Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

[Archive] Wizardry 8, Bonus Episode: Designer Explains Arnika Road

Posted by Rampant Coyote on July 1, 2015

Back in 2008, I did a playthrough of Wizardry 8, a game I’d missed the first time around. At the time, it was hard to acquire (yay for getting it brought back as a digital title!), and I felt (correctly!) that I’d missed out on a classic title. I blogged my efforts, but with the Great Blog Reboot we lost those articles. Since they’ve been requested, I’m re-posting them now. I hope that with the game now made available again via digital distribution, this may help other people discover this overlooked “final” game in the Sir-Tech series.

Charles Miles, a member of the Wizardry 8 development team, takes responsibility for the much-criticized Arnika Road section of the game (which Scorpia likes to call, “The Terrible Road.”). His self-appointed title was “Monster & Item Wrangler,” and besides designing Arnika Road, he set up a lot of the data for the game. After years of working on Zoo Tycoon games, he went back to making RPGs business, working with Turbine and Dungeons & Dragons Online.

Scott MacMillan introduced us via email this week. Charles had some comments about Arnika Road, and about Wizardry 8 in general, which he has graciously allowed me to post here:

People have screamed bloody murder about the Arnika road since Wizardry 8 was originally released. This is what the Arnika road was *supposed* to teach you:

  • To avoid monsters by either using spells like Chameleon or by staying out of their line of sight. You could often sneak around the monsters if you were careful.
  • To be smart about where you rested. If you rested in the middle of the road, monsters are much more likely to wander by see you, and ambush you while you sleep. If you rested in a hard-to-see place like behind a rock or behind the house at the T-intersection it was much easier to get a full rest in.
  • To use the disposable items–potions, bombs, wands, etc.–we constantly gave you as loot.

None of this came across very clearly in the final game. There were hints buried in the manual, but Wizardry 8 came out just after people had gotten out of the habit of reading game manuals. Also people had become accustomed to brain-dead monsters from games like Everquest that detected you using only a basic aggro radius that worked through doors, walls, etc. That meant most players never even thought of trying an “unusual” tactic like hiding from the monsters! (We had just come off of Jagged Alliance 2 so naturally we put in line-of-sight and hearing systems for the monsters.)

Last but far from least, Wizardry 8 was one of the last North American RPGs to be unapologetically hard–we wanted surviving each level to feel like an achievement. In fact one of our concerns about Wizardry 8 was that it might be too *easy, *as crazy as that sounds today. We made Wiz 8 much easier than any of the earlier installments in the series (if you don’t believe me then try, say, Wizardry 4) and we were worried the long-time fans might object.

Anyway, I’ve always regretted that people had so much trouble with the Arnika road. If I were doing it today I’d do things differently–I might make it a bit easier and I would definitely put in a tutorial system that gave you guidance on how to survive.

It’s great to see people still playing the game, by the way. It’s making feel all nostalgic.

Filed Under: Archive, Wizardry 8 - Comments: 2 Comments to Read

  • Adorna said,

    hmmm.. I played the game when it came out and don’t remember Arnika Road as so terrible .. getting to Arnika for the first time was really really brutal, but after that I think I never took the road itself and stayed to green and as much to the wall as I could and rested behind the old house. I think I only started to walk on the road itself close to the end of the game. The gadgeteer items wer also quite useful, especially the illusionary target.
    Maybe one nsc guarding the crossroad that you could bribe to guard your sleep would have been great though.

  • CdrJameson said,

    I’m sure this would have hammered me. I almost never use disposable items in RPGs. Firstly, I like to save them ‘until I need them’, which is always some unspecified future encounter. Second, I surely need to be able to complete encounters with my base-level stats, otherwise I can get well in over my head.

    On the odd occasion I have used potions etc. I’ve cleared an encounter only to get hammered on the next one because the encounter was actually a gating mechanism to check I was powerful enough. Which I’m not any more, because the potions have worn off and I’ve run out.