Saturday, January 21, 2017

Game 240: Phantasie II (1986)

    
I played Phantasie (1985) and Phantasie III (1987) early in my blogging career and, given my inexperience, failed to realize how good they were. Six years later, they remain in the top 20% of rated games. Because I was following a DOS-only rule back then and Phantasie II didn't have a DOS release, I skipped it--a stupid decision, but one that now allows me to use the game as a retrospective on the entire excellent series.

Phantasie and its first sequel are two of only a few titles from their era that feel like complete RPGs as we might understand them today. It was common for the games' contemporaries to be good at one thing or another--Ultima III's use of NPCs, Wizardry's challenge and tactical combat, Starflight's plot--but rarer for a game to offer all of the elements that we ultimately came to consider important: a compelling plot, world-building, character-development, inventory, economy, multivariate magic and combat, both dungeon and overland exploration, and interesting encounters that allow some degree of role-playing. Pre-1988, we find this "total package" in Ultima IV and V, Might & Magic, Phantasie, and only a few others. That Phantasie doesn't rank higher is a reflection of the fact that it doesn't always do these elements well, but playing the games, I never feel that they fundamentally lack something.

As I review my experiences with the first and third games in the series, a few original mechanics jump out. The first is the game's approach to dungeon exploration. Slowly revealing an auto-map had been done before, of course, all the way back to Beneath Apple Manor (1978) and prominently in several roguelikes. But Phantasie might be the only game to provide this approach in hand-crafted dungeons, rather than randomly-generated ones, with logical layouts to the dungeons, evocative room descriptions, and exploration punctuated by frequent special encounters. Every few rooms, the player has to make some kind of decision or take some kind of risk--a few of them involving NPCs and approaching actual role-playing.
    
Meeting an NPC in the corridors of Phantasie.
    
Second, the games flesh out their very brief backstories with a series of scrolls. You find them at key intervals, and they serve much in the same manner as books in The Elder Scrolls games, outlining the history and lore of the land and its characters. There are oh-so-few games, even today, in which information serves as a reward for exploration. This would have been a key element of the game I proposed over the summer. I suppose you have to give the Fallout series some credit in this area; any player who breezes past those computer screens and doesn't bother to read the miscellaneous notes or listen to the miscellaneous holotapes is missing half the fun of the games.
    
Learning more about the history of Gelnor via a scroll.
    
The third memorable aspect is the approach to combat. I suppose the underlying mechanics aren't much different from what we see in other multi-character games of the time, like Wizardry or The Bards Tale: you choose an action for each character in the party and then watch as they execute (along with the enemies') in a sequence determined by dexterity and random initiative rolls. But Phantasie is unique in how it renders these actions visually, with your party lined up against the enemies' ranks and the characters literally lunging forward as they make their attacks. We'd see these visuals replicated in The Legend of Faerghail but almost nowhere else. Although when I played the Japanese RPG Lost Odyssey (2007) for a brief period a few years ago, I found that the combat system was very much in the same spirit, and I guess this might be common among modern turn-based JRPGs.
      
Setting combat options in Phantasie II.
     
Phantasie II is so unchanged from its predecessor that all the manuals I was able to find cover both games at once. The back story is also mostly the same, just with different proper names. Both concern an unnamed adventurer (presumably the lead character of the party) who arrives on a continent (Gelnor in the first game and Ferronrah in this one), talks to some old guy, hears about the cruelty and oppression of Nikdemus, and vows to do something about it. If you maintain the same party throughout the series, you're basically cleansing continent after continent of Nikademus's control (the third game starts on Scandor).

I opened my first Phantasie III posting by making fun of the series for continuing to resurrect Nikademus and make him the villain of the game. No explanation is given, I said, for how Nikademus lives after the party defeats him in Phantasie. Years later, a commenter corrected me and said that you don't defeat Nikademus in Phantasie; you defeat the "Black Lord," leader of the Black Knights. When I played the game, I had just assumed that the "Black Lord" was a euphemism for Nikademus himself. Now, reviewing the documentation for the first game, I think my confusion was understandable. For 2/3 of the game, you're told repeatedly that your quest is to defeat Nikademus. The "Black Lord" doesn't show up until Scroll 17, and if you miss a few words, it's not clear that it's not referring to Nikademus himself. Finally, the end of the game takes place in "Nikademus's Castle." In any event, I assume the conclusion of this game will have me defeating another of Nikademus's lieutenants.
  
The second game has the same spells, monsters, equipment, and mechanics as the first game, so it also has the same rulebook.
    
You can play the series one of two ways. If you keep the same party throughout, the assumption is that you're pursuing his retreating forces from place to place before you finally tangle with the sorcerer himself. If you generate new parties, the assumption is that each victorious party is composed of natives of that continent, and they're only concerned with getting Nikademus's forces off their own soil. Phantasie III even alters some dialogue accordingly. Since my victorious Phantasie party is saved in DOS form, and I'm playing the Commodore 64 version of Phantasie II, we're going to have to go with the second assumption.

In character creation and development, the games blend elements of the Dungeons & Dragons and RuneQuest tabletop RPGs. Core races are humans, dwarves, elves, gnomes, and halflings, but the games follow the spirit of RuneQuest by allowing any intelligent creature as a PC. By choosing the "random" option during character creation, you can play gnolls, goblins, kobolds, lizard men, minotaurs, ogres, orcs, pixies, sprites, and trolls. Unfortunately, the disadvantages to playing these characters outweigh the advantages. Some of them have extremely high attributes in one or two categories, but they also have shorter lives and insane training costs (explained by racism). I toyed with the idea of creating an all-monster party before remembering that the monster classes can only be fighters or thieves. Plus, you'd never be able to afford to train past Level 3.

Classes are fighters, priests, thieves, wizards, monks, and rangers. The series is unique in that all classes can learn some spells, but wizards and priests are the most powerful, and I think you'd face a challenging game without the priest's healing and "deconditioning" spells and the wizard's "transportation" (town teleportation) spell.
   
Characters start with one spell; others must be learned for gold, with a chance of failure.
    
Attributes are strength, intelligence, dexterity, constitution, charisma, and luck. The combination of attributes and class (and perhaps some additional randomness) determines the character's level in 9 skills: attack, parry, swim, listen, toss, spot trap, disarm, find item, and pick lock.

After toying around with some unique party combinations--all monsters, all priests, 3 priests and 3 wizards, and so forth--I decided to let chance guide me. I created each character by rolling a 1d6 for the race and a 1d6 for the class. I generally accepted the first random roll for statistics, although I allowed myself the freedom to discard a character if his attributes were really bad. Then I used the random name generator Karnov made for me years ago to come up with the names. 
    
What kind of orc has a higher charisma than strength?
    
The result:

  • Fimmet, a gnome fighter. Despite his race, he rolled with extremely high strength (19), and his dexterity (18) and constitution (19) are also excellent. The best set of attribute rolls that I got from all the characters.
  • Izzi, a sprite thief. High in dexterity (22), which is the whole point of a thief, average in most other attributes, but miserable in constitution (5). Might be trouble keeping her alive. And a charisma of 11 is going to make her extra expensive to train.
  • Menk, a dwarf priest. Decent intelligence (17), which you need for all spellcasters, very good strength (20) and dexterity (17) but low constitution (8).
  • Shannel, a halfling wizard. Solid intelligence (18) and constitution (18), but I'll need to keep her out of battle with a strength of 4. And her charisma of 6 will do no favors at training time.
  • Zashes, a lizard man fighter. I probably should have dumped him. He has no truly outstanding statistics: his strength of 19 and constitution of 17 could probably have been achieved with one of the core races. Blah dexterity (11), low charisma (8). He might be the first to get replaced.
  • Phummus, a gnome priest. Moderate-to-high on just about everything.
   
My radomization had the effect of creating a party who collectively can't see above the weapons store counter, and has neither of the "hybrid" classes (monks and rangers), but the balance is otherwise good, and two priests is never a bad idea.
    
A complete character sheet.
    
The game begins in the city of Pippacott, which houses a guild (create and delete characters), an armor, a bank, an inn, and a "mystic" who tells you your current rank. I started to go through the usual mechanisms of purchasing weapons and armor for my party members. (Each character begins with 256 gold in the bank). I had forgotten how primitive the game's approach to inventory is. Each character has a "slot" for a weapon, armor, and a shield, and all you can do is purchase something to replace what's already in the slot. When buying, you don't get to see what you already have. It turns out that the items in the shop would have afforded only a minor upgrade, so I decided to save my money for training.
     
Buying items.
    
The shop did sell two information scrolls, however, and I bought them both. Scroll B told of a peaceful kobold village west of Pippacott on Pippacott Bay. There, an ancient kobold oracle gives useless advice for a large sacrifice. Scroll M discussed the theology of the world--specifically, what happens to the soul when someone dies.
    
An early predecessor to the books in Skyrim.
    
The controls, I'll note at this point, are optimized for playing with a joystick: you arrow around to various options and hit the fire button or spacebar. Only in a few places can you hit a letter corresponding to a command. I find this annoying. Why make me scroll through 5 menu options that all begin with a different letter rather than letting me hit the first letter of the command I want?
    
Moving outdoors. The options to the right must be chosen with arrows and the spaebar, not simply called with the keyboard.
    
Exiting the town moved the party to a tiled overworld with a inn north of the city and the kobold village to the west. I entered the village and began exploring the first "dungeon" of the game (this required swapping a disk). It was as I remembered. I really enjoy exploring these games and revealing little rooms and key encounters. I didn't get very far, however, owing to frequent combats and retreats.
    
Slowly fleshing out the dungeon.
    
For Level 1 characters, combat was as hard as I remember from the first and third games. Until you're Level 3 or 4, you need to spend a lot of time retreating to the inn (which restores all hit points and spell points). You can't save anywhere but in town, so exploration has that tactically-tense quality of Wizardry or Might & Magic, where you wonder how long to stay out and risk death in the next combat. Unless some towns have healers (I don't know yet), resurrection really isn't a possibility until the priest hits Level 7.
   
More detail on combat in the next post.
    
Unfortunately, some of the features I remembered fondly from my previous plays seem to have arrived only in Phantasie III, including a system of injury and loss to individual limbs, and the ability to specify ranks for your own party members. And while the C64 graphics aer more colorful than the DOS version of Phantasie, they're also less detailed, creating a more primitive and childlike feel to the game's interface.
   
The town of Pippacott in the C64 version of Phantasie II...
....versus the less-colorful but more-detailed town in the DOS version of Phantasie.
   
As I returned to  Pippacott to save and close this session, I was re-introduced to a mechanism that I love and have never seen in any other game. When you return to town, you divide your accumulated experience and gold to your party members in portions of 0, 1, 2, or 3. This is a fantastic idea that allows you to quickly develop one or more characters at the expense of the others, particularly useful if you end up replacing someone halfway through the game. It also helps get key classes (e.g., the priest) to important milestones (e.g., acquisition of "Resurrection") more quickly.
     
Allotting shares upon return to town.
     

It probably won't take more than a few entries to cover this one, but in the meantime it's a nice contrast to Fate.

*****

I simply had to give up on Fer & Flamme. I didn't want to, and the experiences of commenter Arnaud suggested that the game could be effectively played and won. I started a brand new party, even, and tried his various hints for starting the characters at 1 strength and resting them up to 18. But the "fixed" version I downloaded wouldn't let characters rest at all, let alone eat and drink. I restarted with the old version--creating my fifth or sixth party--and tried to explore some more of the outerworld, including the castle north of Dord, but the frequent crashes and the inability to understand the combat system killed my enthusiasm quickly. This game is ripe for a guest post. In the meantime, I gave it a "best guess" GIMLET of 22.
  
The Dark Wars (1991) for the Atari ST is off the list as "NP" at least temporarily. It seems to have some interesting elements and ideas, but it crashes every time I try to save, and I can't figure out the mechanism for transferring newly-created characters into the game. I need to retry with a different emulator and/or set of game disks.


44 comments:

  1. Ah, the Phantasie series. My first RPG was Temple of Apshai, but I played this series on my Atari 130 XE soon after. It will always have a special place in my heart, though Ultima IV blew it away when I got around to that game.

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  2. Phantasie has always been one of my favorite of the old series; I even borrowed against it for some of my own game mechanics.

    I originally played the trilogy on my C64, though I only got far in Phantasie 3. Since then I've played the DOS version a few times, though it's painful to my eyes to look at.

    The best looking versions are, of course, the Amiga versions. It has the same graphics as the DOS, but with actual non-eye-gougingly-bad color. There was also a comparable Atari ST version of the games.

    Phantasie 2 was one I never played much unfortunately, so I'm looking forward to seeing this one's postings.

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    1. I forgot to mention, but there was a Phantasie 4 made in Japan only. You can see videos of it online. It appears to draw somewhat from Phantasie 3, but since my Japanese is nonexistent, I can't give much of a rundown of it. I also heard a rumor that "Lord Wood" was working on a fifth game, but it's probably about as likely to come out as Grimoire.

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    1. Yeah, I saw that I'd used Trebuchet in some earlier postings and liked the look of it.

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  4. Agreed, Phantasie is one of the most underrated CRPGs I've ever played. I must have beaten it at least 5 times, it was so much fun to play again and again.

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  5. I checked my old Phantasi thread at the RPG Codex and it turns out there were several problems with the Atari ST version of Phantasie II.
    One thing is that it's mouse only, but there's also some annoying bugs:
    When going back to town to train the amount of XP gained is capped at 64,000.
    Individual bak accounts are capped at 64K.
    Money seemingly (I didn't test it thoroughly) disappearing if you withdrew enough gold that your available party gold exceeded 64K.
    The program only being able to have one dungeon saved at a time.

    I wonder if these bugs are also in the C64 version?

    Another annoyance with the Atari ST versions is that P2 has a larger character roster than P3. So if you have a full roster in P2, the program only transfer some of them, and you can't control which ones.
    Aging is also a significant factor if you transfer characters from game to game, and I had to retire several characters due to high age and resultant drop of stats. Looks like only Elves, Dwarves and Gnomes are viable if you want to use the same characters throughout the entire trilogy.

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    1. It is possible to get through all 3 game with any race unless you spend a lot of time in the wilderness (not really necessary with the mapping spell).

      You need a minotaur to get into one dungeon in the first game and a dwarf/gnome to get into one dungeon in the third game. Dangerous enemies are best dispatched with the high damage single target spell (spell 8).

      Thus I think this is the most useful party to get throught Phantasie 1-3 is:

      1 Minotaur Fighter
      3 Priests (1 Dwarf and probably 2 humans)
      1 Halfling Thief
      1 Elf Wizard

      The priest, wizard, and thief all get spell 8, but you have to be a bit careful with the thief with early spell picks of you will not be able to get 8 (you need to save a spell pick).

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    2. >>The controls, I'll note at this point, are optimized for playing with a joystick: you arrow around to various options and hit the fire button or spacebar.

      Given that the C64 has a pefectly good keyboard, having to use a joystick sounds like a bizarre choice of control for a non-action game O.o

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    3. >> Given that the C64 has a pefectly good keyboard, having to use a joystick sounds like a bizarre choice of control for a non-action game O.o

      Actually i always felt the other way. Coming from dominantly joystick controlled games it felt clunky and unnecessarily complicated to have to deal with keyboard shortcuts and suchlike.

      Maybe it is difficult today to compare, but watching players who grew up with a C64, they are way faster navigating menus with a digital joystick than with a keyboard. Quite a lot of players i knew hated games without joystick support, because the keyboard layout were often not very intuitive.

      Often it is just a case of getting used to. Some controls that seems weird today were really easy back then (take a look at Battle Isle for example with its 'key down, action, key up' handling). And joysticks never were that important for a PC (Wing Commander changed that of course), but a C64 without a Competition Pro was barely useable.

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    4. c64 was actually very much terrible the button sank like at the very bottom which is like an inch before actually doing anything on screen so it was quite useless for typing and since c64 was used with a TV and the wires were in general quite short you either had your face on TV screen or you used a joystick or hunkered uncomfortably back and forth to computer to use keyboard or just ditched it and well most ditched the keyboard, new 'white' model has a way better keyboard but it was too late to change the default preference by then.

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    5. The cap is 65535, not 64K, and it isn't a bug. It's a reflection of the low memory available on some of the versions of the game: on the Atari 8-bit, for example, the game had to fit into 48K of RAM.

      256 X 256 = 655536, but the numbers go from 0 to 655535. That's precisely as much memory space as existed to track the numbers, so exceeding them meant losing whatever money was left over.

      Clearly, the ports to systems without memory limits didn't bother to change this dynamic, and it's probably a fair decision, as a few encounters (like Zeus in Phantasie I, if memory serves) would hit the maximums for XP and GP.

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    6. Ah, so it's not a bug, just an "undocumented design feature". Right...

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    7. I think David's point is that the word "bug" should be reserved for actual programming errors and not foreseeable limitations of the machine.

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    8. My feeling about the interface is there should never have to be a choice between the joystick and the keyboard. Good games (e.g., Gold Box) have redundant controls that allow the user to play according to his preference.

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    9. Usually an integer overflow in a program is considered a bug. I don't see why P2 whould be an exception.

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    10. AFAIU there is no overflow, xp/gold is simply capped, so overflow is checked for - so no bugs, only features here.

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    11. In that case it's very bad design IMO. It just means you need to go back to town more often if you don't want to lose any XP, which in turn results in more XP from random encounters, which in turn means more total XP, which in turns means that the design is counter productive. And we've gone full circle back to in that case it's very bad design IMO.

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    12. I suppose reason for this is pretty trivial, probably lack of resources (i.e. RAM) and design decisions (all values have same size). It would be good to know how frequently this happens, if it needs grinding for few hours in game's last area, then *MAYBE* it's not as bad as level caps...

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    13. It is quite trivial to realize 32-bit addition and subtraction on 8-bit computers, and basic branching. I think the devs just didn't want to bother with it.

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    14. They also might not have had enough space. There are, after all, lots of other things to keep track of.

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    15. David Ainsworth, the pedant in me compels me to point out that while the cap is indeed 65,535, that's not necessarily different than 64K, depending on what K stands for. At the time, it was always *called* kilobyte, but usually *meant* kebibyte[1] (because kebibyte didn't exist as a standard name yet), and a kebibyte is 1024, not 1000. 64 kebibytes is indeed 65,536 values, and this is also where the 64 in Commodore 64 comes from, and why it isn't the Commodore 65.

      Now, the reason why the number was limited to 64k (what can be represented by 16 bits or two bytes of data) is a bit more complex, and has quite a bit to do with the hardware of the platform. The processor used in the Commodore 64 was an 8-bit processor, meaning it could operate on single bytes at a time (load one byte from memory to one register, load another byte from memory to another register, run an operation to add, subtract or multiple those bytes, using special flags to track if it overflowed the 256 values a single byte can represent). Software and hardware tricks were developed to deal with this limitation and allow larger values to be tracked, but it gets much more complex with each extra byte of data you track.[2]

      1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kibibyte

      2: David Ainsworth, the pedant in me compels me to point out that while the cap is indeed 65,535, that's not necessarily different than 64K, depending on what K stands for. At the time, it was always *called* kilobyte, but usually *meant* kebibyte[1] (because kebibyte didn't exist as a standard name yet), and a kebibyte is 1024, not 1000. 64 kebibytes is indeed 65,536 values, and this is also where the 64 in Commodore 64 comes from, and why it isn't the Commodore 65.

      Now, the reason why the number was limited to 64k (what can be represented by 16 bits or two bytes of data) is a bit more complex, and has quite a bit to do with the hardware of the platform. The processor used in the Commodore 64 was an 8-bit processor, meaning it could operate on single bytes at a time (load one byte from memory to one register, load another byte from memory to another register, run an operation to add, subtract or multiple those bytes, using special flags to track if it overflowed the 256 values a single byte can represent).

      In more recent times, we see this when programmers choose to use a smaller data type than strictly requires to represent something, such as using a single byte for a number that then ends up overflowing that type when it hits 256. In most these cases, the programmer could have chosen a 16-bit (2-byte, 64k values) or 32-bit (4-byte, over 4 billion values) type to store that number. But in this case, remember that the CPU in the Commodore doesn't even support those types, to use them you have to *approximate* them using multiple smaller 8-bit types and routines to allow you to function then at the cost of being much slower (many CPU operations per math operation) and somewhat more complex.

      It's actually pretty amazing what programmers of that time period had to deal with in regard to constraints. Interestingly, there's a rich history of people actually eking out successively better graphics out of the Commodore 64[3], and the demo scene is still active, where people see just what they can do. For an example, see this[4], which is audio and video recorded from a real Commodore 64 in 2016, and imagine what it would have been like to see that in the mid 1980's...

      1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kibibyte

      2: http://codebase64.org/doku.php?id=base:6502_6510_maths

      3: http://www.studiostyle.sk/dmagic/gallery/gfxmodes.htm

      4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0FwiHstrhQ&t=92

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  6. I loved Phantasie I and III (only had a PC). Never finished it though since I played it when I was a kid.

    And this comment:

    "My radomization had the effect of creating a party who collectively can't see above the weapons store counter"

    made me burst out laughing. Heh.

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    1. Oh no whats this ? an Amiga version of Phantasie III http://www.lemonamiga.com/games/details.php?id=833

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    2. There's no Amiga version of P2, though.

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  7. I initially thought that it was an actual gameplay mechanic, that Chet couldn't buy weapons because his party members were too short. :)))

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  8. Town in Amiga version is, unsurprisingly, the best there is https://i.ytimg.com/vi/EHS_iaMhIEM/hqdefault.jpg ;P

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    1. Well, I'm afraid I don't agree. It's certainly more colorful, but it also looks more cartoonish than the PC version. Between color and graphic detail, I'll always favor the latter, but of course I can't see a lot of colors.

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  9. "We'd see these visuals replicated in The Legend of Faerghail but almost nowhere else. Although when I played the Japanese RPG Lost Odyssey (2007) for a brief period a few years ago, I found that the combat system was very much in the same spirit, and I guess this might be common among modern turn-based JRPGs."

    If you remove the word "modern", you are entirely correct. The majority of jRPGs feature such animations, all the way back to the original 1987 Final Fantasy. The other style (similar to Wizardry or Might And Magic) is popular in the early ones, but fades away fairly quickly outside of a few specific series (most notably Dragon Quest/Warrior and the Japanese console Wizardry sequels) or games like the Etrean Odyssey series that are deliberately retro.

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  10. "When you return to town, you divide your accumulated experience and gold to your party members in portions of 0, 1, 2, or 3. This is a fantastic idea that allows you to quickly develop one or more characters at the expense of the others"

    This is a good system ,though I personally prefer if games give you XP relative to the player's and enemy's level. Although that's probably difficult to ballance well. Tactics Ogre has a great system, where you always need 100 XP to advance a level, but the amount you get varies strongly, depending on player and enemy level. One attack against a higher level enemy might give you 20 XP - a fifth of a level, but if you want to mindlessly grind against weaker enemies, you'll only get one XP per hit, so you'd have to defeat 50 to 100 enemies to gain one level.

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    1. To me, that kind of system only makes sense if the number of experience points needed to level don't increase significantly between levels. In games like Phantasie and most D&D games through the second edition, the differential in levels is in place in effect, since the experience points gained from killing, say, an kobold don't mean as much to a Level 4 character as a Level 1 character.

      Anyway, I don't see this mechanism as an alternative to what Phantasie does with dividing experience. You could have an experience differential and still choose to allot it unequally among characters.

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    2. I don't have any second-edition rulebooks handy to check how things were handled in that system, but in 3.0E D&D and (IIRC) onward there was both "the amount of experience needed per level increases every level" and "the amount of experience you get scales with difficulty" were in effect. The purpose of the former was to allow characters behind on XP (due to permanent level loss, XP spent on crafting or by a spell, spending three years as a lawn ornament, etc), while the latter has the purpose of allowing you to adjust risk/reward within a given level range (situations that are trivial or overwhelmingly difficult give no experience, as either they are too simple to teach you, or else the only way to succeed is to "cheat" in some way, which only teaches you how to cheat.

      From what I recall, this didn't make it into the computer versions for simplicity's sake.

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    3. It's in the aurora engine games - NWN and KOTOR. The first NWN buffs some classes (by adjusting xp gains) to make them get through the earlier levels more quickly - they thought cleric was underpowered for instance...

      I think 1st Ed D&D still had caveats like: 'Don't give a 6th level party any xp for beating up 4 orcs'

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    4. Giving no XP for beating up underleveled enemies, or make them run away, is a much more elegant design that caps. Although, in AD&D games level caps can be explained by lack of trainerss in the party's area.

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    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    6. My point is that whether you blunt the rewards of a Level 6 character killing an orc by rewarding less "differential experience" or whether you blunt it by doubling the number of experience points needed to get from Level 6 to Level 7, mathematically the orc ends up being worth about the same amount. The former system just adds some extra calculations to the system.

      Icewind Dale used AD&D2 rules; Icewind Dale II used AD&D3 rules. In neither game did I feel that the party leveled particularly faster or slower than the other. I can't say what happens in tabletop sessions.

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    7. Of course they're basically the same mathematically. What I like about the way Tactics Ogre handles it, is that keeping track of all your characters progress is very simple. Not that it's very difficult in most non-ancient CRPGs anyway and seeing huge amounts of XP pile up can be satisfying in itself I suppose.

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    8. In a CRPG, with the more limited (usually) options available, the two systems are generally interchangeable. In tabletop play, where you can do whatever you want, they have different goals and both are useful, particularly since in tabletop D&D (all versions) you don't get XP just from killing monsters - you get it for dealing with them. To use an analogy from a game you've played (and I'm playing at the moment) in Might and Magic II you have the option to Fight, Bribe, Hide, or run away from each encounter. In tabletop, the XP reward from doing any of the first 3 successfully would be (if playing by RAW) identical.

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    9. In the early versions of D&D, XP gain came primarily from hauling treasure back to town, and the experience requirements per level were class specific.

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  11. I *think* that in cRPG, because machine has no qualms about borimg accounting job, it would be besr to award xp for each successfully performed action, so casting a spell, attacking, using a skill, even fleeing. This way you would naturally get less xp for weak foes, since if it's over in single blow, you are awarded for example 2 xp. Of course you could cheat the way you can do it in e.g. Oblivion, where you can create, and I did, spells like "Fire Trainer", hitting for single point of damage - it is of course boring, but so is grinding in general.

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  12. When replaying the C64 version of the phantasie games I started to keep distinct copies of the dungeon disk for each visited dungeon. This way I didn't loose the individual progress.

    A party setup of 2 fighters, 2 priests, 1 thief & 1 wizard is indeed slightly better than a setup with one of each class. Better melee options (fighter->lunge) and two healers that also learn some basic offensive spells (spells 5-8).

    On the other hand monks are somewhat useful as backup melee/ trapsmith and they get the summoning spell earliest. If that is better than
    the thief's attack an nemy from any rank is debateable.

    Despite only 6 classes there are quite a few alternative party setups possible. Equipment usage is only tied to a character's strength score.

    I remember that in Phantasie I it was easier to enter a certain temple with a minotaur in your party. The other demihuman races added some diversity. Training wasn't that expensive if the
    charisma score wasn't too low. But in the later game stages money would be less of an issue.

    With a hex editor an "all monster party" is possible. Lifespans are an issue for most races, excepted for elves, dwarves and gnomes.

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  13. Did you manage to work out the crashing/saving issue in Martian Dreams? I never encountered it and made it farther than you did, but I got stuck and later bored of the game and didn't go back to it. I might pick it back up if you are playing it.

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    Replies
    1. No, I just figured I'd...I don't know...try again. I'll avoid saving as long as possible and see how it goes. There might have been suggestions from readers that I didn't try--I have to go back and review those threads.

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    2. There appears to be a Mac version of the game. If all else fails, it might be worthwhile to try doing that. Otherwise, you could always be content reading about Steve the Avatar.

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