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Atarius Maximus

Death Merchant - A new 7800 Game

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Welcome to the Apocalypse.
 
Death Merchant is a new 7800 game that was inspired by an old favorite of mine, Dopewars, which can be downloaded here.   Dopewars is a DOS based text-only drug dealing simulation game and I used it's gameplay in this re-imagining of the original, along with some graphics and gameplay additions to give it a bit more of an RPG-like feel.  It’s a 48K game written almost entirely in 7800basic, there are some assembly subroutines for the 24-bit math calculations.  For the curious, I also wrote a Win9x version of Dopewars back in the 1990's, it was closer to a clone of the original.  It won't run well (if at all) on Windows 7+, but fee free to check it out and download it on my home page here.
 
The game is set in a post-apocalyptic world, and the object of the game is to survive for 31 days and earn as much money as you can in the process by buying and selling survival gear.  You set out with a $5000 loan for a month in the abyss, looking to earn as much money as you can while surviving your journey.  You’ll have to deal with random events that occur when travelling that can help or hinder your progress.  When the game starts, you’re presented with a main menu of options at the bottom of the screen:  Buy, Sell, Bank, Stats, Travel, Doctor, Train, Fight, Lender, and Rest.   On the top half of the screen you’ll see your current stats, your cash, and your current location on the left side, and on the right side you’ll see all of the items available for trade, the current prices, and the quantity of each that you currently own.
 
Progressing in the game requires that you travel, that's what triggers the start of the next day.  Certain options are only available in certain cities so you'll need to travel to specific destinations based on your current needs in the game.

 
While the game has been tested and seems to work fine, this is not likely to be the final release and there may still be some undiscovered bugs. I may make revisions and post updates in the coming weeks (months?) as I make tweaks to the game. Certain stats may be adjusted as I play more to try and improve the balance of the game.  There’s a lot going on, and I’m still working on making sure the game isn’t too easy or too difficult.  Feedback about game play balance or any other suggestions would be appreciated.  Major changes would be impossible at this point as the ROM is 99.9% full - notable changes would require removing existing features or functionality.  It is possible to roll your score if you exceed $999,999, although I did attempt to make it impossible (or very difficult) to actually do that.
 
This game does not feature any AtariVox speech nor does it offer high score saving, and I’m aware that in-game sounds are somewhat limited. In that regard this game stays true to the spirit of the original. ;) I’m limiting myself to 48k with this game (mostly because I’d need almost a complete re-write at this point to use bankswitching), and adding those features isn’t possible due to space constraints.
 
Below is a description of all the player stats and menu options to get you started.  For emulation I highly recommend Mame over ProSystem, the colors look bad in ProSystem with this game. Mame is much more accurate.  I haven't taken the time to test this on real hardware yet, but I am providing the .bin for anyone who'd like to try it out that way.  Enjoy, and let me know what you think!
 
Statistics and Consumable Items
 
Knives
Knives are needed when you get attacked when travelling or when you start a fight.  If you don’t have any knives, you will not be able to continue fighting or initiate a fight.  Knives can be acquired by purchasing them from the Merchant or by randomly finding them when you travel.  You may break or drop a knife when fighting.  You start the game with 25 and and carry up to 99.
 
Health (HP)
Your health, or hit points, must remain positive or the game will end.  You can lose health in two ways:  by travelling when your Stamina has reached zero (-2 per day), or when you are attacked and hit by an enemy (-1 per hit).   The only method to increase your health is to visit the Doctor in the city of New Vegas.  You will be charged a random fee for your visit.    You start the game with 99 health points, and the max value is 99.
 
Backpack
Your backpack is an extremely important item in the game, managing the amount of space you have is critical to success.   You start out with a small backpack with enough space to hold 50 tradeable items.  Your knives and food have their own inventory limitations and do not affect the amount of backpack space you have.  When travelling, you may have an encounter with the Merchant, who will sell you a larger backpack that increases your usable space from 50 to 99.  You may only buy the larger backpack one time per game, 99 is the maximum number of items you’ll ever be able to carry at once.  As the ability to store items is key to success in this game, it’s recommended to upgrade your backpack at the first opportunity.
                           
Food          
Food is necessary to maintain your Stamina level.  Food can be acquired by either Resting at the safe house in Bedford, purchasing it from the Merchant (who appears randomly when you’re travelling), or by randomly receiving rations when travelling.   If your food supply falls to zero, you have an additional daily stamina drop of -1 in addition to the normal drop of -3.
 
Stamina         
Stamina reflects your overall energy level.  It affects your ability to fight, and also your health when it reaches zero.  You cannot start or continue to fight if it reaches zero.  You will lose 2 stamina for every day that you travel.  The only way to replenish your Stamina is to rest in the safe house for one day, which is located in the city of Bedford.
 
Charisma        
Charisma has two main effects in the game.   Making purchases from the Merchant is what increases your Charisma.  Once your Charisma reaches a certain level, you will receive more and more free items from the Merchant with every purchase you make from him.   Higher Charisma levels will also start reducing the interest payments you make on your debt.
 
Dexterity
The higher your dexterity, the more likely you are to win a fight.  You start out with a Dexterity value of 10, and will earn 1 bonus point for every criminal gang you defeat, and 5 bonus points every time you purchase professional training.
 
Menu Options
 
Fight       
Fighting is random or manually chosen.  You may be attacked when you’re travelling to a new city, or you can manually start a fight from the main menu at any time and in any city that you’re currently in. 
When entering a fight, you will encounter a random number of criminals in a gang.  During the fight, additional criminals may enter the fight, prolonging the battle, and in some cases you may not be able to escape and must complete the fight until you’ve exhausted your Stamina or knives, your Health is depleted, or you kill all of the gang members.   Hits and misses are determined randomly, however the more often you fight the more likely you are to win (as your Dexterity stat increases).    When you defeat an entire gang of criminals, you will gain a dexterity bonus as well as some cash and extra knives.
 
Travel
Travelling is a requirement in the game in order to progress.  Travelling to a new city offers fluctuations in the price of goods, allowing you to make some big profits if you’re lucky.  It will also result in many different random events occurring.  Random price events may occur on some goods, resulting in dramatic price increases or price drops, you may find some money, food or knives, you may be attacked by a gang, or you may be stopped by the Merchant.
 
Lender          
The Lender is the antagonist of the game, you start off owing him the amount of money that you start the game with.  You Start with $5000 in debt and immediately have that much available to you.  It’s a one time loan, you cannot borrow any more money during the game, you can only pay him off. Interest is charged daily, but the amount of interest he charges is modified by your Charisma and the number of days remaining in the game.   Once Debt is paid down to zero, no additional interest is accrued and you are done with the lender for the remainder of the game.
 
Bank            
Money can be deposited to prevent it being taken from you in a robbery when travelling, and also to accrue interest.  Any deposits into the bank will result in a $500 per day interest payment, which increases to $1000 a day once you have more than $10,000 in your account.  You cannot spend money that's in the bank, it must be withdrawn first and you may only visit the bank when in the city of Lost Angeles.  There is no fee for Bank transactions.
 
Rest
Resting in the safe house in the city of Bedford is the only way to replenish your Stamina, and is also a way to increase the amount your food rations. Resting is free, but it does cost you one day of game time.
 
Train
Training is offered in the city of New Salem.  For a fee, an expert will instruct you in the ways of knife fighting, which results in a +5 Dexterity bonus every time you train.  Training costs a random amount of credits. You can train as many times as you want up to your Dexterity limit, at which point the trainer is no longer available. 
 
Stats
The stats screen is informational and does not affect the outcome of the game.  It will display some additional in-game statistics:  the number of times you've trained, your total Dexterity bonus, your total Charisma Bonus, the number of gangs you’ve killed, the number of days you’ve rested, and the number of bank transactions you’ve completed.   You can freely go back and forth from this screen with no penalty, and it can be accessed when in any city.  The stats screen is also the "Game Over" screen when you die or run out of days, which you can use to track your scores and stats to try and do better the next time around.
 
Doctor
The doctor can only be visited in the city of New Vegas and is the only way you can replenish your health.  The doctor charges a random fee, and will restore your health to the full amount (99).
The doctor is only available if your health is below 99 and you have enough credits to pay him.
 
Buy/Sell
You can select items to buy or sell only one item at a time.  Move the joystick up and down to select the item you’re interest in, then move the joystick left and right to change the quantity of the item you’d like to buy or sell.   You will not be allowed to buy more of an item than you can afford, and you will not be able to sell more of an item than you posess.   The space available in your backpack is also verified, you will not be able to purchase more items than you can carry. After an item has been bought or sold, you are taken back to the main screen.  The Buy and Sell screens can of course be accessed from any city in the game.
 
Merchant
The Merchant randomly appears throughout the game, generally around 0-3 times, but it's random. The items he offers are the same every time, and the prices are static throughout the game.
The Merchant is the only way to purchase a bigger backpack, and the only way to purchase Knives and food.  You gain Charisma with every purchase you make from the merchant.  As your Charisma increases, the Merchant will give you more free items with every purchase.   As your Charisma increases, the amount of interest you pay on your debt to the Lender decreases.

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Neat! I'll get this on cart when it's done. I like this kind of game. I used to play Taipei on the A2 a bit, very similar

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I loved DopeWars/DrugWars on my PC at the tail end of my university days. The version I played had graphics to it so it would show character icons/faces for those that attacked you or you bought drugs from; reminded me a bit of how Rampage used character illustrations. It seemed to be based in London based upon the slang used in the game. It may have been a port of the PalmOS version. Man, I really wanted a Palm back then just for that game.  :)

 

I always made a fortune off "Special K" in that game...

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I loved DopeWars/DrugWars on my PC at the tail end of my university days. The version I played had graphics to it so it would show character icons/faces for those that attacked you or you bought drugs from; reminded me a bit of how Rampage used character illustrations. It seemed to be based in London based upon the slang used in the game. It may have been a port of the PalmOS version. Man, I really wanted a Palm back then just for that game.   :)

 

I always made a fortune off "Special K" in that game...

 

I loved it too, and I also played it in my University days, late 80's/early 90's.  I've now made two remakes. I think I'm done now. :)

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I was a BBS sysop back in the day but I never ran a dopewars door. I only knew of it as a standalone game. The link in my original post mentions it's past popularity as a door back in the 90's, I'm surprised I didn't run across it.  My most popular door was Legend of the Red Dragon.  

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I remember a Flash 4 version of this that was made 17 years ago on Newgrounds.

 

 

That sounds about right. It would explain the graphics and sound in that version...

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I was a BBS sysop back in the day but I never ran a dopewars door. I only knew of it as a standalone game. The link in my original post mentions it's past popularity as a door back in the 90's, I'm surprised I didn't run across it.  My most popular door was Legend of the Red Dragon.  

 

All those games are pretty much various skins on LORD. So take LORD and replace all the medieval themes with redneck western themes and you have yourself Yankees & Rednecks. Same deal with Trade Wars, just add an outer space theme.

 

EDIT: I did some googling but couldn't find decent screens of those LORD like clones. Closest I got was this directory list of some sweet classics :)

 

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Edited by Shawn

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All those games are pretty much various skins on LORD. So take LORD and replace all the medieval themes with redneck western themes and you have yourself Yankees & Rednecks. Same deal with Trade Wars, just add an outer space theme.

 

EDIT: I did some googling but couldn't find decent screens of those LORD like clones. Closest I got was this directory list of some sweet classics :)

 

 

Go go google and do a search on one of the games with "<gamename> <bbs> image" Switch to the images tab and see what comes up.  No idea if they'll be worthwhile but I ended up getting a huge list of bbs-lookin' screenshots. :)

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I've got the typical excuses for this game and the more recent Legend of Silverpeak not being done, life gets in the way, no time, new job, etc... but I am going to try and get some of my favorite hobby stuff finished this year. :)

 

On the plus side, my friend and exceptionally awesome artist David Exton finished up some artwork for Death Merchant for a future cartridge release.  I'm attaching the lower resolution thumbnail version for all to see. I'm hoping that can happen in the first half of 2019.

 

The last time I played the game I noted a bunch of issues (I directly copied my notes below) and most were related to buying items from the Death Merchant himself, which is going to probably have to be scaled back or removed as I remember the code just about making my head spin with the math involved - and it's now been almost 2 years since I actually wrote the code and it'll be a little harder to remember what I was trying to do. ;)

 

Either way, I'm going to be revisiting this game and hopefully have a final release in the coming months.

 

Bugs in the v1.0 release....

  • When the death merchant gives you free items, and your backpack is still at 50 slots (before you've bought the expansion), he will still give you over 50 items.
  • If your backpack is still at 50 items max, the max value to buy that's listed on the buy screen should also say 50?  A bit more minor...
  • One time, I went to the bank for a withdrawal, and the number started automatically counting down from 999,999. I Left and came back and it was back to normal.
  • Another "Death Merchant" purchase issue again.  I Just bought the backpack expansion, then started buying canteens. The left number would count down by threes, and I could seemingly buy as many as I wanted without regard to the size of my backpack.   I had $130,000 to spend.  I ended up owning hundreds of items.
  •   ---again - another death merchant screen, and I could buy as many knives as I wanted, backpack space didn't matter, it just stuck at zero but I could keep buying knives and my total cash would keep dropping.  Not sure if knives are even set up to use backpack space, or should be?
  • There were 12 days remaining and I had earned $780,000.  I think it's still too easy to make that much money - maybe I'm being too generous with the handouts from the merchant.  Your score will roll over 999,999.
  •   ---also with 12 days remaining I had yet to have a single enemy encounter.  First random enemy encounter with 7 days remaining.  Maybe not a big deal, I don't want them happening constantly.

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Now if we could only get BBS classics like Tradewars or a port of LOD (Land of Devastation) that would be awesome!

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Now if we could only get BBS classics like Tradewars or a port of LOD (Land of Devastation) that would be awesome!

 

Tradewars was awesome. So was Yankees & Rednecks.

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