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.

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