Monday, 30 March 2020

Game 118: Eric the Unready (1993) - Introduction

Written by TBD

Eric the Unready is the next graphic adventure game from Legend Entertainment, and the highest rated adventure game ever, according to Computer Game Review.

A quick glance at a screenshot shows that it uses essentially the same interactive fiction (with graphics) engine as Legend's other games, Spellcasting 101, Spellcasting 201, Timequest, Gateway and Spellcasting 301.

This is their penultimate[1] game using that engine, with the final game Gateway II: Homeworld, coming later in 1993. Their other game in 1993 is Companions of Xanth, which is a more standard 1990s graphic adventure.

As for the game, the title and name of the protagonist, Eric the Unready, likely gets its name from the historical English king, Ethelred the Unready. Though Eric's character has no basis on the historical person, and the name was likely chosen just because it seemed funny.

Ethelred the Unready, after learning the ways of the Force and constructing his own lightsaber

The designer of this game was Bob Bates, co-founder of Legend Entertainment. We've seen Bates' writing and design so far in Timequest (1991) and Gateway (1992). Joe Pranevich should also get to Bates' Infocom work during the Infocom Marathon, with Sherlock (1988) and Arthur (1989). Bates' love on Interactive Fiction hasn't waned, as his most recent work in Interactive Fiction was in 2017 with the kickstarted Thaumistry: In Charm's Way

Thaumistry's main character is named Eric Knight - a clear homage to this game's protagonist.

Like many games of 1993. the game came in both a diskette and a CD-ROM version, with the CD version released some months later. Unlike most CD versions, this CD version doesn't contain voiceovers for the characters, instead just adding animations, Super VGA graphics and a soundtrack. I'll be playing the Steam version, which appears to be the CD version, based on its not letting me forget that it has Super VGA graphics during the intro.

Wow. You really are proud of your colour pallette, aren't you?
Okay - enough with the Super VGA thing - I feel like I'm using the demo version of a word processor?

The introduction cutscene has our hero, Eric the Unready, go out to fight the dread Knight of the Black Pauldron.

The game gets its tone clear right out of the gate by playing happy, whimsical music and throwing out jokes about Eric's unreadiness.

If he didn't even bring that book with him, would he be called Eric the Extremely Unready?

He wins the battle in the standard comedy style of Inspector Clouseau - accidentally. Eric drops the book and his visor falls down. While trying to lift his visor he happens to be poking his lance upwards into what happens to be an apple tree. Apples rain down on the Knight of the Black Pauldron, knocking him off his horse and giving Eric an undeserved victory.

"Zounds!" quoth the Knight. "I thought thou were just happy to seest me."

After his success, a feast was held in Eric's honour, where he knocked over a pot of oil while toasting, burning down the entire feasting hall.

I think the guy in the green shirt died, because while the other guests left in the next frame, the green guy stayed there, transfixed by the flames.

It wasn't a surprise that this is not the first time Eric's clumsiness has caused problems, as his Shop Steward listed his previous highlights and put him on the equivalent of light duties suitable to his limited skillset.

And thus starts our first mission

The game then gives us our Legend Entertainment interface screen, which I expect to see a lot of.

From seeing the intro in both CD and Diskette versions, the most obvious difference, apart from the overly colourful SVGA stamp over the title card, was a pig squeal sound effect in the CD version and the higher resolution graphics, as seen below.

The graphics on the top have higher resolution, but is that enough difference to slap a big SVGA watermark all over the title?

As for how good the game is, though I believe I've heard the name, it's not what I would call a famous or popular title. But it seems it might have been more popular than I thought. 

It won Adventure Game of the Year from Computer Gaming World, along with Star Control II (a game that didn't even apppear in our list - mobygames lists it as an RPG)

It was Computer Game Review's highest rating adventure game ever - considering it's come after our current top games in Monkey Island 2 and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, that's an interesting statistic.

In an interview on Adventure Classic Gaming, Bob Bates said Eric the Unready was his favourite of all the games he's designed.

Even some of our other adventure game protagonists give their testimonials on the back cover.

So will I rate this game as the highest rating adventure game ever? Will it get our Adventure Game of the Year Award? Is it more fun than a barrel of monkeys? While I'm not expecting an all-time great, I am expecting to enjoy it. Playing through the first mission has been a good time so far, so I have high hopes for the game.

To give you a guide in your score guesses, so far our Legend games have scored, Spellcasting 101 - 48, Spellcasting 201 - 51, Timequest - 47, Gateway - 65 and Spellcasting 301 - 45., giving us a Legend average of  51!

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 me 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 I 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 50 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] Editor's footnote: TBD keeps trying to use the word penultimate instead of the more common term second last, which is easier to understand and contains less syllables. He won't stop until he finds the occasion where penultimate gives more information or less confusion, and is therefore the appropriate word for the occasion. This is not that occasion.


  1. "As for the game, the title and name of the protagonist, Eric the Unready, likely gets its name from the historical English king, Ethelred the Unready. Though Eric's character has no basis on the historical person, and the name was likely chosen just because it seemed funny."

    If it helps, I recall that the Digital Antiquarian had some actual Bob Bates quotes, through direct interview, elaborating about the circumstances under which the concept for this game's improbable protagonist emerged.

    1. Thanks. Just had a little read of Digital Antiquarian's Eric the Unready article and it does describe how the name came to him somewhat randomly while walking on the beach. If anyone wants more details of Bob coming up with the name and concept, check it out here...

  2. Don't really know much about this one. I tried playing the Spellcasting series but decided the humor wasn't for me. But, based on what others were saying, 61.
    Also, who the hell says second last in this context? Sounds fricking weird.

    1. I agree penultimate is the better word here, second last just sounds like they lost a race very badly. You always have penultimate episodes but you don't came in penultimate in the Grand Prix (like Mika Salo)

    2. What about "second to last"?

    3. I'm wondering, are the editor and TBD the same person? TBD is the poster too.

    4. Actually I've always used 'second last'. 'Second to last' sounds strange to me. Maybe it's an Australian thing, or maybe I'm just weird.

      Now that I'm thinking about it all options sound very weird, including 'next to last' and 'last but one'.

  3. I remember trying to play it once waaaay back, but did not go very far. I will predict 55, mostly because I am afraid of humour in such games.

  4. Man, I love the music in this one.

    What makes Eric the Unready work as an adventure game to me is how well it rewards exploring weird commands and incorrect puzzle solution attempts. In almost all adventures, you either take the designer's expected action or get a frustrating and unhelpful "can't do that" response; in Eric there are loads and loads of special responses for such cases.

  5. Since the Legend's games average score Is 51, that is the number i'll pick, cause i feel lazy right now

  6. Legend did make some surprisingly good games (though I never got into the Spellcasting series), but I actually haven't played this one. I'll guess 58.

  7. Way better than Spellcasting series, I'd say - 57.

  8. I will shoot for 60, the humour can go either way and I think this will decide if we get close to gateway or drop down to Spellcasting levels.

  9. I guess 60, and I'll try to play along.

  10. I'm guessing 55, lower than I probably should (for a weird reason I've always unconsciously associated this game with the unrelated "Erik the Viking" movie, which I hated) and will try to play along!

  11. Eric is a fantastic adventure, hilarious at times, and as Ilmari said, way better than the Spellcasting ones. I never managed to complete it with a perfect score: always missing the text-adventure trademark last lousy point, even if I know where it should be.

    For the score, let's say 59.

    1. So, I've decided to play along and provide some commentary, since it's been a long time from the last time I played this... and maybe this time I will get that last point...

  12. Can't wait for this one, it's one of Legend's finest, i'd say 61