Kareltima is a small series of smaller roguelike games of no small inanity. Set in a supposedly mystical world, where Gandalf the Grey is in the fake ID business, pub landlords know their calculus, malacks roam the towns (beware!), and bored priests are, well, very bored. There are also inexplicably singing rings and mutant sjutvynheims, whatever those might be.
Kareltimas are a joke on many levels. They're DOS programs — and that is a joke in and of itself. The name is a reference to Alexandros Karelas, who perpetrated the first two Kareltimas in Turbo Pascal. It's a spoof of Richard Garriott's Ultima (of which both Alexandros and I have been long-time fans). They're Roguelike games, which means they use text and block graphics instead of raster graphics. They feature inside jokes and various friends, including cameo appearances by Andreas Gazis (aka Andy the Malack and Armadillo Gazeer) and Marina Zannara (aka Silwen Thorontari).
Kareltima I: The Attack of the Mutant Sjutvynheims
Kareltima I (Attack of the Mutant Sjutvynheims) is available here, but as MS-DOS executables. The source is long gone. Alexandros Karelas wrote both Kareltima I and II in the space of a few days sometime in mid-1992, while calling me repeatedly with Turbo Pascal questions. Presumably, Kareltima I was a brief exercise in programming, and Kareltima II was the actual ‘project’ (again, this term is used loosely).
Kareltima II: The Ugly Shopkeeper
Kareltima I was written in what I can only describe as a life-threatening fit of utter boredom, but Kareltima II is where the project acquires its questionable style and most of its cast of characters. It's still very, very simplistic. Like Kareltima I, its Turbo Pascal source code has been lost — but I've secured an MS-DOS executable.
Kareltima III: The Self-Beating Machine
Kareltima III: The Self-Beating Machine was written by moi, although I used some dialogues (and many of the characters, many of which aren't original anyway) from the previous two games. It's more colourful than the previous two games, but still follows the same general design ‘principles’ (term used loosely).
The game is rather silly and has inane writing. Both were deliberate. Honest. It's a cute little hack. I believe it's the one and only game I've written for the Daft ‘Operating System’. It was actually a very good study in the way Roguelikes work.
For reasons unknown, and in an attempt to detox myself from work during a nasty period of my life1, I ported Kareltima to modern architectures. Amusingly, the port was done on a ten-year old Sun SPARCclassic box (running FreeBSD). This side of the 21st century.
The modern port is written using Simple Directmedia Layer (SDL) to do the dirty work. SDL is a solid game creation framework used by many platform-independent games. It's being abused horribly here. Sorry, SDL. The abuse allows me to simulate the VGA 80×25, 8×16 cell text mode on a variety of graphics hardware, as long as it can display 640×400 or better.
But How Do You Run Them?
Why would you ever want to?
Oh, you were being serious? The DOS executables are tiny and well-behaved, so they might even run on modern Windows machines if they still have any sort of 16 bit DOS runtime or emulation layer (I'm woefully out of date with Windows). A safe bet for all modern computers is DOSBox. It's free.
Play Kareltima 3 Right Here On Your Browser
There are a few minor inaccuracies:
- The Ctrl-Alt-Del easter egg isn't there because this isn't DOS.
- Like all but the original version, the ‘Jump on the keyboard’ stuff is gone, pressing a single key is enough to page through the instructions. The messages are still there though, in case you were wondering.
All Greek to You
A couple of the game's messages are in Greek (though all of the dialogues are in English). This shouldn't come as any surprise, as all of the people involved are native speakers (and some of the English writing reflects that). It also fits in with the whole theme of the game: You're Not Expected to Understand This. The messages are random anyway, and they appear along with English versions. They are ‘error’ messages for when you try to pick up empty air, or talk to same.
No, I don't know what a ‘Sjutvynheim’ is, either.
The Gremlin isn't talking in any real language. This much should be obvious. It does utter a few of the authors' non-words of preference. ‘Gurthfrhumbeh’ is one of them. Sure, it's almost unpronounceable, but if you've tried to pronounce R'lyeh, you shouldn't have much trouble twisting your tongue around this.
Skara Brae is a reference to Ultima and Bard's Tale. In turn, their use of the name is a reference to the neolithic Scottish settlement of the same name.
‘Eno[c]hlious the Insufferable’ was the name of a friend's D&D character. Enochlious would probably translate to Annoyous.
There are a couple of colour bugs in the game, mostly blue backgrounds. The maps were drawn on a monochrome VGA monitor, and dark blue was very dark. You can probably spot the two bugs easily enough on a colour monitor.
The singing ring (tries to) sing the jingle from a commercial for chopped tomatoes. It then goes on to sing (out of tune) ‘I'm a little soup pot’. This line has featured in my (Alexios') signature since 1993 and is apparently my signature phrase (see what I did there?), even though I've only actually said it a few times. The phrase didn't originate in Kareltima, though. I just used it there too.
I actually started coding Kareltima IV — The Ambitious Yo-Yo in 1993, but ran out of time. It was still in text mode, but took better advantage of VGA palettes and fonts. It was also in Turbo Pascal. Only the introduction is there, and it's still an over-the-top first draft of a first draft, and hence completely unpublishable.
Neo the Phyte, the Bomblong neophyte, is not a reference to the Matrix.
Known Issues and Bugs
The mere existence of this program.
There are a few colouring bugs, since the ‘graphics’ were originally done on a monochrome monitor, where a blue background was almost indistinguishable from a black one. These have been left in for that genuine feel.
The sound is slightly out of tune, and can sound really bad on slower hardware (note: this is by 2002 standards). The PC speaker emulation layer needs work.
The ‘jump on the keyboard to continue’ shebang was too annoying, and should never have been put in the original game. Retrospect is such a nice thing, eh? In case you never experienced it, the instructions pages would ask the user to press an increasingly large number of keys to move on to the next page. The last page of instructions only needed one key, though. This made most people miss the last (important) page and have to start over. Annoying people is well within the Kareltima charter, but this went too far. In the interest of usability (ha), this port of Kareltima does not implement this ‘feature’. The only reason this is listed under ‘bugs’ is because it causes the port to deviate from the original game.
All other original flaws and problems have been left intact, including at least one spelling mistake, lots of little grammar issues, bad dialogues, and the two colour bugs in the ‘graphics’.