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Truly ahead of its time
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AReyeP
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 19, 2004 2:19 am
   Subject: Truly ahead of its time
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The past few weeks, during my spare time, I've been revisiting one of my favourite games, and it really got me thinking. Imagine if you could make a mod boasting these features:

1. Bobbing motion as player moves
2. Player can look up & down
3. Ice like floors that the player can slide on and that can break to form water
4. Locked doors that, if a key can't be found, can be bashed down (if they're not too strong a door that is).
5. Large no. of items that can be picked up and used in various ways.
6. Bridges (ala Duke 3D) that can be walked across or under.
7. Moving platforms (ala Doom)
8. Walls that can be added/deleted with a switch
9. Wall switches that can change a level's design or spawn an object
10. Triggers that set off certain events (eg: make a friendly character become upset or hostile)
11. Objects that "belong" to certain characters - if you take the object while they are present their disposition towards you changes
12. Various shading levels that can change instantaneously in a level depending on player location or if player is holding a torch/lamp etc.
13. Multiple floor & ceiling textures in a level
14. Walls at 45 degree angles in addition to normal north/south & east/west oriented walls
15. Varying floor/ceiling heights
16. Sloping floors/ceilings
17. The ability to have some 3D non rotating objects (tables/chairs/beds etc)
18. Able to travel back and forth between multiple levels with levels and items in them remaining in exact same state they were when you last visited the level
19. Animated textures on certain walls/floors/ceilings
20. Teleporters
21. Jump pads (ala ROTT)
22. Water (can swim or drown in)
23. Ability to communicate with various characters (like with the friendly scientists in Blake Stone)
24. Doors that swing open or can slide up. Door can be a see through non rotating sprite (eg: a portcullis)
25. Pressure plates on a floor that activate a trap or other action. Leaving a heavy object on the plate neutralises the triggering of the trap.
26. Secret doors
27. Secret panels/objects that are only revealed upon close inspection
28. Walk through "walls" (eg: waterfalls)
29. Teleporting from one level to any other level
30. Large variety of weapons (knives, swords, projectile weapons such as crossbows etc)
31. Large range of enemies including some that can fly or run away if they're hurt
32. Evolving storyline that unfolds as certain conditions are met
33. Ability to trade items with characters in game
34. Ability to fly, levitate, walk on water etc with spells
35. Various range of armour items
36. A very large range of magical spells you can cast including freezing time
37. Ability for player to jump (to reach higher terrain)
38. "Force fields" that can only be passed through if you wear a certain item
39. Full automap function that you can record notes on.

And all of this in a smooth 3D engine. Pretty impressive list, isn't it? Even ROTT or Doom didn't have all these features. We rave on about Wolf 3D. Yet the game I'm describing that has all the above features came out before Wolf 3D!

Yep, it's Ultima Underworld - The Stygian Abyss (and it's cousin that came out later in 1992 "Labyrinth of Worlds). If you haven't tried it, find it on the web and give it a go. Truly ahead of it's time, and truly classic games. And even today, they still ooze atmosphere.
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 19, 2004 4:25 am
   Subject: Re: Truly ahead of its time
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HAHAHA. Right when I read the title I KNEW you were going to talk about Ultima Underworld Steve! I KNEW IT!!!

Very impressive list you made there! I haven't dived into the game that much, as I haven't really gotten used to the point and click interface yet, but from what I've seen... it's well, TRULY AHEAD OF ITS TIME! Mr Green

P.S. If anyone has any problems running the game in Windows XP, try using DosBox.
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 19, 2004 1:36 pm
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Chris wrote:
... it's well, TRULY AHEAD OF ITS TIME!


Why is it that the greatest, most inspirational games of our time are so desperately underrated (System Shock 2, anyone)? I have played the Stygian Abyss to death over the years, amazed at how utterly compelling its gameplay still is.

Granted, I did not know the existence of several features AReyeP outlined, but I could tell that it was advanced for its time. What I don't understand is if the 286/386 IBM computers of the early 90's were too slow to draw ceiling and floor textures on Wolf3D, how did Origin Systems manage it? Along with the other incredible gameplay elements, I can't imagine such an impossible task being made a reality...

I'm in the mood to play it again now, so thanks!

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 21, 2004 2:58 am
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Why is it that the greatest, most inspirational games of our time are so desperately underrated (System Shock 2, anyone)?


Um... well, as I have never heard of System Shock 2 I can't say why it isn't as popular as you think it should be but, I can give you a couple of reasons why games, or anything that is for sale, aren't popular:

It could be the lack of good, well planned and well executed publicity which can be the cause behind people not hearing of that particular game.

It could be that the 'critics' reviewing it have given it bad reviews often because there is something in the game which they either can't comphrehend or just plain dislike.

Or perhaps it's the timing of the release. If, and this is just an example, it was released around the time of, say Doom2 or Half Life or Quake, then people would have been caught up in the addrenalin surrounding that game and might not have taken the due notice that System Shock deserved.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 21, 2004 5:06 am
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Reivax44 wrote:
Um... well, as I have never heard of System Shock 2 I can't say why it isn't as popular as you think it should be


I am fully aware of why some games don't "make it big". I just don't see how System Shock 2 has been considered a classic by every single magazine that has reviewed it, and doesn't sell even 100,000 copies. It's been out since friggin' 1999!!!

Think of it as Deus Ex, only scarier, much scarier and even more fun to play. You should look out for it - since the original company who published it have changed, it would be perfectly legal to download the full version. I'll try and give you a link to a review.

I am right about the legality of the full version, you know...

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 21, 2004 7:48 am
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Holy crap, Steve...I remember the Ultima Underworld games! Those were pretty cool, though I didn't get into them as much as I did Wolf3D or Doom. I remember being impressed with the gloomy atmosphere and very suspenseful play, though. I don't have them anymore...Are they still being sold or are they abandonware ? I had them originally on an old 486 machine that a friend of my mom's built for us when we needed a new computer way back when. That computer also introduced me to another classic game that grabbed my attention for years to come...A game called Doom :) That computer also had the full version of Heretic on it, as well as the two Ultima Underworld games you mentioned. I spent many a late night playing all those games...Preferably late at night with a nice rainstorm ;)

I haven't played System Shock 2, sentenced, but it sounds like a pretty cool game. I've heard of it passingly in the last few years. I'll have to see if I can find it somewhere...I'm always up for trying new stuff :)

-Ian
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 21, 2004 8:48 am
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ack wrote:


Well I'll be blowed... FilePlanet, a few months ago were freely distributing the full, ripped version of System Shock 2. The same one in fact, was located on FileCity.

I was searching for a demo, and stumbled accross it. It has, knowing my luck, disappeared now - rather handy on your behalf. Embarassed I didn't download it - I hate CD rips. The way music and FMVs are taken out annoys me. Kind of makes the whole game unplayable by my standards...

I assumed that because a download site with such a reputation hosted the file, it must be legal. I can now retract my previous statement - System Shock 2 is not abandonware. Thanks for clearing this up with me, ack.

The question still remains: how did a game rated "classic" by litterally every magazine/website reviewing it fail to sell over 100,000 copies worldwide in its relatively long five - year life?

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 21, 2004 9:12 am
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sentenced wrote:
The question still remains: how did a game rated "classic" by litterally every magazine/website reviewing it fail to sell over 100,000 copies worldwide in its relatively long five - year life?


That's true one, and don't understand why did they fails to sell over 100K copies worldwide. Something must be went wrong with this 'classic' software..
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 22, 2004 6:47 am
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I can't believe SS2 sold less than 100,000 copies! I bought it as a budget game early last year (had always wanted to give it a try, but I generally wait until games end up in the budget bins). Played it through to the end. Brilliant game. Very creepy in places, and a good storyline that keeps you wanting to play on. Funnily enough I never played the first System Shock.

At first I was thinking perhaps that some games are under rated because they may not fall into a popular genre. 3D action shooters seem to be far more popular with the masses than a suspenseful semi RPG style 3D action game such as SS2, yet then I realised that the Thief games and Dues Ex did extremely well. Maybe it's as Ack says - back in 1999 it seemed everyone was on the multiplay bandwagon. Who knows.

And yup - Chris - you know me too well it seems Smile I've always loved the Ultima Underworld games (yet funnily I've never played one of the normal Ultima games - but then you don't really need to have). Moody music (there's a feature I forgot to mention - music that changes in a level depending on your situation, such as a more suspenseful track if you have your weapon drawn, then a panicky type track if you're in a fight and your health gets too low, or a gleeful victorious type track if you are in a fight and your enemy is nearing defeat). The writer's of the games had a sense of humour also. There's one area in UW2 which is a deliberate copy of the old arcade game "Q*Bert", and in a locked chest that is almost impossible to break into there's a book titled "Sex - by Madonna" Smile The funny thing is that, despite SS2 and newer games having whiz bang graphics etc, these old classics still have those magic ingredients - gameplay and atmosphere. But I guess we all appreciate that kind of thing as we wouldn't be fans of Wolf otherwise.

Ian - I haven't seen an Ultima Underworld game for sale anywhere these days. But I'm certain that this would mean you'd probably find them quite easily on some abandonware site. For anyone that does want to try them, just remember, you need EMS (expanded memory) available to play them. I run them from Win 98 without a prob (although UW1 did bomb out on me when I pressed the shift key). UW2 is an improvement over UW1, as the walls etc tend to warp a little in the first - they improved on a number of things with the second.
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 22, 2004 4:14 pm
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I have fond memories of the Ultima Underworld games... hacking through hordes of goblins, terrifying encounters with headless ghouls, mazes filled with death traps, the Ethereal Void... not to mention, a whole bunch of different characters that were interesting to speak to. There was so much stuff to explore... you could tell that tons of ideas were put into those games. Someone also threw in a joke reference to Wolfenstein... There was a goblin in the Ethereal Void named "A.I. Crunchowicz." Smile

Unfortunately, I never won either game... after a while, the puzzles became really complicated, I'd explored everything I could, talked to everyone I could, and there weren't enough hints lying around. But I found the Ultima Underworld games to be very immersive.

It would be cool if someone could do a Wolfenstein conversion using the UW engine (or an UW-like engine.) Of course, that would make it a lot less action-oriented and more of an RPG. But there are number of things you could with that... more possibilities for level design, such as differing floor/ceiling heights, water, bridges, switches, realistic doors, etc. You could also have the player talking to Allied NPCs in order to get information... or even hold conversations with the Germans while you're in disguise... and part of the challenge would be saying the right things to them, otherwise they'd discover that you were really an Allied agent... then they'd become "hostile" and start attacking you. I don't know... just an idea... it probably wouldn't appeal to people who just want pure action and don't like puzzle-solving stuff. Smile
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 26, 2004 9:36 am
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I just played this game and think it's great! The features are amazing, though i did get stuck to the walls a few times, and in water. The graphics are on par with Doom IMO, the menu is cool (drag and dropping runes into the bag etc) and the ability to throw things around, coupled with it's extensive interactivity make it really good.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 26, 2004 9:54 am
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JoeWolf wrote:
I just played this game and think it's great! The features are amazing, though i did get stuck to the walls a few times, and in water. The graphics are on par with Doom IMO, the menu is cool (drag and dropping runes into the bag etc) and the ability to throw things around, coupled with it's extensive interactivity make it really good.


You could do with playing System Shock - its interface is identical to Ultima Underworld's. I love picking up objects and throwing them down slopes *Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee*.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 26, 2004 10:37 am
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I'll have to try that, onwards to ebay!

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2004 12:11 am
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Let's see... it looks like everything from the feature list except for 5, 12, 17, 25 (the dropping a weight on a plate part), 30, 33, 34, 35, 36 could be done in ZDoom now. Can't imagine screwing around with Wolf3D to throw in all that stuff though...
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