Author Topic: Gold Box series: Differences in the engine and continuity of story?  (Read 781 times)

Offline Olivier Leroux

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As the great fan of FRUA that I am, and seeing how popular the original Gold Box games are among community members, I was curious enough about them to buy them when they were re-released on GOG. Now that I own them all (well, except for the Buck Rogers titles), I felt like giving them a try. I made some earlier attempts, but the last one I tried recently was Champions of Krynn.

But coming from (hacked) FRUA, with no nostalgia goggles on, I find it quite hard to get into, due to several minor annoyances adding up, like having to press more buttons than necessary every combat round (MOVE, and MANUAL for aiming, which are handled automatically in FRUA), having to re-memorize every spell once it's cast (while FRUA stores your last selection, so you just need to rest), the tedious customization of the crude character combat icons, the emulated PC speaker sounds, the need to constantly check the journal for reading longer passages of text, apparantly no ranged weapons (slings) for casters, etc.

So I wonder, if I can't get into the oldest Gold Box games, is there still a chance for me to enjoy the newer ones, which are a bit closer to FRUA? Which games use which engine, which graphic and color mode (EGA, VGA)? When did improvements for more ease-of-use occur, if at all? Do all of them share the need for pressing MOVE and MANUAL in combat? Do all of them work with outsourced journal entries? Would it even make sense to play a later installment in a series without having played the previous ones, e.g. Dark Queen without Champions and Death Knights?
« Last Edit: April 18, 2017, 02:15:19 PM by Olivier Leroux »

Offline Mechanaut

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Re: Gold Box series: Differences in the engine and continuity of story?
« Reply #1 on: April 18, 2017, 03:09:34 PM »
The [much needed] 'Fix' command came later.  Pool of Radiance came first, and Curse of the Azure Bonds came next. In the initial games, the mouse was a curious option; not everyone had them on their machines.
PoR is strangely the most primitive and the most in depth of the GB games that I've played.  I have not yet played the Kyrnn series; but I installed it last week.  You get over it fairly quickly [the keyboard demands], the spell re-memorization is taxing however, but one can get over that too.  It's remarkably unusual [and was fun —to me] to be able to start a party in Pool of Radiance, and transfer them from game to game until the end... as the [ever improving] heroes of Phlan. Though care should be taken about racial choice; because of the early D&D racial level caps, you almost certainly want a party of all or nearly all human PCs.

There is a superb set of articles about SSI and their games on the Digital Antiquarian. The GB relevant ones are part 4 & 5.
http://www.filfre.net/2016/03/opening-the-gold-box-part-4-pool-of-radiance/
http://www.filfre.net/2017/03/opening-the-gold-box-part-5-all-that-glitters-is-not-gold/
 
« Last Edit: April 18, 2017, 03:22:59 PM by Mechanaut »

Offline Olivier Leroux

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Re: Gold Box series: Differences in the engine and continuity of story?
« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2017, 03:19:57 PM »
Champions of Krynn has the FIX command already, but apparantly spells have to be selected individually again for memorizing, once cast. I only played Ray Dyer's FRUA remake of POR and Curse of the Azure Bonds, which was much more comfortable. Too bad the other games weren't remade in FRUA, even though it's quite understandable, seeing how much work that would involve and how difficult it would be to implement all the features of the originals, if possible at all.

Oh, and I forgot to mention, I tried playing with the Gold Box Companion to make the playthrough more comfortable, but for some reason it didn't show the journal entries as I believe it's supposed to, and if I loaded a save game from the overland map, it wouldn't activate the automap, when I entered a dungeon. I had to save the game in the dungeon, quit, restart, reload, restart GBC for the automap to work. And I'm generally not that fond of playing in Windowed mode. So while the GBC offers some great features, it still didn't help that much against the feeling that everything is more clunky than fun from today's perspective ...  ???
« Last Edit: April 18, 2017, 03:29:50 PM by Olivier Leroux »

Offline Mechanaut

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Re: Gold Box series: Differences in the engine and continuity of story?
« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2017, 03:25:16 PM »
Off hand I don't recall which had it first, but the mid to later games eventually started remembering the selected spell lists. [I'm reasonably sure]

Offline Ray

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Re: Gold Box series: Differences in the engine and continuity of story?
« Reply #4 on: April 18, 2017, 03:32:53 PM »
Champions of Krynn has the FIX command already, but apparantly spells have to be selected individually again for memorizing, once cast. I only played Ray Dyer's FRUA remake of POR and Curse of the Azure Bonds, which was much more comfortable. Too bad the other games weren't remade in FRUA, even though it's quite understandable, seeing how much work that would involve and how difficult it would be to implement all the features of the originals, if possible at all.

I've played the Pools series from start to finish (sort of) twice now.  The only reason I get through PoR is because of nostalgia.  I love it just the way it is, in spite of itself.  Curse and Secret of the Silver Blades are a means to an end, because I've only played Pools of Darkness twice.  That's the only game in the series that feels "modern," by FRUA standards.

I'm curious how the Savage Frontier series would feel.  I haven't played them since the late 90's, but I remember them being light years ahead of the Pools series (sans PoD) in terms of art, story, and design...They might be a good place to look...

Off topic, and FWIW, I started a conversion of Secret of the Silver Blades last year (maybe the year before)--I got some folks to help out with music, and some other stuff.  Went at it full bore.  Then I realized how terrible SotSB is, just as a game, and it became the only thing that I ever started in FRUA that I didn't finish.  I expect it will retain that title.  It's just...an awful game.

In order to convert it, I would need to alter it, extensively.  And that would go against everything I've been doing in The Realm.

I really didn't get much more than the (LENGTHY) introduction done, and the map of New Verdigris, but the group I was using to actually play the game struggled all the way to the end.  I kept thinking, If I find something cool here, then I"ll have a reason to go back and convert all that crap...  Never found it, sadly.


Offline hans

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Re: Gold Box series: Differences in the engine and continuity of story?
« Reply #5 on: April 18, 2017, 03:46:19 PM »
...Off topic, and FWIW, I started a conversion of Secret of the Silver Blades last year (maybe the year before)--I got some folks to help out with music, and some other stuff.  Went at it full bore.  Then I realized how terrible SotSB is, just as a game, and it became the only thing that I ever started in FRUA that I didn't finish.  I expect it will retain that title.  It's just...an awful game.

In order to convert it, I would need to alter it, extensively.  And that would go against everything I've been doing in The Realm.
 

Howzabout: Altering it extensively, releasing it as a non-Realms game, under an alias, if necessary.   ;D

...So, what sort of alterations were you thinking about...?   :)


Offline Ray

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Re: Gold Box series: Differences in the engine and continuity of story?
« Reply #6 on: April 18, 2017, 03:59:38 PM »

I would mainly feel compelled to reduce the monotony.

I'd remove half the levels of the mine, at least.  Shrink the size of the ruins surrounding New Verdigris.  Reduce the number of wandering encounters dramatically (there aren't that many 12th-level clerics in the multiverse), and add in some environment-appropriate creatures to create some variety beyond the six monsters you fight ad nauseum.  There was just so much sprawl in that game, and so little story...

Maybe someday, Hans...But another thing that I realized after enduring SotSB was that PoD was just too big for me to ever actually convert into FRUA.  So, my dream of all four games will never be realized, because I wouldn't want to shrink PoD...That one was a lot of fun, except for the final battle that I managed to win (hence my "sort of" up above...)


Offline Olivier Leroux

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Re: Gold Box series: Differences in the engine and continuity of story?
« Reply #7 on: April 18, 2017, 04:04:11 PM »
So what do you think about playing e.g. Pool of Darkness without any knowledge of the prior games? How much of a story continuity is there? Is it really important to know the whole story, or to import your own characters?

Then again, maybe I should just give up all hope of ever joining the club of Gold Box fans and instead concentrate on the FRUA modules I haven't played yet and which will probably be much more enjoyable to me.    ::)

Offline Mechanaut

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Re: Gold Box series: Differences in the engine and continuity of story?
« Reply #8 on: April 18, 2017, 04:29:58 PM »
I'd remove half the levels of the mine, at least.  Shrink the size of the ruins surrounding New Verdigris.  Reduce the number of wandering encounters dramatically (there aren't that many 12th-level clerics in the multiverse), and add in some environment-appropriate creatures to create some variety beyond the six monsters you fight ad nauseum.
SotSB —The Good Parts Version.  ;D

So what do you think about playing e.g. Pool of Darkness without any knowledge of the prior games? How much of a story continuity is there? Is it really important to know the whole story, or to import your own characters?

Then again, maybe I should just give up all hope of ever joining the club of Gold Box fans and instead concentrate on the FRUA modules I haven't played yet and which will probably be much more enjoyable to me.    ::)
Not much different than coming into a movie series in the 3rd or 4th installment... Your characters begin the game at appropriate levels, but they will lack the mental history you'd otherwise have for them, and they are attributed to events that you won't know about. Still playable though.

If decided to play Pool of Darkness...You might try playing through each of the others for as long as they hold your interest; perhaps even transfer the party prematurely. Other than that, you can get much of the information by skimming a walkthrough, or a "let's play" on Youtube... with no need to slog through a game than doesn't appeal mechanically.
« Last Edit: April 18, 2017, 04:37:06 PM by Mechanaut »

Offline Ray

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Re: Gold Box series: Differences in the engine and continuity of story?
« Reply #9 on: April 18, 2017, 08:24:08 PM »

I'd agree--Pools of Darkness is less connected to the others in many ways.  If you're familiar with the Forgotten Realms at all (like...REALLY big picture stuff: Elminster is a wizard everyone bumps into at some point, Bane is an evil deity...), then you've got all you need to play.

The biggest drawback that I can foresee is that characters who come from the previous installments are usually a level or two ahead of characters who are made native to the game.  That's not always the case--it really depends on whether you blunder into as many subplots and wandering encounters as I do--but that really enhanced my enjoyment.

For that, though, there's also Gold Box Companion, which is totally awesome.


Offline hans

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Re: Gold Box series: Differences in the engine and continuity of story?
« Reply #10 on: April 18, 2017, 08:33:52 PM »
Curse of the Azure Bonds is one of my favorite GoldBoxes, neck and neck with Death Knights of Krynn for the top spot.  I'd at least give it a try, because there's so much good stuff in it.

Offline Olivier Leroux

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Re: Gold Box series: Differences in the engine and continuity of story?
« Reply #11 on: April 19, 2017, 01:51:30 AM »
Well, like I said, in principle, I'm already familiar with Pool of Radiance and Curse of the Azure Bonds by way of Ray's adaptations, (even though it's been a while since I played them and I hardly remember anything). So I'd only "miss out" on Secret of the Silver Blades if I tried playing Pool of Darkness now, and it seems I wouldn't miss that much ...

Offline Ishad Nha

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Re: Gold Box series: Differences in the engine and continuity of story?
« Reply #12 on: April 19, 2017, 06:52:34 AM »
Back to the starting post and spell memorization...
Pool of Radiance: spell selection can be arranged by altering the relevant character files to show all spells as being memorized.

Ditto Gold Box Companion should do this with a click:
"- Store the list of memorized spells and restore the spells with a single click. Can not be used while in combat."
After you use GBC you can rest if you want to.

Offline Olivier Leroux

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Re: Gold Box series: Differences in the engine and continuity of story?
« Reply #13 on: April 19, 2017, 09:40:59 AM »
Oh, ok. I guess I should spend a bit more time on getting to know GBC.

Anyway, I've checked out all the later Gold Box games, and it looks like The Dark Queen of Krynn (1992) is the only one of them that works just like FRUA, with a selection of pre-made and more detailed character icons and automatical MOVING and MANUAL aiming. The same things that I found a bit off-putting in Pool of Radiance (1988) and Champions of Krynn (1990) are still present in Pools of Darkness (1991) (except maybe for the memorizing issue, which I didn't test) and also Treasures of the Savage Frontier (1992) (although that one has the most attractive graphics IMO). All of them, even DQK, use journal entries.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2017, 09:44:36 AM by Olivier Leroux »

Offline ProphetSword

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Re: Gold Box series: Differences in the engine and continuity of story?
« Reply #14 on: April 19, 2017, 09:59:37 AM »
I find it a shame that you can't see past the interface of the games.  They're classic for a reason.  As good as some FRUA modules can be, I've rarely felt that they've reached the heights of the actual Gold-Box games.  And that's not just nostalgia...I've replayed them a lot over the years.  The stories in Champions/Death Knights, Curse of the Azure Bonds and Pools of Darkness are awesome.  Pool of Radiance is the best of the bunch.  There's even a decent story buried in Secret of the Silver Blades.

They aren't that much different than FRUA.  Yes, it can be tedious to select your spells when you rest, but no more so than when you select them the first time when you start an FRUA module. Or when you decide to change them. You get used to hitting Move before moving your character.  Again, it's not that hard to get used to doing.  After a bit, you barely notice.

I think you shouldn't compare the games to FRUA.  The good ones came before the engine was updated to FRUA-style systems, but they're completely worth the effort.

Also, you may be the first person I've ever heard who complains about the journal entries.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2017, 10:01:16 AM by ProphetSword »
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