Matt Chat 6: Dungeon Master available now!

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It took a week and an extra day to produce, but here it is -- Matt Chat #6: Dungeon Master! I'm sure you're familiar with this game from my book Dungeons & Desktops, but it's a totally different experience to see it in action. Check out my video and let me know if you have requests for future episodes!

Related:

Read my 2006 review of Dungeon Master for Armchair Arcade!

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Chris Kennedy
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Another Great One

Another great one, Matt.

Know of this game and have never played it. I remember picking up the box and looking at it years ago. Not sure how I missed it since it was released on a variety of platforms. Perhaps the ones that looked the best to me were platforms I didn't own? (Amiga, Atari ST) I cannot remember.

This video had me soaked in by the end. I wanted to actually watch you keep walking and playing, but alas - that was the end of the video.

Hearing about the food AND light management was rather frustrating. I do not know how time passes as you play, but I do know that I like to take my time on a lot of these games. If you take away the entire combat system and focus on the POV and assume a more adventure-type angle, it reminds me of Shadowgate. That may have been a distant connection I made when I first started watching the video, but seeing those torches brought back that huge reminder still in the back of my head - "You never completed Shadowgate." I probably should have just loaded Shadowgate, explored, saved, explored, reloaded it, explored, and kept restoring saves in order to conserve torches early in the game.

But I digress...

From what I have seen, it looks like Dungeon Master is a fun game to play. I jumped over to your review from 2006, Matt. Very nice. I see this game as one I could easily right into despite its age. Naturally, I don't have a problem with the age of a game. It is all about the entertainment factor - is it there, or is it not? For Dungeon Master, I would assume it is probably there for me.

...not to mention the fact that when someone asks me, "Have you played Dungeon Master?" I need to be able to reply with, "Yes."

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Bill Loguidice
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Dungeon Master is one of

Dungeon Master is one of maybe a dozen or so games that I've beaten in my life. I had the Amiga version and it was something I got around age 15 on a vacation to Texas. It was and is a wonderful, wonderful RPG. I made a point to pick up several unusual versions of it as well, including for the Sega CD and Turbo Duo.

Another great job, Matt.

Vintage Games book!
Xbox 360: billlog | Wii: 1345 2773 2048 1586 | PS3: ArmchairArcade
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Matt Barton
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I unfortunately didn't get

I unfortunately didn't get to play it back in 88...As I recall, it required 1 megabyte of memory, and my 1000 was limited to 512K. I obviously missed out, big time (I can say the same for several key Amiga games like Secret of Monkey Island; by the time I got my 3000 around 92 or 93 or so, the Amiga was all but dead in the USA and I couldn't find games for it--stupid purchase, really; should've gone PC). I also missed out on the Eye of the Beholder series, again much to chagrin. I was much behind the times until 95 or so, when I finally got a good PC and started playing games like Riven and Might & Magic VI: Mandate of Heaven, missing out on the vital early 90s period of game history. Of course, I've gone back and played most of this stuff via emulation, but I can't hope to capture the awe and excitement that people like you must have felt playing it back in the late 80s.

I'm happy now because I just downloaded Company for Heroes from Direct2Drive and am finally seeing what all the fuss was about. I've only played the demo and the tutorial so far, but I'm already hooked. It's like Cannon Fodder or Army Men but much better! (and less comical!)

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Rowdy Rob
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Liked Matt Chat, but Dungeon Master? Not so much.

Of course I must comment on Matt Chat, as usual.

Initial impression: the lighting issue is conquered! Best lighting yet. Obviously, some lessons were learned in SF.

Second impression: Matt casts a shadow on his computer screen, and the shadow leaped out at me as the shadow of DARTH VADER!!! :-) Seriously, check the video and tell me that you don't see DARTH VADER'S SILHOUETTE on the computer screen!!!

As for the Matt Chat, it is the usual (as of now) quality production (with improved lighting). I don't know what else to say about that. They are always well-done and entertaining, with excellent commentary.

I'm curious about the title of the music used in the video, because I've always liked that score, but I can never recall the name of the composition. I think it's something like "Black Forest" or whatever.

As for "Dungeon Master," the video gives a clue as to why I didn't care much for it. It seemed to be a drab dungeon, and easy to get lost in. It looked like a bland "maze" with monsters. The monsters looked cool, but the scenery didn't.

By the way, I am probably wrong, but didn't "Alternate Reality" on the old 8-bits (Atari, C-64) function in real-time also? It's been 20 years since I played AR, but I think I recall some buzz about it's "real-time" gameplay.

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Matt Barton
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Response to Rob
Rowdy Rob wrote:

I'm curious about the title of the music used in the video, because I've always liked that score, but I can never recall the name of the composition. I think it's something like "Black Forest" or whatever.

The score is called "In the Hall of the Mountain King" by Edvard Grieg. It's one of my favorites!

Quote:

By the way, I am probably wrong, but didn't "Alternate Reality" on the old 8-bits (Atari, C-64) function in real-time also? It's been 20 years since I played AR, but I think I recall some buzz about it's "real-time" gameplay.

You are correct. Alternate Reality (Atari 8-bit) and Dungeons of Daggorath (Tandy CoCo) were two important real-time precursors and were quite popular on their respective platforms and eras. You can also go back to 3D Monster Maze (BBC Micro) for an even earlier real-time, first-person 3D game. I had meant to mention these in the video, but ran out of time! It really is hard to pack all that into 10 minutes.

Thanks for the great comments!

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crcasey
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Joined: 11/17/2006
Magic systems in RPG's

Seeing this game's rune based magic system, lets call it a random symbol magic system, brought to mind another system of magic. That being the one from Ultima Underworld. Same time period but a slightly different take on magic. What I would term a phoneme based magic system.

Where in DM you had to guess what combo of symbols would set off a given spell UU came at it more like a magic language. Example if I remember correctly Yas Lor (create light) would cast a light spell, but An Lor (negate light) would cast darkness. Once you learned a new phoneme you had a wonderful plaything for finding new spells. Say you found the rune for fire 'Flam' in the game, you could mix it with what you already knew to get Yas Flam and An Flam to get a fireball and negate fire.

I was wondering if any of you know of any other games that use this 'phonetic' style of spell system in the game?

-Cecil

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crcasey
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Joined: 11/17/2006
This spawned a thought.

I wonder if the way I approach playing the 'western' RPG's could be why I find this type of magic system so interesting? IE you play a JRPG to get a story, you play a RPG to get a growth tale in your own narrative.

I play RPG's from my point of view and convictions. What would I do if I were there? That is not always an option in the JRPG's. Let's say I want to be a magic user, so giving me a language to latch onto pulls me deeper into the game. A person that plays from that perspective, would have a totally different outlook on the spell system than one where a spell triggered a animation just to do a type of damage. I would argue they would still find some agency from the potential for new spells, but not as much as if you played in the first person.

-Cecil

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Rowdy Rob
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Magic systems and Mindsets
crcasey wrote:

I was wondering if any of you know of any other games that use this 'phonetic' style of spell system in the game?l

I don't know of any, but this does indeed sound like a very interesting (the best?) approach to a magic system. I can imagine getting caught up in the "magic language" and really feeling like a magic user! This system sounds like the intriguing "iconic" language of the adventure game "Captain Blood."

I don't know if "magic" really needs to be complicated, though. Fancy animations can go a long way towards creating the illusion of a powerful spell. Even in pen-and-paper Dungeons and Dragons, we never got into all the "reagents" and stuff. If your character had the level for it, you could cast it. Most of the "combining runes" systems in CRPG's I've heard about sounds a bit random and needlessly puzzly. Once again, though, the "phonetic magic language" sounds like a really interesting innovation that I think I could get into. It sounds like it would make "magic" seem logical, plausible, and believable.

Calibrator wrote:

DM definitely is a masterpiece and though I can understand Rob for not really liking it (it *does* kinda look bland and simple today) it is still a defining game of the genre.

I played "Dungeon Master" in its heyday, and while it wasn't "simple," it did seem bland. I like a "graphical" reward in experiencing new scenery, but everything I've seen of DM seems like it's basically the same walls over and over. I had the same problem with the "Wizardry" series, which is why I preferred the "Ultima" series much more.

Part of my dislike was probably my mindset. I think many CRPG's require a "role playing" mindset, where you actually imagine yourself as the character in the game, and get immersed in the game on a psychological level. This is very difficult for me, and I had to be dragged kicking and screaming to experience my first true "role-playing" mindset in a CRPG in "Baldur's Gate." And even then, I was playing an idealized version of myself ("Paladin Rob") and not actually becoming another character altogether.

I think the "mindset" is where the disconnect occurs with me. I suspect that "Dungeon Master-aholics" had the imagination to "feel" the game on a psychological level that impatient, youthful (dumb?) people like me didn't have. You hardcore CRPG'ers are not seeing the "bland" corridors, you are feeling the characters in a "real" situation! Am I right, or was Dungeon Master just a "cool" videogame that I didn't get?

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Calibrator
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Joined: 10/25/2006
Immersion
Rowdy Rob wrote:

I played "Dungeon Master" in its heyday, and while it wasn't "simple," it did seem bland. I like a "graphical" reward in experiencing new scenery, but everything I've seen of DM seems like it's basically the same walls over and over. I had the same problem with the "Wizardry" series, which is why I preferred the "Ultima" series much more.

Well, DM doesn't have many different wall textures, that's certainly true.
It has some rewards, especially in the deeper levels, but they are not very frequent, IIRC.
Nevertheless, there are some very interesting things to see, like the section of the maze that I'd like to call "treadmill" - graphically unspectacular, but worth experiencing.

Quote:

Part of my dislike was probably my mindset. I think many CRPG's require a "role playing" mindset, where you actually imagine yourself as the character in the game, and get immersed in the game on a psychological level. This is very difficult for me, and I had to be dragged kicking and screaming to experience my first true "role-playing" mindset in a CRPG in "Baldur's Gate." And even then, I was playing an idealized version of myself ("Paladin Rob") and not actually becoming another character altogether.

I understand what you are saying but I don't think that you should approach these games in this way - you don't need a special mindset.
Try so see them as "world simulators" that offer a lot of interaction (dialogues, exploration, combat, inventory management etc.). Then give the game a bit of time and let the plot of the game or task at hand capture you - you'll automatically get immersed and -hopefully- a great CRPG experience!

Quote:

I think the "mindset" is where the disconnect occurs with me. I suspect that "Dungeon Master-aholics" had the imagination to "feel" the game on a psychological level that impatient, youthful (dumb?) people like me didn't have.

Well, I was around 20 at the time (1988 - mobygames incorrectly credits the Amiga conversion with 1992) - so much for youthful - but as a role-player you certainly need to be able to to embody a role - whether self created or predefined (like in this game). However, the latter is also true for most adventure games or story-based shooters, which can be pretty immersive as well.

Quote:

You hardcore CRPG'ers are not seeing the "bland" corridors, you are feeling the characters in a "real" situation! Am I right, or was Dungeon Master just a "cool" videogame that I didn't get?

I like great graphics & eye candy as much as the next guy but there's something much more appealing to me: Interactive possibilities.
The more you can do in a game the better - and this is at least for me more important than graphics. The more interaction the more I'm in a game, if you so will, and DM not only offers a vivid 3D environment, it also offers a great level of interaction, even if the scope of the game is limited. It's the big things like object management that I don't recall being done before in such a way and it's the small things like a portcullis you can satisfyingly drop on enemies.

Two non-CRPG examples:

Text adventures - though entirely without graphics you usually play them in the first person. They often offer a multitude of commands and the better ones have lots of witty responses and interactive effects. Most are very linear, though.

The Thief games (aka "Dark Project"): For nearly ten years I play this series and countless fan missions now - there are *still* new ones coming out - and the graphics *are* dated, even if new textures are being used. I *am* the masterthief Garrett when I play these games even though they aren't RPGs in any traditional way. Incidentally I don't like the third-person perspective of "Thief - Deadly Shadows", the most recent part of the series.

take care,
Calibrator

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Matt Barton
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Magic Systems

There are many interesting approaches to magic across the CRPG and JRPG spectrum. One of my favorites is the one seen in Betrayal in Krondor and Betrayal in Antara; it's very creative and innovative. I also found a game called The Four Crystals of Trazere that had an interesting system based on alchemy. Of course several of the Ultima games experimented with different systems, as did Final Fantasy. Some of them require you to find or buy reagents to cast spells, which I always thought was promising--though of course it's easy to just get tedious.

One thing I'm noticing in Company of Heroes is the rich interaction you have with the environment. It'd be neat if CRPGs could go that route; I've always longed for more sophisticated tactics that would take into consideration the terrain, cover, morale, etc. In particular, I'd like to have the opportunity to prepare a battleground or get serious with ambush tactics. Some games have made the attempt, but nothing like what I've seen in the RTS genre. I'm not saying they should borrow wholesale; but some of it could surely be adapted.

In any case, I've maintained that the magic system in most RPGs is roughly the equivalent of artillery in war games. I've seldom seen the sort of creativity with magic you have in the tabletop game or in the text adventure Enchanter (or Zork, for that matter). In my opinion, playing around with magic should be loads of fun, yet few CRPGs have really done anything truly interesting with it.

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