The Dink Network

Crazy Old Tim plays all the DMODs of 1999

September 7th 2013, 03:17 AM
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cocomonkey
Bard Male United States
Please Cindy, say the whole name each time. 
--Crazy Old Tim Plays All the DMODs--

Directory
1998 | HTML version
1999 HTML version
2000 | HTML version
2001 | Article version
2002 | Article version
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008-2009
2010
2011-2015

You probably thought I wouldn't keep going, but this is another edition of "Crazy Old Tim Plays the DMODs." I remain your host, Tim.

A new year, a new topic. Without pages, I figure this is the best way to keep scrolling from getting out of hand. The last few years will be lumped together in one topic because of the scarcity of releases. If scratcher would like to switch the sticky, that'd be cool.

1999 was the first full year in which the Dink community existed, and it was a time of great transition. An early version of the Dink Network became the place to be, some of the original people on the scene bowed out, and most notably, the game (v1.06) became freeware in October. This was close enough to the initial release that I was surprised when it happened, but I still felt like I'd gotten my $20 worth. The decision to go free is, of course, why Dink is still around today and why so many new people came to discover it. Returning to my graph of DMODs released by year, we can see that 1999 marked a bit of a tapering off, which is what happens pretty consistently to mod support for most games. In this case, however, RTSoft's decision to make the game free (for which I salute them) caused such an explosion of interest and activity that one could almost call it the true dawn of the Dink community. I'm really talking about 2000 at this point, though, so let's get back to 1999.

There were certainly some good DMODs released in 1999, but there was also a rise in the amount of very poor DMODs, which in 1998 was less prevalent and confined mostly to my "work." This would be even worse than it's going to be were I bothering to track down "lost" DMODs for this project, but I respect people's decision to take down their projects, having been there myself. There were 20 currently-uploaded DMODs released in 1999, but one of them (my own lousy mod "The End of the World," released 3/29/99) was covered in my previous post.

--Early 1999, in which a tough act to follow is followed poorly--

032: Bloop the Fish Author: Thomas "Instalite" Austin Release Date: January 22, 1999

So: Prophecy of the Ancients has forever changed the concept of what a DMOD can be. Over a month of stunned silence follows that enormous mic drop in terms of DMOD releases (at least as far as I'm keeping track). And then... and then... Bloop the Fish.

Poor Instalite! As I recall, the Dink community really let him have it. Although he made a very bad DMOD, unlike my bratty young self he was, as I recall, a nice enough kid. I felt kind of bad for him.

Bloop the Fish is the worst DMOD released by someone other than me so far. To its credit, it does replace nearly 100% of the non-HUD graphics; it's only the second DMOD (Yet again, I'm referring to Dinkanoid, which was ahead of its time in so many ways) to go that far. I'll admit that even looking at this is kind of funny, and on that strength alone it clears the "Dink Forever" bar of terribleness. It's also either the second or third "Alternative Hero" DMOD depending on whether you think Dinkanoid's paddle is a hero (The first, if you've forgotten, was "Legend of Smallwood" starring Martridge). As you can see from these screenshots, though, the new graphics are very poor - terrible in a way that isn't even charming.

There's no music, hardly any sound, and the map might be the worst I've ever seen in a DMOD. Invisible walls are the only kind of barriers here - I don't think there's an intentional hardbox in this entire dang DMOD. If you're lucky, you'll go left first and realize that you have to pick up three "worms" in order to get a bubble-shooting weapon from your twin fish, but you could just as easily go down and be completely screwed, as you start with no weapon at all. From the start, you go down through way too many identical screens full of what I guess are supposed to be sea urchins, which you don't have to fight. There are helpful arrows (literally, they're the arrows from Dink) telling you to go down, which is nice until you can't go down anymore even though that screen has the same arrow. You have to go right from there, and then up past some MORE boring identical screens. This isn't much fun.

At the end, you fight what you're told is a shark, but looks more like a transparent Milkbone with a little face. Based on the dragon script, it casts harm on you while bellowing, "My undertoe powers! Haha!" [sic]. Unless you didn't get the weapon, you will find defeating the "shark guy" (from the dmod.diz) to be very easy. Now you are King of the Sea! Bloop the Fish becomes the most feared gill-bearer these waters have ever known. Scores of pulchritudinous damselfish school around Bloop, fighting over the chance to spawn with the brave hero and savior of all the ocean. "Take Me to the River" plays as the credits roll, and Bloop wears coral shades as he rides a chariot made of shells and pulled by dolphins to Fish Paradise, where the worms are many and the hooks nonexistent. Jubilation abounds! I shed a single tear and swore off seafood for life.

Actually, the shark dies and not a single thing happens. An examination of one of the game's 14 scripts (two of which are completely identical) reveals that the message, "Congradulations. You win have finished the quest. Now play Bloop the Fish 2" is supposed to display. Yes, exactly like that - I pasted it right out of the script. The ending of this statement is on a separate line, so the script stops working there and the screen never even unlocks. Bizarrely enough, a Bloop the Fish 2 would actually see release in 2003 from an anonymous author. Hell, it could be Instalite himself. We'll never know.

Here is an actual memory that I have: Instalite returned to the community in 2000, around the time I released Zink and Crossroads. He planned a big comeback and claimed to have undergone a kind of evolution. He said - and I really can't forget this - something similar to "Just as Tim Maurer transformed into the smooth, DMOD-making Coconut Monkey, so Instalite has become Instalite King!" This is - and I am very sorry, Instalite, if you ever read this - so ducking funny. Not only does it give my later mods WAY too much credit, he also apparently thought a DMOD author could be upgraded like a creature from Heroes of Might and Magic II (Minotaur -> Minotaur King).

Geez, did I really write all of that about this thing? There's really nothing to it - you are missing nothing by not playing Bloop the Fish. Next.

033: The Slimes Author: Ethan Release Date: March 17, 1999

I am sitting on this lovely "as bad as or worse than Dink Forever award" and I haven't had anything to give it out to. This one looked promising when it started up, but alas, it ended up being slightly better than it initially looked. In fact, this isn't even as bad as "Bloop the Fish." I might never get to hand out that award.

So here's a DMOD that focuses on the lowly slime, probably the least noticed or cared about enemy from the original game (which is kind of funny considering it shares a name with the iconic Dragon Quest series baddie). I'll say this for it, though: People LOATHE it. It'd be difficult to prove it, but I'm certain I've seen over a dozen Dink players declare their undying hatred for the slime. Maybe it's that gross slurping sound they make. Maybe it's how fast they often go. My best guess is that it's pretty hard to tell where their hitbox is, and you walk over them without meaning to.

This DMOD is quite poor, but not only does it manage not to be an unholy wreck, it actually has the capcity to amuse a bit. What's wrong with it? The usual - Not much to do, some invisible walls, truly amazing tiling and hardness problems, enemies you needn't fight, gold you can't spend, spelling errors, restrictive map. Do I really need to run down this stuff every time? On the other hand, enemies and say_stop conversations work properly, at least. Minus points for Dink never reacting to punching things. This one also goes truly nuts with the powerups, as you can see from my stats. 8 magic and no spells!

The one thing about this DMOD that stuck out for me is that Dink is a complete jerk, and it is actually kind of amusing. Check out the amazing depths of his compassion. Our hero! Also, the slimes talk a bit ("I will crush, err, slurp the life out of you!") and the "evil visious goblin" boss is a total shrimp whom Dink mocks. That's kinda funny. When you beat the goblin, we initiate the already tired pattern in which Dink is told the game is over, he complains about it being too short, and the script never bothers to "kill_game();". I award this DMOD "Not Worst Place," but it isn't worth downloading either.

034: Mike Dingwell's First D-Mod Author: Go on, give it a guess Release Date: March 17, 1999

Well, that was probably the shortest "never" in the history of nevers.

Imagine a mighty fanfare sounding.

*****This DMOD, "Mike Dingwell's First D-Mod,"*****
********Has been awarded the prestigious*********
****DINK FOREVER MEMORIAL AWARD OF BADNESS*****
********On this day September 6, 2013********

Oh my, yes. It may have taken several months, but at last somebody released something as bad as the utter dreck I vomited up back in August of 1998. *Sniff* I'm so proud. This DMOD had a rating of 1.2 on TDN, but I submitted a review that brought it down to 0.9.

It is not a good sign when the author of the DMOD has not even mustered the creativity necessary to name it. It's an even worse sign when the included description reads thus:

"No plot
No Story
Mabye 85 exp.s in all
I don't know why you downloaded this"

I'm not even sure what that third line means, Mike - maybe that's how many experience points you can get from the screen full of pillbugs that contains the DMOD's only enemies? - but here's to you for at least having a more accurate-self assessment than I did when I released Dink Forever.

Mike's DMOD occupies it's own category. To me, it reads as a piece of surrealist art. Everything in it - the maps, the sprites, the dialogue - is complete nonsense. You step into a bookshelf and it warps you to another screen. Okay. I mean, how am I supposed to explain this to you? I can't. Hardness is almost an alien concept here - go ahead, walk all over the walls, see if this DMOD cares. I will spoil the mystery; it does not. This DMOD is indifferent to player input. Maybe it's here to make a statement that you don't matter, an antidote to the self-affirming nature of video games in general. I'm kidding, it's just an awful thing that had no effort put into it.

You can find some people but they don't say anything that establishes any kind of purpose. Invisible walls are the norm, and most screens are just empty grass (and boy, there's quite a few of them). Somewhere in the middle of the grassy abyss, you can stumble across this. Okay, so I guess there's combat. There is a hidden chest somewhere, but it doesn't work. You can't beat the end boss because there isn't one. Wow. You're free to disagree with me, but if I may be so bold, I think this is actually WORSE than Dink Forever, if only because it wastes more of your time. I've never played it before now - even in 1999 I thought better of downloading something with that title.

If you happen upon a certain screen, there's a rather catchy MIDI. I will end on that because it is the only positive thing I could possibly say.

035: Richard's Attack Author: Mahdi Rostamizadeh Release Date: March 23, 1999

REPUTATION NOTE: This DMOD is one of the incredibly select group to have a score of 1.0 or worse (0.6) on The Dink Network. I would like to stress my complete confidence that if my 1998 mods were on the site, they'd all be in this category.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Do I really have to give out two in a row? I guess I can't let a truly great lack of achievement go unrewarded.

**********This DMOD, "Richard's Attack,"***********
********Has been awarded the prestigious*********
****DINK FOREVER MEMORIAL AWARD OF BADNESS*****
********On this day September 7, 2013********

Like me, when Mahdi was just twelve years old he released a DMOD that was scarcely a DMOD at all. This one is a lot bigger (57 screens) but this is in no way a good thing. Not much is on them. It isn't as bad as Dingwell's, but it's still quite bad, and you don't really know where you're going. As I recall, Dinkers at the time declared Mahdi "the new Tim Maurer" (actually, I would release The End of the World less than a week later) and this mod "as bad as the Dink Forever series." I felt a little bit bad for him at the time and may even have stuck up for him a bit, but honestly, this is as bad as it gets.

Really, where do I start with this one? How about with the worst title screen in the history of DMODs? I had thought that I firmly held this title with Dink Forever, but no, we've got a clear winner here. You can't even read it, and it says "Richrad's attack." The DMOD.diz says "Richard's Revenge," so I'm not sure in what way the title is "Richard's Attack."

This DMOD presents a very interesting challenge. Any fool can complete a game if they try hard enough, but only a master could beat a game where every element of the game's design conspires against you playing it properly. Truly, Dink's struggle against this DMOD's vast, untameable brokenness is a heroic one - enough that I would call him a tragic hero. The difference in difficulty is similar to the difference between setting up a row of dominoes and doing so during a hurricane.

This DMOD never checks a variable. I checked! It doesn't check a variable on any occasion. Someone who gives you a sword will keep giving you swords, people who give you magic will keep giving you magic, and so on. The worst effect of this is that two screens, including the one you start on, will freeze you for an exchange of dialogue every single time you enter them. At least the say_stop conversations mostly work correctly, but this is incredibly annoying.

The English on display here is definitely the worst in any DMOD, but Mahdi was 12 and I'm willing to bet English was not his first language, so we ought to forgive that. However, there isn't anything worth decoding either - the level of nonsense on display here is at or below that of my early mods. Tiling is the worst I've ever seen in a DMOD as well - it really looks like a train wreck. I'm not sure if the term "hardness errors" can be applied here, as I think the word "error" implies some kind of aberration, and working hardness is the aberration here. Walls are more of a whimsical suggestion than something you're in any way confined by. You can't enter the building in that screenshot, by the way. You can also walk straight through trees.

There was one thing I liked - you exit buildings by walking into tables, which silently explode. I can't articulate why, but this rules.

In the plot, Mahdi or Dink (an included text file without a file extension says it's Mahdi, but he's called both in-game) must rescue Anthony from the evil Richard, who is described as a powerful wizard. All anyone in this DMOD ever talks about is this Richard guy and how important it is that you stop him. Well, unless you do some major cleaning up, Richard does not exist. You'll never meet any "Richard," although I did encounter Anthony near a frictionless statue of a wizard, and he claimed that I saved him. Hey, I'll take the credit. The ending plugs a never-to-come DMOD called "Dink vs. Dink," in which Dink was to fight an evil clone, which sounds awfully familiar.

Oh, and on a completely unrelated note, this DMOD contains a boss of sorts. It's a giant dragon that is difficult to do any damage to even with over 50 attack. Beating him (it wasn't too hard) allows you to meet some unusually friendly goblins, who give you enough money to buy the flame bow from a statue of Dink, although this is now of no use to you at all. I found all this by escaping the inescapable endscreen - you can walk through a hardness error to the left and end up in another part of the DMOD. Since Richard isn't in this DMOD, I postulate he's the one who sabotaged poor Mahdi's well-intentioned efforts and made this DMOD so broken. I therefore nominate Richard for most evil boss in a DMOD.

***

Soon, very close to four months had passed without the release of a DMOD that was worth playing. It was around this time that the very first "Is Dink dead/dying?" discussions started to pop up. You might find this amusing now, and I can't blame you, but at the time this was a very real concern. The whole Dink thing might well have fizzled out, Prophecy of the Ancients its crowning achievement, had Dan Walma not put the whole dang thing on his back around this time, and how. Recall that I said he is credited with 16 DMODs. That's nuts, huh? That's on top of running The Dink Network, whose bills he still pays.

Actually, the feeling that the Dink scene is dead or in the process of dying has been a major component of its discussion for nearly all of its history. I was around to witness similar discussions in 2000 and 2001, saw at least one when I stopped by in 2006, and I bet they really got going in 2008 when less than 10 DMODs were released.

Next time: King Dan returns, and other developments.

Edit: Maaan, those "awards of badness" looked pretty cool in a fixed-width font. Oh well...
September 7th 2013, 03:38 AM
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ThePunisher
Peasant Male
Kill Police Officers 
Actually 1998 was the first full year that Dink Smallwood existed.

Dink Smallwood was released in late 1997
September 7th 2013, 03:41 AM
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cocomonkey
Bard Male United States
Please Cindy, say the whole name each time. 
Seriously, can you find any proof of that? I can't. I know the demo was out in 1997, but even Snyder's site only goes back to March 98. Oh well - I'll change the line to something I know is accurate.
September 7th 2013, 03:44 AM
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ThePunisher
Peasant Male
Kill Police Officers 
September 7th 2013, 04:00 AM
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cocomonkey
Bard Male United States
Please Cindy, say the whole name each time. 
Thanks for that; it was interesting, especially learning why the game was as rushed out as it was - pretty amazing that Seth was left to finish it by himself. It's a wonder the original game is as complete as it is.

I agree with Seth, it's still very funny.
September 7th 2013, 04:01 AM
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ThePunisher
Peasant Male
Kill Police Officers 
Your welcome
September 7th 2013, 05:46 AM
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Kyle
Peasant Male Belgium
 
So nice to wake up to this Great read again!
September 7th 2013, 07:46 AM
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iplaydink
Peasant Male Sweden steam
Hmm.. 
Great as always!
September 7th 2013, 12:26 PM
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Skull
Peasant Male Finland bloop
"I'd like to be a tree..." 
In fact, this isn't even as bad as "Bloop the Fish." I might never get to hand out that award.

You will, trust me. You will...
September 7th 2013, 01:00 PM
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cocomonkey
Bard Male United States
Please Cindy, say the whole name each time. 
I already did. Twice.
September 7th 2013, 01:24 PM
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Skull
Peasant Male Finland bloop
"I'd like to be a tree..." 
Well, that's true. Let's just say you'll get to do that many times again. xD
September 7th 2013, 06:03 PM
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metatarasal
Bard Male Netherlands
I object 
Really nice read again.

I've never thought of Bloop the Fish as being that bad. I mean, to me it feels like it is mocking DMODs itself. Intentional badness in a sort of modern day art style. The fact that somebody decided to make a sequel to me proves that this had much more of an impact than a 'regular' bad DMOD. Really interesting to read that people felt so differently in 1999...
September 7th 2013, 07:07 PM
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cocomonkey
Bard Male United States
Please Cindy, say the whole name each time. 
Hahaha, that's pretty funny from my position. No, "Bloop the Fish" was 0% ironic when it came out.
September 8th 2013, 05:11 AM
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ThePunisher
Peasant Male
Kill Police Officers 
I have an idea when cocomonkey is finished he should put Crazy old tim play all the D-mods(Without other posts) to tell the history of how D-mod have come to be.
September 8th 2013, 06:54 AM
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iplaydink
Peasant Male Sweden steam
Hmm.. 
I, too, like Bloop the Fish! I find the art-style strangely charming! I agree that it's much better than most "bad"-dmods... I've actually played it multiple times!
September 8th 2013, 07:44 AM
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Skull
Peasant Male Finland bloop
"I'd like to be a tree..." 
I guess these people who enjoyed Bloop the Fish are the same guys who enjoyed Happy Sunshine Land. -__-

What is this site heading into?!
September 8th 2013, 10:09 AM
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Robj
Peasant Male Australia
You feed the madness, and it feeds on you. 
Happy sunshine land is the shiznit

September 8th 2013, 12:13 PM
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cocomonkey
Bard Male United States
Please Cindy, say the whole name each time. 
"Bloop" is objectively terrible. Call going past screen after identical screen of poorly-drawn spiky things satisfying? 'Cause I don't.

But hey, everybody's entitled to their opinion. If you enjoy it, Bloop away to your heart's content I suppose. I will say that, unlike a lot of bad DMODs, it's at least memorable (as in, "remember that crazy DMOD where you're a fish?").
September 8th 2013, 01:37 PM
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leprochaun
Peasant Male Japan xbox steam bloop
Responsible for making things not look like ass 
Someone should make a bloop the fish 3.
September 8th 2013, 03:38 PM
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iplaydink
Peasant Male Sweden steam
Hmm.. 
Maybe someone is.......
September 8th 2013, 04:11 PM
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leprochaun
Peasant Male Japan xbox steam bloop
Responsible for making things not look like ass 
Fairy Goddess Online: Bloop the Fish version.
September 10th 2013, 01:05 PM
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SabreTrout
Noble Male United Kingdom
Tigertigertiger. 
I made Bloop 2.

It didn't take very long.
September 10th 2013, 01:11 PM
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cocomonkey
Bard Male United States
Please Cindy, say the whole name each time. 
Hooray! We're all learning so much.
September 10th 2013, 01:25 PM
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SabreTrout
Noble Male United Kingdom
Tigertigertiger. 
Heh.

I knew how bad Bloop 2 was, hence no uploading it under my own name! I just thought it would be funny if someone made a sequel to such a unique - and poor - d-mod. Dan knew it was me... I'm not sure who else knew.
September 10th 2013, 04:19 PM
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iplaydink
Peasant Male Sweden steam
Hmm.. 
wow
September 10th 2013, 06:38 PM
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cocomonkey
Bard Male United States
Please Cindy, say the whole name each time. 
--1999 part two: Redink and the bunnie--

036: Dink Smallwood & The End of Time Author: Dan Walma Release Date: April 7, 1999

I don't think Dan ever took up the cause of being steward of the Dink Smallwood community on purpose. His website started out small and he only expanded it because it was where people started coming and it seemed like the thing to do. This may surprise you, but on August 3, 1999, he actually declared his intention to leave the community, though he rescinded this statement a few months later. After that, he made several largely unsuccessful attempts to pass the torch before finally disappearing, it seems, at the end of 2008 - an impressive run to be sure. I know I've gone on about this before, but none of this would be around at all without him. I always found his news posts to be oddly witty in that "Dink Smallwood" kind of way, as well.

"The End of Time" is the first DMOD of 1999 to really feel properly put together. Everything in it works perfectly as far as I was able to tell, the maps all make sense, seem to form a coherent world and not just a boxy path, and look decent (the placement of the decoration is a bit haphazard, but there's plenty of it), and I encountered no bugs or major problems at all. I feel like this is worth mentioning because that entire last update contained not a single DMOD about which any of these things were true.

EOT deals more with the original game than most of the mods so far. It even starts in the secret area from the original where you buy the flame bow, but you're soon in new territory. The description says that this DMOD is much darker than others, and at first this seems to be true, as you find a village where people who awaited salvation were left waiting too long, a gruesome sight. Before long, however, everything gets very silly, and to be honest this works very much in the DMOD's favor, as it doesn't really pull off being very serious, but it does pull off being pretty funny. Dink falls asleep during exposition, there are the usual fourth wall jokes, you get to beat some total jerks to death, and an insane farmer demands spam. It's not hilarious, but I got some laughs out of it. Lots of things respond to examination, but almost nothing to punching, unfortunately.

On a technical note, this DMOD contains a simple flying spell whose appearance cracks me up. It only works on two screens, but it works without a hitch no matter where you're standing when you cast it, which is good. The incantations reference a few Dinkers of the time. Another cool feature of this DMOD is that several different bird noises are looped as you walk through the forest, creating an ambient effect that really helps immerse you in the game. Of course, one could also find this annoying, but I liked it.

This is a good DMOD, but I feel like it would be a lot better if it were a romp instead of a quest. It took me a little over forty minutes to complete "End of Time," but almost all of that was spent on pointless walking. You see, the path you must follow to get to the end has several stones blocking the way that must be exploded by a bomb. There is a machine back in the village that dispenses bombs, but only one at a time, and only when "you really need them." This means you have to go find the rock, go to the complete opposite end of the map to get a bomb, go all the way back to blow up the rock, and repeat this FOUR TIMES. This is an utterly baffling piece of game design that does nothing but waste the player's time. This would be more bearable if there were much on the map, but we're dealing with Big Empty Map Syndrome again here, though not as bad a case of it as many other mods.

I feel like I ought to explain what it is about BEMS (tm) that gets me down so much. Allow me to present my case: Dink Smallwood is an RPG, right? Seth has said that that was the very genesis of the game - he wanted to make an RPG. In this genre, whether you're playing Zelda or Dragon Quest or Diablo, one thing that's constant is that the player is rewarded for exploration. Odds are excellent that there's something in that dead end that made coming there worth your while, and if you wander off the beaten path, you'll find some secrets that make you glad you did. The original game got this right, but there's honestly nothing like that here or in many of the DMODs so far. In fact, the only DMODs I've played thus far to have really nailed this concept are Prophecy of the Ancients and The Quest for Cheese. These are also the only two rated 9.0 or above thus far, which I think goes to show that I'm not alone in this opinion. Being rewarded for doing extra work is fun, and good game design.

Actually, "End of Time" has a surprisingly large map that's well put together and forms a pretty elegant path, as I noticed while looking at it in WinDinkEdit+2. It's just a shame that most of it is wasted space.

Returning to the subject of backtracking for bombs, I am entranced by the concept of the bomb machine. It literally tells you that it gives out bombs to people who "really need them," then decides whether you need them or not. No one operates this machine - it is autonomous. My mind positively oscillates at the implications of this. Is this bomb machine sentient? How does it know whether you need a bomb or not? Is it omniscient, or just able to tell who needs a bomb just by looking at them? What constitutes "really needing a bomb?" Could this machine be used for evil? Look, I know that it's just a convenient game mechanic, but I can't help thinking about these things. You can't use a machine that dispenses bombs to only those it deems worthy without feeling that at some point something went very wrong with the universe without you noticing.

Sorry, sorry. Anyway, there's little combat until the end, when you have to fight a large number of Goblins. However, the game loads you up on powerups at this point, including fireball and acid rain spells that you can simply pick up, making the fighting pretty easy. Anyway, you can just have them kill each other. The very end, though, gets kind of interesting. There's a puzzle that requires knowledge of the original game, which is a first. The story turns dark again as, in the act of diverting ultimate destruction away from the world, you send it all to the town of Windermere (apparently located in China near the Korean peninsula), which goes kablooey. The game helpfully pans around to show you the destroyed town. Nice job breaking it, hero. The implication that people were still in their homes is strong. Man, this game is dark!

I'll spoil the ending for you because it's pretty infuriating anyway if you play through it yourself just to get there: despite having saved the world, Dink is sent to jail for the destruction of Windermere. Man, that sucks.

Probably the most interesting thing about this DMOD is that 2001's "FIAT" was conceived as a prequel to it, and Dan said he thought he'd probably finish it within a few months. Ha ha ha. If you want to play this one, you'll have more fun if you cheat your way around the busy work by either increasing Dink's speed or setting beacons - it won't actually make the game easier, just faster. I didn't cheat because I'm trying to avoid doing that. I've only done it in two mods so far, one of which requires cheating to finish.

037: Mike the Magician (Alpha/Beta) Author: Kevin "Bunniemaster" Zettler Release Date: April 16, 1999

Oh man, Bunnie and I were bros! I got along okay with some Dinkers back in the day, but Kevin was the only one I ever got chummy with. He was just a chill guy who was easy to get along with, and he is, I think, the only person ever to genuinely *like* my DMODs, an impressive feat. I'm sure if he were here he'd have good things to say about me too, and... oh, what's that?

Uh...

Oh my. That's certainly... overt.

No, but seriously, in case you can't see screenshots for some reason, the object of this DMOD is to "kill tim." This is just a coincidence - Tim doesn't stand for me (at least, I don't think so). In the DMOD, you play as a wizard in a Wizard Dormitory at Wizard school, your roommate is annoying, and you've got to kill him. Your sprite set is the same one from "Legend of Smallwood," maybe with a slightly altered death sequence. Tim is surprisingly strong, so you're going to have to increase your stats in order to beat him.

The layout of this DMOD is quite unusual. There aren't many screens - mostly it's just the dorm hall with some numbered doors. One of the rooms has nothing to interact with, and a few can't be entered, but hey, this is only a "Super Alpha Beta she dog test", after all. If you'd like to win, all you need to do is enter a certain door and you'll be sent to a very strange-looking place where you'll get 20, 20, and 100 added to your stats. This will happen every time you enter a certain screen, so you can have all the stats you want. I bet you can break the game this way. Anyhow, the boost makes killing the annoying Tim quite easy. This produces the message, "wow you won this supoer alpha beta!." and the game hangs. Hooray! You can do this in under a minute.

But hey, why rush? If you explore a little you can find a couple of guys smoking pot and drinking "robatosin" (unsurprisingly, they're not all that intelligible), a guy who's way too into ducks, and an "old hag" with "medicinal herbs" growing in her room. I'm not sure whether this wizard dorm is co-ed or they just thought it didn't matter in her case. Really, the cool thing about this one is that you get two original spells: a trippy-looking magic cloud of death, which works like acid rain with improved power and range (Bunnie would go on to add this to Mike Kanter's Dink Arena) and a self-shrinking spell. The shrinking spell works pefectly well for reducing your sprite's size and returning it to normal, but that's all it seems to do.

I don't think that this is in any way a serious DMOD, it's just a bit of screwing around with practically no point and no plot. For some reason - and feel totally free to call me biased or even unfair - I'm more okay with that here than I was with Dingwell's mod or my own 1998 stuff. There was at least a bit of effort put into this one to make it look kind of interesting - "good" sure as hell isn't a word I'd associate with it, and I really can't recommend downloading it, but it got a smirk out of me. And hey, those original magics are pretty neat.

038: StarDink Author: Dan Walma Release Date: May 26, 1999

A long time ago in a DMOD writeup far, far away...

I seem to recall this one being pretty well-received when it came out, but it is hard for me to remember crap I did on the Internet over 14 years ago. Really, don't take anything I say about the old days as the absolute truth - my head is pretty foggy.

This is a rather thin Star Wars parody with the names changed - "Episode 3.9," "Alder On," "Platooine," "O B." Okay, that last one is kind of clever, but "Hand Multi" for Han Solo is the worst. Unlike "Mike the Magician," this does feel like a proper DMOD, but it's a very short one - it took me ten minutes and that's because I got quite lost. It's really an excuse to showcase the dinksaber, which basically had to happen at some point (and more weapons is always a good thing) and some Star Wars graphics.

Anyway, in StarDink, Dink is ordered by his jerk uncle to check on the pigs, but they're killed by jawas! Oh no! You're forced to defeat three of these buggers with just the fist and some basic stats before you even get the chance to save, and I'll bet a lot of people gave up in frustration here, as the jawas shoot quickly and accurately. However, on my third try I realized that their shots behave like the fireball and they've got no base attack or touch damage, so the best way to kill them is to punch them through or near something hard, like a fence. They give no exp, so never bother fighting them if you're not screenlocked. After fighting those three, Dink can discover the power of the PUSH and get the saber. I didn't die a third time, although I shaved it dang close! At the end, there's a spaceship sequence where you have to survive for a certain amount of time. Here, you should just keep shooting, because although enemies will continue to arrive, they drop full hearts when they die. When time runs out, the mod ends abruptly.

The map makes sense and looks decent if sparse. While there isn't a whole lot to do here, the new jawa enemies are quite neat, especially if you like a challenge. There are quite a few new graphics and sounds, so if you're a Star Wars fan you'll get a bit of a kick out of this one (try "attacking" with the droid equipped). I kind of like StarDink because it stands out from the pack a bit without being a total mess like Bloop the Fish. It's pretty amusing, too. Man, Dink's uncle is a jerk.

039: DinkCraft (Beta 2) Author: Dan Walma Release Date: June 25, 1999

Now this is what I'm talking about in terms of standing out! What an ambitious project this was! It was already kind of impressive that the Warcraft II graphics had been correctly imported in "Lost in Dink," but here, everything actually works, and it is really cool for a change of pace, especially if you've just played 38 DMODs like I have.

This almost feels like a different game. First of all, the title screen looks great, with a custom cursor and everything. You've got plenty of trolls to fight if you want to, although it's never actually required. There's a cool new status bar and even a thematically consistent dialogue choice box. I was grinning just at how good this DMOD looks. One thing that floored me is that enemy corpses quickly begin to fade through various frames of decay and then disappear, kind of like in Warcraft. I mean, this wouldn't be THAT hard to do, but it's a great touch that helps this mod feel even more different from the norm.

Unfortunately, the game itself informs you that it will never be finished, and this does feel much more like a very early testing build than any kind of demo. I'm not sure if it's possible to beat this mod; there is a script telling you you won the demo, but I don't know if you can trigger it. I couldn't, even after resorting to cheating. I couldn't even find a way to solve the first (only?) quest you're given. I'm not sure whether this is my fault or because it isn't implemented. I did find some cool features, though, like a mercenary who'll follow you around and generally do a good job of targeting and attacking your enemies, although I also had him attack me once, and he disappears when you load the game.

Before long the game sort of stops, but the map keeps going. Oh man, does it keep going. The map is absolutely huge and full of different mazelike paths, and I spent entirely too long wandering around it. When I started cheating, I reached an area with different, more powerful enemies and an ice area. You can get a boat, although it's possible to sail it on land. It's clear to see that if this had been finished, it would have involved a huge adventure with many different kinds of quests that would have been a bit different from the usual Dink fare. If it were finished, this would be truly great, but even as it is, I'm impressed with what Dan achieved here. Dink fans should check this out as a curiosity piece, and you can have a bit of fun aimlessly beating up trolls if you want.

040: Dinkablo (Alpha) Author: Kevin "Bunniemaster" Zettler Release Date: August 7, 1999

You know, Bunnie might have thought my earlier mods were crap but liked "End of the World." I think that may have been the case. My memory is so bad.

I'm ambivalent about these public alpha and beta releases. On the one hand, you're making a full release of something that's often hardly playable; on the other, you're making content available that otherwise would never have been seen. It's hard for me to come down on either side, really; I guess it depends upon the specific case.

"Dinkablo" is a project that barely even got started. It doesn't have a title screen, and the screen you start out on features a dude with no script and a fountain and stump with no hardness. Only two of the people in the DMOD have scripts attached to them, and unlike the previous mod, I'm certain there's nothing to accomplish in this one.

As the name suggests, this DMOD was clearly going to be based very closely on Diablo, another Blizzard game. Although this uses the original Dink graphics, the layout of the town is very strongly reminiscent of Diablo's, and like in that game, you enter a dungeon through a church. All the characters in the Diablo town are in their places here, although only two of them talk (with voice clips, yet).

I honestly think that this mod could have been great fun. The layout of the village is excellent, with some of the best screen decoration I've seen so far, and that includes the original game. The interiors get weird, but maybe that would have made more sense in context. My favorite thing that's actually here is a conversation with the obviously insane healer that made me laugh out loud. Bunniemaster did always have an excellently twisted sense of humor.

There are some powerups scattered around town and a couple of dungeon rooms filled with particularly vicious pillbugs, but it stops dead there. "Dinkablo" is a trace of what could have been and nothing more, sadly. There's no gameplay to be had.

--

Well, we're more than halfway through 1999, and I think it's utterly safe to conclude that it isn't the year for DMODs that 1998 was, with three of the last four projects being unfinished stubs (though Dinkcraft was one hell of a stub) and just one mod (End of Time) that really feels like a full and complete experience. The whole Dink community might well have fizzled away had things kept on as they were. Lots of Dinkers were leaving - I left in late July, and even Dan Walma declared his intention to leave the community soon in early August - but we all know better, don't we?

Next time: The final mods of the pre-freeware period.
September 10th 2013, 10:22 PM
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shevek
Peasant Netherlands
Never be afraid to ask, but don't demand an answer 
These posts are great; thanks!

Probably the most interesting thing about this DMOD is that 2001's "FIAT" was conceived as a prequel to it

What? End of time was released before FIAT?! But given its ending, there is no way there can be a sequel! And still FIAT is presented as the first of a trilogy... Was Dan just messing with us, then?
September 10th 2013, 10:37 PM
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cocomonkey
Bard Male United States
Please Cindy, say the whole name each time. 
I see where you're confused. The "End of Time" I wrote about there is not the same DMOD as "Dinky Dimensions 2: The End of Time," which redink1 made as a sequel to FIAT. I've never played the latter, actually.
September 11th 2013, 06:37 AM
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Skull
Peasant Male Finland bloop
"I'd like to be a tree..." 
IIRC, Dinky Dimensions 2: The End of Time was pretty much the same D-Mod as Dink Smallwood & The End of Time. Just changed and polished a little bit.
September 11th 2013, 06:43 AM
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metatarasal
Bard Male Netherlands
I object 
Reading this thing is turning into a major timesink for me. I can only imagine what it is for you.

It is a fantastic time sink though.

I actually believe that the Dinky Dimensions 2 DMOD is simply a remake of the End of Time DMOD, made to fit in with FIAT. Actually the Dinky Dimensions trilogy has always been a bit oddly constructed. As far as my memory goes Dinky Dimensions 2: End of Time is even more apocalyptic in its ending to fit into the storyline. Apparently the third part would have to start in some post-apocalyptical world or something. Eventually the trilogy became a pentology first called Ancient Legacy and then Cast Awakening. Only three DMODs loosely linked together were made. It would have been truly awesome if it were ever finished.

September 11th 2013, 07:22 AM
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Kyle
Peasant Male Belgium
 
It is a fantastic time sink though.

This times 100000
September 11th 2013, 10:45 AM
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SabreTrout
Noble Male United Kingdom
Tigertigertiger. 
Enjoying this immensely so far.

It's going to be really interesting to hear Tim's thoughts as d-mod creation grows in so many ways and he's going to have some great insights into that progression of scope and quality as we move through the 2000's.

Best writey-thing on the DN in a long time, this.
September 11th 2013, 11:06 AM
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cocomonkey
Bard Male United States
Please Cindy, say the whole name each time. 
Thanks, guys. I'm curious, do my attempts at humor work at all? >_>

I changed the entry on End of Time a little bit, as I don't think I gave it quite enough credit. It's a good DMOD for its time, on the level of some of Snyder's stuff and better than anything else in the year so far.
September 13th 2013, 08:34 AM
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shevek
Peasant Netherlands
Never be afraid to ask, but don't demand an answer 
do my attempts at humor work at all?

They sure do, they make your pieces great to read.

The "End of Time" I wrote about there is not the same DMOD as "Dinky Dimensions 2: The End of Time," which redink1 made as a sequel to FIAT.

It sure sounds like the exact same storyline. The only part that's missing is the very end, when Dink enters jail. I'll spoil it: the guard is so pissed off that Dink killed his family (who lived in Windemere) that he beheads him. So a sequel would have to start from a beheaded Dink. Not really a good starting position for a DMod, it seems.

By the way, I interpreted the choice Dink had to make differently: the killing machine itself was overheating and needed to get rid of its power. If Dink had said "no" to "divert power to Windemere?", the machine itself would have blown up, causing no victims and a happy ending. So while unintentionally, Dink really did the wrong thing there. Well, that's what it seemed like to me anyway.
September 13th 2013, 11:54 AM
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cocomonkey
Bard Male United States
Please Cindy, say the whole name each time. 
Ha, that's interesting. I guess the two End of Times aren't that different.

At least in the original one, though, the implication was that "time" would end if Dink did nothing. (Hence the title!) Actually, it was pretty much outright stated.

I'll get back to this project soon. Lately I've been too busy designing a DMOD to play any of them.
September 13th 2013, 12:36 PM
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Skull
Peasant Male Finland bloop
"I'd like to be a tree..." 
Thanks, guys. I'm curious, do my attempts at humor work at all? >_>

Yes, some of the things you say are really funny! Although sometimes I think your "angry jokes" do seem a bit forced.

By any chance, are you a fan of The Angry Video Game Nerd? Because I think there's a little bit of his style in some of the things you say.
September 13th 2013, 12:58 PM
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cocomonkey
Bard Male United States
Please Cindy, say the whole name each time. 
Ah, well, they can't all be winners.

As a matter of fact, I think James "AVGN" Rolfe is clever and enjoy his videos, even though the angry act feels, as you say, forced at times. He's great at amusing facial expressions, though. Rolfe himself is a really relaxed guy. I usually enjoy his videos more when he's making jokes in a somewhat analytical style rather than, say, taking a dump on a cartridge or just stringing together a bunch of swear words (though the latter CAN be funny if done right).

For the record, Lost in Dink really did piss me off with those duck HP amounts. I was exaggerating, but not feigning!
September 13th 2013, 02:32 PM
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And the fact that there are so many of those dang ducks! I think I managed to get through it without cheating but I was very tempted to do so...
September 15th 2013, 02:24 AM
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cocomonkey
Bard Male United States
Please Cindy, say the whole name each time. 
I've been working on getting back into DMOD development, and it's going pretty well. I wrote a few scripts that will make my mod do something I don't think has ever been done before (though I could be wrong); I think people will appreciate it.

--1999 part 3: The last days of the disc--

I wanted to talk about the effects of Dink becoming freeware, but some more DMODs actually came out before that happened. Oh well; let's talk about those.

041: The Castle of Lore Author: James Perley Release Date: August 13, 1999

James Perley is primarily notable in Dink history for releasing the "374 MIDI Pack." The MIDIs are mostly of popular music and were probably taken from around the Web, but having so much music (much of it of good quality) in one place was awfully convenient for DMOD authors. These MIDIs have been used in many mods (I even used them), so it's hard to argue that the file didn't make a major impact on the community.

But hey, did you know he also made a DMOD? It's true. And that DMOD... man.

I did not finish this DMOD.

I never promised that I'd finish all of these DMODs, but I've tried as hard as I can to do so, and without cheating. In this case, even while cheating I was unable to reach the end after more than an hour and a half. It was an incredibly frustrating experience. Part of the frustration was that there are some good qualities, and at one point I was expecting to write something that, while pointing out flaws, was generally praising.

All right, let's back up. In Castle of Lore (nice title screen), Dink has to go through a portal to a strange land and attempt to find a legendary castle. He has to do this right after having had an improbably wild night, too.

You know, I always find it interesting to see the different ways various authors characterize Dink. I've played mods where he's a pure and true hero and mods where he's a selfish jerk. Here, we are dealing with Party Animal Dink. When he's not doing his hero thing (which he is, to be fair, utterly dedicated to, going so far at one point in COL as to say that he will go somewhere even if he knows he's going to die because his king has told him to), his idea of the good life is partying all the time with as many women as possible, often at once. Yes, this Dink macks on the ladies at virtually every opportunity, and surprisingly enough, they are generally rather receptive. Nobody in the world Dink occupies sees anything wrong with this behavior - even a priest tells Dink that his life clearly kicks ass.

I know that I'm writing very poorly right now, but I'm still struggling to find an angle to approach this one from. Why don't I start by writing what I was going to write before the mod went flying off the rails at high speed? Pretend along with me and experience the letdown in my shoes. The following section takes place in a parallel universe where this DMOD ends some time around the third boss battle.

--
Perley's mod contains some unusual problems and oddities, but overall I appreciated what it was trying to do and quite enjoyed it. The map is very large with lots of open areas, but there are powerups to find and lots of enemies to fight, so it didn't feel empty to me. The map design is quite good, incorporating all sorts of non-boxy shapes like diagonal corners and curves; it feels natural, like the original game.

Of course I should talk about the music. Perley's got quite an ear for tunes, and this DMOD has 32 music files, mostly based on popular songs but generally quite well-sequenced. They almost always fit the situation, too. I particularly enjoyed the use of the Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun."

Castle of Lore has a rather unusual start - Dink comes to a town where absolutely no one will talk to him, calling him a stranger and telling him to go away. I like this concept; it's different and catches my interest. Unfortunately, the way you get the town to open up to you is not so clear. There's a room with six children in it, and after having spoken to four of them and gotten the exact same response every time, I decided talking to them all was pointless. Well, one of the two other kids is the trigger for getting the priest to tell the town you're okay. Go figure. I wasted over twenty minutes wandering around the map and wondering what to do before I figured this out. From now on I'm talking to EVERYBODY, I'll tell you that.

By the way, it was extremely funny to be greeted like this as the theme from Cheers started to play. "Where everybody knows your name..."

The monsters in this mod are quite hard from the start. Just about every enemy in the game is super fast, and quite a few of them also hit hard. The boncas you encounter have too high of a defense to damage apart from the engine's mercy coin flip. Furthermore, because monsters give out very small amounts of experience, getting to a level past 2 is quite difficult early on. Even if you do manage to kill one of those boncas, you get just 10 exp! I had to get to level 3 because you need 6 strength to move a rock, and I'd already spent my first point on defense.

Oh, incidentally, this mod contained the first example I've seen of a pillbug deciding that a bonca is its target. The pillbug was very fast and the bonca quite slow, so it was very funny to me to watch the pillbug whirl madly around the bonca in circles, trying to nip at its feet. Wasting your time, little bug. Wasting your time.

The major bosses in this DMOD are different-colored knights, and after you kill each one, you are able to become him, granting you access to new areas. This gets a little bit buggy with saving, but it's still a neat concept. I didn't find the bosses to be overly difficult, although the red knight took me a very long time to kill 1 damage at a time.

Oddly, despite the large map you never get a magic spell in this game.

There are some bugs, including at least one that hangs the game. Some cheats have been left in the escape menu, like saving, refilling health, and removing screenlock. The grammar and spelling aren't the best, but they're never so bad that it interferes with your understanding. Overall, I'd encourage you to give this one a shot for some humor, a few interesting concepts and a tough challenge.
--

We now return to reality, where the DMOD falls apart at an ever-increasing pace after you defeat the Red Knight. The map design becomes much worse, with tons of empty space to wander through. One quest can be skipped because you can walk right through the guy who says he'll let you pass once you've completed it. That quest takes you to a maze full to the brim with super-fast slayers who are practically impossible to avoid - I could never make it through. Even if you could make it through that part without cheating (and if you can, my hat is off to you), I can't believe anybody could get past the next boss, a fast stone giant against whom you are desperately underpowered. He did 17 damage a hit to me, and I could barely scratch him! This is where I started cheating, and even with 50 added to my stats, it took quite a few hits to bring the monster down. I reiterate: I don't think that it's reasonable to expect anybody to get past this without cheating.

Even as a cheater, the mod continued to decline. Game-stopping bugs became more and more common, not to mention all the other bugs present. The story becomes less coherent as well. It's a shame, because the later part of the game contains some rather nice tiles that are original for this DMOD. Finally, after cheating past TWO areas that seemed to be permanent dead ends, I reached another screen I could not escape because I was surrounded on all sides by an invisible wall, and I gave up.

Writing this has kind of gotten me down; I wanted to like this mod, dammit. It had some personality, but it just falls apart and becomes, as far as I can tell, completely impossible to finish without cheating. James Perley explained the state of this mod in 2003; that's an illuminating read if you're interested in this mod or the early days of D-MOD development in general. As for me, I'm spent. This is one world that it's beyond my powers to save.

--

Sorry to derail the writeup train, but I'd like to point out something odd that I've noticed. In early episodes of South Park, there was a joke where one of the kids would say something disparaging about the bus driver, she'd shout, "WHAT DID YOU SAY?" and they'd respond with some innocuous non-sequitur that sounds like the thing they said. I have seen versions of this joke appear in at LEAST five DMODs so far, and that estimate is probably low. It was used in Castle of Lore, Pointless, Prophecy of the Ancients, I'm pretty sure it was in something by redink1, and it was in more than one other minor DMOD. I know that South Park was hugely popular at the time, but it seems bizarre to me that one particular joke would show up so often. Did it get to the point where DMOD authors were actually copying the joke off one another? I guess we'll never know.

--

042: Zoltron (Demo) Authors: Paul "Paco" Zielinski, Thomas "Instalite" Austin Release Date: August 18, 1999

The full title of this DMOD is "The Preview of the Demo of the Beta of the Shareware Version of Zoltron: Protector of the Galaxy Cluster - The Game." On top of that, the author calls the mod "crappy" in its dmod.diz and stresses that it exists to show off the main character, who is named Rick. Well, all right then. I appreciate forthrightness, and that title is slightly amusing.

As a mod, this is definitely an incomprehensible mess. There really isn't anything proper to do, although you can head into a mafia-run bar and start trouble, which is good for a lark. The only character who presents you with any kind of task (one that I don't believe you can complete) is a girl you might not ever notice you can converse with, because talking to her fails to freeze you. There is a genuinely funny Leisure Suit Larry type joke where you can try to ask her out, she makes incredibly lame excuses ("I have to take out my pet... uh, my pet pillbug") and the protagonist still takes this as a sign that she likes him. Hey, at least it's not another "WHAT DID YOU SAY" joke!

There's not much gameplay here, but in case you're worried that something might somehow challenge you, that's taken care of.

Since this is supposed to be a showcase for the main character, let's have a look at him. Ah, MSPaint. You know, although the art quality clearly isn't up to the level where it'd look good in a Dink game, I don't think this guy and his energy punch would look terrible in an "MS Paint" sort of adventure. The art quality here is a lot higher than "Bloop the Fish," at least (did you make these, Instalite? Nice improvement!). Unfortunately, it looks even worse in motion. Rick stutters around badly as he walks, it's hard to tell where his hitbox is, and punching makes him teleport a few feet backward while his hitbox and range remain where they were. I think the robot enemies have a sort of charm, though.

I wouldn't blame you for thinking this DMOD can't be beaten, but it can. There's a room you can enter (though it's difficult to find exactly where the warp point for the door is) that has a stairway leading down. This takes you to the most linear cave dungeon of all time, where you're told "you cant get out." This is a lie, actually. If you go far enough, you can reach a demo-beating machine. No, really. Well, that's convenient.

When you win, Rick spends a good solid minute telling you how awesome the full version will be and all the great features it'll have. This never came to pass, obviously, and I think this little demo is among the least-known DMODs that are still easily available. (Others, like the Spawn DMOD, have been "lost.") I guess it's just as well, because wouldn't everybody have expected it to be a Voltron parody? I know I did.

043: Island of the Giants Author: Ethan Release Date: October 2, 1999

I'm kind of surprised that the author of "The Slimes" stuck with it, but good for him. This is certainly a more substantial effort, with 160 screens. I've noticed that people tend to associate larger DMODs with higher quality. Here's an example of that not really being the case.

I mean, don't get me wrong, it's a lot better than "Slimes" by virtue of having an actual story and quest, and by not being so broken. There are still some big bugs, though - for example, if you talk to the farmer and select "leave" near the start, the game hangs. If you talk to the farmer before talking to the wizard, this is the only option you're given. Also, hardness is still treated as a quaint myth. No, seriously.

As for the size, I'm afraid that it's easy to make a DMOD big when you copy and paste a lot. There's not much decoration going on here, although there are plenty of enemies about. The second town is big but looks utterly desolate, which I'm sure is unintentional. The worst bit is the cave before the final boss - it's huge and there isn't a single feature in it. It's just a big box of cave with some Stone Giants you don't have to fight in it. When things don't look bland, they look weird as hell.

Something really glaring about this DMOD is that there's no music in it at all. This isn't the first DMOD to lack music, but it's by far the largest so far, and it makes the whole experience feel disturbingly incomplete.

Right near the start, this game heaps absurd amounts of gold on you, just tons of it. And then it does this. I laughed out loud when I saw this. I was pounding the table. Yes, this DMOD gives you over 13k gold and then lets you raise any stat for 500 gold a point as much as you want. You can also buy a clawsword and the hellfire spell nearby. I admit, it was kind of fun watching the boncas melt away at the touch of my blade like they were made out of putty. There were also very short little sidequests to do that drenched you in EXP - one near the start that just involved talking to two guys about six times sent me from level 2 to level 5 in one shot.

The plot is that you've got to stop a settlement of stone giants from making raids on the nearby towns. You have to get between the three locations, by the way, using notes of permission that teleport you behind the walls. This happens three times! Surprisingly, there's a bit of a twist: when you get to the stone giant town, they turn out to be an incredibly polite and friendly bunch. Hell, one of them hands you 100 gold every single time you talk to him. It's only an evil, underground bunch of stone giants doing the raids. Hey, it's a change of pace!

One thing in "Island of the Giants" really impressed me - there's a boss with the ability to turn invisible during the fight. This is a clever idea, and it actually made the battle quite difficult, as the boss had insanely high touch damage. Even with my crazy stats, it took me three tries to win. The last boss is a weird-looking Seth clone that's difficult mostly because it's hard to tell where its hardbox is. Both bosses share the problem of lacking screen lock.

Yep, this was an odd one. I played it with a smirk on my face, more because everything felt so out of place than because anything was particularly funny. If you don't mind mediocrity, you might have fun experiencing the strange ideas here.

044: Goblin Trouble Author: Killerbee Release Date: October 7, 1999

I am calling it now: the trophy for "weirdest DMOD" goes to this one, at least until they had that contest where being weird was the objective. Here, get a load of the title screen; it depicts nothing in the DMOD itself, but it does inform us that the full title is "Dink's Second Big Adventure, Also Called the Goblin Trouble: The first D-Mod of Killerbee, Part 1."

I would like to start by reviewing the author's description.

"Dinks second BIG adventure (GOBLIN TROUBLE) has lots of things to do, I scripted almost everything. Try to talk to everything. Most of the times it will turn out to be a complete waste of time, but it's pretty funny."

Let's evaluate the veracity of each thing stated or implied here.

1) "Second" - Then what's first? The original game? I have no idea.
2) "Big" - A baldfaced lie. This DMOD couldn't possibly take you twenty minutes. It can be finished in under one.
3) "Goblin Trouble" - there's some trouble allegedly caused by goblins, but it isn't possible to encounter any.
4) Lots of things to do - nope.
5) "I scripted almost everything" - This one is true. This crazy little thing contains 69 scripts.
6) "...complete waste of time" - Two truths in a row!
7) "but it's pretty funny." - Now for the twist: it really is.

As a DMOD, this is a broken, bizarre little wreck, but I prefer to think of it as an elaborate joke in the form of a video game module. I found it very amusing indeed, and I wholeheartedly recommend that you download "Goblin Trouble." This is not a joke; I'm being sincere. You might want to read the rest of what I have to say first, though.

There's no combat here, no variables, not really anything to properly do. However, everything will talk to you, from corpses to pillbugs. No matter how much something looks like scenery or background, you should examine it. Most things will insult you, and several of them will kill you. One thing that won't result in your death is asking the pillbug on the first screen, "Will you please kill me?" This turns out to be the password to enter the Secret Order of Pillbugs. Go figure.

I feel like I've fallen through Alice's rabbit hole here. Some will feel that the humor is forced, but I found its surreality to be striking and effective. The whole thing feels like an absurdist joke, mocking the entire concept of a DMOD; even the mod's extreme brokenness feels like part of the design to me.

Oh, boy, is it broken, though. A few screens in, a girl who is supposed to tell you what to do doesn't have her script attached properly, so you'll probably blunder into a warp to map 0, which obviously doesn't exist. Whenever a DMOD warps you to a map that doesn't exist, you end up in a copy of the first screen. If you can manage to move to the right from there, you'll reach screen 1 - actually, it would be possible to intentionally use this behavior as part of your DMOD's design.

Anyway, by a fantastic stroke of luck, screen 1 is the final screen. I got into it through a hardness error and reached the ending. This is the only way I found to win, because when I followed the instructions that the girl is supposed to give, I reached a screen shortly afterward that crashed the DMOD every single time.

It's difficult for me to explain why I like this one, and I expect to be challenged on it, but it's an opinion I feel strongly about. I feel like this one needs to exist, as if a funhouse mirror held up to all the others to remind us not to take them too seriously. You might mention "The Quest for Cheese," but even that mod gives you a purpose to accomplish and at least takes it seriously enough that you can satisfactorily "win." By contrast, nothing in "Goblin Trouble" has a purpose.

In this DMOD, Dink is an ineffectual, useless wimp whose intelligence is constantly insulted, but the truth is that all of the other "characters" also seem to regard their lives as a waste of time. One dying man uses his last breath to play a prank on Dink, who is furious that he can't get back at the man because he's dead - I am sorry, but this is hilarious.

By wandering around the hardness errors and looking in the map editor, I found that there was a lot of stuff here mapped out but not used, which is a shame. I would have loved to see what plans Killerbee had, for example, for the screen with the fake screenlock bars on it.

It's possible that the reason that I liked this one is that I perceived it as a send-up of DMODs, and 44 of them in, I'm already a little burned out on this. Fear not - though it might slow down in the future, I will persevere.
September 15th 2013, 05:36 AM
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iplaydink
Peasant Male Sweden steam
Hmm.. 
Wow I haven't played most of these dmods... I really should

Great reading as always!
September 25th 2013, 07:20 AM
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Skull
Peasant Male Finland bloop
"I'd like to be a tree..." 
Aaaaaand...

...he burned himself out.
September 25th 2013, 02:42 PM
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cocomonkey
Bard Male United States
Please Cindy, say the whole name each time. 
Actually, I've been too busy making a DMOD to play any of them. No lie.

Still, I'm taking a break from it to work on the next post.
September 25th 2013, 06:10 PM
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ExDeathEvn
Peasant Male New Zealand xbox steam
Don't look at me, I'm a ghost 
"Actually, I've been too busy making a DMOD to play any of them"

This, is the mark of a king.
September 25th 2013, 06:27 PM
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Skull
Peasant Male Finland bloop
"I'd like to be a tree..." 
Not that I'm not glad you're working on D-Mods again. But at the same time I must say I kinda wish you would finish this "playing all D-Mods" project of yours first. Because I actually feel that starting to make your own D-Mods at this point, would completely destroy that "genuine" feeling of being back and playing all these D-Mods from old to new. Knowing that you're back after all this time and playing these D-Mods from old to new is what makes these so great. I think making your own D-Mods can easily destroy that feeling of playing them, and giving them your honest opinion.

I really don't know if that made any sense.
September 25th 2013, 07:18 PM
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cocomonkey
Bard Male United States
Please Cindy, say the whole name each time. 
I dunno - I think the process of making a DMOD is actually giving me a bit of perspective when playing them, because I know how hard it is to design a decent-looking map, for example. Is that, in fact, what you're referring to? I'm still back after all this time and playing these DMODs old to new, so I'm not really sure what you mean. I assure you that my honest opinion is all I want to give.

If I waited until I'd finished this project before I started my DMOD, I'd be waiting a long time. I'm not sure I'd ever get around to it.
September 25th 2013, 08:10 PM
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Skull
Peasant Male Finland bloop
"I'd like to be a tree..." 
I just think you won't be able to look at the D-Mods from a player's perspective anymore, after you make your own D-Mod. Instead you'll be looking at them from a developer's perspective. This is what at least happened to me. And not just with D-Mod, but with games in general. It really has made playing games much less fun and "genuine" for me.
September 26th 2013, 11:40 AM
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Kyle
Peasant Male Belgium
 
I just think you won't be able to look at the D-Mods from a player's perspective anymore, after you make your own D-Mod. Instead you'll be looking at them from a developer's perspective. This is what at least happened to me. And not just with D-Mod, but with games in general. It really has made playing games much less fun and "genuine" for me.

Yes, and no. I also suffer from this "developer's eye" mentality when I play games, which does cut into the fun part sometimes. But then again, doesn't that mean the fun you have now is more genuine? Just having fun with something because you don't know better is fine, until you realize how naive you've been For example, there are too many bad design decisions in recent games that a rational person would frown at, like filler content, rehashed gameplay, lack of checkpoints at pivotal points, terribly plain storylines, empty characters, abscence of character customization, ... The list goes on and on.

I definitely didn't think about these things when I was younger and before I tried my hand at developing. As to how this relates to Tim, I feel like he's right about it giving him a more realistic view on the d-mods. Yes, this means it will edge away from a bystander's viewpoint, but at this point very few of us that are left are bystanders ourselves, so wouldn't the view of an insider be equally interesting to read? That way we can actually compare opinions and discuss the finer points of d-mod development It opens up some new possibilities.

But forget all of the above, because the main point is that there are MANY MANY MAAAAAANY more d-mods that are on his list and it would indeed be too long before he could start his own d-mod The man has the drive, you know as well as most of us that real development happens during the drive. He should work on it before the drive is gone again (and it will be gone again at some point...)
September 27th 2013, 04:40 AM
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cocomonkey
Bard Male United States
Please Cindy, say the whole name each time. 
Well, here's another installment. I worked long and hard on it. I hope it's genuine enough for ya, Skull

--1999 part 4: The Beginning--

1999 was certainly a lull for DMODs thus far, with End of Time being the only major exception (my enjoyment of the bizarre "Goblin Trouble" notwithstanding). As I've said, you might have thought the whole Dink thing was winding down. In fact, I've no need to speculate; that's pretty much what I thought at the time. I had, at this point, stopped being an active member of the community, probably to the relief of many. A lot of DMODs had been announced, but I didn't think most of them would actually come out, and indeed, most of them didn't.

But then, on October 22, Dink 1.06 was released as a free download. I was completely stunned when I found out. I know that quite a few PC games that used to cost money have become free nowadays, but back then this was very unusual behavior. People tended to hold on to their creations even if they weren't making them much money anymore, and this is certainly understandable.

I want to take notice of this and applaud Seth Robinson for doing this for the fans and PC gamers everywhere. I know they were out of copies of Dink anyway, so the decision made plain sense, but plain sense is surprisingly uncommon.

Incidentally, I think I lost my hard copy of Dink Smallwood when I moved recently. Oh well. It's kind of symbolic; I hardly needed it. The community broke free from it as well.

To me back in 1999, this felt like an ending. It all felt very final somehow. For me, it was: I wasn't really around for the ensuing boom apart from a short return in mid-2000 when I made Zink and Crossroads. Looking back, it's easy to see that things were just getting started. I think my count speaks for itself: 44 DMODs before the freeware release (Prophecy of the Ancients the best by such a margin it's not even funny), 296 afterward. All of the stuff made while Dink was something you had to buy hardly seems to make a dent in that number. I think it's fair to call this point the real beginning.

Once again, it's pretty stunning to look back on this community and all the staying power it's had. It's a rare thing, and it proves that Dink Smallwood was something special. It's interesting, because when it came out, it certainly didn't seem that way - it was an amusing and fun little game with support for modification, certainly worth $15 and $5 shipping, but also rather short, unfinished, and graphically kind of unimpressive (no offense intended to Justin from the Dink team, who did a fine job making all the graphics - it's just that the project had serious limitations). It would have seemed kind of absurd to call it special at the time, but it was. I think it was that bizarre, freewheeling sense of humor it had that got its hooks into people, but it was the many possibilities of DinkC that kept them coming back.

045: Phantasmagoria (Demo) Author: Roger Maynard Release Date: October 24, 1999

Phantasmagoria was a 1995 FMV point and click adventure game by Sierra On-Line and designer Roberta Williams, who is most famous for the King's Quest series. As a kid it scared the hell out of me, but then, I really shouldn't have been playing it as a kid (there's a friggin' rape scene!). I remember liking it, but I don't really want to play it again, as I doubt time has been kind to any FMV game, certainly any live-action one.

This DMOD has nothing to do with that game.

"Phantasmagoria" is also a word that first referred to a type of theatre in mid-to-late 18th century Europe that involved casting shadows with a projector of some kind (the kind used back then was called a "magic lantern"). Deriving from this, it can also refer to a constantly shifting scene or sequence of images, particularly illusory ones or "phantasms."

This DMOD doesn't have anything to do with that either, although that's a cool concept for one.

I can't work out the reason for the title, but it's only the beginning of the misrepresentation going on here. On the Dink Network, this is listed as a "DMOD romp," but it's actually just a demonstration of some leveling mechanics the author came up with. I can't really blame the site, because there's no description and the DMOD fails to explain itself from the start, which any good demonstration ought to do. The only informative thing is the readme. The current one references Lyna's Story, which came out in 2002, so obviously some kind of update was made to this. It's hard to imagine; I'd never played this one before.

I've certainly played (and made) things that qualified less as a DMOD than this does, to be fair. The map design is actually quite good! There's a lovely little grassy area with winding tiered paths, and it all makes sense and is well-decorated. There's one spot where you run into an "invisible wall" consisting of the next screen's hardness, but hey, even Prophecy of the Ancients had a few of those. Overall, there's some good map work here.

There's even a tiny bit of plot to be found; it's about how the DMOD has no plot, and Dink is searching for one. That's a pretty funny concept; it's too bad it goes nowhere because there are only two NPCs to talk to. What little dialogue there is amuses ("Martridge? What in the wide world of sports are you doing here?").

Ultimately, the only real point is to show off the leveling system. Killing enemies gives you "Enemy Points," which you can use at level up or at a machine somewhere on the map to increase your stats (in addition to your ordinary one point at level up). That's great, except the enemies all level up with you, and frankly, it's hard if not impossible for your improvements to keep up with theirs. I've never liked systems where enemies scale with the player's level in an RPG; it removes the point of levels in the first place, which is that difficulty is constantly adjusted according to how much time the player is willing to spend building up their character. If you don't want to have this mechanic, why not just take out levels? It's the same thing, but without the massive feeling of pointlessness. I'm looking at you, Final Fantasy 8. Don't act like I can't see you over there.

As for the Enemy Points system itself, it's not a bad idea. A problem with the original Dink Smallwood and probably most DMODs is that level ups are all but meaningless. Last time I played through the original, I put all my points (all ten of them) into magic, which turned out to be a smart move, but I could have done without. Putting them all into defense or attack would also have been fine. You only get one stat point per level, whereas you get a stat point every single time you find a potion, and three from a megapotion. A bit more meaningful is the +3 lifemax you get when you level up, but again, you get +10 from a gold heart, more than three level ups. This feels kind of broken, so I can't blame Maynard for trying to fix it.

This way doesn't feel sufficient, though - certainly not in this DMOD, where I was never strong enough to fight any of the enemies apart from pillbugs and the weakest boncas. To reach your "objective" you've got to get past two screenlocked dragons (the second of which spawns offscreen, a nasty trick), which you simply cannot do. They've got too much defense, and again, they get stronger when you do. There's a place where you're supposed to be able to buy weapons, but it doesn't work.

Please don't bother spending lots of time grinding to get past those dragons. There's nothing past there but a sign thanking you for playing the "demo."

If I wanted to make levels matter in a Dink game, I'd say there are two ways to go about it: either just make the benefits way better (say, give the player three stat points to distribute per level) or overhaul the whole thing and come up with something like a tiered skill system, which would be an awful lot of work but could be worth it.

046: Dink's Thanksgiving Adventure Author: Paco Release Date: November 26, 1999

This is the second holiday-themed DMOD, after redink1's "Dink Goes Trick or Treating." If you'd like to download this one yourself, take note that it's just called "Thanksgiving" on the site.

Like the Halloween DMOD, this one starts out with Dink's mom sending him to get something (in this case, a turkey, but since there's no such thing in Dink, we get Dink acting like a moron instead). Where that mod was a neat and innovative holiday minigame, however, this is just a very short standard DMOD without much point. All you really do is go northeast, kill a giant duck with a standard duck hardbox, and return home. There are lots of enemies to fight but not much reason to fight them unless you need to grind for levels. The map is small and contains some serious hardness errors, like a cliff you can just walk right through.

This mod does contain some interesting touches that kept it from being instantly forgettable. The most notable is that it allows you to select a difficulty (Easy, Hard or Suicide) before you start, which I believe is a first for a DMOD. The easier settings give you better starting stats and life, and Easy also gives you a sword, making fighting the "goose" very easy indeed. The only thing it'd require to beat "Suicide" is lots of patience, however, as the duck boss has a nice convenient fence you can use to punch it with utter impunity. Speaking of the duck boss, whenever you hit it the word "HIT!" flashes at the bottom of the screen, and thanks to quickly replacing it with a different colored "HIT!", it really does appear to flash. I thought this was a neat little touch - anything that pulls us away from the standard DMOD format and feels different is good. There was also a lot of music for such a short mod, much of it famous music from games; not all of it really fit, though.

"Thanksgiving" isn't offensively bad or anything - there just isn't much to it at all.

047: Alliance Command Author: Dan Walma Release Date: December 5, 1999

Dan's at it again with a third Warcraft II-themed DMOD, and this, to me, is the most impressive one yet. Unlike DinkCraft and the Warcraft section of Lost In Dink, this feels like a complete game, and it's very new and different at that.

Alliance Command was originally intended to contain three games you could select from the title screen, but only one of them, "Kill Those Orcs!," was made. The others were to be called "Orc Invaders" and "609," judging from the BMPs in the graphics folder.

Little trace of what we recognize as Dink Smallwood remains here. "Kill Those Orcs" consists of ten levels made up of nine screens each. When you enter a screen, you have to fight orcs until the timer runs out. The timer is usually 60 seconds, and you have to beat at least four screens to finish most levels, so it's quite a lengthy game.

The presentation here is fantastic. I love the minimap in the upper right, which fills green to indicate screens you've finished; this works correctly even if you go backwards. There are tons of voice clips here; most of them are from WarCraft (I laughed when I recognized the peons' plaintive cry of "We're being attacked!"), but there's one part with newly recorded speech - possibly by Seth Robinson, judging by the credits attributing it to "RTSoft."

Perhaps the coolest part about this game is the magic system. As you can see in the screenshot, there are three icons underneath the minimap. You must press the "M" key to switch which magic you have equipped, as pressing "Enter" merely pauses the game in this DMOD. You start with 0 uses of each magic, but when you pick up icons dropped by enemies, you get a use added to your stock up to a maximum of 9 per spell. The fireball gives you a stronger attack until you change screens, the sheep turns all enemies into sheep that die in one hit (careful, they can still hurt you if you touch them!), and to be honest, I never figured out what the middle one does. With a magic system like this implemented, it's not hard to imagine a genuine MP mechanic being used in a DMOD. Hell, I bet I could do it if I really wanted to, using this as a base.

As you progress through the levels, a few different variations come up, such as sailing a ship, driving a ballista, and a level where there are creature-generating structures to destroy instead of a timer. These changes help keep things interesting.

Things can be tough early on, particularly the axe throwers. Your best bet is to keep moving and let the orcs hit each other - they won't target each other, but they'll hit each other plenty trying to get at you. If you want to win, you should always increase defense when you get the chance to increase a stat at the end of each level. Your starting attack will always be sufficient, and you'll never have to cast magic in rapid succession, but if you keep increasing defense the game will become quite easy, as you'll be completely invulnerable to projectiles since the game's coinflip mercy-damage doesn't trigger for missiles.

There are some problems with this mod, most of which probably would've been worked out if it had been finished. First of all, the MIDIs don't loop, which would be easy to fix. Secondly, although all screens are present, sometimes you can't enter certain screens for some unknown reason. Third, firing straight down doesn't work very well - unlike in all other directions, trying to repeat this causes the projectiles to hit right in front of you, so you should avoid shooting downward. Another problem is that when a lot is going on, sometimes picking up an icon causes the game to crash. The most disappointing thing, however, is that after going through all the effort to reach the end, nothing happens. There's a credits script in the story folder, but it's never called. This feels like an awful shame.

Despite the problems, I highly recommend this mod to all Dink fans. It's really impressive how much this feels like its own game, and the result is quite fun. Cheers to Dan for pushing the concept of what you can do in a DMOD a little bit further with this one.

048: Reconstruction: The Freedmen's Bureau Author: Dan Walma Release Date: December 12, 1999

I remember this one. It was quite the curiosity at the time, and still is. Dan seems to have managed to use a DMOD as part of an assignment for his AP History class (his essay is included in the package). That's pretty cool!

This edutaining game focuses on a somewhat obscure aspect of the utterly botched "Reconstruction" effort that followed the American Civil War. Not too many people even here in the United States (heck, even here in the South) know about the Freedmen's Bureau, and if you read Dan's essay you'll learn that this is because they were almost completely ineffective in their task of helping former slaves and destitute whites in the years after the war. Their problems were many - they misunderstood the problem and tried to help people who didn't really need it, they underestimated the level of racial hatred in the South at the time, they had too little budget and too much paperwork, and to top it all off, what little they might have accomplished was deliberately sabotaged by President Andrew Johnson. They most success they had was in starting schools.

For obvious reasons, this is another non-combat DMOD. It's more emphatically so than redink1's own Halloween mod - not only can't you punch anything, you don't even have any displayed stats except money. You take on the role of an agent of the Freedmen's Bureau (who happens to look like Dink Smallwood), and your task is to help the people of Huntsville, Alabama, which wasn't hit particularly hard by the war but suffered its effects like everywhere else in the South.

The new graphics come from Sid Meier's Gettysburg. Mostly, they just do the job, but that horse looks amazingly at home in a Dink game. I wonder how many other games have graphics that you could plausibly use in any DMOD you like. redink's efforts to make some of the NPCs look like black people make the point, but that's all. I can hardly blame him, as it would be very difficult to do it well, but it's a reminder of how much the population of Dink World could use a boost in variety. I'd like it if we could have black characters.

To progress in "Reconstruction," you need to talk to your supervisor to get $450, go out and do what he tells you to, come back to him for your next task, and repeat. Most of the people you offer help to don't want or need it, which reflects the actual experience of the agents. What's interesting is that while you have to go to each of your objectives, you get to decide whether you actually want to be helpful or not. I expected your budget to be insufficient to give everyone what they want, given the history of the Bureau, but actually you've got more than enough to be as generous as possible. If you would like to run out of money, you can waste it getting drunk at a bar. Have enough drinks (purchased from bartender "Kevin Zettler," named after Bunniemaster) and you'll actually pass out. All this really does is waste $250. Speaking of joke names, one of the white townsfolk is named "Lucas Art." Hah.

You only get a rather mild sense of the racial hatred that pervaded the South in those days. One of the white plantation owners distrusts you as an agent of the Freedmen's Bureau, citing this actual article of the time, which is incredibly offensive, but still mild compared to all of the violence done against blacks at the time. You can get actual gratitude out of another one of the plantation owners if you find an unemployed black man to work for him, which is as good as you could expect.

There are three different endings depending on how you play. Incidentally, I am a big fan of the fact that in the best ending, it says that you "have striven." You don't see the past participle of "strive" much, but Dan used it correctly. It made my pedant's heart sing.

There's also a simple Reconstruction-era trivia game you can play. I did quite well, scoring 7000 points. This includes a two player mode, using Q and B as buzzers like in You Don't Know Jack. This is the first two-player element in a DMOD that I'm aware of (the engine doesn't allow for much in this department).

This mod is educational and interesting, but it can be a bit of a slog getting around redink's Huntsville. If you've got the Ultimate Cheat, you might as well set your speed to Fast - it won't affect gameplay in this mod, it just makes all the walking around less of a chore.

049: Gnug's Attack Author: Mike "WC" Braecklein Jr. Release Date: December 24, 1999

WC (short for "wcinfrcr," don't ask me) is one of the authors of the original WinDinkEdit, which was first released in January 2001 and revolutionized DMOD creation. That doesn't have anything to do with THIS strange little thing, though.

Let's not beat around the bush.

************This DMOD, "Gnug's Attack,"************
********Has been awarded the prestigious*********
****DINK FOREVER MEMORIAL AWARD OF BADNESS*****
********On this day September 27, 2013*******

I downloaded this twice to make sure my download wasn't simply corrupted, but I got the same thing both times. There is simply nothing here. There are four indoor screens whose hardness is a joke and four scripts containing nothing but the text "." It seems to me that this was supposed to be a short movie and nothing more, but the version currently on the Dink Network does precisely nothing and has to be the worst DMOD available.

Gnug's Attack, or "Gungs Attack TRUE STORY" as the dmod.diz calls it, seems to have been intended to be about creatures called Gnugs (or possibly Gungs) invading the Dink IRC chat, or possibly some kind of online gaming service - I honestly can't tell. This is an in-joke that I don't get, I'm afraid. All I have to go by is a text file included in the archive, which doesn't tell me much either. The only thing in the actual "game" that I'd call "content" is this rather odd title screen.

Let me talk about something else, instead. I remember three anonymous people (possibly the same person) coming to troll discussion on one of the many Dink websites back in the day. I remember them saying that they were rich and "owned a major company," yet somehow they had time in their busy schedule to come and troll us. They posted many messages insulting the community and making discussion impossible. They also implied that one female member of the community couldn't possibly be an actual woman, and if she was, that just meant it was even more pathetic that she was playing a dumb game. I recall spending the better part of a day debating (well, mostly insulting) this person or persons, using a lot of swear words and insinuating that they were actually bums who lived on a street corner and were doing this from a library or something. It wasn't terribly mature behavior on my part, but at the time I felt like I was really kicking his/their asses, rhetorically speaking.

Let's pretend those guys were gnugs! Now this DMOD means something to me and I give it an eleven out of ten for daring to tell the true story of a valiant battle from days of yore. Freedom isn't free, you guys. Never forget.

050: Crosslink (Demo) Author: Paul Pliska Release Date: December 24, 1999

REPUTATION NOTE: This DMOD is one of the select group to have a score of 9.0 or better (9.4) on The Dink Network.

This is currently the highest-rated demo on the Dink Network. It's also the highest-rated DMOD of 1999, and the only one from that year to have an "outstanding" score. I would have to agree with the community that this is the DMOD of the year without hesitation. The second through fifth best are all by Dan Walma, though.

Boy, did this generate a lot of buzz when it came out. I wasn't really hanging around Dink or playing it around this time, but I did fire it back up to check this out. "Crosslink" is full of cool, original ideas that make it stand out from the crowd, and its features are at a level not seen in a standard Dink adventure since "Prophecy of the Ancients" over a year prior. I guess I should explain what I mean by that. What I mean is that whereas most DMODs fit their ideas to the existing DMOD framework, POTA and Crosslink instead make DinkC do things to fit their ideas. These mods go the extra mile to fully realize their vision. Sure, it's fine to have the player do something and fade to the result or even explain it in text, but it really grabs the player when you go ahead and show the world changing in new and significant ways.

In the opening darkness, a story is told through sound. We hear a crash, something breaking, a woman's scream. Dink wakes up to find a different kind of opening darkness has opened up all over his house in Stonebrook. One of the cool things about "Crosslink" is that it re-uses environments and characters from the original game in an interesting way. That wavy void has swallowed up everything west of the middle of Dink's house, and the sense of the big threat is more immediate than it's been in any other mod. If you're dumb enough to walk into the blackness, Dink evaporates. The blackness progresses eastward some before you manage to get out of the first area, driving the point home that the world is ending right NOW dammit. This is great stuff.

Quite a few of the characters from the original game are here, and some of them are developed a bit - Lyna has apparently taken up Milder's sword and was apparently able to take down a slayer. Very interesting. You'll even find the guy from the totally pointless robbery segment that you can sometimes trigger in the bar in Terris. Even old Ethel is back with Quackers, whom you can murder again, which of course I did. This, oddly, causes another Quackers to turn up good as new later. Maybe Quackers is the Dink world's Kenny. Anyway, you have to help Martridge evacuate everyone to a land far away from the advancing oblivion, which occurs in an awfully long cutscene.

The rest of the mod takes place in a snowy area, where you've got to be careful not to fall into cracks in the ice. This can be quite difficult, as the cracks will suddenly appear as you walk around. I lost quite a bit of progress more than once this way. Another cool but frustrating mechanic is that some enemies will poison you on contact, turning your health meter green and causing you to periodically take 1 damage. You'll soon find it's not worth the risk and mostly resort to chucking fireballs at things. Of course, if you really want an easy time, Paul left a cheat menu in the last magic slot.

Like POTA, this game does something interesting with player input. You can press A to use an item or magic in an alternate way or Z to drop it. This initially required pressing M and then a second key, but Paul updated the mod to take advantage of version 1.06's ability to look for any key the player presses. This is a really awesome idea that opens up item use in Dink Smallwood, but sadly, it's barely used at all in this demo.

Somewhat long story short, you find a strange rift that leads to another world, that world being from The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall, quite a remarkable game for its time (the most recent game in the series, Skyrim, is still getting expansions). What went on there really captivated me: Dink could see the limits of their world that the characters there couldn't, and there's a character in that world who seems to be able to make out Dink's HUD in a dim sort of way. To be honest with you, I find this sort of thing almost perversely fascinating.

Fourth wall breaking goes on all the time in DMODs and indeed in games, but it's usually tongue-in-cheek, just a joke that relies on not taking things too seriously. If you continue to take things seriously while stripping away that fourth wall, you find that characters are forced to confront the reality of their game-world, and the way they react to this says a lot about them. The way the player reacts to it says a lot about them as well. There is so much story potential in this idea; I feel as if I'm standing at the edge of a crevasse and inside shines the light of creation. I turn my head this way and that, able to catch only fleeting glimpses of it, but I know it's there. It's there and if I could bring it into focus, it would stream out brilliantly and paint the colors and intensify the depth of everything around me, for ever.

It's a tease. You get so caught up into this game that you forget it's coming, and when it does, it makes you feel like you've climbed a long winding staircase only to find that the last step is nothing but air. "What do we do next?" says Dink. "Nothing," says Martridge. For this is only a demo. I've encountered this moment in plenty of DMODs, but I never did anything but shrug before. I let out a genuinely audible groan here. Things were just getting going!

Apart from the obvious problem of not being finished, this DMOD has a few other issues. There are a few conversations that needlessly use "say" instead of "say_stop," requiring you to stand around and wait. There's a knight you can't talk to without making the game crash so hard that you have to kill the task to escape. There are misspellings throughout. Despite this last point, the writing is actually quite sharp. I particularly enjoyed Martridge's metaphor that their world is like a piece of fabric that is unraveling, and that adjoining worlds are like glass phials that can break and leak into one another.

Crosslink is fantastic while it lasts; I just wish there were more. Luckily, I know there is more, much more coming. This is just the beginning, and the future is looking bright. See you cats in the futuristic year 2000.
September 27th 2013, 06:16 PM
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Kyle
Peasant Male Belgium
 
That was a 15 minutes well spent What a great article. Calling it a trip down memory road wouldn't do it justice, it's more than that. It feels like actual professional writing about amateur d-mods!

DINK FOREVER MEMORIAL AWARD OF BADNESS

This cracked me up so hard xD And it's true!
September 27th 2013, 06:56 PM
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iplaydink
Peasant Male Sweden steam
Hmm.. 
Had a great time reading this, keep up the good work! ^^
September 28th 2013, 11:43 AM
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Skull
Peasant Male Finland bloop
"I'd like to be a tree..." 
Great read once again!

Weird how I remember there being a more proper ending in Alliance Command than that which you described. It wasn't anything impressive, but I definitely have a recollection of a dark screen, and it somehow included the main protagonist guy and sheep, while there were some sort of credits. My memory may just be playing tricks on me, but I still find it strange that there'd be a random memory like that in my mind without a reason. If that's the case, I'm starting to really get concerned about my brain.
September 29th 2013, 08:21 PM
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cocomonkey
Bard Male United States
Please Cindy, say the whole name each time. 
Thanks a lot, guys. I really appreciate your feedback/support.

I have submitted a fairly bare-bones HTML version of the 1998 write-ups to the site as a miscellaneous file, so hopefully that'll be up soon.
September 30th 2013, 08:47 AM
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metatarasal
Bard Male Netherlands
I object 
These comments are still fantastic to read. Many of these DMODs are not as special as the very first few simply because they're not the first few. I guess most of these DMODs are very rarely played anymore because they don't have that very special place in history nor the quality to compete with DMODs that came later. Despite this you still manage to make it interesting to read, fantastic job.

Some comments from my part:

045: The leveling system isn't really broke because of the limited amount of power-ups you get. This mostly exposes a problem with DMOD design: Creating an overpowered protagonist because it gives a more epic feel to the DMOD. You can also easily fix it by editing lraise.c to give the player more power-ups at each level-up.

No, the real reason why the level-up system is broken is because the experience required is exponentially increasing. For large DMODs it means that no matter how long you fight enemies after a certain while you'll get stuck at some practical limit. Only the first few levels really influence gameplay (up to level 6 or something). The only way to fix this is to give enemies an ever increasing amount of experience which is just not practical. After about level 32 the amount of experience needed is to large to even fit in an integer.

For longer DMODs it means that levelling becomes pointless and shorter DMODs usually give way too many powerups, especially the early ones. The only big DMOD to nail this is FIAT imho.

047: I have to say that in completely changing the entire graphics set these warcraft DMODs remain quite unique. Everything else pretty much (partly) uses original Dink graphics or something in the same style. Very impressive considering the average quality of stuff released back then. I've never actually played Alliance Command as far as I can remember, but it sounds like I missed out on something...

048: Interestingly I've never missed having different races of people in games. For me it sometimes feels a bit as if a variety of people is included just to be politically correct. For me Dink is placed in some north-west European medieval country where black people would be a curiosity. But I guess there aren't any sandy deserts in north-western Europe either, even though I have used deserts in DMODs myself. So I guess my image of things is somehow twisted anyway.
September 30th 2013, 08:05 PM
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cocomonkey
Bard Male United States
Please Cindy, say the whole name each time. 
Thanks for the insightful comments, metatarasal.

Game balance is a very tricky problem. This is the one thing that the original game does much better than any DMOD I've yet played (and the major reason POTA isn't better than it), but even it wasn't ideal.

You're right, the major problem is how far apart the levels get. When playing a short mod, even level 4 feels like too much effort (900 exp already!) to reach a lot of the time. It's easy to muck around with lraise.c (I've done it for my new DMOD) and make level-ups themselves better in any number of ways, but if you even can make it easier to attain higher levels, I'm not sure how you'd do it. Does anyone have a method for this, or is it something you'd have to change in the source code? I've tried raising &level manually in a script; it doesn't seem to do anything. Heck, maybe you could just make a script that checks your exp value on a loop and calls lraise using external("lraise", "main").

The highest level I've attained in a DMOD so far is 12, by the way. I'll keep track of this.

Regarding replacing all the graphics: Let's not forget Dinkanoid. Mike Snyder really threw out the rulebook for that one. Dan still deserves loads of credit for getting all of those imported graphics to work and look good.

I'm engaged to a black woman, so maybe I just like black people? No, but seriously, more variety of any kind is sorely needed. Seeing those same 19 NPCs (and this is counting recolors - without them, it's just 9!) over and over gets old so quickly that it speeds past getting old and gets surreal. Then you just sort of get numb to it, and that's where we all are.
September 30th 2013, 08:32 PM
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leprochaun
Peasant Male Japan xbox steam bloop
Responsible for making things not look like ass 
Heck, maybe you could just make a script that checks your exp value on a loop and calls lraise using external("lraise", "main").

I don't think you'd need to run a loop. Most likely the only time you're going to get exp is from killing something. You could just spawn your check script in the sprite's die() section. Though, the exp till next level section of the status bar will probably just end up confusing players.

September 30th 2013, 08:41 PM
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cocomonkey
Bard Male United States
Please Cindy, say the whole name each time. 
Yes, you'd have to remove that part of the status bar and replace it with something else.

I guess we're getting a bit off-topic at this point, though.

Edit: Plus, this has all been hashed out before. Hardly surprising.
October 1st 2013, 08:42 AM
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shevek
Peasant Netherlands
Never be afraid to ask, but don't demand an answer 
Thanks for the great read once again!

this has all been hashed out before. Hardly surprising.

But I'm missing a fairly obvious solution: If you lower the player's level in lraise.c, the "exp until next level" will be reset to the "old" value. That is, if you keep the level at one, there will always be 100 xp needed for each next level. You just need to fake the level indicator (which will always be 1), but that's easy with some noclip sprites.

You can't change the distance between the levels, but you choose which distance is the "current" one.
October 1st 2013, 08:59 AM
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Kyle
Peasant Male Belgium
 
but that's easy with some noclip sprites.

This isn't as easy as you might think. Robj and I experimented in detail with removing each element from the UI and replacing it with our own. Some of the elements, especially the number indicators, can not be removed. I believe our eventual solution was to make them all 1 pixel by 1 pixel and paint over with 1 pixel squares afterwards in a script.
October 1st 2013, 12:19 PM
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iplaydink
Peasant Male Sweden steam
Hmm.. 
That made me crazy back when I made FallDink, I think the experience numbers where the only thing that couldn't be painted over. I replaced the graphics instead with a square the same colour of the status bar.
March 6th, 02:13 AM
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For the record the Tim in Mike The Magician was not CoCo Tim