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Savior of Blaugust – That Video Game Questionnaire Thing August 22, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Ancient Gaming, entertainment.
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11 comments

In which I again prove I am old and grumpy.

Blaugust is past the three week point.  You can see all the posts piling up over in our little corner of Anook, with more than 500 submitted at this point.  People are putting in the effort.

Blagust_No_BR

For somebody like me with a routine,a  pattern, a plan (I already know what I am posting 5 of 7 days next week, even if I haven’t written more than a title for most of them yet), and incredibly low standards (I’d rather write something than write something good as I theoretically get better with each post, right?), the addition of a few more posts in a month isn’t such a big deal.  Go look down the side bar to the archives menu.  I already effectively write one post a day most months as it is.  It is just a matter of spreading them around.

But the strain is beginning to show for some.  Somebody without a plan, for whom each day is a blank slate and an empty text editor, and who has standards they feel they need to maintain, this sort of sustained effort can be a trial.  Or so it seems.  I’m the guy with a plan and no standards after all.  Anyway, it has been a voyage of discover for some and a pain for others.

But a lifeline has been thrown to the Blaugust team, in the form of a video game questionnaire.  Jaysla over at Cannot Be Tamed has put together 21 questions for people to answer on their blogs, and the Blaugust team has gone for this like a drowning man grabbing for a… lifeline… I already used that metaphor, didn’t I?  See, complete crap.

Anyway, in the spirit of community spirit… or something… I too shall take the quiz, as well as linking out others who have taken the quiz in that community spirity spirit thing which I mention so recently in this run-on sentence.  Also, it allows me to be grumpy, pick nits, write about stuff as far as 40 years in the past, link back to a bunch of old posts where I covered bits of this in detail, and generally ramble on in my accustomed Friday fashion.  My previously planned Pokemon piece will be moved out to next week.

Others who have taken the quiz, some of whom aren’t even in Blaugust, but I am feeling expansive today:

And that is surely not all, just the ones I could find easily.  I will add more as they pop up.

As for my own answers, I am hiding those after the cut.  The whole thing is kind of long, there are pictures, I get a bit testy about a couple of the questions, there is a moment of sexual innuendo, and the whole ends up being something best hidden in the back room so that random passers by don’t inadvertently see it.

This is a choice, what will you choose?

(more…)

Spacewar! for the PDP-1 April 25, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Ancient Gaming, entertainment.
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4 comments

Spacewar! for the PDP-1 is now officially the oldest video game I have ever played, thanks to it being brought back to life in an emulator over at the Internet Archive.

The great-grandfather app of many games, including the Space Wars arcade game from the 70s, the emulator simulates as much of the PDP-1 experience as possible, including blinky lights.

Spacewar! Loaded!

Spacewar! Loaded!

Of course, it is raw… and the gravity is brutal.  I am doing all I can just to not crash into the sun in the first 30 seconds.

Boom! yet again!

Boom! yet again!

But when you consider the time frame… this was done in 1962… it is nothing short of amazing and a pretty good glimpse into the future.  It even has something of an Easter Egg.

Another addition to the Internet Archive’s Historical Software Collection.

Nostaliga Moment of the Day – Lemonade November 28, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Ancient Gaming, entertainment.
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2 comments

Back when I was first allowed to poke my grubby fingers at a shiny new Apple II, this was what magnetic media primarily consisted of.

Lemonade Stand, Just 16KB

Lemonade Stand, Just 16KB

I played Lemonade Stand and other cassette capable games way back in middle school, where all young boys are pretty much grubby by definition.

That seems like a long, long time ago.

(picture spotted here)

Stellar Emperor Remake October 9, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Ancient Gaming, entertainment.
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5 comments

I have written a bit in the past about the Kesmai game MegaWars III, which ran on CompuServe, and its twin on GEnie, Stellar Emperor.

It always raise somebody’s ire when I call them twins.  They were, in fact, as close as twins when I was playing Stellar Emperor back in 1986, back when I was actually winning in online games.  (It has been all down hill for me since then.)

Once they called ME emperor!

However, Stellar Emperor began to diverge from MegaWars III not too long after that, and by around 1990 they were as different as chalk and some sort of dairy product.

MegaWars III basically sat still in time and remained pretty much the same through to the end of its run… and the end of CompuServe’s run… in 1999, thus spanning about 15 years online.  So when, a couple of years back, Crimson Leaf Games decided to recreate MegaWars III, it was pretty recognizable to those who played the original.

I'm in space! Can you even tell?

I’m in space! Can you even tell?

Meanwhile Stellar Emperor changed.  GEnie seemed much more interested in getting graphic front ends into their online game offerings.  Things like Air Warrior were the direction they wanted to go, and Kesmai seemed keen to oblige them, bringing Stellar Emperor along for the ride.  By about 1990 Stellar Emperor would have been practically unrecognizable to a MegaWars III player.  Game mechanics were changed, ships were slimmed down to a series of pre-set sizes, not unlike what Kesmai did in Stellar Warrior (which is the game some MegaWars III players think I am referring to at times when I write about Stellar Emperor), commands were changed or simplified.

And then there was the front end software.

If I recall right, you could still play the game from the terminal interface like the original… at least you could the last time I tried, which would have been in the 1990/1991 time frame.  But the front end client could be used and was there to make the game both more visually interesting and accessible.  And given the state of gaming as viewed from the command line interface these days… what do we have, MUDs, some Roguelikes, and maybe a few other retro experiences hiding in various corners… it was the way to go.  Friendlier graphical user interfaces were the way to go.

And that is about where my personal timeline with GEnie and CompuServe ends.  Oddly, that is about the time where I started dealing with them professionally, but that is another tale altogether and does not involve any online games.

So my memories are of a time when these games were as about as sophisticated as minimal vt52 terminal emulation would allow.  I think of the blinking cursor and arcane commands like “imp 200,100″ and text scrolling off the top of the screen, never to be seen again.  And it seemed quite natural, from a nostalgia perspective, to recreate such games from that era with a command line interface, though with the web you can always put in buttons for those of us who cannot remember all of those old commands.

Buttons!  I need something to help with scouting though

Crimson Leaf Games added buttons

And who wants to create a new GUI client for this sort of thing which must have a pretty small audience?

Well, somebody does.  I managed to wrest a message from the horrible new Yahoo web mail interface sent to me to announce that there is a remake of Stellar Emperor under way.  And it is not an attempt to redo the original, 1986 vintage command line version either.  This will be a shot at the GUI client version of the game that ran through the 1990s until the game was shut down by Electronic Arts in 2000. (Electronic Arts motto: We buy game studios and kill them.)

Cosmic Ray Games, LLC is the name of the group working on this project.  They have a site up, the game is in beta, there is a client you can download, and a reasonable amount of detail is available.  Their FAQ describes Stellar Emperor as:

Stellar Emperor is an online 4X (explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate) MMORTS strategy game. It maintains a periodically (usually 4 weeks) persistent universe in which a player colonizes planets and forms teams to compete against others real players. You Explore the galaxy to find planets to manage and build your resources, form teams or alliances to help further your survival, gather intelligence on your enemies, and use your resources to defend yourself or to weaken or eliminate your enemies.

There are several elements that make Stellar Emperor a fun and unique gaming experience, which include:

  • You only play against other real people, no NPCs to waste time on grinding.
  • A periodically persistent universe.
  • All events occur in real-time, whether you are online or not, no waiting for turns.
  • The world has a strict time limit in which you have to earn your way to winning any of the various titles.
  • All players start each war on an even basis. The game can only become uneven for the duration of an individual war, not eternally.
  • You command several planets to do your bidding.
  • You can build for growth and score, or you can build for war to take from others.
  • Build ships or supplies to defend yourself, attack others, or gain an advantage in combat.

You can win a specific title in a war:

  • Emperor – Leader of the winning team.
  • President – Player with the highest planetary score.
  • Warlord – The player with the best overall adjusted combat score.
  • Ravager – The player most successful and attacking other player’s planets.

Combined, these elements create an environment where players must work together to achieve their goals and overcome adversities presented by the other players vying for the same goals, winning the game! You will see expansive battles, strategy execution, conflict, and teamwork as all players battle their way for the top spots.

Given the speed of the game, I might not describe Stellar Emperor using the “RTS” acronym.  It may literally be true, but when you think of an RTS game, you are more likely to imagine StarCraft, which takes minutes to hours to play as opposed to a game that runs out over a four week time frame.  But then it isn’t like an ongoing, persistent universe MMO like EVE Online either, since it does reset every four weeks.

The update I received reported that the game was at about 95% functionality.   There are some screen shots, which I stole, and guides to playing the game on the media page of their site.

While I am interested in general about this sort of nostalgic revival of older games, I am probably not going to jump on this one quite yet.  As noted above, this is really a poke at something that was after my time with the game.  And EVE Online seems to be filling my need for internet spaceships at the moment.  But I will keep an eye on this and will be interested to hear if anybody else gives it a try.

Delta Force – A Memory of Voxels August 7, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Ancient Gaming, entertainment, Other PC Games.
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7 comments

I wish I could have seen the expression on my own face when, at the EverQuest Next reveal, they first said the word “Voxels.”

I am pretty sure it would have been a dubious frown, that serious look I get when things do not add up.  My lips disappear as my mouth forms a tight, inverted U.

And that is all related to a game called Delta Force.

Delta Force

Delta Force

NovaLogic brought out Delta Force back in the late 90s and it was something of the pinnacle of pre-3D accelerated shooters.  It had a single player campaign, not terrible computer AI, and offered online mulitplayer matches that we have come to expect from shooters.  But its big bragging point was terrain.

It launched at around the same time as Starsiege: Tribes, another game I loved, and which became something of a cult classic that got played for years beyond what one might expect.  Tribes, building on the ideas of Quake, attempted to create an outdoor multiplayer shooter using the 3D technology of the time, which was giant polygons with textures that looked like you laid bad linoleum in the forest.

Cyclops Attack! Run!

Not Tribes, but you get the idea

So its world was often a lot of flat planes laid out.  And, of course, you needed a 3D accelerated video card of some sort… probably a 3dfx model if you were like most people… in order to play.  And such cards were reasonably rare at that point.

Meanwhile Delta Force used a voxel based engine that used all those volumetric pixels, from which the word “voxel” is derived, to create an ugly (by today’s standards) but much more realistic terrain.  There were all sorts of places to hide, shallow depressions, rises, outcrops and such which, when combined with the positional abilities of the game… you could stand, crouch, or go prone, which was also somewhat uncommon at the time… allowed all sorts of tactical flexibility.  Plus the environments were huge compared to other games.

Looking out on an Uzbek land

Looking out on an Uzbek land

But the key to the whole package was that NovaLogic’s engine gave you all of this without requiring a 3D accelerated video card.  Absolutely the right move in 1998 when the game shipped and undoubtedly one of the factors leading to its popularity.

One of out IT guys brought a copy into work to show us and I am pretty sure that most of us bought a copy of the game on the way home that night.  There were some attempts to play as a group from home, which lead to my first voice coms experience when we tried using Roger Wilco.  That went okay.  But it was when we all brought a copy into the office and found that it played well enough on the standard 200MHz Pentium Pros that were common at the time that the real fun began.  Over the local network, using the phone system for coms, battles ranged.

NovaLogic followed success with more success, bringing out Delta Force 2 and so forth, creating a whole series of games.

But time was not on their side.

While ignoring 3D video cards was a good plan in 1998, by 2000 things had changed.  The introduction of nVidia’s TNT2 chipset, made reasonably priced and performing accelerated 3D video card readily available.   This alone pretty much killed 3dfx, marginalized Matrox and S3 in the consumer market, and could be said to have started the trend that eventually sent ATi into the arms of AMD.  It also made 3D configurations so common that the NovaLogic forums were often full of questions and complaints about why somebody’s brand new TNT2 card did not improve Delta Force‘s performance.  No 3D support became a burden.

That was the end of NovaLogic’s dominance.  They did okay with Joint Operations, which continued their traditions of lots of players on big battlegrounds, but other franchises did better.  MODs on Battlefield 1942 made it more exciting.  And other titles stepped in, so that every year we hear about another Call of Duty when it comes to shooters, but nobody mentions NovaLogic.

Years passed.

Then there was the EverQuest Next reveal this past weekend, and the word “voxel” and a flood of memories.  Included in that was “voxels = bad,” which was entirely built on my distant memories of the Delta Force franchise aging badly.  Voxels are good, or good if you want to create landscapes that are not made up of polygons.  It was NovaLogic’s engine that did not stand the test of time.  Or such is my memory.  As usual, the freshness, accuracy, and reliability of all memories older than 30 seconds on this blog are not guaranteed.

So I decided to see if NovaLogic was even around still.  First I looked at Steam.  There I found that not only did NovaLogic appear to still exist, but all of the Delta Force games were apparently up for sale on Steam.  Delta Force alone was listed for $19.99, which was too much for me to spend on nostalgia, but it made me go check out NovaLogic’s site.  There I found I could get Delta Force for just $4.99.

That was a nostalgia compatible price, so I bought a copy, downloaded it, installed it, and much to my surprise, it actually ran.

Of course, I was immediately reminded of how far we have come.  The game wanted to play at 640×480, which on my 1600×1200 monitor ends up being very blocky in full screen or a very small in windowed mode.

Shooting a distant tower guard

Shooting a distant tower guard

And there were even tinier settings.

Delta Force Settings

Delta Force Minimal Settings

I recall there being a school of thought for the game that had you play at the minimum setting with the minimum color because your responsiveness was greatly improved.  You ended up just shooting at what amounted to single pixels when sniping, but it worked for some.

So I loaded up the game and played a bit.  And it played quite well.  I had to go fix the controls.  I have raged in the past about EverQuest at launch having not grasped the WASD movement standard, something the went back as least as far as Lode Runner.  But here was Delta Force thinking I would use the arrow keys for movement.  I had to swap that over to WASD first thing.  But after that it was fun.

I ran some missions, which were harder than I recalled.  The AI did well enough to make me keep my head down.  I have memories of completely broken AI, but I think that came in with later installments of the series.

Then I downloaded and installed the latest patch for Delta Force, which promptly broke the game so that it would no longer let me play single player.  And the likelihood of playing multiplayer seemed faint at best.  As much as I would like another such opportunity, I don’t think there are any more internet hosted games out there.

So I uninstalled the game, cleared out the folder, and then installed it again and was off and shooting.

The default weapon is fun, the M4 with a scope.  But the real good times come with the big sniper rifle, the Barrett Light .50.

The game itself holds up pretty well after all these years.  Graphics, not so much.  What was described as sacrificing “looks for game play” makes the screen hard to look at some times.  And playing sniper at long ranges, even with the video cranked up to 800×600, you still end up shooting at stacks of pixels.  But it gave me an evening of fun and I might go finish out the campaign just for kicks.

And I found that, while the individual game price on Steam is pretty outrageous, they do have a bundle that seems reasonable if I feel like a full round of nostalgia.

Prices calculated in 1950s dollars

Prices calculated in 1950s dollars

Save $260 on that bundle!  Such a deal!

If you are interested in pictures of the game in action, there are more after the cut.

Unless you have a tiny monitor, they will all show as full size in the gallery viewer.

Included are some of the game screens and me using a few of the different weapons.  You will see the scope mode over and over, which is interesting in this day and age.  They tried to combine the scope view while keeping your wider vision available.  The “two eyes open” scope method.  It can be confusing at time to have two aim points.

Also, in a few of the pictures, you can see the tracers.  Red tracers are the bad guys, blue tracers are friendly.  Though they all hit just the same.  In open multiplayer a lot of people favored games with tracers turned off, as they were very obvious pointers right at your position as soon as you opened fire.

And the terrain itself.  It looks blocky.  In fact, it looks like I am playing on oatmeal world when full screen on my monitor.  But it works as advertised, being huge with lots of varied features in and around which to hide and shoot.  We shall see how EQN fares with its voxel based engine.

(more…)

Quote of the Day – On Existence Before MUD1 June 14, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Ancient Gaming, entertainment, MUDs, Quote of the Day.
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1 comment so far

There wasn’t anything before MUD1…

Richard Bartle on MUDs, from the Birth of MMOs interview

That is the best I could do in trying to extract an inflammatory, out of context quote from the article. (Hey, it inflamed at least one guy.)

That aside, the linked article is an interesting read, though you may already know the tale of how we got to World of Warcraft and beyond from MUD1, plus the whole Bartle Types thing.

And the article ends up with something of a “But what of MUDs?” theme, where it is pointed out that the very limitations of MUDs make them easy to use.  It is all done in text, so it is much easier to whip up a virtual world when you do not have to worry about art assets, something that lead to an explosion of MUDs during the late 90s.

As for an audience for MUDs.

Sure, they’re not going to have the success they once had if people have been conditioned to judge graphics as being the mark of a good game. They will still appeal to connoisseurs, lovers of language and people with vivid imaginations, though.

Somebody will play them.

Left unanswered: How are today’s MMOs impacting MUDs?

I know I have seen changes in TorilMUD over the years that have clearly been because of what has happened in games like WoW, things that would have been anathema a decade or more back.

Dangerous Travel May 24, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Ancient Gaming, entertainment, EverQuest, TorilMUD, World of Warcraft.
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6 comments

Travel is always a hot button issue.  Long have been the debates between convenience and seeing, or making people see, the world.  What is a waste of time and what builds character and all that.

And opinion has changed on it over time.

For example, in WoW, you used to have to go and find flight points on foot (or on a mount) before you could use them.

Later, Blizzard decided to open up any flight point at your level or below without having to visit them.

Then, more recently, Blizz changed their mind and now you have to go find them again.

Clearly not a settled issue.

But what about the more dangerous methods of travel?  What about stuff that can get you killed?

A friend of mine who is back playing WoW sent me a pic of  his new favorite toy in the game, the Last Relic of Argus.

LRoApic
It will send you to one of a list of locations.  His first try sent him to the bottom of the Golakka Hot Springs in Un’Goro Crater.  He set it off and walked away from the computer, only to find himself drowning upon his return.  Always good for a laugh.

That reminded me of the engineering device from the Wrath of the Lich King era, the Northrend Wormhole Generator that would put you in some pretty odd places when it was working right.  And when it wasn’t, you would end up high in the sky and hoping you remembered to attached the flexweave underlay to your cloak so you could deploy it as a parachute.

And then we moved on to the old days of TorilMUD and the spell planeshift.

Planeshift allowed you to move between the various planes that were part of the makeup of the Forgotten Realms universe.  At least the ones that were implemented in the game.

Some of them were clearly dangerous locations.  The astral plane was always good for a wipe.  Somebody might wander into the wrong room and elicit this zone wide shout indicating things have gone horribly wrong.

Juiblex shouts ‘You will pay for attacking me mortal worms!  Denizens of Darkness, Come and Feast upon Thanti!

And the plane of Fire could also be bad news.  Just for openers it was, as the name implies, on fire.  You needed a powerful fire protection object just to survive long enough to worry about who lived there.  And even if you did have such an item, the dread Moritheil might get you killed before you got back to the City of Brass or other destinations.

Other planes were more benign.  There was a plane of smoke where nothing was aggro.  You needed protection from gas to stay there for long, and you had to be flying to move around.  But it wasn’t a big deal.

The ironic twist in the whole planeshift spell was that the most dangerous place to shift to was the prime material plane, which was basically the world where we all were most of the time anyway.

The thing was that, while shifting to the other planes was sort of random, there were limited locations that allowed it, and none were at the big mobs that I recall, shifting to prime could stick you in any room that allowed teleport.  And there were a lot of dangerous rooms which fit that bill.

At one point, when I was last “done” with the game, I used to take my level 50 druid and play what I called “the corpse game.”

I would pile on a bunch of coins and maybe some good gear and then planeshift between smoke and prime until I landed in a room with something I couldn’t solo and died.  Then people would have to find my corpse in order to claim the loot.

I think the most times it took me to die was 10 shifts to prime, which given the number of possible rooms, says something.  And I did it enough times to fall back to level 47, losing a quarter of a level of exp with each death.

So what other dangerous travel methods or devices have there been in MMOs?

Memories, Timelines, and the Bigger Picture May 8, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Ancient Gaming, entertainment.
Tags: , , , ,
7 comments

There is a horribly worn out old book on the book shelf in my office.  It is a soft-bound copy of The Twentieth Century – An Almanac.

The Twentieth Century: An Almanac

The cover in good condition

I used to pick up that book and read through sections all of the time, to the point that the book looks very worn out.  There wasn’t anything particularly startling or new or exciting about the content of the book, except that it was history, which I enjoy.

What drew me to the book was the format.

At its heart, the book is a simple listing of details, year by year, decade by decade, in chronological order, without breaking them out into the usual topics.  So rather than reading just about WWII or the Great Depression or any other events that we tend to look at in a vacuum, everything is woven together, giving a better sense, to my mind, of the complexity and parallel nature of history.

There are always a lot of things going on at once.  Just because the Korean War was going on did not stop politics, the arts, diplomacy, and a whole host of other conflicts, brewing, in progress, or otherwise, from continuing apace.  The world never stops.

Of course, the book’s title is a bit misleading.  As it was published in 1985, it was only an almanac of roughly 84% of the 20th century.  And since no update or revision was ever done, the 20th century ends with Reagan’s re-election, while the Cold War continues on.

Still, I enjoyed the book immensely.  I have never found another work that combined the detail and parallel flows of history so well.

And to a certain degree, that book influences what I have ended up trying to do with this blog.  Part of the blog is a chronicle of my own gaming adventures.  But I also try to include bigger events, things that are landmarks in the time stream of gaming, not because I aspire to be a news site, but because they indicate what else was going on in the field.

It is an attempt to make my own almanac of gaming I suppose.

After the cut, there are lots of words about the distortion of memory, old games, and what I was playing when in a general sense, along with some charts.  The charts are an attempt to provide a framework for memory, and are a work in progress themselves.

You have been warned.

(more…)

The First Computer Game I Ever Played May 3, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Ancient Gaming, entertainment.
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12 comments

Not an arcade video game.  I think I played Pong first.

But an actual, sit down at the terminal, computer game.

It was Star Trek.

A friend’s dad had to go into the office one weekend and brought us along to show us the game that somebody had put on the accounting computer.  He left us to poke at it while he went off and did his work.  A clear waste of government resources back in an age when most people didn’t really know what a video game was, outside of Pong and Tank, and where the idea of a computer game probably would not have occurred to them.

It was a very simple game.  You were tasked to clear out the galaxy of hostile elements with a limited set of resources.

Star Trek in vt52

Star Trek in vt52

It was a pivotal moment in my life.  We were entranced.

I am sure the fact that it was called Star Trek, and represented the Enterprise fighting Klingons helped.  Star Trek was a big deal at the time, which was at least a year before Star Wars.  Maybe two.  It also pre-dated my Atari 2600.

We had such a good time with the game that my friend and I ended up creating a board game version of it so we could play at home.  We were engrossed.  It was the first in a series of games we created by piecing together the mechanics we discovered from other games.  Our home version got more complex over time.

It also got us to go out with horded allowance money to buy games like Star Fleet Battles as time went on, both to play them and to see how they dealt with spaceship combat.  There was even a foray in to naval miniatures rules and the like.  It was a heady time.

Anyway, I bring this up because over at The Register, the have a short piece up about the history of the original Star Trek game as part of the Antique Code Show series.

The Age of the Discriminating Vendor January 23, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Ancient Gaming, entertainment, Rift, TorilMUD.
Tags: , ,
14 comments

Another one of those posts that starts with “back in the day…” and which recounts how things used to be during the stone age of online gaming.  Writing about it is not necessarily advocating for its return, but it certainly made things different.  Anyway, on to it…

Back in the day, back in TorilMUD, there were things that were very different than we see them now in modern MMORPGs, and there were things that were very much the same.

All text, all the time

It was all text, all the time back then

One thing that was the same was money.

Everybody needed it, the economy needed it, but nobody started out with any and the only real way to get any was to kill NPCs that spawned in the world for their loot.

There were also quests.  But quests were not very common, annoying to find, and could be frustratingly difficult to complete.  I have gone into the way questing used to be back in the day.  There was nobody standing around waiting to tell you to kill ten rats.  And the end result was more often an item than any money.

So that left murdering the residents of the world and looting their still warm corpses as the only real money making enterprise.

Wholesale slaughter would get you some coins.  But for the most part that was a pretty slow way to earn money, at least at lower levels.  Later, in a leveling group in place like the pirate ship, a good group could end up with a nice pile of cash.

But you, new adventurer, won’t be doing that or zones or anything of the sort for a long while.

And that went double for elves and half elves who started on the Island of Evermeet, in the elvish city of Leuthilspar and were stuck there for the first 20 levels of their career.  I will focus on the plight of the elves, since that is what I am most familiar with.

So to supplement the tiny trickle of coins, you would have to also grab whatever else your victims were carrying.  Swords, bits and pieces or armor and clothing, random items of junk, whatever you could pry from their cold, dead fingers.  You would collect all of this to sell to one of the many vendors in Abeir-Toril.

As a young citizen of Leuthilspar, you would head out to Kobold Village or the Faerie Forest in search of adventure, experience, and loot.  At least, once you figured out how to get there.  Eventually, if you were successful… by which I generally mean that you did not die and have to go find your corpse in the dark… you would have a pile of coins and some items to vendor.

In Kobold Village there was a couple of vendors, but as your became more seasoned you began to notice that those vendors paid very little for your items.   That was the way of the world.  The buy and sell prices from vendors were influence by your race, your class, your charisma stat, and the general level of wickedness of the person who created the zone.

The young elvish adventurer could make much more money, multiples of what the stingy vendors out in the world were offering, if said adventurer just dragged all of that loot back to a vendor in Leuthilspar.

The key was, which vendor.

Leuthilspar Locations

Leuthilspar Locations (click to embiggen)

The good part was that all the vendors were pretty close to the square at city center and near to the bank.

The down side was that the vendors were all pretty picky about what they would buy.  Your options were:

1 – Talidnal’s Goods and Supply Shop – Sold random supplies like rations and small bags, would buy miscellaneous items of the same sort.  You had to sell the red feather from the traveling faerie here.

2 – The Weapon Shop of Leuthilspar – Bought and sold weapons and only weapons.  Notable for being one of the vendors with special responses.  Would point out in all caps that this was weapon shop if you tried to sell something else and would claim that they could buy items flagged “no value” because they just bought a Doombringer earlier.

3 – The Scribe Shop of Leuthilspar – Sold scroll, including the scroll of identify.  These cost 2 platinum coins, which was more than any new player could afford, but which was the only way to see the full stats and information on any given item.  Except, of course, if the item was flagged as “no identify,” in which case you just wasted 2 plat.

4 – Silyonlanster’s Fine Gems and Jewels – Sold some gems that had no purpose I ever found, and would buy any gems you happened to have.

5 – Norlan’s Pet Shop – Bought nothing as far as I could tell, but would sell you a very expensive pet that would fight for you and which would be gone forever if it died… or if you logged off.  A lot of us bought one of these exactly once.

6 – The Armorer of Leuthilspar – Sold some very heavy bronze armor and would buy anything flagged as armor, which did not include leather armor from Kobold Village or the Cloak of Forest Shadows.

7 – The Leviathan Shipwright – Sold rafts and canoes for crossing water.  You just had to have one in your inventory (but not in a container) for them to work.  Would buy them back at a deep discount.

8 – The Green Griffon Pub – Sold alcoholic beverages.  Never bought anything I had to sell.

9 – Tilanthra’s Shop of Alchemy – Bought and sold potions.

10 – The Magic Shop of Leuthilspar – Sold a number of scrolls and wands, despite there already being a scroll shop.  Would only buy wands and the like.  This is where you would sell that Wand of Thunderous Rage that was in the garbage heap and which never worked for me over the last 15 years.

11 – Morlanthrtilan’s Fine Clothier – Had nothing for sale as I recall, but would buy that leather armor from Kobold Village that the armor shop turned its nose up at.

12 – The Blue Dragon Inn and Restaurant – Sold oddly specific and very expensive food at various times and would buy, for reasons I could never determine, arrows and quarrels.

13 – Qulazoral’s Barrels and More – Sold you a skin or a barrel of water after your first issued water skin evaporated after you emptied it (I think they finally fixed that) but before you finally got a flagon from Bandor.  Would buy liquid containers, if you ever found one.

There were some other vendors in town.  Each guild had a vendor that might give you a few more coins for specific items.  But in general, it was vendor row on main street that handled your needs.  You just needed to run around a lot until you figured out who bought what.  It helped that what vendors purchased ended up in their inventory for sale again, a feature I miss, and which was last seen in EverQuest as I recall.

And even then you would end up with a few items that no vendor would purchase, but which were not flagged “no value.”  There were a few items I would have to travel to Mithril Hall, way up in the north beyond Neverwinter, in order to vendor.  I think the dead rat was on that list.

Still, in some ways, the elves did not have it so bad.  The vendors gave decent prices and were all centrally located.  This was not necessarily the case in Waterdeep or Baldurs gate, and good luck selling things way down in Calimport.

And vendors in Leuthilspar never closed.  Elves don’t need sleep.  In other towns vendors would often close for some or all of the night cycle of a given day.  The time translation was one real world minute for one game hour, so you might end up sitting in a shop for 6 or 8 or 12 minutes waiting for the vendor to open up again.

And with all of that, you still ran the risk of selling something of value to other players… something you could sell or trade… to a vendor without knowing.  As I mentioned above, you needed a scroll of identify to see what an item did.  There were no stats on demand and equipment was not color coded by the now standard formula (gray, white, green, blue, purple) to indicate relative worth.  Of course, once you sold the item to a vendor, it cost you a lot more to buy it back.  It seemed that vendors were in the business of making money… or at least acting like they were there to make money as opposed to just being a place to dump your crap.

Today though, we can see it all.  Stats show up when we hover the cursor over and item, and it will even show what we have equipped in the relevant slot so we can instantly compare.  Items names are color coded, as noted above.  And not only will vendors buy just about anything you have (and sell it back to you at the same price if sold something by mistake) but we are at the point in games like Rift where there is a button that will automatically sell all of your “trash” grade loot to the vendor with a single press.

As I said at the top, I am not exactly hankering to go back to the way vendors used to be.  But it is interesting to see how much has changed, and one wonders if it was all for the better.