davidn: (prince)

Team Hatoful finished our playthrough of Undertale (quite some time ago, actually - it just took me this long to finally edit together the final part) and it's now up as a playlist on Youtube. At 45 videos totalling fifteen and a half hours of the game, it's our longest playthrough ever (narrowly beating Holidaystar which was about 15h 10min but did it across 48 videos).

Thanks, Toby Fox, for your characters and amazing world!
davidn: (rant)
I just remembered about something very weird that happened to me a long time ago. When I first came to live in America in 2006, I had two suitcases of possessions, and a desktop computer was not among them - my personal computer was an increasingly eccentric bulky laptop that was built in 1998. After moving into our flat and ordering furniture, household things and computer parts, I chose to spend the time with my limited computer power writing a ZZT game. This became Castle of ZZT, and with the time I was forced to spend on it combined with the way that I actually drew a plan out before starting, it was by far my best effort in this department (though this might not be saying much).

The weird part was after I submitted it to Z2, the premier site for both ZZT and impenetrable lunacy at the time. Games went into an approval queue that was publically visible before being added to the site, to make sure they weren't spam, and I checked to see if it had been accepted once in a while. But on one check, I saw my uploaded ZIP had been replaced with one that had a different file size - and there was also a new ZIP that was called "castle_of_zzt_use_this_one_instead.zip" or something along those lines.

Both ZIPs contained an altered version of the game, which I saved because I was so baffled by it. This is what you get after starting it up:

Curiously, the "OF" has been removed from the title screen. The same has been done to the scroll that you pick up in the first room - the game's title is changed to just "CASTLE ZZT".

Messing around with the first part of the game, I don't notice any other obvious differences, though I haven't looked very closely because it's quite long. But slightly later on, things get strange. The castle has a large central staircase (which I could have made less awkward to navigate, looking back), which allows you to take several routes at the start of the game from the first and second floors, and you'll get a key to access the stairs up from the second floor at some point.

In the actual game, these stairs lead to an aerial view of two towers, which contains a puzzle that you have to plan ahead for.

But in the altered version, a third floor has been added instead. It's decorated in red, convincingly in the same style (using the same kind of "splat a KevEdit gradient background on it" aesthetic that I used throughout the rest of the game).

The boards are all named "Third Floor" with cardinal direction markers afterward so that the mysterious editor could keep track of where the rooms lay. The floor is laid out as a largely empty maze of twisting passages that are consistent but not logically laid out - you can loop around by going north or south. But if you keep heading roughly northwest, you can progress.

The next few boards are called "Free Will", but they continue the red and grey corridor theme with no apparent differences from the Third Floor boards. You have to pick either the east or south passage here - going south will dump you back near the entrance, going east will take you to another long corridor - which has some strange cracks at the end...

The corridor ends at this strange board, which is called "Free Will EEE". It contains a red circle/boulder that says "Y2" when you touch it (Colossal Cave again!), a guard programmed to let you through the blue "gate" of sliders for nine gems, and what appears to be "Snoop Doggw" written in yellow walls beyond that. Underneath is a nest of tigers, a small river and some ammo. The border of the room breaks down at the bottom left, but if it's meant to be saying something I can't tell what it is (enqn?)

Going south from here brings you to this place, a surprisingly detailed outdoor scene with shadowy round trees that displays the text above when you enter it. (The "fake wall" message is part of ZZT itself.) The tone of the dialogue is strange - was it copied from another game file? And going south from here...

...you reach the end of the game, which is my own "THE END" message from the end of Castle of ZZT, shifted up on the board a bit with the red/grey type of background from above added. And then it ends - no further clues are offered. This is the only way to finish the game, as the boards that would have let you escape the intended route south from the main entrance have been deleted or overwritten.

After discovering the switch of files I asked the site's admin, who I think at the time was Quantum P., and he helped put the real version up - but I saved this oddity to preserve it. The readme accompanying the ZZT world file was left intact, and my name was still on the game with no other credit added. With the game largely unaltered at the start, was the idea to make people think that they were playing my game and then for it to appear that I'd gone mad halfway through? That's my only guess - they had clearly put a fair amount of effort into whatever it was they were doing, but I never worked out who this was or why they did it.
davidn: (prince)

Right, King's Quest III - you've been playing around with me for far too long but this time I'm going to finish you once and for all.

Finishing it once and for all )
davidn: (skull)

When we left Gwydion, in stark contrast to his situation at the end of most of the other updates in this adventure, we had landed in Daventry and things were full of promise. At least, they had been until I walked on to a screen that resembled a special marathon edition of the awful pointless mountain path obstacle course that was the front path to our house. Shall we just hope that it doesn't go on too long?

It's already not looking good )
davidn: (prince)

Our sixth update, leading into what you might broadly call the second part of the game, opens with a hornpipe being bleeped to us over the three-channel Tandy sound chip (from which I will spare you) and a cutscene without you involved (which I don't think has happened before in a King's Quest game, although I could be wrong). Well, it's the ship scrolling from left to right, but it's something.

Pirating continues )
davidn: (prince)

I seem to have a habit of signing off these updates with our hero Gwydion either dead or very close to it. But I think we were on to something last time, so let's reanimate his component atoms once again and see if we can keep going.

First, let's take a look at this cookie.

Oh, no wonder he noticed something was wrong - that's pathetic. I thought the great Sorcery of Old would be able to produce something that actually looked like it was meant to be a cookie, not something a three year old battered into shape with Play-Doh and whatever they found lying around on the living room carpet. Some sort of disguise is going to be necessary.

Let's have some magic! )
davidn: (skull)

When we left Gwydion last time, he was in a bit of a dire situation, lost in the desert with time swiftly running out.

Even though I'd wandered into this zone and then back out again fairly easily when I tested it before getting these screenshots, I wasn't having much luck getting back this time. I went to the corner of the screen and scrolled around in a panic for a while before...

...oh, I forgot about the map.

That was much simpler than I thought. Here we are, out of danger once more - or at least, out of the immediate one. We've still got to get everything tidied away before Manananan wakes up, and very limited time to do it!

Not pictured: Several instances of dying on this rubbish screen because of that stupid boulder.

Back at the house, we tidy everything away - we didn't disturb the wand or the lab this time - and verify that Manannan is still asleep in his frilly bedroom. It isn't long before...

He pops in to tell you he's awake, then back out again, giving him the chance to reduce you to ashes if anything is still out of place. Fortunately we were more careful this time.

You have to wait around for a while being unable to do anything of much use, so this is a good opportunity to show you the debug screen. If you press Alt+D, you get a couple of messages about the version of AGI we're running on, and then a display of the room number in the lower right along with a couple of unimportant things like a letter H appearing when Gwydion is in the middle of an animation and out of control of the player. However, you can now see the interesting bit by typing WIZ STATUS...

This shows some information about Manannan, some of which makes more sense to the programmers (like the specific ID of his status) but which gives players some important information as well, showing what he's doing, how long it's going to be before he changes status, and if you need to do anything before that happens (if you have a chore, it will say something like "You have 2:55 without him to feed the chickens"). The timer isn't completely accurate here, as there's a random grace period after it runs out before he makes his appearance, but I don't think it ever errs the other way and shows more time than you think you have.

I was a bit surprised when I saw my last chore was dusting his office because I didn't think I'd done that at any time during this playthrough, but it's possible that I did that in one of my many restarts to get screenshots and this is the save that happened to survive.

A bit after two minutes and forty-four seconds later, Manannan teleports in. To my surprise he announces he's leaving, even though I thought the next step was to give us another chore - nevertheless, I'm not complaining. We should have until the game timer hits 1 hour and 30 minutes until we have to be back.

So, once again we use the map to get back into Llewdor, this time into one of the few screens we haven't seen yet - this little cottage south of the mountain. Let's see if anyone's home.

Oh... that can't be good.

In another surprising "not dead" moment, this giant bear wearing a hat and dungarees kicks us off the doorstep, Gwydion's head spins a bit but otherwise he suffers no ill-effects whatsoever. Clearly we're going to have to use some cunning to distract him in order to get into the house.

No, of course we aren't - as usual we just wander out of the screen and back in again until this happens. There are a few different states for the bears, but they're not based on any sort of time like the wizard is - when you enter, they can either be home, out, returning, leaving, or Mother Bear can be out tending to the flowers (and will similarly biff you off the screen if you tread near her). If they're leaving the house when you get near, you're safe to stroll in and do what you like.

And what else would three bears have in their house?

Look, you know how the rest of this is going to go - I'll save you the time.

Upstairs looks pretty much as you would expect as well. There's one more thing we have to get here before we set ourselves up to quite rightly be thrown out for entering someone's house without permission.

The thimble, oddly, is starred as a forbidden item in your inventory. It's used in the creation of at least one spell, but seriously, doesn't a thimble have more obvious innocent uses as well? I hear Gwydion had to take over at short notice after Manannan caught the last wizard-slave red-handed darning a sock.

Anyway. We don't have to do this next part and it offers us no points, but things just seem to be going that way.

After Gwydilocks makes a forced exit carried upside-down out of the house, we now have everything that we need for the moment. There's an interesting-looking spell in the Sorcery of Old called "Transforming Another into a Cat" that we now have all the ingredients for, so let's head back early, open up the lab again and get things prepared before our favourite git-wizard gets back.

Just like the last time Mananann was away, we open up the lab again and head down. While checking the manual for this coming spell, I realized I actually got the dispelling-incantation (decantation?) wrong for reversing the fly transformation - it was meant to be "Fly begone, myself return". Perhaps there is a certain amount of forgiveness built in, a word that until recently I thought was foreign to Sierra.

Let's make a start. Following the procedure from the manual...



Oh, bugger.

You know what image it's time for now. [livejournal.com profile] kjorteo, help me out here...

Thanks very much.

Let's try that again...

That didn't work either and ended the game as well.

These were also failures.

Finally, this worked - but it gave me a message that made me think that I hadn't done it right (there's no mention of measuring anything out with the deal of precision that we've been led to believe this takes, just dumping the whole thing into the mixing bowl!) and so I was unsure about whether I should continue. In some way, then, it's kind of welcome that the spell screen kicks you out at the slightest mistake, but in others, the parser is unbelievably restrictive, even considering that it's meant to be the copy protection. It seems that I was meant to PUT instead of POUR here - using the exact wording that's in the manual - and just didn't notice for ages.

That wouldn't be so bad, but the worst part of this screen is that if you use a verb that the game doesn't understand like that (therefore causing Gwydion to do nothing at all) it will fail you instantly and the spell will suddenly go disastrously wrong even if all you've got at that stage is a bit of lard in a bowl. If the tiniest mistakes in cooking caused such dire consequences I wouldn't be alive to write this playthrough-turned-extended-complaint.

In other words, I'm forced to eat the words that I wrote before about any sort of forgiveness.

This recipe doesn't sound very appetizing. Still, there's not long to go now...

And now all we have to do is wave the wand and we're finished!


One reload later, we do all of the above again, recite the incantation from the manual, wave the wand that we've remembered about this time, and our reward is this cookie. Magic is harder than it looks.

Let's test it out!

It worked! Oh, I didn't think that through. Time to reload again.

Manannan will be home in ten minutes, so we'll take the opportunity to tidy up while we can. This time absolutely everything's definitely back in the right place, and we just have to wait around until he arrives.

So, Master of Orion - that was a good game, wasn't it. Sort of like Civilization in space, but also somehow completely different.

I never understood the kind of people who played as humans in these kinds of games, given the opportunity to be a race of cats or eagle-people or even just awesome robot things. To be fair, each race has a special advantage unique to them and the humans are the expert diplomats, but still, I can't help but judge people as being just boring if they pick them. However, I speak as someone with a giant rabbit suit in the closet so my view might not be universal. I'll choose the Sakkra, a race of anthropomorphic chamaeleons.

You're given four screens of this on opening the game, which is absolutely overpowering - but the game is much more straightforward than it appears here. You colonize planets, you increase their population and build up the industry to produce more things faster, and spread throughout the galaxy.

This is home sweet home Sssla, which defaults to spending points on industry and ecology (on the right) - I've added some science so that we can get that going.

One turn later, the royal scientist turns up, not wearing any clothes for some reason (the racial advantage for the Sakkra is quick population growth - maybe that's why, it saves time.) Technologies are futher subdivided into six groups - computers, weapons, propulsion and I can't remember the rest. You can balance the amount of effort you're spending on each group in a separate screen, but for now, this one allows you to select a specific technology to work towards within each group.

We started off with a couple of scouts and a colony ship, so let's get exploring the universe - our nearest planet isn't great but it's habitable. There are a lot of different planet types in the game - some of the less ideal ones like Desert and Ocean support life with a reduced maximum population, but some are entirely dead and need colony ships with special equipment to populate them. On top of that, planets have properties as well - this one has technological artifacts, giving a very nice boost to technology points produced here. I'll have it!

I love the little spaceman that walks on to the screen every time you start a colony, planting a flag in the ground and claiming this land for our people.

Your ships always have limited range, which can be restrictive at the start of the game - you can only venture three parsecs from your closest colony. The scout ships have a bonus here, though, because they have reserve fuel tanks, adding three more parsecs to their range.

Unfortunately the other planets around us are looking pretty dismal. This one's barren, meaning I can't colonize it without researching how, and it has the Hostile property so the population growth is halved due to them all having to wear giant all-over prophylactic rubber spacesuits all the time.

However, making the best of a bad situation, the technology to colonize barren planets isn't far off. Unfortunately researching this doesn't automatically let you colonize them - you have to specifically design a ship with the right component to do it.

So let's go into ship design. You can only have six types active at a time, which is very restrictive - in my experience none of the starting ones are any good once you're past the beginning stages, so let's scrap everything but the scout and start them over.

The ship design screen also has a billion things on it, with all kinds of areas available for upgrade. Your weapons are in the middle, with up to four bays, and you have special components near the bottom there. If you need to increase your reach early in the game, you can redesign the colony ship with the reserve fuel tanks that feature on the scouts - but at this early stage it's very expensive to do so.

There's something interesting about the tech level in this game - as you spend more points on the different areas, in addition to achieving the obvious chosen advances, the 'size' value for existing technology slowly decreases to represent improvements in miniaturization. Therefore, later in the game, you'll be able to stuff much more into the same-size ship than you could with all the vaccuum tubes and harpsichords that had to go into the old ones. For now, having reserve fuel tanks and any sort of colony space will only fit on a Huge-sized ship.

It also pays to add some kind of defenses, and - oh, Manannan's back.

If he appears on this screen when he returns to eat, you have to leave and come back again before he's actually sitting at the table. I don't say that as a complaint, just an observation.

Here's a nice tasty snack!

Doo de doo de doo, nothing suspicious happening here.

Oh... as soon as you enter the room carrying the cookie, Manannan notices that you've been up to mischief, stands on the bench and vaporizes you. Indeed, it's marked as a forbidden item in the inventory. So next time, we're going have to have to come up with some sort of cunning plan to get him to eat this without noticing.

Or we could just walk in and out of the room until he doesn't see it. I don't know.

davidn: (rabbit)

When we left our hero last time, he was a pile of dust on the floor of the kitchen, leaving not much room for further exploration. So I've rewound time a bit - let's do this the right way this time.

Wand, cupboard, at the same angle as we found it. (Not really on that last part, mercifully.) I'm surprised but glad that the Sorcery of Old does not describe a "Who's had their hands on this wand since I last touched it" spell.

More magic under here )
davidn: (prince)

Llet's take another trip to Llewdor, lland of magic and mystery. Llast time we started to hatch a plan to free us from slavery to Mnnananan, taking advantage of his back being turned and discovering the key to some powerful magic that could help us defeat him. We've still got some time before the prickwizard returns from his conference on smashing puppies with hammers or whatever, so let's head south and get off this mountain!

I forgot LJ cuts existed last time )
davidn: (prince)

[livejournal.com profile] kjorteo has been doing a great playthrough of the Dagger of Amon Ra recently (and also up to three years ago), walking through the game and finding out where it succeeds and (far more often) fails as a mystery and an adventure game. I'd eventually like to do something along the same lines for the game that came before it, The Colonel's Bequest - I once started a video of it, but it consisted of about an hour and a half of wandering around accomplishing nothing at all and then falling into a pond.

Therefore, I'm going to rewind a little further, and as I've been playing a couple of the earliest King's Quest games out of curiosity, I wanted to bring you the experience of King's Quest 3, and my thoughts on its game mechanics, unique touches and unfortunate Sierra-ness. You can bet I'm using a walkthrough, because these games are irritating at best otherwise.

The reason I want to show off King's Quest 3 in particular is that it's a very unusual adventure game even today, bravely displaying a dramatic difference from the mould set by the first two games. No, you can still screw yourself over by eating vital inventory that you'll need later, missing a pixel-high item with no hinting that it's your last chance to get it or die by tripping over a cat and falling down the stairs - what do you think you're playing, a game written by a reasonable person? But the new mechanic is obvious from the moment you start the game:

Up on the status bar there, along with the score that hangs over your head in most Sierra games, is a timer. You need to pay attention to this so that you can prepare to meet certain deadlines in the game - you need to have specific items in certain places at certain times, or you'll die in a Sierra move that will surprise absolutely nobody - but considering their usual degree of helpfulness, I'm surprised they just didn't expect you to work out the schedule for yourself and then keep a million bits of paper to keep track of time across saves.

Here's the reason you need to keep track of time:

Manannan. In King's Quest 3, your character is at the opposite end of the social spectrum from the previous two games - you play not as a knight or king of the realm, but as Gwydion, a slave boy in an evil wizard's house. Evil Mananaan and his evil pointy hat will appear with an evil music cue on his evil Walkman to interrupt your adventuring throughout the game, and our overarching objective is to defeat him - but you have to make preparations for this surreptitiously and not let him catch you in the act. Fortunately this wizard's schedule is inhumanly regular, so as long as you keep it in mind, you'll have time to hide the evidence of your actions.

The beginning of the cycle, which happens just a few seconds after starting the game, is this:

Manannan gives you one of a set of randomly chosen chores. None of these are complicated at all, but you have to get them done within three minutes, and there are certain parts of the house that you can be punished for entering unless it's specifically required for you to be there. In another absolute godsend, you can now alter your walking pace after having spent 99% of the previous games plodding at a snail's pace throughout the large game worlds looking for something to do - the available options are stupidly slow (the default), nonsensically slow, stupidly fast, and just about right (the setting described as "fast"). These speed changes don't affect the timer, it just seems to be the speed of animations and Gwydion's walking pace - so I'm going to be playing on the fast mode for most of the time.

Even without taking advantage of our increased speed, this particular task is easy enough - all we have to do is go outside (down from our current screen) and feed the chickens.

The wizard's house is on top of a cliff that overlooks the lland of Llwedor, an attempt at a Welsh setting this time around by the Williams partners-in-crime. You can't go beyond here just yet - if you leave this screen and try to go down the mountain, Manannan (whose name I think I'm just going to spell by hammering the A and N keys at random from now on for the sake of expediency) will appear and zap you back to the interior of the house.

Mnananan will check up on you occasionally by appearing for a moment in the room during this time, and if you delay beyond three minutes in completing a chore, he'll do something unpleasant to you.

Yes, he's turned Gwydion into a snail and reset his walking pace back to compete with King Graham's record for the slowest speed ever recorded by man. This punishment is also randomly chosen, and they all last for one boring minute or so, after which you pop back to normal. An unusual act of mercy for Sierra, not making the game silently unwinnable or killing you instantly, but having to sit through these punishments takes away precious time that you could be using for other things in the game.

There are two tiers of annoying Maananan - there are small transgressions like this that result in punishments, and large ones for which he'll zap you with magic and turn you to dust. But to avoid them both, we basically don't want to touch, fiddle with, disturb or interfere with anything in the house unless we've been told to.

Until this happens! At about the five-minute mark, Mnanananan will announce he's leaving. From this point until he returns twenty-five minutes later, you're free from supervision - so let's get going and run around the house madly with a cereal box on our head like Kevin in Home Alone.

First of all, here's the top of the tower, up the stairs from the previous screen. There's a large telescope here, not for looking at the skies but for spying on Llwedor's inhabitants - also of note is the dead fly on the floor. When you pick this up, Gwydion acts disgusted and opts only to keep the wings, as if that's any better.

Here's the wizard's bedroom on the middle floor. He doesn't normally like you snooping around, possibly embarrassed by his flamboyant Barbie Dream House magenta bed. In a nice touch, the mirror in this room works when you walk past it.

I think this is an unusual example of Sierra's picky and unhelpful attitude towards the player - if you try to OPEN DRAWER when you're right up against it, you get this message. You have to be standing not too close, but not too far away, to be able to open it.

You can also open the wardrobe (without being mocked for your lack of spatial awareness) and find a piece of parchment inside. Rather cruelly, you won't find this if you "search wardrobe" - it will tell you there are some clothes, shoes, and nothing else interesting. It's only when you LOOK BEHIND CLOTHES that you suddenly find this item.

As you can see, it isn't much use yet, but we'll come back to this later.

You can get a key by searching the top of the wardrobe, too, but you don't need to put in any effort to climb up to reach it despite Gwydion clearly being half the height necessary to have a hope of finding anything up there.

Overall, our haul from this room is the key, the parchment, a hand mirror from the vanity table, a bottle of rose petal essence from the drawer, and the knowledge that Maaanaan has terrible taste in modern art from the giant striped painting hanging on the wall.

Our own accommodations are at the other end of the floor and a bit more motel-level than the grand bedroom, with some drawers, half a mirror and a bed that's basically a plank with some sheets on it. We can't do anything here yet, but it will become an important location later.

As I make my way downstairs, I just want to take a moment to complain about the controls - there are a lot of screens around where you have to walk diagonally, and you have the ability to do this with the Home, Page Up/Down and End keys, but the angle that you walk at doesn't quite match up to the angle of the stairs - so to traverse them, you'll be spasming madly at the arrow keys while Gwydion continually crashes into the sides after making an inch of progress. At least you can't fall off anywhere... yet.

Here's the dining room, to the right of the downstairs room. We can get a cup from the table, but that's about it for now.

In comparison, we can absolutely ransack the kitchen. There's a loaf of bread, some fruit and mutton on the table (which in a nice touch you can scoop up all in one go by typing GET FOOD), and we can also pick up a spoon, knife and bowl from near the fireplace.

After looting the house, our inventory is getting to be a busy place. The starred items are special - in another uncharacteristically helpful move from Sierra, they denote the items that are dangerous to have in your inventory when the wizard is around. Honestly, this is most of them, with the exception of food and utensils. So let's move on quickly.

The last room in the house is MMAanananana's study. This is another room that you'll be punished for entering unless you have good reason to be there - which means it's got to have some really good stuff.

And here's a great example! The wand is our ticket out of here, but is also an incredibly dangerous item - most of the starred objects just have to be hidden by the time Mananaan gets back, but the wand absolutely has to be back in this cabinet with the door locked or you're going to be a very dead servant.

With that in mind, let's fiddle with some more things. Is that a copy of Bob's Big Book of Cliches that I see on the bookshelf over there?

Yes, it was. Let's take a look down here...

I think it's safe to say that we've found the wizard's secret lab! (Although we already knew we must have had one somewhere. There are limits as to how much evil you can conjure up just in your study with a pen and paper, unless you write for Breitbart of course.)

The shelves at the back hold all manner of hideous and foul ingredients, including the ghastly SAFFRON! Just between the Awful Apple Juice and the Horrifying Curry Powder.

In a spectacular return to form from the generous moment in the kitchen, there's no catch-all command to grab everything at once here - you have to memorize all the names from the list in that window and type them in individually. If you attempt to shorten them (such as using "GET NIGHTSHADE"), the game will sometimes - but not always - fail to recognize the item and say "You don't need it", which can be misleading.

There's one other very big interesting item in this room - let's take a look at this!

Or maybe let's not. If there's one thing that I'll give to Sierra games, they're usually pretty good at taking synonyms into account - for example, the wardrobe upstairs can be referred to as a CUPBOARD, CLOSET, WARDROBE and probably some other things as well, so I'm surprised that this term didn't make it in. LOOK BOOK gives us the following description.

At this point I became hugely confused, because the walkthrough I was using instructed me to open the book to page IV and to cast the spell on it. I had no idea how I was meant to know to use Roman numerals, other than by process of elimination after you realize you can't enter numbers on the command line (they're interpreted as directions as if you were using the numeric keypad). And I didn't know how I was supposed to work out I was meant to use page 4, either - but I took a look anyway:

So it looks like I've turned myself into a humanoid fly by accident. It turns out that everything to do with the spellbook is part of the game's copy protection, a more creative (but also more annoying) spin on the "Look up word 4 of paragraph 2 of page 7.png" approach that many games used at the time to make sure you had a physical copy of the manual. Like all instances of what we now know as DRM, this just made it impossible to play the game unless you had the manual on hand at all times and didn't lose it - fortunately, in this day and age, we have PDFs and ReplacementDocs, and you can follow what's going on by getting the King's Quest 3 manual from here: http://www.replacementdocs.com/download.php?view.595

Now that I have the spell in front of me, it looks like I do indeed have the ingredients required to turn into a fly - it's not exactly an ambitious start, but we all have to begin somewhere. Spells really do have to be entered very precisely with no room for mistakes. so they thoughtfully provided most of them in appalling handwriting that you have to squint to read. Nevertheless, let's see if we can work some magic.

Hold on, "a pinch" isn't very precise. What if you've got really big or small hands? And do you have to adjust depending on how much essence you're using? I don't think you've really thought this through.

After doing that first step, you're given this unusual prompt and you have to painstakingly copy the verse out of the book like some kind of typing tutor. At least it's more interesting than the reams of "a dad had a sad lad" that I had to plod through on the BBC Micro at school.

Wave the magic wand for the moment of truth, and we're going to... live!

We now have an inventory that I think is larger than the most items you could ever get in any previous King's Quest, most of it incredibly incriminating. And thanks to our newly found spellcasting skills, among our wheelbarrow of stuff is the Magic Rose Essence, our first magic item. I would show you what it does, but the walkthrough tells me that Sierra gave us only three chances to use the spell and we need them all. Wankers!

I'm going to wrap up this part when we make our way out of the house, but before we do that, we have a bit of cruelty to animals to perform first. (Don't worry, it's justified.) Let's go back upstairs...

OH, OH!! You might have noticed the cat skulking around in some of the screenshots before - he moves around the house at random, and if he appears on these stairs, he will cause you to fall and die if you get anywhere near him. The only way to get around this is to leave the screen the way you came, come back and hope he isn't there the next time. I will call him Wolf Heimlich.

Wolf Heimlich has another vital item that we're going to need later, and this is a good time to do it - it will also show off one of the more hateful moments of the game so far. You see, you can attempt to pick up the cat, which will usually result in this:

You get a few scratches for your trouble, and the cat runs off to another part of the room. There's no indication that you're on the right track, or that the same action will eventually work - faced with this in the absence of a walkthrough, I would have assumed that I need to build some sort of elaborate cat trap, perhaps with a tuna sandwich, a stick and a laundry basket. The real solution, though, is to just keep trying in the face of no progress. I've recreated the experience as best I can through screenshots alone:

Got it! That was terrible. There doesn't seem to be any pattern to this, it doesn't matter if you approach the cat from behind, the front, to the side, and it doesn't work better in particular parts of the room than others... there just seems to be an extremely small random chance that you'll be able to pick the cat up, and if the numbers aren't on your side, you get a message that might as well tell you to go away and try something else. Thanks, Sierra!


I didn't take screenshots of the first two windows at first, but I found to my delight that you can pick the cat up a second time as well (Gwydion has accumulated more scar tissue on his arms than actual arm at this point). With a nasty laugh, you pull a bit of Wolf Heimlich's fur out and he runs off in a ball of fury and hate.

By way of experiment, I found you could also "kick cat", with the same "SCREEEEECH (heh, heh, heh)" response.

There's one more thing I want to bring up before I forget - this is the first King's Quest game where saving and loading was bound to the function keys (F5 and F7) respectively, but not also to commands that you could type in. So when I habitually type SAVE:

You get a message which I frankly find a bit condescending.

Anyway. It's time to leave the house - let's take one more souvenir with us before we go down the mountain.

Chickens, being less intelligent and a lot less evil than cats, are much more happy to be picked up and to have their feathers plucked from them. Although I'm surprised there weren't any feathers just lying around - these hens keep a very neat coop.

And that's all for this time! We're leaving Gwydion with his temporary freedom and a bathtubload of incriminating evidence - in the next update, hopefully we'll have time to explore the wider game and not get killed.
davidn: (rabbit)

I miss journalling and I'm going to try some writing again - we'll see how it goes.

All the way back in 1997 or so, we got a modem installed in my dad's Pentium and had a computer capable of accessing the Internet for the first time. I used this primarily to play Quake, fascinated that I could play against thousands of people from all around the world (none of whom were particularly pleasant or literate). It was incredible at the time, but in the wake of my recent re-obsession with Doom, I've been playing through it again (through the Darkplaces source port) to see how it holds up today.

There are a lot of things that I didn't appreciate at the time - it was known as a true-3D successor to Doom, after its predecessor had used genius-tier workarounds to construct a 3D environment without having to actually render it that way - so the sudden move to full polygonal monsters, weapons and a greater freedom in level design felt like a revelation. In Doom, you could never have any level space above or below any other (so no bridges, platforms within a larger room, or even simple things like a shelf against a wall), though it was smoothly designed enough that you would be hard pressed to notice unless you were really looking. Quake lifted this restriction, and you can feel that the level designers are very enthusiastic about their newfound abilities, with platforms circling rooms, multi-tiered constructions and extensive use of the new underwater environments. One example I saw cited at the time in some magazine or other was in the secrets - they're no longer about running along walls hammering the space bar. In fact, the complete removal of the Use button means that there's more emphasis on shootable targets than before, and you have to look for buttons and switches on ceilings, floors, little ledges that you can sneak around, and so on.

There's something I miss compared to Doom, though, and that's demonstrated in Quake's choice of colour scheme. Well... brown. Going through the episodes again, it's a little less drab than I remember it being, but it still seems like a nudge in the wrong direction and an ill omen of the coffee-filtered look of modern first person shooters. However, I could be just saying that coming from Doom, which was madly colourful and anything was thrown in as a texture up to and including a photo of a motherboard and somebody's skinned knee.

Something that I'm surprised I didn't notice before is that the approach to enemies is really different from Doom. They're made of a mix of earthbound and floating ones like before, but what's different is the relationship between the hordes' numbers and strength. Doom was about being handed a weapon, a roomful of enemies and being invited to go berserk - if you have a rocket launcher and some explosive barrels, things blow up very quickly. In stark contrast to that, Quake's encounters are usually in smaller spaces with five or six monsters in an attack group at maximum - and some of the more agile ones like the Fiend are threatening enough on their own. The monsters are much stronger than Doom's - the few low-level monsters are found only on the first couple of levels of each episode, and the Ogre (probably the most common enemy, and the next step up from the Grunts) pretty much shrugs off a direct hit with a rocket. In fact, explosives are a lot less dangerous than they were in Doom all round, where a rocket to the face meant understandably instant death - the Ogre's primary projectile weapon is the grenade, which shows off the 3D capabilities by bouncing around after it's thrown, but if it explodes nearby it's the equivalent of being slightly singed by a firework.

The distribution of enemy types throughout the levels is weird as well - Doom didn't have a ton of these, there were a few enemies in the shareware episode and a couple more that popped up in the registered version (and even more in the expansion-pack-with-a-number-on-the-end Doom 2). But the introduction of the hideously powerful monsters was treated as a real event, with entire levels devoted to them in the form of Tower of Babel for the Cyberdemon and Dis for the Spider Mastermind. In Quake, you've seen nearly all the monsters by the time you've finished the third level. And the biggest monster, the eyeless yeti Shambler who appears without much fanfare on level three, just doesn't have the charisma that the big enemies of Doom had - he stomps about a bit and has a completely silent laser beam attack, but that's about it.

This seems to have turned into an essay on why I think Doom is better than Quake, which I really didn't intend it to be as I'm sure I played more of the latter when I was younger. It's definitely not a bad game, and it shows id's trademark care for what they were doing - but there's something really captivating about Doom that I don't think has ever really been equalled.
davidn: (prince)

Okay - here’s what I've been working on (while I should have been doing other things) for the last fortnight! It's called Vulkan, and is going to be a Doom mod about a UAC geothermal power station that's accidentally drilled into hell.

It's designed with the firepower of Brutal Doom in mind but is still fun without it - and if you'd rather wander round and invite zombies to tea rather than shoot at them, I’ve included an alternative launcher that removes the monsters and just lets you explore and pick up coins.


I’ve been amazed at how far Doom editing has evolved since I last touched it twenty years ago - you get a full 3D editor instead of having to do spatial geometry in your head to work out what a room will look like, and it's had the same kind of enthusiast following as ZZT (and invites the same kind of madness through ZDoom’s scripting system). There’s something very satisfying about its engine that I can’t quite identify - that cusp of accessibility versus power.
davidn: (Jam)
I've been playing loads of Metal Gear Solid 5 recently - the new entry to the series is a weird combination of stealth gameplay and X-Com: Terror from the Deep, making you responsible for a lot of base management and resource gathering while being free to roam on a horse around a war-torn environment taking missions and side quests. Listening to loads of The Unbelievable Truth on the car radio around the same time as playing it has made me realize that I could make up practically anything about the game and people wouldn't be sure if Hideo Kojima had actually put it into the latest installment of his increasingly mad series. Therefore, here is a short summary of the game. Six things are true. Good luck.

You start the game in an underground government bunker, where Big Boss has been kept in an experimental suspended animation process following the events of Peace Walker. In the first interactive sections, you can walk around listening to conversations through an analogue stick-controlled cybernetic ear implant which was given to him somewhere along the years, learning through overhearing dialogue that the location is part of a group that's implied to be the Patriots, and that many of your former base-mates from Peace Walker have been subjected to experiments in mind control - the head of the experimentation group heavily hinted as being Psycho Mantis.

Before you can act, the complex is suddenly shaken by the footsteps of a bipedal robot stalking nearby, and you have to make your escape during the confusion while following a fellow yet-to-be-operated-on captive who is wearing a hospital gown with his bum hanging out the back. During your escape, you are constantly harrassed by a large singing mechanical wasp and some vaguely humanlike creature with the limb-stretching powers of Mr Fantastic, creeping out of the building as the crisis unfolds and eventually reaching outside just in time to see a helicopter being swallowed by a space whale that's on fire. This omen seems to scare the Metal Gears leading the assault and they begin to turn on each other, screaming with dinosaur-like sound systems.

Amid this confusion you're suddenly rescued by the familiar face of Master Miller, who is in bad shape, missing an arm and most of one leg. It has to be said that Snake himself isn't looking too good either, with one entire arm being artificial and his eye having been replaced - however, it's an upgrade on his previous one, allowing night vision, thermal vision and X-ray to see through soldiers' clothing. In fact, if you put all the starting characters together you would only just be able to complete one human body before running out of parts.

The horse controls integrate with the controller as you would expect from a Hideo Kojima game - the analogue sticks are used to pull and twitch the reins to alter your heading, kicking it with your Attack button repeatedly will speed it up, and there's a "defecate" command that you have to use periodically to prevent your horse exploding.

Your base can be expanded by attaching small rockets to items and soldiers on the field, provided you've gathered enough fuel for them to make the trip home - this has to be kept topped up by finding wells or stashes of it around the map. Later on, you can actually forget about the fuel requirements as you develop a Star Trek-like system of beaming things through a wormhole directly to your base instead. Your prosthetic arm has a high-fidelity iPhone-like interface for reasons that aren't really explained - during gameplay, this offers the real-time overhead map that hasn't been seen since MGS2. Maps are up to ten kilometres wide and you can speed up your transport by using an extraction device yourself, clinging to the underside of an enemy helicopter, or simply by getting in a box and posting yourself to the right address providing you've collected the right stamps.
davidn: (rant)

Making good bosses is hard - the idea behind them has got to be varied and fun while still presenting a challenge, and there's a lot of programming for a small section of the game. Ideally, I think they should seem overwhelming at first but then become easy as you watch their movements, learn the openings and start to fight back effectively.

For people who allow their progress to be updated to the Crystal Towers 2 site, I keep track of how many times bosses have won agains the player and how many players have defeated them. "Score" is [times won]/[times lost] - I think that 2 is a pretty reasonable score to expect, as it implies that players lost to the boss twice before beating them on the third attempt, a decent balance between presenting a difficult enemy and keeping the game going.

It looks like Beam Stack is still the hardest boss, although not by as ludicrous a margin as before - in the first version of the game its score was up at 12 or so. All it took was a little change - making its laser turrets to flash before firing made it much fairer and I think it's one of my favourites. The next hardest one is Xenon Squad, which is fought in a different way from everybody else - its high score might be because players are spending lives working out what they're meant to be doing, though I tried to hint better at this in the new edition.

At the other end of the scale, The Cleaner is exactly where it's supposed to be - it's an introductory boss and even though I actually ramped up its difficulty this time around, it's sitting comfortably near 0.5 (you'll probably win against it first time, but if you don't, you'll get it next time). The absolute lowest is Lava Tank, which is easily my least favourite of the bunch - I think it was the first non-platform-style boss I made for the game and it just wasn't challenging enough despite my attempts to make it more acceptable for the new edition.

There are a couple of surprises as well - Megacarrot, despite being the last boss of the game, is sitting slightly below The Cleaner in terms of difficulty, although it could be because only the really dedicated and powered-up players get to him. I made an effort to drastically rework Sci-Fly compared to the first edition because it was too easy as well - it's only got to a measly 0.83, but I think this is actually much higher than before.

And Cubombscus is at a very respectable 1.81 now despite being one of the easiest before. In the first edition it had a bug that meant that it always remained on its easiest setting no matter how far you got its health bar down, a mistake corrected the second time around!
davidn: (prince)
I wrote this after playing Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker a few years ago, but because nobody reads Livejournal any more it gradually fell to the bottom of my notes file and rotted. Now that I'm getting into MGS5, which to my surprise seems to be going in very much the same direction, here it is at last.

This will sound rather harsher than I mean it to be bearing in mind the treatment that I gave Roxas's slash-tastic adventure, but Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker feels very much like the equivalent of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days for the series.

Let me justify that very quickly - I mean that in a series that has previously been very cinematic in nature and therefore based around adventures in continuous environments, it's a surprise to see such definition between levels. While the story is continuous, you go through it in a series of self-contained little set of environments - three or four rooms that are linked together - with a small objective to achieve in each section.

It was originally a PSP game, so the graphics are about on par with what I remember Metal Gear Solid 2 looking like, and the sneaking gameplay remains about the same as it was then (with a couple of gadgets that offset the lack of radar in the 1960s - and, at long last, the ability to swing the camera around so that you can actually see where you're going in directions other than north). The cutscenes came as a bit of a surprise, as they're not done in the series' traditional style (nor, mercifully, as endless expanses of codec calls) but in a papery comic book presentation with Yoji Shinkawa's artwork and large Batman-style sound effects. But the game's greatest shock came when I'd completed the first couple of missions, and was told that I would now be playing X-COM: Terror From the Deep.

Yes, suddenly you're thrust into a menu screen that asks you to manage soldiers and researchers and deploy them to parts of your offshore base in order to keep your team's effectiveness in top condition. In a gradually expanding set of considerations that you have to juggle throughout the game, people can be assigned to combat to keep your faction's reputation up throughout the world, the mess hall to improve troops' morale, the medical bay so that you can get injured soldiers to rejoin your forces sooner, and so on. You can also put people into research, which increases the budget you can spend to unlock better items and food supplies or bigger guns - mostly the progression is as you would expect with upgraded items gradually becoming available throughout the game, although there are a couple of frankly suspicious moments like when they invent "Spicy curry" and "C4 explosive" on the same turn.

Recruitment is done primarily through a new inventory item that seems like it's come straight out of Inspector Gadget, but that I was astonished to discover was a real thing. The Fulton recovery system uses a balloon to lift a cable into the air so that the subject can be hoisted up by it - but in the game's variant, the balloon ties directly to the recovery subject and shoots them upwards at about a hundred miles an hour for pickup by the aerial support unit. It's not explained how you can sneak about so effectively while being closely followed by a massive helicopter, or how the enemy soldiers in the indoor locations manage not to notice their comrades being tied up and then blasted through the roof, but all this just fades into the background when you realize you're in the peculiar situation of going around kidnapping people to indoctrinate them into your culinary school.

As for the storyline, well, during this game I honestly started to wonder whether Metal Gear Solid might actually be madder than Hatoful Boyfriend. The answer is "not quite", but frankly reaching that level is an achievement in itself. Metal Gear Solid 4 was a bastion of fanservice-fuelled lunacy due to trying to tie together and conclude every single insane plot point that they had ever set up throughout the entire series, but when given the opportunity to do a prequel in a previously unvisited environment, Hideo Kojima came up with this: in amongst all the craziness I've already described, you're chasing the ghost of the Boss who is now distributed across the central computers of a range of huge singing robots.

It's all pretty good if you're comfortable with Metal Gear Solid's usual massive gulf between how preposterous it is and how seriously it takes itself. If there's one huge annoyance I want to mention, it's that the bosses are almost universally annoying wars of attrition because they were apparently balanced for cooperative multiplayer, so if you're going it alone you will be s by crouching behind a convenient little wall and popping up occasionally with your rocket launcher. In fact, we still haven't completed what I would reasonably believe is the final one - I got within one rocket of defeating it and then ran out of time, so I haven't felt like going back to it in a while.
davidn: (rabbit)
I have finished Crystal Towers 2 (again!) and it is now available on Steam!


Thanks to everyone for supporting and spreading this project through the far too many years it's gone on for - and especially to [livejournal.com profile] lupineangel for the incredible piece of fanart that is basically the official box art now (if that's legally OK). I'm very pleased to have a game of mine on this service - and maybe, as I burn through the rest of the projects taking up my life, I'll be able to make a new one at some point.

Here's the new introduction, with added furniture and birds.


davidn: (prince)
Crystal Towers 2 has a Steam page and everything now! All the checks by Valve are out the way and I have the freedom to declare it ready whenever I like - it won't be long until it's set live and purchasable.

Here's the trailer on Youtube, at a better resolution than the Steam one.

In the process of making the new edition, I've come across and fixed several amazing bugs that apparently went unnoticed the first time around, including:

- In the introduction, I forgot to turn off the keys that let you look up and down - so you could cause earthquakes by holding either arrow key and getting the scrolling to start moving then rapidly twitch back to where it was supposed to be.
- In the non-Desura releases of the game, the Cubombscus boss had a very obvious red and yellow detector object left on-screen which should have been made invisible. People seemed to just assume it was meant to be a flag, which says something about my drawing skills.
- Magma Lizard was unfortunate as well, as the background on the surface of his level was a terrible-looking mountain-shaped placeholder that I forgot to replace before releasing the game.
- Midway through the game you get an upgrade to your navigation in the Music Castle, with little text labels showing the nearest levels to you. These didn't appear if you had just come out of a level towards the right of the hub, because the objects were located at (0,0) for a split-second before being moved, which was deemed too far away and they were automatically deleted.
- The "mosquito" type creatures throughout the game are drawn as dragonflies. This is I forgot the sodding difference between dragonflies and mosquitoes.
- The Lava Tank boss was terrible. This isn't really a bug. It just was.
davidn: (prince)
Someone just emailed me asking where they could download Treasure Tower, making me realize it had dropped off my site when I did the reorganization - so here's a new download for it!

If you use Chrome, you might get a "Not commonly downloaded" warning, because it's stupid - it's OK to click the arrow and "Keep" to verify you want to keep it.

Released in 2005 before independent games started to become a big thing, this was probably my most popular game in the fledgling community even though it's looking pretty simple nowadays. Climb the towers against the clock, collecting treasure and food to stay alive. You can also attempt to submit to an online leaderboard, which no longer works.

The screenshot is from a Flash version that I put together a few years later.

There's a post about its inception here, though the images are long gone.
davidn: (prince)
Wow, do I really care about this journal so little now that I haven't posted a single one of the video series I've been doing over the last few weeks? Here are the first three parts - they're basically my attempt to substitute for my obsolete dream of becoming a games programme presenter on television.




Mini Metro

Oct. 10th, 2014 11:59 pm
davidn: (prince)

This game is called Mini Metro, and due to my continuing frustration with Boston's aging crippled public transport system it would be logical for me to hate it... but I love it. You have to keep ferrying passengers around a slowly increasing network of stations without letting them get overcrowded, making lines and putting trains on to them to provide routes to passengers that need to get from circular stations to square stations to star-shaped stations... it starts off easy but gets complicated very quickly.

It thoughtfully includes a colourblind mode, though I don't actually have a problem with the normal one - I think it just selects line colours that are slightly higher in contrast than by default.

You can play a version online, and it's in this week's Humble Bundle!

Oh, and I just won Scenic mode (rewards based on efficiency milestones rather than per week) with this plate of spaghetti:

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