Starflight: Copyright protection

(This is part of my journey playing through Starflight. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

warnYeah, they weren’t kidding around with software copyright protection in the 80s.  Or, more accurately, they totally were kidding around, even though they were deadly serious.  It was a weird decade.

Wow… the feels that this screen suddenly gave to me as decades-old memory neurons were fired back up.  Welcome to my crappy spaceship.  Let’s launch this thing and make our fortune!

codeUnfortunately, I’m not allowed to launch unless I enter in the copy protection, which (if I recall correctly) was some sort of code wheel.  A code wheel that I do not have. has my back on this with two options.  The first is a very confusing PDF file, and the second is a handy little application that takes the on-screen clues in and spits out a helpful code.  Thanks, GOG!

After a little launch sequence (ooh, whizzing stars!), I’m in the void of space with nothing on the screen.  Hm.

planetStarflight is very, very menu-driven, and quite reminiscent of the original Wasteland in that regard.  So to access various functions of my ship, I have to talk to a specific crewman to open up that department.  Navigation allows me to fly around my home solar system via the cursor keys.  Nothing like a spaceship making an abrupt, sharp left turn to mimic accuracy!

Operations told me that there’s some good mining on the inner-most planet, so I fly around the sun and see what I can do to land on this brown blob.

As basic as the graphics are, it’s got a nice style to it and there are a few neat touches.  I really like how, when you orbit a planet, you get to see the planet slowly “rotating” in the window.

landAlso, landing uses a primitive 3-D landscape view — hey, back then, anything remotely 3-D kind of blew our minds.

groundNow that we’ve landed, it’s time to mine this planet for all it’s worth.  So my crew all piles into the all-terrain vehicle and starts puttering around on the surface, looking for those oh-so-valuable mining icons (crossed pickaxes).  It’s *amazing* to me how fast all of this is coming back to me; less than a minute out of the ship, and I’m driving around and mining like I used to do back in the day.

I don’t find a lot of stuff my first time out, just some chromium.  But I’ve got tons of space, so I pick everything up.  It’s important to keep an eye on the energy gauge so as to not run out of power and get a big fat game over.  At least the readout there tells you where you left your ship, which is quite helpful.

bonanzaAfter some trial and error, I figure out that my best mining prospects are on the grey and white patches (mountain and snow?) and worst on the yellow and blue (sand and water?).  I don’t quite fill up my cargo hold, but I’m excited to go back to the station and see how much I’ve made.

cargoIn that short mining jaunt, I end up making around 28,000 MUs, which — at least to me — seems like a nice haul.  I will be going right back to do a lot more in the next session, because I want to deck out this ship as much as possible before leaving this system!

Starflight: Intergalactic nostalgia trip

(This is part of my journey playing through Starflight. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

I may have yammered on a while back about the importance that Starflight held in my life back in the 80s.  It was the confluence of several factors: my obsession with Star Trek, my love of science fiction, and my copious amounts of free time unfettered from a social life.  And yet this game was brutal to me, as a single game over would effectively end that game and require a completely new one (which was compounded by the need to make copies of the game disc to run it on, lest I accidentally auto-save a failed game on the main discs).

And yet I loved being able to make up my own crew, fly my own ship, and set out into the galaxy to find my fortune.  Starflight’s been lurking in my GOG library for a while now, so let’s take it out for a spin — even if it might end up being a short ride.

modeOK, this start-up screen made me laugh, because you have to be pretty old to remember these sorts of menus.  Basically it’s asking me how crappy my monitor is.  Hercules?  I don’t even recall what that is.  I’ll go EGA and thank my lucky stars that I’ll get about four colors.

After a warning screen (games were very heavy-handed about piracy issues and copy protection back then), I get treated to this lovely sight:

titleJust be glad you can’t hear the awful bleeps and bloops that are attempting a main theme but are actually scoring your own personal hell.

stationWithout further ado, the game dumps me into the main space station.  As I recall, this is the central hub of Starflight that functions as a character creator, mission generator, bank, and vendor.

objOperations has an infodump for me, including a few suggestions where to go starting out and these helpful objectives.  Don’t get killed?  Rip off Star Trek as much as possible?  Check!

dodgeOver in personnel, I create my crew.  Once again, I’m going to be pulling names from whoever is currently on my Twitter feed.  Starflight doesn’t give us the best in the graphics department, opting for silhouettes instead of actual art or headshots.  I vividly remember loving the android option because they start with really good navigation and engineering skills, even though they can’t learn anything past that.

Can someone tell me what this human is doing here?  The Egyptian dance?  I mean… I don’t even…

So my crew is (drumroll): Dodge the human, Rubi the android, Pasmith the Velox (big praying mantis), Ardwulf the Elowan (plant-thing), MJ the human, and Ferrel the Thrynn (dinosaur).

crewEveryone gets a spot on the ship based on his/her/its best skill.  Don’t complain to me, it’s a pure numbers game.

gameThe space station bank informs me of two interesting facts: (1) I’m getting a whopping 12% interest, and (2) I apparently spent 200 MUs buying this game.  Guh?  Are we just getting meta and breaking the fourth wall, or did my captain decide to buy some apps before heading out on his journey?

shipAnd finally, it’s time to customize my ship, the ISS Bio Break.  Now, back when I played this as a kid, there weren’t any strategy guides and I didn’t notice that thing in operations basically telling me to stick around this system and mine it to make money.  Instead, I bought engines and spent so much fuel flying to the nearest system that I usually went broke.

This time, I’m being smart.  I load up the Bio Break with 16 cargo pods and nothing else; we’re going to hang around here and mine, mine, mine like I’m a newbie in EVE Online.

Quest for Glory: The Three Stooges

(This is part of my journey playing through Quest for Glory 1. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

f1After far too many failed attempts, my hero finally scrabbles over the wall and into the brigand’s fortress.  Woo!  It looks intimidating but is eerily devoid of other people.

f2Walking over the rug causes me to fall into a pit (while my eyes hilariously bug out).  Even though I am dead, four bandit archers pop out of nearby windows to pile on the overkill.

f3Is this another trap or just the brigands being so dumb that they need to label their non-traps?  Oh well, that’s why God invented save games.  Happily, this bridge holds.  There are also triplines all over the place, but once I investigate them, my character automatically walks over them without setting them off.  I AM ALL THAT IS THIEF.

f4Inside the brigands’ hall is a tricky section where three guards (who look — coincidentally, I’m sure — like the Three Stooges) keep trying to get into the room.  I can’t fight them; they’re instant game over if they come in.  So I have to keep moving around to block the different entrances, topple some candles to stop their advance, then leap up on the table and bring the chandolier down on their heads.  It’s actually tricky in terms of timing to do all of this, and I had to reload about a dozen times until I got the pattern just right.

f5It’s quite worth it to see the Stooges do their panicked dance and then be knocked out.  Quickly, I duck through the back door before more guards arrive.

f6What the… bloomin’ onion…

Well, Mr. “Me” here is that laughing warlock I’ve heard so much about, who is also Yorick, the jester who supposedly went off looking for the Baron’s daughter.  Seems like he got mixed up in a bad crowd, now didn’t he?  The room is tacky, covered in smileys and whatnot, and it’s also extremely weird to navigate.  Like a fun house.

Now Yorick claims that he’s here in disguise as a warlock but still wants to help Elsa.  The problem isn’t Yorick — it’s Elsa:

f7Plot twist!  Elsa is the brigand leader!  Huh… this changes a lot… and makes a weird sort of sense.  I sense family angst coming on soon.

f8Navigating this room requires figuring out which door goes where, all while avoiding trap doors and Yorick’s attempt to throw fruit at you.  Again, if he knows that I’m here to help and he’s all for it, why is he doing this to me?  Happily, all of this is a lot easier to beat (and less deadly to slip up) than the previous room.

f9This brings us to the brigand leader, Elsa.  She’s… not happy to see me, if that sword didn’t give it away.  Actually, she’s still cursed by the Baba Yaga and can’t remember who she really is.  So I give her a face full of dispell potion, which wakes her up.

f10Huzzah!  That’s two kids and two curses down.  Naturally, Elsa and Yorick can escape with her amulet but I can’t, so she gleefully leaves me behind as brigands attempt to knock down the door.  That’s the thanks I get?  I snatch up the magic mirror on the table and dash out the secret passage.

f11The mirror makes defeating Baba Yaga a trifle — I merely point it at her while she’s trying to turn me into a frog (yet again) and the spell bounces back on her.  In her anger, she sends me outside and her chicken hut flies off.  I don’t know whether to question why the hut has chicken wings and legs or the fact that chickens can’t, y’know, fly, but hey, I won!

f12It’s back to the Baron’s castle for a well-deserved celebration, as I am officially crowned the Hero of Spielberg.  I’m sure this picture has a lot of Sierra in-jokes going on, although I’m most drawn to the Starfleet officer on the right-hand side.

f13And with that, I board the magic carpet and head south for Quest for Glory II.  The end!

Final Thoughts

For a game that I had never heard of nor played until recently, Quest for Glory is undoubtedly one of the best old-school Sierra titles I’ve experienced.  It’s certainly unique, with a hybrid adventure/RPG setup and three classes with their own playstyles.

I loved how many of the puzzles had several solutions and how the world felt cohesive and immersive.  After bumbling about for a few weeks now, the forest of Spielberg will forever be remembered by me as a “real” place with iconic locales and characters.  Major props go out to how the game allows you to explore and solve it (mostly) in a non-linear fashion, giving you time to establish yourself and build up your inventory and stats.

On the down side, the RPG mechanics are certainly lacking.  I wasn’t a huge fan of how you needed to do repetitive tasks to level up skills, nor how bland fighting was.  Combat should have been exciting, but ended up being annoying speed bumps between where I was and where I wanted to go.  From start to finish, every encounter played out pretty much the same.

As a thief, I only got to steal from one house (there was another one, but I couldn’t get in) and only had to sneak once or twice.  It didn’t really feel like a huge difference in playstyle.  And all of that gold I ended up getting mostly went to waste, as there wasn’t much to buy.

Quest for Glory is funny, interesting, and lacks a lot of hardcore frustration that was present in early Sierra titles.  This VGA remake version looks pretty good, with colorful sprites and some hilarious animations.  I won’t be going into the next chapter of the series, at least for now, but I’m glad I got to play through the original at least once.

Quest for Glory: Climbing lessons

(This is part of my journey playing through Quest for Glory 1. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

ur1Flush with recent success and recent funds, I head back to town to see if there’s anything to buy.  There isn’t, really.  I pick up a new dagger from the store and a tool kit from the Thieves Guild, but for the most part I’m pretty set.

Then I notice that there’s a new mysterious note under the barstool in the tavern, telling me of a meeting at the local archery range.  Guess I have somewhere to go now!

ur2I arrive at the archery range in time to evesdrop on two brigands.  They’re talking about me (yay!) and how I’m futzing up things.  They also mention how “she” (I’m assuming Baba Yaga) is getting agitated and they indicate that there is a lack of trust between the brigands and her.  Finally, they conveniently mention a back door into the brigand fortress, complete with key and password.  Glad I showed up then!

ur3One brigand leaves and I take the other one out with a dagger throw to the stomach (ouch!).  His corpse rewards me with a key, and I leave him to rot in the hot noonday sun.  I’m so awesome.

ur4As mentioned in the secret conversation, the back door to the fortress is hidden in some rocks.  The rocks are easy enough to find, although I have to navigate around this jumping… jellybean thing.  According to the description, it’s an Antwerp and it’s on the endangered species list.  It also has the most annoying sound effect and oh my gosh do I wish I could kill it.

ur5Going through the dull cave, I arrive at the front gate of the fortress behind a patrolling minotaur.  Man, he grumbles a lot!

ur6Sneaking past the minotaur to get to the gate is the easy part, but unless I want to fight my way in (and I do not), I’m going to have to clamber over this wall.

That… is a problem.  Remember when I didn’t have enough sneak skill to rob the kobold wizard?  Well, now I don’t have enough climbing skill to hoist myself over this wall, even though there’s a convenient slanted rock to my left that would make it easy.  So the only way through, once again, is to practice, practice, practice.

Then begins an agonizing 15 minutes of gametime during which my character tries to climb, slips down, and gets a failure message all while the oblivious minotaur patrols and shrill music assaults my ears.  Eventually my guy gets too tired to climb, so I have to tell him to rest for a few hours and then attempt again.  And again.  And again.

This goes on for a DAY AND A HALF of in-game time.  It goes from midnight to day to night again before I finally get to 75 climbing skill and hop on over.  Ugh.  What fresh hell will this fortress bring?  We’ll find out next!

Quest for Glory: The man in the cave

(This is part of my journey playing through Quest for Glory 1. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

ca1Nearby Erana’s Peace is a cave, which is guarded by this fearsome-looking ogre.  While I have better armor on now than before, I’m still a thief fighting with a dinky dagger.  I should have chosen the fighter class, shouldn’t I?  Oh well… I actually muddle my way through this encounter, striking at the creature when he steps in to swing.  Once again, I am severely underwhelmed at the combat mechanics in this game.

The ogre’s corpse does cough up a treasure chest with a lot of money in it, which I add to my growing hoard.  Seriously, I’m up to 18 gold or something now, which is enough to buy pretty much anything I want.

ca2Inside the cave is a bear (which is normal) that is chained up (which is not as normal).  For kicks, I go right up to him and then get mauled to death.  This prompts the above death notice, which I applaud most vigorously.  Best pun ever.

ca3Getting past the bear isn’t hard at all — as the description tells me, he’s a HUNGRY bear.  Here dude, have an apple from an underage centaur filly who won’t date me.  Rawr, that’s good fruit.

ca4In the next room of the cave is a kobold wizard (I love his tattered robes!) who has a key around his neck.  Well!  We must be unlocking that murderous bear, mustn’t we!  I try sneaking up to him, all thief-like, but since this is literally the first time in the game that I’ve tried sneaking, my skill is horribly poor and I get fried by magic(tm).

ca5Since I need a higher sneaking skill, you know what that means.  The game is going to require that I do a repetitive task over and over again while it slowly levels that skill up.  So I head back out in front of the cave and practice my sneaking to the vast approval of the decaying ogre.  He gives me important tips like how to blend in with one’s environment, and I feel less like a complete fool for mincing back and forth for over ten minutes.

ca6At least all that sneaking practice pays off: I easily boost the key from the kobold and free the bear.  Said bear transforms into — shocker! — the Baronet, Barnard von Spielburg.  He’s a tool, too, sneering at me as if he wasn’t just wallowing in his own filth and happy for a bite of apple.

ca7The upshot of all these trials is that I am now welcome into the Baron’s halls.  He’s pretty glad to see me and far more appreciative that I rescued his snooty son from eternal bear-hood.  I haven’t quite saved everything — I still need to find his daughter, drive out the brigands, and reverse the Baba Yaga’s curse — but it’s a really good start.

I even get invited to dinner and am rewarded with 50 gold for the baronet’s rescue.  I need to go on a shopping spree!

Quest for Glory: Dryad scavenger hunt

(This is part of my journey playing through Quest for Glory 1. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

aa1After my midnight adventures for Baba Yaga and a subsequent fight with five — count ‘em, five — goblins, I am tuckered.  I make a dash for Erana’s Peace to get my free food and safe sleep.  Ahh.

aa2One of the biggest drawbacks to Quest for Glory is how confusing it is to navigate.  A good chunk of the world is forest, and with no map to guide you and a ton of repeated scenes (save on artwork storage space, I guess), it’s hard to know where you are and where you’re going.  I eventually resorted to printing out a map from a website, but even still, I’m a little tired of these lengthy strolls through the glades.

Fortunately for my boredom, I stumble upon a white stag, which bounds away.  I follow, dreaming of white stag steaks for dinner.

aa3The stag stops two screens over, where I have an encounter with a tree dryad.  Don’t see a lot of dryads even in fantasy RPGs, so one point goes to Quest for Glory here.  The dryad asks me if I’m “a friend of the forest.”  Well, I’m more a friend of my own pocketbook, but I know what I’m supposed to say, so “yes.”  She then tasks me to get a seed because that’s all tree-huggers can think about.  Seeds and sprouts and sticks.

aa4Another (sigh) long walk through the forest.  Eventually I find these four plants spitting the seed that I need back and forth.  For a long while, I try to knock the seed down using stones that I picked up from the ground, but the seeds go too fast and it never happens.  So instead, I climb up to these rocks, stick out my hand, and pocket the seed as it flies by.  Go me!

I bring the seed all the way back to the dryad, who receives it with a Star Trek reference.

aa5Okay then.  Live long and prosper and all that.

The dryad tells me of some other prophecy (this game has about twelve hundred prophecies, I’ve noticed) that boils down to me gathering ingredients for a potion.  I have some of the items but not others.  Time to scavenger hunt, I guess.

aa6Nearby, goofy ground-living fluffballs named Meeps give me one of the ingredients, some of their green fur.  Can I play the rest of the game as a Meep?

aa7And some water from the Flying Falls…

Since I’m nearby Spielberg, I stop in and spend 400 silvers to upgrade my armor.  Ooh yeah, I’m rough and tough!

aa8The last ingredient that I need is some fairy dust, which only comes from fairies who pop out around dusk in the mushroom circle.  I’ll admit it, this whole encounter had me laughing pretty hard.  The fairies — which are only portrayed as little flickering lights — bicker and banter back and forth.  Their greatest desire is to see me dance, and so for a long minute, that’s what my character does.  Then one fairy (Dewdrop, I believe) admits to having a crush on me while another (Mary) gives me my fairy dust.


aa9Of course, then I make the mistake of entering the circle and being forced todance to death.  The boogie music here is worth it, however.

With all of the ingredients collected, I return to the healer’s hut where she (rather anticlimacticly) makes a dispel potion for me.  Hope this pays off later!

Quest for Glory: The Baba Yaga’s task

(This is part of my journey playing through Quest for Glory 1. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

Well well well… we’re finally crossing the threshold of the dreaded Baba Yaga, the dreaded villain of the game.  Let’s stare evil straight in the face and give it a raspberry, shall we?

b1EGADS.  That thing fell off the ugly tree, hit every branch coming down, and then got plastic surgery to look even worse.  Well done, game.  That’s substantially more terrifying-looking than I anticipated.

Baba Yaga isn’t too pleased that I showed up, and since she knows I’m trying to be some sort of hero, she turns me into a frog and prepares to toss me into a pot for dinner.

b2All I’m thinking is that a frog is a mighty poor supper.  Not much meat there.  Why not turn me into a chicken or a pig?

At least Baba Yaga gives me a chance to live — she sends me out on a task to collect a mandrake root from the graveyard at precisely midnight and to bring it back by dawn, or else I’ll die.  Awesome.  Time to fuss with Quest for Glory’s annoying time system yet again.  The problem is that it’s dawn and I have to make 18 hours pass.  As far as I can tell, I can only get it to skip ahead if I’m tired (as in my SP is down) by an hour.  So I look for ways to fart around.

b3Killing weak goblins for money and skill points is as good a time waster as any other.  There’s a nice clearing where several goblins congregate, so I hang out here and grind for a while, then rest, then grind some more.

b4So nice of the goblins to line up and wait patiently for their turn.  At least as a thief, combat in this game is beyond dull.  Click click click click click click click.  There are a couple of different types of swings, a defensive move, and the option to throw out spells, but mostly it’s just clicking when the enemy isn’t defending.  Then it’s just a matter of if their red bar runs out before yours.

Was all CRPG combat this dull back in the day?  Honestly, I would love for there to be an old-school turn-based menu combat system here instead of whatever this is.

b5Finally — finally — midnight rolls around and I stroll into the graveyard, only to find ghosts partying it up.  I love how being a ghost in this game means that you don’t whine and moan about your undead state, but instead you get to dance the night away.  That’s awesome.  Less awesome is the fact that they suck my lifeforce away.  Time for a restore and to quaff an undead ungent!

The ungent makes me temporarily immune to ghostie graps, so I stroll in, yank the screaming mandrake root out, and dash (ever so slowly) back to Baba Yaga’s hut.

b6After all that fuss, the Baba Yaga uses the mandrake… to make mandrake mousse.  Is her tummy all she thinks about?

b7I concur with with statement.  While I got out of there with my skin intact, the whole quest seemed pretty pointless.  I didn’t get any XP or skill points that I saw, nor a reward.  And that ungent cost me 100 silvers!  Baba, there will be a reckoning for this, mark my words!