7DRL 2023: Blunt Quaternion

It’s a silly NetHack-themed game about exploring a dungeon, presented through a bunch of characters sitting around passing a blunt between them. It’s not really that hard, but there is a bit of strategy to it.

You and your pet sit around a campfire with other characters from that dungeon level and talk about things. Your character and your pet can say things like, they want to be less or more aggressive on the next level, or they want to invoke Elbereth, or they want to use an item; other characters may say things like telling you where fewer or more fights will be, or where treasure is. Or they may have nothing of importance to say.

Every time a character says something, they must pass the blunt, which when it’s depleted signals it’s time to go to the next level. (C’mon, you know all the characters in this dungeon have to be potheads.) All of the fighting and stuff happens in simulation between conversations. Your character or their pet may be wounded (observe their hit points when their conversation turn comes up), or even die at this phase. It’s possible for your pet to die but your character go on to win. It’s also possible for your character die and your pet go on to win the game, which is not something that can occur in NetHack.

It’s a very simple game, and as stated, not really that difficult. But it’s fun, and might give a chuckle to NetHack fanatics. It’s free and completely playable in browser!

Blunt Quaternion (itch.io, $0)

Type-in Games in Magazines

This is another huge topic that I should come back to later, but in the meantime here’s an article, mostly about the British type-in scene, from Wireframe Magazinne last year. It mentions the longest type-in game ever, Axys: The Last Battle (Youtube), an Amstrad program that had to be printed in five successive issues, and what it calls the best type-in game of all, Crossroads from COMPUTE!, although I’m dubious about that claim, there were lots of type-ins. It’s definitely great, though. It’s worth a read if you have the time, although who has enough of that these days?

This is Crossroads, yet another thing to add to the stack of future topics. If you like this, you might be interested in Forget-Me-Not, for iOS and Google Play and Windows (on itch.io)

The Rise and Fall of Type-In Games Listings (Wireframe)

The Nintendo Font

Youtuber T2norway educates us on a very commonly used font for Nintendo products from around the Gamecube era onward, especially remembered for its use in Wii Sports and other Wii software:

New Rodin

The video’s only four minutes long but the basic gist is that it’s actually two closely-related fonts, New Rodin and Shin Go, both based on a typeface created in 1975 called Gona. They have been called the Japanese version of Helvetica. They see frequent use in Japan in media, on signage, and of course in games too!

What’s the deal with this font? (Youtube, T2norway, 4 minutes)

Nicole Express: Vintage Pachinko

The always excellent Nicole Express has a great post on the Japanese gambling game Pachinko, especially the imported machines that made it to the U.S. when for a brief time we liked it too. It contains the fact that we probably got video pachinko before Japan did, through the Odyssey2 game Pachinko! (The exclamation point there is part of the game’s title, as it is with all Magnavox-produced Odyssey2 games. While I enjoy that bit of trivia, I am not actually hugely excited about it.)

“Thunderbird,” one of several machines in Nicole’s post, and in her collection!

Physical slot machines were, and maybe still are, illegal in Japan, so all the ridiculous graphic and sound flourishes those demonic entities bear in North America are instead put in the service of the Tiny Silver Balls. I’ve always shied away from these forms of gaming for the same reason I never got into Magic: The Gathering: by tying profitability to gameplay, they feel to me like they’re more business model than game, really. I might not be able to earn my quarter back at Pac-Man, but at least there isn’t someone figuring out how to work those odds against me.

Nicole Express: Vintage Pachinko: Going Back And Forth Across The Pacific

Reviving ZZT

ZZT was (is) an ancient shareware DOS game that runs in character mode, created and published by Tim Sweeney. Originally published by Potomac Computer Systems, a company ran out of the basement of Sweeney’s house, when it expanded its software selection it was renamed to Epic MegaGames, and later Epic Games, under which title it remains today, still headed by Tim Sweeney after all these years. He would go on to create the Unreal Engine, upon which the modern fortunes of the company were founded.

Images from the Worlds of ZZT bot

But back to ZZT, which is still a nifty piece of software, and a lot of fun to mess around with. It included an editor that allowed users to create their own scenarios, which spawned a modding community that survives to this day. Noted game designer and educator anna anthropy wrote a book about ZZT for Boss Fight and she continues to carry its banner today. ZZT scenarios both old and new can be found on the site Museum of ZZT, and every three hours Mastodon bot Worlds of ZZT publishes screenshots from random ZZT adventures.

Because it’s a character-mode game, ZZT modules are often confused with classic roguelike computer games. ZZT is not necessarily a roguelike, but it may be possible for someone to write a classic-style roguelike game in ZZT.

But running a DOS game nowadays is not as easy as it used to be. It requires the use of either a vintage computer system running a compatible DOS, a virtual machine like VirtualBox or Docker, or some DOS emulator, such as DOSbox, a tool for emulating a working DOS system that can run on current OSes, or Zeta, a DOS emulator with just enough features to get ZZT working.

ZZT was written in Turbo Pascal, but its source code had been misplaced by Tim Sweeney and was considered lost, until very recently (the past few days), when a nearly-complete version of ZZT 3.0 was found. Most of it can be downloaded from The Almost of ZZT, on Github, which is that version minus some parts of the source that are considered to be under third-party copyright.

Since it is incomplete it is not useful for compiling a working game, and is presented for historical reasons more than anything. Fortunately, there already exists The Reconstruction of ZZT, a reverse-engineered (with Sweeney’s blessing) version from 2020 that compiles to identical binaries.

ZZT is a subject that deserves much more detail than I can give it in an introductory post like this. Maybe later….

A Video on Wario Land 4’s Sound Design

Did you ever play Wario Land 4 on the Gameboy Advance? It was the last “classic” Wario Land game before its team switched over to making WarioWare games. If you’re a gaming, or at least a Nintendo, enthusiast you probably know what WarioWare games sound like, that endearingly weird crushed and echoey sound, but you might be surprised to discover that Wario Land 4 sounds of a piece with the Wario Land titles! Here’s the intro, hear for yourself:

Here’s the original WarioWare’s intro to compare its sound to. It’s all the good stuff!

geno7 over on Youtube (who has a terrific home page, by the way!) did a 51-minute deep dive into WL4’s sound design that’s just the kind of obsessive attention to detail that our cadre of pixel art loonies appreciate! Have a gawk and a listen and see if you agree.

The Bizarre Music and Sound Design of Wario Land 4 (Youtube, 51 minutes)

How Do You Say “Bahamut?”

Drew Mackie’s Thrilling Tales of Old Videogames brings up the issue of frequent Final Fantasy summon and sometimes optional boss monster Bahamut’s pronouncation, and tells us its mythological source wasn’t pronounced ba-HA-mut, but instead, ba-ha-MOOT.

Bahamut is one of the oldest traditions in Final Fantasy, going all the way back to the first game, where much of the game’s bestiary came directly from the Dungeons & Dragons books. Yet Bahamut was not fightable in that game, they wouldn’t fall into their standard role of challenge encounter until the third Japanese game. Like many D&D creatures, and JRPG creatures too, Bahamut was a borrowing from a mythological source. They were one of the entities upon whose back the world is carried. Observe:

Which of these entities is “dragon king” Bahamut? The person is just an “earth-bearing angel.” The bull is Kuyuta. Bahamut, or “Bahamoot,” is the fish. What’s more, it’s thought that the name derives from Behemoth, from the book of Job, despite Behemoth not being a fish. But Final Fantasy already has a Behemoth….

None of this proves much of anything. RPG writers, both tabletop and videogame, have long just pulled anything out of mythology, and sometimes more recent literature, that they wanted and just used it, regardless of author, age or culture. Gary Gygax had a Monster Manual to fill, he didn’t have any internet to help him fill it, but lots of other people enthusiastically used his bastardization, to help them compile their own bastardizations. That’s what most game lore is when you get right down to it: it’s bastardizations all the way down.

This is just a fraction of the edifying enfo, er info, in the article, a link to which awaits you here:

Bahamut and Behemoth: One And The Same? (Thrilling Tales of Old Videogames)

WikiData on Video Games

From Wikidata.

Picture your life and interests. Let’s pick out as part of it your interest in, knowledge of, and enthusiasm for video games. In the future, after you’re gone, what will be left of it? What will be remembered of what you know and have seen? Where will all of that go? Have you considered that, the way the internet is, a lot of that will simply disappear, tracelessly?

Websites die, and when they do, they leave very little in their wake. The early days of the web was filled with an overabundance of fansites and web shrines, and most of those are gone. The demise of Geocities, the decay of free web hosts in general, and the loss of online service web communities and hosts like Compuserve Ourworld, has resulted in the large-scale deletion of huge swaths of content, and the loss of web directories as a thing, combined with Google Search’s slide into senility, means what survives is a lot harder to find.

This is a discursive lead-in to the work at WikiData in cataloging games and game sites, which is summarized for 2022 here. Information on their efforts was written up here.

I wish I could say more, their work seems very important, but I’m just starting to learn about it myself! Apparently there is a means of querying their information to answer questions, like which game series has the most games? More on this in the future.

7DRL 2023 Begins Tomorrow!

A quick note today, the 7-Day RogueLike challenges begins tomorrow! Try to make a roguelike game in seven days! This will be its nineteenth year, and its sixth on itch.io! Slashie, Darren Gray and Jeff Lait are running it again this year!

Consider joining it to make a game, or consider playing this year’s entries, or those of previous years! Last year there were 65 official entries. Regularly, a number of really interesting games are entered, but all manner of entries are accepted and are playable each year, from nearly professional to barely hacked together, and ranging from full classic style roguelikes to only slightly inspired by the general idea of procedural generation.

The 7 Day Roguelike Challenge

The Top-Rated 7DRL Games from 2022

I love the 7DRL Game Jam! One of the oldest jams out there, on March 2 they’ll begin their 19th year! It asks participants to complete a roguelike game within a week. I even covered every game that succeeded at the challenge one year for @Play on GameSetWatch a long time ago.

Public enthusiasm for it has ebbed and flowed over that time, but even last year 65 people are recorded as having completed the challenge. And every time there are a few games that are hugely interesting! A rating system helps to reveal those games that might be particularly interesting.

If you’d like to participate this year, well, you just can, they’re clear that you don’t need their permission and there is no real prize for doing it. But if you want to participate during the official period of the challenge, this year it’ll start on March 3rd. We have a reminder post here on Set Side B ready to roll out the day before it begins, so keep watching our pages for it!

Here is a brief look at the highest-reated 7DRL games that made it last time:

Mercury Salvage

First: Mercury Salvage is a graphical roguelike about cleaning out derelict spaceships.

Second: The Mage’s Student is a deck-building roguelike centered around magic, and has to do with fighting off ” the many creatures guarding the Newt-Core and the Transformative Cricket…”

Third: Death Stranding RL is, as should be obvious, based on Hideo Kojima’s game. It has an interesting look for a console-based game.

Death Stranding RL
Torshavn: The Fae Forest

Fo(u)rth: Torshavn: The Fae Forest is a console roguelike written in the eclectic language Forth.

Fifth: In Orcish Fury, you’re an orc berzerker out for revenge. It’s playable in-browser.

Sixth: Greedy Rogue is also playable in browser, in it you’re a rogue rading a dragon’s lair while the dragon is out.

Grove Climbers

Seventh: Depths of Greed has you trying to get a cure for your daughter’s illness, akin to Larn. You’re a shopkeeper who goes to the nearby dungeon to try to find a cure, bargaining with the monsters.

Eighth: Grove Climbers has an interesting look to it, it’s team based and has (collective) you climbing a huge tree.

Ninth: Join Me In Dystopia, Pirate! is a randomly-generated top-down shooter.

Tenth: In Maneuver Ability, you don’t directly damage enemies, but can push them, which stuns them for one turn.

Running Around Dressless (in a Nascent Territory Full of R* Monsters)

Eleventh: Running Around Dressless (in a Nascent Territory Full of R[something] Monsters) is vaguely NSFW (in a very tiny pixel art way), and it playable in browser. The R-word in the title changes randomly. I’m not quite sure how to play it honestly, it’s not a typical trading-blows game definitely.

And twelvth, SpelunkyRL, we posted about last year!

There’s many more than that, limiting it at 12 is rather arbitrary. If you have the time and interest to spare you should have a look!