Friday, 24 March 2017

Larn, Larn, Larn

I've sung Larn's praises before. Recently, I have been playing Larn more now that a version is available online at I have found it to be the most enjoyable of all Rogue-likes, for not being too pedantic about items, character development, eating and stuff. The caverns are rich, diverse yet compact. For such a game-like approach, Larn is still surprisingly "deep" and well-balanced.

The new version balances the game a bit and brings together some command and interface options you'd expect from other rogue-likes. Playing the game from a browser works very smoothly and as a bonus there are DOS and Amiga visuals to choose from. Now that I saw the Amiga graphics I had a bit of a flashback: It is possible my very first games of Larn were played on an Amiga, before moving on to the Atari ST version where I learned to play it properly.

Amigaaah... except, the font is modern.
One of the changes concern balancing the game in relation to the Volcano, which was a source of some "exploitative" approaches towards the game.

The basic idea of the Volcano is very clever: you can climb down there anytime although it is a highly dangerous place. Even with a weak character, you could enter the Volcano Bilbo Baggins-style, and with some cleverness come back up with highly valuable treasures. This is all fine, and it adds spice and variety to the game.

However, a set of "standard items" emerged that nearly guaranteed a safe way to explore the Volcano to the point you could buy the Lance of Death very early in the game. Now, this version of Larn has been tweaked a little so that although this "historical" approach has been preserved, it can be only be done quickly on the easiest levels.

Below are the main keys and some collected some tips for beginners.

Main keys:

hjklubn keys-move player, as in Rogue-likes
h-help screen (more keys etc)
E-Enter dungeon/building
,-Pick up item
i-Display inventory
I-Show known spells&items
c-Cast spell (three-letter combo)
w-wield weapon
W-Wear armor
q-Quaff potion
r-Read book/scroll
o-Open chest/door

Beginner tips:
  • Don't enter the Volcano unless you know what you are doing, or have pretty much destroyed the dungeon first.
  • The very beginning: Sweep clean the first dungeon level before bothering to go down. There are no really dangerous monsters on level 1, just be a bit careful around hobgoblins (H), gnomes (G) and multiple enemies.
  • Remember, you have the magic missile spell ("mle") from the beginning, but don't trust it to work every time. Protect 2 ("pro") is also useful to cast as it's a significant addition to a poor or no armor.
  • Low level characters: Don't open any chests, avoid the altars, don't wash yourselves in a fountain, don't pry off any jewels off thrones and don't open any doors if possible. You'll live longer.
  • Go down only when you are at least level 3. Hopefully you can afford some weapon and armor, too. There you need to start using your "mle" spell actively, because letting some monster types close on you is never very wise.
  • Armor is generally more important than the weapon. A large amount of hit points or a super-weapon doesn't really protect you if you have poor armor.
  • All rings and magic items carried bring a cumulative effect and work automatically without you having to "wear" them. 
  • Energy rings and rings of regeneration are highly desirable, the former brings back spells and the latter returns hit points faster.
  • Scrolls and potions can be a mixed bag for the low-level player. One nice strategy is to collect as many potions and scrolls as you can, and when you have 3400 gold, buy and read the Scroll of Identity and see what you have in your inventory.
  • Never open a door repeatedly without looking what the effect is. When you get a spell good enough to blast the doors apart, always use it.
  • Chests and books give good prices, but can be more useful to open or read. It's a hard call to make. If you can bring a chest or books from the volcano early on, sell them!

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Black Eye HD macro

I got hold of a Black Eye HD macro lens for my battered iPhone 4S. The device is attached with a clip over the camera lens and off you go.

That's not the iPhone, sadly.
I'm interested in getting close-ups without having to set up a "real" camera, so the Black Eye lens is good for practical shots such as work documentation in micro-scale and the like.

And all right, some funny retro-detail shots of old machines. Boy are those old keyboards dirty...

Checking out the ZX Spectrum Recreated keyboard shows some manufacture quality issues...

The lens gives pretty nice results, considering my old 4S camera is not that great and the lighting was a bit poor for these shots.

When the scale is this small, the phone is pretty easy to set against other surfaces to reduce camera shake. Also, the iPhone camera focus adjust works here, although usually it's better to fiddle with the physical distance to get desired results.

The clip attachment is fine with the flat iPhones, showing that a rectangular form often makes sense in a primitive but clever object-ecosystemic way. I'm not too convinced the lens would fit as easily on "all cameraphones", as some have an inconvenient button or curvature near the camera lens.

You need to click on the images and open them in new tabs to get the larger versions, which are already 50% reduced.

Another pic of the Recreated