Author Topic: REVIEW: Oddities  (Read 484 times)

Offline Nol Drek

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REVIEW: Oddities
« on: March 25, 2017, 11:14:28 PM »
Oddities is a module created by Two-Bit Termite  ;) for the one-week challenge. This module has a Ravenloft theme to it. There are Gypsies and possibly Vampires. The mod does a great job of setting a mood. It is very atmospheric and the areas are described in a way that uses all five of your senses. Many of the encounters allow you to choose how your party responds, and each of the choices has a chain of dialogue that fits the selected response. It took me about an hour to play the game through the second time (see below).

The module is short, but the combats are very difficult. You are given the option to set the difficulty level at the beginning. I chose "Easy" and still had a Total Party Wipe the first time I tried playing the game. Your party is given magic items which you must use strategically if you want to have any hope of survival. I reloaded, used the magic items carefully, and was able to win my second try on the "Easy" setting.

The art and new music in this module are outstanding. The Ravenloft frame set fits the eerie mood perfectly. I think the always icons are new. The PC and monster icons are of the same high quality that you would expect in a module by this author.  ;) The only negative thing I have to say is that when you create a new PC, the name shows up as black on a black background - so pay attention as you type because you won't be able to see the name on the screen. Really a minor bug, and one that I'm sure this author will be able to fix easily.

If you haven't tried it yet, I highly recommend that you download and play Oddities.
« Last Edit: March 25, 2017, 11:20:56 PM by Nol Drek »
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Offline Olivier Leroux

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Re: REVIEW: Oddities
« Reply #1 on: March 26, 2017, 04:23:09 PM »
Oddities is a module created by Two-Bit Termite  ;)

Oh, so I take it this was actually created by a well known author under pseudonym? That explains a lot, I was wondering where this mysterious Two-Bit Termite came from all of a sudden, presenting a heavily hacked and highly promising design like this as their "debut" ...  ;D Now I'm curious, but I bet it's all the more interesting to the author to see the reaction of those who haven't figured out who's hiding behind the pseudonym.  :)

I really liked what I saw, it seemed like a very enjoyable design with great new graphics and music and an engrossing story and setting, but I have to admit my defeat due to the hard-as-nails combat. As already mentioned by Nol, the game offers three different difficulty levels, and not really knowing what to expect, I initially chose "Moderate", seeing that I usually play all games with the "Normal" default difficulty, as intended, and without too much trouble. The first combat was still fine, even if I was already a little surprised about the high amount of opponents coming from all sides. The second had an even higher number of enemies, all of them with several attacks per round, so that my party was already worn down quite a lot before I could even try and fight back. I was hopelessly slaughtered.

So I thought, maybe that's what the difficulty setting is about, the number of opponents in a fight, and I restarted the game choosing "Easy" this time, with hopes that this would reduce their numbers. The first thing I noticed as a difference were the items my party was given by the mayor at the start. Some were just better (bracers AC2 instead of AC4), others were different (Ring of Missiles - or something like that - instead of Cloak of Displacement etc.). The items offered in the shop were different, too, +2 equipment in addition to normal and +1 equipment this time. To my disappointment, I couldn't buy regular weapons like a simple sling on "Easy" mode anymore though ... Fast forward, and I got slaughtered in the second battle again, same amount of multi-attacking enemies. I reloaded a savegame shortly before the battle, and set UA's own difficulty level to "Novice", in addition to the designs' "Easy" mode. But the monsters rejoiced a third time. Note that you can rest everywhere anytime, so the difficulty seems to be more in surviving a single combat than in trying to use your resources sparingly.

To me this kind of balance felt really odd (no pun intended), but I generally like my fights tendentially easier rather than hard, and shorter rather than long. I'm familiar enough with D&D and FRUA, but I'm ready to admit that I might not be the greatest tactician, so maybe this just isn't for me. In any case, I didn't really enjoy what I saw of the combat, which is a shame, since everything else promised to be so much fun.  :-\
« Last Edit: March 26, 2017, 04:29:16 PM by Olivier Leroux »

Online steve_mcdee

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Re: REVIEW: Oddities
« Reply #2 on: March 26, 2017, 06:31:49 PM »
It would be a shame to miss out on the great graphics and adventure because the combats are too hard. You might try adding the line "1f102 1 90" to the diff.tbl in the design directory. This should hopefully allow you to access the "WIN" button during combat.

Offline hans

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Re: REVIEW: Oddities
« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2017, 08:44:37 PM »
Did you donate at the temple? 

Offline Olivier Leroux

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Re: REVIEW: Oddities
« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2017, 05:08:54 AM »
Did you donate at the temple? 

I didn't. I'm usually too stingy to do that without good reason, not knowing whether there will be a reward and if so at what amount, although (*SPOILER*, highlight to read) I did read the tavern message about the temple fencing stolen goods, so I suspected there would be an event on donation. But for some reason I didn't try it, and then I forgot about it again.

EDIT: Ok, I did now, and this time I spent almost all of my money and made sure that every PC had an AC below 0, but it didn't help much. The second combat was still brutal and next to unwinnable for me even in EASY/NOVICE mode ...
« Last Edit: March 27, 2017, 05:46:25 AM by Olivier Leroux »

Offline Olivier Leroux

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Re: REVIEW: Oddities
« Reply #5 on: March 27, 2017, 05:43:31 AM »
It would be a shame to miss out on the great graphics and adventure because the combats are too hard. You might try adding the line "1f102 1 90" to the diff.tbl in the design directory. This should hopefully allow you to access the "WIN" button during combat.

Can I just put that line anywhere or does it have to be in a specific place? I put it below the "1e..." lines, using Windows' text editor, and it made the "WIN" command appear in combat, but it's only available in the beginning, maybe until the first PC goes down? And it seems to make the game prone to weird crashes and glitches (like the one in the attached screenshot) ...
« Last Edit: March 27, 2017, 05:51:58 AM by Olivier Leroux »

Offline hans

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Re: REVIEW: Oddities
« Reply #6 on: March 27, 2017, 10:50:42 AM »
An updated version of Oddities is now available at the UA File Archive:
http://frua.rosedragon.org/pc/modules/o/oddities.txt
http://frua.rosedragon.org/pc/modules/o/oddities.zip

(Heartfelt thanks to the ever-valiant Donnie Ewald   :notworthy: )

The fights are unchanged. 
The "Easy" option will now give access to much better booty.
The "Moderate" option will now give access to somewhat better booty. 
The "Hard" option remains unchanged.   

Offline Olivier Leroux

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Re: REVIEW: Oddities
« Reply #7 on: March 27, 2017, 12:22:09 PM »
I downloaded the new version to try the more generous EASY mode, and this time I was able to survive the onslaught of those nasty little horrors that had always wiped out my party before. In the following battles, first my mage was killed and then three other party members were charmed or killed as well while the others were driven away and fled, but in the end I got through the story with the remaining two survivors, so there's no need for using cheats anymore.  :)

The adventure is strictly linear with little reward for exploration, as far as I've seen, but it is very entertaining and enjoyable due to the aforementioned narration, choice of graphics and music. Being equipped with all the overpowered stuff money could buy me in EASY mode, the combat was a bit more enjoyable as well now. In any case, it featured very cool new combat icons. There were two occasions when the party was given a choice, and I wonder whether these choices might have been able to give the story a different turn, and under which conditions, because the way it went on my playthrough was not exactly commendable for my PCs and didn't make them look so good. Not that there's anything wrong with that, seeing that it's a linear story, I guess they are somewhat predetermined in their roles.

Offline Ray

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Re: REVIEW: Oddities
« Reply #8 on: March 28, 2017, 01:24:22 PM »

I know I just started another review this way, but...WOW.

Some games are just humbling experiences.  They pull me out of my comfort zone and show me what can really be done, what creativity really looks like.  Oddities, by Two-Bit Termite, is one of those experiences.  It takes all of the tropes that I hold most dear, combines them, and presents them in a package that is so beautiful, so complete, that I felt some pangs of embarrassment over the work that I had produced.  Sure, I produced quantity, but this...this was quality on a scale that I couldn't achieve without a team of people working behind me and months, at the very least, of work.

Oddities is a feast to see, and also to hear.  What makes this so amazing, for me, at least, is the caliber of the art involved.  When it comes to combat icons, for instance, we all have the same 8x8 box to work with.  And from that box I produce things that might be bipedal, whereas Two-Bit Termite creates people clad in flowing garb, decorated with jewelry and bangles, with unique hair and other accessories.  It's as if he's managed to break each pixel into mini-pixels, and then force FRUA to accept it.  Likewise, the cohesion of the piece.  The combat screens, the small pics, the big pics, the new frame, the new icons...it all works together to create something that is more than the sum of its parts.  Likewise with the new musical score.  Two-Bit Termite not only has the capacity to create new art, and also to find and scan arts that works together, but he is also able to create xmi sounds that work thematically, play for great periods, and never crash the FRUA engine. 

And all of that is to leave out the most important element--This is a great game!  It's not just beautiful looking and sounding.  In this adventures are memorable NPCs, complex enemies, mysterious areas to explore, delightful treasure to find, and two things that many games do not have.  First, a genuine sense of humor.  Even when things are at their darkest, and this is a fairly grim story, the game has a subtle way of letting some of the steam out.  Not too much, and never so much that the anxiety passes.  Second, there is the sense that this story takes place in the heart of a much larger world. 

The stakes are high, and the combats are not easy.  Don't for a moment think that choosing "Easy" will let you off the hook.  I squeaked through, barely, but only by liberally fireballing my toughest fighter, and hauling away a dead cleric after the climactic battle.  Normally, that would feel like a failure, but two things kept me from rebooting and trying again.  First, that was a tough fight--I felt lucky to get off so well.  Second, this was how the story played out.  It wouldn't have been fair to the story to go back and tell it again.  It's not often that I feel that way about any game.

To be fair, it is difficult for me to provide an unbiased review for Oddities.  This design is why I play games.  Not just D&D or FRUA designs, but computer games, and tabletop games.  This is the genre I love, the storytelling that I love, and the tone that I love.  Many, many thanks for the opportunity to play this design.




Offline hans

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Re: REVIEW: Oddities
« Reply #9 on: March 29, 2017, 12:27:18 PM »
Thank you for those humbling words of praise, Ray! 

Half the music was not mine.  IIRC, Dqk3 ("victory"), 5 ("foes") and 9 ("evil march") were by Steve Gustafson, while Dqk4 ("treasure") I snatched from one of Darius Whiteheart's Ravenloft mods.  (They are a couple of my favorite authors, and swell fellows, whom I hope will both return to FRUAdom soon.)  The selections that were mine I grabbed from a long-abandoned mod entitled "The Dubious Dessert."  As it takes me too long to convert midis, I could only use existing ones for this time-constrained Challenge. 

Several combat icons, the Giant Rat, the Gargoyle, and Bat, most conspicuously were not mine. 

The Frameset was also swiped from one Darius' Ravenloft mods.  It's the reason for the black on black character naming bug mentioned in Nol's review.  I couldn't fix it without either changing the Frameset, or the Always palette.  Changing the Frameset to a lighter background color would alter its wonderful ambience.  While changing the black in the Always palette could have far reaching ramifications to lots of other art in UA.  So, that little bug needed to stay. 

The Always Icons and Combat Sprites were hurriedly pieced together from existing sets (mostly my own, but some never released).

I was originally going to use much more art from out of our existing libraries.  Some of the Pics I was collecting in the early stage for possible use might still be found in Oddities' Art Gallery.
« Last Edit: March 29, 2017, 12:30:35 PM by hans »

Offline ProphetSword

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Re: REVIEW: Oddities
« Reply #10 on: March 29, 2017, 12:55:04 PM »
The Frameset was also swiped from one Darius' Ravenloft mods.  It's the reason for the black on black character naming bug mentioned in Nol's review.  I couldn't fix it without either changing the Frameset, or the Always palette.  Changing the Frameset to a lighter background color would alter its wonderful ambience.  While changing the black in the Always palette could have far reaching ramifications to lots of other art in UA.  So, that little bug needed to stay. 

Using the unofficial FRUA 1.3 patch (which comes as a diff.tbl file) will fix this bug without requiring you to make palette changes.  It fixes a whole host of other bugs and adds a few neat surprises too.  You might consider looking into it.
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Offline hans

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Re: REVIEW: Oddities
« Reply #11 on: March 29, 2017, 04:05:02 PM »
Using the unofficial FRUA 1.3 patch (which comes as a diff.tbl file) will fix this bug without requiring you to make palette changes.  It fixes a whole host of other bugs and adds a few neat surprises too.  You might consider looking into it.
 

Does it open up use of expanded tunes?

Offline ProphetSword

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Re: REVIEW: Oddities
« Reply #12 on: March 29, 2017, 06:47:33 PM »
Does it open up use of expanded tunes?


Not as far as I know.  You can check what it does in this thread:


http://ua.reonis.com/index.php?topic=3509.0
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Offline Nol Drek

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Re: REVIEW: Oddities
« Reply #13 on: March 29, 2017, 10:54:47 PM »
The Frameset was also swiped from one Darius' Ravenloft mods.  It's the reason for the black on black character naming bug mentioned in Nol's review.  I couldn't fix it without either changing the Frameset, or the Always palette.  Changing the Frameset to a lighter background color would alter its wonderful ambience.  While changing the black in the Always palette could have far reaching ramifications to lots of other art in UA.  So, that little bug needed to stay. 

I had the same problem with my "Spider Queen" frame set at first. It is a maddening bug because you have to use color 23 as the background for buttons and I wanted that color to be black. From my hacking notes, this was the change I had to make to the DIFF.TBL:

New Char. Name      251266 (0x3D582)   1 byte      0 thru 255
Change Text Color from 0 (black) to 11 (cyan)

I easily spent one full week of my prep time just getting that "Spider Queen" frame set to look right and line up properly. Trying to stick a Gold Box frame set in a FRUA box is maddening.
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Offline hans

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Re: REVIEW: Oddities
« Reply #14 on: March 29, 2017, 11:35:46 PM »
I'm afraid that sort of hacking is not my forte.   :-[