BETHESDA OFFICIAL FAQ: BATTLESPIRE (COMING IN 1997)
Q: Is it going to have as many bugs as Daggerfall?
A: Ha. Not this time. Battlespire is just entering preliminary beta testing and will not ship until it is bug-free.
RUTSKARN UNOFFICIAL FAQ: BATTLESPIRE (RECORDED 2016)
“I looked, and there before me was a pale horse. Its rider’s name was Death, and Hell followed close behind him.”
My internet’s been out for two weeks. I’m not saying that’s Battlespire‘s fault. I may have blamed it, in a moment of weakness, but I’m also not saying that it’s intelligent enough to hear my outburst through my microphone–and I am not claiming that a videogame can recognize, contextualize, deliberately provoke and thoroughly enjoy human pain. That would be silly.
The exorcist agrees with me.
I didn’t bring any new screenshots with me today–I’m not quite ready to move on. Technically, I haven’t made any progress since the last session. Which is not the same as saying I haven’t played the game; I’ve played it for hours. I just haven’t progressed.
I haven’t saved my game in two weeks. And there’s a damn good reason for that, as I’m about to share. It just so happens I’ve entered the No Scum Zone.
Allow me to explain.
Let’s kick off with a small confession: I’ve been religiously consulting the UESP, the best and brightest Elder Scrolls wiki out there, since the earliest days of the series. At first I only read it prescriptively. Something would glitch or baffle or vanish, I’d get frustrated, I’d bring up the wiki page and see what I could sort out. For some while that was enough. By the third level and fortieth time I got stuck I started skimming the walkthroughs in advance, if only to know which obstacles were deliberate and which were design quirks or engine foulups. Which made me feel a bit guilty. Didn’t I owe it to you, the readers, to play totally blind? Shouldn’t I engage each whimsical turn on its own terms? Shouldn’t I experience this game the way it was, apparently, meant to be experienced?
I picked this exact moment to let you be the judge of that. The last of my own personal shame was doused when I looked up the page for Level 5 and caught this pro tip, rendered in the charming patois of the modest-traffic Wikia article:
The game creates useless object entries for containers every time a saved game is loaded after the game has been quit to DOS…Would you never quit the game, you could theoretically play on like in the other levels. Unfortunately the game quits and restarts automatically every time your character’s health drops to zero, or in other words, when you are defeated. This behavior of the game cannot be changed…
There is no solution for this serious bug except the advise to save as little as possible.
If I’m reading this right–and dear sweet Taco King, I better be reading this right–I can avoid the systematic destruction of my savegames, progress, and entire way of life by, uh, not saving at all during this level. I should mention that I’ve saved and loaded an average of about thirty times per level so far, so that’s a worrisome prescription, but not an insurmountable one. The main thing to do will be to avoid enemy spam, try to move in a straight line, and avoid any obnoxious glitches. From the map, I’d say this is largest and most sprawling I’ve yet seen in the game–so what meager words of comfort does the wiki have for me?
180 monsters on this level and all want to kill you
can only be harmed with the Spear of Bitter Mercy
need to find a Yehk entry sigil, 6 gatekeys, 6 pieces of the Savior’s Hide, and the spear case
simply won’t die, no matter how many times you hit it
around 10,000 hit points
opening menus on this level can cause game to freeze
windows can crash if activated
It’s a rare thing, when I read unofficial guides for ancient games like this, that the tone is less flat and room-temperature than an apocalyptic cola. The youth of the format and thanklessness of the job and culture of amateur professionalism saw to that, back in the ASCII days, and much of that carried forward into the next generation. Mostly the UESP is no exception, but–and I could be projecting –I’d argue that the calm deadpan of Battlespire‘s entries conveys something special–a sincere and lonely bafflement. Whomever wrote this knew their walkthrough would be practical guide second, freakshow exhibit first and foremost. You can’t sit down years after release and write something like sometimes standing still causes the player to take damage and think you’re going to get back a chorus of, “Oh, good to know, I’ll keep my eyes peeled for that.” You know that what you’re really writing for the few people reading is: don’t play Battlespire under any circumstances. That’s the “hot tip” that matters. It takes a bored, obsessed, or truly depraved cowboy to willfully put themselves in a position where knowledge like don’t touch the ceilings or the game might crash has a practical application.
I genuinely wonder how many people have made it even this far. How many people in the world bothered to get to level 5? How many saw the same hunt-and-gather quest writ even larger and decided to take up crochet instead? How many soldiered on and borked their savegames, sadly uninstalled Battlespire, and never even found out what the problem was? And how many informed or lucky people made it all the way through to the end of this level–to the end of the next one–to the end of this weird little videogame? A thousand players? A hundred? A dozen?
There’s no data on that. There’s no achievement for beating Battlespire, and if there was, it’d just say: Why?
At the end of the day, that doesn’t matter. If I want to be one of those lonely, surly few, I better get to work.
My internet’s not back up yet. I’ve had enough of a time publishing this post–I haven’t had a chance to upload the huge parcel of screenshots I’ll need for the next few weeks. Maybe that’s just as well; heaven knows I’m going to need a king-hell buffer. To be honest with you, I don’t know how many posts this is going to take. I don’t know how many of my bloodsoaked, profanity-capped iterations are going to be interesting enough to publish. We’re gonna play this one by ear–and we’re not gonna stop until they shut off the power.
After all, these fourteen components guarded by immortal daedric hounds aren’t going to assemble themselves.
NEXT WEEK: STOP ME IF YOU’VE HEARD THIS ONE
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