Dragon's Lair promotional poster
|Developer(s)||Advanced Microcomputer Systems|
|Release date(s)||June 19, 1983|
|Mode(s)||Up to 2 players (alternating turns)|
|Arcade system||Z-80 processor on a proprietary motherboard|
|Display||Horizontal orientation, raster, standard resolution|
Most other games of the era represented the character as a sprite, which consisted of a series of pixels displayed in succession. Due to hardware limitations of the era, artists were greatly restricted in the detail they could achieve using that technique; the resolution, framerate and number of frames were severely constrained. Dragon's Lair overcame those limitations by tapping into the vast storage potential of the LaserDisc, but imposed other limitations on the actual gameplay.
The success of the game sparked numerous home ports, sequels and related games. In the 21st century it has been repackaged in a number of formats (such as for the iPhone) as a "retro" or historic game.
|This section requires expansion. (May 2013)|
The attract mode of the game displays various short vignettes of gameplay accompanied by the following narration:
- "Dragon's Lair: The fantasy adventure where you become a valiant knight, on a quest to rescue the fair princess from the clutches of an evil dragon. You control the actions of a daring adventurer, finding his way through the castle of a dark wizard, who has enchanted it with treacherous monsters and obstacles. In the mysterious caverns below the castle, your odyssey continues against the awesome forces that oppose your efforts to reach the Dragon's Lair. Lead on, adventurer. Your quest awaits!"
The game displays animated cutscenes, and the player executes an action by selecting a direction or pressing the sword button with correct timing in order to clear each quick time event (QTE). The comedy aspects of the game stemmed not only from the bizarre-looking creatures and humorous death scenes, but also the fact that while Dirk was a skilled knight, he was somewhat clumsy in his efforts, as well as being a reluctant hero, prone to shrieking and reacting in horror to the various dangers he encounters.
Instead of controlling the character's actions directly, players control his reflexes, with different full motion video (FMV) segments playing for correct or incorrect choices.
Dragon's Lair began as a concept by Rick Dyer, president of Advanced Microcomputer Systems (which later became RDI Video Systems). A team of game designers created the characters and locations, then choreographed Dirk's movements as he encountered the monsters and obstacles in the castle. The art department at AMS created storyboards for each episode as a guide for the final animation.
Dyer was inspired by the text game Adventure. This game gave rise to an invention he dubbed "The Fantasy Machine". This device went through many incarnations from a rudimentary computer using paper tape (with illustrations and text) to a system that manipulated a videodisc containing mostly still images and narration. The game it played was a graphic adventure called The Secrets of the Lost Woods. Attempts to market The Fantasy Machine had repeatedly failed. Allegedly, an Ideal Toy Company representative walked out in the middle of one presentation. Dyer's inspiration allegedly came during his viewing of The Secret of NIMH, whereby he realized he needed quality animation and an action script to bring excitement to his game. He elected to take a reserved but unscripted location from The Secrets of the Lost Woods known as The Dragon's Lair.
The game was animated by veteran Disney animator Don Bluth and his studio. Development was done on a shoestring budget, cost US$1 million and took seven months to complete. Since the studio couldn't afford to hire any models, the animators used photos from Playboy magazines for inspiration for the character Princess Daphne. The animators also used their own voices for all the characters instead of hiring voice actors in order to keep costs down, although it does feature one professional voice actor, Michael Rye, as the narrator in the attract sequence (he is also the narrator for Space Ace and Dragon's Lair II). The voice of Princess Daphne was portrayed by Vera Lanpher who was head of the Clean-up Department at the time.
Dirk the Daring's voice belongs to film editor Dan Molina, who later went on to perform the bubbling sound effects for another animated character, Fish Out of Water, from 2005's Disney film Chicken Little, which he also edited. Dirk shrieks or makes other noises on numerous occasions but speaks words only twice. First, he mutters "Uh, oh" when the platform begins to recede during the fire-swinging sequence, then he exclaims "Wow!" when first entering the Dragon's Lair and laying eyes on the slumbering Princess Daphne.
The music and many sound effects were scored and performed by Chris Stone at EFX Systems in Burbank. Bryan Rusenko and Glen Berkovitz were the recording engineers. The 43 second "Attract Loop" was recorded in a straight 18 hour session. Featured instruments, all keyboards, were the E-mu Emulator and Memory MOOG.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (January 2013)|
The original laserdisc players shipped with the game (Pioneer LD-V1000 or PR-7820) often failed. Although the players were of good quality, the game imposed unusually high strain: Laserdisc players were designed primarily for playing movies, in which the laser assembly would gradually move across the disc as the data was read linearly. However, Dragon's Lair required seeking different animation sequences on the disc every few seconds—indeed, less than a second in some cases—as dictated by gameplay. The high amount of seeking, coupled with the length of time the unit was required to operate, could result in failure of the laserdisc player after a relatively short time. This was compounded by the game's popularity. As a result, the laserdisc player often had to be repaired or replaced.
The life of the original player's gas laser was about 650 hours; although later models had solid state lasers with an estimated life of 50,000 hours, the spindle motor typically failed long before that. It is rare to find a Dragon's Lair game intact with the original player, and conversion kits have been developed so the units can use more modern players.
The original USA 1983 game used a single side NTSC laserdisc player manufactured by Pioneer; the other side of the disc was metal backed to prevent bending. The European versions of the game were manufactured by Atari under license and used single side PAL discs manufactured by Philips (not metal backed).
The European arcade version of Dragon's Lair was licensed to Atari Ireland (as was Space Ace later). The cabinet design was therefore different from the Cinematronics version. The main differences were that the LED digital scoring panel was replaced with an on screen scoring display appearing after each level. The Atari branding was present in various places on the machine (marquee, coin slots, control panel and speaker grill area), and the machines featured the cone LED player start button used extensively on Atari machines. Although licensing for this region was exclusive to Atari, a number of Cinematronics machines were also available from suppliers mostly via a gray import.
Dragon's Lair initially represented high hopes for the then-sagging arcade industry, fronting the new wave of immersive laser disc video games. A quote from Newsweek captures the level of excitement displayed over the game: "Dragon's Lair is this summer's hottest new toy: the first arcade game in the United States with a movie-quality image to go along with the action... The game has been devouring kids' coins at top speed since it appeared early in July. Said Robert Romano, 10, who waited all day in the crush at Castle Park without getting to play, "It's the most awesome game I've ever seen in my life." Arcade operators at its release reported long lines, even though the game was the first video arcade game to cost 50 cents. Operators were also concerned, however, that players would figure out its unique predefined game play, leading them to "get the hang of it and stop playing it." By July 1983, 1000 machines had been distributed, and there were already a backlog of about 7,500. By the end of 1983 Electronic Games and Electronic Fun were rating Dragon's Lair as the number one video arcade game in USA, while the arcade industry gave it recognition for helping turn around its 1983 financial slump. Dragon's Lair received recognition as the most influential game of 1983, to the point that regular computer graphics looked "rather elementary compared to top-quality animation". By February 1984, it was reported to have grossed over $32 million for Cinematronics. One element of the game that was negatively received was the blackout time in between loading of scenes, which Dyer promised would be eliminated by the forthcoming Space Ace and planned Dragon's Lair sequel. By the middle of 1984 however, after Space Ace and other similar games were released to little success, sentiment on Dragon's Lair's position in the industry had shifted and it was being cited as a failure due to its expensive cost for a game that would "lose popularity". In 2001, GameSpy ranked Dragon's Lair as #7 on the list of "Top 50 Arcade Games of All-Time".
Dirk was received by reviewers as a character, who felt "unlike some video game heroes, Dirk's personality has a comic, human side to it." Princess Daphne received mixed reception. Often cited as one of the most attractive characters in video game history, as well as being one of the key damsels in distress in video games, she also received mixed reactions for her ditsy voice and her half-naked appearance. Bluth described Daphne by stating "Daphne's elevator didn't go all the way to the top floor, but she served a purpose," a fact panned by critics of the game who perceived it to be violent and sexist. In 2009, Singe was ranked 93rd in IGN "Top 100 Videogames Villains".
The original Fantasy Machine was later released as a prototype video game console known as Halcyon.
Various home computer adaptations of Dragon's Lair were released during the 1980s and 1990s but because of (at the time) high memory consumption due to the detailed animation of the games, not all the scenes from the original game were included. Reviewers of the home computer versions differed widely in their appraisal of the game, with one Amiga magazine awarding 92% due to the unprecedented audio-visual quality, while another magazine giving the same version a score of only 32% on account of the "wooden" gameplay. This led to Escape from Singe's Castle, a pseudo-sequel where Daphne is kidnapped at the moment of Dirk's victory by a shapeshifter, forcing him to venture even further into the castle to save her again. The game was made up of unused scenes from the laserdisc version, though some portions (such as the lizard king and mud men) were shortened. The 8-bit versions were created by Software Projects, while Readysoft handled the 16-bit versions. These used video compression and new storage techniques, but came on multiple 3.5" floppy disks.
The game also led to the creation of a short-lived television animated series, Dragon's Lair by Ruby-Spears Productions where Dirk the Daring was voiced by Bob Sarlatte and the unseen storyteller that narrates each episode is voiced by Clive Revill. Changes in the TV series included the originally nameless Dragon was given the name Singe (voiced by Arthur Burghardt), Princess Daphne (voiced by Ellen Gerstell) now wore a long pink dress, and included some exclusive characters like Princess Daphne's father King Ethelred (voiced by Fred Travalena), Dirk the Daring's horse Bertram (vocal effects provided by Peter Cullen), Dirk the Daring's squire Timothy (voiced by Michael Mish), and Dirk the Daring's rival Sir Hubert Blunt (voiced by Peter Cullen). Several enemies from the original game also make their appearance as adversaries, such as the Lizard King, the Phantom Knight, the Giddy Goons, and the Mudmen. Thirteen half-hour episodes were produced and aired on the ABC network from September 8, 1984, to April 27, 1985. It was last aired on the USA Cartoon Express between the late '80s and the early '90s. The show was generally run of the mill, but boasted an unusual feature: to keep the show in the spirit of the game, before each commercial break the storyteller would ask what the viewer would do to solve the problem facing Dirk. After the commercial break, the outcomes of the various choices were shown before Dirk acts on the correct idea (with the occasional exception) to save the day.
The game inspired a sequel (disregarding the Escape from Singe's Castle as one), Dragon's Lair II: Time Warp, created shortly after the original, but released in 1991.
It also led to the creation of 1984's Space Ace, another game animated by Don Bluth and his crew. Space Ace was also a ROM and disc upgrade kit for the Dragon's Lair cabinets, complete with new control panel overlay, side art and header.
Dragon's Lair III: The Curse of Mordread was made for Amiga and DOS in 1993, mixing original footage with scenes from Time Warp that were not included in the original PC release due to memory constraints. The game also included a newly produced "Blackbeard the Pirate" stage that was originally intended to be in the arcade game but was never completed.
In late 2002, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the original arcade release of the smash hit, Digital Leisure Inc. produced a special edition DVD box set of the three arcade classics that defined laser disc arcade games: Dragon’s Lair, Space Ace and Dragon’s Lair II: Time Warp. All the scenes from the original arcade releases were included and optionally the player could select new scenes that were animated in 1983, but not included in any previous Dragon’s Lair release. The games were also updated to include higher quality video, authentic scene order and a new difficulty selection to make it more challenging for Dragon’s Lair pros. Digital Leisure worked with a small independent game developer, Derek Sweet, to release a CD-ROM 4-Disc Box Set for Windows based PCs.
A comic book miniseries based on the game, but incorporating elements from the cartoon series as well, like Dirk's horse Bertram, was released in 2003 by Crossgen Publishing, concurrent with a mini series based on Space Ace. Arcana Studio published the entire comic book series in 2006, as there were three issues that were never before published.
In 2005, Digital Leisure created a new Dragon's Lair III which utilized 3D footage from Dragon's Lair 3D, but controlled via a system like the original arcade games.
In the late 2006, Digital Leisure released "Dragon's Lair HD", which features an all-new High-Definition transfer from the original negatives (as opposed to just sourcing the laserdisc). The original mono soundtrack has also been remastered into Dolby Digital 5.1 sound (on PCs that can support it).
According to Don Bluth and Gary Goldman a Dragon's Lair movie has been scripted and is ready to go into production once financing for the project is in place. The film will be in the classic, traditional 2D cel animation style. Currently, however, the project is in development hell.
On April 9, 2007, a Blu-ray version of Dragon's Lair was released. This uses the same HD transfer as the aforementioned PC release, but went through a 6 month process to clean and remaster the image. Dragon's Lair Blu-ray is the first title to fully utilize BD-J technology.
In 2013, Dragon's Lair was released on Steam via Steam Greenlight. This iteration of Dragon's Lair features 720p remastered video, remastered game footage, and bonus content.
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (October 2013)|
Dragon's Lair led to the creation of numerous video game ports for home systems. Since some original sequences did not fit in the ports for those systems, they were re-released only in a virtual sequel called Escape from Singe's Castle. A non-linear arcade interpretation of Dragon's Lair and Escape from Singe's Castle with elements of platform and puzzle was made by Software Projects for 8-bit machines in 1986.
The sequence with the drawbridge and eyestalks seen in the attract mode was excised from the original arcade version of the game, but still remains on the laserdisc, playable in fan-made modifications of the program, or in the version of the game released in Europe as well as the Sega CD, PC, DVD, and HD versions.
The Game Boy version (entitled Dragon's Lair: The Legend) in particular has almost nothing to do with the source game aside from Dirk as the protagonist, Mordroc as the villain, and saving Princess Daphne as the objective. In fact, the game is a port of a five-year-old ZX Spectrum game, Roller Coaster, the result being a platform game where Dirk has to negotiate a series of thinly-disguised fairground rides. The later Game Boy Color version, however, is a relatively faithful rendition of the original game.
The Dragon's Lair Deluxe Pack was released for home computers containing all the FMV for all three games. Though it contains all the video including some scenes cut from the North American version of the game, the gameplay was reported as lackluster.
DAPHNE, an emulator for laserdisc based games, can emulate the original 1983 version. DAPHNE requires the ROM files plus the original laserdisc to run. Alternatively, an MPEG-2 video stream and Ogg Vorbis audio stream can be substituted for the laserdisc. These streams can be generated from the original laserdisc or from Digital Leisure's 2002 DVD.
In popular culture
- A Robot Chicken episode, "Celebrity Rocket", shows Dirk battling a midlife crisis in the segment Dragon's Lair: The Middle Ages.
- Dragon's Lair was once a featured game on the 1980s video game based game show, Starcade. The entire episode can be seen in Digital Leisure's 20th Anniversary DVD and PC CD ROM editions.
- A portion of the game was parodied in the TV show Family Guy. In Season 7, episode 8, titled "Family Gay", Peter portrayed Dirk the Daring. After bragging to Lois about almost beating "the Dragon's Lair", a flashback is shown which re-creates the flying horse scene, where Peter manages to dodge some of the flames, but then smacks into the wall, bringing up the dreaded death scene.
- Dragon's Lair 3D was featured in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. The character Tibby interviews Brian McBrian, who has supposedly broken every record there is for Dragon's Lair 3D.
- The collectibles company Electric Tiki Design released a limited edition statue of Princess Daphne as part of their "Animated Ladies" line in 2011.
- Inside the Dragon's Lair is a feature documentary film about the game which is currently in production and is slated for release sometime in 2014
- Dragon's Lair is featured in Wreck-It Ralph. It was among the video games seen at Litwak's Family Fun Center & Arcade.
- Dragon's Lair is referenced in the song "Teenage Wasteland - Live at Massey Hall" which appears on the album Stop Us If You've Heard This One Before! by Barenaked Ladies.
- "Dragon's Lair - The International Arcade Museum". International Arcade Museum. Retrieved 2012-05-16.
- "Dragon's Lair". The International Arcade Museum. Retrieved 5 Oct 2013.
- "History of Computing: Video games - Golden Age". Thocp.net. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
- Interview with Rick Dyer from Animation World Network
- "Dragon's Lair movie?" from Suite101.com
- Vera Lanpher at the Internet Movie Database
- Behind the Scenes from DonBluth.com
- McGuigan, Cathleen and McAlevey, Peter (8 August 1983). Mini-Movies Make the Scene. Newsweek. p. 79.
- "Local Amusement Facilities Planning To Get Dragon's Lair". Spartanburg Herald-Journal. August 18, 1983.
- Turner, Steve (August 5, 1983). "The lair of the new". The Ledger.
- Clark, Doug (January 15, 1984). "Ace dragon slayer may make a killing as video-tips writer". The Spokesman-Review.
- "Laser disc arcade games could become wave of the future". Gadsden Times. Feb 18, 1984. Retrieved 2013-03-11.
- "Graphics are lure in Dragon's Lair". The Milwaukee Sentinel. Feb 1, 1984. Retrieved 2013-03-11.
- "Video games demoralize animator". Spokane Chronicle. Feb 29, 1984. Retrieved 2013-03-11.
- "Video Games Fizzle Out". Jul 28, 1984. Retrieved 2013-03-11.
- "GameSpy's Top 50 Arcade Games of All-Time". Uk.gamespy.com. Retrieved 2013-03-11.
- By locke May 8, 2010 Follow (2010-05-08). "Princess Daphne - Hottest Girls in Games". UGO.com. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
- "GameSpy: Dragon's Lair 3D: Return to the Lair - Page 1". Xbox.gamespy.com. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
- "The Top 7... Damsels You DON'T Want to Save". GamesRadar. 2008-01-28. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
- "The Top 7... Lazy Character Clichés". GamesRadar. 2008-07-21. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
- "Dragon's Lair 3D: Return to the Lair - GC - Review | GameZone.com". Pc.gamezone.com. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
- "Dragon's Lair 3D: Return to the Lair Review, Dragon's Lair 3D: Return to the Lair PC Review". GameSpot.com. 2002-11-17. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
- Kristan Reed (2004-03-17). "Dragon's Lair 3D: Special Edition Review - - Page 1". Eurogamer.net. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
- [unreliable source?]
- "Singe is number 93 - IGN". Uk.ign.com. Retrieved 2013-03-11.
- "Dragon's Lair review from ST Amiga Format 9 (Mar 1989) - Amiga Magazine Rack". Amr.abime.net. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
- "Dragon's Lair review from CU Commodore User Amiga-64 (Mar 1989) - Amiga Magazine Rack". Amr.abime.net. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
- Dragon's Lair, Full cast from Internet Movie Database
- "Dragon's Lair Project Message Board". D-l-p.com. 2002-01-23. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
- Nelson, Carl (2007-04-04). "Dragon’s Lair – The first full Blu-Ray Java title reviewed". Hardcoreware.net. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
- App Store Version
- "Dragon’s Lair for XBLA! With a Secret!". //playxbla.com. Retrieved 2012-03-19.
- "Video Games live | http". //www.videogameslive.com. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
- "Robot Chicken Episode Guide - Episode Guide for Robot Chicken Season 2". Animatedtv.about.com. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
- "Digital Leisure Inc". Digitalleisure.com. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
- "dragon's lair video game, cinematronics, inc. (1983)". Arcade-history.com. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
- Digital Leisure, License Holder of Dragon's Lair
- Dragon's Lair at MobyGames
- Dragon's Lair at the Internet Movie Database
- Dragon's Lair at the Killer List of Videogames
- Dragon's Lair at World of Spectrum
- Detailed info on Dragon's Lair from Cataroo
- Syd Bolton's Dragon's Lair page with detailed information on each version
- Dragon's Lair Blu-Ray Review
- Dragon's Lair HD Preview @ IGN Vault Network
- The Dot Eaters Article featuring a history of Dragon's Lair and the 80's laser game craze