The great GameFAQs review competition and my memories of it, pt 3
April 10, 2009

Subtitle: 13 short reviews and what became of them.

Is this tooting my own horn? Yes, a bit. But in case anyone here came to write about reviews to work on other things, I think it's fair to say that it can lead to bigger things and not just better reviews. In a way, this bigger faq/review stuff may have come at the expense of my own "real" writing. The FAQs I wrote this week didn't seem like much, but they were exhausting.

2400 AD: I wrote a web page with JavaScript to simulate walking up and down the levels of this game. It's one you can just plow through. A few years later, someone wrote to me about how you could use a jetpack to go over a conveyor belt that was supposed to guard the big bad computer, cutting short a huge cavernous adventure down a few levels and back up.

Archon II: I wrote my first guide for this, and it took 3-4 years to bring it out of actual question-and-answer format.

Centauri Alliance: This was a painful game on the Apple II because you got attacked and 90% likely killed every 3 squares in the final dungeon. Emulation allowed me a better save-and-restore method than what they had, and it sped up the boring hyperspace between spaceports, which really bogged the game down. I got outbid on a "Quest for Clues" book on eBay at the last second around 2001. The seller was kind enough to mail me a xerox copy of the CA section. I am glad I was audacious enough to ask. Hey, I bucked the price up by a lot more than the cost of a stamp. Then I got the edition of QfC with Centauri Alliance hints a lot cheaper in a later auction($8 vs $17). I wrote out a bunch of maps to my webpage but took years to post them to GameFAQs.

Championship Lode Runner: One of my first guides and still a bang-up game. I wrote a C program to extract all the levels, and I have an old web page that uses javascript to show them. And hey, I'm still finding remakes of Lode Runner with great action puzzles. I remember being an 8-year-old whose parents inherited a pile of pirated disks, upset I couldn't figure such a neat looking game out. Then typing "Catalog" and realizing ctrl-k made the keyboard. I think this game singlehandedly led me to prefer keyboard controls and has probably been a big reason I look for accelerators/hotkeys today. I thought customizing the game speed was SO cool.

Deathlord: This game's almost a part of me. It's scary. I bought it in 1986 and joked I'd be in college by the time I finished it(it actually took til Y2K, when I had a job.) At first, I wrote my mapmaker, which was black and white and very clunky. Then I added color. Then I managed to draw icons faithful to the original file, and then I was able to write in to/from teleports for the weirder dungeons. Unfortunately the maps were 1024x1024, and the textures were somewhat unreadable. This was in 2002. 5 years later I redid the icon maps into much simpler and managed to find a slick way to describe the teleports. I'm especially pleased with how I mapped the Telegrond Dungeon here. Then with the maps pretty much done, I found an awesome bug that gives your $100 holy symbol near-infinite uses.

Decathlon: Well, when I found out about emulation, I whipped this game. A lot of Apple games could've afforded some speeding up. This one, I slowed down. For the 100 meter dash you'd hit two keys in rapid succession, and I was able to make it across in 2.8 seconds apparently. I remember barely beating Bruce Jenner's record before Dan O'Brien et al. With emulation, I shattered the new record, too. I even beat the Russian and Chinese scores from the cheaters in the TI-99 version of the game.

Dragon Wars: Another game I put maps on for my website, before rejigging them with my new map editor. I've replayed through it several times, but I didn't clinch an easy way through until I realized you can give everyone 20 strength and use the underworld to get to the mystic wood. Have them fight Enkidu. Then restart the game with your characters. Repeat, etc. Boom! Druid spells for everyone. Easy re-healing. Oh, there's also the regenerating +5 attributes trick to schlep on top of that. But even without that cheat, I figured a relatively straightforward way to waste Long John Ugly in the bottleneck fight midway through the game. It took a few tries through.

Jawbreaker: this game wasn't worth a FAQ(or not yet, maybe if I'm bored and unscrupulous enough to write one for HG Points) because the pattern is terribly easy. But I loved how it ripped off Gobbler(harder, as monsters were more random,) which ripped off Pac-Man.

Magic Candle: It took forever to write a guide for this game. The Apple images were corrupt, but the Commodore worked great. Oh, I was surprised at the terrible color of the PC games. But Magic Candle wasn't done yet. I discovered Rings of Zilfin, the predecessor, later. Then Keys to Maramon, then Magic Candle II, III and Bloodstone--all three exhausting games. DosBox helped tremendously. I needed 2 passes through the FAQ for some of these games, and while I output some literal maps that took up a ton of space, eventually I was able to go with pared down maps that were less than 1 byte per pixel square. 16 bit compressed PNGs can get small. Jason Spangler was an immense help to me on this. I think he saved my original high detail maps I posted to Earthlink. I'm so glad I got to play the sequels, because they are such fun to figure how to go through quickly. The graphics are beautiful, but they are fun games to think about when you are away. Oh, and on a side note, my Bloodstone review placed 13th in Review of the Day(it was Monday, big update) when the GameFAQs board was active. It won Review of the Month, my most satisfying such win. Boo-yah!

Type Attack: I never found an Apple disk image for this game, but I eventually discovered the Atari 800 version in late 2007, so I FAQed it. The time I wasted making my own silly easy levels on this game is overshadowed by the time quicker typing saves me. I know there are freeware flash games that are similar now, but the dancing letters after four successful levels are not to be missed, if you enjoy old-school emulation.

Wasteland: Another game I finally got around to mapping after five years or so. Some people didn't like my Comic Sans font for the sewers and Base Cochise. I started with the maps for the critical parts, but then I decided to start contribution-total-whoring, and I sent in maps for a lot of the small cities. I'd always wanted to map Las Vegas out fully, and Wasteland fans can see its nuances here. The FAQ won FotM. Which surprised me--Ranger HQ is the best overall Wasteland resource out there(I was semi-heartened to see others found the cheat with the 3-point skills,) but after several times through, I was able to put together my own ideas of where to go first, what to do, etc. Ranger HQ even explains the level rankings, for those curious. I advise you to build up climbing skill, buy a shovel, go to the basement of a Spade's casino, step on the pile and hold down escape. Using climb gives each character 10 experience to turn. I got to Jerk within two hours.

Wizard's Crown: This game's message board housed one of the longest running topics on GameFAQs. Then the board invaders hit. The topic creator used a little pull to delete the more egregious spams in the nick of time, before it got shut down. We posted slowly on it, and it lasted seven years total. It was one of the first games I mapped out, and while it wasn't hard, it led to the enjoyable sequel Eternal Dagger. And I still love the ticker-scoreboard quick-combat summaries it gives. Best memory? Beating Tarmon and his minions in quick combat--you see, he is tough otherwise as he destroys magic weapons that attack him. Also, realizing that the game takes party position into account even when in quick combat. It does the tactical combat in its head. Another example of my gaining respect for a game on the Nth replay through.

Fool's Errand: Someone else already FAQed this on GameFAQs, and another website had graphic solutions. There's a reason it's popular. Go play it if you haven't! (Incidentally the only PC game on the list. Though at the time it was "Dos/Windows." A year or two later I blundered asking for Dos/Windows games at the GameStop in Golf Mill, some of my finest unintentional comedy ever. Then I made the blunder of buying a few lame ones, when there were so many good abandonware games on the 'net.)

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zigfried zigfried - April 11, 2009 (05:15 AM)
This reminds me that I really need to go back and play Dragon Wars. I got stuck way back when and couldn't progress any further (I was on some island, as I recall, which is probably a really stupid thing to say as the game was set in an archipelago). But it was an island. Yeah.

//Zig
aschultz aschultz - April 11, 2009 (10:11 AM)
I'm a bit surprised you got stuck--the games you review seem to be much tougher than DW, and I bet you're probably missing something you'll kick yourself for later. Or maybe I am just forgetting how tough it was my first time through. I've beaten it 10x, mostly because I have mapped it out/written a guide.

There's actually very little that is -specifically- critical to the game. You have a lot of quests for cool items. If you just want to get through the game and don't mind cheating, let me know. I put a few cheats on GameFAQs for the Apple version. They should translate to the PC too.

There were a few roadblocks in DW. I think the big ones fight wise were the Murk Trees guarding critical points, the fight with Long John Ugly, and some of the Namtar fights.

There are, of course, heinously fun ways to cheat so you can blow everyone away. I don't know if you go in for that. And there are also good experience mills.

The paragraph manual, the Apple disk images, and other stuff are available over the web.
aschultz aschultz - April 11, 2009 (10:16 AM)
Word association time if you want to remember where you got stuck.

Tars Ruins
Phoebus
Mystic Wood
Lansk
Mud Toad(City)
Lanac'Toor's Library
Kingshome
Byzanople
Siege Camp
Snake Pit
Dwarf Clan Hall
Long John Ugly
Necropolis
Dragon Valley
Freeport
Rustic
Scorpion Bridge
Magic College
Game Preserve
Sunken Ruins
Salvation
Nisir
sashanan sashanan - April 15, 2009 (03:07 AM)
It was your early work on classic games that inspired me to contributing. I had the same problem then as I do now and possibly even worse on not owning any of the systems that held the popular games, and like most newcomers to GameFAQs, I had the initial impression that's all that you could write for. When I noticed Apple II reviews by your hand as well as guides for older PC games that even I owned, I got to writing myself.

And yes, your blog post reminds me also of the fact that I own the Interplay collection which holds, among others, the original Bard's Tale, Dragon Wars and Wasteland, all painfully unfinished. And the latter two have that thing where the game says "read paragraph X" and you have to refer to your manual (which I had to print out, no task switching in the DOS era!) to find out what was going on. And of course the manual was riddled with humorous fake paragraphs too that berated you for reading paragraphs you weren't instructed to go to.
aschultz aschultz - April 15, 2009 (10:41 AM)
The humorous fake paragraphs were the best. I enjoyed the whole storyline in Wasteland. Dragon Wars has a few excellent ones. Including one where the paragraph cuts off and it looks like you're in big trouble, but then the in-game text does a reverse.

Thanks for the credit and mention. I'm glad I could do something to help someone else do things. It's weird, I imagined someone else would've done a lot more than I did, already, but I was lucky I was able to find a niche for what I liked to do. You do too. I mean, there are C64 games I'll never be able to attack, so every time you post a review or FAQ about one, I can live through it vicariously.
zigfried zigfried - April 18, 2009 (11:39 AM)
It may have been Kingshome. It was basically an abandoned place where a king had lived. I was trying to go on a pilgrimage or something.

I was pretty strong, I just didn't know where to go or what to do. It seemed like I had done everything I possibly could!

//Zig

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