Sundry Sunday: The Incredible Shrinking Hedgehog

Sundry Sunday is our weekly feature of fun gaming culture finds and videos, from across the years and even decades.

Mashed has a fun animation up on Youtube starring Sonic, his pals, and his enemies, where they’ve been, um, ensmallerd to itty bitty size. It’s a standard Saturday Morning kind of plot, but the voices are good, the writing is funny, and the animation, by Painter Seap, is sharp. It’s 5 1/2 minutes long, and it’s embedded below. Just so you’re properly warned, it ends on a cliffhanger, but it’s a fairly minor one.

Wheeler Dealers Has Been Preserved

The news comes to us by way of Apple cracker 4am’s Mastodon account. Wheeler Dealers was a cassette release, a format not as well understood as the Apple II floppy disk formats, but it’s playable on its Internet Archive page.

Its title screen gives it a copyright date of 1978, making it only slightly younger than the Atari VCS/2600. Wheeler Dealers was the first published game by M.U.L.E. creator Dani Bunten. Designed for four players, it came with a special controller to allow four players to participate in auctions on an equal footing. If played in an emulator, they often have settings to allow the buttons to be remapped to joystick directions, and from there to specific keyboard buttons.

It’s a stock trading game, written in BASIC, and much less polished than M.U.L.E. would be. It barely has graphics and has no single-player mode. I find it hard to control in the IA’s web-based Apple emulator. Basic stock trading games seem really simple these days. I think Wheeler Dealers (or “Wheeler Dealer$,” according to the title screen) is mostly interesting these days has a herald for M.U.L.E., which I find holds up really well to current-day tastes. Dani’s real-time auction mechanism would be honed to a fine edge in M.U.L.E., which to this day is probably still the best multiplayer auction mechanism in any game.

Dani Bunten left us long ago now, back in 1998, but her absence is still keenly felt. One of her last projects was a Sega Genesis/Mega Drive port update of M.U.L.E., which was infamously scuttled when publisher Electronic Arts insisted, as a condition of publishing, a mechanism by which players could directly attack other players with weapons. It is far from the only terrible action that EA would be responsible for, but it’s certainly one of the worst.

@Play: Which Is Better, Ring Mail or Splint Mail?

@Play‘ is a frequently-appearing column which discusses the history, present, and future of the roguelike dungeon exploring genre.

Gary Gygax was a weird person. I won’t get into his life or history or, the casual misogyny of AD&D character creation, or the Random Harlot Table. But he did know a lot about medieval weaponry and armor, and to some degree this obsessive interest seeped out and infected a whole generation of nerds.

How useful is this armor in protecting someone? Five. It is five useful. (Image from National Museum in Krakow)

I know which is generally better: leather armor, studded leather armor, ring mail, chain mail, splint mail, plate mail or plate armor. I know that, although in life each is different, battles are random, and there’s countless factors that might determine who would win in a fight, the order in which I have given them is roughly how effective they are, because it’s the order that Armor Class increases, sorry decreases, in classic Dungeons & Dragons.

While the list of armors is presented, in practically every Player’s Handbook, with their effects on protection right there in order, unless you’re steeped in the material, it is not obvious, just from reading the names of the items, which is supposed to be better than another.

Splint Mail was rare in Europe during the medieval period. It’s also really hard to Google Image Search for without ending up with pictures taken from D&D material!(Image from Wikipedia)

This is a considerable roadblock, and one I struggled with for a while, when I first tried to learn to play Rogue, because that game expects you to know how effective each piece of armor is. You start out with Ring Mail +1. You find a suit of Splint Mail. Should you switch? People who play nearly any classic roguelike are going to run against this eventually. Even now, some games just expect you to know the relative strengths of each.

If you decide to take the chance and try it on, to Rogue’s (and Nethack’s) credit, it tells you immediately how effective the armor is on the status line, and you can compare its value to your past item. To Rogue’s (and Nethack’s) detriment though, if the new armor is cursed, you’re stuck with it, until you can lift the curse (to a new player, unlikely) or die (very likely). And then, unless you’ve been taking notes, you’ll still probably forget the relationship between the two items, meaning you’ll have to guess their relative value again later, and deal with the same risk.

Classic D&D tended to give short shrift to the intricacies of real-life armor use, simplifying a complex topic beyond perhaps what was appropriate. AD&D attempted to remedy that by going overboard, giving each armor ratings according to its bulkiness, how much of the wearer’s body it covered, how much it weighed and how it restricted movement. Gygax’s tendency towards simulation is responsible for some of the most interesting parts of the game, but it didn’t help him here I think.

Most classic roguelikes, at least, use the “bag of Armor Class” approach to armor, which is probably for the best. Nethack probably goes to far in the Gygaxian direction. If you find Plate Mail in Nethack, you’re almost entirely better off just leaving it on the ground, even despite armor’s huge value, because it’s simply too heavy. Even if you can carry it without dipping into Burdened status, or, heaven help you, Stressed, its mass and bulk lowers the number of other items you can carry before you reach Stressed, and carrying many other items is of great importance. This is the secret reason that the various colors of Dragon Scale Mail are so powerful in Nethack: it’s not that they have the highest best AC in the game (though they do), it’s that they’re also really light! Even if you don’t get the color you want, it takes concern about the weight of armor completely off your list of worries.

The use of armor underwent revision throughout D&D’s development. (This page lists the changes in detail.) For reference, the relative quality of D&D, and thus roguelike, armor goes like this.

NameNew-Style Ascending Armor ClassOld-Style Descending Armor Class
Leather Armor28
Studded Leather & Ring Mail37
Scale Mail46
Chain Mail55
Splint Mail & Banded Mail64
Plate Mail73
Plate Armor82

Why the difference in values? Up until the 3rd edition of D&D, Armor Class started at 10 and counted down as it improved. 3E updated a lot of the game’s math, and changed the combat formula so that AC was a bonus to the defender’s chance to be missed instead of a penalty to the attacker’s chance to strike. Because of that, now it starts at 10 and counts up. The changeover was a whole to-do, I assure you, but now two editions later we barely look back. Back in that day others were confused by the system too, and even Rogue used an ascending armor score. But Nethack, to this day, uses original D&D’s decreasing armor class system.

If you compare those values to those used in 5th Edition, you’ll notice that even the new-style numbers don’t match up completely. As I said, while the relative strengths have remained consistent, if not constant, the numbers continue to change slightly between versions.

That concludes this introductory level class. You’re dismissed! If you’re looking into the relative effects of different polearms… that’s the graduate-level seminar, down the hall.

Indie Showcase For 5/22/24

Our weekly indie game showcases highlight the many games we play here on the channel, if you would like to submit a game for a future one please reach out. Most games shown are press key submissions and demos.

0:00 Intro
00:14 Ghost Song
3:18 Broken Pieces
5:16 A Sleeper’s Quest: A Labyrinth to Thee
7:10 Stars in the Trash
8:20 Kells
10:11 Seasons

Vivian in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is Trans

She is! She always has been!

Image from abadidea on Mastodon, who got it from Nintendo Life

I had heard this fact but wasn’t sure if it was actual lore or fan-canon, a character who had been adopted by the community as trans. But as it turns out she always had been in the original Japanese, and in some localizations. Nintendo of America censored that aspect of the character for the US audience.

It’s funny. Those of us in the US who “consume media” that’s been localized for international audiences sometimes hear of those countries where one aspect or other has been papered over, like making Steven Universe’s Ruby a boy so her and Sapphire’s relationship would play better in countries with more homophobic cultures. Show creator Rebecca Sugar pushed against those localization decisions by, when the characters got married, making sure Ruby was the one in the wedding dress. It’s a decision that may have shortened the show’s run (the last season feels rushed), which reflects poorly on producer and airer Cartoon Network.

We in the US can tut at this, and look down upon those “less enlightened” places. Well, here’s a case where it was done for us, to us. And it’s been remedied in the new release, not a change, but the removal of a change. Vivian isn’t a bit character either, she’s an important part of the story.

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is the highlight of the Paper Mario series, its gameplay is terrific, and it’s story is hilarious and surprising, much better than a Mario game has any right having. It has many fans, and I’m sure most of them didn’t know either. When they play through this and find out about Vivian, I think it’s going to spark a number of conversations. It may also spark a few realizations.

Pixel Memories Dioramas

Clivefrog77 makes these nice gaming dioramas, often based on European Commodore 64 games, and sells them on eBay. He has a page on Google Photos. I’m not sure if all of those are his, but a lot seem to be.

Rags to Riches

International Karate +

Great Giana Sisters
Dan Dare
Bad Dudes vs Dragon Ninja

Hempuli is still at it

Hempuli is the brilliant creator of the rule-breaking-and-making puzzle game Baba Is You. That is not the subject of this post, but I couldn’t recommend it more highly.

No, the post’s subject is a series of things they’ve made since. Yes, I said things. I said it and I meant it!

They’re all: (free|wonderful|insane|playable in browser|available on There’s twenty-three of them, and they’re all ludicrous ruminations on the idea of Sokoban. We’ve posted about Hempuli’s improbable series of Sokolikes before, but they keep making them, and so now there’s 23.

The basic rules are: there are blocks, and you can push them. If all the Xs on the level have blocks on them at the same time, the flag activates, but it stays active only while every X is occupied. If the flag is active, you can step on it to complete the puzzle.

But there are also buttons. If all the buttons of a given color have boxes (or players) on them at the same time, then certain gates in the puzzle open. Some puzzles have water. Don’t step in that. Boxes will usually float on top of water though.

In (nearly) all the puzzles, the arrow keys move your little Sokoperson, the R key resets the current puzzle, and the Z key reverses your last move. Keep pressing Z to keep going back, until you reach the puzzle’s start state.

Those are the basic rules, but don’t be surprised if they’re upturned in some of these games. Hempuli is diabolical, and sometimes the basics don’t apply, or are turned on their head in unexpected ways.

From Mountris. The character is about to make a surprising mistake.

In Mountris, some of the blocks you push are Tetris shapes, that move as a single unit. Think carefully about the implications of that.

Upon seeing this early puzzle in Permaban, my mouth said, unprompted, “What fresh hell is this?”

One interesting thing about these games generally is how they often break one of the central rules of Sokoban, that you can’t push two or more blocks at a time. In many of Hempuli’s variants you can, but in some of them you can only do it in certain circumstances.

Hell, continued: From the aptly-named (?!) Nabogorf. Notice, this one has a different Undo key. Why do you suppose that is?

As I review these games in order, I’m struck by how they keep getting stranger. Evidently the process of making Baba Is You disconnected some important limiter in Hempuli’s brain, and so now they’ve become a portal, spewing forth constant matter from the Elemental Plane of Puzzles. Weep for them… but also, enjoy the results of that, both now and almost certainly in the future.

From Mayban: Oh, there’s color now. What does that mean? What’s about to happen? Why am I shaking in my seat?
Automount turns the game on its head. But they all do, so that statement is meaningless. This one turns it extra on its head. With cherries on top.