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9/16/2014

Spoony Plays Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny (Playlist)

Spoony Plays Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny, Part 0 (Introduction and character import)

Ultima steps into a new age of refined gameplay and Britannia falls into a new age of despair at the hands of the tyrannical Lord Blackthorn.



I'm playing with a mod that adds music.  You can get it here.

The character importing process is a bit tricky to get working on the Ultima Collection and GOG versions of the game, largely because the way the games are packaged prevents the files from being cross-compatible.  Fortunately, there is a patch available.  As for a step-by-step walkthrough of the conversion process:
  1. Extract FIXPARTY.EXE from the above link to your Ultima 5 directory.
  2. Copy the PARTY.SAV file from your Ultima 4 directory to your Ultima 5 directory.
  3. Run FIXPARTY.EXE to patch the file.
  4. Start the game, choose "Import a character" and choose drive letter C (or whatever drive letter you are running the game off of).
There you go.  Ultima 5 should now properly import your character and convert all of their stats to the new system.

On entitled consumers.



I mean really.  People are actually equating selling a video game IP with mass murder and violent oppression.  How low can you sink, fanboys?

... Don't answer that.  I've already seen it.

9/15/2014

DOS Dungeon: Shadow President

Simulation games, like strategy games, are another genre that has almost always been the sole domain of the PC, largely owing to their cerebral nature and their often convoluted control setups, necessitating the convenience of a mouse and keyboard to keep track of their numerous commands.  There have been a lot of variations on the genre; everything from playing God and creating life on a planet to managing cities to launching successful war campaigns across continents, entire planets or even entire galaxies.  However, there is only one I know of that puts you in the shoes of the most powerful man on Earth.


Released in 1993 by an obscure little company called "D.C. True", Shadow President is what its name implies - you are the president of the United States in the early 1990s.  Giving it a bit of a cyberpunk edge, though, you are granted access to the "Shadow Network", which allows you to monitor communications and countries' actions on a global scale.  However, this comes at a price - you must maintain your approval rating for continued access.  Should you be impeached, overthrown or voted out of office (or assassinated, obviously), the game is over.  However, unlike real modern politics, you are not limited to two terms - you can theoretically be re-elected as many times as you wish provided you maintain your popularity and win elections every four years.

And that's the general premise.  Like many games of this type, this could also be considered something of a "sandbox" in that there is no end goal defined by the game.  The choice of what to do with the Shadow Network is entirely up to the player, so whether you wish to be a hawkish warlord, a great peacemaker, finally eliminate America's budget deficit, or just go nuts and start nuking everyone (a seeming favorite among many Let's Players), it's all valid.




To achieve your ends, whatever they may be, you have many tools at your disposal.  In addition to your cabinet (who will advise you on current events, the country currently highlighted, and whatever actions you elect to take), you also have a variety of filters to view the world map through, showing off everything from population levels to team alliances to nuclear spending.  You've also got the CIA world factbook (very comprehensive and up to date for 1990) and a slew of various charts and graphs to comb through.  Probably the most useful of those is the ever-present bar on the right, indicating (from left to right) the highlighted country's total worldwide influence, ethic level, ambition to increase power, and quality of life.  Each one is also given a yellow highlight to indicate how it compares to the current levels of the United States.

Why yes, you can charge corporations 97 cents on the dollar in taxes.  Probably won't do your economy any favors, though.


As the game begins, you're not exactly in the most auspicious of places.  You're saddled with a hefty budget deficit, heavy worldwide concern about nuclear war and, as the game's tagline implies, nobody has heard of Desert Storm.  Iraq is set to invade Kuwait full-force, and barring some intervention on your part, they'll most likely succeed.


Talking them down doesn't seem to be a viable option either, owing to their extremely high Ambition levels.  You do have plenty of other options, though.  Impose trade sanctions, pulling allotted military aid, attempting a coup d'etat or assassination in the country, or, worst case...


Beef up your troop levels in the region and be ready for a fight.  Which is usually how this scenario goes down.


...Huh, wow.  I've never actually gotten them to back down before.  Usually they just disregard any threats and go straight to invading Kuwait.

Of course, even with that crisis solved (whether temporarily or permanently) things are never idle for long in the world.  The Soviet Union, North Korea and China are all vying for power themselves, and numerous smaller states are apt to commit terrorist attacks or launch wars against their neighbors.  Not to mention things like natural disasters, political scandals and the odd assassination attempt making your life more difficult.



If you find the standard game too easy, you can always load up some tougher ones through the "Load Scenario" command.  Such as the Super-Iraq scenario, wherein Iraq has conquered Saudi Arabia, controls 46% of the world's oil reserves and has acquired global nuclear launch capabilities.  Or how about a scenario where the Soviet Union's economy collapses, China grows more ambitious by the day and Japan is starting a nuclear arms program?  Yep, that's a thing too. Unfortunately there are only four scenarios included with the game; I really would have liked to see a wider variety of possible disasters you would try to resolve, a la Simcity 2000.

For its era, though, Shadow President is a very impressive title, offering a staggering amount of depth and player freedom to handle world affairs.  You can take steps to build up countries or push them to ruin, make allies or enemies, push the nuclear arms race to its breaking point... anything goes.  Of course, the challenge comes in trying to counterbalance your grand plan against the constant threat of the popularity meter - you're going to have a hard time launching war campaigns when your country has a low Ambition level, for instance.

As far as I know, DC True only produced one other game during their brief existence - a sequel to Shadow President called "Cyberjudas".  I haven't had much luck getting it to run under DOSBox, but from what I've read, the gameplay stays much the same, adding in two new gameplay modes called "Cabinet Wars" and "The Cyberjudas Gambit."  In the former each member of the cabinet is trying to manipulate you for their own ends, while the latter adds an additional twist - one member of the cabinet is an outright traitor and is trying to sabotage you and the country.  So in addition to managing your duties as president, your secondary concern is to find and defeat the traitor before it's too late.  It all sounds really cool; I just wish I could get the damn thing to run properly...

9/14/2014

Spoony Plays Deus Ex (Playlist)

Spoony Plays Deus Ex, Part 1

Generally regarded as Ion Storm's crowning achievement and one of the most highly acclaimed PC games of all time, Deus Ex was quite an experience for 1999.  Featuring open-ended gameplay that enabled several distinct playstyles, numerous ways to complete each objective and even three different endings, as well as a memorable dystopian setting based in real-world conspiracy theories, Deus Ex brought a lot of fresh ideas to the table and helped to define modern western RPGs as we know them.

As nanotechnologically-augmented soldier JC Denton, you are part of the ranks of UNATCO, a government sponsored anti-terrorist organization dedicated to crushing any who threaten the safety of the world.  To that end you're pitted against the NSF (National Secessionist Forces), a terrorist group dedicated to secession from the United States.  To that end, they have lain siege to Liberty Island and captured a shipment of vaccine to the deadly Gray Death disease, intending to distribute it among the populace.  But are the NSF really just a terrorist group as UNATCO claims, or is there something deeper going on behind the scenes?



There is also a PS2 port of the game called "Deus Ex: The Conspiracy".  It's largely the same save for a somewhat simplified interface, some added FMVs for the intro and endings, and some significantly uglier graphics and smaller maps owing to memory limitations.



Spoony's quick-and-dirty Skills guide

Weapons: Heavy - Covers the use of military hardware including the GEP gun, Plasma Rifle, LAW and Flamethrower.  The GEP and LAWs are useful for destroying robots, but the rest are of questionable value.  May be worth raising to Advanced just for the increased movement and lock-on speeds with the GEP though.

Weapons: Pistol - Covers the crossbow, pistol and stealth pistol.  Decent weapons against solo targets, but not great in a larger shootout.  Because of a bug, you always start out Trained in Pistols skill even if you take a level out of it on the starting screen, so do that to get some extra points (and put them toward Rifles instead).  There's no real need to raise your Pistols skill level above Trained, since other weapons tend to be much more useful.

Weapons: Rifle - Covers the use of shotguns, assault rifles and sniper rifles.  Such weapons are common and very useful throughout the entire game.  I boost it to Advanced right from the start (in part using the points I get from un-learning Pistols).  At Level 4 the sniper rifle no longer has any aim wobble and 100% accuracy, so it's worth upgrading to full just for that.

Weapons: Low-tech - Covers the use of throwing knives, melee weapons and non-lethal weapons including the Stun Prod, Baton, Pepper Gun, etc.  Generally useless since you won't be doing a lot of close-quarters combat anyways, and when you do, one hit from an undetected state is generally enough for a takedown.  Not to mention you get the Dragon's Tooth later on, which is powerful enough to take out most any enemy in one hit regardless of your skill level.  Don't waste any points on this one.

Weapons: Demolition - Covers the use of grenades including LAMs, EMP Grenades and Gas Grenades.  Putting more points in means that planted enemy explosives take longer to detonate (giving you more time to disarm or avoid them) and your own bombs do more damage.  May be worth raising to Trained if you're having trouble with traps, but anything higher than that is generally a waste of points.

Environmental Training - You get more mileage out of Ballistic Armors, Hazmat Suits, Thermoptic Camos, etc.  However, I find that even at Untrained level they generally last long enough to accomplish whatever I need to do, so investing points in this is rather questionable...

Lockpicking - Unlocking doors with disposable lockpicks.  You get more mileage out of them when you invest more points into this skill - 25% at Trained, 40% at Advanced and 75% at Master.  Lockpicks are plentiful throughout the game though, so Trained is adequate for most purposes (and for tougher doors, you can usually use a LAM or GEP rocket instead).

Electronics - Decoding electronic keypads with disposable multitools.  You get more mileage out of them when you invest more points into this skill - 25% at Trained, 40% at Advanced and 75% at Master.  Again, multitools are relatively plentiful, so you shouldn't ever need more than Trained in this.

Medicine - Gets you more health recovery from medkits.  Trained will double their healing from 30 HP to 60 HP, Advanced bumps it up to 75 and Master increases it to 90.  Trained is adequate for this one; for the first stretch of the game 60 points is enough and once yo have the Regeneration augmentation medkits will be of limited use for the remainder of the game.

Computer - Trained allows you to hack security panels, computer terminals and ATMs.  Very useful.  Advanced and Master both give you more time before being locked out and allow you to recover more credits from ATMs.  Start the game with Trained, maybe push up to Advanced later on..

Swimming - You swim faster and can hold your breath for a longer period of time.  Useful to reach a couple of areas and hidden secrets, but anything higher than Trained is just a waste of points.

...Not the most well balanced thing, as you can see, but for 1999 it was pretty innovative.




Passwords so far

Statue
  • NSF001 - smashthestate
UNATCO security bunker
  • SATCOM - UNATCO_001
UNATCO
  • anavarre - scryspc
  • ghermann - zeitgeist
  • jmanderley - knight_killer
  • jreed - redshoes
  • scarter - antique
  • ajacobson - calvo
  • jcd - bionicman
Keycodes
  • UNATCO security bunker - 0451
  • Jacobson's closet - 2001
ATM codes
  • Statue - 230023/4558