Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Game 503: The Shadow of Yserbius (1992)

The Shadow of Yserbius
United States
Ybarra Productions (developer); Sierra Online (publisher)
Multiplayer online version released 1992 for DOS on the Sierra Network (later the ImagiNation Network)
Solo offline version released 1993 for DOS
Taken offline in 1996
Date Started: 9 February 2024 
I often wonder why the makers of MMOs don't try harder to ensnare MMO-shy audiences (like me) by adapting them to solo audiences. If it weren't for the simultaneous presence of other human players, I would be all over World of Warcraft or The Elder Scrolls Online, probably to my ruin. In fact, there are many things I find attractive about the sub-genre, including constantly-changing worlds and near-endless expansions. I would happily pay a monthly fee to experience a world like Skyrim in which there were always new quests and surprises. But you'd have to pay me to experience it with other lunatics who think it's acceptable to put digits in their character names.
I was thus initially glad to see that the fondly-remembered Shadow of Yserbius had offered an offline "solo mode" version that included the game's first expansion, The Fates of Twinion (1993). And to be clear: this game was specifically marketed for a single player; it's not just an example of a game where offline play was technically possible but not encouraged, like Neverwinter Nights (1991). Given that, it's a little disappointing that at least one of the features (the tavern) demands that you connect to the Sierra Network and you can only adventure with a single player even though the game is clearly balanced for a party.
This is a pretty cool cover. There's also no doubt that you're buying a "solo" version.
The Digital Antiquarian published a long piece in 2018 about the genesis and growth of the Sierra Network. He recounts that Ken Williams, Sierra's co-founder and president, got excited about the possibilities of online gaming in 1988, when he first signed on to Prodigy. In 1989, the company created a kind of "shell" for accessing CompuServe called "Sierra's On-Line"; shortly after, they launched a Sierra BBS. Finally, the Sierra Network went online in 1991, offering flat rate access for $12 a month to California residents and $5 per month plus $2 per hour to the rest of the nation. In 1992, the company offered three "premium" services on the Network: SierraLand, LarryLand (a casino), and MedievaLand; unlimited access to all of them cost $150 a month. Yserbius was the "centerpiece" of the latter service, the Network's better-looking answer to Neverwinter Nights. In 1993, the Sierra Network changed its name to the ImagiNation Network.
Yserbius was designed by Joe Ybarra, a former Apple and Electronic Arts employee with production credits on Starflight (1986) and The Bard's Tale (1986), among others. As a designer, we've only seen his work on Spellcraft: Aspects of Valor, which I did not finish. The design team included Karl Buiter (Sentinel Worlds, Hard Nova) and Michael E. Moore (Mars Saga, BattleTech: The Crescent Hawk's Inception). Given the unconventional choices in the developers' earlier titles, it's surprising to see here what is essentially a nice-looking Wizardry clone.
I never like to see "1.0." It suggests to me that no bugs have been fixed.
An introductory cinematic establishes the setting as Twinion, once a "prosperous port ruled by the Galabryan Kings." They made the mistake of hiring a wizard named Arnakkian Slowfoot, who killed or arranged the killing of King Leowyn. Leowyn's son, Prince Theowayen, succeeded him, but he became a puppet of the evil wizard. Seeking immortality, Arnakkian summoned the Time Elemental, En-Li-Kil, to pump him for knowledge, but En-Li-Kil escaped his bonds. With the help of some demonic friends, the elemental raised a volcano--the titular Yserbius--right next to the royal palace and buried it in lava. Presumably, Arnakkian and Theowayen were killed, but the text doesn't explicitly say. Later, King Cleowyn the Cruel forced dwarven slaves to carve a castle into Yserbius, but after he took up residency there, the king and his court mysteriously vanished. Now adventurers occasionally mount expeditions into the mountain, seeking fabled treasures.
I'm guessing a wizard is about to get involved.
Jazz hands!

That is an innovative form of revenge.
The game begins in the guild, where the player chooses from a slate of existing adventurers or creates his own. There are human, orc, elf, troll, gnome, halfling, and gremlin races and barbarian, knight, ranger, cleric, thief, and wizard classes. The player chooses between harmony and chaos alignments and allocates a small pool of bonus points to the established rolls for strength, defense, agility, and initiative. You also see your starting spells and skills and can add a few bonus points to those, too.
Character creation.
I created a human knight (I know--boring), who started with "Shield" and "Resist" spells and the skill of "Binding" (wounds). You can also buy and sell goods in the guild, but you start with a decent set and not much money, so that's best saved for later. Once you leave the guild, you're on a pretty view of Yserbius and its environments, but the only things you can do are re-enter the guild, enter the dungeon, or quit the game. A "tavern" option is unavailable for offline play.
The mountain has two entrances. At first, I was confused when both led to the same place. It turns out that if you save the game in the dungeon, the lower entrance takes you back to your save point while the upper entrance takes you back to the dungeon's entry hall. The top entrance also restores your health and mana while the bottom does not.
To clarify: the volcano is actively spewing lava, but we can somehow go explore its caves?
Once you enter the dungeon, the game switches to a familiar first-person view. I agree that it looks nicer than Neverwinter Nights, but it's still tiles and still textures. 
There are things to love and hate about the interface. On the "love" side, you move, turn, and strafe using the numberpad. On the hate side, none of the other actions have keyboard shortcuts, so you have to do everything but moving by clicking around with the mouse. This becomes particularly tedious in combat. But on the plus side again, the automap and paperdoll inventory system both work very well.
I guess I'll come back.
But the best part of the interface is that you can right-click on anything to get more information. Right-clicking on command icons gives you a description of what they do. Right-clicking on spells tells you about their effects. Back on the negative side, right-clicking on weapons and armor tells you nothing about them. Neither does equipping them. You have to go by relative prices, I guess.

Most of all, having only a single portrait where four are clearly intended makes the offline version feel unfinished. You start to notice the consequences almost immediately. The 11 x 9 entry hall has doorways to three dungeon levels, titled Soldiers' Quarters, Hall of Doors, and the Mines. There are no battles in the entry hall. Random encounters in the other dungeons are with one or two enemies, typically, but fixed encounters usually have multiple parties with more than half a dozen foes. I had to grind to Level 8 before I could even hope to win any battles against these fixed foes sometimes.
Battles against single snakes are winnable at this level. This one is not.
And yet the character development process was rewarding. Sometimes, I'm just embarrassingly simple. All I want is to hit orcs with sticks, pick up shiny things, and buy bigger sticks. So somehow I didn't mind the first couple of hours of the game, in which both character leveling and equipment improvements were relatively brisk. I danced back and forth in the corridors, let the enemies come to me (you don't see them in the environment; they just suddenly appear, like in The Bard's Tale), and killed them one or two at a time.

Early game enemies would be familiar to any CRPG veteran. There are a lot of animals (wolves, snakes, mountain lions), fantasy creatures (imps, goblins, skeletons), and humanoids, including combinations of the game's races and classes (orc ranger, hobbit thief, dwarf knight). Their graphics are well-drawn and lightly animated. 
This is a nice picture of a skeleton, but I feel like we've seen it before.
Combat is okay, but again clearly meant for a multi-character party. There are six "slots" on your side of the screen and six on the enemies', but the enemies can have multiple foes in each slot. You go in order of initiative. Available actions are attack, cast a spell, use a skill, use an item, or flee. For most offensive actions, you have to choose what enemy stack to apply them to, though I suspect later there will be spells that affect all enemies. I haven't faced any parties using more than two slots so far. The combat system is identical to Wizardry or The Bard's Tale in that both sides line up their attacks and then they all execute at once, in order of initiative.
Combat can take a while in the early game.
I died in about 50% of combats when I was at Level 1, unable to even hit the foes half the time, my own hit point total easily wiped out. However, I soon learned to use the game's advantages. First, even classes that don't sound like they're spellcasters have spells. My knight started with "Shield" and "Resist." "Shield" turned out to be a life-saver; it subtracts directly from enemy damage and ensured that I often took no damage even when enemies hit. Second, my "Binding" skill could heal me to full health in the middle of combat. Third, Potions of Healing are absurdly cheap and work about 5 times before they run out. 
Looting treasure at the end of battle.
But perhaps most important of all, making the game fundamentally too easy, is the fact that death has no consequences. When you die, you appear back outside the dungeon, having lost no items, gold, or experience earned. I'd say that it's a shortcut back to town, but when you save the game in a dungeon and quit, you reload back in town anyway.
After only a few victories, I leveled up. Leveling up gives you a couple of points to allocate to your four attributes, a few points to allocate to spells, and a few points to allocate to skills. Plus, you get new spells and skills. As I went from Level 1 to 8, I got the spells of "Heal," "Lightning," "Dissipate," "Poison Cloud," "Cure," "True Seeing," "Energy Field," and "Bless," and the skills of "Detect," "Rune Reading," "Deflect Magic," and "Fencing." Some of the skills are passive; for instance, "Fencing" adds to my attack abilities when I use a sword.
My skill list by the time I reached Level 7. Note that I've right-clicked on "Detect Magic" to see how it works.
As I leveled up, I started by putting most of my points into spells I was already getting a lot of use out of, like "Shield," but in addition to improving the spell's effectiveness, it also increases the casting cost. My knight can cast maybe six "Shield" spells (if I cast no other spells) before I have to leave the dungeon and rest, or find a mana potion, so later I adopted more of an even distribution of points.
Equipment upgrades were also steady, though equipment is a little odd in this game. If you favor a sword, for instance, you can buy a short sword for 25 gold pieces, a broadsword for 125, a longsword for 1,500, or a katana for 6,000. The most expensive weapon is, oddly, a "war hammer" for 65,000. Similarly, helmets go in order of leather cap (35), head chainmail (700), war hat (4,500), and helmet (40,000). So the steps are pretty significant between upgrades, though with four primary things to upgrade (helms, armor, weapon, and shield), I managed to buy something new almost every couple of levels. I'm currently saving for a ¤40,000 helmet and a ¤125,000 breast plate.
Looking over the item list.
Eventually, I got to the point where I could at least try some of the fixed battles, so I started exploring each of the three dungeons. As I did, I started encountering NPCs. They exist in fixed squares and just have one thing to say, with no interaction.
  • In the Soldiers' quarters, a human barbarian said, "This area is called the Soldiers' Quarters. Why it is so named is beyond me. I've wandered these halls for weeks and have found nothing resembling living quarters, much less any soldiers." 
  • In the Mines, an orc ranger: "King Cleowyn had a special lockpick which opened a set of doors in the Vestibule, leading to his Palace. He was the king of thieves, or so my father told me."
  • In the Hall of Doors, a human wizard: "The lone adventurer is often at a disadvantage in this cursed dungeon. Those deeper levels . . . oh, they are very dangerous, indeed."
I'm curious if he shows up in the MMO version.
  • Also in the Hall of Doors, a gremlin wizard: "The volcano Yserbius roils the sea and makes it unnavigable. We are doomed to live out our miserable lives, unknown to other peoples. I would give my left eyetooth for a way to escape this dull island."
  • Back in the Soldiers' Quarters, an elf cleric: "You may think you are limited to only those skills you acquire through your Guild. I know there are places in this dungeon where you may acquire new and different skills."
  • And still later in the Soldiers' Quarters, a troll knight: "Under Cleowyn's palace is a strange maze. The maze is infested with thieves, and they seem to be the only ones who know how to get through the thing."
Apparently, Cleowyn somehow built a "palace" in the volcano.
I really enjoy the automap, which keeps track of your overall progress, annotates things clearly, and will stay active while you move. 
When I was strong enough, I decided to go all-in on the Soldiers' Quarters. Every level has some unskippable fixed combats eventually. Here, for instance, the first one I have to get past has three vicious orc barbarians and three ornery human thieves. With a combination of "Shield" and healing in combat, I just make it. The good and bad news is that fixed combats don't "clear," so you can keep entering the same space for grinding. But if you barely survived a battle, you'll have to face it again if you hit a dead end on the other side.
An orc barbarian pops up in a hallway to tell me that a dwarf knight told her that there were polar bears and ice lions deep in the dungeon. She wants to know how that's possible in a volcano. I agree with her confusion. Around the next bend, I'm killed by a party of troll rangers and halfling clerics.
Who ever heard of "ice lions" at all?
Battles are deadliest during the first round, when the enemies' generally-superior initiative lets them get in a bevy of attacks before my "Shield" goes up. I find that if I can survive that without losing more than half my health, the battle is usually winnable after that. Every once in a while, you get lucky with a "crippling wound" or "devastating wound" attack and clear out an entire stack of enemies in one blow.
I clear out one group with a single attack. They kill me anyway.
Now that I need thousands of experience points between levels instead of a couple of hundred, I think I might lose my enthusiasm for the game a bit. The game needed a better ramp for enemy difficulty. It's like the creators adjusted the difficulty of random battles to account for a solo player but not the fixed battles.
The graphics are better, but what we have in Yserbius is a classic Wizardry experience from 12 years earlier: A combination of fixed and random battles; enemies do not appear in the environment; threaded, turn-based combat; and no memory within the game that fixed encounters have been "cleared." To extrapolate, I suspect that progress through the dungeon is going to rely exclusively on having certain inventory items in your possession. I grant that Yserbius has more interesting character development and a much more forgiving death system. Also, some commenters have suggested that there are Dungeon Master style puzzles to come.
A slightly different character creation window--or maybe it's the same as the original Yserbius and the solo version is different.
Meanwhile, a super-fan of the game going by the handle of "ZaneDubya" has re-written the game in C++ and has made it available online for multiple users, thus replicating the original MMO experience. You can read about it, download it, and play it at the MedievaLands web site. I created an account and created a new character (the creation interface was faithful in spirit but looked a bit different). No one was around when I popped into the tavern. The dungeon graphics were a little better than the original game, and the interface was modified to put the automap and a GTFO cluster on the main screen.
Dying in the MedievaLands remake.
I got killed by a scorpion almost immediately in my first battle. I'm not sure how you join with other characters. I'm toying with asking for volunteers to meet at a specific time and check it out as a multiplayer game, but I don't know how faithfully we'd be recreating the original experience. I'll think about it. If I do, no numbers in your character names.
Time so far: 4 hours


  1. What I've observed about MMOs is that, when you take away the interactivity with other humans, you usually end up with a subpar RPG. It's a sacrifice that comes from trying to present a large world that also has plenty of stuff for players to do. The activities will almost always end up being grindy and repetitive, to a degree far higher than most games.

    Of course, if you take out the large number of simultaneous players, it becomes harder to justify (financially) having such a big game world with constant expansions.

    1. In Yserbius you form a party with other players in the tavern, but I don't think you actually meet other adventuring parties while in the dungeon (I might be mistaked, though). The game world also has few, if any persistent elements (the automap remains, but I'm sure that is per party). So it's more of a multiplayer RPG than an MMO. Balancing issues aside, it plays rather well as a single player game.

    2. That's my memory of how partying up worked, too, but my memory is pretty vague.

      BTW that skeleton portrait looks a fair bit like the one on the cover of Eye of the Beholder, so maybe that's what you're thinking of?

    3. Yes, I almost certainly am thinking about the EotB skeleton. Good eye.

    4. I assume that once the characters are formed into a party, one player controls the movement of the party, leaving the others to act only in combat?

    5. Yeah, as I recollect you'd designate a party leader who did the "driving".

    6. The skeleton portrait also looks like the one on, you know, the box.

    7. That was my first thought, too. And in truth, if you like the single-player MMO experience, you can usually wander the world quite freely outside of cities and towns, meeting other players only occasionally.

      Especially if you choose less frequented regions or servers.

    8. Yep. Also, if I’m remembering correctly didn’t the original scale encounters to the party size? I could have sworn “solo” play online resulted in only a few enemy encounters also.

    9. If they were truly making it into a one player experience just making it possible to add your own characters into the other slots would have worked well. I don't know if the engine would have been able to handle it but it would certainly have solved most of the issues.

  2. I started playing as a Wizard and it made the early game a bit easier, as they get powerful mass damage spells relatively early. I suspect it's going to be a disadvantage later, though, as spells top out quickly and every class eventually seems to get most (?) spells. The knight seems to be a good choice for solo play.

    I have no idea what the save feature is for, since when you die you always have to enter through the dungeon entrance. The only way I could reenter at a previous location was by teleporting out of the dungeon.

    Something that took me a while to find out: you use keys and lockpicks by right clicking on them while standing in front of a door. That was confusing, because there is one place where a key is used automatically.

    I created a MedievaLands account out of curiosity but playing along is probably not feasible given time constraints and timezone differences.

    1. As for the initiative, my mage has a pretty good one and usually goes first - but I also noticed that the shield does not take effect in the round I cast it. It's a life saver if you survive the first round, though.

      Apologies for the triple post.

    2. I think "Shield" does take effect the round you cast it, but everyone else just has a higher initiative.

    3. According to the action log, I cast be spell before the enemies hit me, but I still get hurt in the same round. It works fine in the remake, though.

  3. Not to derail your blog, as an addict will addict, but there are at least a couple of MMO's whose single player experience is equivalent to playing a single player rpg

    1. Yeah... except every once in a while, some guy named "Obersturmbannfuhrer1942" will randomly cross your path, and that will ruin it. For me at least it does, and I suspect our host is of the same ilk.

    2. Indeed. Chet hate numbers in name.
      Obersturmbannfuhrer should be fine though.

    3. Can you identify some of those games?

    4. Off the top of my head, Star Wars The Old Republic; also I'm pretty sure you can play Elder Scrolls Online solo. Fallout 76 maybe?

    5. Yep, I've had a lot of fun with Elder Scrolls Online despite preferring to play solo 99% of the time. Expansions starting from a few years ago began adding companions, allowing the player to have an AI-controlled second character, nearly. Their skills are limited, but it makes previously inaccessible content doable solo. As someone who plays it mostly for the story and crafting anyway, this opens up almost the whole game outside of PVP and raid dungeons to playing solo. Sometimes I participate in overworld boss battles, but because of the way looting works individually, it's sufficient to help by doing some damage to get credit for the kill. The more the merrier for those, and it's not like I have to talk to anyone or coordinate tactics or anything.

    6. I normally don't play MMOs but had some solo fun with Star Wars: The old Republic. You can completely ignore other players and progress in your own storyline. Except it's way to easy. As I was told by other players because the solo content is geared to bring you into the endgame (I had to google what that even means) as quickly as possible. They also didn't understand why anyone would possibly want to play the game solo only to experience the storyline. So even with SWOTR the fact stands for me that the world of MMOs is an alien one not made for my tastes. But I had enough fun with it that I will probably try the same with Elder Scrolls Online and FF14 even if that means "abusing" their basic concepts.

    7. 90% of the content in FFXIV can be (and is intended to be) done entirely solo. The only places you have to party up are in dungeons and for boss fights, both of which are designed in ways that would be suicidal for a single character to attempt.

    8. Whilst quite a few MMOs are quite playable solo I've never really gotten into them that way. For older MMOs it's that the game jsut isn't designed that way, you have to party to get stuff done. For newer games it's more a me problem. The first sign of a flashing button offering any kind of cash for ingame currency and I just instantly drop out of having fun playing games mode and modern MMOs as a rule are horrible for this.

    9. Will comment here - tried some Elder Scrolls Online solo and I was bored to death. It's like you are larping around while other players are running around. The opposite of an immersive experience.

    10. I played the secret world solo to the end game completely alone. I wanted to experience the story and the atmosphere of the game - which is great. And there are no solo cRPG games with that horror/mystery/secret agent background. I'd recommend playing it for a couple of hours. But check a guide first which skills are best for solo play.

    11. The Old Republic contains so much content that I'd have enjoyed experiencing but I could not deal with the completely unimmersive gameplay.

      'Please save us from the raiders!'

      Walk into a field containing ~50 raiders wandering around aimlessly. Kill 10 of them. They respawn. Go back to the quest-giver.

      'Thank you for saving us from the raiders!'

    12. I will also put in a vote for Star Wars: The Old Republic. Each class has somewhat unique story, quests, and companion stories. Lori and I ended up playing almost every class and specialization to get to those unique stories. Most of the game play is fine solo, and more challenging that way.

    13. Fallout 76 is a good solo experience, IIRC it defaults to passive mode so other players are just sort of there in the world and you don't necessarily run into them often. Their locations are shown on the map so there aren't any surprises. The main PVP element (workshops) is entirely optional and has to be found and purposefully triggered, so you won't accidentally start a PVP session. Your home base "camp" also serves as your personal trading post where other players can buy stuff from you while you're off doing other things. There are a ton of individual quests, you can party up for group objectives, or jump in and get individual loot if someone initiates a boss fight. But overall, if you want, it can feel a lot like FO3/4 just with other people running around.

    14. Huh. B, you just sold me on a game I was avoiding like the plague.

    15. Ultima Online. The greatest MMO in history.

    16. Guild Wars is perfectly playable solo. The original version had companions (AI controlled party members) but after the 3rd expansion they had Heroes too, which were party members that could be partially controlled and their skills and equipment changed.

    17. For years I played on a Neverwinter Nights 2 server called Baldurs Gate, The Sword Coast Chronicles. Server rules required staying in character and an(at times) robust volunteer dev team kept areas new and fresh. Plus volunteer DM Team meant occasional original party adventures. Certainly not an authentic in person D&D experience but imo far better than what you get out of commercial MMOs. Free to play as long as you have the game.

  4. I'm really curious if it's even possible to finish Yserbius as a solo player without a seriously extreme amount of grinding. This was a favorite of mine as a kid, but in years of playing I don't think I ever managed to get further than the level 3 or level 4 areas. The sequel, Twinion, was even worse (I think), gating areas with some very powerful groups of magic users and the like. Either way, I'm enjoying the coverage!

  5. What's the point of having a class based system, when your human knight is going to cast spells anyway?

    1. It's about specialization rather than absolute lines, I guess.

    2. I dunno, knight/paladin as a fighter with a sideline in clerical spellcasting feels like a pretty standard part of many class-based systems?

    3. I know some of the JRPG series favor progression mechanics where there's essentially a single large progession tree, and character class is mostly a matter of where one starts in the tree. It's a bit akin to one's college major; generally you can take credits outside of it, but it's not necessarily an efficient use of resources to push very far into fields that have little overlap in the prerequisites.

    4. Even in a more restrictive class-based system, the archetype of a heavily-armored sword-and-board fighter with protective magic is hardly out of the ordinary!

  6. "This is a nice picture of a skeleton, but I feel like we've seen it before."

    I had the exact same reaction and then saw the caption! It is surely reminiscent of some RPG game box art or title screen. Perhaps the artist for this has previous experience with other similar games?

  7. Personally I think WoW on a solo world would be interminably dull and empty but the main reason they wouldn't do as you say is because the key metric is "engagement" - most people (and I suspect you are an outlier) are more likely to get hooked if there are other people around and if they provided a single player option a significant portion of the audience would just give that a try and quit within a few months (if not sooner). Instead if they're pressured into playing with their friends or they encounter some helpful/wacky players in the first few hours they'll stick around for years.

    At least that's how it was when MMOs were still popular...

  8. Congratulations on reaching your 503rd game on the blog !

    Since you played an obscure game on the n. 500 milestone, I waited to congratulate you on the first prime number after 500. I still have to read the entry, but you already let us know that finding this game was hard. You deserve congratulations just because you managed to start it. :D

  9. I'm seriously concerned about the lack of volunteers for a regular multiplayer session, what an amazing experiment blogging-wise that could be...

    I'd be first in line, but separated by some six hours, where's the U.S. readership, come on?

    1. AlphabeticalAnonymousFebruary 14, 2024 at 9:24 PM

      I could try to give it a whirl if push comes to shove. But I'm no expert (much less an addict!). Plus: US Central Time, so yet another hour further off from Europe. Should have asked last week, when I was out in Bavaria; come to think of it, Obersturmbannfuhrer1942 might not have been so far away.

    2. Well some friends here in Germany have a regular multi-player session on weekends with another friend from NYC so 6 hours time difference is doable. It all depends on how much free time you have or if you have other obligations like family etc.

  10. If you still need volunteers, I'm up for it. Assuming you don't mind weekends or about one hour most weekdays. (since most of my free time, sadly, is in the morning) My experience playing as a knight, because primarily physical with healing spells is how I usually go solo, is much the same as yours. I suspect the other classes start out with a better inititive, but quickly get outclassed anyway, especially since you only get one point a levelup and damage and health is far more important IMHO. I think that the comment one commenter made last time about needing multiple players to solve some puzzles seems impossible based on how the game seems to operate.

  11. I like the volcano backstory. It is probably more believable even from a fantasy logic standpoint than the background of some 99% of dungeons out there.

  12. I would play. It just depends on the time. Weekends are better.

  13. It is not a bad setup for the times then internet access was pricey. You create the character, develop him, familiarize yourself with both the RPG system and the dungeon, all while offline. Then you get online and get to some in-depth adventuring with your friends or gaming pals.

    Demise: Rise of the Ku'tan from 2000 works a lot like Yserbius, but you can create whole party there offline, so it offers a much more fulfilling single-player experience.

    1. Assuming Demise works like Mordor, the single-player there works so well its hard to even imagine playing it as a multi-player game. Its just that perfect.

  14. I'm wondering if you can run several instances of the online remake on the same PC to emulate several players. Since only one player controls the party movement in dungeon, you'd only have to switch between instances in combat. Bit of a hassle, but arguably less so than organising a group.

    1. AlphabeticalAnonymousFebruary 16, 2024 at 10:56 AM

      Cool - sounds kind of like the old 'hotseat' gaming mode, in days of yore. Slow, but it got the job done!

  15. Yes, that skeleton definitely looks familiar! Also, on the topic of familiarity - did you not find the music of the menu "Shadow of Yserbius" to sound suspiciously familiar to the starting music of "Ultima Underworld 2"? I cannot decide whether I'm hearing things or it's the same theme remixed.

  16. There is another name on the developers credits worth mentioning, John Miles. John was a programmer for Ultima V, and the basis of the character Captain Johne

    He is also responsible for the the 'Miles Sound System' a software library that brought sound to that vast majority of DOS games in the mid-90's. Its popularity was driven by cheap and generous licensing, its ease of use, and its broad comparability. Per Wikipedia, over 7000 games eventually used it.

  17. "you'd have to pay me to experience it with other lunatics who think it's acceptable to put digits in their character names."

    World of Warcraft had a way around this in the early days, called "Roleplay Servers". Players with weird names would get shunned by the others. Interaction was done in character, again, ppl going "sup dawg let's pwn some elves!!1" would get shunned.

    WoW still has RP servers but it's nothing like the above anymore. More "RP" than RP


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1. Do not link to any commercial entities, including Kickstarter campaigns, unless they're directly relevant to the material in the associated blog posting. (For instance, that GOG is selling the particular game I'm playing is relevant; that Steam is having a sale this week on other games is not.) This also includes user names that link to advertising.

2. Please avoid profanity and vulgar language. I don't want my blog flagged by too many filters. I will delete comments containing profanity on a case-by-case basis.

3. NO ANONYMOUS COMMENTS. It makes it impossible to tell who's who in a thread. If you don't want to log in to Google to comment, either a) choose the "Name/URL" option, pick a name for yourself, and just leave the URL blank, or b) sign your anonymous comment with a preferred user name in the text of the comment itself.

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

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

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

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

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

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