Sunday 21 December 2014

Game 47: Spellcasting 101: Sorcerers Get All the Girls - Introduction

Spellcasting 101: Revenge of the Nerds

Hi again, gang! There were originally plans to have someone else attack the first game by Legend Entertainment – but instead, I've been pulled out to get right back to work on this one. Ilmari is a huge fan of Legend's games as has been proven throughout the blog, so I definitely know that any silliness I have to offer will clearly not be shouldered!

Spellcasting 101 (Sorcerers Get All The Girls), though? It seems an extremely silly thing. Its principal creator appears to be Steve Meretzky, best known for certain interactive fiction titles, among them Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Leather Goddesses of Phobos. His games have a definite tone of irreverentness to them, and it's something that I'm definitely going to enjoy after the relative seriousness of Countdown. I'm keeping my eyes away from spoilers – but it appears to be something like Leisure Suit Larry were it to be a game about college. As last time, all that I'm really using is my knowledge of Legend Entertainment's Wikipedia page, the front and back covers of the box and the manual in order to judge what the game's about – but I'll admit that I have a little bit of insight that I can share beforehand, which has been a touch furthered through the aforementioned Wikipedia page. (Make fun of my newfound knowledge for its potential lack of accuracy at your collective leisure!) The game has a very much full cast, but it's mostly gaming newbies. Bob Bates is the only other name that really stands out in the credits, being one of the founders of Legend and having a couple of interactive fiction (IF) titles under his own belt before this point. The only other person with any previous gaming credits is Tanya Isaacson – I have to give her a yell out as she was responsible for some of the artwork in Pool of Radiance, one of the best CRPGs of 1988. Those who love the simple style of art that glows fully in EGA are in for a treat, no doubt.
The game is clearly very, very serious.
As an aside, I'd like to thank the Museum of Computer Adventure Game History for these images –
they're very scarce, and this seems to be the easiest place to find them!

Spellcasting, as all of Legend's early games (we'll see the rest later – again, this is literally #1), is actually just an interactive fiction game with an imagery corner to make it a 'graphical' adventure game – instead of the entire screen being your tool of interaction, there's a small imagery section in the upper right. You can play them entirely through the use of your mouse, just your keyboard (tabbing through things to choose verbs and items on screen) or a mixture of both. I've played a couple of Legend games like Eric the Unready in the past, even if I haven't actually played this particular one, so I've got an idea of how the system works. The little tidbit that I didn't know about Legend Entertainment was that the entire company developed from the skeleton of Infocom, the most influential IF company to have ever really existed (outside possibly of Japan). So it does now make a lot of sense as to why they went down this path instead of using the by this point well and truly tried and true format seen in all of Sierra and Lucasarts' titles – they were out to modernize the pre-existing genre as opposed to create games that might be more palatable to people who had only ever known commands to come out of an on-screen entity.
The interface you'd all better get used to looking at!

The manual gives a quick rundown of the game and what I (or, indeed, we) are likely in for. It begins with an 'acceptance letter' for you, Mr. Eaglebeak, and goes on to spruik 'Peloria's oldest, most famous and only institution of wizardly learning', Sorcerer University with a faux-typewriter style. It's not quite laugh out loud funny per se, but it definitely gives you a good idea of the sort of humour that the game is going to be offering. ('Hrlgut' being a spell to induce vomiting, 'Wufbam' being the spell to make small dogs explode, 'Slugbgon' being the lawyer vanishment spell.. and of course, 'Nee' being the one for shrubbery creation.. it's enough to make you smile, and that's more than good enough for this sort of game for me! There are a couple of other little quirks that I'm going to be asking for opinions on before I start to play, as otherwise the game could be quite difficult to read for everyone. Firstly, there's a 'script' mode. Essentially, I can get the entire game transcripted for me into a text file, making writing about it rather simple – for the most part, the graphics are likely to offer very little stimulation, making for somewhat boring screenshots. I'm willing to make it easier to read, but to give an idea, a screencap from the manual..

If I formatted this a touch better, taking away the smaller stuff, would this work
– or would you guys prefer summaries?

On a quite different theme, I've asked this introduction post to be put together along with a poll. Spellcasting has a rather raunchy premise. Repeatedly, there's mentions to the thought that it can be played in the 'nice' mode (without things being related to excrement and what I can already tell is likely to be quite a deal of sexually noted content.) And then, the 'naughty' one. Unlike our dear Mr. Laffer, however, I believe that this game seems likely to give more detail than simply an up and down censored bar going like crazy followed by a cigarette-toting prostitute – after all, this is a largely textual game, so I'm not even sure whether or not they'd be able to play a visual gag like that one! So, should I play in 'naughty' or 'nice' mode? Ilmari mentioned privately as I was trying to get the game running for the sole screenshot I've taken that I might be advised to use 'naughty' mode as a default and then give a play-by-play of the 'nice' alternatives, but this one is really down to you guys. So check the sidebar on the left of the Adventure Gamer website for the poll and vote.

Note the bottom four save the 'notify' command
– this is the sort of game Spellcasting promises to be!

If there is any sort of worries as far as the 'explicit content' getting over the top, don't worry. I've looked deep back into my psyche, and searched for an appropriate way of warning people that may be looking at this website at work – gods know I do! So, if there's any threat of wording that might be slightly risque, or pictures of badly pixellated EGA breasts that are about to come into play.. well. I've had a PC in my life for about as long as I've been alive. The earliest inference of sexually-charged content didn't come from Leisure Suit Larry in my life, however. (And in truth, I don't think that having a little picture of a sleazy motel room with 'CENSORED' proudly displayed on it isn't the best way to be discrete anyway.) For me it came from a little 50kb executable called 'CAT.EXE' that literally ran on just about anything. It was a brilliantly put together thing, given that even playing it now the game doesn't run off of the CPU clock, meaning that were you able to run it on a modern PC it would still run happily enough.. were it to actually be runnable without help, anyhow. It's the tale of Freddy the (alley) Cat, seeking his love, Felicia. IBM even supported the thing! You play through minigames all to get to the top of a pile of hearts, dodging enemy cats and the arrows of Cupid to get to be with your one true love.. give her a present, and you're.. well. The following image will be used if I ever have any reservations..

You can tell what's going down, here. Right?

Spellcasting is likely to be quite a different experience for everyone, given that the game is probably closer to Zork with a series of pictures appended than a true graphical adventure – but as the CAPs fell its way via Ilmari, we're all going to have to delve into its depths. I'm hoping for a charming/funny game, even if the parser is likely to be a touch of pain – just everyone let me know what they'd like! I can supply maps (which even the manual suggests I'm likely to need – it has a 'ten rules of thumb' section which includes 'save, look, read, take everything and ask around for help if you need it' as a general set of rules), inventory lists, text transcripts, summaries of what's happening through the plot and an idea of the puzzles I encounter – this is kinda new ground for us here at The Adventure Gamer, and I'd love some idea of what you guys reckon would be more interesting to read. Even if it comes down to asking for a different style after the first one? I'm open! I'm running into this one without a safety net here, so my mind is completely open..

A general moral attitude that may offend some! Are we signing up?
The playing of Spellcasting 101 will commence 10th of January. Be prepared!

Poll result: Clear majority of 71 votes wanted Aperema to play the Naughty -version (51 votes). Only five people voted for the Nice -version, while seven wanted Aperama to play both versions and eight didn't really care.

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of Aperama requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that Aperama won't be able to solve a puzzle without putting in an official Request for Assistance: remember to use ROT13 for betting. If you get it right, you will be rewarded with 20 CAPs in return. It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.


  1. I don't know anything about the game, never played it, never heard of it before (unless I don't remember it). I say 39.

  2. I think it will do surprisingly well. I'm guessing 60, and am considering playing along.

  3. Hmm... I wonder how well these will fit into the scoring system, since they appear to be closer to text adventures rather than the graphical adventure games we've been used to.

    I've never played them though, so I might be pleasantly surprised.

    so, 52 for the score.

  4. I am pretty sure early Legend games won't do well on PISSED-rating, just because only graphics are static images and sounds are really sparse. I'll say 49.

  5. Given that this is the first Legend game, the graphics may well only be static images, but I know in the Gateway games (published a couple years later), there were some animations and it's possible to interact directly with the images, so they're much closer to a hybrid between text and graphical adventures. So we'll just have to see how far this one begins that shift. I don't know much about this particular game, nor do I have a good sense of the ratings, but I'll guess 45.

  6. Telltale's 'The Wolf Among Us' is on sale on Steam for the next 22 hours at $6.24 (its lowest price so far)

    Have no idea if it's good, but it gets good reviews and I liked the Walking Dead so... purchased!

  7. Hum... I'm gonna guess 44. Somehow I don't have a lot of confidence in this one...

  8. I've never played this before, but have recently installed it and will play along. My rating guess is 46.

  9. I'll guess 43.

    I don't think I've ever seen anything like that OOPS command before. I wonder how well it works?

    1. OOPS is pretty much standard fare in modern interactive fiction (I am not sure, but it might have originated already with Infocom). It's quite useful and reliable, I'd say.

    2. Of the exceedingly small bit I have played of it, I could see some potential for its use - every action be it a 'look' or a failed command to do something you thought you could do or typo alike adds time to your game at 5 minutes an action, if I recall. I'd presume that the 'oops' command would repeat the effort without stealing your minutes.

      Does the lack of attention to my request for direction as to how to provide information on this game show a lack of concern, or is it just a 'wait and see' approach? Obviously it can be weighted after a post or two, but as screenshots are likely to be quite boring I'd really love an idea of what people think. (I'd rather do hand written maps and my writing is TERRIBLE, so I'd like to know if I should be making computerized maps etc or not to start with.)

    3. Probably most people got caught up on whether they wanted you to be naughty or nice. And so far, 80% of us don't want you getting any presents from Santa next year. :)

      Personally I'd prefer something along the line of a summary - e.g. I went into the library where I found a book of spells, the most interesting of which was 'open hell portal', which I immediately used in the cellar with the pentagram I mentioned a few posts ago.

    4. I recall reading about it in old manuals. I think it either let you fix a typo, or undo an action.

      >Use lmp on doombunny
      I don't know lmp
      > Opps lamp
      The doombunny rips your jungular out. You are dead.

      You enter an enchanted glade. There is a gold coin, a wishing well and a cute Doombunny here.
      >Pet Doombunny
      Did you really think that was a good idea? The Doombunny rips your arm off, and rapidly devours it. It then rips out your eyeballs and beats you with them. Your last thought as you look at your increasingly mangled body from the outside is "This doesn't seem physically possible."
      >You enter an enchanted glade. There is a gold coin, a wishing well and a cute Doombunny here.

      I know I've read about both commands, I forget which was which though. Might be different games used Oops in different ways?

    5. I've seen it usually doing the first task, for the second, the command UNDO is usually used.

    6. You are probably right Ilmari.

    7. I've seen both. "Oops" was used as "correct a typo from last sentence" in Infocom games (possibly among others), but in Level 9 games (again, possibly among others) it worked as "undo last move".

  10. I'm going with 45. I've been pretty vocal about it: Naughty mode. Because spellcasters don't play Nice.

  11. Since you asked, whatever makes it easy to read is good, whether that's summaries or the script output, though I'd lean toward seeing the script. Screenshots could include the pictures. Thanks.

  12. I think you can just copy & paste the text, but also show important / pretty pictures as screenshots.

    As for "naughty / nice", it's been a very long time, but if my memory is correct, even in "naughty" mode you shouldn't expect more than fanservice and innuendo, much like in a Leisure Suit Larry game. So I'd say go with "naughty". :)