Ophidian Dragon blogs his way through the entire Ultima series, from beginning to end.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Serpent Isle, Day 9

The game's done! Only a day or two later than I'd intended, thanks to the Silver Seed.

The day dealt with here was spent wandering the subterranean realm of Furnace, which was formerly known as the Hole to Hades back in Mondain's time. It has since been populated by gargoyles, who moved into some old Ophidian ruins there. Theyhave all succumbed to a sleeping sickness, the same one that is affecting the gargoyles and emps in Britannia, and to some extent the other Gwani in Serpent Isle. It's odd, however, that it is not affecting other "wild"races like the goblins or the trolls. Killing the goblins would be a lot easier if they were all zonked out.

The city is pretty large, and in good condition--its like its people just got up and walked out one day. As I recall, this place was the city of balance, so once the Great Heirophant of Balance died, it's probable that everyone there just walked away. It's possible king Zheklas and his gargoyles also cleaned the place up some, but based on the random corpses laying around, that is doubtful. In any case, Zheklas kicks me over to a test of my knowledge of the Ophidian virtues! Actually, he seems to just test my devotion to the principles of order. By far the most memorable of these tests is the infamous red-worm killing test, wherein I fight off a series of unbelievably wimpy red worms that pop out of the ground, something like whack-a-mole, but with worms, and only one at a time. Dupre is off looking for treasure and becomes progressively more insane as I insist on whacking the mo...worms instead of going and gawking at the magic items, etc. with him.

Wandering around the duneon took in the realm of an hour or more, due to the sheer size of the place, and the variety of rooms to explore. Found here is also one of the most useful items in the game--the Everlasting Goblet, which allows you to feed your companions forever! Now whenever Iolo or Shamino whines about how he "could use a little food," I grab him by his collar and jam the goblet in his mouth until he can't breathe, and say, "WILL YOU SOON BE PLUMP YET OR DO YOU WANT SOME MORE????"


An annoying aspect of Furnace is the fire elementals, these flaming fellows who are an excellent way to kill Boydon. I had to reload several times when he died, since he breaks into his component limbs. He is still amusing, though, because you can put his head in your backpack and he sometimes makes pithy comments. My favorite is when you are falling asleep near Gorlab swamp; his severed head pops up and says "We're getting sleepy" or something like that, instead of the usual "I'm getting sleepy." I like that attention to detail.

After exiting Furnace, I went to the western forest, where I found a bottle of ale and which I used to accuse the Monitor innkeeper of being a spy; he then turned into a goblin and urged me to kill his leader. It's surprising he could stick around so long. I also wonder about his story--he claims he and his wife were ambushed by goblins at one point in the past--is this a true story and he simply replaced the expired inkeeper, or was he, as a goblin, married to a human woman (without her realizing it) and then had her killed? That's some impressive acting ability!

Anyway, that was three inhabitants of Monitor I had to kill thus far, but no fear, all the rest die later except Harnna the healer, who merely becomes insane and oblivious to her surroundings. Much of the first half of Serpent Isle is, in retrospect, totally futile!

On my next day I'll be heading north to the golbin camp and killing their leader and stealing his Helm of Courage, which he stole from Monitor, which they stole from some previous goblin (Guodinir, I think is the name), and where they got it, who knows...One of the more curious aspects of the backstory of Serpent Isle is the goblins, who are quite mean, but who evidently represent courage.

In response to comments--I won't be using that high quality filter in DOSBox, since I don't want my games to appear significantly different from the way they once did; otherwise, I might as well play Exult. Sometimes I think playing these old games in emulators is sort of like publishing old books that might be written in different languages and whatnot. When you publish Shakespeare, which of the versions do you use? Do you correct obvious errors in spelling? If someone would make a new version of Ultima III, should they include the elements that exist only in the old Nintendo version? I have contemplated creating a new version of Ultima (Ultima 1)for Windows, one that emulates all the characteristics of the original, but should I also emulate the fact that the game is shockingly slow? Or that the resurrection feature when you die is hopelessly broken and you often get resurrected in the middle of water?

A harder question concerns the graphics--the Apple II's graphics were weird and used only one bit to represent multiple colors; as a result, solid white text has strange colored shadings to it. Should a new version of the game try to emulate the Apple's goofiness, or would it be OK to make the text solid white? What about the fact that it's in ALL CAPS?

I do intend to work on that project when I am done with the blog. The original code is in BASIC and should be easy to analyze and recreate in a C program given some open-source graphics and sound libraries. Not sure which ones I should use though; I've never done multimedia programming before. It should be fun!


Natreg said...

Lol the goblet part was really funny lol :)

I didn't know what it was in my first time playing (there are a lot of quest items and it was difficult to know what everything was).

It would sure would have been a lot of help. How can they eat that much????... also my shortage of reagents in the second part of the game (no silver seed so no reagents ring) was the worst part in my first playthrough.

About Ultima port, the best way to do it would be like they did the akalabeth port in Ultima collection. It was faithful to the original, but it was not as annoying :).

The best programming libraries for that in my opinion would be either SDL or Allegro.
I have used both and they are really easy to learn

Anonymous said...

Have you tried Exult? You've probably heard of it - I'm not sure if DOSbox or Exult is better for the U7 series.

Adam said...

Anonymous, you need to read more closely.

He's trying NOT to use Exult, because it's an engine in its own right using the data from the game. So there are minute differences in gameplay.

He'll have to use DOSBox to play Ultima 8 as well, I think, because Pentagram (the Exult for U8) is not quite done yet. I think I also noticed that the speech wasn't working in it either.

OttoMoBiehl said...

Good luck on the programming project. Be sure to keep us informed.

As said before, Allegro and SDL would be your best bets for libraries. I've used Allegro but not SDL. Seems easy enough.

Grandor Dragon said...

Such a project would be great.

A suggestion re: blog postings. You should consider not reporting how far you got *actually*, and only focus on the gaming days you report on. I think it helps the blog narrative.

Calibrator said...

"A harder question concerns the graphics--the Apple II's graphics were weird and used only one bit to represent multiple colors;"

That's not entirely correct.

You see, the Apple II platform natively uses composite video output (except the IIgs with has RGB). The reason for this was to easily get colors and to *not* produce a TV-compatible HF-signal (FCC regulations had to be "creatively" circumvented by Apple at the time).

The problem with composite signals in the NTSC format is that a single white pixel in a certain size (thing Apple II high resolution) on a black background always produces a color - depending on the position - if a color carrier signal is present.

To get a white pixel you actually have to put

"as a result, solid white text has strange colored shadings to it."

"Should a new version of the game try to emulate the Apple's goofiness, or would it be OK to make the text solid white?"

No one really needs a faithful Apple II conversion with the exact same limits on any platform that has a good Apple II emulator.

So a conversion *should* IMHO use the capabilities of the target platform - be it cleaner colors...

"What about the fact that it's in ALL CAPS?"

...or lower case fonts.

take care

Calibrator said...

Some of the text got truncated - sorry. The missing part is:

To get solid white (=color 3) you have to put two (or more) pixels next to each other.
A single pixel -surrounded by "black (=color 0)"- is either color 1 or color 2.

The so-called "color bit" of the Apple II high res modes does not switch color on or off - it modifies the output timing of the other seven bits of one video memory byte by a "half bit" (think in video timing dimensions) to the right.
The result is that the two "real" colors (1 and 2 - violet and green) are changed into two other colors (5 and 6 - blue and orange).
In case you are wondering: Color 4 is black and color 7 is white, again.

This results in other limitations like the amount of different colors in a single byte: Color 2 and 4 can't be displayed in a single byte which can result in "color clash" if the graphics aren't designed properly.

If this sounds complicated you are right - it is. And there are far better explanations than this one.
But it's also fun (for some people ;-) and the great thing about these quirks is that they can produce high resolution pixels and six different colors in just enough memory for four colors.

This also explains why most Apple II graphics work best with a black background - the colors are easier to control and have the best appearance.

"as a result, solid white text has strange colored shadings to it."

This is usually the case if you are using a mixed graphics and text mode (four lines of text at the bottom of the screen - like with many early Apple II games) on an NTSC-Apple (PAL-Apples don't exhibit this behaviour).

The reason simply is that the standard Apple text mode font uses one-pixel "thick" symbols which -as said above- always produce colors on a black background (violet and green in this case).

Later games displayed text in a pure graphics mode with better designed fonts (symbols at least two pixels thick) - which minimized the problem. The Ultimas starting with III and Carmen Sandiego games are good examples.

However, all of this deviates from the point that the Apple II graphics *are* weird and that a conversion should avoid the Apple's limitations if possible.

take care