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Let's Play Fantasy Quest: old school puzzle adventure on the Apple Macintosh

Fantasy Quest - Title Screen

Welcome to Let's Play Fantasy Quest: a puzzle adventure game released in 1990 for vintage Macintosh computers! It's been 30 years since this game came out, and this is the first time I'm going to successfully complete it! (that 30 year gap has got to be some kind of lifetime record, but who's bragging :p) Fantasy Quest is, unsurprisingly, a game that I have maintained fondness for largely because I originally struggled against it at a very young age. For whatever reason, it has stuck with me as I've grown older. There were many other obscure Mac games from the early 90s which didn't create that kind of connection, and the Mac library as a whole is something that I've very rarely revisited. But I look back upon that era of gaming with warm memories of the friends I used to have at the time, and we would play Mac games together like any other video games we owned.

Fantasy Quest - Spiral Staircase

The game is in black and white (4 color grayscale). Look at those gorgeous dithering patterns! In reality, Macs had gone to color displays by the 90s, and these kind of graphics were more representative of the previous era of "System 6 Macs". My head canon is that Fantasy Quest was a swan song for other similarly produced games (having come out so late and looking so good). An expert could explain whether I'm talking out of my butt here, but Fantasy Quest feels heads and shoulders above its peers running on the same engine.

Oh yeah, the game is one of many adventure games created using the "World Builder engine". World Builder was Mac software for ordinary users to create games with. And by "ordinary user" I mean even kids could make something using straightforward GUI interactions. I remember creating simple games using it! No harder to use than Mario Paint or Sim City, and it didn't require coding to get something playable (although coding allowed more advanced things to happen). And no command lines or weird tools like making custom Doom wads.

World Builder came with a small library of stock sound effects (which are quite good; A+ work). Most games used these same sounds, and they all have the same style of user interface windows, giving these games a common feel. The "custom Doom wad" is actually a useful point of reference, because every World Builder game plays like a mod of the same game... The differences are confined to different room layouts, different artwork, and different items. The actual "game systems" can't be customized.

Fantasy Quest - Hall of Armor
Fantasy Quest - Woman

Fantasy Quest - Big Tree
Fantasy Quest - Elven Forest

Fantasy Quest - Water Fountain
Fantasy Quest - Swearwolf

In this first episode I spend a good 8 minutes before the actual game stats. That is not proper Let's Play form (it's disgusting, really), but what I talk about felt valuable to me and why I bothered playing this game in 2020 at all. This introduction covers the background of Fantasy Quest/World Builder, and much more on my personal connection to this game. Fantasy Quest is like my white whale from this era, and after all the ups and downs I'm finally going to close the book on it.

This is a 12 episode video LP, recorded in advance.​
The main game consists of 8 episodes. The LP continues in a 4 episode bonus quest for tackling the "random game scenario".​
I will be uploading 3 episodes per week, which seems like the right frequency for an average episode that is 25-30 minutes long.​

I hope you enjoy watching.

Let's Play Fantasy Quest: old school puzzle adventure on the Apple Macintosh
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Mellotron enthusiast
I have precisely no experience with Mac gaming in general, so this thread is a fascinating look into that side of computer gaming.

Also, big fan of the SwearWolf. More games should have the SwearWolf in it.
I have precisely no experience with Mac gaming in general, so this thread is a fascinating look into that side of computer gaming.
That's great to hear. :) I was only expecting this to appeal to those who have had old Mac gaming experiences.

Also, big fan of the SwearWolf. More games should have the SwearWolf in it.
The SwearWolf is easily one of the most memorable parts of the game.


Mellotron enthusiast
This game is mean!

Also, how much of the stuff in your inventory do you actually need? It seems like this game will happily let you carry around junk that doesn't serve any immediate purpose...
This game is mean!

Also, how much of the stuff in your inventory do you actually need? It seems like this game will happily let you carry around junk that doesn't serve any immediate purpose...

Right now we only have one item that has no purpose as far as I've discovered. Items we've used previously are just junk of course.

The precious items (gems, gold, coins) are different category though... I pretty much understand now that they are MOSTLY there to be ammunition for the offer mechanic. So, for example, we could type 'offer ice diamond' against the SwearWolf and stand a very high chance of immediately ending the encounter. One of these precious items is needed for a specific quest though, and I'm not sure if you can piss it away unnecessarily like that. (You could probably get the ice diamond back eventually if, in fact, the enemy respawns? Although I'm not even sure if that actually happens for most enemies.)


????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
Yep, it counts :) especially since the comparisons with Shadowgate are pretty obvious.
Except for the vastly different combat (which seems sort of like how the combat works in the NES game Swords and Serpents).
It occurs to me now, after having finished the LP, that I'm probably not pronouncing "Incompeta" correctly and I didn't ever stop to look at that word more carefully to notice. :) Also, I thought it was easily understood that the kingdom name was a joke on the word "incompetent" -- as in, referring to the drunken drawbridge and the horsey knights and all -- but now I think this is just what felt obvious to me in my own head.
Let's talk about World Builder software using the context of the game so far...

Here's a link for the instruction manual for world builder, if you want to thumb through what using this software was like.

World Builder manual, scenes

World Builder manual, characters

The way World Builder works, the only "entities" in the game are characters (player, monsters) and objects (things you find on the ground and which generally go into your inventory when clicked). All graphics come from these entities together with the background painting for the current room. The background is completely fixed, so to get any kind of animation -- like at 15:45 for the Elven Plate armor chest rising out of the ground -- you have to add and remove dummy objects to the scene using code. Objects like these are marked as immovable and non-interactable by the player, so they don't wind up in the player's inventory.

On the title screen (the first image of the thread), even the little dot that shows your menu selection is an inventory object. I think it is actually two separate objects, because the dot can move between two possible menu selections and I'm pretty sure an object's graphic doesn't have an (x,y) position. (Such a simple menu screen is actually very advanced for World Builder.)

If a game wants an object to be oriented or "posed" differently when you find it laying on the ground and then later, say, stick the object somewhere special as a puzzle solution, it has to create multiple versions of that object and juggle them around properly. It's also probably why objects we find in chests/coffins/etc. aren't visible, but you can drop most of them once they are in your inventory.

I'd speculate the 3D maze was accomplished by making the background a painting of just the floor and ceiling -- essentially a blank canvas -- and then creating a dozen or so objects for every possible "rasterization" of a wall section or scenery object. Then the code would have to place/hide the right combination of wall objects depending on what each room is supposed to look like from the direction you entered.
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episode 6: Map Drawing and Getting Lost in the 3D Maze

Expect statues to not be very talkative, walking through a cryptography challenge, and we decide against taking the pants off a dead guy. Featuring a powerhouse enemy that we simply throw ourselves against.

Enjoy Shiren the Wanderer music in this one. I think this is my favorite episode actually, owing to the sequence of realizations that occur. I can appreciate that for other viewers, though, this episode does have less visual variety.
episode 8: Main Game Clear

Expect voice acting out of nowhere, defeating a conspicuous assailant, and wondering "why are deserted cities always in deserts?"

The next episodes (ep 9-12) will be tackling the random game scenario, if you want to check those out. Beating this game was a big trip down memory lane. I think it was more satisfying bringing myself back in time than the more overt goal of completing this "white whale".

I also have a good amount of respect for the game itself after playing through it. I don't think there were any puzzles that were illogical or fiendishly difficult. The art looks exceptional and the game has a natural flow to where you should be exploring next, things I would not expect from other world builder games. The unpleasant parts just have to do with the (primitive) parser itself and having to have the map directions for the mine maze.