it also feels like the weighting is off. Like, to the extent that they include puzzle elements, about 75% of RPGs I can think of would be at least "Nasty" on that scale.

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    2. Narwhal, The Wargaming ScribeAugust 11, 2022 at 5:39 PM

      On my side I try to differentiate “complexity”, which is about understanding the ruleset, and “difficulty”, which is about actually winning the game once you understand the ruleset. Difficulty depends on the AI and on the scenario/battle design - the balancing really.

      In my case Eastern Front 1941 is low complexity and high difficulty, while Computer Bismark is high complexity and low difficulty (once you understand the ruleset). I feel like readers are more interested in complexity : knowing whether they can jump on the game and understand it quickly (even if they lose) or whether it is a game that will take into account a lot of factors and give them freedom to have their own strategy.

      In your case, I would say that Chaos Strike Back is low complexity and high difficulty, and the Dark Sun games are the opposite because D&D ruleset + Dark Sun ruleset. As for Wizardry IV… I am not sure, my model does not work that well with puzzles which is what W4 seems to be about. I would put them in “difficulty”, just not the “permadeath” kind of difficulty. But if you are stuck on a puzzle, your progression is as stuck as if you died in combat - you as a 2022 player are only saved because you have access to walkthrough and users giving you hints, which the 1985 player did not have.

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    3. "I'm not much of an expert in adventure games, but it also feels like the weighting is off. Like, to the extent that they include puzzle elements, about 75% of RPGs I can think of would be at least "Nasty" on that scale."

      I'm not sure that's right -- Zarf's scale is specifically responding to the ability to put a game in a completely unwinnable state. It was generally pretty easy to do that in the early text adventures (and to a lesser extent, later graphic adventures) that set the context for the late-90s amateur-IF scene where the scale was proposed. There was a lot of conversation about the relative fairness of a game being rendered unwinnable by stuff like letting a light source run out of fuel, vs. neglecting to pick up a key item in an early location that's later locked off so you can't backtrack and grab it.

      In all cases, if you mess up you need to start over (or reload a game before you became a dead player walking) -- except if the game is Merciful. Notably, on most interpretations Merciful still can mean that you miss out on bonus content or get irrevocably locked out of some endings, but you'll never be in a position where you can't successfully complete the game.

      For a concrete example, the classic LucasArts adventure games are Merciful -- you can get stuck on a puzzle, sure, but you can always reach the ending and there aren't even any deaths. Most Sierra games, though, are in the Tough to Cruel range where there are tons of ways to put the game in an unwinnable state (beyond the annoying reload-forcing deaths).

      Anyway so I agree that it's not a great fit for CRPGs, but with that said I'm not sure why you think they'd mostly be Nasty? I'm aware of very few CRPGs where it's possible to get into a similar dead man walking state due to puzzles. In some games it's certainly possible to make the game effectively unwinnable due to being unable to keep up with the combat difficulty, either by choosing suboptimal character builds or failing to manage the economy correctly. But I can't think of any CRPGs where not picking up a particular item at the right time means that you can't finish the game (vs. flubbing a quest or missing out on loot). So they'd pretty much all be Polite (since of course you can die by getting stabbed). And this increased flexibility where you can experiment and muddle through without worrying you've made the game unwinnable is a strength of the CRPG genre as compared to classic adventures, I think!

      (For what it's worth, in the modern interactive fiction scene, almost everything is Merciful or at worst Polite, unless someone's deliberately written an 80s throwback sort of game).

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    4. "But I can't think of any CRPGs where not picking up a particular item at the right time means that you can't finish the game (vs. flubbing a quest or missing out on loot)."

      This one.
      Enter the Cosmic Cube without the Holy Hand Grenade and you can't finish the game.

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    5. But you can teleport back to the bottom level, yes?

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    6. I was under the impression you could too, and Crooked Bee's LP says you can, but Chet verified that you can't. Once you enter the Cosmic Cube, Malor stops working until you reach the castle.

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    7. Ultima V would be an example of not getting the right item before the ending, though it came out a year later.

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    8. Maybe there are single spots from which you can Malor, like right at the egress? Or is always deactivated for the whole level?

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    9. @anon: No, you can't. You have to finish the Cube first, and you need the grenade to do that. There's no other way to exit the Cube once you've entered, at least until you enter the castle. Then you can teleport anywhere you've already been.

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    10. Frankly, Ultima 5 is horrible in this aspect, because absolutely nothing hints at that one item you need at the end. You are basically expected to finish, get the bad ending, then reload an earlier save and do the underworld and final dungeon again. Did it take that idea from Ghosts&Goblins?

      I suppose Wiz4 also expects a lot of reloading but at least it's upfront about that from the start.

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    11. Ultima V is actually a good example since it’s about the most extreme case of this kind of design, but it’s still basically Polite on this scale - since I believe you can teleport or simply walk out of the final dungeon (or even just die and get resurrected, right?), the point of no return only kicks in once you get sucked into the mirror, at which point you’re immediately told that the game’s unwinnable and exactly what item you needed to have.

      Contrast this with some old-school adventure games, where the point of no return can come much earlier, foreclose you from seeing much of the game’s content, and not be signposted at all so you might not know whether you’re just stuck on a solvable puzzle or if you’re a dead man walking. Nasty and Cruel games are quite cruel! Admittedly replaying in an adventure game is typically fairly easy since once you know puzzle solutions there usually isn’t much remaining challenge, versus having to slog through a challenging dungeon again, which goes to the question of whether importing this scale to CRPGs is all that meaningful (and to be clear, I don’t think it is).

      Delete
    12. Yes. Specifically, nasty/cruel in a text adventure is really not a big deal because you can reenter all the commands in less than a minute (and they have shortcuts); whereas in a graphical adventure (like oh say the POIsonous King's Quest 5) your character walks pretty slowly and there's all kinds of unskippable cutscenes.

      For comparison: pretty much all LucasArts adventure games are Merciful, pretty much all Sierra adventures are Cruel.

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    13. That scale was written with late 70s/early 80s text adventures in mind, when it took 10 seconds or so to enter ONE command and you were required to purchase an extra floppy for every few save files you wanted.

      Delete
    14. The scale is that old, but it's complete nonsense that typing a command would take so long, or that saved games were that large. Rather, the scale exists because people started realizing that "you can't win any more and we're not telling you why" is not fun for many players.

      Delete
    15. The scale was created in 1996, by which time action processing for text games was a trivial task relative to hardware. The context for the scale was Usenet conversations among the hobbyists making text games after they were no longer commercially viable, and sure, part of the discussion was I’m sure the games of the 70s and 80s (Infocom’s were the primary touchstone for the community at that point) but the focus was primarily about the no commercial games the hobbyist community was then creating.

      (Though apropos of processing times, Zarf is Andrew Plotkin, who put out the alchemy-punk text game Hadean Lands in 2014; one of its features is a goal-seeking AI that allows a single instruction to potentially trigger dozens or even hundreds of individual actions, which even on modern hardware can lead to delays of a second or two. It’s also Merciful, and an incredibly good adventure - it has lots of competition of course but if you like the puzzlier side of the genre I can’t think of any adventure game, text or graphic, that has it beat).

      Delete
    16. +1 for the Hadean Lands recommendation.
      I thought _one_ puzzle was a little unfair(slightly misleading failure message), and had I not missed something elsewhere I wouldn't have been stopped by that message) but the rest were great - highly recommend.

      Delete
    17. @Tetrapod The scale was indeed created in 1996, but Plotkin says in that writeup that he had old Apple II games in mind, and notes that there's really no functionable difference between "tough" (the game might kill you if you try something dangerous, so you better save before trying such things) and "nasty" (the game might just suddenly kill you, so you better fear death at every turn) if you can retrace your steps from the beginning of the game in seconds. He differentiates between the two because he grew up on games where retracing your steps took quite a while.

      Delete
    18. In making my 75% comment, which I agree was a LITTLE exaggeration, I was relying on his second set of definitions having to do with saving.

      CRPGs tend not to have a lot of plot-related points of no return, but that doesn't mean you can't get yourself in an unwinnable situation. It could be a matter of extending yourself too far into a dungeon or saving when you're so low on hit points you can't possibly make it back to a safe place to rest. It could involve a poor choice of party members or sub-optimal choices in how you level up. And yes, there are times you lose a quest item or get yourself in a locked room, and in modern games times when you make the wrong role-playing choice.

      RPGs tend to be a lot longer than adventure games, and some mistakes may cost you dozens of hours instead of just three or four.

      Delete
    19. Andor's trail, a roguelike for Android, has a specific point where you can get stuck by overextending yourself.

      I'll ROT13 it, in case anyone here would like to try the game (I think it's great, it's freeware, and developed by a bunch of enthousiasts as a hobby; it isn't finished yet, but what there is is a lot, and it's fully payable).

      Gur tnzr unf n zrpunavp jurer vs lbh qvr, lbh ybfr nyy rkcrevrapr tnvarq fvapr lbh ynfg yriryyrq, naq lbh jnxr hc va gur orq va juvpu lbh ynfg fyrcg.

      Gurer'f bar irel ybat genvy jvgu n uhg, jvgu orq, unysjnl orgjrra gjb fnsr ivyyntrf. Fyrrcvat va gur orq erfgberf lbhe uvg cbvagf, fb vg'f grzcgvat gb fyrrc vs lbh'er ybj ba urnygu.

      Vs lbh qb gung gubhtu, naq lbh unira'g tbg rabhtu urnyvat cbgvbaf gb trg gb bar bs gur ivyyntrf, lbh pna trg fghpx va n ybbc jurer lbh qvr, ybfr nyy rkcrevrapr orsber tnvavat nabgure yriry, naq lbh jnxr hc va gur orq ng gur unysjnl cbvag, ernql gb gel ntnva naq ntnva gb ernpu bar bs gubfr ivyyntrf.

      Gur tnzr'f shyyl njner bs guvf fvghngvba, fvapr lbh svaq n qvnel va gur uhg, orsber lbh trg gb gur orq, gung gryyf gur fgbel bs na haunccl nqiraghere jub trgf fghpx gbb sne sebz fnsrgl naq gbb ybj ba fhccyvrf gb chfu guebhtu.

      Delete
    20. Oh wow, I understood that the Cruelty scale didn't port directly to the matter at hand when I casually mentioned it here, but I'm floored that it yielded such extensive conversation nonetheless! Chet, you have cultivated a good comment culture here.

      Delete
  20. I just remembered I have a visit to pay to RPGWatch. Someone there predicted I would never finish Werdna.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Have you forgotten something?

    ReplyDelete
  22. "I can't find anything about what he was working on for the last two decades of that period, and I can't find any evidence that he was ever interviewed after about 1992"
    I've got "Through the Moongate. The Story of Richard Garriott, Origin Systems Inc. and Ultima" book duo and I seem to recall his author, Andrea Contato, claimed during the kickstarter campaign that he managed to interview Roe Adams for documentation purposes. Maybe he knows how to contact him.

    ReplyDelete
  23. What do you mean "some accounts?" There's one thread on RPG Codex with a Japanese guy claiming that. Name a second account.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would, but to do so would incentivize more obnoxious, demanding anonymous commenters.

      Delete
  24. Something I've been wondering is how many games are there that aren't just hard, but explicitly made for people that are experts of the series. Off the top of my head there's this, Super Mario Lost Levels, and maybe Fire Emblem Thracia 776, but I have trouble thinking of other examples.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Lode Runner series did this, as early as 1984.

      Delete
    2. Cadaver: The Payoff comes to mind, though it does require the original Cadaver disk to run... unless you have a cracked version, which I did, letting me play it without having played the original. It was quite an experience.

      Delete
    3. Commercially, they're quite rare. There's a thriving romhack community dedicated to creating precisely that, though I don't know if you'd consider fan works in the same category.

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    4. You could probably put the 2 Gold Box games , Pools of Darkness and Dark Queen of Kyrin(sp?) in that category. If you jumped right into either of those games you'd probably quit before you learned enough to play them effectively.

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    5. Precisely what happened to young adult me with Dark Queen of Krynn.

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    6. Well, Chaos Strikes Back was an expert level Dungeon Master add-on, so you could add that to the list.

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    7. Not an RPG, but GTA: London 1961 was incredibly hard due to the ridiculous time constraints on the missions. Much harder than London 1969 and any of the other games in the series.

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    8. Ha, X-COM 2 is a great example! There are two main reasons it was a brutal step up in difficulty from the first game: between chrysalids being upgraded to the flying tentaculets, the heavy-plasma analogue not getting automatic fire, and those damn two-part terror missions, everything was just a harder version of the first game.

      But more insidiously, in the US release of X-COM the different difficulty levels you could select at the beginning of a campaign didn’t do anything, and it always ran on the easiest level. So my friends and I got used to beating it on the hardest level, then were in for a rude awakening when trying the same thing in the second game lead to immediate TPKs.

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    9. Funnily enough, I meant the new one, but Terror from the Deep also seemed like hard mode.

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    10. Ah, the hyphen threw me off (the new games are XCOM, old ones are X-COM). I need to get back to that one, actually -- I've started it up and bounced off it a couple of times, not because it seems especially hard yet but because the beginning feels very linear and it takes a long time to open up and let me run things, vs. just responding to plot-mission after plot-mission. Admittedly I'm starting with the expansion installed, but it feels very different from the more sandbox-y vibe I enjoy in X-Coms old and new. I know folks say it's a great game, but I think I need to more intentionally set aside my expectations in order to get into it.

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    11. Terror from the Deep was hard mode. Players complained that the first one was too easy. Turns out there was a bug in the first XCOM where it didn't matter what difficulty you set it too, the difficulty eventually reverted back to the easiest difficulty. So, the Terror from the Deep developers overcompensated unaware there was a bug in the difficulty settings of the original.

      Delete
  25. I agree with other commenters that this was a great coverage. I kind of dismissed it at first ("meh, he's replaying that old ultra-difficult game just to win it, it's going to be long and repetitive...") and then I really got sucked in by the writing and commentary, and the game is fascinating in its way. Thank you.

    One thing that struck me in this final review, is when you said it "lacks most RPG mechanics", and it got me thinking that, in the end, it's actually almost an adventure game disguised as an RPG. Combat is mostly RNG watching your allies fight; mapping definitely is a challenge, but the real difficulty comes from inventory puzzles. And obscure ones with cryptic hints and jokes, to me the whole experience sounds far closer to playing Zork than Might & Magic or Pool of Radiance. And I feel that a lot of the "fairness/difficulty/challenge" comments above apply in the same way that when directed at illogical/over-cryptic adventure games (whether text or point&click...). I feel secret buttons/doors difficulty don't belong in the same category of challenge, as they live more within the game system than inventory puzzles which reside more on a meta-layer.

    This all made me realize that I actually quite dislike inventory puzzles in RPGs in favor of mechanical/navigational puzzles, and tactical challenges (and of course story/exploration, but we're talking about challenge/difficulty). And I realized that this was probably part of the reason I ranked some games lower in my personal enjoyment scale, but never pinpointed the exact reason why. Don't get me wrong, I love inventory adventure games, it's just not the center of the experience I'm looking for in an RPG.

    There's always a required minimum of it of course, but there's a line somewhere where it crosses into adventureland. Trying to put that feeling into words, I'd say it has to do, for me, with a balance of quest vs non-quest items. For me, finding a new Diamond Sword of Hellfire +4 should always carry more excitement and gameplay impact than finding the Coconut of Quendor that you need to bring back to some witch (so she can make some horse SFX; or a thai soup).

    Anyway, food for thought.

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    Replies
    1. "For me, finding a new Diamond Sword of Hellfire +4 should always carry more excitement and gameplay impact than finding the Coconut of Quendor that you need to bring back to some witch (so she can make some horse SFX; or a thai soup)."

      I've never seen the difference between the two sub-genres better encapsulated.

      Delete
  26. > Almost any game with permadeath is objectively "harder" that Wizardry.

    Agreed. Having played the first five Wizardry titles thus far, I'm inclined to think that playing Wizardry V straight is *much* tougher than getting through IV. And as tricky as some of the navigation was, I can imagine worse.

    If looking through the lens of IV as an adventure game with RPG-style battles, I don't think it's even the hardest adventure game out there by a long shot. I don't remember there being any "walking dead" scenarios, and as cryptic as some of the puzzles were, I feel like some Sierra titles have pulled more convoluted stuff on the player.

    That's not to say that Wizardry IV hasn't earned its reputation as a tough game, though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed. Many Sierra games have several of points-of-no-return, and if you didn't notice a (tiny and/or hidden) object before one, you'd be in a walking dead and not even know it.

      Delete
    2. I had to cheat pretty bad to win W5. I only had to look up a couple of hints to win W4.

      Delete
    3. "I had to cheat pretty bad to win W5."

      This inspired me to reread your W5 "won" post, where you list the three ways in which you cheated: first, you reloaded whenever one of your characters died; second, you used a walkthrough to solve puzzles; and third, you save-scummed until you got a relatively easy version of the final battle.

      It looks like you no longer consider the first item as cheating, at least not in the same way you did back then. If you had been more patient and methodical, you could most likely have figured out the solutions to the puzzles on your own, thus avoiding the need for the second item. And if you had spent more time grinding your characters, you probably wouldn't have had to resort to the third item (and in any case, if you are reloading freely if you lose, it's pretty moot anyway).

      So no, I don't think you really *had* to cheat to win W5, it just happens to be how you won it.

      Delete
  27. My trouble with puzzles like those of Wizardry IV is that when I'm stumped, there is no clear way to overcome the obstacle.

    In case of challenges that require tactics, strategy, memorization or muscle memory, I can replay these situations and improve my understanding of the game, incrementally inching closer to victory.

    In case of mechanical puzzles, or generally, systemic puzzles, I can systematically experiment and deduce the rules underlying the puzzle.

    Adventure games, and Wizardry IV, require the player to retrace the word associations and mental leaps that the creators made. If I just don't associate X with Y like the creators did, I'm not sure what I can do aside from wild experimentation and getting help from others (personally, or via a walkthrough).

    That's less of a problem in case of crossword puzzles, but it can be frustrating when one of these puzzles turns up in a long CRPG and prevents the player from proceeding.

    (As usual, just talking about personal preferences. Different strokes for different folks.)

    I'm still curious how systemic puzzles in CRPGs could be improved and combined with roleplaying and story progression. The answer isn't "pressure plate puzzles" and it isn't "show this obscure item in order to get that barely predictable reaction". The answer should feature puzzles where the player can learn the necessary solving skills during the game.

    (It could be argued that the skill that crossword puzzles and Wizardry IV are testing for is one that cannot be straightforwardly improved by following a clear-cut path through a sequence of arranged, incrementally harder puzzles. Then Wizardry IV might be as close to an efficient training of a real-world skill as it could be.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. By the way, GOOD adventure games don't work that way either :P

      Delete
    2. I admit that this was an uncharitable description. But I think that adventure games with inventory/word association puzzles are extremely hard to design well. Make the puzzles too logical, and the players will breeze through the game (there's not much to do otherwise). Make one puzzle too hard (in the sense that it requires a mental leap), and lots of players get stuck. It's a difficult balancing act.

      Simply due to the law of large numbers, at least occasionally the designers will make a puzzle too illogical. My point is that the consequences of that are a bit different than with other types of challenges (including mechanical/systemic puzzles).

      And while these roadblocks are not unusual in adventure games, personally, it feels not that suitable to me in a CRPG where you're exploring and fighting. It feels like not being able to stop the army of Mordor due to the lack of a Rubber Chicken With A Pulley In The Middle with which to cross the chasm of Moria.

      (Also, this type of puzzle very often steers the game towards comedy, as noted by the Digital Antiquarian.)

      The other types of challenges in most CRPGs allow the player to incrementally improve and surmount them - it's basically in the DNA of CRPGs. I wonder how puzzles could be designed to also have this characteristic.

      Delete
    3. Personally my issue with these sorts of puzzles is they're incompatible with how my brain works. Virtually every time a riddle or outside knowledge puzzle or something similar comes up in a game, I end up having to look up the answer because they require me to think in a way that's completely unnatural for me, and most of the time the solution's something I could have spent hours on and never figure out. It ends up making things that are supposed to be minor roadblocks into insurmountable cliffs that block all progress.

      Delete
    4. An FMV adventure game is especially hard to come up with puzzles for, since the puzzle needs to be made out of things existing in real life.

      Delete
  28. I talked with Roe Adams III several times in the 90's and 00's. We were both participants in a few conferences. IIRC, he moved to Japan for quite a while (maybe 10+ years?), and worked on Japanese games there.
    He was proud about being the "game 4 designer," including Wizardry, Ultima, and I think another one. Nice guy, not arrogant, but self-assured.
    I think it's been a few years since we last met, probably because I rarely travel since 9/11/2001 and TSA have made it cumbersome.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you think post-9/11 air travel sucked you should definitely not go flying now!

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    2. Adams is known, at the very least, to have translated Asmik Corporation's "Lennus: Kodai Kikai no Kioku" for a US release by Enix America (as "Paladin's Quest") in or around 1993.

      Delete
    3. Was he cheated out of royalty money as well like Andrew Greenberg and David Bradley?

      Delete
  29. I was super excited to see you were giving this one another go! Your original posts on this game are how i found your blog way back when I was in high school (now i'm halfway through a phd and still lurk here :P). Really appreciate the dedication it took to complete this one and greatly enjoyed reading the posts.

    I played through this one myself back around 2014 on the PS1 remake. It's a remarkably faithful re-creation, although a lot of the mapping puzzles are significantly easier with the auto-map. One fun difference is the grandmaster ending has a link to the developer's website (Soliton Soft) to send an email rather than the phone number to call Sir-Tech.

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  30. I think one element of difficulty that doesn't get distinguished enough is "friction". By that I mean how tricky it is, if you get knocked out of the action somehow, to get back in. The game I've been playing lately occasionally has save game glitches and disappearing items, and monsters that sometimes kill you and sometimes let you by. Being able to do any kind of action involves a lot of friction which drags things down and makes it more difficult to test a new theory.

    Wiz 4, by its nature, is weirdly low-friction. You don't have to worry about resurrecting party members (and potentially having them vaporize), you just make a stop by the pentagram to get more mooks. Because what you're dealing with a lot of the time is gathering information, you generally don't have to repeat a long serious of treacherous battles. Making a few steps is often _some_ progress as opposed to running in a hamster wheel.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If I understand you correctly, a good example here is shoot-em-up games where you lose all your powerups when you die. So you got a bunch of extra lifes BUT without powerups the game becomes much harder, and you're likely to die again. Is that it?

      Delete
    2. I think that you are right, those extra lives ate more useful to scout ahead to get an idea of what you'll find next time. In games like r-type where memorization is key that's quite helpful

      Delete
  31. Congratulations for finishing this game and for providing us with such a great commentary! It is really impressive to see the difference between your original posts from a decade ago and this new analysis. Sometimes people wrote to you that they thank you for playing games so they do not have to, but actually I have the opposite opinion. Reading your posts makes me wish to play all these games, and sometimes leaves me with the bittersweet regret of having had these stories in part spoiled. Until I forget them, of course. Anyway, this is just a convoluted way to state that I love your blog!

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  32. How many moves did you have left by the win?

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  33. You are really great. I also cleared Wizardry 4, but I think I spent 100 hours.. Personally, I prefer Chaos Strike Back, but Wizardry 4 was more difficult than Chaos Strike Back because of the Wizardry 4 mapping puzzle. Since English is not my first language, I apologize if there may be some vague expressions.

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  34. Huh. Maybe it's just coincidence, but the multiple endings and hidden grand master ending remind me of Stalker. No idea if there's a real inspiration there, though

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    Replies
    1. Tbh Stalker first came to my mind as well as a game with multiple (7) endings, though I doubt it's inspired by Wizardry. Looking forward to Stalker 2!

      Delete
  35. At 70 hours, this game should be listed above Camelot (69 hours) on the "longest played" list, and maybe even above The Magic Candle (also 70 hours) depending on how you sort games with the same number of hours.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And, while updating lists, Ultima Underworld II belongs on the "Top Rated" list.

      Delete
    2. Be nice if there was also an index page sorted by "Rank"

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    3. @BGN: In desktop view there is a link in the right sidebar to a Google spreadsheet with all game rankings so far (below the "Recent, Current & Upcoming").

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    4. Thanks, Busca. But I was hopping for blog page :)

      Delete
  36. Many, many hard-earned congratulations! That is an interesting use of qabalah in the last level, though maybe a bit unfair to ask for the associated body part using words more accurately pertaining to the sefirah itself. Mr. Adams may well have had an alternate set of body parts listed before him, though, since I get the impression that there's a plethora of alternate approaches, especially if you draw from not just the Jewish traditions, but the derived Christian and neo-pagan versions of qabalah. I suspect that was the case here, since the "qabalah" spelling seems more common outside Judaism, at least from what I've seen.

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    Replies
    1. I tried asking my partner about it, but Kabahallah isn't something they've ever studied, so they can't speak to it's accuracy.

      Delete
  37. A masterpiece like this and you give it 27%. You wonder why people think you're a joke.

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    Replies
    1. Special Module S1 Tomb of Horrors (TSR product code 9022; ISBN 0-935696-12-1) is a masterpiece, but that doesn't mean I actually want to play it (or even DM it).

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    2. The joke is on anon who doesn't understand how the ratings system works.

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    3. Which part of the rating do you disagree with? Did Chet somehow miss the fine-tuned economy in this masterpiece? The character development options? The richly developed NPCs? The immersive graphics?

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    4. Don't feed the Codex trolls... .

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    5. I still am looking forward to read about the first 70-80% games. Considering this is not a "proper" crpg and it still got such a high score speaks for the gimlet as a good enough measuring stick.

      Delete
  38. I had mostly the same thoughts after playing, but would have put the gameplay much higher, to reflect how well done the level design and mapping is in this game.

    Many onlookers wouldn't understand as well, that you've only given a 5/5 difficulty rating to one game, so 4/5 difficulty would be 5/5 on someone else's scale.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Congrats for finishing it in every possible way & thanks for documenting it! This was a great series of posts.

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  40. A small off-topic: since some days, the URLs in the “Index of Games Played by Series” have been replaced by Google redirects (https://www.google.com/url?q=http://crpgaddict.blogspot.com/...) so that one gets annoying notices whenever one clicks on them (I would have commented in that page but it is impossible).

    Thanks as always for your work! The “Return of Werdna” replay was one of the best reads I had this year!

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  41. Addict, I just wanted to say thank you for everything that you do. Even though I rarely comment, I've been with you since almost the beginning (albeit I usually run a month or two behind your posts).

    It's been great fun watching you evolve as a writer and as someone who faithfully documents and opines on the category of games that we all love.

    The Wizardry series is special to me. Wizardry 1 on the PC was what made me fall in love with the genre. I've probably played it - and, the other booked of the series, Wizardry 8, hundreds of times each. Every 6 months or so I pick it up and run it through again, trying to recapture some of the feelings of magic from my youth. I have beaten 2 and 7, and am in the process of beating 5 for the first time. I tried 4 but I just wasn't up to the task. I'm a terrible mapper, among other things. But I was on the edge of my seat for your revisiting of this game, and loved to see the story of your adventure with 4 unfold.

    Keep up the great work and know that there are some quiet folks like myself out there that appreciate what you've been doing here.

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    Replies
    1. I'm always happy to hear this kind of feedback. I'm glad you're still with me and that the entries helped you experience the game vicariously. I can see why you return to the original Wizardry frequently. I'm frequently tempted myself.

      Delete

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