Dungeons and Desktops by Barton Matt; Stacks Shane; & Shane Stacks

Dungeons and Desktops by Barton Matt; Stacks Shane; & Shane Stacks

Author:Barton, Matt; Stacks, Shane; & Shane Stacks
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: CRC Press LLC
Published: 2019-04-09T16:00:00+00:00


1. These programs were called “door games” because they were launched externally by the BBS software. For more information, see http:/​/​en.wikipedia.org/​wiki/​BBS_door.


The Epic Fails

The bigger they come, the harder they fall. It's one thing for a small indie studio to produce a poor game, but only a major studio, with a long track record of outstanding achievements behind it, can fail so spectacularly as to threaten the future of an entire genre.

At least, that's one way we can account for the spectacular disasters we're about to see as we head into the 1990s. SSI, Origin, and Interplay—the three biggest names in the industry—went from making the best CRPGs to the worst. It was a time when even diehard fans turned their backs on their hobby, fed up with the stinking, bug-infested games piling up in the local bargain bins. The very words role-playing game were enough to trigger critics, who never tired of proclaiming the death of CRPGs.

To really tell this bit of the story, we need to step back for a moment and discuss the computers games industry at large. Two industry-wide paradigm shifts occurred in the early 1990s: 3D graphics and CD-ROM. As exciting as these developments were, they represented a daunting challenge for developers accustomed to 2D graphics and floppy disks.

The 3D graphics revolution began when id Software, a tiny shareware developer based in Shreveport, Louisiana, released Doom. It wasn't the first true first-person shooter (FPS) game; id earned that distinction with their previous game, Wolfenstein 3D (1992). However, it was Doom that shook up the industry; critics and gamers were totally hooked on its immersive gameplay and incredibly fast 3D graphics. For our purposes, what's important to note is that with all the international hype around Doom, 2D games now had a very hard time getting noticed. For example, Corey Cole, part of the husband and wife team responsible for the Quest for Glory series, confessed that one of the reasons Quest for Glory V: Dragon Fire was such a disaster was that they were “pushed into 3D too early,” and several promised features that titillated fans were left out of the finished product.

This sudden, urgent need to go 3D had many other developers quaking in their boots. Id Software may have been a small team, but they were a small team of geniuses. For ordinary mortals, building a 3D game engine was a massive undertaking, and there wasn't yet an option to simply license an existing engine such as Unreal or Unity. Programmers with well-earned reputations for 2D work found themselves totally unprepared. Team sizes expanded to fill the gap, but without the benefit of today's collaborative frameworks, chaos was the inevitable result. It was one overhyped glitchfest after another.

The other innovation of concern here is the CD-ROM. As a portable storage media, CD-ROMs were hard to beat, offering enormous gains in data storage at a fraction of the cost of floppy disks. Just one disc could hold all the data on over 400 floppies!


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