Sunday, January 8, 2017

Fer & Flamme: Enigme & Ennui

The best of mostly-bad illustrations in the game.
   
I spent most of my second Fer & Flamme session mapping the city of Dord, the city closest to where the characters start. The city is quite large, comprising almost 100 separate "scenes," both indoor and outdoor. I found it maddeningly hard to map. Just once, it would be nice to play an adventure-style game in which the developers didn't attempt to "trick" the player with transitions that go east from one scene but come into the south of the next one, one-way transitions, and the like.
   
My aborted attempt at mapping in Excel.
   
Fer & Flamme supposedly helps you as you explore by showing arrows at the bottom of the screen indicating which directions you can go. Except: 1) south is never shown, even when it's a valid option; and 2) the accuracy of other shown directions is inconsistent. In the "tavernier" shot below, for instance, the arrows indicating I can go west but not east. In fact, the reverse is true.
    
Maybe that's a consequence of drinking too much.
    
Some of the screens have doors. If you try to enter them, you may get a message that they're closed (this seems to depend on the time of day). If so, you're asked which character wants to open the door. Never once has any selection worked for me. Maybe my strength isn't high enough. To fully explore the city, I jut had to wait around a lot until the doors opened on their own. (Time passes whether you do anything or not, at a rate of about one game minute per one real second.)
   
Trying to get into the palace.
   
From practice and commenters, I learned the importance of searching every screen. About half a dozen of them held items of varying importance. You don't always find them the first time you search, but I soon learned that if there's no item to be found, "il n'y a rien" only appears on the screen once, no matter how many times you select the "search" option. If there is something to be found, on the other hand, the phrase stacks multiple times on top of itself until you actually find the item.
   
I knew I'd get something eventually.
   
Stores included a butcher, a tavern, a clothing store, a weapon store, and stands selling fish, bread, fruits and vegetables. My characters are hungry and thirsty, but because of my weapon and armor purchases during character creation, plus the purchase of a few meager weapons here, I don't have enough gold to buy more than a couple pieces of fruit. Stealing didn't work; I got caught every time.

If you get caught stealing, incidentally, you get sentenced to 1 hour in prison and literally just have to sit there and watch the clock tick by. That's not a bad approach. It's a real consequence, and back in the day it probably would have been more of a pain in the neck to restart and reload than to just serve your sentence.
    
Lumiere, you had one job.
    
I can't figure out how to eat or drink anyway. Theoretically, you do this from the "health" menu. You select manger or boire and then pick the character. But even characters with food and water in their inventories don't do anything when I select their options.
    
Roussir has 9 waters in his inventory, but he can't drink.
    
The game's approach to equipment is also a little messed up. You purchase all kinds of weapons and armor during character creation that don't appear once the game starts. I guess those initial purchases just modify attack and defense statistics. If you want to have actual weapons in the game, you have to buy them again. (I haven't found armor yet.) Not understanding this, I spent most of my gold during character creation. The best approach might be to start over and ensure that my characters start the game with at least a little gold.

NPCs are similarly confounding. The various peasants, monks, guards, and other characters you see in my screenshots aren't permanent fixtures on those screens (although animals, for some reason, are). They come and go. I like this; it makes the city feel more like a living place and it anticipates more complex movements of NPCs in later games. But there's no way to productively interact with them. Occasionally, one will wander up and offer a "bonjour," but all I ever seem to be able to do is say "bonjour" back or kill the conversation by insulting the NPC or telling him that we're thieves or something. They never offer any dialogue that  means anything. I don't know if this is something I'm doing wrong or part of the game that was never implemented.
    
Yes, that's very kind of you. Anything on my quest?
   
Overall, the city isn't badly done. The artwork is only adequate, but the game does a better job than most at making the city seem like a realistic, diverse place. Neighborhoods include (my translations) the Cat Quarter, the Cut-Throat Quarter, the Old Quarter, and the Dark Quarter, with the artwork varied appropriately. Multiple roads converge on two key locations: the church and the "gilded palace." 

These locations held the only quest-based items or messages I found in the city, and even they are a bit obscure. Translation was complicated by the fact that the text doesn't show diacriticals or apostrophes and words break with no indication. What should have been n'├ęclaircit was rendered as n eclair cit on the screen. Anyway, the first message, found in the church, read: "The light of God only illuminates the path of the righteous... the prophet Calaan only blinds the disciples of darkness."
   
It's always weird to see Christian imagery in fantasy games.
   
In the same location, I found something called the Medallion of Calaan. Calaan isn't mentioned in the backstory.

I need some help on the second message. It was found on a table in the castle. My best translation is: "As Tanaris came one day to destroy it, the fifth ruby of God Tanaris will return to oppose when Thandar lives." I'm not sure if dieu Tanaris means that Tanaris is himself a god or if the enter phrase la quinte des rubis du dieu is an object that somehow fits into the later sentence.
    
The second message. Given the name in the last line, clearly the developers were capable of lower-case letters; why they didn't use them in the main message is an annoying mystery.
     
Neither Thandar nor Tanaris appears in the backstory, but there is a spell called "Tanaris" that produces a magical ram to force doors. The attribution of the quote, "Salim Akar" does appear in the manual as the "master storyteller to the court." Anyway, in the same location as this quote, I found the "rubies of Tanaris."

Scattered throughout other screens in the town, I found a torch, 9 water rations, a sack, and a "nugget," which I'm guessing is some kind of precious metal.

And that's about all I can tell you. Every time I leave the city, within a few screens I get attacked by a group of skeletons or werewolves or something, and not only am I incapable of defeating them, I can't even strike a single blow. I note that the game insists that my characters all have 1 or 0 strength, however, which either has something to do with my hunger or thirst or something got screwed up after character creation.
     
I would be disappointed if a French game didn't feature loup-garou among its bestiary.
    
Finally, I'll note that the game crashes every opportunity that it gets. It freezes every time I try to enter combat (versus a creature attacking me), often refuses to transition between disks, and comes up with a "not found" error sometimes while I'm exploring outdoors. This might reflect emulator issues rather than game issues, but either way it makes for a miserable experience.
    
    
I haven't experienced enough of the game to GIMLET it yet, but unless someone comes along and instruct me how to successfully eat and drink.or solve the combat issue, I'm afraid we're done with this one. I'll give it a few days and if no one can help me by the time of the next post, I'll wrap it up as best I can.

****

For further reading: I never returned to the game and figured it out, but I did cover it's quasi-sequel: L'Anneau de Zengara (1987).

22 comments:

  1. On upcoming list titles, I've just tried nwn and it doesn't seem to offer any specific quests, but an eternal grinding fest. Supposedly, there's a closer online game experience avaliable too, but it's a module for frua. Not sure on what year that should be fit, frua or nwn?

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  2. actually, "la quinte des rubis" would mean "the serie/group of 5 rubies" ( or can you say a quintet of rubies ? )

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    1. Isn't it something like "the fifth of the rubies"? I'm probably wrong, though.

      Delete
  3. The translation that bothers you would be something like "the five rubies of the god Tanaris will come together to oppose Thandar when he lives again" - yes, it does imply that Tanaris is a god.

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  4. I wonder if 'Calaan' is an allusion to the biblical land of 'Canaan'.

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  5. Now is when I'm hoping for some French gamer with a good memory to come out of the woodwork and save this.

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    Replies
    1. If not then I guess Chet can only give a Gimlet for the game in the state that he played it, i.e. pretty terrible and broken.

      Delete
  6. - A sleeping character gain 1 strength/mn (in game)
    - You can create characters with only 1 in strength and sleep to have up to 20
    - I confirm buying equipment increase CA et fighting abilities of the character. I have bought Shield / Helm / Sword and my CA down to 5 from 11 (1 is the best)
    - With this character i was able to kill all monsters without be hit and i gain more than 1500 exp.
    - In the Castle (north to the town in wilderness) there's a fight with a NPC with 10000xp. It's a 1 vs 1 fight and with some training it could be easy to win.
    - In the first town the Castle and Church opened at 4pm and you'll find the first two quest objects.
    - I take a look to the source code and speaking seems to be useful with only important NPC (ex: Magician in their house), not with citizens in town.
    - For food and water i have to search, effectivly it doesn't work. I'll take a look to the source code but it's really hard to understand. If it's a bug i'll try to correct it or find a workaround (eliminate food and water needs could be a solution)
    - When you save, you have to put the previous disk even if it's don't asked.
    - You can use savestate of emulator jointly to save game on disk.

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    1. Thanks, Arnaud. I'll see what I can accomplish based on your comments.

      The sleep system is bonkers. You can only have one character sleep at a time, but you can't leave the window while he's sleeping. So to get everyone to sleep, you literally have to sit there staring at the sleep window for 5 characters in succession.

      You mention the quest objects. I assume those are the Medallion and rubies I mentioned above.

      Delete
    2. I can't figure out what's happening. I rested one character for about an hour and his strength went to 15. His hunger and thirst also disappeared for some reason, so far so good. The second character, I rested for 2 hours and his strength only went to 5. Meanwhile, the first character's strength dropped to 13.

      I rested character 3 for 2 hours and the emulator crashed when I exited the rest screen.

      I jacked up the emulator to 1000% so the minutes would pass more quickly and started over, resting character 1 for 2 hours. His strength didn't budge above 0.

      Arnaud, I appreciate your efforts--you seem to have gotten further in the game than I have--but unless you can attest that it has rewards that I'm not seeing, I'm inclined to tie a bow on this one.

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    3. Arnaud, sorry to ask you so many questions, but you seem to understand the game, so if you come back:

      I found the one-on-one combat you're talking about. I still can't do any damage to the enemy, but clearly I'm doing something wrong.

      When I enter combat, the game gives me options to fight, cast a spell, or flee. If I choose to fight, the game displays my strength and hit points and the enemy's. We start exchanging attacks. I never hit the enemy and the enemy ALWAYS hits me. Within a few rounds, my hit points are gone and his hasn't even been touched.

      My question is: am I supposed to DO something on this screen? I've tried pounding the various keys to no avail. But it seems crazy that I never do ANY damage. What am I missing?

      Delete
    4. I trained my main fighter character (CA 5, Dext 18, 1 int, 1 wis) until reach 11000 exp.

      After i made the fight in two rounds.
      First round no one is able to hit the opponent but each lose 1 strength / attack. I wait opponent reach 5 strength and i cancel the fight (fire or copy key).
      I sleep until have 20 strength and i fight again and win without problem.

      Delete
    5. Helmet : -3 CA
      Shield : -3 CA
      Cape : -1 CA

      Delete
  7. Here a link to a new version of f&f.
    Now you can always drink and eat. I have not tested eating, because my character weren't hungry. Sometime eat and drink are inverted. After drinking or eating the windows is not update you have to do manualy to see the change.

    http://www.filedropper.com/ferflammesfix

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    Replies
    1. Dedication to the cause, I like it, nice job!

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    2. Are you editing and recompiling the source or something?

      Is there any reason to play the new version? If eating and drinking don't work in the old one, but there are no consequences, I'm not sure if I want to add those game elements to the list of challenges. Plus, I'd have to start over--my save states from the original won't work.

      On the other hand, things are still wonky with this one. Strength doesn't regenerate at 1 point per minute. It's more erratic than that. Sometimes, it seems to go up by 1 point every couple of minutes, but other times I rest for an hour and don't see it budge. In the meantime, other characters are getting tired again and the value is going down. Having to sleep one character at a time is just ridiculous.

      Delete
    3. I have modified the source Basic file on the Disk. You can use the old disks in order to restore your saves states, then use the new disks when you have to swap disk in game.

      Delete
    4. Think to save on disk, not only emulator save state, because sometime there's a memory full crash and the only way to solve it is to restart game.

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    5. I created a new party with the edited version of the game. With the new disks, I can no longer seem to sleep anywhere. If I choose the sleep option, it just pauses and then kicks me out of the "health" menu. Also, the medallion wasn't in the palace anymore.

      I appreciate you trying to help, and I recognize that you seem to be having more luck with the game than I did, but I think I have to call this a lost cause.

      Delete
  8. One option might be to play CPC version?

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    1. I'm playing the CPC version. That's the only version.

      Delete
  9. Pity. Another game with an engine capable of much greater feats and then discontinued.

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