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IntelliMission

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Posted (edited)

I spent an enjoyable hour or so last evening getting Ultima II and Ultima III working on my DOS gaming PC with the fanmade patches.  The games ran fine copied over as is from GOG, but the patches were causing issues... and I really wanted these patches installed!

 

The Ultima II patch

  • Can disable the awful autosave function
  • Adds EGA graphics support
  • Adds a frame limiter
  • Fixes the missing maps issue found on all releases of the game since the Ultima Collection CDROM release.

 

The Ultima III patch is even better, as it

 

  • Adds support for multiple tilesets (EGA, composite CGA, VGA)
  • Adds support for music (sounds wonderful on a Sound Canvas)
  • Includes optional gameplay fixes to bring the DOS version closer to the Apple II and C64 versions.

 

For Ultima II, I found that the latest patch breaks compatibility with original hardware, so the solution is to roll back to patch version 1.1 (which was the last version specifically made with playing on actual hardware in mind).

 

For Ultima III, all I had to do was disable the PC speaker SFX fix—this is meant specifically to play SFX at the correct speed on fast computers (i.e. DOSBOX), so disabling it is not a problem.  Runs great now!

Edited by newtmonkey
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I previously mentioned Ecstatica, a British Alone in the Dark clone with awesome graphics for 1994. You roam around a huge village complete with a monastery and several monsters chase you.

 

It's one of those games (like GTA and others) where you don't really need to complete the game, and the experience alone is worth it. The items and mosters in the game are persistent, but you can only carry one item on each hand, so you need to leave items around and it's easy to lose them.

 

You can kill the werefolf and the minotaur by punching them, but it takes like 200 punches (not kidding). I believe the good method for this is to use a sword.

 

A youtuber made a good review of the game some months ago. I was blown away by it in 1997, but I never finished. Anyone has played this?

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By googling ["last crusade" cga] (I was curious about whether there was a CGA version of one of my favorite games), I discovered the following:

 

- The youtuber The 8-Bit Guy has a great video explaining how CGA games from 1982 to 1987 are designed to be played on a composite output that replaces the 4 terrible colors with 16 decent ones thanks to artifacts that mix combination of 2 consecutive colors. When we think of the terrible CGA graphics, we're actually referring to the RGBI mode, the only one which was compatible with the EGA and VGA displays that we used to play those games. At the end of the video, he even says the IBM CGA display was superior to its competitors at the time (including Apple II), since all of them used composite mode for games!

 

- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure has a CGA version: it's the EGA one, and to activate it you only need to have a CGA display configured. However, the graphics appear to be an "automated" conversion of the EGA ones by using dithering instead of being programmed specifically for CGA.

 

- Each of the 2 CGA palettes had a "dark" version and, by using the dark version of the red, green and yellow palette, games like Defender of the Crown managed to look decent even in the RGBI mode of CGA.

 

- In one of the comments of the video, a former Epyx programmer says they created a technique to use both CGA palettes at the same time, as shown in the CGA version of California Games.

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On 4/17/2021 at 4:00 PM, IntelliMission said:

Anyone has played this?

It's one of my favourites, and there's a sequel too (this is the 1997 one). It had that peculiar ellipsoid gfx engine and interesting design (it's actually better to avoid the strong characters). Very innovative, typical of that wonderful era.

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3 hours ago, IntelliMission said:

- The youtuber The 8-Bit Guy has a great video explaining how CGA games from 1982 to 1987 are designed to be played on a composite output that replaces the 4 terrible colors with 16 decent ones thanks to artifacts that mix combination of 2 consecutive colors. When we think of the terrible CGA graphics, we're actually referring to the RGBI mode, the only one which was compatible with the EGA and VGA displays that we used to play those games. At the end of the video, he even says the IBM CGA display was superior to its competitors at the time (including Apple II), since all of them used composite mode for games!

True,  but I don't think all CGA adapters had composite output?    The IBM CGA adaptor did,  but it was a massive video card!   It ran from front to back of the 5150 case, and I think it would have a hard time fitting in many clone cases

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Posted (edited)

EGA wonder could do it and was a baby at card.

 

Quote

The EGA Wonder represents a new concept in EGA. EGA Wonder allows upgrade to EGA, adds 132 column capability and maintains downward compatibility to older CGA, MDA and Hercules software on most popular monitors -MultiSync™, EGA, RGB, 25 kHz, Composite, TTL Monochrome, IBM PC Portable and Compaq PC Portable.

 

It was not alone either, quite a few aftermarket CGA/EGA cards could do composite output.

Edited by wierd_w

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1 hour ago, wierd_w said:

EGA wonder could do it and was a baby at card.

 

 

It was not alone either, quite a few aftermarket CGA/EGA cards could do composite output.

Ok, but that's a 1987 card released well into the EGA era.  If you already have EGA, then the enhanced color modes of CGA were less pressing.

 

I've read that the reason why the composite CGA modes aren't so well known is because few pure CGA cards outside of IBM's had composite output.   Now I read that on the internet so there's a chance it isn't true :)     But also, if you were going to to spend the small fortune for an early PC, you probably weren't going to cheap out and buy a composite monitor, you'd want something that could give you a nice sharp text display.

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When i was 12, I had 3 platform games on my 386: Prince of Persia, Blues Brothers and Titus the Fox. The first two don't have a saving option (although you can always start with the famous "PRINCE MEGAHIT" and then push the F keys and other keys to add time and more), and Titus the Fox has codes (but I was not very skillful as a kid and never completed it).

 

A couple of days ago, I finally finished Prince of Persia with the "cheat" of saving at the beginning of each stage (using ALT+F5 to save and ALT+F9 to load in the SVN Daum version of DOSBox) and then trying to complete them without dying (except for some impossible to avoid blades in level 8 and the last enemy at the end of level 12, for which I did an extra save to avoid repeating the levels 12 times until I learn the trick). It's a great game, I recommend it to everyone.

 

And today, I just finished Blues Brothers. Much better game than I remember, only 5 stages (and a final, shorter and easier one). Saving at the beginning of each level works fine, you can set your own goals of ending the level without losing any live or hearts. The Amiga version is much better due to the natural scrolling (on MS-DOS, the game scrolls abruptly and sometimes there's an enemy waiting for you there!), but this one is great once you get used to it.

 

I will now start Titus the Fox, by the same developers who made Blues Brothers and sharing a few mechanics (such as picking up boxes to throw them to enemies, pitbulls as enemies or cities at night as scenery).

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When I was in the Army back in '87, and only 18, I went with a friend to Radio Shack so he could get some fuses and batteries. While waiting for him in the store, I saw one of the clerks playing Starflight on a brand-new Tandy 1000SX with a 20MB HDD. I was completely blown away. I had cut my teeth with an Apple II that my step-father owned, and my own Commodore 64, but seeing a PC with EGA (Tandy) graphics took me to a new level. I put in a credit application, and an hour later I was sitting in the barracks with my brand-new PC.

 

I played Starflight for months, then moved on to every Sierra game I could find. Two other guys in the barracks had PC's as well, and we quickly discovered that you could copy Sierra games and play them as long as you had an original DISK 1 from any other Sierra game at the time. Turns out it just looked for a hidden file.

 

Favorites from the DOS era include:

Most LucasArts games

Most Origin games

Most Sierra games

Most MicroProse games

Most SSI games

 

While I no longer have the Tandy, I still have all of the games I bought back then. DOS games are still my favorite games to play. I have a spare I7 7700k system running Launchbox to play DOS games when the mood strikes. And it strikes often.

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On 4/15/2021 at 9:59 AM, newtmonkey said:

Speaking of DOS gaming machines, I spent some quality time with my machine today!

 

Played some Day of the Tentacle, then some Crystal Caves and then Jill of the Jungle (cleared the shareware episode of that one).

1618486956323.thumb.jpg.884063b76256b477cbde7b1f3504214e.jpg

The machine is a Pentium 133, but you can disable the caches to bring it down to roughly a 386SX40 or 486DX33.  Between those three speeds, you can cover the vast majority of the MS-DOS game library without having to resort to moslo, etc., though there are exceptions here and there.

 

I do enjoy playing games on this machine, but like I said before, emulation is VERY good for DOS games.  DOSBOX with a CRT monitor (or 1600x1200 flat panel for a perfect 5x/6x integer scale) would get you very close to the actual machine experience, honestly.  PCem is even closer, since you can configure specific machine speeds for problematic games like Wing Commander 1, Ultima VII, Thunderscape, etc.  Both DOSBOX and PCem allow you to use external synths over MIDI, so you can even get the real hardware experience of an MT-32 or SC-55.

 

Although I'm a big proponent of playing on original hardware, if this machine dies I would likely switch over to PCem and be perfectly happy with it. :)

Very nice looking DOS rig you have there. I would use an old 486 to run my games, but space in my game room is at a premium. I don't want to give up VR space to put in another PC. But you have a great system setup.

 

I learned to become very proficient in DOSBOX conf files, but Launchbox has made it much easier for me. For any game I had trouble with in Launchbox, I just looked at the old conf files from DOSBOX and had the game up and running quickly. Sometimes though, I get stuck on cd emulation and finding the right directory structure.

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2 hours ago, IntelliMission said:

Starflight looks like an absolutely mindblowing game to play in 1986, it's Starcontrol II 6 years before Starcontrol II.

 

Interestingly enough, the screenshots in Mobygames show that the CGA mode was designed for composite monitors, which made it look almost like EGA.

Starflight had quite a bit of depth in gameplay. I just wish they had included a galaxy randomizer in the game. That would have added so much longevity to the game. I did have a few Accolade games that only played in CGA mode, and they did look decent considering.

 

Another great game from the same time is of course Sid Meier's Pirates! It was so easy to lose track of time in that game.

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Starflight was indeed mindblowing. I still consider Pirates! to be the best game ever (excluding certain roguelikes). There were many more games in this vein, and that's why it's my favourite gaming era :)

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44 minutes ago, youxia said:

Starflight was indeed mindblowing. I still consider Pirates! to be the best game ever (excluding certain roguelikes). There were many more games in this vein, and that's why it's my favourite gaming era :)

Both games are in my top 10 games of all time. Railroad Tycoon is on that list as well.

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1 hour ago, Billy Beans said:

Another great game from the same time is of course Sid Meier's Pirates! It was so easy to lose track of time in that game.

That was my first PC game. I had played Pirates! for the first time on my uncle's C64 while visiting my grandmother's farm in he summer.

 

Later that year, my parents told me they were buying a PC and while out of town for a bowling tournament, my and my buddy when across the street to a little PC store and I saw the DOS version of Pirates! sitting there, and bought it two weeks before I could play it.

 

My parents never really learned to use the PC for business use, so I took it over, and I've been mainly a PC gamer ever since.

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Anyone else play "Transport Tycoon"?   I played a ton of this game, especially the Deluxe version.  It takes to Railroad Tycoon concept and puts it on steroids, adding boats, trucks, buses and planes to your transportation empire.   It was created by Chris Sawyer who went on to create Rollercoaster Tycoon.

 

It seems to have a dedicated fanbase, as there's been an open source recreation in "openttd", and it's been actively developed, adding many improvements to the original game over the years.

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Posted (edited)

I spent some quality time playing a DOS game this week, and that game is Ultima III: Exodus.

 

Even though I've already completed this on the NES and generally know what to do, I decided I'd play it "honest" and only do stuff once I get an in-game hint to do so.  I'm using the fan patch that improves the graphics and music and some other stuff.  One nice thing is that the patch also supports a fake composite CGA mode, and after trying both tilesets I ended up preferring the colors in this mode over the somewhat gaudy EGA mode colors.

 

I've been playing the game an hour or so a night over the last week and am nearing the end of the game... I could probably finish it over the weekend if I wanted to put a few hours into it all at once.

 

Anyway, I am really liking this game!  I definitely prefer it to the somewhat broken but otherwise decent NES port.

 

One thing that annoys me with this game (also Ultima IV) is that the combat is basically mindless and yet there is so much of it.  The optimal strategy for every battle for 99% of the game is to equip ranged weapons and press A,UP for every character.  You have a bunch of spells to choose from, but even a maxed out spellcaster can only cast a handful of spells before running out of spell points!  It therefore makes little sense to go with the pure spellcaster classes (cleric & wizard).  Pretty annoying.

Edited by newtmonkey

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4 hours ago, youxia said:

Starflight was indeed mindblowing. I still consider Pirates! to be the best game ever (excluding certain roguelikes). There were many more games in this vein, and that's why it's my favourite gaming era :)

Never played Starflight.  Remember seeing it available for the Sega Genesis and wanting to get it, but I had moved on from RPGs.  Still, maybe someday I will.  Also, how exactly is Star Control I and/or II?  Both are on the Genesis, so I am tempted to try and check those out sometime.

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Posted (edited)

@Hwlngmad

The Genesis has ports of Starflight and Star Control, but sadly not Star Control II.  Starflight is definitely worth a go on the Genesis, it's a very good port.  Star Control I imo is not worth playing as it's far too basic.  It's basically Spacewar!/Computer Space with a shallow strategy game attached.  Star Control II, however, is a fantastic game, though perhaps more like an adventure game with RPG elements than an RPG.

Edited by newtmonkey
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1 hour ago, newtmonkey said:

One thing that annoys me with this game (also Ultima IV) is that the combat is basically mindless and yet there is so much of it.  The optimal strategy for every battle for 99% of the game is to equip ranged weapons and press A,UP for every character.  You have a bunch of spells to choose from, but even a maxed out spellcaster can only cast a handful of spells before running out of spell points!  It therefore makes little sense to go with the pure spellcaster classes (cleric & wizard).  Pretty annoying.

When I first got Ultima III BITD, I was totally enthralled in it,  but by the time I got to the end, the formula ran thin, and I was tired of the constant combat and other factors.

 

So when Ultima IV came out, it blew me away because it was a much deeper game that fixed many of the weaknesses in Ultima III.   But still the combat was excessive.

 

I liked how other RPG games dealt with combat..   In Wizard's Crown, it gave you a choice between quick combat (which automatically resolved the battle in seconds based on stats and 'dice' rolls, or long combat, which was a turn-based combat similar to Ultima, but slightly more advanced.   By the end I was using quick combat much more.   Also Phantasie series had a system where you would just apply a battle strategy to each character, you could reuse the same one strategy each turn or change it if it wasn't working.   It was much easier than having to reposition each character every turn like in Ultima

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Posted (edited)

- Star Control II is one of the few games of the genre I played (never finished it), and I wouldn't say it's an adventure game. It's mainly a space combat/ship improvement/resource gathering simulator with maybe a few adventure elements here and there. I've never played Starflight, but I would say Star Control II picks up Starflight and adds some fun action and adventure (and maybe removes some strategy/RPG elements? I can't tell).

 

- If Star Control I is simple, this means maybe I would like it. I don't like the complexity of RPG and strategy games (even if often I appreaciate their graphics and sounds).

 

- Railroad Tycoon was one of the 2 strategy games I had as a kid, with the other one being Cohort. I didn't know what to do at all, but I love the graphics. Maybe one day if will be the first strategy game I ever seriously give a go, just to see those cute trains moving.

 

- After finishing Prince of Persia and Blues Brothers, I'm now on level 4/14 in Titus the Fox. The game is fun, but has an important flaw: often, when an enemy hits you, you end up bouncing from enemy to enemy like a pinball ball, taking a hit with each rebound! The programmers should have removed that "bouncing feature".

 

- @youxia Did you finish Ecstatica without a guide? I'm planning to give it a try soon (I should probably finish BioForge first, I left it at the end about a year ago when I got stuck!)

Edited by IntelliMission
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42 minutes ago, zzip said:

When I first got Ultima III BITD, I was totally enthralled in it,  but by the time I got to the end, the formula ran thin, and I was tired of the constant combat and other factors.

 

So when Ultima IV came out, it blew me away because it was a much deeper game that fixed many of the weaknesses in Ultima III.   But still the combat was excessive.

 

I liked how other RPG games dealt with combat..   In Wizard's Crown, it gave you a choice between quick combat (which automatically resolved the battle in seconds based on stats and 'dice' rolls, or long combat, which was a turn-based combat similar to Ultima, but slightly more advanced.   By the end I was using quick combat much more.   Also Phantasie series had a system where you would just apply a battle strategy to each character, you could reuse the same one strategy each turn or change it if it wasn't working.   It was much easier than having to reposition each character every turn like in Ultima

I'm with you on the tedious encounters. A way they could have fixed that is to have fewer encounters and increase the EXP per encounter.

 

Ultima III through was played through several times when it was current, using different classes each time. Of course I bought Ultima IV, but only played it through once. It was a good game, but didn't hold my attention. But Ultima V. I've played it through dozens of times. I find the story much more engaging.

 

I played many of the similar RPGs of the day, and three stand out as favorites. Legacy of the Ancients from EA, Questron II (from SSI?), and Wasteland. They added new elements to the Ultima-type formula. I played each of them through several times.

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It looks like Titus the Fox will be more difficult than expected compared to Blues Brothers:

 

- 14 levels instead of 6

- More lateral and faster movement makes the sudden scrolling more problematic compared to BB

- Not only the Amiga version has perfect scrolling: it's also differently programmed with more well balanced difficulty (you can avoid projectiles fighting the end boss in stage 3, the platforms don't move up and down fighting the end boss in stage 4...).

 

At least the game gives you codes (more important BITD) and replenishes your health after completing a level.

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Posted (edited)
21 hours ago, Billy Beans said:

I'm with you on the tedious encounters. A way they could have fixed that is to have fewer encounters and increase the EXP per encounter.

 

I'm nearing the end of Ultima III (one dungeon left to explore, and then the endgame), and I agree with this 100%.  The overworld encounters are not bad at all, but the dungeon encounters are out of control.  I will sometimes fight and win a battle, open the treasure chest the enemy leaves behind, and then IMMEDIATELY enter another battle (without even turning around!), and then when I win THAT battle and turn around get into another battle.  Three battles on the same square lol.  It happens especially often on the lower levels of the dungeons.

Edited by newtmonkey

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22 hours ago, zzip said:

I liked how other RPG games dealt with combat..   In Wizard's Crown, it gave you a choice between quick combat (which automatically resolved the battle in seconds based on stats and 'dice' rolls, or long combat, which was a turn-based combat similar to Ultima, but slightly more advanced.   By the end I was using quick combat much more.   Also Phantasie series had a system where you would just apply a battle strategy to each character, you could reuse the same one strategy each turn or change it if it wasn't working.   It was much easier than having to reposition each character every turn like in Ultima

I think Ultima is a series you definitely do not play for the combat, but for the nonlinear exploration and (starting with UIV) how you continue to revisit a world that ages a hundred years or whatever in between each game.  By the time you get to Ultima VII, you really do feel like you are visiting old friends when you meet up with characters like Shamino and Iolo.  No other RPG does it better. 

 

Having said that, I agree—the combat in Ultima is just half-baked and quickly becomes tedious, like it's in there just because an RPG needs combat.

 

Thankfully, like you said, there are plenty of older games with satisfying combat.  I've been playing a lot of them for the first time over the last few years and I've been surprised at how much I enjoyed the combat, start to finish, in games like Wizardry I-III&V, Might & Magic I, AD&D Pool of Radiance, and Demon's Winter.

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