Saturday, 17 November 2012

The making of Dwarf Quest: part 2

Hello again everyone! After last week's blog post on the board and PC versions of HeroQuest, this time I'll talk about the tribute game I made back in 1992.

One of many great things my dad did for me was to teach me how to program. He also gave me the superb book 'Your first BASIC program' by Rodnay Zaks when I was 9. Whereas all of my friends at school had IBM and Olivetti PCs, we had an American TRS 80 Color Computer II at home. I loved it! It felt like studying and practicing arcane magic, typing seemingly uncountable lines of code before the computer would come to life. It was the time of monochrome screens and cassette tapes.

Within soon, I'd start to design, program and make graphics for all kinds of games. My favorite genre at the time was the text adventure, and therefore worked on various interpreter algorithms. Classic graphics adventures such as the Space Quest, King's Quest and Monkey Island series offered inspiration.

As you know, at a certain point in the '90s HeroQuest the boardgame came out, and a little later the PC version. These captured my imagination in such a way that I simply had to make a game like that myself. It was the start of what would become the original Dwarf Quest trilogy.

Its actual story is, as it often is, pretty flimsy: dwarven hero Orgin is tasked to find three magical artifacts before he can take on evil Lord Azar. Each of these artifacts (helmet, shield and axe) is hidden in a seperate dungeon, each of which would become its own game.

Ironically, part IV was never made, denying loyal players a chance to challenge Azar.

Looking back, it is obvious that the original Dwarf Quests copied a lot of the looks of the HeroQuest PC game: the isometric view, the tile-based rooms, the doorways, and ultimately combat and the various monster types. What's a 14 year old fanboy to do though?

Combat made its first appearance in Dwarf Quest III. It was a simple affair: after engaging a monster by typing 'FIGHT', a number of dice would be rolled for both parties. Based on the weapon you'd carry (dagger, sword, axe or battle axe), the number of dice would increase. Whoever rolled the highest number won.

Monsters included goblins, orcs and even the HeroQuest specific Chaos Warrior, each almost carbon copies of their spiritual ancestors. Only the Minotaur guarding the final artifact was novel (and even that one was inspired by a particular pewter miniature in my collection).

On the technical side, I programmed the games in QuickBASIC. The MCGA images (320x200 pixels, 256 colors) were made in Deluxe Paint Animation, displayed with their proper palettes by virtue of a converter app my older brother Tim made in Turbo Pascal. The games are pretty much a picture viewer with a text field placed on top. If nothing else, it was quite effective and made the production managable: when checking the original files I saw that I created these three games in just one day each! The whole trilogy was done on three seperate days in August and September 1992. Even though I later started a career in video games, never have I been able since to match such speedy productivity!

Before the Internet got big, people shared files online through so called Bulletin Board Systems. I uploaded all three Dwarf Quest games to one of my favorites at the time (586 BBS), but unfortunately had no insight in how many times it was downloaded, let alone played.

Time passed, and I had all but forgotten about the trilogy until December 2011. For some supernatural reason, inspiration struck again, and I knew I had to create a remake.

Coming up next: a Dwarf Quest revival!

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