Monday, 23 April 2012

Game 16: Captain Blood - Great Information My Ass

Captain Blood Journal Entry 2: “I’ve had to take a different path in my attempts to track down the five duplicates. After struggling to get information out of either the Croolis-Ilv or the Croolis-Var, I was forced to find another race of aliens to request assistance. Thankfully, my dealings with the Migrax have been much more fruitful, and I’ve now made good progress through various parts of the galaxy. That’s not to say that the Migrax have been completely agreeable, and I’ve had to use fairly persuasive tactics (such as teleporting a Migrax called Great Bounty to an unknown planet) to get the information I needed. I was finally sent to a Migrax called Missile Brave, who gave me the coordinates and the secret code to speak to a being named Sinox. Sinox offered to assist me, but only if I could rid four planets of their Antenna occupants. I’ve done so, once again through not particularly honest means, and was rewarded with the coordinates of the planet Bow-Bow, where I’m to assist an Izwal named Yoko. While I finally feel like I’m getting somewhere, I still haven’t located a single duplicate, and fear time may be my biggest hurdle.”

Destroying planets is fun. But so far is it hasn't produced results.

I’m six hours into Captain Blood and I haven’t even managed to find one duplicate. The main reasons for this could be split between challenges in coming to grips with the language and fighting the game’s technology and losing. I mentioned in my introduction above that I’d taken a different path since the last post, but the truth is that every time you start the game you are confronted by one of four or five possible aliens. Since I was struggling to figure out how to proceed with the Croolis-Ulv / Croolis Var beginning, I simply started a new game and tried my luck with the Migrax’s path. I have to say that finding the correct first step seems to be one of the biggest challenges in the game so far, no matter which alien race I choose to begin with.

I gave up on solving the Croolis war problem and starting the game again with a whole new confusing one.

The Migrax (named Great Bounty) seemed very happy for me to teleport him, but no matter what I spoke to him about, he simply refused to give me any planet coordinates. In the end, I dumped him on a random planet, which didn’t please him very much, and then continued to question him. He gave me the coordinates of a planet called Reproduction 128, where I would find a “Great Migrax” called Missile Brave. He then said bye and disappeared, which seemed a strange thing to do for someone wanting to be returned home. Anyway, I accessed the grid, selected the coordinates, and clicked the hyper drive button. Missile Brave was pretty pissed off with me for stranding Great Bounty on an unknown planet, and demanded I go get him and take him home.

The Migrax Great Bounty happily hopped onboard, but won't be too happy soon! Sob Sob

Fortunately I’d recorded the coordinates of the random planet I left him on. I went back and got him and took him back to his home planet (Reproduction 14). He then told me how awesome and great I am (despite dumping him on a random planet to begin with) and gave me “great information”. He told me that “Antenna Know Planet Robhead”. Since that meant absolutely nothing to me, I travelled back to Reproduction 128 to see whether Missile Brave would now be of any use. It turned out he also thought I was super awesome for saving Great Bounty and gave me the coordinates of Planet Sinox, where I can find a “great scientist” named Sinox. He also gave me a code that I would need to speak to Sinox, which was “Impossible Not Sinox”.

"Me Great Migrax Missile Brave" - Not a particularly humble bunch these Migrax's

Sinox also wouldn’t give me any useful information until I helped him first. He demanded I “Teleport Antenna Planet Unknown” and proceeded to give me the coordinates of four planets. Each of these planets were occupied by an Antenna (a stupid green alien) who I needed to convince to allow me to teleport them. Unfortunately the Antennas were not happy with the idea of being teleported without knowing what the destination was. This is where I recalled the “great information” given to me by Great Bounty, which was “Antenna Know Planet Robhead”. Using the command “Me Teleport You Planet Robhead”, I convinced each of the Antenna’s to allow me to teleport them. This is where things got tricky though…

Sinox - Great Neon Warrior

Each planet can only be occupied by one alien at a time. If you have one alien teleported to your ship and you arrive at a planet already occupied by an alien, you are simply not able to teleport the one on your ship to the planet. You would have to remove the planet occupant first, and I see no way of doing that. So there was no way I was going to be able to put all four Antennas on a planet called Robhead. Thankfully, when I questioned each of the Antenna’s about the coordinates of planet Robhead, they all gave me different coordinates (I told you they were stupid). However, the planets that match the coordinates they gave me were all occupied by an alien race that speaks utter nonsense. It was very quickly apparent that they were never going to make any sense, so I gave up on the idea of removing them to make room for each Antenna.

One of the Planet Robheads - Who would have thought a sparkling decapitated head would make such little sense

The only solution was to convince the Antenna’s to let me teleport them by promising to take them to planet Robhead, and then to dump them on random “unknown” planets. This does line up with the request made by Sinox who asked me to “Teleport Antenna Planet Unknown”, but hardly seems the most honourable thing to do. This reminds me of a comment Ilmari made on my last post. He suggested that I should try to negotiate peace between the Croolis-Ulv and the Croolis-Var, instead of doing what they asked me to do, which was to destroy each other. That’s the thing though! Captain Blood seems to have little in the way of a moral code. It’s anything goes and sometimes the honourable solutions are rewarded while other times only brutality and seemingly unethical decisions result in progress. King's Quest this isn't!

I genuinely felt bad for the Antennas as I betrayed them and left them to rot.

It’s here that I need to spend some time discussing some of the technical issues I’ve faced while playing Captain Blood. I’ll start by saying that I don’t have what the manual calls a reference guide. My Google searches for “Captain Blood reference guide” failed me, so I was forced to read the manual and hope I could figure out the rest. In most cases I could, but the Save / Restore feature turned out to be somewhat perplexing. Up to this point in the game, I’d been saving my progress fairly regularly by clicking the floppy disk button on the console interface. When I later started Captain Blood, I was then able to click the same button to restore my game successfully. It did seem strange to me that I was pressing the same button to save and restore my game, but it was working, so I didn’t question it. Just in case you're wondering, when you click the save / restore button, nothing appears to happen. You don't type a name or a have the ability to create a new save file.

This button here is the save button...and the restore button...don't ask!

The problem started when I arrived at what I thought was Planet Kristo 08, the fourth planet that Sinox wanted me to clear of Antennas. I was surprised to find the planet was uninhabited! My immediate thought was that I must have entered the wrong coordinates. I checked my notes and compared the 171 / 76 I had written there to my current location. I was in the right place unless I’d written down the wrong coordinates when Sinox was communicating them to me. There was nothing else to do, so I went back to Sinox to see what would happen. He thanked me for clearing the first three planets of Antennas, but demanded I clear the fourth. No matter what I asked him, he simply refused to confirm the coordinates for Kristo 08, so I was forced to restore my game. The problem was…my save game was after Sinox originally gave me the coordinates!

Hello? Anyone seen a strange looking green thing around here?

Basically I was screwed, and there was no way to know whether I took down the wrong coordinates or the game just screwed me over. I was going to have to start again! OK, I thought, it really wouldn’t take me long to get back to where I am now that I know what to do. With no “restart” option available, I closed and reran Captain Blood, and started a new game. Annoyingly, I kept getting different starting aliens, which would mean everything I'd done so far would be for nought! I had to restart the game about six times before I finally had a game that began with Great Bounty the Migrax, and I couldn't know that until I'd guided an OORXX down through defense systems onto the planet surface. Excited that I could finally get under way, I decided to save my game. Pressing save restored my old game, back to the uninhabited planet. Despite having done exactly the same thing in the past with the same result, I can tell you I was not impressed, and needed to walk around (in the real world) for a bit taking deep breaths. I'd wasted the last half an hour for nothing!

I went through the game's starting procedures and flew down to the surface of the first planet about 20 times in one hour.

It turns out that the save / restore button changes its function after a five minute period. If you’ve just started Captain Blood, the floppy disk button acts as Restore, but if your game has been running for over five minutes, it acts as Save. I found this piece of information out after Googling “Captain Blood Save and Restore”, and it meant I had to restart Captain Blood another four or five times and guide an OORXX down to the planet surface to see if Great Bounty the Migrax was there, then play for more than five minutes before finally being able to save my game and continue. In total I wasted an hour during this whole process, and if it wasn’t for this blog, I probably would have given up pretty quickly. It took me around 40 minutes of straight playing to get back to where I was prior to the issue and thankfully, the fourth Antenna was there this time around. I dropped all four Antennas onto unknown planets and went back to Sinox, eager to find out what “great information” he might have to offer. It better have been worth it!

"You Go Planet Bow-Bow" - notice my total game time is down to 41 minutes after restarting...again

Well, there was still no mention of any of the duplicates, and instead Sinox directed me to a planet called Bow-Bow, where I’m supposed to assist an Izwal called Yoko. If the game continues on in this fashion, sending me from planet to planet, trying to understand what mundane task each alien wants me to undertake so they’ll give me “great information” that simply leads to the next task, then it’s going to get real repetitive, real fast! Given the mechanics of the game, I can’t really imagine what else it can offer up, but I’m still holding out for a surprise or two. If I do finish the game, it’s looking likely that it will take up a heck of a lot of my time (six hours already with no duplicate in sight), so I’ll have to make a call at some point in the next couple of days as to whether Captain Blood is worth the dedication.

OK Mr Izwal...what do you want in return for "great information"?

Session Time: 4 hour 00 minutes
Total Time: 6 hours 00 minutes


  1. Oh my. An endless string of fetch quests, obfuscated by a cryptic dialog system? The save/restore deal is pretty insane. So far the game looks like it was designed by sadists with a serious HR Giger fetish. Hope it gets better! :-)

  2. Intresting side note: H. R. Giger was doing game art in this time period. He did one for the NES called Necromancer. This art doesn't have his style though, it is far too mundane.

    I suspect, given the number of planets and what I know about the game engines of the time, that everything you do is being generated randomly. Everything. It is the only way you could have that many planets, and that many aliens giving you missions on a system that old. This means that, yes, everything will change as you go along. An idea would be to screencast yourself playing, so you can open up a movie file and review everything said to you.

    I'd recommend that given that you start cheating: back up your files yourself. I recommend version control software, so that you can annotate your commits with what each one is, and restore to any point at any time. I use Mercurial myself, since it has a nice GUI.

    1. It'd be interesting to pinpoint which was the first computer game to ape Giger's biotech style, although we should probably start with the 8-bit era. Of course we had the Alien/Aliens games for the Speccy & Commodore but the signature art just wasn't there. In the arcades, R-Type's visuals did draw heavily from Giger's work. Maybe Captain Blood was the first to do it on the PC?

      Anyway, Giger will return in full force -and properly- when Trickster gets to the DarkSeed games.

    2. As a big fan of Giger's work, I've always been interested in playing Darkseed 1 & 2. I'll get there one day.

      Everyone should watch this video at least once. The extraordinary art of Giger with the incredible music of Ulver. Just beautiful!

  3. Just blow up all 32k planets. How long could that take? It's just a virtual world anyway, not like you're blowing up real aliens. I was expecting something more like Elite with the size of the galaxy, but a whole planet with just one alien is underwhelming.

    I'm not sure if everything is random though, since Trickster got the same quests so far (albeit on different planets most likely) by starting out with the Great Bounty the Migrax.

    1. Yeah, it's definitely not completely random, but the planets and their coordinates seem to be. I originally thought all the alien names must be random as they're so incredibly stupid and confusing (Good Nonsense?), but they're the same every time you play.

  4. Lack of consistent moral code and random destruction of planets? Probably my guess was wrong and it's more like Lexx than Star Trek...

    There seems to be a walkthrough out there, so probably it's not all random.

    1. Speaking of a walkthrough, I think I'm going to need a hint. I don't really know how a walkthrough would work, given that you could start the game with any of a selection of aliens, but maybe someone can find one that begins with Great Bounty?

      I thought by starting my game again and taking the Great Bounty path that I'd avoided figuring out what to do with the Croolis-Ulv and Croolis-Var. Unfortunately, the Izwal has sent me to Dead Genetic, so I'm now in the exact same position I was when I originally gave up.

      Dead Genetic (he's a Croolis-Ulv) wants me to destroy four planets inhabited by Croolis-Var. If I destroy them all he says thanks but nothing happens. If I go and talk to some of the Croolis-Var, they want me to destroy the Croolis-Ulv, including Dead Genetic. I imagine if I destroy all of them, nothing will happen either. The Croolis-Var speak of someone called Great Destroy, but I've been unable to get the coordinates of his whereabouts, nor do I know what he might have to offer.

      Can anyone (for 10 points) give me a hint as to how to progress here? Having already wasted an hour on it a few days ago, and another hour last night, I'm a bit over it.

    2. Gentle hint: Znlor qrfgeblvat rirelguvat vfa'g gur evtug jnl sbejneq? Unir lbh gevrq ivfvgvat nyy gur cynargf ur jnagf lbh gb qrfgebl?

      Straight up: Ivfvg nyy gur cynargf bs gur Pebbyvf-Ine naq gur Pebbyvf-Hyi, trg gurve anzrf, tb onpx gb Ubjql Cevfba gb chfu uvz sbe gur pbbeqvangrf sbe Terng Qrfgebl.

    3. Really? I can't believe it's possible to get that information out of Howdy Prison?! I tried for ages but he wouldn't budge.

      Thanks Lars-Erik! 10 points for you!

    4. Just make sure you've visited all the planets first and have their names; apparently otherwise he won't give you the info you need.

      (and now really I hope you don't come back after pestering him for hours and tell me it didn't work. :p )

    5. I checked the beginning of the walkthrough and apparently all the possible starting points converge fairly quickly (alien from beginning 1 knows someone who knows someone who knows alien from beginning 2).

  5. Based on 15 observations, the Pearson correlation coefficient between PISSED rating and time played is -0,722, which is pretty high and means the more you play a game, the lower the score you're going to give it.
    So I think you should give up Captain Blood now in order to stop your bashing of French games :).