Title: Pool of Radiance Rule Set: AD&D Designers: Jim Ward, David Cook, Steve Winter, and Mike Breault Year: 1989 Publisher: SSI Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Pool of Radiance by SSI was the first AD&D released on computer. SSI brought to Macintoshh in 1989. It was a great and faithful rendition of AD&D as it was at the time and used the Forgotten Realms setting.
Game play involves running a custom built party of 6 PCs. Your goal is to drive off the monsters inhabiting the ruins around the city of Phlan. It will take some hacking, slashing and puzzle solving to complete. One of the features of the overworld is open game play, meaning you aren't on the clock and can goof around for a good long time before actually tackling the problems at hand.
To complete the game, you need to complete a couple of quests. On the way you'll knock out a few (ok, a lot) of creatures in combat.
One of the oddities of this game is the mix of color and black and white graphics. The black and white graphics are great while most of color graphics are ugly. The layout is your standard 80s RPG layout: Picture in the upper left, info on the right and text/controls at the bottom.
Clicking a character pulls up their character sheet. Characters are created on the fly as the user selects options. One word of caution, the rules are exactly as they are in AD&D with level limits for demi-humans in full effect. Having said that, this software is a great way to quickly create characters for AD&D.
The combat window, a place you will be a lot is pushed perspective. Your party is arrayed in the order you selected previously.
What order? You didn't pick an order? Me, too. You can have multiple saves, so you can go back and fix this if you saved.
Melee attacks are initiated by selecting MOVE and moving into an enemy. Missile attacks have their own AIM button. One important thing to never... NEVER! do is allow the computer to automatically control your characters. The AI is not bright. And the screaming 25 mHz processor is about 9 million times faster than you can hit "stop" with the mouse. It's not fun.
The other thing that should be avoided is moving away from melee. Every creature in contact with you gets a free attack. It is an efficient way to die.
The system is so faithful to AD&D, there should be some sort of warning on things that can happen. AD&D doesn't have clear healing rules, so in Pools, the only way to heal is camp and burn healing spells. If you want more spells, you have to spend hours studying. Characters are generated by the computer but actually use the ruleset for allowable scores.
One thing to keep in mind is encumbrance. It controls how many moves you get in combat. If you are loaded with coins, you will have problems.
Another thing to keep in mind is death can be permanent. Once a character goes down, you can bandage them before they reach -10 HP. This allows you to get them back with only healing spells.
The instruction manual is in three ingenious documents, a manual which explains the rules of AD&D, a journal to be read and a translation wheel which is the copy protection. The wheel is used to start the game, you compare two symbols to translate them to English. This "code" is entered to activate the game at every start up. As annoying as this is, I've brought the wheel to my game table to create puzzles for the players to solve.
After 33 years, the game shows it age but is an excellent reminder for what AD&D and Forgotten Realms is like. I give it 4 of 5 stars.
Postscipt: The game does have a couple of cheats. Why else would you read a review of a 33 year old game?
First, you can mug players for cash and prizes. The most basic iteration of this is to create 7 characters, one you keep and 6 you delete. Load the party and transfer off everything you want from the sacrificial characters, save then delete them. This covers money and items, so it is two cheats in one.
The second cheat is a classic duplication of items, say a +5 vorpal sword. This one takes a little effort. Once you have a desirable item, save and quit the game. Duplucate the entire party folder. Twice! Name one folder "Delete" the second "Back Up". Move them elsewhere on your hard drive. DO NOT LEAVE THEM IN THE PARTY FOLDER!
You will be working with the Delete folder and the regular party folder. Launch the game and move the desired item from one player to another. Save and quit. Now move that player from the "Delete" folder and overwrite the character file in the party folder. Relauch the game and two characters will have that item. You can repeat this over and over again.
A third cheat is a variation on the first two. You actually have slots for up to 8 characters, the two extra are for NPCs. It's pretty rare to have one NPC and extremely rare to have two. You cannot simply move an item from an NPC to a PC. But if the NPC dies, you can take their stuff. In order to do this cheat, you have to ensure the NPC dies but also ensure that you have a save where they are still alive.
Once you have the NPC in the party, save the game twice under two different slots, A and B. Quit and reload slot B. Get the NPC killed in combat. You can attack them yourself in case you are having trouble killing them. They can run off, so make sure you attack with everything you have at the start of the round. Take their stuff at the end of combat and save as B. Now go back to the duplication trick and copy the item a couple of times. Reload the game under save A. The NPC will be back in your party alive while a PC has the duplicated item.
The next cheat is the J training cheat. When you are in the training hall, if you press J, the selected character gains a level. And ages. You can serious destroy your fun with this cheat. This cheat is always active in the Mac version of the game. To use it under DOS, you need to launch the game as "start STING" or "st STING"
One final cheat monkeys around with the death mechanics. If you have a character die in combat, meaning they dropped to -10 HP or below, you normally need a resurection or raise dead spell after combat. This can permanently kill your character. In the case of Elves, neither spell works.
To get around this, let the character die in combat, but don't leave the combat window. Target the dead character with a spell that does less than 10 points of damage and hit them. A dead character is treated by the system to have 0 HP and the damage you do restarts the death process so you can bandage them before quitting combat. This only works with spells like cause light wounds or burning hands, and never works with swords or arrows.
I don't like to do computer reviews on TheseOldGames.com as I already have a website for computers, software, and hardware called unpwnd.com just for that purpose. However, since this is a website for Old Games, sometimes a post about computers comes naturally.
And this is one of those rare computer-themed posts. To support These Old Games, I maintain a Blueberry Mac iBook released back on July 21st, 1999. This thing is 22 years old and still ticking despite some serious carnage done to it. Here are the specs as they stand today:
Processor: 1, 300 MHz PowerPC 750 (G3) FPU: Integrated Bus Speed: 66 MHz RAM Type: PC66 SDRAM, 144-pin PC66 SO-DIMM memory modules. RAM Installed: 64 MB onboard plus one 512 MB module for a total of 576 MB. RAM Slots: 1 Video Card: ATI Rage Mobility (2X AGP) with 4 MB of SDRAM. Built-in Display: 12.1" TFT Resolution: 800x600 Storage: 10 GB internal, 32 GB external plus a secondary 128 GB external drive Optical:24X CD-ROM Modem:56k v.90Standard Ethernet:10/100Base-T AirPort:802.11b USB Ports: 1 (1.1) Battery Type:45 W h LiIon Battery Life:6 Hours (more with a RAM disc, like 24 hrs+) OSes Installed: 9.2.2 and 10.04 Kodiak. Dimensions: 1.8 x 13.5 x 11.6 Weight:6.7 lbs (3.04 kg)
I suppose the first question I should answer is, what is the boot time on 20+-year-old computer? About 2 minutes with all of the control panels and extensions turned on. See for yourself by watching the video below.
With everything turned off, it boots much faster but I virtually never do that.
So, what do I use this thing for? Gaming, writing, drawing, and CAD. A lot of what you see here and on my other websites is written on this machine. I also listen to music, podcasts, and audiobooks.
By way of example, I wrote all of my Traveller posts using this computer, which included some wireframe designs. My first ideations for the Devil Fish freighter started on the Mac and were transferred to another, more modern machine for improvements. All of the writing was done in Word and the basic outline for the ship was done in RayDream Designer 3.
Long before I used this machine for my websites, I was using a machine very much like it to create whole books. My father's games, like Knight Hack were written on a 512K Mac and then converted several times until they reached their modern form.
The interesting thing is, when combined with a Linux computer and some PDF software, I can bring my whole DriveThruRPG library with me on the Mac. Yes, that's right. Your modern works can be opened (usually) on a 22-year-old computer. Sometimes it balks, but most of the time it just works.
Surprisingly, I often don't need to tweak anything in the PDFs for Adobe 3, 4 or 5. I am running a lot of older Adobe software, so if I do encounter a glitch I can usually tweak it via the Mac itself. There are some rare cases where nothing can be done to "fix" or "convert" a file to something the Mac can read. I just deal with it.
I will grant you that images are not so smooth on the iBook due to the 800x600 display. They look like they're printed on canvas. Nothing can be done to fix it, but usually, it isn't a problem worth mentioning.
So, what can't I do with this 22-year-old machine? I can't print. Using the internet is problematic. There is software that will get me on the web, but it doesn't handle .CSS well. Believe it or not, this machine shows up as a Nokia cellphone in Google Analytics due to the handling of the emulation of the browser.
This particular iBook has an Airport card. Theoretically, I could connect wirelessly to the internet but I would have to use an old router. As in a router old enough to have security issues, so I don't do it. Part of the process of using this machine is it forces me to create backups. While I am not an insane security nut, I do love my backups. These occur naturally by moving files to my 32 GB USB drive or the 128 GB external drive.
Ironically, I had been creating DVD backups as a part of this process but they did not survive the house fire which did not consume my Mac, the USB drive, or the external drive despite being dowsed with fire, water, and presumably a massive power surge as the fuse box and wiring burst into flames and failed. The DVDs incinerated, right next to the hardware that didn't. How does that happen?
To be honest, using the internet on this machine is a poor experience so I try to avoid it. I do have a local copy of Wikipedia on the 128 GB hard drive. I can access it with Netscape Navigator which is totally crazy to see in 2021. My copy of Wikipedia is wildly out of date as it hasn't been updated in years, but it works well enough for basic research. I sometimes connect for games, which seems to be less problematic as they are old enough to not break.
In my next post for unpwnd.com, which will be written on this Mac, is about loading Linux via Crouton to a Chromebook.
The great thing about writing on this machine is the intimacy. I don't have updates running, firewalls popping, no Facebook or Mewe starving for my attention. It's just me and the words, not the world. It's really nice to "unplug" without actually unplugging. My first cause for getting into computing decades ago was for problem-solving, speed, and automation. The superiority of a computer over a word processor or typewriter is amazing. The ability to make digital art is complementary to physical production and allows for techniques and ideas that can't be done on paper alone. Add in that an electronic product can be created for sharing or printing is really great.
To me, this production is what computing is all about and this iBook still produces.
Title: Dark Forces Publisher: LucasArts Year: 1995 Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Ah, memories. In Dark Forces, you control Kyle Katarn on his mission to recover the Death Star Plans and save the rebellion from the Evil Empire.
Oh, but there's more... Kyle discovers a secret base on the Arc Hammer, ready to pump out a new weapon system, the Dark Troopers. This is one of the first times Star Wars fans access the universe via a character who does not have the Force and does not pilot a cool ship. Han Solo and Wedge, Kyle is not.
The game plays out like a cross between The Mandalorian and Doom. Considering how the 1990's were, that should be no surprise. It was refreshing not to see Sith and Jedi gumming up a straight shooter game along with the idea that the Cool Ship was merely a vehicle within the story, not the main character like TIE and X-Wing.
Kyle does a cool ship, but it's not an item you use on your missions. It carries you from and to each mission via screen cuts. The Moldy Crow is epic looking and seems to be the look Bungie was going for in Destiny with the Guardian's ships.
This game is very similar to Doom in it's execution, but has some notable differences. Like Doom, Kyle Katarn is armed with an array of weapons, each one except fists needing ammunition. These weapons can strafe and have two modes of file.
2Bryar Blaster Pistol
3E-11 blaster rifle
5Imperial Repeater Gun
6Jeron Fusion Cutter
8Packered Mortar Gun
9Stouker Concussion Rifle
In addition to these weapons, Katarn has a collection of items which are helpful. Headlamps and Infrared googles, a breathing mask, ice cleats, and medi packs are all necessary to complete the game. Kyle will also need batteries, power ups and extra lives to make it to the end.
Unlike Doom, the player is able to look up and down, move vertically and maps simulate different elevations. There are jumping puzzles, mazes, environmental hazards to stymie the player. It has three levels of difficulty to assist the new player get into the game.
Mission 1: The Death Star Plans: Operation Skyhook – Secret Base
Mission 2: After the Massacre – Talay (Tak Base)
Mission 3: The Subterranean Hideout – Anoat City
Mission 4: Imperial Weapons Research Facility – Research Facility
Mission 5: The Blood Moon – Gromas Mines
Mission 6: Crix Madin’s Fate – Detention Center
Mission 7: Deadly Cargo – Ramsees Hed
Mission 8: Ice Station Beta – Robotics Facility
Mission 9: The Death Mark – Nar Shaddaa
Mission 10: Jabba’s Revenge – Jabba’s Ship
Mission 11: The Imperial Mask – Imperial City
Mission 12: Smuggler’s Hijack – Fuel Station
Mission 13: The Stowaway – The Executor
Mission 14: The Dark Awakening – The Arc Hammer
Gamer Walkthroughs is an excellent resource I wish I had back in 1995. Each mission has specific win parameters, so you need to hunt for solutions and solve puzzles. If all the Storm Troopers are not enough for you, you'll fight Boba Fett, a Kell Dragon with no weapons and finally, face off against the terrifying Dark Trooper.
While no longer canonical Star Wars, it's nice to see some of these scenarios come to life via The Mandalorian.
The audio track was excellent, the music virtually lifted from the movies. The use of stereo sound was terrifying, you hear things coming from the proper direction with headphones. The first time a Dark Trooper attacks, you know it's badassed just by the sound of it's footsteps.
The AI is sort of lack luster and the missions are designed Doom style meaning you don't sneak or bypass enemies. It's straight up blast and kill session even though you have a story and mission parameters.
Performance was iffy if I remember correctly. 4 MB was not enough for you to get the full effect. It's even choppy on my Sawtooth, which has more than enough horse power for 1990 games.
All and all, I give this game 4 stars. Go check out the videos at Gamer Walkrhrough for a feel of the game.
Title: SimEarth: The Living Planet Publisher: Maxis Author: Will Wright Year: 1990 Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Sim Earth is a fantastic game by Will Wright, creator of the Sims and Spore. SimEarth was released by Maxis in 1990. As a 31 year old game, it's rough but lovable. It is based on the Gaia model and runs amazingly well on G3 Mac under OS 9.
The purpose of the game or simulation is to use energy and feedback loops to advance your chosen lifeform to the highest level of technology possible. It's easier said than done, but well worth the effort. You are pitted against not only your own created mishaps, but random events such as weather, cooling, warming, etc. It's a great primer on what it takes to make a planet full of life. Events are predictable, but not repetitive.
Earth isn't the only planet you can work with, the game includes scenarios for Mars and Venus. These are breathtakingly difficult. A simplified model called Daisy World highlights the power of the sun on Earth's environment. While it is meant to be a simulator type game, it dives into science fiction with some of the devices and creatures that appear.
Each world scenario is broken down into the world map which is initially populated with land forms. As time goes on, the landforms morph under the energy of the sun and tectonic forces. Sooner, rather than later, life will emerge. There are dozens of Taxa of life, all of which are on equal footing to evolve and become intelligent. These taxa and landforms are all right out of your Earth and Biology text books from high school, they feel familiar. You can use the magnifying glass to observe their description and current state. As creatures become intelligent, you can guide them through different levels of Civilization with the goal of getting them to colonize other planets.
SimEarth is educational in it's whimsy. You can bring back the Trichordates, a species of life with tri-radial symmetry. Or create Carniferns, man eating plants or even robotic life. All of these achievements have to be done between ice ages and hot, dry epochs. The game includes several scenarios which pose questions as to what hardships life can overcome with guidance or the limits of science. Terraform Mars and Venus, anyone?
uMoria or Mac Moria 5.5c is one of those classic games that is strangely addictive. You pick a race, a class and you are off to the Dungeon. This classic game was created in 1983 by Robert A. Koeneke and has gone on to be ported to most OSes. I happen to like the old classic mac app best.
A typical Mac Moira Character
At the bottom of this screen are two options, change name and file character description. The file is merely this page suitable for printing. While the 6 Statistics are close to D&D, they are slightly out of spec if you wanted to use this as a character generator. Also, some of the classes don't work at all like D&D classes. For example, a Druid can cast both clerical and magic user spells, rather than their own spell circle as in the PHB.
In the video below, I take a few seconds to generate a character and play for a bit. There is no sound.
For first time players, you need to purchase items like weapons before proceeding into the Dungeon. Also, the little [p] characters moving around are town drunks who can hit you or thieves who can steal from you. They are relatively easy to avoid.
In this second video, I linger on screens longer. I apologize for the blurriness for the first few seconds. It was something in the file conversion.
Here is a screen shot of a typical first level (50 feet) dungeon.
You can colorize your screen, but black and white is fine for me.
You can find more information about uMoira and downloads over at Beej's website on the game.