Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year! Plus a new Newsletter Preview (featuring the return of "Terminological Inexactitudes”).

I just wanted to wish everyone in the Eamon community a safe and happy new year. You are all fantastic, interesting people and I think it's amazing how many cool new friends I have made through our common interest that strange, unforgettable creation. I find it quite impressive that, not only is Eamon the oldest gaming system in history that is still in use today, but, in over 30 years, very little has changed regarding the look, design and game play between the current version (Eamon Deluxe 5.0) and Donald Brown's original incarnation (which, to this day, I still feel was nothing short of the work of a genius game designer and programmer.)

In the spirit of celebrating
New Years Eve and whatever interesting new things 2013 has in store for us, I have decided to post here a preview of an article I recently wrote for the upcoming January, 2013 Eamon Deluxe Newsletter. Thomas suggested that we include more variety than simply his editorial and a string of adventure reviews and I agreed. After much pondering of what exactly to to write about for my contribution, I decided it would be a lot of fun to bring back a popular section which used to infrequently appear in the old NEUC and, later on, EAG newsletters.

So, Happy New Year, everyone! And, without further ado, here's a preview from next month's newsletter...


Things appearing in this column must not be confused with actual facts.

Are Don Brown and Jon Walker really the same person?

According to longtime Eamon fan and Wikipedia enthusiast, Huw Williams, the Father of Eamon donned the Johnny Walker moniker and created an intentionally poor quality Eamon system for the PC to weaken the competition when sales of his SwordThrust series were not lucrative. "I actually now use Gmail for everything;" Williams stated on a recent Guild blog post "[and, while corresponding with Don Brown, I] may have been talking to the [person known as ‘Jon Walker’ all along.]"

"It makes sense," said Nathan Segerlind (recipient of the 2005 Ackermann Award and the Association for Symbolic Logic's 2004 Sacks Prize). Any logical programmer understands numbering in the abstract and therefore will always start counting at zero rather than one. If you exclude "The Beginner's Cave" and "Search for the Key", Don Brown wrote exactly 9 Eamons. 9+0=9 and there are 9 characters in the string "Don Brown," while the string "Jon Walker" has 10 characters. 9+1=10, therefore "Jon Walker" comes next in the sequence." Segerlind then laughed and said, "It's so easy, even Mr. Roessler could have figured it out!"

Several messages were left for Mr. Brown to verify or deny these rumors, but so far he has not replied back...

Adventure in Interzone in IMAX 3D?

Why did the public release of Eamon Deluxe 5.0 take so long? Some say it is because of the high amount of quality attached to the work as well as Thomas Ferguson constantly flooding the author with new material, dug from the bowels of the "interwebs"; others believe it is because Eamon Deluxe creator, Frank Black, was also busy writing and pitching his screen play for a full length movie based upon his popular 1994 Eamon adventure.

According to sources close to the Black household "a really major" movie studio has picked Interzone 3D up and hired "SeƱor Spielberg" to direct. "John Depp" has agreed to play the leading role of your old friend A.J., with a back up cast that includes "Billy Crystals", "George Crooney" and "Sarah M. Gellar".

When asked about it, Frank replied, "Have you seen my glasses? I just set them down..." and, when pressed for details as to the film’s impending release date for local theaters he added, "They should be around here somewhere. They have tape on them, but the tape is the same color as the frames so you can't really tell it is on there... Maybe I left them upstairs?"

We are predicting a release date March, 2013.

Eamon fans continue to torment confused rapper in a case of mistaken identity!

Sources report that a 5'8" Irish/Italian "Ho-Rap" artist named Eamon Jonathan Doyle, who has only once had a hit song in his 23 year career, continued to be flooded with emails, blog posts and guest book signings intended for the Eamon Adventurer's Guild last night.

The 30 year old entertainer who saw some brief record sales from 2003 to 2004 reported that he was "frustrated" and "upset" because every time he sees that his inbox has new messages he gets excited with hope of his career being revived, only to have that dream quickly shattered by a barrage of messages and posts which were actually meant for users and fans of the various Eamon gaming systems.

"I don't know what these people want from me!" an anxious Doyle stated, going on to say, "I can't even understand what they are saying! It's like they are speaking in some sort of codes half the time.

“I was supposed to open for Brittany Spears from June to August 2004," Doyle later informed us without provocation, "but ended up staying home after she [Spears] hurt herself making a video and cancelled the tour. I've pretty much just been living with my folks since then, trying to get another record deal or go on a tour with someone.

Scrunching up his eyebrows in thought as he tried to read yet another message meant for the Guild, Doyle mumbled, “I bought this computer back when I had a Top Ten hit on the charts...but I really only use it to find adult material and look for rap jobs on Craigslist now." Adding, "It still uses Windows 95, so it can be kind of slow on the internet. That gives me time to write more rap songs though, so I don’t mind it most of the time..."

Doyle then appeared to express a sense of hope and relief as he showed us the message inbox at his hotmail account which glowed with the mark of over 100 new messages across his beaming face. The glow quickly faded, however, and Doyle returned to a confused state of dismay as he started another attempt to read the series of messages intended for members of the Eamon Adventurer's Guild. "This may take a while," he warned us, “you can go watch TV if you want or see what’s in the fridge...”

Requests to forward the misdirected mail over to the Adventurer's Guild were met with only more confusion as an exasperated Doyle offered, "Maybe I should just change my name... Or upgrade to Windows 98 and get a mouse with one of those little wheels in between the buttons? I don't know, it's a lot to think about right now."

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Happy Holidays from the Dungeons (of Interzone).

[Edited to ATTACK TYPOS on: 12/23/2012]
I just wanted to say best wishes and happy holidays to anyone who reads this blog and/or is a fan/creator/past associate/groupie of any version of the Eamon gaming system.

Extra special thanks to everyone who helped me play test, improve and promote the Eamon Deluxe 5.0 revision. That "little" project, which I initially predicted would take two or three months, ended up taking approximately one year of nearly-full time work to finish up into a public-download-friendly release and I hope people are now having fun with it.

Extra, extra special thanks to Matthew Clark and Bill Martens for the web hosting and server access which has been an incredible help and resource to me, and also to Thomas Ferguson for all his fantastic editorial contributions, successful "lost adventure" archeological expeditions, and plethora of other contributions he has made to the Eamon community.

I'm quite exhausted from the Eamon Deluxe 5.0 project so I'm officially taking the rest of the year off to enjoy some mental R and R. I'm still checking my email and will happily reply to any messages, bug reports, etc., it just may take me a little longer than usual.

So, once again, happy holidays to all the Eamon aficionados out there; best wishes, I hope everyone is doing well, and I'll see y'all next year.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Eamon Deluxe 5.0 Public Beta is Ready

The public beta of Eamon Deluxe 5.0 is now available for download and ready to serve all of your dragon-slaying, dungeon-exploring, spell-casting, and Shopping-Mall-shopping needs. Eamonauts can download all flavors of Eamon Deluxe 5.0 here.

In addition, this will be the first time that Derek C. Jeter's "Stronghold of Kahr-Dur" is available. As mentioned in an earlier post, the adventure is superbly written and ought to please both salty Eamon veterans and newcomers alike.

So mix yourself a Double Dragon Blomb and fire up the computer (or your Nintendo Wii). There's adventuring to do!

Note: VI Mode currently only works with computers using a 32 bit Windows operating system. Alternately, Windows 7 64 bit users can install Virtual PC for free from Microsoft's website; Win 7 Pro users can the run Eamon Deluxe in "XP Mode", however Win 7 Home users have to build a virtual machine using a real XP disc or ISO. VI Mode will not work on OSX but may work in Linux via the "DOS Emu" emulator, though this feature has not yet been tested.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Eamon Deluxe 5.0 for Nintendo Wii

I now have Eamon Deluxe running on the Nintendo Wii. It is a fully functional copy which contains all of the options and features of every other version available. The only requirements are a writable SD card, the DOSBox app and a USB keyboard. Go count rats in the Beginner's Cave or get lost wandering about The Shopping Mall... all from the comfort of your living room.

I do apologize for the poor picture quality, I took them using my phone and a stone age TV, plus I didn't have time to edit them as I had not planned to have something this cool working tonight. It was kind of a spur of the moment idea and the actual screen display is much clearer than these pictures would indicate. Even if they were a bit fuzzy, though, who would complain? It's Eamon on the Wii. How fun is that? It has been a good year for the Guild indeed.

This version will be available for download within the next few days, along with packages for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. And, as a holiday gift to the Eamon Community, I'm adding the option to launch other DOS programs instead of Eamon Deluxe at start up, including an interactive menu that lets you navigate folders and select programs manually saved in the Eamon Deluxe home folder on the SD card and attempt to launch it. Want to play oh... say, "Wasteland" or "King's Quest" on your Wii? Simply copy them onto your SD card, pop it in the Wii and let Eamon Deluxe do all the mounting, configuring and other such work for you.

And, yes, I know that there is a big question which will be first on everyone's mind, so I will save us all time and answer it right now: Yes, Eamon Deluxe on the Wii really does have 100% of the features and functionality as the other versions, so no worries, I assure everyone that they can still play the beloved Beagle Bros game, Hang Person!

Eamon Deluxe was made cross-platform compatible by the work of the DOSBox Team. Stop by their homepage and give them a hug (or a small donation) sometime. Happy holidays and best wishes to everyone in the Eamon community.


Saturday, December 01, 2012

Reviews for newest Eamon adventure, "Stronghold of Kahr-Dur".

In this previous post, I mentioned a new Eamon Deluxe adventure and promised to release a stand alone copy along with a review. Shortly after that, I (optimistically?) thought that Eamon Deluxe was going to be ready for public release and, since it would be included, delayed putting together the stand alone copy. Obviously there was much more work to be done on Eamon Deluxe than I predicted and somehow I managed to completely forget about posting anything more about the adventure on the blog.

Although I did email the author copies of the reviews I received, I do feel a bit bad for not giving his very well written adventure the attention it deserved. Eamon Deluxe actually is about to be released this time, so it will be made available with the full system rather than as a stand alone, but here are the two reviews which were written for that newest entry into the Eamon adventure library, "Stronghold of Kahr-Dur" by Derek C. Jeter. (Screen shots were posted with the previous blog.)

Derek has also announced that he is working on a second adventure! He recently posted a screen shot on the Eamon Guild's facebook page.

Eamon Deluxe adventure #24
The Stronghold of Khar-Dur
by Derek C. Jeter

Description: You are milling about the hall of free adventurers when the burly Irishman approaches. "A raven just arrived carrying a message for you," he says grimly. You take the piece of parchment from him and read the hastily scribbled letter. It is from your brother, Jollifrud, who lives in the wealthy city of Fharnor.

He states that a terrible menace has haunted a long-abandoned mountain fortress, known as Kahr-Dur, that overlooks the town. This unnamed menace has been quietly kidnapping the city's denizens during the night which has led to a general state of fear and anxiety. Even worse, Jollifrud's daughter Lady Mirabelle is among those who have been seized. He begs you to journey to Fahrnor and help him rid the city of this great evil once and for all...

Reviewed By: Thomas Ferguson
Special Features: Difficulty scales to character's level, Atmospheric effects
Playing Time: 1-2 hours
Reviewer Rating: 9                  Average Rating: 8.5 (from 2 reviews)
Difficulty Rating: 7                   Average Rating: 7

Comment: "Stronghold of Kahr-Dur" was initially described to me as having a "classic Eamon" flavor and I think this is an apt assessment. The plot is a straightforward "damsel in distress" scenario, paying homage to the classic dungeon crawls of yesteryear, with a heroic companion by the player's side and nasty enemies to defeat. "Stronghold," however, is by no means a derivative work.

Where this adventure shines, I think, is in its execution. The descriptions of rooms and artifacts are detailed and moody while avoiding being verbose. The design is likewise excellent; the different areas of the map are very distinct from one another and are naturally laid out. While the puzzles tend to involve a fair amount of backtracking to complete, the layout of the map prevents this from making such forays overly tedious.

There is a very effective blend of fighting the bad guys and solving puzzles. On the former point, the author has added a nice feature that assigns the attributes of the enemies based on the values of the adventurer's strongest weapon; this ensures that the difficulty scales to meet the experience of the character. Though going through "Stronghold" with a brand-new character saw him swiftly trounced, playing with my old standby adventurer, wielding a souped-up canister of Smylex (retrieved from "Batman!!" in the Worst of the Classic Adventures collection), still proved a challenge. The puzzles can be intuitively solved without resorting to using the HINTS command though still demand some reasoning on the part of the player. In short, little in "Stronghold" is outright given to the player; success must be earned.

"Stronghold" also takes pains to incorporate a number of effects and special features and they are employed successfully due to their subtlety. Often, special effects in Eamon, when present, tend to come off as gimmickry; in the case of "Stronghold," effects are employed seamlessly to add to the atmosphere of the map. I was surprised after looking "under the hood" at the number of effects programmed into the adventure; I'd been enjoying the adventure too much during the playthroughs to notice that they were being employed. And this is precisely how it ought to be.

A further, satisfying feature of the adventure is the clearly outlined quest and the explicit indication in the endgame of having "won" or "lost." I'd have preferred to have read a bit more storyline detailing what happens after the player leaves the fortress- Eamon in general tends to be unbalanced in its proportion of prologue to epilogue- but the mere acknowledgement that the player has been successful is enough to make "Stronghold" stand in distinction to most of the [Eamon] canon.

The writing and programming of "Stronghold of Kahr-Dur" are top notch. While itsauthor doesn't try and reinvent the wheel, the adventure succeeds in refining many of the traditional tropes of Eamon to produce one of the best "dungeon crawls" Eamon has seen.

Reviewed By: Luke Hewitt
Reviewer Rating: 8                    Average Rating: 8.5 (from 2 reviews)
Difficulty Rating: 7                     Average Rating: 7

Comment: The best summation of stronghold is that it is what many of the more childish, combat-heavy classic adventures hoped to be when they grew up. The plot is absolutely typical of the genre: An evil necromancer is causing havoc in a far off town, kidnapping an important lovely damsel along the way (these evil sorcerers really should learn to only kidnap ugly, unimportant people). However, what really stands out in this game is the staggeringly good atmosphere that Derek has managed to create. Though there are many, many empty rooms in the large map, I never felt bored or uninterested since even the majority of empty rooms still have detailed descriptions which are not limited to visible objects and features, but distinct smells and sounds as well. A nice touch of special programming also comes into play as it randomly flags up extra atmospheric effects such as gusts of wind, distant howling, feelings of fear and other contributions to the already stunning environment.

I was extremely pleased to find that the dusty, abandoned castle where you first start out is not the only environment you visit in this map either, as I later progressed to a dark and rugged series of caves, a gloomy forest, and other unique settings. As I mentioned already, the overall map is quite large and this is definitely an Eamon for explorers since several later portions of the game can become rather maze-like; though I encountered no "trick" exits or random room connections: and it's possible to navigate without getting lost as long as you keep track of where you have been and where you haven't explored yet.

One thing I did find a little jarring in this adventure is the total absence of embedded artifacts. I was occasionally quite sorry to have a fascinating object such as a statue of a warrior or a wizard's tome mentioned in a description, but not be able to examine it. Though, once I stopped trying to EXAMINE things, I came to appreciate how the artifacts that did exist were used in clever and interesting ways to create puzzles without the use of embedded objects. I can clearly understand the logic and reasoning behind the author's choice of artifact usage, even though it's not a choice I would have made myself.

One minor disappointment was that, despite the extremely well crafted atmosphere and clear quest, the plot still felt a bit unfinished and anti-climatic in some respects. For example, though the intro story mentioned that many local citizens had been disappearing, but I only actually found the "brother" I started the game with and the aforementioned damsel in distress for companionship. Also it was never made explicitly clear who exactly the evil necromancer was or what his nefarious motivations were. Even when within his lair, I found no altars to mysteriously nasty gods nor preparations for unpleasant enchantments, plans for domination, etc.-- just the captive damsel who was quite two dimensional and really seemed to be there just for decoration (after all, the lair of any good necromancer has to have an attractive, chained up maiden as part of the decor).

As I mentioned, your only companion is your loyal "brother"-- whether that is a friendly title to describe a comrade-in-arms or a literal relation was never explained, but I personally chose to interpret it as the first option, since I prefer to imagine my characters' background and family tree myself. Unfortunately, this "brother" is almost as two dimensional as the damsel in distress; this is an area that could have greatly benefited from some special programming, perhaps allowing him to speak to you or comment on what was happening throughout the adventure, it felt particularly flat when I rescued what may or may not have been his daughter (and therefore my character's niece).

The puzzles aren't overly challenging provided you take care to pay attention to the descriptions. The map layout can get rather complex especially towards the end, which certainly added to the challenge. One tip: though not exactly a puzzle, the author probably should have mentioned somewhere in the game that a "knock spell" is a magical enchantment used to open stubborn doors and/or other barriers. I learned this myself from playing other RPG games, but "Stronghold" could have been a bit unfair, had I not already known this.

I give this one a 7 (out of 10) for its difficulty rating. The high rating, however, is not merely based upon the moderately challenging puzzles or the large, twisty map alone, but rather comes mostly from the combat. I give extra credit to Derek here as well because, instead of loading the place with hoards of weaker enemies, he intersperses the largely empty map with interesting monsters and very tough battles, which which adds far more significance to the standard Eamon hack'n'slash approach. My medium strength character (with a 2D6 weapon) was often down to the wire, and it took the proper use of spells and artifacts to win several fights, despite having the included "brother" (who is a very hardy companion) from the start.

The big boss fight itself also deserves special mention as it is one of the better examples of special programming being used in combat that I've ever encountered, and very much stays consistent to the theme of facing off against a powerful, evil sorcerer who is capable of using dreadful magic against you. I'd definitely advise people pump up before trying this one, especially on their magic spells.

There are several tough fights, which are actually completely avoidable through clever navigation and which really could have used some sort of small reward or mention to generate a deserved sense of accomplishment (indeed given that one of them was against a group of animated skeletons).

All in all though, Stronghold of Kahr-Dur is an extremely well written Eamon Deluxe adventure, both in a literary sense as well as the inclusion of special programming. It has a classic "dungeon crawl" flavored plot, a clear quest, multiple combat fests against interesting opponents, challenging exploration and a fantastic atmosphere which is continuous from start to finish. Despite the few shortcomings I mentioned, it's still an outstanding game overall and I highly recommend it. With the dramatic combat, strong atmosphere, puzzle solving, or just the challenge of exploration and mapping, there is something for everyone. I give it an 8 out of 10 for the overall enjoyment rating.