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Video Game / SunDog: Frozen Legacy

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"This is my ship now. I accept the terms of my uncle's will. I claim SunDog for myself."
The Rithan chortled. "Then hop aboard. You're on your own now. Your fate lies in your hands."

SunDog: Frozen Legacy was a 1984 Wide-Open Sandbox game for the Apple ][ and Atari ST computer systems. It was an early space trading game, where the Featureless Protagonist (named Zed by default) inherited the titular spaceship, the SunDog, from his late uncle. Along with the ship came the contract the uncle had taken on - to provide initial supplies for a new religious colony, and retrieve their cryogens from around the nearby star systems.

Unfortunately, the ship is in less-than-stellar condition, and you have limited funds. You can repair it, but you also need those funds as seed money for your career as a trader. You certainly don't have enough money to purchase all the goods the colony needs. And that's once you even find the colony, since all that you know is that it's somewhere on Jondd, the world you start on.

Your uncle was the low bidder, in case you were wondering.

The original version for the Apple II was ported to the Atari ST as one of the earliest games for that platform. It was the first game published by FTL Games, who later went on to make Dungeon Master among others.

A modern recreation, Sundog Resurrection, was started in the early 2000s. It floundered along for several years before serious development began in 2012. A semi-closed beta was released in March 2016.

Tropes in SunDog include:

  • Aborted Arc: The prologue plays up the mysterious circumstances of your uncle's death, but nothing about it comes up in gameplay. There were two planned sequels, Old Scores To Settle and Blows Against The Empire, that would have continued this story line, but they never materialized.
  • All There in the Manual: The manual includes a prologue describing the setup for the game. Without reading the manual, the player may not even know there is a colony they're supposed to provide supplies to. The manual is available online here, in original scanned images and as text.
  • Alleged Car: The SunDog starts out in poor condition, with a damaged hull, low fuel, and many damaged components.
  • The Bartender: Not fleshed-out as individuals, but bartenders are how the player accesses the Black Market, in addition to selling food and drink.
  • Black Market: Each world has a tech level and a law level that control what can be bought there, and there can be good money to be made by carrying personal items such as weapons, high-tech starship parts, stat-boosting drugs, and questionably-legal starship accessories to worlds where such things are not available.
  • Born into Slavery: Zed was born as a glass miner, as was his father, and his father before him. Somehow, his father's brother got out, and that's what gives Zed a way out as well.
  • Casual Interstellar Travel: The Drahew region has 18 planets in 12 systems, and you need to go to every system.
  • Cult Colony: The Banville colony is a religious colony. However, as it grows, it rapidly becomes the most advanced city in the game, and eventually can sell you the enhanced hyperdrive that lets you jump to the final world.
  • Death World: Enlie. Your ground scanner doesn't work so you need to drive the pod to the second city. The ships there will shoot at you whether you have any cargo or not, and won't go away even if you're cloaked. The people there shoot at you without trying to threaten you.
  • Deflector Shields: The SunDog has them. They reduce the damage you take, but don't eliminate it.
  • Duct Tape for Everything: Shunts act in this role when repairing your ship. You can replace every part in every system except control nodes with a shunt, but at a cost in performance.
  • An Entrepreneur Is You: You don't have anywhere near enough money to buy everything the colony needs, much less keep your ship functional in the process. So you get to make your fortune by shipping cargo and/or other items between planets.
  • Equipment Upgrade: You can replace some of the standard parts in your ship with improved ones. Concentrators increase the damage done by your weapons, ground scanners let you land at any city instead of just the spaceport, cloakers let you create a cloaking field, and decloakers let you see cloaked ships. In the Apple II version, autoslews help compensate for target motion in combat, but they don't seem to be available in the Atari ST version.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Called warp drive, but more like a point-to-point jump. You can attempt to warp out before reaching the warp points on the edge of the solar system (to escape from pirates, for example) but your warp may fail depending how far from the sun you are. Your warp drive goes up to 8 parsecs at first, and gets enhanced later to get to that one inaccessible world.
  • Featureless Protagonist: Downplayed; the backstory gives the character's original name as Zed, and specifies that he is male. However, this has no actual bearing on the game, and if the player doesn't read the prologue, they might never know.
  • Human Popsicle: The cryogens that you need to retrieve are frozen members of the religious group that is creating the Banville colony.
  • In-Game Banking Services: Each star system has a Uniteller network, and you can send money between systems using it so that you don't have to carry cash. If you lose consciousness (due to mugging, lack of food, or lack of sleep) then any cash you're carrying will be stolen.
  • Intrepid Merchant: That would be you, attempting to buy low and sell high to finance completion of your contract in order to own the SunDog free and clear.
  • Invisibility Cloak: If you put a cloaker into your shield subsystem instead of one of the normal components, you gain the ability to cloak yourself during space combat. The cloaker makes you impossible to hit, but drains your fuel extremely quickly.
  • Last Lousy Point: The final cryogen is on Enlie, which is 9 parsecs away from the nearest system, farther than your warp drive can go at first. When you get there, everything is trying to kill you, even under circumstances where they normally wouldn't. The cryogen isn't in the city with the starport, and your ground scanner won't work to let you land directly at the other city. The overland trip is tricky and long, with some paths being almost invisible. All that to pick up the one thing you need for the final colony upgrade.
  • Meaningful Rename: When the player chooses their name at the beginning. Zed was assigned as their name by the mining union; now they can choose whatever name they wish.
  • No Hero Discount: Everything at the Banville colony is full price. Including the (extremely expensive) upgrade to your warp drive, which you absolutely must have to complete the contract. However, as you complete levels of the contract, the upgrade price does go down slowly.
  • On One Condition: The protagonist inherits the SunDog free and clear, as soon as they've fulfilled the contract with the Banville colony.
  • Parking Problems: If you park your pod on the street, you're likely to come back to find it's been locked down for a parking violation. If you park it outside of a guarded lot, you may come back to find it's been stripped of anything in its locker.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Downplayed, as he's not really a villain: the lawyer who executes your uncle's will. He makes it clear that he's quite sure you will fail, but he doesn't care because when you die he gets the ship back, and if the ship is destroyed the insurance will cover it.
  • Space Friction: If you run out of fuel, you'll stop in space until you get more. You can ask the nearby planet to send you some; it's not cheap.
  • Space Pirates: Tend to show up whenever you're carrying cargo (as opposed to cryogens or spare fuel). They will typically demand that you jettison your cargo; if you don't, you may be able to frighten them off. If you end up destroying them, you may find a cargo in the wreckage, which you can take if you have space for it.
  • Timed Mission: Downplayed. At the end of the game, the player's score depends on how long it took them to complete the mission, along with the quality of the items delivered. The maximum score requires completing the game in less than two months of in-game time.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Apparently, the only food in this part of the galaxy is hamburgers. Unless you buy nutrapacks, which are more satisfying. The remake adds a wider selection of food.
  • We Will Spend Credits in the Future: Every world uses credits, but bank accounts are all separate.
  • Wide-Open Sandbox: The player is dropped into the Drahew region with a bit of money, a spaceship, and a vague instruction to 'find colony'. If the player wants to instead gamble all their money away at the slot machines, make a fortune shipping goods, or carry black-market goods between worlds, the game won't stop them.
  • Wizard Needs Food Badly: You have food and sleep status bars, and letting either of them run out is bad. Lack of food will make you pass out occasionally and will eventually kill you; lack of sleep will make you pass out wherever you are. If that's an unsafe location (anywhere except your ship, your pod, or a hotel) you will generally wake up having lost everything you are carrying and any cash you had. Typically not a problem, except when trying to get that last cryogen from Enlie...
  • Xanatos Gambit: Used on the player by the lawyer in the prologue. If you succeed, great, the lawyers get paid for the completed contract. If you die, they get the ship back. If the ship is destroyed, they can cash in the insurance.