Tuesday 31 July 2012

Archeoshot #004: Swords and Sorcery (Spectrum 48k, 1985)

Front Box

Front Box, Bottom close up

Front Box, Top close up

Back Side

Back Side, Close up

Back Side, Top close up



Cover Manual, Close up

Back Manual, Close up

Tape, Spectrum 48k version

Sunday 29 July 2012

Sorcerer of Siva (Apple II, 1981), II: First gameplay.

Thanks to Robinson Mason I have finally managed to put my hands on a working copy of Sorcerer of Siva and just this morning, I tried to get familiar with all the commands (quite similar to all the rest of Dunjonquest series) and the game system itself.

As I have promised in the previous post, here's a part of my first thoughts after a first approach with the game. I managed to include even some screenshot and hopefully I will be able to create soon a video of an actual gaming session .

Sorcerer of Siva, desktop screenshot of a first gaming session

The first thing I have noticed, after two hours of testing and playing, is that Sorcerer of Siva is quite hard. The probability to die is really high and even if you are equipped with quite powerful spells, your character gets tired and unable to cast, move or attack after few minutes. In some way, it reminded me the frustration of playing (and dying) in Rogue.

Epyx Welcome Screen
Main Screen

The main screen is quite essential: game title, credits and date of release. You just need to hit a key to get into the game. 

Skill Level and Speed Factor menu

Just before the game starts, you can choose the general skill level and speed factor. I initially decided for an average value of Skill 5 and Speed 5, just thinking that it was ideal for a quick testing. Pure naivety. 

And here you are into the Caves of Siva

Above a first screenshot of the actual game. As expected, the game is visually really basic and structured on simple but solid monocromatic bidimensional layout: main game on the left side and statistics on the right. The movement system can result a bit difficult if you are not familiar with the Dunjonquest series. Anyway, as for almost all the early CRPGs the manual with all the instructions is vital and specifically for this one, no manual means any chance to survive at all. Intriguing

In Sorcerer of Siva there's no trace of any character creation, once you have chosen your difficulty level, the game starts immediately and as said in the previous post you wear the shoes of a sorcerer capable of either combat with various weapons and cast spells. Sadly you can't choose your equipment, spells or weapons to use and apparently the only way to change your initial status is to find more treasures and equipment during the exploration of the Caves and Underworld. 

However all you need is on the right side of the screen where you can find vital signs, magic aura level, time and location statistics. 

Apart from the Magic System, which will be analyzed in the next days, you need to get used with the vital signs control of your Sorcerer. 

Energy & Fatigue
Casting spells, fighting, and running about in the mines naturally make you tired. While the computer keeps precise track of exactly how much physical energy you have from moment to moment, the display shows only five basic states of fatigue: FRESH, TIRING, TIRED, WEARY, or EXHAUSTED. The fresher you are, the faster you strengthen your magical aura (that is, the faster you recover the mental/mystical energy expended in casting spells). When you are EXHAUSTED, you cannot increase your aura rating, and you cannot perform physical activities such as moving or fighting.
You can recover from fatigue in either of two ways. The first is the simplest and slowest: just rest by typing 0 (zero)—that is, moving zero feet—or do something else requiring no energy (e.g., the S or E commands). Although the computer will make the appropriate adjustments each time you rest, you may have to do this several times before you notice a change in the printed display. (After all, you can't go from being EXHAUSTED to being FRESH simply by pausing for a few seconds of rest.)
You can regain physical energy much faster by using the energy spell (N), but this, of course, will drain you of some of the mental energy shown under AURA.
Source: Sorcerer of Siva, Instructions Manual, p 17 

It's essential to learn how to manage your fatigue otherwise you will just face a certain death after few encounters. The management of your health affects everything and it's a big complication while wandering monsters attack you almost every step.  

Trapdoor and Wyrm 

Above  you can  see vivid example of what can happen during a quick game session. After few minutes and three encounters,  I fell in to a trapdoor and just right there a Wyrm was ready to attack and eventually kill me.

Scoring Screen

This screenshot  reports my personal record: 9 minutes of resistance. Apart from my lack of skills, the scoring screen gives the sense of how much you progressed in the game and how you managed all your magical and vital resources.  
When you finish your game, you will be given a score that takes in many factors: the speed and skill level you selected, the treasures you accumulated, the state of your health and aura, and so on. Two considerations, however, are of overriding importance: Did you find your way out of the mine, or did you get killed? And did you slay the sorcerer?
Don't expect to get all the way through the mine on your first try, even if the skill level and speed factors are set to 1. As you gradually learn the secrets of the mine and its treasures, you can keep the game challenging by adjusting the skill level and speed factor appropriately. This will also increase your possible score, but you will find it more difficult to do as well with the added handicap. If you can triumph on Skill Level 8 and Speed Factor 10, you are a wizard.
Source: Sorcerer of Siva, Instructions Manual, p 16

In the next days I will have a better look at the magical system which is with the vital/health system fundamental to progress in the game. 

Thursday 26 July 2012

Sorcerer of Siva (1981), I

Main TRS 80 Cover,   Source : Hardcore Gaming 101

The most obscure game of the Dunjonquest series is, in my opinion, Sorcerer of Siva. Developed as a standalone piece from all the main series, SOS was released only for TSR-80 and Apple II and conceptually slightly different from all the remaining part of the Epyx CRPGs. 

The game itself is quite rare to find on the collection market and even more surprisingly it's almost impossible to find an actual dump of the disk. I have managed to find all the scans of the manual (nice laid out and illustrated), instructions, various reference card but no trace of a working .dsk playable on an emulator. 

Apart from my frustration for never having tested this game, I quite enjoyed all related material and the excellent cover artwork which reminds the earliest Role Playing Games published in the seventies. 

Story wise, here's an extract from the back of the original box. 
Amulets, rings, necklaces, scepters, -oh, yes, and a pair of old boots - await you in the magical mines of Siva. Magic and riches abound. But wealth is not all you seek. 
The only entrance seals behind you as you enter the dark stillness of the mine. Armed with only a dagger and your magical abilities, you have but a few short hours to seek out the secret exit (hidden somewhere on the fifth level) before you are sealed in for all time. But beware the wandering soulless creatures that dwell in the more than 300 chambers of the magical mine, guarding every treasure and lurking beneath every trap door. 
A wizard you are, yes, who can hurl a fireball or lightning bolt to slay the blood-thirsty banshee; put an end to the deadly demon, or goad the goblin waiting to waylay you.
Your spells can create openings in solid walls and sealed entrances, heal your wounds, restore your strength, or give you the gift of weightlessness which lets you move effortlessly from room to room. Your own bravery will decide how many spells you shall bring into the mines. But beware the evil Sorcerer, who is waiting to cast his favorite spell - forgetfulness - to deprive you of your most valuable magic. 
But all is not lost... You may regain a spell or two or, perhaps, if you can discover the wondrous touchstones no archaeologist has yet found - stones with powers to increase your magical abilities. Though, expect not that these, or others, always lie still, for the Sorcerer and his minions are afoot. 
Be warned, too, that not all treasures you might find are true. Mysterious items might drain your life's blood and leave you in blackness. Will a ring bring you only wealth? Can a pair of old boots do more than protect your soleful feet? In experience lies wisdom.
Good luck! And happy mining...
Sorcerer of Siva is likely a wizard versus wizard bidimensional dungeon crawling game, where the main character has to struggle through a complex of caves: 
The Mines of Siva consist of five floors or levels containing a total of more than three hundred chambers and passages. You begin each game on the bottommost floor (Level 1) and finally exit the mines, if you are lucky, from the top floor (Level 5). Each level except the top one has several stairways leading to the next higher level. You can go up a staircase simply by using the I (or A) command.
Once you have ascended the stairs, the computer will load in the new level automatically. (If you have a cassette version of the game, you should leave your recorder in PLAY mode for this purpose.) You cannot go back down stairs. However, you may be forced to start over from the first level—from below the first level, in fact. If you step on a trapdoor, it may open beneath your feet, prompting the computer to announce, TRAPDOOR!! You will then find yourself plunging through darkness into an uncharted area of the mines called the Underworld.
Source: Sorcerer of Siva, Instructions Manual, p 20

The aim of the quest is to face The Sorcerer who is able to control many of the wandering creatures in the Caves of Siva.

Apple II Screenshot,  Source : Hardcore Gaming 101
The Sorcerer
Your nemesis in the Mines of Siva is the sorcerer. He will not attempt to kill you directly nor even inflict physical harm. Rather, from a safe and hidden vantage he directs his monstrous minions to come at you with fang and claw. Still worse, his personal attacks are directed at the very source and substance of your magic power. Each time he appears and casts a spell of forgetting, you lose your most powerful remaining spell! 
The only way to kill the sorcerer is with a well-aimed bolt of lightning. Unfortunately for you, the sorcerer (being more than a bit of a coward) will not dare confront you unless you are already battling for your life against one of the monsters of the mine! Then you must choose between defending your powers or your life! If you are unable to cast a bolt of lightning, you have no choice but to flee whenever the sorcerer appears.  
If you manage to slay the sorcerer, you will not only prevent any further loss of your magical abilities, but you will also, indirectly, eliminate those monstrous beings (such as an efreet, a djinn, or an elemental) that are summoned or created by the magic of the sorcerer.
Source: Sorcerer of Siva, Instructions Manual, p 22 

Sorcerer of Siva will be one of my main quests and in the next months along with more aesthetics and exegetical details about the manual and the game itself, I will try to source an original boxed version of the game and a playable dumped disk.

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Archeoshot #003: Temple of Terror (Commodore 64, 1986)

Front, Top close up
Back, Close up
Instructions, Illustration close up
Instructions, Illustration close up
 Instructions, Hint Sheet coupon 
 Instructions, Credit close up 
Tape, Side B (Extended Game version)

Monday 23 July 2012

Hellfire Warrior (1980): How Epyx brought the Hell on Earth.

This is the first in a long series of posts dedicated to the Epyx earliest artwork and manuals.  I always found very fascinating the artistic choices made for all their Automated Simulations Series published from the 1979. 

The duo tone colour spectrum was very common for most of all the Epyx artworks and even now they still look very archaic and evocative. Considering that almost all CPRGs from the late seventies and early eighties were monochromatic, bidimensional and quite basic, the artwork side and all the literature around were fundamental to create a credible suggestion.

We all literally started to play from the cover and Hellfire is a very "bright" example of what Epyx was capable to hallucinate. 

Hellfire Warrior, Cover Manual, 1980
Source: Museum of Computer Games History

Sunday 22 July 2012

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain: Advertising (1984)

I have tried to find a full page of advertising of the The Warlock of Firetop Mountain Videogame but disappointingly my research ended just with this. 

Fighting Fantasy Software Packs
full page advertising,
Sinclair User, January 1984, p.16 

For some reasons Puffin decided not to dedicate a full page adv only to The Warlock of Firetop Mountain Software Pack and instead they decided to mix the FF's Korth Trilogy with the fantasy one. I personally think that from a marketing and advertising perspective was a really a bad choice especially because the main visual reference only to the Sci Fi Game books. The TWOFM is instead barely noticeable in the bottom right corner. 

I still think that the evocative power of the Temple of Terror advertising is difficult to beat and the idea of launching a new fantasy software pack series in this was massive a car crash. However I will try to scan all my resources to see if there is any other press adv around. Submissions are welcome. 

Friday 20 July 2012

Fighting Fantasy Software Packs: an example of Fantasy medium crossover.

Take two different mediums, one book and one videogame and here's the Fighting Fantasy Software pack. 

Fighting Fantasy Software Packs were an interesting effort to promote two different mediums which contained similar contents. In fact both elements shared the gaming and fantasy component translated in different aesthetics and language. Additionally this project allowed people to get literate about the Puffin's game books and approach in the same time the new video game experience. 

Definitely a very interesting early attempt to combine two different mediums, which now look closer than they were before.


The Warlock of Firetop Mountain Software Pack, 1984

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain Software Contents, 1984

Source: http://fightingfantasy.wikia.com/wiki/The_Warlock_of_Firetop_Mountain_(computer_game)

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Swords and Sorcery, Advertising (Commodore and Spectrum version,1984)

The Swords and Sorcery version for C64 was the classic example of retro vaporware. The game was advertised and announced many times and never released and as far I can read from the good GTW coverage on the case, they never worked on it. So a C64 version on Swords and Sorcery never existed.

In the end, only the Spectrum only version was actually released and there was a good advertising coverage which comprehended some mentions about the c64 version as well. The advertising was highlighting the use of the MIDAS Adventure Concept (Multi Dimensional Animation System) which at that time sounded really promising and revolutionary.
Stunning 3D Graphic Animation simulating video disk games.  
A unique fully interactive adventure language using the latest ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE techniques. 
State of the art data compression techniques enabling enormous scenarious and vocabularies to be incorporated. 
Real Time Interactive Conflict Sequences. Talk to your opponent, attack them, flee them and even confuse them.  
Joystick capability for movement, combat and actions through unique menu feature. Keyboard operation for more complex interaction with the adventure when time permits. 
Develop your own unique characters. For example - specialize in magic, swordplay etc.  
Total expandability - your own characters can be transferred to future adventures and new opponents, scenarious and objects can be added to all the games. A series of expansion modules to increase indefinitely the playing life of each game written with MIDAS.
Source: Swords and Sorcery Official Full page advertising.

I've managed to collect almost all the ads appeared back in the day on various 8bit magazines. The only thing which is still not clear for me is if an Amstrad conversion has been released either.  Apparently there are some available roms around but I haven't got time to test them and I couldn't find any official mention to an Amstrad release of S&S. I will have a closer look this evening for further updates.

Crash issue 10, page 73

Crash issue 26, page 77

Home Computing Weekly issue 81, page 21

Personal Computer Games issue 12, page 110

Popular Computing Weekly issue 85,
page 5 (Only Spectrum version)

Tuesday 17 July 2012

Temple of Terror, Advertising (1987)

Even if most of the Fighting Fantasy videogames produced were adventures and not CRPGs, I always liked all the related visuals and all the artists involved in the FF project. The advertising below is referred to Temple of Terror which was released for C64 (tape/disk), Spectrum 48k (tape) and Amstrad (tape/disk) in the 1987. The game itself was based on fourteenth Fighting Fantasy Book with the same name written by Ian Livingstone and it's nothing more than a text adventure.

From a visual point of view, the style of the illustration is pretty old school fantasy from the eighties/nineties, where a quite rich use of the colour was mixed wisely with the classic Western/European Medieval iconographical style. The artist name is Christos Achilleos who designed many of the FF artworks and related publications as well. 

Advert in a 1987 not confirmed Magazine showing the U.S. Gold/Adventure Soft (UK) release.

Saturday 14 July 2012

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Dangerous Journeys (Necropolis), a CRPG that never was.

Dangerous Dimensions, Omen Nomen. 
The Dangerous Journeys/Mythus Role Playing Game is mainly notorious for two aspects: being one the biggest Gary Gygax's fatigues after the TSR period and its short life on the shelves. In fact the pencil and paper game published in the '92 was ceased around the '94 after TSR sued GDW. Anyway all the problems for Gygax & Co. started immediately after the publication of an early advertisement on the White Wolf magazine.

White Wolf Magazine,  May/June 1992 Advertisement

Apparently the name Dangerous Dimensions (DD) was too close to D&D and TSR immediately complained. At that stage, to avoid any other problem, the name was changed to Dangerous Journeys. Gygax & GDW were completely unaware of the fact that it was just the beginning of all the issues between GDW (Dangerous Journeys/Mythus publisher) and the rival TSR.

That's what actually Gary Gygax confirmed on one his last interviews.
When we heard that TSR objected to the umbrella title, I immediately contacted NEC and JVC to determine if they would object to a name change to avoid a lawsuit one likely to have little merit, but costly. They agreed with my assessment and I changed the umbrella title to Dangerous Journeys.
Despite that, TSR sued, attempting to get a temporary injunction preventing release and sale of the new game products. In this they failed.
GDW and the rest involved in the project, the big companies plainly excluded, were sued for copyright infringement of the AD&D and D&D games. At this point the biggies dropped out of things, not wanting to become in the lawsuit. This was devastating to us, of course, because we were certain that if they joined us, TSR would have had no recourse but to drop the action, as the corporation was not financially able to fight against powerful corporations. The TSR complaint was patently ridiculous, of course, but to a court totally unfamiliar with RPGs, not worthy of dismissal before proceeding. Imagine someone not familiar with either chess or checkers. So the publisher of the checkers game goes to court claiming chess infringes on checkers. Your Honor, look at the similarities: the board is exactly the same, the game is played by two opponents, each side has pieces called men and there are kings in play. Moves alternate and are varied and, as in checkers, chess pieces can promote to be more powerful. To top that off there are captures, and one side eliminates the other to win! . That was the sort of thing we were facing.
Source: http://www.thekyngdoms.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=37

The Dangerous Journey Videogame, from the announcement to the first previews.
However, despite the controversy, a Dangerous Journeys Videogame was planned to support the Necropolis Module Campaign. Gygax managed to sell the licenses to Electronic Arts for the PC version, JVC for the Nintendo and TTI for the Turbo Grafx CD Version.   

Since the first publication of the Core Dangerous Journey Manual, an advertisement was claiming the future plan for an actual DJ Videogame.  Anyway the first actual release date appeared only on one of the two official advertisements on the back pages of the Necropolis Campaign Module in the 1992.

Dangerous Journeys Necropolis Module, Back Page AD, 1992

Dangerous Journeys Necropolis Module,
Back Page AD with the release date, 1992 

Here's the copy extracted from the ad above.
Gary Gygax’s Dangerous Journeys™ Super CD Adventure Game
Coming soon for the new Turbo Duo is TurboGrafx Super CD version of Gary Gygax’s Dangerous Journeys™, a new Mulitgenre Roleplaying Game System, This product can be used on the new Turbo Duo platform or the TurboGrafx CD accessory system with system-upgrade card. Initial release of the Dangerous Journeys product is planned for April, 1993
For more information contact 1-800-366-0136
Dangerous Journeys is a trademark of Omega Helios Limited.
TTI Turbo Technologies, Inc.

According from the Turbo Grafx ad so, the release date was optimistically set to April 1993. In fact, between the 1992 and 1993, some previews of the game appeared on the Turbo Play Magazine. 

Turbo Play Magazine, Issue #02 September 1992,
Preview Box at the Bottom of the page

 Turbo Play Magazine, Issue #04 Spring 1993,
Top Left Screenshot and Description 
According to the preview appeared on the issue #04, the Dangerous Journeys Game existed, at least as an actual project. After having scanned the web for a while I have been able to retrieve only two minuscule screenshots of the game.

 Dangerous Journeys Videogame Preview Screenshot,
Turbo Play Magazine Issue #04

The second existing screenshot is an absolute rarity scanned by a former TurboGrafx-16/TurboDuo magazines TurboPlay and DuoWorld editor. 

Dangerous Journeys Videogame Flyer, TTI,

Both images are pixelated, not finished and really poor executed. Looking at their awful quality we can assume that they were no more than production mock ups done for the promotion of the Turbo Duo version. 

CRPG hoax or vaporware? 
Let's start saying it wasn't a hoax. The game realistically existed mainly because it was implemented from the beginning in the core rules as supplement of the rest product range. Nevertheless we could reckon the DJ/Mythus video game more as an actual vaporware piece in some ways, but we have to considering that all production DJ related was officially ceased for legal and financial reasons.

Here's an evidence of this theory appeared on a forum some time ago:
No, the bogus lawsuit filed by T$R back in the 90s closed the door on the deal we had with Nintendo/JVC. After that I did a number of CRPG designs, two of which that were oprioned for development but never got into production for reasons not related to the game itself.
Anyway, the material I am speaking of was not one of the two game designs sold, but rather one that was a stand alone product. I never got it far enough along to do a formal proposal to any publisher. After the second CRPG (after the MYTHUS ONE) was accepted, word came on a Monday it was going forward into development, and on Wednesday we were told the company was sold and all projects were being canned, I decided I would return to paper games once again... Thus that design, along with some 20 or so others is lauguishing somewhere in this place, in disk limbo if you will.
Source: http://www.pcenginefx.com/forums/index.php?topic=3223.70;imode
Farewell to Dangerous Journeys CRPG so.

At this stage, according to the proofs, we can simply assume that only some production mock ups were created for advertising purposes. A part from a one colour flyer, a screenshot appeared on a magazine and some advertising, there's no other trace of this game. We don't even know the real genre (Action RPG like Heroes of The Lance?) or any of the details about the gameplay. The only thing we might assume is that the game was based on the excellent Necropolis Campaign for Dangerous Journeys.