Saturday, December 5, 2009

Role Playing vs. Action vs. Utility: Games Win!

In the late 1980's, SSI worked out a licensing deal with TSR to produce official Advanced Dungeons & Dragons software for home computers.  Many fondly remember Pool of Radiance, which launched the long and successful Gold Box series of D&D RPGs, and some have played the more action-oriented Heroes of the Lance, later ported to the NES.  But Dungeon Masters Assistant: Volume I: Encounters has largely been forgotten, even though it was given equal billing in this 1989 magazine ad:

The original pencil-and-paper version of AD&D continues to survive, but part of the pleasure and contrast with computer-based dungeoneering comes from the rolling of physical dice and, yes, the employment of pencils and paper.  The utility program must have sold reasonably well, as SSI later released a second title, Volume II: Characters & Treasures.  But in the pre-Mac/Windows era, switching back and forth between two floppy-disk-based utility/database programs had to have been a huge, cumbersome pain, and I can't imagine any Dungeon Master worth his or her salt booting these up during an actual campaign.

One has to give credit to SSI for making the most of the AD&D license, but years later, it's the games that still hold our interest.

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