I spent a lot of time today scouring the web for information on the
original Dungeon Master and Alternate Reality games for the Atari ST and
8-bit repectively. In my view, these two games were the grandfathers of
modern first-person perspective games, whether they be role-playing
games (like DM and AR) or shooters. My interest in them was sparked by
an Atari emulator I got from a player at the recently ended Free Range Action Gaming v6.0
What Dungeon Master lacked in depth, it more than made up for in its
atmosphere, graphics, and joy of playing. There was a single goal;
destroy the evil wizard at the bottom of the dungeon. Getting there was
the trick... and it helped to yoink all the powerful magic items you
would find along the way. This isn't one of those games that addresses
the question "Why would a wizard leave all this powerful equipment lying
around for you to find?" because back then we didn't ask such questions!
Infidel! Blasphemy! No, this was a pure and simple dungeon crawl and
you loved it. Along the way you could pick up spiffy matching sets of
plate armor (two complete sets, if I recall correctly), wicked magical
blades, and a snazzy assortment of wands, potions, and other stuff.
Dungeon Master actually had a system that improved the skills you used.
If you fought hand-to-hand a lot, your warrior level would increase,
pumping up your Strength and Hit Points. However, if you relied on the
bow or thrown weapons, you would rise through the ninja levels, raising
your Dexterity in the process. Wizard spells would raise your wizard
level and mana, while priestly spells, such as healing, would increase
your priest level (and mana). Along the way, clever puzzles, tricks,
and traps slowed your progress. The only serious drawback to Dungeon
Master was the static nature of the dungeon... it never changed. You
had to wait for a sequel, such as Chaos Strike Back and the poorly
designed Dungeon Master II.
Alternate Reality blew me away in its immersive environment. The intro
to The City may have seemed cheezy to some (a huge alien saucer
"beaming" up hapless victims to transport to a distant world), but the
following theme song and star field were mind blowing at the time.
Though the designers of AR had an ambitious 8 or so installments of
Alternate Reality mapped out, only The City and The Dungeon were ever
completed. The City, though well done, could not compare to the vastly
superior and much larger Dungeon. Plus, in The Dungeon you actually
stood a chance of surviving (in The City everyone is much tougher than
you, finding money is nearly impossible, and killed enemies never drop
their weapons behind for you to use). The (under)world of The Dungeon
was incredibly complex with numerous minor quests beside the main one
(which isn't really known to you at the beginning, and completing it
does not prevent you from still playing the game).
It's hard not to think back on these games and get glassy eyed with fond
nostalgia. Does memory view the past through rose-colored glasses?
Hopefully I'll find out, because I'm going to try very hard to find a
way to play those games again.