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Sunday, June 28, 2009

The heat, the dragon and the dwarves

The Heat

Imagine here an illustration of someone sweating or a picture of a blazing sun*

It has been rather hot in the part where I live lately and it's making my brain work rather slowly. I barely write anything and I tend not to touch anything too brainy. Sorry to the people I usually interact with! Hopefully I'll get over it... or you'll see me again in September :|

* I was going to have a public domain picture of it here but it's apparently hard to find. I might start drawing quick doodles to illustrate my posts when the Internet fails me so.

The Dragon

In the mean time, I have gone back to the Dragon's Lair series after an old friend of mine came for a visit and we shared a few bits about the game. I've first played the series on the Amiga adaptation and it was quite something at the time, seeing what looked like an interactive cartoon on "just" a computer. And I've learned now that it was indeed quite the technical feat too.

Dragon's Lair Amiga version

Far from perfect, but incredible considering the 64 colors, slow processor and floppy format

I also played the sequel, "Dragon's Lair: Escape from Singe's Castle" (funny title considering "singe" means monkey in French :p -- it's actually the dragon's name I think?), "Space Ace" (similar concept but in space), and "Dragon's Lair 3". I missed "Dragon's Lair 2", I'm not sure why... Given the room on the floppies of then, each of the original arcade games had to be split into two games, hence the four Dragon's Lair games on Amiga in the end.

Edit note : having watched a video of DL1 just now, I come up with two things to say : "oh the bastards!" and "still, good job". "Oh the bastards!" because the game cost about $150 at the time, and lasted about 7 minutes (loading times excluded, on a perfect run) and, the worst part maybe, doubled *every* scene except the finale. How cheap is that? ^^;... "Still, good job" because I'm still amazed this ran on an Amiga and how accurate they made it on some scenes (thankfully, the most important ones)

But originally, there were two DL games and one Space Ace game, which I only discovered years later through their CD-I versions, which, thanks to the Digital Video component of the console, were actually the same as the original arcade (at least in relative video quality).

So how did the arcade look and how did the games play? Well the following video will explain it better :



Edit note : unless I'm mistaken, the moves they give are total nonsense most of the time. Was it to explain how it work without actually giving the solution? Who knows... They also show the end of the game, which is... well... would be a spoiler if the game itself wasn't so cliché to begin with. In any case, I'm pretty sure the only ones actually interested in playing the game already did uh? (somewhat invalidating my post too, yay!)
Also, "proper" TV hosts in costume playing Dragon's Lair is..... mildly amusing *giggles*.

Do note how it came out not long after Space Invaders and Pacman. Gosh, what a shock it must have been at the time! That's quite the technical prowess! It even took years before the CD support took hold of the game genre and before we got games using full video such as Phantasmagoria (at least it's one of the first games I remember going for the movie feel, but my memories might be hazy on that one).

To sum it up : incredible visual quality, but a definitely awkward game system... if you even want to call it a "game". The closest game I can think of in recent times might be... Dance Dance Revolution. Really, Dragon's Lair was more of a "step in time with the music" kind of game, except the music was video on screen and you had to guess the right move yourself.
Oh, and of course, QTEs! They've popped up in games these last years, like in Shenmue and Indigo Prophecy or God of War : press the button on screen while your character does the cool stuff. It seems almost no one likes these and I'll admit I'm not *that* fond of them either. I think it's a matter of context : a game made of QTE can be all right, but QTE in an otherwise regular game is annoying. Go figure :)

Final thing on this topic : I have also read up on DL and discovered the initial plans for the game were much more complex with actual interactivity instead of the rather linear thing it is today : you were supposed to be able to choose your path, have alternatives here and there, etc... But even without this, I've realized the arcade version (compared to the CD-I version) was actually harder in some places, requiring logical timing : push towards a rope only when the rope comes into your reach, press sword only when the enemy is about to strike at you so you deflect it, etc... If you press the right move too soon, it's taken into account... but in a negative way! On CD-I, you can keep pressing the right move way ahead of time and it'll register all right. Funny.

Dragon's Lair at Digital Leisure



I might make other posts for Dragon's Lair II and Space Ace. If only to post videos... I like posting videos >.>...

The Dwarves


Hmm, I'll have to be short on this as heat + typing = headache. Meh!

Simply put, here's another game I keep coming back to year after year. Not often and never for long, but still, it says something about its quality.

Dwarf Fortress is about.... managing a dwarven fortress. Yup. It's all in ASCII (look at the screenshot), though more graphical tilesets now exist, and it's all about simulation depth. At first you're just trying to survive winter by building workshops, bedrooms and dining rooms... hunting, fishing, crafting goods, etc... It's very similar to the Settlers I think. But the more time goes, the more things pile up. After a while you get nobles and special dwarves who can manage the fortress, set export bans, make foolish demands, etc... You also have to deal with enemy invasions (goblins, humans, others...), floods, magma and other things I probably don't even know about. It just changes scope as the population grows. No more micro-managing, no more truly caring about those seven initial dwarves when you have more than 50 roaming around the halls.

I keep coming back to it because it's a quiet game, where many things can happen and it keeps evolving (I just discovered how much it stores about the world it generates the first time... so many details!) And I tend to give it up because it still has a rather obscure interface (only helped by the Wiki) and it's still a sandbox game with not a *lot* of room for mistakes (it plays like a roguelike, so when you're screwed, you're screwed).

Anyway, if you don't mind the graphics and think it sounds at least a bit fun, try it! It's free.

Oh and if there's one thing you should read, it's the Boatmurdered "Let's Play" of the game : http://lparchive.org/LetsPlay/Boatmurdered/intro.html
It definitely shows how hilariously crazy things can get :)

Dwarf Fortress (by Bay12games)

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2 Comments:

OpenID hinoyabu said...

(This is an old post, but I'll still comment... :P)

Dragon's Lair! I remember that one, played it a little bit but usually just watched my brother go through it. I found it awesome at the time because of the visuals, but the gameplay annoyed me to no end, lol.

But it cost $150? o_O Wow, and we complain about prices nowadays....

July 10, 2009 at 5:45 PM  
Blogger Moni said...

It's not old! This here is but a baby blog, so its posts can't be considered old yet :p

This said, eep! Vatina! :D. Eep! New blog to read! Eep! You know Dragon's Lair :D

Yeah, the gameplay is something you either grow up on or hate forever I guess. Funnily enough, I've been proven I still love it just as before since I've gone through Dragon's Lair II, Dragon's Lair, Super Don Quixote (oh dear) and now trying to finish Space Ace again. And yes the gameplay is barely gameplay, but I'm still having tremendous amounts of fun. Can't explain it!

As for the price, I'm pretty sure it was a rare case, though I remember many games costing... $60? I'm not sure as I remember the prices in Francs and the ratio to Dollars has quite changed since then.

July 10, 2009 at 10:03 PM  

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