What's the best computer game of all time? Well... admittedly it's not Captain Blood. But which game, for me, holds more nostalgia than all the other nostalgia in the world put together? See if you can guess...
Yep, that's right, it's Captain Blood, a game from the mid-eighties by French developers Exxos. More specifically, I'm talking about the ST version of the game - if you only one of the other versions, you will have experienced some of the fun of the proper version, but you won't know anything about the unique sound of the game's language (more on this later).
Most of this page (and indeed, of ARGnet as a whole) was written in 1997/98. I find the writing style of my old self quite embarrassing at times.
Links to the rest of this page
Downloading and running Captain Blood
Why is Captain Blood such a great game?
A guide to the Hydra galaxy.
The Captain Blood tutorial - for all those people who never actually worked out what was going on...
Commander Blood - The sequel
The third game
The Captain Blood novella
Note on two different versions of Captain Blood. (Also some info on PC, Amiga and Spectrum versions)
The complete Bluddian vocabulary...
The Captain Blood solution
Extra-new info (January 2004): The latest advice is to use the cracked version of the game with the latest version of the Steem emulator. This runs the game pretty well. For some reason, the uncracked version doesn't work properly with the latest version of Steem.
Download Captain Blood - original (uncracked) double-sided version (335Kb)
This version should be used if you want to play using an actual ST, although you should also try the cracked version to see which works better.
It also works with the Steem emulator to a certain extent, but has problems:
With the latest versions of Steem (2.0+), this version of the game suffers from the immediate shaky hand problem.
With older versions of Steem (prior to 2.0), there is a problem that the game clock does not appear, which means the game can't be completed.
Note that if you want to use it on an actual ST, you must copy the disk image onto an ST disk sector by sector - copying the files will not work, as this will mess up the copy protection, making the game almost unplayable. At least I think that's what will happen. To transfer the disk in this way, use MAKEDISK. Actually, I'm not certain if this technique will work, so I can't give any guarantees.
Download the cracked version of Captain Blood (839Kb)
This is the recommended version to use with versions 2.0 and above of Steem. From what I can tell, it works fine, although it hasn't been fully tested yet.
It also partly works with the PaCifiST and Winston emulators, although it is better to use Steem.
Previously this section mentioned that this version of the game was the single sided version which had a number of problems. Having recently played this version again with the latest version of Steem, these problems do not appear to be present. Perhaps I replaced the file with a different cracked version a long time ago and forgot about it.
Links to other Captain Blood pages
NEW! Kroah's Game Reverse Engineering Page - Captain Blood.: This guy has successfully decoded the entire game, working out exactly how the conversation system works. Includes every sentence that each alien species can speak.
NEW - 2017! Captain Blood - Who's Who: An excellent although incomplete list of all the characters in the game.
Sam Jeffreys' Captain Blood page: Definitive proof that I am not alone in my adoration... Download the (poor) PC version here! Also find some extra intriguing information...
MobyGames page on Commander Blood (the sequel): Includes screenshots.
Download a sound sample from the game
This is a sample of a conversation with Yoko the Izwal (one of the initial characters). The Izwals have a very fast voice. If you wish to hear the words in more clarity (and at the same speed as some of the other races, such as the Migrax, Croolis, etc), you should load the sample into a sample editor and halve the playback speed. Note that this sample is in Microsoft ADPCM format, so I don't know if it will work on every platform. The clicking sounds you hear are me clicking the left button on my trackball.
Download conversation between me and Yoko (323Kb)
Download the Amiga version
This is far inferior to the ST version in terms of sound - no Bluddian language or cool voices on the ARK here.
Download Amiga version in .adf format (535Kb)
(Warning - the last two of these videos may spoil the game for you, as they show characters who often do not show up until late into the game)
When the game starts, Blood is dying. Unless he can find some 'vital fluid' within a few hours, his health will quickly start to deteriorate. Fortunately for Blood, he has five clones living somewhere out there in the galaxy - if he can find them, he can kill them and get the fluid he needs to live. Unfortunately, an alien out to make a quick buck has sold this information to them, and they've suddenly made themselves scarce.
When the game starts, you are orbitting one of four planets (randomly selected at the start of each game. Incidentally, this does not apply to the 48K Spectrum version, where you always start at the same planet). Your first task is to launch an OORXX - a kind of biological probe - and pilot it down to the surface to see who's living down there.
Once the OORXX has reached its destination, it will stop; you will then have to wait about ten seconds while the computer renders the landscape. Then you will come face to face with your first alien. And that is where the fun starts.
Depending on which of the four planets you started at (it's not possible to tell until you see the alien, because each planet looks different every game), you will see one of four aliens:
It is now that you come across the game's most revolutionary aspect.
Apart from the fact that it was about ten years ahead of its time (its graphics were better than pretty much any other ST game, and don't look particularly dated even today), the thing that really set CAPTAIN BLOOD apart from other games was the UPCOM. UPCOM stands for Universal Protocol of COMmunication, and it is the way in which you talk to all the aliens that you come across in the game. In front of you are a hundred and twenty icons (not all on the screen at once, obviously), each of which corresponds to a word, such as 'me', 'you' and 'reproduction' (the last of which, incidentally, is a very popular word among most of the races of Hydra...). By clicking on icons, you can form a sentence, which you can then send through the translator by clicking the button in the middle. The alien will then generally say something back at you. Once it has finished, you can say some more stuff to it. And so on. Until one of you breaks off the conversation.
Here's the really great bit, though. Whenever an alien talks to you, you don't just get a load of icons flashed up in front of you (unless you've got the Spectrum version, that is). As each icon appears, a sound corresponding to it comes out of the speakers. A weird, alien language. Each different species uses the same language - but some talk at different speeds. The sounds uttered by an Izwal or a Sinox are at a very high speed, and can't be deciphered, but the less intelligent races - in particular, the Croolis, Duplicates, Migrax and Yukas, talk at a sensible speed, allowing you to hear each word. Eventually, if you listen to them talking enough, you might be able to write a dictionary... (Click here to go straight to the Bluddian dictionary.)
For more information about Hydra, read the rest of this page, particularly the tutorial.
You get this new game, you load it up, you don't really know what to do, so you just fly around the galaxy blowing up planets.
This is apparently what most people got up to with Captain Blood. If you were one of them, read on and discover the incredible world that lurks beneath its surface...
Before we start, a glossary might be useful. And lo and behold, if this isn't one right here:
Run the game. This is a vital step. Listen to the music, press a key when you've finished. Wait for it to load. Select the appropriate language.
You are now sitting at the helm of the Ark, your biological ship. An OORXX (see glossary) comes down the birth ramp and sits there, ready for action. The clock at the top reads: 0000 (or something like that). Let's get ready to rumble.
Before you have time to take a look around, the display changes. You are now at the Planet Display screen. The big round thing in front of you is a planet. There are three icons on the right of the screen. Click on the third one (i.e. the one furthest to the right).
You can now see an overhead satellite view of the planet. You can click on the icon again to zoom in.
The purpose of this screen is to look for planetary defences. These are indicated by flashing symbols. If there are none, you will be able to land safely. If there are defences, you will still be able to land, but you will need to use some extra skill.
Exit this screen by clicking on the Planet Display icon to the left of the screen.
You are back at the Planet Display screen. Now you must pilot an OORXX down to the planet. Before you do this, it is a good idea to know how to fly the OORXX.
Moving the mouse left, right, up or down will make the OORXX fly in that direction. You can slow down using the left mouse button, and speed up using the right mouse button. If there are defences on the planet, your task will be made a lot more difficult. To avoid the defences you will have to fly as low as possible. This is not always easy, and sometimes you will have to come to a halt, descend, and wait for the threat to pass.
Click on the OORXX Landing button (the left-most button of the three). You will be given control of the OORXX, and within a few seconds you will be flying over the planet's surface.
If you hear a constant beeping sound, this is the sound of the planetary defences. The defences' targetting systems are represented by two arrows which move in from the sides of the screen. If the two arrows meet, the OORXX is destroyed and you will have to start the landing from the beginning. To stop this happening, take note of the techniques mentioned above.
You must now guide the OORXX to the entrance of the valley (as mentioned in the glossary, all aliens in the Hydra galaxy live at the ends of valleys). This is fairly easy - you just have to keep flying straight ahead. If you drift off course, an arrow will appear on the mouse pointer telling you which direction you should be going.
When you get to the entrance to the valley, you will then have to fly through the valley itself. It is reccommended that you slow down before attempting this - flying through the valley at maximum speed requires a lot of skill.
If the OORXX crashes into the landscape seven times, it will be destroyed and you will have to restart the landing. Crashing in the valley is very easy, and it can often be difficult to get back into the centre of the valley to continue your flight. This makes it even more important that you do not crash.
When you get to the end of the valley, the ship will slow down and come to a halt. The landscape will then be fractally rendered. Note that there is a secret shortcut which allows you to bypass the valley and reach your destination by a much easier route - but I'll leave you to discover that for yourself.
Now we get to the interesting bit. You've finished your first landing, and you've come face to face with an alien. The UPCOM translation system appears at the bottom of the screen. The alien says something to you. The game has begun.
The alien in front of you is one of four different aliens. You meet a different one each time you start the game. Before you start talking to the alien, however, read this:
Okay, back to talking Bluddian. Using the UPCOM can be quite daunting at first, reason being there are about 150 icons to learn. Of course, you don't actually HAVE to learn them - you can just get a translation by moving the mouse pointer over each icon, and this is how most people play. If you play it for long enough, however, learning the icons will be useful, as you will be able to play faster.
One of the problems faced by beginners is that they don't know where the icons actually are in the icon panel. For example, you might want to use the word 'genetic', but you can't remember where on the fairly large icon panel it is. As ever, the best way to learn is just to play it and take a look at what each icon is, and try to remember. It will soon become easy. Many icons meaning similar things are located in the same place, so this helps as well.
Okay, now hopefully you should be able to just about get by in using the UPCOM. But there is another thing that needs to be mastered - understanding the aliens, and understanding how they understand you...
The first part of this is normally easy. The aliens enjoy saying things like 'Me like female ondoyante, laugh laugh'. They also talk about reproduction a lot (this is an ability that many creatures in Hydra do not have). Sometimes they will just appear to be speaking gibberish. Often, the reason for this is that they ARE speaking gibberish. Many things that are said do not have much meaning or relevance to anything, and you can ignore these. Some creatures are either insane (the Robheads), or just weird (the Tubular Brains), so you'll have a hard time understanding what they're on about. There is one other thing that you should be aware of, however: Code Friend Friend.
Code Friend Friend is a phrase you will hear often during the game. Say the words 'Code Friend Friend' to several aliens, and you will get a number of different responses. Races like the Izwal and Migrax will be pleased if you say this, but the evil Croolis will become enraged, and may even throw you off their planet.
Code Friend Friend is a kind of universal message of peace and goodwill. There are two characters who can tell you the code in full (it consists of about ten sentences). There is also one character who is very eager for you to tell him the code - so it could be a good idea if you wrote it down.
There are two other codes in the game - one which will allow you to talk to the Sinox, and another which the young Izwal Yoko gives you. (But the latter seems to have no purpose).
Now we get to the subject of understanding how the aliens interpret your words. After playing the game for years, the way the game's underlying code actually works has become obvious to me. Of course, I won't reveal it to you - that might spoil the illusion of intelligence... But there is sometimes a tendency for the aliens to pick up on a word from your sentence and say something based on this one word, which may often be totally irrelevant. The extreme example of this is when you use the word 'Me' with the Yukas named President Rosko. For example, if you say 'Me like you', he would reply with 'Kill me, fear fear' (meaning he thinks you want to kill him), then he chucks you off the planet. The reason for this reaction is that both of these sentences contain the word 'Me'... Don't worry, though - these situations are very rare, and don't do any harm to the game, other than to annoy you a bit...
Finally, and this is important, ALWAYS write down any coordinates you are given. Unless, of course, you've already written them down. If you don't do this you will not be able to go anywhere. You should also remember to write down the new coordinates if you teleport an alien to a new planet - otherwise you won't be able to find him again.
Now we return to the point before you learned to speak Bluddian:
The alien in front of you is one of four different aliens. You meet a different one each time you start the game. Below, I will now tell you about each of the four starting aliens, and give you a few tips to set you on your way:
Well, I must now sign off. I've left you with more information than you could possibly need. All that remains is for me to give you a few tips to make your life easier:
"?", I said.
Two years later, I got a PC, and this game was naturally high on my shopping list. I had heard that it had got reasonable reviews in some magazines. When I finally bought it, it cost over £40 (this was in London) - a high price to pay for a two year old game.
In fact, I didn't actually buy it. It was bought on my behalf by a friend, who not only took it home and copied the entire CD to his hard disk, but he also showed me the end sequence when I came round to collect it. Thanks for that. Thanks a lot. That was my most awaited game of all time, and you showed me the ending before I had even played it.
Anyway, I took it home, and played it solidly for two days (which was the amount of time it took to complete). This is what I thought of it at the time:
So - should you buy Commander Blood? YES! These days it can often be found in the bargain bins, having been there since 1994. Commander Blood is the only game in the world which is similar to Captain Blood. It is also a fine game on its own, and shows, embarrassingly, that style over content CAN actually work... But this lack of content prevents it from being in my top ten list.
Unfortunately it was only released in France (in 1997), and there was almost no publicity. As far as I know, there is no English version. Dorgun dorgun dorgun, augen, dorngen......
It uses the same engine as Commander Blood, and continues on from Commander Blood's somewhat premature ending.
This game is called...
Sam Jeffreys' Captain Blood page has a copy of the novella in HTML format. Read it now!
Q: Very soon after I start playing, Blood's hand starts shaking, making the game hard to control.
A: Normally the hand will start shaking only after about an hour or two of gameplay, if Captain Blood has not had an infusion of Duplicate blood. However, under certain circumstances, the hand will start shaking immediately after the start of the game. It is not clear what causes this problem, but it may related to copy-protection. Alternatively, it may just be a bug that only crops up when certain versions of the game are played on certain emulators.
This problem does not seem to be present when using the cracked version of the game (on this page) with the latest version of Steem (version 2.61 at time of writing).
Q: I pressed the "OORXX landing" button, but the game froze and weird sounds came out of my speakers.
A: This is a bug which was in the original game. It doesn't happen often, but is annoying when it does. Ensure that you save the game regularly. If using Steem, you can use the snapshot feature to save the game.
Q: Flying down valleys is too difficult/annoying/time consuming.
A: Here is a very useful tip: when you see the entrance to the valley appear in front of you, immediately steer hard to the left or right. Take care not to crash into any high rocks when doing this - inexperienced players may wish to slow down. You will then find yourself in a valley that is much wider than the 'usual' one - it is in fact the area where the world wraps at the edge. In this area you can fly at full speed with little danger of crashing.
Q: I'm flying along and being targeted by the planet's defence systems. I fly low down but the arrows still close in on me and I get destroyed.
A: This is a bug. If you are flying close to the ground but the defence arrows are still closing in, move higher until you see them start to recede again. Alternatively, come to a complete halt, this should also stop the planet's defence systems.
Q: When I say "Duplicate" to an Izwal, why does he say "One two three, me great scientist (laugh)"?
A: This is because in the original version of Captain Blood, the Duplicates were known as "Numbers".
Of course, the ST version wasn't the only version of CB. After its critical acclaim on the ST, it was converted to a whole ton of other platforms. See Sam Jeffreys' Captain Blood page.
Here's a list showing what I think of each of the versions I have played:
The complete Bluddian vocabulary Compiled by Andrew R. Gillett English Bluddian Pronounciation Original meaning ? (question) neumm? nuhm not dem duhm yes neumm nuhm no dem duhm me mumgugue short 'gu' (i.e. not as in 'goo') you nowgue hello h~ungugue as with mumgugue bye nowge nowg go blash want auch ouch give auch ouch (See note below - important) travel blasch blaschh teleport like levée lev-aigh say elley ell-aigh know knevée nev-aigh unknown eniél~ en-ail help haftha (laugh) laugha laf-fa (cry) gelde gel-deh fear ee free eed kill kille keele vote/opinion pitchè pitcher vote money mbit mm-bit impossible mit trap/prison abeder aabeder danger vaider vie-deh prisoner divider play esh ouh-sh race eshd~ ouh-sh-d disarm alhab al-hab destroy dille deele nonsense sukkak suhk-ak time sukka suhkk-ah meeting eshca esh-ka forbidden fbid unpleasant a~a~a~radud aaradud radioactivity urgent l~oid loid search s~h~ush shush information ishna ish-nah idea ellioid e~oid missile roitzer royt-zuh code ellioté elli-ottay friend brooghund broog-und enemy brookluhnd brook-lund spirit / mind brooghuh brooger brain brooklhè brookler warrior augemen orgermen scientist aumemen orrmermen president grummen gruhmen genetic grummen gruhmen sex trag creation gauphke gowfk reproduction male trap female tautd taut-d identity gennorg parent mnorrh mnorr people beengo bee-engo different rendgord small s~m~ su~m great greh strong s~t~d stu~d bad b~d~ bu~d good guhd good brave reph rep~f crazy rech (insult) augen orgun (curse) dorgun peace ordned dead dorngen dorng-en poor p~l pu~l stupid pitrough pit-rah tromp oorxx lamer pmithouse p~mit-house kingpak criminal pithoushe pit-houshe robhead nutter minnhord minn-ord croolis vareux violent minnorgh minn-orr croolis ulve nice mimgu mimgoo izwal traveller mumgue muhm-goo migrax friendly huntd hoohntd~ antenna megalomaniac bureau buggol hunktd hu~nk-td tricephal weird bleugh bleu (same as with the tubular brain Frenchword for blue) animal ephoid eff-oid yukas wizkid sioix see-oy sinox girlfriend indyonte indy-ont ondoyante number / duplicate aayott aigh-ott duplicate/number tuttle devious dash morlock young yaxa yoko old maxor~ maxon blid blood babe bmit b-mit torka car sib ship contact r~ip~ home illab ill-ab place elliab illy-ab planet ugly ediba eddy-bah trauma ondoya ki kee kristo earth di dee rosko ulikan sol bala bah-lah (said fast) bow-bow hour afgal aff-gal is / equals eisht isht = or / and eisht isht / zero ushud uh-shuhd 0 one shud shuhd 1 two dele day-ler 2 three debe day-ber 3 four dege day-ger 4 five dene day-ner 5 six splash 6 seven spla splah 7 eight aout out 8 nine shout 9 These pronounciations don't use any of those weird standard pronounciation conventions, so you are still likely to make lots of mistakes as there is lots of ambiguity. It's best to look at both the pronounciation and the actual word when deciding how to say something. Previously, I had changed the pronounciation of one of the words. The word auch (give) was changed to pitauch, to remove confusion, because the words for give and want are the same. However, this new spelling just didn't fit in, and I have now changed it to the following: Both give and want are spelt 'auch'. If you want to know which meaning is intended when 'auch' is used, to should look at the layout of the sentence. For example: Nowgue auch mumgugue ellioid - Means 'You give me idea' Nowgue auch ellioid mumgugue - Means 'You want idea me' (You want my idea) You may have noticed that some words do not have meanings assigned to them. Some of them do not even have an actual word assigned to them - they just consist of an original Captain Blood meaning (for example, 'oorxx'). Words with just an original meaning correspond to words that in my experience are never actually used in Captain Blood. It is hard to write down a word when you don't know what it sounds like. As for the words with no meanings assigned to them (for example, 'ki' or 'hunktd'), it's just because I haven't actually ever got round to thinking of something for them to mean... A few words (such as aayott) have two meanings assigned to them. For example, aayott means either 'Number' or 'Duplicate'. This is because there were two versions of the game, which had a few words changed between them. Normally, aayott should mean 'Number', but if you need to, don't hesitate to use it to mean 'Duplicate'. Three words which are very easy to get mixed up are: Mbit (money), Bmit (babe) and Mit (impossible). Examples of Bluddian sentences: (Please insert the name of one of your friends in place of 'Bob') - Mumgugue auch trag nowgue - Augen, nowgue rech - Nowgue auch mumgugue kille Bob neumm? - Dem, mumgugue dem auch nowgue kille mumgugue - Mumgugue levée dille illab Bob - Mumgugue levée esh 'tennis' brooklhè Bob - Nowgue auch blasch illab mumgugue neumm? - Nowgue dem auch mumgugue mbit eisht mumgugue kille nowgue - Nowgue auch sukka - Mumgugue trag rech - Bob eisht tautd - Mumgugue greh brooklhe, nowgue s~m~ brooklhe - Bob eisht a~a~a~radud - Nowgue levée mumgugue neumm? - Mumgugue elley ellioté blid Try and work out what they mean... Here are some actual sentences from the game: - Laugha laugha laugha laugha laugha laugha laugha laugha! Mumgugue Greh Mbit, mumgugue greh mumgue. Mumgugue dem levée nowgue knevée Gauphke-Shud-Dege. Gauphke-Shud-Dege elliab mumgue. Mumgugue elley ishna mumgue Roitzer Reph. Roitzer Reph kille nowgue, laugha dorgun! - Mit nowgue auch ephoid grummen di. Nowgue enéil~ reph. Mumgugue Dash beengo bureau. Mumgugue dem grummen. Nowgue pitchè Dash. Dash blash eed tautd bureau. Dash auch dille abeder. Dem roitzer. Dem a~a~a~radud. Dash alhab elliab. Dash dem abeder. Dash grummen Dash grummen di. Dash grummen Dash grummen di. Dash grummen Dash grummen di. Dash grummen Dash grummen di. Nowgue s~h~ush ellioid. Mumgugue greh ellioid. Nowgue pitchè mumgugue. Mumgugue greh grummen. Nowgue pitchè Dash neumm? That last one was the speech of a Presidential candidate trying to get you to vote for him... If you do so, he tries to take you prisoner (except that he totally fails and you can leave whenever you like). I might have missed a few sentences out or got the odd word wrong, I don't have a photographic memory...
But if there's anyone out there who is really desperate for it, mail me.
Copyright 1997-2021 Andrew R. Gillett