Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Next Steps

I'm sure he didn't mean to do this, but commenter Arcanum, responding to my first posting in this blog, has thrown my world into disarray. He listed half a dozen DOS CRPGs missing from Wikipedia's list and suggested that I check out the game browser at MobyGames instead. I did, and...bollocks.

There are no less than 14 DOS-based CRPGs that are not on Wikipedia's list and that occur before Might & Magic. There are dozens not on Wikipedia's list that occur in the future. Granted, some of these don't meet the Wikipedia list's stricter definition of CRPGs--notably, it excludes roguelikes and hybrids of RPGs and strategy games--but still...

These are the games I overlooked:

  • Wizard's Castle
  • Oubliette
  • StarQuest: Rescue at Rigel
  • 50 Mission Crush
  • Caverns of Zoarre
  • DND
  • Hack
  • Amulet of Yendor
  • Cavequest
  • Dungeon Quest
  • Heathkit DND
  • Larn
  • Leygref's Castle
  • Make Your Own Murder Party

I know nothing about any of these games, including whether the Wikipedia contributors legitimately excluded them (that last one sure sounds iffy), but it was enough to shake my faith in the Wikipedia list. So I'm going to spend a couple days exploring a few of these games and seeing whether they qualify or not and, if so, whether I need to take another look at how I've composed my list. I'll spend no more than a couple hours, and write no more than one posting, on each one (not unless they turn out to be really interesting). The whole point of this exercise was to trace the development of CRPGs and find hidden gems, and I'm not serving that purpose if I rely on a flawed list.

No matter what, in conjunction with the recommendations some of you have posted recently, I will not be returning to The Bard's Tale II despite my earlier statements that I would. Life's too short, right?


  1. Well, that proves to be a twist.

    But after checking out these games, I can say that there is no big loss involved in skipping them (at least majority of these). For example, Cavequest, Oubliette and Leygref's Castle seem to be simple hack n' slash/roguelikes with no significant story whatsoever. 50 Mission Crush seems to be an early hybrid between strategy/simulation and a RPG. Make Your Own Murder Party seems to be more of a Cluedo than an actual RPG game.

    Also, even though Mobygames database is far more complete than the list on Wikipedia, there may be some obscure games that even they may have missed, meaning you wouldn't get them all anyway.

    All in all, I recommend you check both lists but only play games that are significant in some aspect. I think the list on Wikipedia includes mostly the more significant and more known games, so you might want to stick to it in order to avoid playing yourself to death on games that are almost exact clones of older ones. And, as you have said, life's too short.

    Your call entirely, just providing some input.

  2. Hack is a roguelike- sort of the intermediary step between Rogue and Nethack. The gameplay is somewhat improved, if not to the level of sophistication in a modern roguelike, but it sounds like you've found roguelikes in general not to be to your taste. Although I'd suggest at least dipping your food into the water of later ones (ADOM, for instance, is much more like a normal CRPG, with multiple quests and an overworld) I don't think you'll find Hack offers a substantively different experience from Rogue- just a few more options, more gear, more monsters. You probably would not miss with letting it alone.

    Larn is also a roguelike, but a completely different atmosphere than Hack or Rogue- it includes Vancian spellcasting (like in D&D, with spell slots), a time limited quest, and a town level atop the dungeon.

    If it troubles you to leave these earlier games behind, then perhaps you can spend an hour on each (possibly excluding the roguelikes, which I believe you mentioned you don't plan to explore further yet). That would allow you to say you've played them all. And Oubliette has an interaction option to 'seduce', which is surely entertaining. But I'm eager to see you move on down the timeline, so it won't bother me if you skip those games entirely. (Nor should it particularly matter to you if it did)

  3. *sigh*. Dipping your foot, not your food. Though that is an entertaining image.

  4. I love the time you are spending on these older games and I think that, for me, is the charm of your blog. Although I enjoy the Baldur's Gate games (I'm from Edmonton...go Bioware!) and more "comparatively" modern fare, it's fairly evident what is so great about a game like that. It's really great to have a fresh perspective on these older games and it brings me back to a time where games were a supplement to your imagination rather than a replacement for it. You've inspired me to drag out some of my older games and I have been really enjoying the room they leave for my imagination! As the old adage goes, "anything worth doing is worth doing well", and I appreciate your attempt to live those words!


  5. Pipe, I'm going to do exactly what you suggest: about an hour on each one, unless they really grab me.

  6. Id also suggest if your not going to do BT2, BT3 is probably not worth doing either, its just harder and more of everything BT2 is. Kind of Like wiz2/wiz3..

  7. I'm enjoying these posts, but so far, I've either played the games (a bit, at least) or I've often heard them mentioned. In the former case, there's a bit of nostalgia involved. In the latter case, I'm curious about why the game is remembered.

    Now I'd be fascinated if you find a hidden gem, but in general, a little-known, unsuccessful game is going to be little more than a footnote - if that - in a history of RPGs. If few people played them, they're unlikely to have had much influence among game developers. And as you and others have noted, life is too short.

    So I wouldn't worry about skipping such games, if that's what you end up doing. Spending just an hour or so, to take a quick look, is perfectly reasonable, too.

  8. There's another early DOS roguelike game called Omega that was pretty influential. If you're having trouble finding playable versions of roguelikes, check out the RogueBasin wiki.



  9. Thanks, Marc. I have Omega on my list. I show it as a 1988 game, so it's a few dozen ahead of me right now. I appreciate the resources!

  10. i was so psyched when you said you were going back to BTII. Oh well.


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