Dun­geons and dragons

PC GAMER (UK) - - Feature -

Strangely, de­spite Dun­geon & Dragons’ in­flu­ence on the genre, the source made few waves at the time. This isn’t be­cause there weren’t of­fi­cial games. Just about any­one who was any­one bid for the li­cence when owner TSR fi­nally made it avail­able in the mid-’80s, which was ul­ti­mately won by a com­pany called Strate­gic Sim­u­la­tions Inc. This makes some sense. D&D started more as a wargame than a story-rich prop­erty, and wargames were what SSI did. Its most prom­i­nent at­tempt at an RPG was called Wiz­ard’s Crown, which fo­cused heav­ily on com­bat and char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment me­chan­ics. It had also dipped into the genre for the Phan­tasie se­ries, and with Que­stron, a game so close to

Ul­tima in de­sign that Ul­tima’s cre­ator, Richard Gar­riott, filed a suit against it.

SSI’s later AD&D-based RPGs be­came known as ‘Gold Box’ games, based on, quite sim­ply, the de­sign of their boxes. Ex­am­ples in­clude Pool

of Radiance and Death Knights of Krynn. They were pop­u­lar, but rolled out on a pro­duc­tion line, fea­tur­ing top-down worlds, menu-based com­bat and very sim­i­lar graph­ics – de­spite whether the world was fan­tasy or, as with Buck Rogers:

Ma­trix Cubed, 25th cen­tury sci-fi. Still, the se­ries was bet­ter re­ceived than many of the spin-offs that SSI pub­lished, like the side-scrolling He­roes of the Lance and its in­stant death­traps. Un­til Bal­dur’s Gate came along, the Gold Box se­ries was the defin­ing D&D ex­pe­ri­ence, de­spite a great many games com­ing out us­ing its set­tings over the next ten years. Of the oth­ers, one of the most in­ter­est­ing, though of­ten for­got­ten, is West­wood Stu­dios’ DragonStrike – a 3D drag­onhunt­ing game that com­bined fan­tasy and early graph­ics tech­nol­ogy to let you ride your own beast and take on oth­ers in ac­tion com­bat. It was billed as a Dragon Com­bat Sim­u­la­tor, and there’s no good rea­son why that didn’t be­come a genre.

Over­all, while these games were pop­u­lar at the time, they didn’t con­trib­ute a vast amount to the grow­ing RPG genre. The source ma­te­rial was much bet­ter picked through for ideas, rather than full con­ver­sions. Gold Box games were pop­u­lar, but quickly out­stayed their wel­come and are now best re­mem­bered as a thing of their time, while most oth­ers around them are best for­got­ten.

Iron­i­cally, many of the fond­est re­mem­bered are the ones not from fa­mil­iar parts of the D&D world (which in games, has tended to be For­got­ten Realms and Grey­hawk), like the Eastern themed Al-Qadim: The Ge­nie’s Curse. The big ex­cep­tion is the afore­men­tioned Eye of the Be­holder, which ce­mented fu­ture Com­mand & Con­quer cre­ator West­wood as a stu­dio to watch.

Dunge ons could be firs t pers on, but over worlds were top-down


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