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12 July 2004 @ 02:40 pm
Dusty Old MS-DOS Games and Super-duper RPGs  
So, Emily was going on about this old game, CD-Man (a Pac Man clone).
I went looking for it on DOS abandonware sites and downloaded it.

I loaded it up on my old computer (Pentium 1 equivalent (how did I ever live like that?)), but of course 100MHz was too fast for it (ha! (actually, I'm not sure how fast the old dinosaur was, so feel free to correct me by telling me the speed range of a Pentium 1).

Anyway, I downloaded MoSlo and started fiddling with it, but it still either ran too fast or totally glitched out.

Enter the 2GHz machine.
I crush Emily's dreams of ever again playing CD-Man by pointing out that if it didn't run on the Pentium 1 equivalent, it's hardly going to run on the Pentium 4 equivalent (and just in case you're wondering, for the word "equivalent" read AMD).

After crushing Emily's dreams of reliving former glory, I decide to embark a brand new quest of discovery - the world of games that wouldn't have run on the old dinosaur because of the opposite problem.

Finally, I can play the sequel to one of my all-time favourite games, Daggerfall.
Yes, that's right, I'm playing Morrowind.
It doesn't run fantastically well, what with my lack of a decent video card, but it runs well enough.

Anyway, I decided to head over to the Elder Scrolls website, to see what downloadables were on offer.
Lo and behold, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Elder Scrolls saga, they are giving away the first chapter, Arena, for free.
What's the catch?
Weren't you paying attention? It's ten years old.
So, presumably it was designed to run on a 20MHz processor, not a 2000MHz one.

Now, do they suggest running MoSlo at 1%?
No, they give directions to download a DOS emulator.

Me = flabbergasted.

I mean, duh, of course you can emulate an old DOS computer.
It's not like I'm new to the concept of emulators, I've been playing with Commodore 64, NES, SNES, Genesis and arcade emulators for years.

Anyway, upshot is, I downloaded CD-Man and it works perfectly.

---
Get the DOS emulator, DOSBox, here.
Get The Elder Scrolls: Arena here.
 
 
Current Mood: embarrassedembarrassed
 
 
 
Robet Éivaayvah on July 13th, 2004 10:11 pm (UTC)
It's odd that MoSlo should at all be necessary for a game that's only ten years old. I'm pretty sure that by then they had started embedding games with some kind of speed moderator (I can't remember the specifics -- it's now been years (well, over 1 1/2) since I did computers in high-school).

But then again, I'm betting that the built-in emulator for DOS in the newer versions of Windows is causing the problem. I've got games and such from 1995 that worked fine when I was using Windows 98, but have refused to work since I upgraded to XP.
Jacobyak_boy on July 13th, 2004 10:34 pm (UTC)
Wing Commander 3: Heart of the Tiger is the earliest game I know of that actually set the speed of the game dependent on the speed of the PC.

And that game came out in 1994. Ten years old.

It was an extremely spiffy game for that time though, with full motion video (starring Mark Hamill, John Rhys-Davies, Malcolm McDowell, Biff from Back to the Future, and others), and the game spanned multiple CD-Roms. I'd say it is an excellent game even by today's standards.

The sequel, Wing Commander 4: The Price of Freedom, is one of the best games of all time.

Anyway, I guess my point is that it wasn't a standard practice to have a speed control on games ten years ago, although it probably became so not much later.

It also depends on what sort of game it is and what operating system it was designed for.

Anyway, the ten year old game, The Elder Scrolls: Arena, doesn't seem much different to it's sequel Daggerfall, apart from the slightly worse graphics. The third installment, Morrowind, has vastly superior graphics to both of them (although I kind of miss the hokey old cartoon style), but there are a lot of other improvements as well.

For instance, one of the points of The Elder Scrolls series is that you can do "anything" you want (within the paradigm of a fantasy roleplaying game). For example, if you want to be a psychotic murderer, you can go ahead and slaughter the inhabitants of the town (although you will probably get cut down by the local law inforcement).

However, in the previous editions only random NPCs could be treated in this way, it was impossible to attack specific characters. You couldn't kill shopkeepers, the local Lord or your Guildmaster. Now, in Morrowind, they have finally fixed it, so if you want you can (attempt to) kill absolutely anyone. Nifty.
Robet Éivaayvah on July 14th, 2004 06:10 pm (UTC)
Actually, I played Morrowind. I think that in it freedom has been enchanged for story. Sure, there's a lot I can do in it, but why bother doing it?

My brother played that game semi-religiously, though. He managed to further his character up several levels simply by jumping a lot. Also, the game is unbalanced. By far the most useful path is to steal. It's easy, it's quick, and it works extremely well.

I mean, you can just walk into a mine, stroll past the guards, fill your pockets with valuable minerals (as long as the guard doesn't see you taking it) and then just stroll back out. Or, better yet -- if you have the right item, you can teleport out.

My brother must have stolen almost everything of value in the game. The only trouble he ran into was when the merchants couldn't afford what he had. At the moment he's seeing if he can collect one of each item (he stores them all on a corpse that doesn't disappear).

Oh, and my brother can kill the guards in one hit. The bastard.
Jacobyak_boy on July 14th, 2004 11:37 pm (UTC)
Actually, as with all of the elder Scrolls games there's planty of story - the problem is finding it.

(Well, it's not that hard really).

If you follow all the instructions you are given, like a good little puppy, you will have no problem finding the main story-line. Assuming it's anything like Daggerfall, the Morrowind main story will be filled with political intrigue, sex scandals and the like.

At the start of both Daggerfall and Morrowind you have a package and/or letter to deliver to a specfic person. That person will then give you info that will lead you to the next person, and so on, until you are embroiled in court intrigue and the like.

I originally played Daggerfall for ages, wondering when the main plot would "come along". On replaying it, I realised that what seemed like vague clues at the beginning were in fact specfic instructions. You can launch straight into the Daggerfall plot from the get-go (although it's pretty inadvisable because some of the main plot quests are pretty deadly to low level characters).

So, sure, you can wander around aimlessly with no actual plot guiding you, but the main storyline is always waiting.

And, with the two expansions, Morrowind actually has three different plotlines.

Okay, yes, the character advancement system is pretty easy to rort, because of the way it works:

You advance skills by performing the skill.
You advance levels by gaining your primary skills for your class.

So, if jumping is one of your primary skills, you can just jump a lot and that will advance you in levels.

However, there are a number of problems with this "rort".

1) Going up in levels only adds to your stats and hit points, not your skills. So, if you advanced to level 20 by doing nothing but boosting your jump skill, you won't actually be anywhere near as powerful as a level 20 character that got there through normal adventuring. Sure, you can jump better than anyone, but that's hardly going to help you in a swordfight.

2) Advancing this way is not much fun.

Point 2 may seem obvious, but the whole point is that if you don't rort the game, and you play it properly, it is a lot of fun.

My brother had a funny little game, I can't remember what it was called, but it was basically making fun of computer RPG players that only played to advance their character to the highest level. You open the game, create a character, click start, and sit back and watch as the game automatically plays by itself and advances your character to the highest level.

So, yes, I have read "walk-thrus" or FAQs that state that an easy way to level up your character is to put a weight on the jump button and leave the game running for a few days, but if you think that's getting the most out of the game...

Also, part of the game is the different (and fully customisable) character classes. The point being that some character classes level up easier than others.

So, a character class with the primary skills: run, jump, long sword, heavy armour, etc, etc... will level up very quickly because these are skills that are easy to use, and used all the time.

A character class with the primary skills: Illusion, pick-pocket, backstab, etc, etc... will have a much tougher time levelling up, because the skills are hard to use and less commonly used.

That's part of the fun.

You find it really easy to play the game as a Barbarian? No surprise.
For an extra challenge, try playing as a Sorceror or a Healer.

Stealing has always been a part of The Elder Scrolls, and rather than being a "cheat" or even a "rort", it's a just part of the experience. Try challenging yourself to playing a character that is truly noble. True roleplaying comes from playing the game in the mindset of "What would the character do?" rather than "How can I win this game?". To be honest, though, it's a lot of fun playing the rogue, and sadly it seems unlikely that you can join the assassin's guild in Morrowind (at least not as easily as in Daggerfall).

In Daggerfall, if you murdered an innocent townsperson, you were delivered an invitation to join the Dark Brotherhood.

"Oh, and my brother can kill the guards in one hit. The bastard."

Sounds like it might be time for him to try playing a Healer.
Robet Éivaayvah on July 15th, 2004 06:07 pm (UTC)
My brother doesn't have athletics as a primary skill. And he doesn't sit there jumping continuously. BUT, when he travels, he jumps around.

Also, in turns of levelling up. Primary skills are simply acquired faster. To level up, you just need to gain 10 stat points. So a character with "athletics" as a miscellaneous skill can still level up from jumping, he just has to do it a lot more.

Oh. and my brother finished the main plotline. Yes, it is fairly easy to find, but I'm just not drawn into it. I see those pages of story text and in my mind it just adds up to "kill this guy here" or "deliver this thing to there". But still, I have no real reason to do it.

Oh. And I never really understood the whole idea of playing a game stupidly in order to make it harder for yourself. I want to try my hardest and then lose. It's the responsibility of the game makers to balance the game. I don't like holding back.
Jacobyak_boy on July 18th, 2004 12:44 am (UTC)
From the manual:

"Increasing your level is dependent on improving the major and minor skills associated with your class." [My emphasis]

You can pump your miscellaneous skills as much as you want, it's not going to make you level up.

Oh. and my brother finished the main plotline. Yes, it is fairly easy to find, but I'm just not drawn into it. I see those pages of story text and in my mind it just adds up to "kill this guy here" or "deliver this thing to there". But still, I have no real reason to do it.

Well, to be frank, the game really is about running around with a sword (or magic) and killing things. If you don't enjoy that aspect of the game you're hardly going to get any more enjoyment from it having a story.

You claimed it had no story. It clearly has plenty of story. Whether you feel that's enough to motivate you, or your character, is not really relevant if you simply don't like the gameplay.

Let me put it this way:
The Diablo games have a bit of flavour text, but not really much in the way of a story. However (assuming you like Diablo) that doesn't detract from the hours of fun to be had chopping demons into tiny pieces.

Oh. And I never really understood the whole idea of playing a game stupidly in order to make it harder for yourself. I want to try my hardest and then lose. It's the responsibility of the game makers to balance the game. I don't like holding back.

But, I don't think it is about holding back or playing stupidly. To say that you are not going to use rorts (like jumping instead of walking, or stealing just because you can) is hardly playing stupidly. In fact, you have to go out of your way to play differently in order to take advantage of the rorts that you mention. It's playing normally to not steal or jump around etc.

And the other limiting factor, the character class, is just a normal way of making an RPG more challenging and more varied.

To go back to the Diablo comparison, it's like saying you're "playing stupidly" for choosing the Mage, just because the game is harder when you play as the Mage.
Robet Éivaayvah on July 18th, 2004 07:07 pm (UTC)
I liked Diablo... for the first couple of levels... When monsters started just being the same ones but painted different colours, I started to get bored with it.


I didn't claim that Morrowind has no story. actually, it has more story than I could poke a stick at (at least in accompaniment to the main plot). But the format and execution of that story is very different from games like Baldur's Gate, Final Fantasy and many other games (many of which aren't RPGs).


And I think it's a bit stupid for games like Everquest, Morrowind, etc (even Baldur's Gate a little -- or AD&D) to be focussed so heavily on the fighting and leveling up part of the game when the battle system is so mechanical (there isn't much in the way of skill or tactics). In fact, I remember you telling me that the reason that D&D exists at all is because players realised that they wanted to do more than just attack stuff. That's precisely why RPGs exist.


But people seem to enjoy that part of the game anyway. On the other hand, I thought that the most fun part of games like Morrowind & Everquest was when I was creating the character. I was thrilled with the character creation for Everquest. I felt like it could actually make a difference if I tweaked one stat in a certain way and another differently. And then I got into the game and it was fighting based. It was especially annoying, because whether I chose a mage, a ranger, or a warrior, all I'd done was chose a different way to kill things. And every time you killed something it would be the same method. I think I got to level 4 before I gave it up forever.

I
Jacobyak_boy on July 18th, 2004 07:35 pm (UTC)
"I liked Diablo... for the first couple of levels... When monsters started just being the same ones but painted different colours, I started to get bored with it."

Well, Diablo II is a lot better, and a lot more fun and long lived because the characters are a lot more customisable.

"In fact, I remember you telling me that the reason that D&D exists at all is because players realised that they wanted to do more than just attack stuff."

Although, ironically, D&D is still just a glorified wargame, and if anything has become more like a wargame with Wizards of the Coast selling miniatures to use with D&D. D&D is what you call a "hack and slash".

"On the other hand, I thought that the most fun part of games like Morrowind & Everquest was when I was creating the character."

I enjoy character creation too, but as I say, if you don't like the body of the game it's not worth it.

"And then I got into [Everquest] and it was fighting based."

Well, I'm pretty sure there are characters on Evercrack that never do any combat (although, most do). I'm sure there are people that just hang around and trade items and whatever else.

But, as you say, it is mostly just combat.

The real problem with computer RPGs is that a computer program is limited to executing its set bit of code. To have a really dynamic RPG you need a human GM, one that can come up with fresh ideas, and is able to react when your character does something unexpected.

It's currently pretty much impossible to have a computer game that can react in interesting ways to anything you happen to do/say. For instance, if I make a character that is a cross-dresser, chances are a computer RPG won't have any response to that, and most perople will just ignore it (although, that may not be the case in Morrowind because NPC reactions are partly judged on your current outfit, eg most people tell me I must be doing well for myself because I'm wearing spiffy and expensive armour).

Where was I?

Anyway, as I say, most computer RPGs will just treat your character as normal, ignoring the fact that you're a transvestite because such a possibility is not coded. A human GM, on the other hand, will make social interactions very difficult for a character so far outside the norm.
Robet Éivaayvah on July 20th, 2004 08:38 pm (UTC)
Ah, but that's where linear RPGs (e.g. many of those originating from Japan) have the advantage. Sure, there isn't a huge amount in the way of freedom (thugh there can be quite a bit of leighway in matters that don't directly affect the story), but the story and the characters benefit from it.

Anyway, as I say, most computer RPGs will just treat your character as normal, ignoring the fact that you're a transvestite because such a possibility is not coded.
I'm looking out for Fable. Hopefully, it will live up to what its advertised... Though I'm starting to doubt that since I heard that they plan to make the game extremely dynamic and have complete spoken dialogue. It seems a bit beond our current capabilities, without cutting corners that will inevitably make the game stagnant.
Jacobyak_boy on July 21st, 2004 06:51 am (UTC)
Game creators often promise much and deliver little.

Douglas Adams, after his experience with the Hitch-hiker's Guide text based adventure, decided he wanted to make a game where you could really talk, conversationally, with the characters, say whatever you like and they would respond sensibly rather than just delivering the old text-based adventure reply of "I do not understand".

Eventually, when he decided the technology was advanced enough, he helped create the game 'Starship Titanic'.

Sadly, it is painfully obvious that this game doesn't fulfil the original plan, but rather it pretends to. It basically works the same as the ALICE converstion engine. ( http://www.alicebot.org/ ) What that means is, instead of saying "I don't understand", it simply pretends to understand by echoing your words.

For example:

You say, "I'm looking for a sonic screwdriver."
The game responds, "I don't know where you would find a sonic screwdriver."

So, it understood only part of what you said, the "I'm looking for a" part, but it hasn't a clue what a "sonic screwdriver" is.

Even more frustrating is when it doesn't understand anything that you said at all, so it will just give a generic reply. Like, for instance, it mught say, "Stop wasting my time", or whatever.

These pre-generated replies were a bit too obvious, particularly when the game claimed so much with its state-of-the-art conversation engine.

It was a good game, though, with Terry Jones, John Cleese and Douglas Adams all providing voices. It had a lot of your typical Myst style puzzles, and was pretty fun, but not at all ground-breaking.
Robet Éivaayvah on July 22nd, 2004 04:50 pm (UTC)
Indeed. But, my hopes for Fable would be much higher if they had decided to go with voices more like Final Fantasy X wherein they didn't bother to dub much more than the inevitable parts of the story (though I think that the main characters were acted for everything they did).
Robet Éivaayvah on July 14th, 2004 06:14 pm (UTC)
Oh. And note that really, the only MSDOS games I've played in a long time are Princess Maker 2, Might & Magic V and RPG Maker 2000.
Jacobyak_boy on July 18th, 2004 07:43 pm (UTC)
Heh.
Prostitute Maker 2
Robet Éivaayvah on July 20th, 2004 08:41 pm (UTC)
Hey, don't bags it man! It's a great game. But really, who would spend ten hours playing a game just to see some illustrated boobies at the end?

I made a novelist, a war general...
Jacobyak_boy on July 21st, 2004 06:54 am (UTC)
I have to admit, I found the game just a little bit too hard. Similar to The Sims, it was just too hard to balance working (to get money and promotions), relaxing (to keep the character happy) and building skills.
Robet Éivaayvah on July 22nd, 2004 04:56 pm (UTC)
Well, they first time I played the game, I went with the warrior path, which is an easier one. The lumberjack is great for increasing her strength while she makes money. There are other little things you can do.

And it's not bad to just start with a goal of winning the fighting tournament for the beginning. Especially since the prize money makes your work a lot easier.

Oh. And don't bother much with the vacations. Just letting her out in the town (with or without spending money) relieves more stress.

*ahem*

But defeating the War God is hella fun.