Matt Chat 6: Dungeon Master available now!

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It took a week and an extra day to produce, but here it is -- Matt Chat #6: Dungeon Master! I'm sure you're familiar with this game from my book Dungeons & Desktops, but it's a totally different experience to see it in action. Check out my video and let me know if you have requests for future episodes!

Related:

Read my 2006 review of Dungeon Master for Armchair Arcade!

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Calibrator
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Very advanced for its time

The videos really get more and more professional - kudos for that! - but this time I found the battle scenes in the first part of the documentation a bit confusing (I have played and beaten DM on the Amiga back then).

DM definitely is a masterpiece and though I can understand Rob for not really liking it (it *does* kinda look bland and simple today) it is still a defining game of the genre. The real time aspect is part of this as Matt pointed out as is the immersion factor by being able to take lots of things and throwing them around. This is something that shouldn't be underestimated - especially when you spend much time in the dungeons - and lots of the clones in the following years didn't it right. In fact DM was regarded *the* dungeon crawler for years.

My limited funds at the time only allowed me to concentrate on the "highlights" so DM together with Ultima 5 were the only RPGs I did play on the Amiga and I finished both. Even though U5 also features 3D dungeons both games couldn't differ more! DM has way more immersive dungeons because of the level of interaction possible. It only does one thing (unlike Ultima which is a world simulation with a story) and does it perfectly - for the time. I was very happy when Origin dropped the 3D dungeons and made a seamless world but I'm probably alone on this one.

It's pretty sad that FTL didn't make more games with this engine (they wanted to make a spy or detective game as I recall) and didn't evolve from DM into more plot-oriented games and better engines. I don't know the reasons for this but I think they were too small and didn't want to expand or sell themselves to a large publisher (Activision would've been a good choice, IMHO).

Lots of DM clones appeared for various platforms - including the atmospheric Eye of the Beholder series - but DM was way before its time and though some clones featured way better plots and excelled in other details (like the gorgeous graphics of the Westwood EotB titles) it took another equally progressive title to dethrone it and it needed a way more powerful platform than a 8 MHz 68000: Ultima Underworld.

Already mentioned by crcasey this title was a major step forward in all directions - except party management, obviously ;-)
It's sad, too, that further sequels weren't made but Arx Fatalis was a good replacement, though neither taking place in the same universe nor *that* innovative. It does feature a nifty magic system by drawing runes with the mouse on-screen, though.

take care,
Calibrator

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yakumo9275
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I'll only add a tiny note

I'll only add a tiny note here, I didn't like the implementation of magic in DM. It felt clumsy more than anything else to me. So too with the combat interface (hack/chop/etc), it needed refinement, which is what I think happened with EOB1 and many other games that followed DM.

-- Stu --

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Bill Loguidice
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I personally didn't mind the

I personally didn't mind the magic system in DM and actually came to appreciate its innovation, though it is a higher learning curve than a more traditional RPG, such as Phantasie, that worked on points, or Pool of Radiance, that worked on rest/memorization.

I agree with Eye of the Beholder being a great game and I have several versions on different platforms, though ironically I ended up beating it on the latter day Game Boy Advance version, which featured a Pool of Radiance style tactical combat system rather than keeping it first person, which is actually an improvement in some ways on the simplified combat of typical DM-like games.

One final comment about the immersion of the ST/Amiga version (and I'm only talking specifically as an owner of the Amiga version) was not only the vibrant graphics, which, save for the character portraits, were pretty much spot on. Simple, clean and very nice. However, what can't be underestimated is that even though there wasn't music, the sound effects were very, very effective. Probably a holdover from the ST original (and its relatively limited sound capabilities), they were all digitized if I remember correctly, which at that time was certainly a treat and made an impact, when, for instance, a door would slam down.

Vintage Games book!
Xbox 360: billlog | Wii: 1345 2773 2048 1586 | PS3: ArmchairArcade
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Calibrator
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Sound
Bill Loguidice wrote:

One final comment about the immersion of the ST/Amiga version (and I'm only talking specifically as an owner of the Amiga version) was not only the vibrant graphics, which, save for the character portraits, were pretty much spot on. Simple, clean and very nice.

And a very good utilization of 16 colors - the graphics people at work knew their job!

Quote:

However, what can't be underestimated is that even though there wasn't music, the sound effects were very, very effective.

Absolutely spot on! In the most immersive games you always have great sound! Some other older examples with first person perspective: System Shock and the Thief series.

Quote:

Probably a holdover from the ST original (and its relatively limited sound capabilities), they were all digitized if I remember correctly, which at that time was certainly a treat and made an impact, when, for instance, a door would slam down.

IIRC it was digitized and that was probably the reason it needed 1 MB RAM whereas the Atari ST and Apple II GS version only needed 512 KB.
Also important: The Amiga version had stereo sound which was immensely helpful to determine from which side the enemy was approaching! I think it was one of the first games to make good use of stereo sound.

take care,
Calibrator

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Mark Vergeer
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Very good video Matt!

20.000 bonus points. Very well done video. Your narration is very natural and yet is more 'melodic' than a normal talking voice - which is very pleasant to listen to and really the way the pros are also using their voices. Kudos!

I always get very disoriented playing that game. Not really 'my cuppa' but it is fairly advanced for its age.

Xbox 360: Lactobacillus P | Wii: 8151 3435 8469 3138
Armchair arcade Editor | Pixellator | www.markvergeer.nl

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Matt Barton
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Wow, this Matt chat spawned

Wow, this Matt chat spawned a massive conversations! I love it! :)

I'd forgotten about the rune drawing system of Arx Fatalis. I've yet to play that one, so should probably check it out to see what I think. I thought about magic systems in CRPGs last night, and finally came up with the idea that it should work more like adventure games (in particular, the enchanter series). There should be hints and clues enough to get you started, but discovering a spell should be challenging and lead to a very satisfying "Aha!!!" moment--as well as alter the gameplay possibilities considerably. In Zork: Grand Inquisitor, for instance, you found a spell that "made purple things invisible." That sounds useless at first, but you eventually discovered a number of very clever uses for that spell. The fact that I remember it to this day says something about it. Most spells in CRPGs are simply enhancement or damage related; not really all that exciting if you think about it. I'd love to have a game where the spells were all seemingly pointless at first, but which had extraordinary uses if you were only smart enough to think of them.

By the way, someone had mentioned Shadowgate--another favorite of mine, though I believe Deja Vu was the first in that line of games. I've been wanting to look at one, but the originals came out on the original Mac (black and white). I've yet to be able to get a classic Mac emulator up and running. If you think you can help with that, please let me know.

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Calibrator
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It's a kind of magic!
Matt Barton wrote:

I thought about magic systems in CRPGs last night, and finally came up with the idea that it should work more like adventure games (in particular, the enchanter series). There should be hints and clues enough to get you started, but discovering a spell should be challenging and lead to a very satisfying "Aha!!!" moment--as well as alter the gameplay possibilities considerably. In Zork: Grand Inquisitor, for instance, you found a spell that "made purple things invisible." That sounds useless at first, but you eventually discovered a number of very clever uses for that spell. The fact that I remember it to this day says something about it. Most spells in CRPGs are simply enhancement or damage related; not really all that exciting if you think about it. I'd love to have a game where the spells were all seemingly pointless at first, but which had extraordinary uses if you were only smart enough to think of them.

I noticed your literary approach on games before but here it's very apparent: Don't tell the player everything at first, let him develop the game himself - actively. Difficult to implement with modern gamepad-based interfaces but not impossible!

In AD&D games you often have a multitude of spells at hand and memorizing one usually blocks you from using another. Neither elegant nor "realistic" - a good wizard should be able to improvise!
Also most spells seem to be combat-centric and the player rarely has to use them outside combat. He won't get to learn the spells possibilities and he doesn't train its usage.

There's lots of potential in magic which has largely been untapped: It's impact on the gaming world itself and not on the enemy or own character!
Most of these uses are very seldom and mostly pre-skripted complete with cutscenes but when were you able to really step into the pointy shoes of a powerful mage that has the ability to alter the universe?

Example: You learn a telekinesis spell and are able to move tiny objects like a ring or gem. Later in the game after meeting a Yoda-like teacher you are able to rip out lanterns and thrown them at your enemy, bring whole buildings and bridges down etc. Think of Magneto in the X-Men movies! Damage? Yes. Enhancements? You bet! Total carnage and permanent map changes? Hell yeah!

take care,
Calibrator

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Mark Vergeer
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Installing Classic OS on new Intel Macs

There are a lot of tutorials out there that would help you Matt. I got it up and running in no time, especially with the newer versions of Sheepshaver!

http://www.macwindows.com/OS9_on_Intel_Mac.html
COI is an easy way to go (CLASSIC on INTEL)

http://uneasysilence.com/archive/2006/08/7352/

http://www.redundantrobot.com/sheepshaver-tutorial/

Xbox 360: Lactobacillus P | Wii: 8151 3435 8469 3138
Armchair arcade Editor | Pixellator | www.markvergeer.nl

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Matt Barton
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mac emulation

Hi, Mark, thanks, but what I'm looking for is a way to emulate classic OS on my PC. :)

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Mark Vergeer
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Multi platform emulators - so most tutorials work cross-plaform
Matt Barton wrote:

Hi, Mark, thanks, but what I'm looking for is a way to emulate classic OS on my PC. :)

Oh, I thought you knew that Sheepshaver / Basilisk II were multi platform emulators - that is they run on Linux and Windows too. They way to get them up and running is actually more difficult on OSX and Linux because of the location of the configuration files. But on Windows it is a breeze. The tutorials will help you out.

You will need an appropriate Macintosh ROM file, as well as a compatible copy of MacOS 9.x. It is possible to get that from COI - which is an all in one package for OSX - this is a less then legal way.

I set up Sheepshaver on my Mac first and getting it up and running on Windows was hassle free.

Xbox 360: Lactobacillus P | Wii: 8151 3435 8469 3138
Armchair arcade Editor | Pixellator | www.markvergeer.nl

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