Quest for Glory II: Desert touchdown

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(This is part of my journey going checking out Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

We’re going to be taking a break from the King’s Quest run to return to another Sierra series, Quest for Glory. I’ve been intrigued by these adventure/RPG hybrids ever since learning of their existence — and I have four more of them to play through!

Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire takes us back to 1990. Since this game didn’t have a later graphical overhaul like the first one did, it’s going to look like we’re taking a step back in visual quality. It’s still better than the early Sierra games, of course.

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Ahh… nothing like passive-aggressive guilt trip screens from PC games of yore. For the record, I paid for my copy of this game, so I’m sure that money is going to trickle down to the original musicians and “hard-working professionals” who made it.

Before starting the game proper, I loaded up the introduction credits. The game starts right where the first Quest for Glory left off, with the unnamed hero riding on a magic carpet with his good cat friends. The Quest for Glory series likes to theme its games according to regions and regional myths, so we’re leaving behind Germany/Europe-land and going straight into Arabian Nights. NOT my favorite type of fantasy, nor am I a fan of deserts, but I’ll suck it up for you, the readers.

Oh, and as the credits progress, the starship Enterprise knocks the flying carpet out of space:

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Because while Quest for Glory has a big problem with you pirating the game, it has no compunctions whatsoever against using others’ intellectual property for kicks and giggles. This makes the second Star Trek reference in these games that I’ve spotted — I think someone is a fan.

We land in a big ol’ city, whereupon the cats magically change my clothes so that I look like Prince Ali from Aladdin. Fabulous he. Time to strike out for fame, glory… and money!

Instead of rolling up a new character, I decide to try one of Quest for Glory’s much-vaunted features: the ability to import a character from the previous games. I didn’t even remember that I had saved my save file from 2014, but there it was, sitting in a specially made directory. Way to go, 2014 Syp! You’re awesome!

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And wouldn’t you know, it worked. Huh. Would you look at that.

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Say hello once more to Syp, the master thief. Niiice stats, buddy. At least, I hope they are. I really don’t know. That 5 in dodge is going to save my bacon, I can tell.

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Even though we just landed in Shapeir, Abdulla and the cats have set up a new inn. I’m guessing this will be my headquarters for my adventures, which is another nice touch about these games. Makes you feel like you have a “home,” in a sense.

Abdulla is a little concerned about the disappearance of his friend and wings that my way, since I’m the hero and all that. I have to re-aquaint myself with the text parser, since that makes an unfortunate return here. My kingdom for mouse-only!

First things first: Before we leave the inn, we need to turn on the clowns.

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Yes, this is an actual menu option. According to a quick Google search, turning this on makes silly stuff happen on occasion. Well, more silly than normal for these games, I assume.

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If you’re new to these games, it’s important to keep in mind that Quest for Glory II is very much 50% adventure game and 50% RPG. So while you’re solving puzzles and all that, you also need to be working on your stats, grinding mobs, and getting sweet, sweet loot.

Turns out that I can’t even BUY loot in this town, since my Spielberg money isn’t any good here. Need to find a money changer!

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This is… not as easy as it sounds. Unlike the first game’s major hub, Shapeir is intentionally laid out in a confusing manner, presumably for those nasty pirates who didn’t make photocopies of the map as well. So there’s lot of pseudo-3D walking through halls and getting very much turned around. I’m starting to get a headache here, game.

Think I’m whining unnecessarily? Here’s the actual map of the city:

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Because it’s more important to get revenge on hypothetical pirates than to please our actual customers! Did ants make this city or something?

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Finally — FINALLY — I find the money changer, Dinarzad. Not only do I trade in my 223 coins from the previous game (thanks 2014 Syp!) but when I make the secret sign of the thief to her, she mentions that she has a job for me tomorrow night. I’m going to need tools, however. Should probably go shopping or something.

Presenting the all-new, all-star Bio Break blogroll!

Overhauling my blogroll has been something on my to-do list for a long time now, and I’m ashamed to say that other than adding a few links here and there, I haven’t taken the time to do proper maintenance on it in over a year. Thus past due, I got busy with the process of bringing it up to par.

What’s there on the right-hand side of the blog is now the most up-to-date version of the blogroll that I can muster. To get it into shape, I did the following:

  • Went through all of my old links and weeded out any blogs that were either defunct, duplicates, or dormant (my criteria for this was “hasn’t posted since May”).
  • Added all of the new NBI 2016 blogs.
  • Kept an eye on my RSS feed to add back in a few blogs that had gone dormant in the past, got removed from my blogroll, but since had revived.
  • Went to several of my friends’ blogs and scoured their blogrolls for sites that are active and I didn’t know about.

For the most part, I try to keep the blogroll focused on sites that discuss MMOs, whether individual games or in general. Here’s my current list — let me know if you think you should be on it or if I missed anyone! And definitely check out these blogs, because there’s so many great writers out there waiting to be discovered. I wouldn’t say that this is the *definitive* MMO blog list, but it’s definitely a good overview of current writers in the field.

Early access bites games in the butt, period.

I have made no secret that I am not a fan of this “era of early access” that we seem to be in, both in MMOs and general gaming. It’s starting to bite games in the butt and I think that studios are blind to the damage it’s causing in their pursuit of the almighty dollar.

Let me first say that my feelings on the matter are not directed toward the trend of increased open development and communication on behalf of the studios. I actually think that’s pretty great and I’ve been enjoying seeing the studios more open about the development process and fostering a stronger community through it.

But this early access thing? It’s gone from being a sporadic fad to having its own section on Steam, which means it’s now entrenched and The Way Things Are Done. And I can’t see anything but more negative than positive arising from it.

My main beef with early access can be summed up in four points:

  1. It’s letting the judgey crowd in way, way too early, which means that people will formulate opinions (that are very hard to change) and share testimonies based on the game in its most incomplete state. It’s not good word-of-mouth for the title, is what I’m saying.
  2. It’s a blatant attempt for studios to get a payday for a product that is still in the making, which is ridiculous. I used to think that paying to get into a beta was silly, but now we’re past the looking glass into a truly bizarre wonderland. Propped up by these sales, studios have less financial incentive to get a good product done in a reasonable time frame.
  3. It’s absolutely stealing any excitement and publicity from the game’s eventual release. You hear that “early access is the new launch” and it’s totally true. We make a big deal when a game hits early access, but when that game eventually crosses the barrier to an official release, no one will care. It’ll be old news, an old game, and the studio will lose a valuable opportunity to sell the game to a wider audience than early adopters.
  4. It’s pressuring interested players into making a decision to either play the game now in an incomplete state or to get left behind waiting for launch as others play and talk about it.

Of course, there are always exceptions to point to, and I won’t deny that games like Minecraft and ARK have benefited greatly by letting audiences into the alpha, pre-alpha, early access, or whatever you’re calling it. Project Gorgon has built solid word-of-mouth by keeping its (non-paid) alpha open to all.

But every other day we’re getting notices of early access, as if this is the golden ticket to ensuring a success, and it’s going to end poorly, mark my words. Look at Landmark, for example. Now, there’s a lot of reasons why Landmark is completely bombing right now, but the fact that Daybreak pushed it out the door of early access years ago really didn’t help. People who were possibly interested in the game checked it out for a month and then, upon finding a buggy and incomplete game, wandered away, ne’er to return. The launch, when it came, was about as exciting as trying to light soggy fireworks. It was a non-event followed by savage Steam reviews (again, other factors such as the backlash about EverQuest Next must be considered here).

I’m also starting to develop an eye condition due to how many times I’ve been rolling mine over Shroud of the Avatar. If you haven’t heard — or don’t really follow the title — this spiritual successor will be sort-of-but-not-really launching next month with Release 32. Character and data persistence is going to be turned on with no further wipes planned and the game is already taking money, so this is launch in any sense of the definition except for the fact that the game is not in a launch state. It’s still early access. It’s still alpha or whatever.

So Portalarium is trying to make a big deal out of the launch while throwing its hands up and going, “Whoa WHOA this isn’t launch! Don’t say it’s launch! Don’t treat it as launch! But get excited about it!” and general confusion over it reigns supreme. Once again, early access has made a muddled mess out of what used to be the clear-cut lines dividing an online game’s testing period and its launch state. It’s ridiculous because early access can also be the new “you can’t criticize this, it’s still in beta!” argument we used to see. Oh sure, the game is sort-of launched, but you can’t lob criticisms at it, it’s still in development don’t you know?

Silliness.

Studios, stop trying to make a fast buck on early adopters. Have your limited alpha tests, sure. Build that community. But don’t flip the switch for a launch — no matter what you call it — until you’ve got something that’s worthy of being called that.

New computer on the way!

So everything’s finally coming together for me to get a new computer to replace my home-built one from last year that I’ve never been able to get working properly. I put in the order last night and it should be arriving around July 7th (but hopefully earlier!).

I’m not going to post the specs on the off-chance that the tech-savvy people out there might pooh-pooh this build and rob me of some of my excitement, but I do appreciate everyone who chipped in their thoughts and advice in selecting a new machine. I think it’s going to be a nice all-around upgrade and it should serve my purposes quite nicely.

In the meantime, I need to start making a backup of my current computer and get a list together of all of the programs to install on the new one.

VGM of the Day: “To the Top” from Tales from the Borderlands

I am trucking my way through Telltale Games’ incredible Tales from the Borderlands series, and I have to say that every episode has me incredibly excited to see the intro credits and song. They’ve done these so spot-on with great music that I’ve rewatched them numerous times.

The best, hands-down, has to be episode 4’s “To the Top.” It’s a tremendous, 80s-sounding song that’s coupled with a rocket launch and hilarious slow-motion jokes. Fiona getting in the way of Rhys’ eyeline cracks me up every time.

Star Trek Online: Spheres of Influence

I’m at a very happy point in my Star Trek Online career: I’m finally as far as I’ve ever been, which means from here on out it’s all brand-new missions to complete. And there are a lot of them too, since I’ve got the Dyson Sphere series, the Delta Rising expansion, the Iconian War, and the Future Proof missions. Plus, y’know, the new expansion coming out in a week or two here.

It’s enough to keep me and the crew of the Rain Bunny quite busy.

The first of these “new” missions was Sphere of Influence. This had me head over to New Romulus to help those peeps activate an Iconian gateway, despite the vibes and Worf practically shouting “THIS IS GOING TO END VERY VERY BADLY.”

Also, I’ve lost track of who are our friends and enemies. I thought we were just fighting against the Romulans and Klingons, but here are best of friends. I’m not really tracking the alliances and factions very well, I fear.

Anyway, surprise surprise, things end very badly. The newly activated gate starts bringing the cavern down on us, so everyone leaps through the gateway into some unknown facility. There, according to horror movie law, we all split up and start getting picked off one by one. One guy gets his blood replaced by synthetic something, which isn’t as helpful for living as you would think.

Eventually we come out onto a series of floating platforms, which is easily the visual highlight of the mission. It’s quite well-done, too, as the sky keeps shifting to show you different major planets of the galaxy and the dire plans that the Iconians have for them, like gentrification on Earth.

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“Hey Worf? I think it’s time to boogie out of here. The enemy has formed a raid team — and we’re the boss target.”

This mission was so long, in fact, that the first night I was playing it I logged off in the middle of it and found my progress reset about 20 minutes back. Alas.

Eventually we steal a carrier and destroy a space gateway to keep a fleet from invading or somesuch. I thought it was pretty amusing that the game was then giving me a tutorial on using carrier ships, even though the Rain Bunny is one. Launching fighters, you say? How novel!

VGM of the Day: Super Mario Bros. 2

I often feel that Super Mario Bros. 2 doesn’t get the respect these days as a “proper” entry into the Mario franchise, being an altered version of another game and all. Yet we played it like crazy back in the 80s, and I have a particular fondness for it — and its music.

Talk about a chirpy, cheery, and catchy theme! Can’t stop hearing this in my head once I’ve played it.

I imagine that this music plays anytime I accomplish something awesome, which is quite frequent.

We would beg — BEG — our cousin TJ to quickly beat the game so we could hear this theme. The lullaby earworm makes me insanely happy.