Author Topic: Gold Box series: Differences in the engine and continuity of story?  (Read 1031 times)

Offline Olivier Leroux

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Re: Gold Box series: Differences in the engine and continuity of story?
« Reply #15 on: April 19, 2017, 10:58:09 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.

I guess this is also a matter of taste, it might just be that I'm looking for different things than you and others. Like I said, I've played Pool of Radiance and Curse of the Azure Bonds - granted, not the original games, but I'd assume that Ray's adaptations are as faithful as can be. I thought these games were okay, but I liked Ray's own stories and Realm adaptations a lot better, and yours too. I've played so many FRUA designs that left a much more lasting impression on me than what I've seen of the Gold Box games so far. But I was never a big fan of Forgotten Realms anyway, hardly ever read any D&D novels, not even the Krynn series, and I think I also kind of prefer hans' short story telling designs to epic Gold Box ones with a lot of combat. If I was confident that I would eventually come to love these classics just as much as you do, I'd be much more willing to deal with the minor annoyances, but tastes differ, and I fear that their length and all the combat to be expected might become tedious to a player like me even without the roundabout UI. So if I'm being honest, the reason that these things put me off are not just the things themselves, but that they represent additional hurdles, when I'm not even sure if I'd really be interested enough in the games to bother. That doesn't necessarily have to do with the quality of the games themselves though, just with my personal tastes.


Also, you may be the first person I've ever heard who complains about the journal entries.

Well, how many other people do you know trying the games now for the first time and who aren't huge Krynn/FR fans or oldschool gaming freaks? ;)

I get why they had to do it like this at the time, but back then you had a nice manual in print that came with the box and that you could comfortably leaf through while playing. Nowadays, to read the entries, you have to ALT-TAB out of the game or play in Windowed Mode to read a pdf file, or waste your printer ink on a collection of loose paper sheets. It's not a total no-go for me, but it adds to all the other minor annoyances.

Offline Mechanaut

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Re: Gold Box series: Differences in the engine and continuity of story?
« Reply #16 on: April 19, 2017, 11:52:20 AM »
All of them, even DQK, use journal entries.
This is to be expected; of course.  The journals not only served as deliberate copy-deterrent, but they kept the size of the game data lower, by printing the text instead of storing it on the disk —which might have required an additional disk. These disks were mechanical contraptions... not plastic CDs; and they were not relatively cheap.

'Curse of the Azure Bonds' came on four separate game disks [in the 5¼" version for IBM], and the game regularly needed swapping of these disks to access the data for given tasks and locations.
Without a doubt [or I should say without a hard disk**] , the player would have had to swap out the disk each time the game needed text from the journal; had they embedded the data in the game instead of printing it in the booklet.

The reason FRUA doesn't use a journal, is —user preference; it could if they wished, and the story text would not be so limited. 
Come to think of it... these days FRUA designers could choose to include PDF journals if they wished.

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**Hard disk drives were an ungodly expense —if even an option at all on one's platform. The drive to read just the floppy disks for the game, cost $200; the game itself cost $50. Hard drives weren't a supported option on the PC I was using at the time.]

Quote
Nowadays, to read the entries, you have to ALT-TAB out of the game or play in Windowed Mode to read a pdf file
I wonder if anyone has made a version of DOSBOX with an emulated monochrome second monitor? Or the option to split-screen between the game and a PDF on a widescreen monitor.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2017, 12:29:05 PM by Mechanaut »

Offline Olivier Leroux

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Re: Gold Box series: Differences in the engine and continuity of story?
« Reply #17 on: April 19, 2017, 12:42:09 PM »
I wonder if anyone has made a version of DOSBOX with an emulated monochrome second monitor? Or the option to split-screen between the game and a PDF on a widescreen monitor.

I think I've read that GBC is able to display the correct journal entries on the side, but I haven't figured out yet how.

Offline jhirvonen

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Re: Gold Box series: Differences in the engine and continuity of story?
« Reply #18 on: April 19, 2017, 01:08:31 PM »
I wonder if anyone has made a version of DOSBOX with an emulated monochrome second monitor? Or the option to split-screen between the game and a PDF on a widescreen monitor.
I think I've read that GBC is able to display the correct journal entries on the side, but I haven't figured out yet how.
Journals have to be selected manually by activating the HUD menu over the DOSBox window by moving mouse over it. From there select JOURNALS and then the wanted journal number. Maps/images are not shown, just text.





In a perfect world journal entries would be autodetected from the game text and probably a cropped image of the PDF page would be shown. Easier said than done as the text location changes in memory and there are several games to support.

Offline Olivier Leroux

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Re: Gold Box series: Differences in the engine and continuity of story?
« Reply #19 on: April 19, 2017, 01:15:50 PM »
Ah, thanks! I overlooked that you have to activate the HUD menu by mousing over it.  :-[ That should help fixing some more issues I had.

Offline Ray

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Re: Gold Box series: Differences in the engine and continuity of story?
« Reply #20 on: April 19, 2017, 01:21:13 PM »

Completely off topic at this point, but some of my fondest memories of Pool of Radiance are swapping my 5.25" floppies, from Disc One all the way of to Disc Eight.  Disc Three was Phlan, if I remember correctly, and Disc Two was the Slums.  I seem to remember getting excited about Disc Seven, too, but I don't remember why exactly anymore.

In those days, swapping discs was a way to gauge your progress through the game.  It was a lot like being able to tell how far you are through a novel by handling it and sensing how many pages are left to read. 

Quaint, by today's standards, but for those of us who were on this ship when it took its maiden voyages...good times. 

Offline ProphetSword

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Re: Gold Box series: Differences in the engine and continuity of story?
« Reply #21 on: April 19, 2017, 01:56:07 PM »
I guess I really can't blame you if these don't speak to you, Olivier.  I was never much a fan of the Infinity engine games (Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale, etc) when they were released.  The few times I've tried to go back and revisit them, I continued to be disappointed, especially given how clunky the interface seems compared to modern games.

To each their own.  You'll just have to trust me when I tell you there's magic in those Gold-Box games.  And if this were 1988, you would think Pool of Radiance was one of the best CRPGs you'd ever played.
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Offline Olivier Leroux

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Re: Gold Box series: Differences in the engine and continuity of story?
« Reply #22 on: April 19, 2017, 02:23:09 PM »
And if this were 1988, you would think Pool of Radiance was one of the best CRPGs you'd ever played.

That's for sure!  ;D Sadly, I can't turn back time. I guess I should have played them when they were released. I started with FRUA and it spoke to me not for being a Gold Box game but for inspiring creativity.

If there had been a series with a more unusual setting, maybe I'd be more curious about it than I am about the FR and Dragonlance stuff. Too bad the Buck Rogers games aren't on GOG.

Offline steve_mcdee

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Re: Gold Box series: Differences in the engine and continuity of story?
« Reply #23 on: April 19, 2017, 04:32:42 PM »
Quaint, by today's standards, but for those of us who were on this ship when it took its maiden voyages...good times.
I remember in Champions of Krynn on the Commodore 64, Throtl was "Disk B" (the flip side of the first diskette). It took forever to load!

And I was a cautious player. I remember entering Throtl, it eventually loads, then the hobgoblin says, "Throtl's off limits to you. Leave and no-one gets hurt." I selected the "leave" option and had to swap disks again and wait another 20 minutes while it loaded, the overland map, then reloaded Throtl.

Offline Mechanaut

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Re: Gold Box series: Differences in the engine and continuity of story?
« Reply #24 on: April 19, 2017, 05:01:28 PM »
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKHFZBUTA4k  ;D

As I recall... There was a significant wait (during disk access), just to change body parts in the icon editor for the first two games.
(And that you knew there was a battle coming... because the disk spun up, and started loading in the combat engine.)

I'm might be alone in this thought, but I say that there is kind of esteem and attitude that comes of being annealed by the early series that you don't get by starting in the middle or end.

*But perhaps that's true nostalgia talking.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2017, 05:13:54 PM by Mechanaut »

Offline Ishad Nha

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Re: Gold Box series: Differences in the engine and continuity of story?
« Reply #25 on: April 20, 2017, 10:16:37 PM »
Back to Reply #18: you could make Journal Entries into individual files. Said files are placed in the GBC directory of the game concerned. Then GBC reads the files from the relevant directory, rather than from the current DosBox memory.
It would be simplest if you could have text files for Entries that did not have pictures. PDF files would be reserved for Entries with pictures.
Another approach is to make all Entries into text files.  If there is a graphic, there will be a note at the bottom, which tells the player to check the game Manual for the picture.

Offline jhirvonen

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Re: Gold Box series: Differences in the engine and continuity of story?
« Reply #26 on: April 20, 2017, 11:03:42 PM »
Back to Reply #18: you could make Journal Entries into individual files. Said files are placed in the GBC directory of the game concerned. Then GBC reads the files from the relevant directory, rather than from the current DosBox memory.
It would be simplest if you could have text files for Entries that did not have pictures. PDF files would be reserved for Entries with pictures.
Another approach is to make all Entries into text files.  If there is a graphic, there will be a note at the bottom, which tells the player to check the game Manual for the picture.
What I meant is that GBC would detect from DOSBox's memory when it's time to display a journal entry and also fetch the entry number. Now you have to select it by hand.

The journals are already included in GBC's data files (GBC-folder\Games\xx. game\Game.dat) as text and for maps there's a text ("A MAP") or something like that.

Offline Outlander78

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Re: Gold Box series: Differences in the engine and continuity of story?
« Reply #27 on: April 21, 2017, 07:58:14 AM »
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/

Thank you for posting these.  I am looking forward to reading them.
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Offline Amarande

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Re: Gold Box series: Differences in the engine and continuity of story?
« Reply #28 on: April 21, 2017, 08:51:34 PM »
All of them, even DQK, use journal entries.
This is to be expected; of course.  The journals not only served as deliberate copy-deterrent, but they kept the size of the game data lower, by printing the text instead of storing it on the disk —which might have required an additional disk. These disks were mechanical contraptions... not plastic CDs; and they were not relatively cheap.

'Curse of the Azure Bonds' came on four separate game disks [in the 5¼" version for IBM], and the game regularly needed swapping of these disks to access the data for given tasks and locations.
Without a doubt [or I should say without a hard disk**] , the player would have had to swap out the disk each time the game needed text from the journal; had they embedded the data in the game instead of printing it in the booklet.

The reason FRUA doesn't use a journal, is —user preference; it could if they wished, and the story text would not be so limited. 
Come to think of it... these days FRUA designers could choose to include PDF journals if they wished.

__
**Hard disk drives were an ungodly expense —if even an option at all on one's platform. The drive to read just the floppy disks for the game, cost $200; the game itself cost $50. Hard drives weren't a supported option on the PC I was using at the time.]

Quote
Nowadays, to read the entries, you have to ALT-TAB out of the game or play in Windowed Mode to read a pdf file
I wonder if anyone has made a version of DOSBOX with an emulated monochrome second monitor? Or the option to split-screen between the game and a PDF on a widescreen monitor.

This disk swapping would not only be likely, but a certainty - Ultima VI came out around the same time as the final Gold Box games, and on hard drive-less systems (e.g., the C64; I can't remember if the DOS version even had the option to run from floppies at that point), it was CONSTANT.

Talk - (NPC)
PLEASE INSERT THE POPULACE A DISK AND PRESS ENTER

Name, Job, Bye ...
PLEASE INSERT THE BRITANNIA DISK AND PRESS ENTER

ad nauseam for literally every NPC you might talk to.

As for the spell memorisation thing, it's more a convenience than anything else (how often do you really use and re-memorise most of your spells except for the few basic offensive mage ones? Except in POR, you pretty much always used FIX for healing anyway - not only was it more convenient, but I'm actually pretty certain it uses less game time than it should, which is why FIXes are so rarely interrupted ... and buffing is pretty much only a thing for major fixed battles that you have to take time to prepare before anyway).

Although I should note one thing significant about it - which is probably technically a bug exploit. In the two later Dragonlance games, the auto rememorise feature is implemented, but it does not appear to take into account changes to the moon phase since you originally memorised spells! This means that if you selected spells at full moons and the moons wane, you get to keep the bonus spells as long as you use the automatic re-selection feature (and, of course, providing your mage didn't level up in a way that resulted in gaining an extra spell slot of the level(s) that the bonus spell(s) normally use); in Champions, on the other hand, you would have to actually wait till the moons got back to full to get all the spells back as this feature is absent.

Offline Olivier Leroux

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Re: Gold Box series: Differences in the engine and continuity of story?
« Reply #29 on: April 22, 2017, 01:52:36 AM »
As for the spell memorisation thing, it's more a convenience than anything else (how often do you really use and re-memorise most of your spells except for the few basic offensive mage ones?

I'm not sure I understand - what do you mean "except for the basic offensive mage ones"? Those are crucial to me, so my answer to "how often" would be "all the time, after every second battle or so" ...  :P