Keeping it Small and Simple

2007.12.19

Ghosts ‘n Goblins

Filed under: Commodore 64, Computer Games, Retrogames — Tags: , , , , , — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 21:34

I played Ghosts ‘n Goblins for an hour or two today and my mind just drifted back to the good old times. *sob, sob*

Ghosts ‘n Goblins: title screen

The graphics! The music! The atmosphere! Even, the title screen! (You kids of today certainly will not understand..)

Ghosts ‘n Goblins: croaking at the very beginning

I obviously haven’t played this for like 15 years or so. Here I am croaking at the very beginning of the game.

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2007.05.30

Retrogaming: The Bard’s Tale

Filed under: Computer Games, Retrogames — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 00:31

If I were to list the games I have spent the most time playing overall, the first two Bard’s Tale games will certainly be on that list. Quite possibly, they would even top it. There was a time that pretty much the only thing I used my Amiga 500 for was to play The Bard’s Tale (as well as develop a Bards Tale character editor).

The Bard’s Tale is essentially a computer role-playing game. You control a party of adventurers through the town of Skara Brae and into a number of dungeons, which get more and more challenging. Very rarely can your party relax, because there are monsters everywhere.

You start the game off by selecting your party. You have several different character classes to choose from, including warriors and spellcasters of various forms. Then there is the bard. You should always have a bard. He, apart from drinking ale (or better yet, red wine), can play various tunes. These tunes are magical, and can for instance affect how well the party perfoms in battle.

Winning a battle usually means you get some gold which is handy because it allows you to buy weapons, armor and other goodies. Sometimes you also get lucky and find other items which may be useful in your quest.

Battling also means that members of your party get injured. That is not a problem because you can take them to one of several temples for healing. Just as in the real world, healing is not free however, and this is another time when some gold comes in handy. In addition, your spellcasters use mana to cast their spells. They will need this mana recharged from time to time. There is a place where this can be done (for a fee, of course).

As per usual with role-playing games, your characters gain experience from battles. When a character reaches enough experience points he will upgrade a certain skill, be it dexterity, intelligence or whatever. Spellcasters also get to learn new spells, as well as progress to higher levels.

Daytime tends to be fairly boring in Skara Brae. Thankfully night sets in before you know it and that is when the interesting monsters show up. Early on in the game it is a good idea to stay close to a temple at night so that you can heal your players. Because once a sorcerer starts throwing spells at the party, everybody gets burned.

The Bard’s Tale II and III work exactly like the first one but with larger maps and each brings a slew of new monsters. I never played Bard’s Tale III very much so I cannot really comment on whether or not their are any other new elements in the game.

I am not sure why I found these games so addictive. But I did (and I still do, but don’t tell anybody). I still have the Bard’s Tale games although now they are in ADF format. From time to time I start playing one of them again, just for old times sake.

In my last retrogaming post I mentioned that there are quite a few open source clones of Dungeon Master available. Funny enough, although The Bard’s Tale also attracted a large community of devoted fans, there don’t seem to be any open source BTs out there. At least I haven’t been able to find one. There are, however quite a few projects to create “Bard’s Tale-like” games, whatever that means.

You may want to try the Devil Whiskey demo out to see if it suits you. There is a version 2.0 of the game, but the latest demo available is only 1.2. Shifting Suns promised that they would make this game open source eventually, but I’m not sure what happened about that. If you want to download the demo, you will notice that the URL on the site is wrong. The URL should be this and nothing else.

If anybody knows of an open source Bard’s Tale clone, please let me know. Or if you are working on one yourself. I’ll gladly test it and let others know about it. I could even help out with some coding. Hm, come to think of it, maybe I should just start writing my own Bard’s Tale clone. If ever I had an itch to scratch, this would be it..

If you want to know more about The Bard’s Tale, you can check this site out. Or you could just Google around, whichever you prefer. There also seems to be some modern adaption available, but I only know about the classic that I played on the Amiga (as well as on the Commodore 64).

Finally let me say that there is a Bard’s Tale IV petition. If you feel strongly about such things, you can take your political standpoint by being counted here. So far 1447 have made their voices heard.

2007.05.23

Retrogaming: Dungeon Master

Filed under: Computer Games, Retrogames — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 00:54

Are you disappointed with the vast majority of new games that come out? Do you get the feeling that game makers these days focus too much on effects and movie clips and seem to have all but forgotten about the concept of playability? If so, why not get a little retro?

One way to play your old favorites is of course to get a hold of an emulator. You could use VICE to emulate your Commodore 64, or UAE to emulate your old Amiga. I personally use E-UAE these days, which is an experimental version of UAE. It works fairly well, but can be a bit of a job to get to compile from time to time. There are also emulators for other computers as well. I have heard that there are emulators for ZX Spectrum and Atari ST, for instance. But I never owned a Spectrum or an Atari, so don’t know much about these emulators.

It can also be worth checking out if there are any Linux and/or open source remakes of your favorite retrogames. I have spent quite some time searching around on the ‘Net for Linux versions of some of those special games, and managed to find quite a few.

The status of these games is varying. Some of them are mature and fully playable, others not. Also, some of these games are in active development, but some others haven’t seen an update in years. With any abandoned effort, anybody is welcome to step up to the task of picking up where the original developer(s) left off. *hint, hint*

I’m going to do a little series devoted to retrogames. In each post I will talk about a particular game. I will give a little introduction to the original game, although I don’t see the point in going into too much detail (after all, Google is always there). I will also give a few links to some community sites and discuss modern, open source versions of the game (if any). I am starting off with one of my absolute favorites: Dungeon Master.

To me, Dungeon Master ranks among the best games of all time. I fell in love with this game rather late, however. I’m not sure why, but I think at the time I was too busy playing Bard’s Tale to take notice of this game. When I finally did start playing it, I instantly got hooked.

Dungeon master is a real-time role-playing game. It was created by FTL (Faster Than Light) in 1987. As with most success stories, Dungeon master had quite a few sequels. Also, other game houses copied the concept. But the original is the best.

Dungeon Master really was the Doom of its time. When it came out it was way ahead of the competition. This is a fitting comparison, because if you play Doom you can see a little bit of Dungeon Master in it. I wonder if John Carmack was doing all-night DM sessions when he came up with the idea for Doom..?

Since Dungeon Master was (and is) such a great game, there is a really active community out there. For instance, you can find discussion forums related to the game and its clones here. There are also quite a few clones of Dungeon Master.

One that I have been playing quite a bit recently is Dungeon Master Java or DMJ for short. This is an implementation of the original game written entirely in Java. It fairly true to the original, but there are a few differences. The maps are not identical. The graphics have been modernized. Actually, if you search around a bit, you will find that there are various packages available, created by the community that enhance the graphics even further.

I used to have trouble getting DMJ to run properly on JDK5. But with JDK6 it seems to work fine, I haven’t had any problems so far. The only thing I haven’t been able to figure out is if there is any way to use the keyboard. It is a bit frustrating to have to play the game with a mouse.

All in all, DMJ is very playable. If you start playing it, keep an eye on what is happening in the community as well. There are quite a few add-ons available. I’m hoping we will see some contributions to the game engine itself because it seems Alan Dale (the original developer) has stopped developing it. I’m not sure about this, but the latest news items on the site date back to 2005. The latest available version is 2.0.1, which is only available for Mac OSX, which I find a bit odd. Wasn’t Java supposed to be cross-platform?

The source code for DMJ is available, at least for the 1.05 version. (There is also a 2.0.1 version available for Mac OSX, but without source code). I am not sure how the code is licensed so I don’t know whether or not it would be okay to redistribute modified versions of the game, but you can definitely make your own private modifications.

Another version of Dungeon Master that I have tried is actually not a clone, but the original code, running on Linux! Turns out somebody went through the process of reversing the entire game from his Atari ST disk, and rewrote the game that way. This game is of course strictly true to the original even down to the game’s graphics, which may look a bit outdated but you should note that by 1987 standards that game looked stunning.

The legal status of this game is a bit fuzzy. The game is reverse-engineered and contains all the original data. If these things matter to you, then you should probably stay clear of this game.

You can find out more about this game and a information about how to get Debian packages here. The repository contains Dungeon Master as well as Chaos Strikes Back, which is an extension to the original game.

There is a GPLed Dungeon Master engine at dmle.sourceforge.net. In order to play this game you will need to extract the original game data yourself. I haven’t tried this game myself so I cannot comment on it. It seems to be abandoned.

Another site you should check out is The Dungeon Master Encyclopedia. This site contains loads of useful information, manuals, tips, as well as information about the clones.

To conclude, I do most of my dungeon slashing in Dungeon Master Java these days. But from time to time I do load up the original in UAE, just to cry a tear or two of pure nostalgia.

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