C64 Nostalgia Review: Knights of Legend

A Birthday RPG

I cannot quite remember how I heard of Knights of Legend by Origin as a child.  It was either through an article or advertisement in a magazine that I bought at Waldenbooks called Computer Gaming World (CGW), although it could have been in a different magazine–I just can’t recall.  Regardless, I read either the article or adcopy (no internet/interwebs for public, only military/government at the time), and thought it was neat.  There was a go-to place that I found that would do mail-order for Commodore 64 games that I’d ordered from in the past, so I asked for this for my birthday.  I remember it coming on-time and after I got back from school and had dinner, cake, and ice-cream, I remember opening up the game and diving in.

The game came packed with 6 (!) floppy disks and a packed-in insert exhorting owners (of the IBM/IBM compatible versions) to get a hard drive and install it on there (a review I found said it had 4 disks, but I remember 6, though perhaps I’m wrong–I’ll check when I get home and revise this as necessary–regardless, it had many more than was normal for the time).  Now, understand, most games came on one floppy disk.  Sometimes the game might use front and back to store the floppy, but two disks were rare.  Some of the most intensive games out there used two disks and if they were really, really pushing the capabilities of the system, they might use up to 3-4 disks (for some reason, I’m thinking of the AD&D Gold Box games here), but for a game to need 6 disks was practically unheard of at the time.  Unfortunately, the C64 was older tech and did not have the option of adding a hard drive, something that was just starting to take hold in the PC/IBM computing space of the time, so I had to make do with the floppies.

Unique Races

Now, when I looked up this game on Wikipedia, I was fairly shocked to find that very few outlets seemed to have covered it and that it had an abysmal rating in the few outlets that did give it a look.  I (ultimately) thought it was a bad game (more on this in a moment), but I didn’t think (at least initially) that it was all that bad.

One of the things that this game had going for it was that it had (from what I recall), a fairly unique set of races.  What the game did was combine the RPG systems of race and class into one, so that whatever you picked determined your profession.  Some examples: a Kelden Cliff Guard, Ghor Tigress, or a Klvar Elf (a magic-user).  Each one of these is example of a race/nationality combined with a type of class to get your profession (fighter, magic-user, etc.).  At first, creating a class seemed really fun and unique and it occupied my time during the rest of the school year.  It wasn’t until the summer vacation/break that I was really able to dig into it and discover its flaws.

knights_of_legend_screenshot_indieretronews

Knights of Legend Screenshot.  Image Source: Indie Retro News.

Encumbrance and Fatigue System No Bueno

The real problem, I soon discovered when I tried to actually do anything is the problem that the game’s designer, Todd Mitchell Porter was 1) far too ambitious with the ideas that he implemented in the game for the technology of the time and 2) confused complexity with fun.  The game’s manual (which I’m holding in my hand as I write this post) is a whopping 142 pages in length.  (There are actual RPGs from that era that are shorter than this manual–yes, I acknowledge that they were mostly “home-brew” RPGs by amateurs or very small RPG companies, but still, the fact remains true).  I once had a professor note, as I had once praised a piece of criticism that was very long-winded, that just because it is long and involved, doesn’t necessarily make it good.  That’s the way that I feel about this game in hindsight.  Teenage me loved the sprawling “epicness” of the game for the sheer possibilities that it seemed to offer, but in actuality, the game collapsed under the weight of its own systems.

Case in point–the fatigue and encumbrance system.  Once you got out of the character creation system and outside of the town, into the wilds and into combat, that’s when the game fell apart.  The game used a “hit location” system, meaning that limbs could be incapacitated without killing the body and your characters were “flimsy” meaning that the weakest of strikes could render them critically injured, so the best strategy was to wear the heaviest armor you could find.  However, you could carry only so much, so that you’re armor and weapons weighed you down and every time you took an action, you became more and more fatigued until you couldn’t fight and had to rest.  In combat, this came to down to two results: 1) wear too light of armor and getting your party decimated or 2) wearing too heavy of armor and having your characters able to withstand encounters, but leaving you too fatigued to swing your weapons.

I once had a Kheldon fighter (who had wings and could fly), fly up to his opponent to attack, but after flying, he became exhausted and had to rest each and every turn because his weapons and armor kept him from recovering enough to do anything and the enemy slowly battered him to death.  I did win a couple of battles, but on the whole, I discovered that the entire system was broken because it prioritized “realism” over “fun.”  The possibilities that had seemed endless when I bought the game and when I was just creating characters, turned out to be limiting and frustrating when one actually played the game because of the way the systems interacted with one another.  Just because something works a certain way in real-life, doesn’t mean it should work that way in a game.

Needless to say, the game didn’t really receive a whole lot of attention after that summer. I dabbled with it here and there, but for the most part, it was back to AD&D Gold Box games until I got my first PC where I tried another Origin game, Wing Commander II by another visionary developer, Chris Roberts, that I found more to my liking.  But that’s another blog post, for another day.

Sidney




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What’s On My Bookshelf: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson (Signed Copy)

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 113
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1084 
  • Project Independence Word Count: 1723 
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12 (+1)

Summer Reading

So, I bought Brandon Sanderson’s novel Oathbringer (Stormlight Archives Book 3) for my birthday to read as a reward for finishing the Spring Semester.  This semester was so challenging that I was actually tempted (and actually tried) to read Oathbringer before the semester was over.  However, there is a prequel novella called Edgedancer that BS suggested reading before diving in Book 3 proper.  Luckily, MTSU’s Library had a copy and I’ve started reading it in preparation for book 3 in the series.  Today, I wanted to have a quick look at another book on my bookshelf, The Way of Kings (Stormlight Archives Book 1), which I was fortunate enough to have signed by Brandon Sanderson when he came to LibertyCon here is Chattanooga several years back.

The Way of Kings

Brandon Sanderson’s work is one of the few of the “New Generation” of fantasy writers that I like.  Even though George R. R. Martin has been around since the 80’s, his Game of Thrones series kicked off a resurgence of the GrimDark genre.  To be clear, GrimDark has always been around–Stephen R. Donaldson, a few of Piers Anthony’s early Sci-Fi works–not his YA or Fantasy, per se, and Dave Duncan–are just a few writers that immediately spring to mind whose works that I’ve read (and disliked) because of the GrimDark elements  Most writers of Sanderson’s generation are (of course) seeing the popularity (and dollar signs) of GoT and are  trying to emulate his success with their own versions.  Sanderson, however, tells a very different tale–one that, while having its own grim elements, eschews GrimDark for a more hopeful and elegant premise.  The hero is flawed, but not in a “antihero” sort of way, but more in that he keeps trying to protect, but it all seems to come to naught and he is so very tired of not succeeding.  In an era of “Me Too” GoT clones, this was very refreshing.  The world was very well built and I like the way Sanderson plots (he thinks up big, “set-piece” moments and then writes to those moments).  The ending has a bit of twist and ultimately it was the hero and the ending that sold me on the story.

Life Before Death

So, the above heading is the “creed” of one of the forgotten orders of (this world’s) “knights” in the book and is what Brandon Sanderson inscribed on my copy of the book when he came for LibertyCon..  He was very nice and must say that I enjoyed meeting him.  I was, surprisingly, tongue-tied but mentioned that that I was a librarian when I asked him to sign my A.R.C. (Advanced Reader’s Copy) version of the book that I had been given by another librarian a year (or two) earlier.  He was very respectful and said that he enjoyed meeting librarians and the the A.R.C. was fairly rare in that there weren’t many printed and signed my copy.  It is still a treasured addition to my collection even all these years later.  I can only hope that, if ever I reach my goal of being a published speculative fiction novelist, that I am as gracious and nice as Brandon Sanderson was during that event.

Anyway, that’s all for today.  If you’re in to Fantasy in any way, I would highly recommend checking out this series, starting with The Way of Kings.  It is an awesome start to an awesome series by an awesome author!

Here’s hoping you have a good week! 🙂

Sidney




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What’s on my Bookshelf? Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag for the PS4

Sorry, but this blog post won’t be extremely detailed today.  I’m feeling under the weather today with a bit of a fever and sore throat.

Assassin’s Creed Series

So, I own all of the major in-line Assassin Creed games.  I bought the first Assassin’s Creed game when it came out for the Playstation 3 and marveled at its brilliance.  And then I couldn’t figure out how to play it as I’d never really played an open-world game before.  I had to play InFamous, a superhero open-world game to figure it out.  Once I did so, Assassin’s Creed II was released and I’ve finished every game in the mainline series to date (haven’t gotten AC: Origins yet–the latest one).

A Pirate’s Life

So, many people consider Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag to be a “pirate simulator.”  It gives you a pretty good approximation of being a pirate with sailing, swashbuckling, and boarding ships, all with the backdrop of Assassin’s Creed lore in the Caribbean setting.  While not my favorite AC game, it was still enjoyable.  I didn’t really like the ending, but it was still an enjoyable experience.  I would rate it a B if I had to grade it (not my favorite, but definitely above average).

Too Many Side Activities

Much of the problem lies in the fact of the “Ubification” of the game–too much stuff to do in order to pad the game’s playtime.  I wouldn’t mind finding the “sea chanties” for the crew to sing as the ship sailed along, but having to “chase” them down, only to have them reset if they “got away” is one of many “tasks” that just exists to waste time, so that 1) you play that game–and only that game–for a long period of time, and 2) along with that, as long as you’re playing the game, you’re not trading it in or giving it friends, etc.  Every since AC III, expansion of game-time has been a primary staple of AC games.

Anyway, I don’t want to badmouth the game.  I think that it is a very good game that I’m proud to have on my bookshelf.

Sidney



What’s on My Bookshelf? Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy Extended Edition (Movie)

Movies and Video Games

I have two main types of Bookshelves–one for books and one for movies and video games.  I have multiple bookcases, but it basically breaks out into these two types.   This week I’m picking from my movie and video game bookshelf and I’ll probably alternate between the two each week.

The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy Extended Edition

The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy Extended Edition is in my Top Ten Movies of all time.  This is very much the fantasy complement to Star Wars and is second only to SW as my favorite movie trilogy of all time.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to see the first two movies in the theaters, but I saw them on Blu-Ray later.  I actually didn’t see the theatrical release–but waited until the individual releases of the Extended Editions.  I’ve always wondered how I would have liked these movies had I saw them in theaters–the scale would have been epic, but I really like all the additional material that the EE brings to the story.  I think that Tolkien would have approved as he was adamant about history providing additional context and believability to his stories.

The Extra Stuff

While the movies are amazing and are a must see if you haven’t already, it is the extras on the disc that are really the reason why I like it.  These are the same extras as on the individual releases of the Blu-Rays, but I really like the extra information about Tolkien, about the construction of Middle Earth, about the construction of the movies, and about the way the movies came together.  The level of detail about the extras is astounding and has come to form the way I view extras in movie releases.  The nascent creator in me definitely approves–I always appreciate a look behind the “curtain” as it were.

Here’s hoping for a good week for all!

Sidney




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Bedtime Books: Legend of the Five Rings (RPG)

When I was a child, I had a curfew of 10pm, which meant that I had to be in bed by that time.  Luckily, I didn’t have to actually be asleep by that time.  I couldn’t watch TV (not part of the curfew), but I could read.  And so, like any enterprising boy who didn’t really want to lie down and go to sleep, I read . . . and read . . . and read.  I usually read for about 45 minutes to an hour, though sometimes I stretched it a little.  I can only remember getting into trouble one time for staying up too late as my family was huge on reading.

I relate this story because I discovered that I don’t really read at night any more–haven’t for a while.  I had a reading light when I was a child, but the overhead ceiling lights aren’t really conducive to reading in preparation for bed.  Luckily, over the past year I found a nice lamp that doubles as a good reading light so, periodically, I’ve been experimenting with reading at night like I used to as a child.  I haven’t been able to find the right book . . . until now.  Most of the books that I read are novels and I tend to devour them, especially now that I have so little reading time.  I tend to read too long and  stay up too late reading.

However, after much trial and error, I’ve finally found (hopefully) a genre of books that seem to work as bedtime reading–not too boring that it will put me to sleep immediately and not too dramatic that I stay up too late reading: Role-playing Games (RPGs).  The one I’m reading now is called  Legend of the Five Rings and it is a Fantasy RPG that merges a fantasy land with martial arts and magic.  Right now I’m reading the “history” of the world, which is a fantasy mash-up of the long history of countries like China and Japan.  It is interesting enough as I’m a History minor and love the history behind the world, but not riveting enough to keep me from putting it down when I finally feel tired.  I’m able to get ideas for future stories while reading, but I’m also able to rest as well.  It will be quite a while before I finish it–it is after all a 338 page book with double columns, but hopefully it will help me both sleep and be productive with story ideas at the same time.

Sidney
Read Skin Deep for Free at Aurora Wolf
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One Down, Two To Go

Citizen X
So, the disadvantage to being able to check your email on your phone means that you are never “disconnected.”  During a bit of downtime during the Super Bowl on this past Sunday, I happened to check my phone and saw that I had an email from the market where Citizen X was on the short list.  I also noticed just by the first sentence that it was a Rejection Notice (You can always tell a Rejection Notice by the way it starts–that “formality” that we all shift into whenever we have to tell another person bad news).  It didn’t put a damper on the game/commercials/fun of the evening, but it was distracting.  Something that I wished that I could have seen on Monday morning, rather than on Sunday evening.  Ah, well, that’s life.  At least, it was short-listed.

Silence Will Fall
I should probably here of SWF’s fate shortly.  The email mentioned early February is when the market whose short-list SWF is on would make a decision.  HawkeMoon was on the short-list at this market as well, but it didn’t make it, but who knows if SWF will make it or not.  I like Silence Will Fall quite a bit, but then I liked HawkeMoon as well, so its always a bit of a “crapshoot.”  There’s a movie coming out soonish that seems to have the same take on SWF (i.e., if you make noise, bad things will happen, but it looks to be a “zombie” movie, rather than a science fiction one).  I hope that the movie doesn’t render my story as an “also-ran” because mine was conceived first and deals with a science fiction concept, but the key idea of “sound” is in both which may be detrimental to my being able to market it in the future (i.e., we’ve seen that concept already in such-and-such movie).

Here Be Monsters
While this one isn’t on a short-list, it is still out for consideration at a market with an upcoming anthology.  Don’t know if the editor is going to choose this story or not.  He’s accepted one story and rejected two others, so far I believe (going by what has been reported via authors who track their stories on Duotrope.  However, my story is one of at least 17 submissions (again, based on Duotrope’s tracking) still awaiting a decision.  Nothing to do here except be patient and see what happens.

Upcoming
Rather than just resting on my laurels, I am actively working on trying to finish the rough draft of Project Skies (the short story with Skye to discover her character)–I am currently drafting section 3 of 3, revising All Tomorrow’s Children to start submitting (I’m currently revising section 2 of 3), researching my next story, Project OPaK.  I had to go all the way back to June of last year to discover the name that I’d given this project.  I also noticed that I really like to introduce Projects, but I’m much slower at finishing them (a blog post for another time).  I have photocopied research for this project and I will transition into Project OPaK as soon as I finish Project Skies.

New Year, New Project: Introducing Project Sea

So the first of the new projects that I’m planning is a new short story that I’m calling Project Sea for the moment.  It is in “preproduction” stage throughout the month of January.  I have a small book that I’m reading in addition to try to gain the requisite knowledge for it as it involves sailing vessels, pirates, and voyages on the high seas.  I’m not a sailor, nor am I a sailing person, but I would like to get the nautical usage correct.  I’m a fan of Robert Silverberg and if I remember correctly, the first book of Silverberg’s Valentine novels (Lord Valentine’s Castlefeatured an extended voyage at sea with a cast motley characters.  This is what I’m looking for in this project.

I don’t want to go too into detail or depth so as 1) not to reveal, but 2) also not to write away the surprise of the first rough draft when I finally get to writing it at the end of the month.  Right now, I’m focusing on characters, their motivations, and (surprisingly) plot as this is one of the few stories where the action of what happens is nebulous for me.  Right now, I only have the world really clear in my mind and I’m trying to flesh out some of why the world works as it does and the characters that inhabit this world.

My ultimate goal is to have characters (goals, motivations, character change), plot (beginning, middle, end) and setting (why does the world look/act as it does) planned through January and write a 1 or 2 page Rough Draft during the last couple of days of January.  I then plan on putting it away for a while and pull it out again later in the year to Revise into a “Working Draft.”

Below is the trailer to Skull and Bones, a new game from Ubisoft coming later in 2018 that is a partial inspiration to this project.  It really only inspired one potential character, but it does also give a visual sense of what I’m trying to achieve in my story.

 

That’s all for today.  I hope you have a great day!

Sidney
Read Skin Deep for Free at Aurora Wolf
Read Childe Roland for Free at Electric Spec