Nostaliga Moment of the Day – Lemonade November 28, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Ancient Gaming, entertainment.
Tags: Apple II, Lemonade
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.
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, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Ancient Gaming, entertainment.
Tags: CompuServe, GEnie, Kesmai, MegaWars III, Nostalgia, 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.)
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.
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.
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, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Ancient Gaming, entertainment, Other PC Games.
Tags: Delta Force, NovaLogic, Starsiege: Tribes, Steam, Voxels
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And there were even tinier 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.
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.
Quote of the Day – On Existence Before MUD1 June 14, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Ancient Gaming, entertainment, MUDs.
Tags: MUD1, Quote of the Day, Richard Bartle
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.)
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, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Ancient Gaming, entertainment, EverQuest, TorilMUD, World of Warcraft.
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.
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.
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, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Ancient Gaming, entertainment.
Tags: blah blah blah, Charts and Graphs, GEnie, George Clooney, Misty water colored memories
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.
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.
The First Computer Game I Ever Played May 3, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Ancient Gaming, entertainment.
Tags: Star Trek
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.
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, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Ancient Gaming, entertainment, Rift, TorilMUD.
Tags: Leuthilspar Tales, MMO Economy, Vendor Trash
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.
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.
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.
Wielding The Dead Rat January 8, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Ancient Gaming, entertainment, EverQuest, TorilMUD, World of Warcraft.
Tags: Dead Rat, Equipment, Faerie Forest
Way back in the TorilMUD days… and back before then I am sure… I began to subscribe to the “no empty slots” theory of equipment.
Basically, in your typical RPG/MUD/MMO, your character has a set number of equipment slots. They vary from game to game, but generally correspond to the basics of an armor set. And since anything equipped in one of those slots is likely to add something to your character… a little more armor, or maybe a stat bonus…. there is no reason to leave a slot empty.
In TorilMUD, and especially in equipment impoverished Leuthilspar, where elves and half-elves started, when you were starting out, you would wear anything. For example, there was one good ring you could acquire as a young elf… the pearl ring… which actually boosted your armor by 4. That wasn’t much on the 100 to -100 scale that was used back in the day (100 was a completely unarmored, inert character, while -100 was the best you could get, and they related to the % dice rolled for a hit) but it was something.
However, the pearl ring was coveted because of this, and it only showed up once per boot, so if you didn’t get to the mob carrying it (an elf in town, who would be assisted by guards if they were around, so you had to take care) you were out of luck.
So a lot of us wandered around with another item on in the ring slot, a piece of string. It came from the Goblin’s trash pile in the Faerie Forest.
All the piece of string did was help your save versus paralysis. But that was better than nothing, right? Who knows when you might need that boost to your save! (Realistically, by the time you needed it, you had ditched the string for something else. But you didn’t know that at the time, and had probably forgotten all about that string when you were standing, paralyzed by those vines south of Waterdeep, slowly waiting to die.)
Because that is the way it went… and the way it goes today. First you get some piece of equipment to fill a slot, because something is better than nothing. Then when you find another item for a given slot, it becomes a comparison; is this new thing better? Early on those decisions are usually pretty easy.
Eventually you wind up at higher levels and having to compare the relative merits of one set of stats versus another. In TorilMUD with the melee classes it was always the trade off of +hit versus +damage, or strength versus dexterity versus agility, or armor class versus stats.
In the early days, in TorilMUD or EverQuest or even early World of Warcraft, getting equipment was haphazard early on. Since then the process has been bound to quests. Following the quest chain keeps your armor at an appropriate level and likely even offers up armor that is specifically for your vocation.
But things have essentially remained the same. You get your first piece of equipment for a given slot, then spend your career upgrading it.
What seems to have gone missing somewhere is the equipment with bad stats that off-set some great boost for your class.
From TorilMUD I recall the Polished Bone equipment that had good armor and a boost to strength, but penalized dexterity, which in turn could impact your hit roll. Or the Dolomite armor set that had great armor, but which was very heavy. If you were not maximum strength and playing a strong race (ogres, trolls, or barbarians), the weight of the set would not only eat up your movement points, but could impact your agility to the point that it would start reducing your armor class.
There was a green gemstone earring that was -4 strength, but which granted protection from fire. If you were going to the Plane of Fire or the City of Brass, you often needed to take the strength hit to go to those places.
There were equipment items that covered other slots. There were “whole head” helms that prevented you from wearing something in the face slot, and “whole body” armor pieces that took up the chest, leg, and arm slots and which favored one stat, usually armor class, over all others.
And then there was the dead rat.
Actually, I think it was actually called “a very dead rat.”
This was another item from the Goblin’s trash pile. It was wieldable as a 1h blunt weapon, but had a very low damage roll and had an -10 to hit modifier. So it was a really bad weapon, and heavy to boot a I recall, but a lot of tanks kept one stashed away in his bag for specific situations.
If you were facing a mob that was unbashable and had a damage shield up, that dead rat might save the day. Generally, with a damage shield mob, you waited for the shield to go down and when the mob began casting the spell for the shield, you would knock it down with a bash and keep it down so the shield was not a problem.
But if you could not bash the mob, then there was trouble. Every hit by a melee class on that shield causes damage to the attacker. I have seen hasted rangers kill themselves in a couple of rounds attacking a shielded mob. So you either had to have a magical solution that would protect melee classes from the shield, or you had to kill the mob with ranged attacks only.
However, you still needed a tank. If the tank wielded that dead rat, and maybe shed a bit of hit enhancing gear, you might get by with the tank missing enough that your healer could keep up with the damage.
Not an ideal solution, but the dead rat gave the possibility of an alternative solution.
Do we still have that in MMORPGs today? The item with a bad stat that is useful in certain specific situations?
I realize that with dungeons and raiding that players may favor a given stat or protection, but that is a trade off of one bonus against another. I am looking more for taking a serious hit in order to meet a goal.
Is there a dead rat left to wield in games today?
20 Games that Defined the Apple II January 3, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Ancient Gaming, entertainment.
Tags: Apple II, I could make a little list, Lists, YouTube
A little video my friend Scott sent me.
The games shown are, in chronological order:
- Ultima I
- Castle Wolfenstein
- Lode Runner
- Cavern Creatures
- King’s Quest
- Impossible Mission
- The Oregon Trail
- The Bard’s Tale
- Might and Magic
- California Games
- Maniac Mansion
- Prince of Persia
- Battle Chess
Not a bad list. A lot of the games on it were on multiple systems, so I think they more define computer games in the 1980s rather than the Apple II specifically. But not bad. I played most of them.
If I were making the list I would probably strike Battle Chess and California Games from the list, as they came so late in the the cycle. Prince of Persia is a bit questionable for me as well, as I played it on the Mac much later on. But Wasteland was the last Apple II game I ever bought, so that plays into it. What defined Apple II games for me came much earlier in the life of the platform
Instead I would add Aztec and probably Autoduel. I would also substitute in Epoch (which doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry) for Elite, Ultima III in for Ultima I (which I think was just a better, more popular game), and probably Seven Cities of Gold for one of the over-represented-on-the-list RPGs. And I would have a strong desire to get F-15 Strike Eagle in there somewhere. And Pinball Construction Set. And Taipan! as well.
There is the problem with making such lists. I can look at all those Apple II games and pull out quite a few great ones.
And, as a side note, Oregon Trail is one of the games in the video I never played.
At least not on the computer.
Instead, that was a game we played as a teacher driven role playing game when I was in 7th grade. True to the spirit however, when people refer to playing the video game version it sounds exactly like our role play version. As young boys, my friends and I all loaded up our wagon with guns and as much ammo as possible and most of us went on to die of dysentery.