Through The Moongate Volume 1 Kickstarter

I’ve been hoping for years for a book on the history of Origin Systems. There have been some worthy entries but they have very much concentrated on Richard Garriott and never really told the stories of the dozens of other people who made all these games possible.

I may not have too much longer to wait as a Kickstarter has just launched for a new book called Through The Moongate. The book will ultimately be in two volumes with this first round of funding for volume 1 taking the story of Origin from Akalabeth up to 1990 and the publishing of Ultima 6. While the story told will still be based around Ultima, it will finally put some details to all the people I only know from seeing their names on a credits list. It will also cover some other games along the way including Wing Commander and more obscure titles like Moebius and Ogre.

The book is already written but needs funding to cover translation from Italian and the publishing/shipping costs. There is a preview chapter available via the Kickstarter to give a flavour of the book. I very much want to read the rest of it so if this sounds of interest, please consider taking a look at the Kickstarter and purchasing a copy.

PC Zone Issue 22 – January 1995

This week’s PC Zone scan is a bumper one and also the last one I own from 1995. I’m getting into the early issues before I subscribed now and I’m missing a good number from here on out. The issues I need are 4,10,13,16,18,23,26 & 54. If you have one of these and want to help preserve a slice of British gaming history, please let me know.

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As for this issue, there are stacks of great games previewed/reviewed including Discworld, Descent & Warcraft. There are also a load of guilty pleasure FMV games, including an advert for The Last Dynasty which is so cheesy that I absolutely have to seek out a copy now. You can as ever download the PDF from http://www.pixsoriginadventures.co.uk/PCZone

PC Zone Issue 32 – November 1995

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This weeks PC Zone is issue #32 from November 1995. It must have been a good month as there are loads of high scoring games reviewed, some of which I know well but most I’ve never played. The standout games for me include Magic Carpet 2 and Burn Cycle which I expected them to hate but on this occasion they actually liked an FMV game. The novelty mustn’t have worn off by this point. The PDF is in with all the other scans so far at http://www.pixsoriginadventures.co.uk/PCZone

Demoting the BBC Master

Vecalabeth is on hold before I’d barely had chance to start as due to a couple of bugs with the Vectrex32 cartridge (including one to the firmware updating), all of the cartridges are being recalled for repair. That’s a round trip to the states and one to two weeks in the post each way. Plenty of time to play another old game or two but first I’ve got another bit of hardware to try out.

The BBC Master has made an appearance or two on this blog before, not least for a playthrough of the first couple of missions in Elite some months back. One thing that has always bugged me about it, is the fact that the Master is incompatible with a very large portion of the BBC games library, near enough all of which were originally written for the BBC Model B. I’d say about 30-40% of the games I’ve thrown at it haven’t worked and they are often the better ones for the system.

Thankfully there is now a solution and it doesn’t even cost all that much. For £20, RetroClinic.com sell a switchable operating system ROM which allows you to use a couple of variants of both the BBC Model B or the BBC Master system ROM’s. This doesn’t guarantee to get every game working since the two BBC machines are after all still different but it’s apparently near enough everything which will do for me.

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Installing is simply a case of slipping in a new chip and bolting the switch onto the case where the modem lead would be if I had one installed. It’s a very quick and easy installation process attemptable by anyone unless you are unlucky enough to have one of the few machines with a soldered in ROM chip. What took me far longer was figuring out how to get my SD drive working in Model B mode (Tip: *CARD on the command line swaps you from the disk drive to the SD card).

With that worked out, my BBC has now run every game I’ve tried on it and I’ve been having a great time trying some of them out. It’s a system with a bad reputation for games quality but it’s not entirely deserved as it was always capable. The problem it had was the high price point keeping it from ever being mass market outside of schools. As such the library of games was small and the best developers tended to write for systems where there was clearly more money to be had. There are still worthwhile games on there and it’s certainly nostalgic for people who used these in school like myself.

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Plenty of developers got started on the BBC whatever its faults including coincidentally the two biggest names at the moment in space sims, Chris Roberts and David Braben. Prior to this, the only Chris Roberts game that I’ve managed to run on the Master was Stryker’s Run which was one of the rare titles with a BBC Master enhanced version. Now all of his earlier games work including his first release of note, the cute but infuriatingly difficult Wizadore above. Comparing this to Star Citizen, we’ve certainly come a long way in the last 30 years although he did knock the games out a bit quicker back then.

I wouldn’t be half as interested in having all this old hardware without some of the modern upgrades that are available and this ROM kit is a prime example. For the sake of £20, it’s a compulsory upgrade for BBC Master owners as far as I’m concerned and I’m looking forward to trying out some more of the BBC library at long last. I only heard about this last week or I’d have bought one the moment it came out.

While I’m posting, there are two Wing Commander fundraisers going on. First off, possibly the worlds most famous Wing Commander fan, Ben Lesnick is running a GoFundMe campaign to buy all the artwork used for the Wing Commander Academy cartoon series with a view to scanning and preserving it all. This campaign is going extremely well and may well be funded by the time I post this.

More needing of the money right now is George Oldziey’s Kickstarter for a second Wing Commander orchestral CD. The first one of these turned out great and I’m certainly up for another. It could do with some more backers as funding is only about a quarter of the way there after 10 days. I’d expect it to be close at best as to whether this reaches the target.

 

The Legacy – Part 2

I didn’t get all that far into The Legacy in part 1. The wealth of options on how to approach the game kept sending me off in directions my character wasn’t able to cope with. I’d eventually decided to work my way up the house and was making steady progress exploring the second floor.

Today starts off with a simple door puzzle where I have to go through several numbered doors in ascending order to unlock another door in the middle of the level that has a knocking sound coming from it. Behind the locked door is another NPC is the shape of PI Dee Kirby who isn’t all that helpful in truth not telling me anything I haven’t already figured out. She leaves me when we are done talking with the intention to somehow leave the mansion.

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That just about finishes off the second floor so I head up to floor 3. Just when you think the house can’t get any stranger, this whole level is an asylum complete with my last remaining relative who tries to butcher me with an axe. This encounter is my abiding memory of playing the game from years back as it truly creeped me out at the time. It’s mainly the laughing my aunt is doing while trying to run that axe through me. The effect is considerably lessened with the passing of time but it’s still not what you would call pleasant. She leaves behind her axe and blood stained straight jacket which I’ll be needing later in the level to pretend to be her so I can get through an invisible barrier.

I’ll later learn that the asylum was used to provide victims for the dark gods in the lower levels of the house which at least partially explains its presence.

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The exit to level 4 is guarded by one of the uglier monsters ever to grace an RPG and these guys are all over the asylum. They don’t chase after me at least and don’t have a range attack but I’m really not up to fighting them at close range yet.

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While exploring the asylum, I happen across a green gem which is just what I need for a puzzle right back in the entrance hallway where a painting had a conspicuous hole where the jewel in a pendant should have been. Sure enough placing the gem destroys the painting (begging the question how anyone ever used this in the past) revealing a door behind it. That takes me through to a room that could be straight out of Hellraiser with swinging chains and body parts everywhere. I can walk through the portal in the middle to get teleported elsewhere but have to time this to avoid the chains.

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This takes me to an Egyptian temple level. I fail to get very far here running into lots of locked doors. I do learn that a dark cult were doing something nefarious here and run into one of them in his natty suit. Since I’m not getting anywhere here I decide to come back later.

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I still don’t fancy fighting my way past the two headed thing on level 3 so instead I try one more set of steps from the ground floor of the house which lead to a tomb level. The first thing I run into here is a gun toting zombie who I defeat with hit and run attacks dodging out of the way of his formidable shotgun blasts each time. The main foe down here after him are skeletons which spring back to life every time you walk over them. They are reasonably easy to defeat but do start to grind my health down after a bit.

I don’t find much else of interest other than a temple complete with organ. Using some sheet music I found near the start of the game, the window smashes revealing a swirling portal. Foolishly I head into this.

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This leads to the ethereal plane which looks a whole lot different to Ultima Underworld but isn’t any easier to navigate. This one is a swirling blue vortex with invisible boundaries and precious little in the way of landmarks. It is absolutely swarming with monsters including the jellyfish on the right who I’ll learn later is one of the dark triumvirate of gods round these parts. It throws endless spells at me and I run away as quick as possible. The cubes are teleporters to various parts of the house and this level could be used at a shortcut if you can manage to learn where everything is I suppose. Most of the portals need opening up on the other side before they will work though.

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Once again, I’m unsure where to go next so I head for level 3 and find a load of rooms that I missed first time around. The place is populated with fire spawn who are invulnerable to any conventional weapons I’m carrying around right now but can be dispatched with one or two blasts from a fire extinguisher.

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I manage to get some more of the locked doors open and explore the rest of the level. The most notable encounter is with a face bulging out of the wall in a padded cell. Whoever it is wants me to rescue them from the ethereal plane. I didn’t enjoy my first trip there much so I’ll hold off on that particular request for now.

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Instead, I head for the top floor which is the museum, kind of like the top floor of my house now I think about it although on slightly different scales. Nearly all the best items in the game will be found up here although not necessarily on this first visit. I also get to meet the bad guys as there are paintings of the dark gods starting with Belthegor on the bottom left. I’ll need to defeat this particular god at the end of the game. Right now, I’m having enough trouble with the crawling green slimes and pink crawling frog like things on this level.

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The museum has lots of plinths with all sorts of goodies on that will help when fighting the denizens of the Winthrop estate. Unfortunately for me most of them aren’t immediately grabbable and I have to replace the missing plaque on each plinth before I can pick them up. The only plaque I’ve found so far is a for a shuriken so I grab that while I’m here and then fail to use it throughout the rest of the game so I’m not so sure how effective it would have been.

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I find paintings of the rest of the triumvirate with Alberoth on the left and the nameless master of the void on the right. Alberoth hangs around in 3 locations simultaneously on one of the basement levels blocking access until I complete a puzzle much, much later on in the game.

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I run into another relative which is becoming a common experience considering I’m the last surviving member of the family. This time its Carl Winthrop who wants me to summon the Karcist in the temple. This probably isn’t a good idea as near enough every word this guy tells me is a lie. I’ll learn much later that the Karcist is the relative that started this whole mess 300 years ago but giving their soul to the dark gods. Carl Winthrop vanishes as soon as we are done talking.

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I find a room with plinths for 3 statues and I know from various scraps of paper that I can banish all the pink frog-things from the level by placing the appropriate statues on each plinth and casting a fireball spell at them. Casting the fireball spell proves to be the trickiest part of this and I have to devote a load of experience to the spell before casting starts to work.

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At the northeast corner of the level is another entrance to the void. I decide to take the plunge and this time find Charles Wenlock (or at least his astral projection) walking around. He is a magician of sorts who was trying to banish the evil from the house and is by far the most helpful person in this whole game. He gives me some crystal glasses to help me find a path through the void (another item I never used now I think about it), teaches me a new spell and also give me the advice that I’ll need to fashion a talisman from a meteorite fragment in the room of skulls in order to defeat Belthegor.

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My only choice at this point appears to be to head down into the basement of the house again. When I attempt to go to the second basement level, sure enough Alberoth is waiting for me looking even less welcoming than in his picture. I’m completely unable to dodge round him but I have found clues about him disappearing at a certain star alignment.

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It’s fair to say I made a whole lot more progress in part 2 although playing this game does feel like stumbling around in the dark at times. I kept going back and forth trying to figure out which direction to strike out in. The story in the game is extremely sparse with only a minimum of guidance. Near enough every little clue you do find is needed to figure out the puzzles. Keeping all the screenshots for blogging has certainly proved extremely useful.

Part 3 will see me to the end of the game and should be coming around a whole lot more quickly than part 2. It’s not the way I usually do things but I was enjoying playing this enough that I ended up finishing the game instead of writing up this post.