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Video Game: TaskMaker

TaskMaker is a Western RPG, first designed as a Tabletop Game and later adapted for the black-and-white Macintosh in 1989. While almost nothing is known about the board game, the computer version was fairly popular, especially after a 1993 rerelease as Shareware by Storm Impact added color graphics. (The company had previously done the same with MacSki.)

The player is an agent of the title character, sent to fetch objects from various towns and dungeons while gaining experience. Along the way, he has to fight various monsters. The player can also go to shops to buy useful potions, weapons and scrolls to enhance his fighting ability, as well as not-so-useful items. Stats are measured in bars such as food, spirit, health, stamina, etc. — these stats can be depleted and restored at any time, but leveling up increases how much overall you have of each. He can also cast various preset spells to aid in killing monsters, replenishing stats, etc. For the final task, the player is asked to kill a prisoner, who actually turns out to be a good person. Regardless of whether or not the prisoner is killed, the player then discovers that the TaskMaker is evil, and has to kill him to win the game. The TaskMaker will insta-kill you if you killed the prisoner.

A sequel entitled The Tomb of the TaskMaker was released in 1997. Due to management issues at the corporate level, the sequel was largely rushed and had many unused dungeons, as well as several glitches. Developer Storm Impact collapsed soon afterward, and the game was never heard of again until David Cook, one of the programmers, released a version 1.0.1 of Tomb on his personal website in July 2008.

Tropes present include:

  • Abandonware: After Storm Impact dissolved, the creators posted registration codes online so that all three of Storm Impact's popular games (the two TaskMakers and a skiing simulation called MacSki) could be registered for free. Since then, however, Cook has posted the software (and another late-1990s game called Asterbamm, which was a critical failure) on his website, and asks $10 for a complete suite of Storm Impact registration codes.
  • All There in the Manual: The shareware version came with a manual, without which some of the puzzles are pretty hard to solve.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: A spell in "Other spell to invoke" can turn off the stepping noise every time a player moves, the "ooph" sound when they run into a wall, and the appearance of random monsters. It can also make the game automatically save whenever you enter or exit a town/dungeon/etc.
  • Awesome but Temporary: Magic wands of various sorts can be found all over the place. While they boast power far beyond even the most powerful sword, and can even be wielded, they'll usually last for only one to four shots before turning into a useless stick.
  • Bag of Holding: All items are placed in the player's pouch, which can hold up to 41 items, regardless of how big each individual item would be in Real Life. You could carry 41 old empty chests in there if you wanted.
  • Big "YES!": The sound effect for leveling up.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: One character says "This game is too tough." when frightened.
  • Cheat Code: Many spells can be entered into "Other Spell to Invoke", including one which summons a(n expensive) food shop, another which summons a(n also expensive) key shop, one which blows away any force field in your path, one which returns you to the docks at the start of the game, one that summons a ship when facing water, etc.
    • One version of the game accidentally left in a spell meant only for game testers and debuggers, that allows the player to wish for any object as often as they wanted. Using the spell in subsequent versions force-quits the game.
  • Critical Hit: Called "Double damage."
  • Death Cry Echo: Heard when a player is sent to Hell.
  • Death Is Not Permanent: A player can die and go to Hell an indefinite amount of times.
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything:
    • Although it's not that easy to set up such a circumstance in the first place, it's completely impossible to die in the Tutorial level.
    • The Ethereal Potion does not allow passage through black walls or walls with shapes on them. Vidair's Tower is largely composed of black walls.
    • Frightening an NPC will not work if your player is drunk.
    • You can't use the "summon a ship" spell in Castle Hall, because it can be used to access a powerful weapon in the fountain.note 
  • Disc One Nuke: The Tutorial level gives you an ethereal potion, which can either be sold for a high price to get powerful weapons early on, or used to phase through walls near the TaskMaker's throne to access three powerful weapons and a switch that unveils a fourth.
  • Dual Wielding: A player can hold a weapon in each hand (and probably should). However, there are some two-handed weapons, including shovels, picks, and bows.
  • Dungeon Bypass: Invoked in Poet's Nightmare. After deciding that it was too tough a dungeon, the programmers added a staircase hidden behind a wall. Just one Passwall or Ethereal Potion will get you there.
  • Easter Egg: Several.
    • Nearly every dungeon has a hidden message. Pentamerous has a very long one that explains the game's history in detail.
    • If you try to throw a task item in the recycle bin, you'll get a funny message such as "You can't recycle that! It would turn you into a tuna fish sandwich."
    • There are several amusing easter-egg spells based on Other Spell to Invoke:
      • "Kiss" on a monster or guard drains your Spirit and displays the message "You should seek professional help."
      • "Fuck" or "Shit" sends the player to Hell with a message of "Watch your language!"
      • "Eggs" displays the message "Why did you say eggs?"
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Even un-angered monsters will become angry if you attack a Good or Neutral NPC in their presence.
  • Everything's Worse with Bees: Zig-zagged. "Worker Bees" have a Good alignment and very low health. There are, however, Giant Wasp, Giant Hornet, and Giant Killer Bee, who all have an Evil alignment.
  • Excalibur: The name of the most powerful sword. It's found in the Island Prison.
  • Fetch Quest: The main premise.
  • First Town: Castle Hall.
  • Forced Tutorial: Subverted; you can skip the tutorial. However, you shouldn't, because it offers far more treasure than is given to players who skip the tutorial. (For instance, you can gather multiple weapons and an Ethereal Potion, which can be sold for a high price or used to get a powerful sword early on.)
  • Game-Breaking Bug: If a player's food meter is drained, he will lose health very quickly and be sent to Hell. Unless he finds food right away, he will be stuck in an infinite death loop.
  • Get on the Boat: Required to get to Vidair's Tower. You have to sail out of Pentamerous.
  • Healing Potion: In addition to the traditional one, the game offers "Extra Healing" (a stronger potion), and various items that will restore your health and/or other stats to various degrees (including "Instant Weekend" and "Instant Vacation").
  • Hell Hound: One appears in the graveyard in Castle Hall.
  • Inconveniently Placed Conveyor Belt: The tutorial shows an example of a conveyor belt being used to deny exit from a room (you have to turn it off via switch). However, this trick only shows up in one village, where all it blocks you from is a small pile of Skeleton Keys amid lots of garbage. Even then, it can easily be thwarted by using the Haste spell or Boots o' Speed to run across the conveyor belt.
  • Inexplicable Treasure Chests: One of the items you can acquire at a shop is "Old Empty Chest," which is empty and has no value at all.
  • Intoxication Ensues: The game features various types of beer, which do nothing but render the player "happy and carefree". Movement will be impaired, fighting skills temporarily lessened, and if the player is drunk enough, he will be unable to properly transact with NPCs or shopkeepers (the game will just say "You've had a little too much to drink" instead).
  • It's Up to You: You have to do all the fighting, Item Getting, and everything else. None of the NPCs can help you beyond giving hints.
  • Joke Item: Tons are available at the shops and throughout the game. These range from the obvious, such as garbage, skulls, and old bones, to less obvious ones, including several varieties of Macintosh, the aforementioned old empty chest, etc.
    • The Mac models aren't completely useless, as they are often found in dungeons and as monster drops, and sell for a decent amount of cash (early in the game, at least). Also, since they have a high value, bestowing them will work on just about any character other than the TaskMaker.
    • The Wisdom Teeth seem useless at first, but they will prevent you from being teleported by the final boss.
  • Karma Meter: In a manner of speaking; the game keeps track of how many "good", "neutral" and "evil" beings you kill. In the first game, kill too many good beings (or the Prisoner) and the Big Bad insta-kills you.
  • Lampshade Hanging: One of the monsters in the game is called a Cameron, a species made up for the game. When happy, it asks, "What's a Cameron anyway?"
  • Level Editor: Sort of. After winning the game, you can edit all of the dungeons.
  • Level Grinding: Pretty much a necessity. You can even pull it off in the tutorial despite that level not having monsters; just use the entry-level spells (Heal/Cure, Illuminate) enough times and you can probably get to level 7 (by which point you will know all the spells) before you're even done with the tutorial.
  • Like a Badass out of Hell: The tricky thing about monsters is there tend to be a limited amount, and randomized ones are rare unless you stock up on Make Monsters scrolls. This makes level-grinding tricky, especially if you only want to kill evil monsters. When you die, you have to make your way through a fiery maze in Fire and Brimstone Hell back to the living, while avoiding respawning devils (three of which are blocked off and can't hurt you). You can get sent to Hell if you "cast a spell" with a swear word in it. (Or use an item like a Hell Scroll or Adam's Apple that Randomly Drops). Also, the devils re-spawn if you save in Hell and reopen the file…
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Almost all dungeons are swarming with NPCs and/or monsters.
  • Money Spider: Killing nearly any NPC will find at least one item on their body.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: One of the randomized lines spoken by an NPC when it dies.
  • Playable Epilogue: After winning the game, a doorway behind the TaskMaker's throne reveals an access to an epilogue level in which all of the game's creators are NPCs.
  • Player Nudge: If you talk to the TaskMaker but haven't yet received the current task object, he will demand again that you get it, and give a hint or two on finding it.
  • Poison Mushroom: "Skeleton Scroll" temporarily drains your player stats by about 10%, and "Depressions" knocks them down even further. "Devil's Scroll" goes so far as to lower your overall stats.
  • Schizo Tech: Despite being essentially The Theme Park Version of a medieval setting, the game has "Auto teller" machines, recycling bins, and early-model Macintoshes for sale at some shops.
  • Schmuck Bait: Inverted. "Poison Potion" will actually increase all your stats.
  • Sdrawkcab Name: Enitsirhc in the first game, a royal house led by a woman named Christine.
  • Sequence Breaking: Subverted. While you can clear out the path to a task object whenever you want, you can't actually pick up the next object in line until the TaskMaker has assigned it to you. The game even informs you of this.
    • You also can't go into any other town at the start of the game until you've talked to the TaskMaker in Castle Hall.
  • Shaped Like Itself: One of the randomly-generated "last words" for an NPC upon dying is "These are my last words."
  • Shout-Out:
  • Skeleton Key: Of the "open any doors" variety.
  • Speaking Simlish: The sound effect played when conversing with a player is actually the words "fine by me" sped up and multi-tracked. Similarly, the sound effect for reading a scroll is multi-tracked gibberish.
  • Sprint Shoes: "Boots o' Speed".
  • Take That: Richard Garriott is held in the Island Prison, in a prison covered with feces. (You can only get to him by phasing through walls.) He says "I don't make games anymore."
  • Teleport Spam: Inverted; the final boss can teleport-spam you.
  • Treacherous Quest Giver: The title character.
  • The Unpronounceable: One of the tougher monsters is called the Xlozphroc.
  • Vendor Trash: See also Joke Item, above.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: If the player keeps a good alignment (e.g., by only killing monsters, not neutral or good NPCs), they will find that their health will replenish much more quickly in the Lost Gardens.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: You can kill off almost every NPC, then use "restart place" to reset the current area and re-spawn every NPC, although you will lose a small amount of points for each one you kill. Lather, rinse, repeat.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: Killing an NPC with a Good alignment decreases your Spirit. Also, don't kill "Mom" in Enitsirhc and "Rusty" in Poet's Nightmare. They will warn you of this when you've fought them to the point that they become frightened (done by any NPC when its health is low) by saying "You're making a big mistake!". And if you kill them, your player will permanently be rendered blind, deaf, and drunk (i.e., completely unable to finish the game).
  • Violence Is the Only Option: One of the tasks in the first game is to kill a rebel and bring back his head. His alignment is given as "unknown" when you first meet him, and killing him reveals him to be a "good" alignment. Averted from version 2.0.3 onward, as the level was changed so that instead of killing the rebel, you can bestow a gift to him, thus causing him to give you a slave's head, which the TaskMaker always assumes to be the rebel's head. Similarly averted in the Island Prison from 2.0 onward, where you can either bestow a gift to the prisoner in the Island Prison, or just do nothing to him at all.
  • Visual Pun: In Enitsirhc, you can find a Skeleton hiding in a closet.
  • Voice Of Dramatic: A deep voice says the game's name in the opening screen.
  • Wake-Up Call Boss: The final boss is about 10 times more powerful than any monster in the game. He can also teleport, deafen, blind, or intoxicate you, in addition to summoning monsters and healing himself. He used to be nearly ten times more powerful than that in 2.0, but was severely cut down.
  • Wallet of Holding: Zig-zagged. You can carry forms of currency, but you can't use them in a shop until you deposit them in an Auto Teller. As with any other object, forms of currency take up room in your pouch until deposited. Also, you will lose any un-deposited currency if you die. However, money deposited in the Auto Teller or earned from selling shop items has no upper limit, so a good looter can become filthy rich in a hurry.
  • Welcome to Corneria: NPCs have only four lines: one each for happy, neutral, angry and frightened, plus a fifth randomly-generated line if killed.
  • What the Hell, Player?: As stated above, this happens if you try to recycle a task object. Also, if you attack a good or neutral NPC, any other NPCs onscreen will become angered and start attacking you, usually with WTHP?-esque statements. If you do this in Castle Hall, it will also anger the Guards, no matter how far from them you are.
  • Wizard Needs Food Badly: One of the stat bars is Food. This is replenished by buying or finding any food, from Apples and generic Rations up to Home-Cooked Meals and Spinach, which replenish both Food and all other stats. Similarly, an "Instant Vacation" spell will also replenish all stats including Food, Hungergone potions will fill up the Food bar instantly, and a Food Ring will keep the Food bar full at all times. As mentioned above, the Food bar hitting 0 causes the other stats to drain very quickly until the player finds food or dies from his health hitting 0.note 

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alternative title(s): Task Maker
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