||This article has an unclear citation style. (August 2010)|
Dunjonquest is a series of single-player, single-character fantasy computer role-playing games from Automated Simulations (later known as Epyx). The Temple of Apshai and related expansions, later repackaged as a "Trilogy", are the best known and most widely ported games of the series. The games were heavy on strategy and pen & paper RPG-style rules and statistics.
Some, but not all, games in this series could be considered roguelikes, but is important to note that the Dunjonquest maps were not random. Sorcerer of Siva might place the character in a random starting spot in higher difficulty settings. The best known games of the series should not be confused with roguelikes. Temple of Apshai and Hellfire Warrior games and related expansions for each placed significant importance on the uniqueness of each room the player entered through use of static printed room descriptions.
The Dunjonquest games were ported across a wide variety of late 1970s and early 1980s home computers.
- Dunjonquest: The Datestones of Ryn (1979)
- Dunjonquest: Morloc's Tower (1979)
- Dunjonquest: Sorcerer of Siva (1981)
- Dunjonquest: Temple of Apshai (1979)
- Dunjonquest: Upper Reaches of Apshai (1981) (add-on/expansion to Temple of Apshai)
- Dunjonquest: Curse of Ra (1982) (add-on/expansion to Temple of Apshai)
- Dunjonquest: Hellfire Warrior (1980)
- Dunjonquest: Danger in Drindisti (add-on/expansion for Hellfire Warrior)
- Dunjonquest: The Keys of Acheron (add-on/expansion for Hellfire Warrior)
- Temple of Apshai Trilogy (1985) (re-release including expansions with improved graphics and sound)
Some Dunjonquest titles were notable for introducing the hybrid concept of having room descriptions presented in rather thick user's guides, requiring the player to read from a book to enhance the gameplay experience. For example, upon entering a room in Temple of Apshai, the player would note the room number on the UI, then check the corresponding room number listed in the "Chambers of the Dunjon" (the user's guide). The descriptions would present the details of the atmosphere and objects in the rooms including dust on the floor, particular smells in the air, and would provide hints to the player of what they might expect to find in the room they had just entered. This method of presenting the situation to a player was very much like the descriptions provided by a Dungeon Master to players of the Dungeons and Dragons pen & paper traditional role-playing game.
Initially the printed room descriptions might have been used in part as a means of overcoming simple black on white graphics and limited memory for displaying text on screen, especially on some of the more limited computer systems of the day that the games were initially coded for. They also serve as an early form of copyright protection.
The Commodore Amiga version of the Temple of Apshai Trilogy used condensed versions of the room descriptions on screen, in the game itself.
Gameplay and controls
There were two basic types of Dunjonquest games:
- Datestones of Ryn, Morloc's Tower and Sorcerer of Siva are examples of the first type: those with a time limit and few, if any room descriptions. These games were similar to the Sword of Fargoal in that they had a set goal, (kill the wizard or find a secret exit on the fifth level, for example), more roaming monsters, and a more casual approach to completing the goal. A 20 minute time limit for some of these games made them much more fast-paced.
- The Temple of Apshai, Hellfire Warrior and related expansions for both "trilogies" were of the second type: large, involved with detailed room descriptions and no time limit on play. These games had the addition of an "Innkeeper" where equipment could be sold and bought. Room descriptions provided vital clues to the locations of secret doors, treasures or hints at what monsters might be close by or hiding in the room. Gameplay in these Dunjonquest titles was unlikely to be concluded in a single sitting session, requiring saved games, and was more like that the traditional pen and paper role playing games on which they were based.
All Dunjonquest titles were advertised as some form of "Real Time" RPGs, but were neither real-time nor turn-based by modern standards. Monsters would move and take turns on their own periodic timetable (movement or attack every 5 seconds, for example). If a character remained in a static position, eventually a wandering monster would overtake the character. This gave the Dunjonquest titles an urgency not found in turn-based RPG's of the time where all action would halt between turns, but allowed enough time for the player to think through actions between turns.
Dunjonquest titles were influenced by strategic pen and paper role-playing games and demanded a player declare in advance how many spaces the in-game character would move without knowing where monsters/enemies would choose to move on their turns. To move, the player would type in a number from 1-9, indicating the spaces the player desired to move. "R" and "L" were used to rotate the character left and right, with "A" used to attack. Several additional single key keyboard commands were used to control inventory, pick up items, etc.
Some of the games had unique keyboard commands, but common commands included:
- 1 - 9 forward 1–9 feet (Moving at maximum speed would exhaust a character)
- 0 rest for 1 turn
- R turn right
- L turn left
- A attack monster
- F fire an arrow (does not impact fatigue)
- I inventory
- Y drink healing elixir
- O open door
- G pick up a treasure
- ! speak with monster (may allow you to pass unharmed)
The original (not the re-released) Temple of Apshai for the Commodore 64 used ambient music that employed the Commodore's SID chip to create an eerie, oscillating sound that might have been some of the first ambient computer role-playing game music. Current SID chip emulation isn't sufficient at capturing the effect without breaks and pops, and as a result it sounds much better on original C64 hardware.
Brian Hammerhand and William Nailfoot
Two fictional characters, Brian Hammerhand and William Nailfoot, regularly appear in short story sections of the manuals of Dunjonquest games. The stories are written in first-person and have a dramatic and semi-comedic tone.
Box and manual art
Art by Karen Gerving gave some of the Dunjonquest titles a unique and unified look with what appear to be woodblock prints filled in with a spectrum of colors. All covers employed the Epyx standard of the time which was a black cover backdrop and a white box rear cover with a screenshot and similarly formatted text.
Rescue at Rigel and Star Warrior were titles in a science fiction spin-off of the Dunjonquest series under the "Starquest" name. Rescue at Rigel used a modified version of the same engine as used with Temple of Apshai. It was the only Epyx Starquest/Dunjonquest title to be offered for the Commodore VIC-20 but not for the Commodore 64.
Rescue at Rigel used a hybrid form of room descriptions along with timer-based play, bridging the gap between the two types of Dunjonquest games. Instead of unique descriptions for numbered rooms, the game had multiple rooms labeled "Sanctum", for example, and a detailed description of what typical Sanctums were was provided in the manual along with about a dozen other room types.
"Sudden Smith" was the fictional backstory character with a role in Rescue at Rigel similar to that of Brian Hammerhand.
Gateway to Apshai
A spinoff of the Apshai series of Dunjonquest titles, Gateway to Apshai was action-oriented rather than periodic turn-based and required a joystick and quick reflexes to play. There were no room descriptions, and other than the name and fantasy setting there was little similarity between the Dunjonquest titles and Gateway to Apshai. Gateway to Apshai was meant as a prequel to the Apshai series and had a background story printed in the accompanying player's guide.
It is unknown whether or not Epyx intended to re-release previous games using Gateway's action RPG engine or if this could have reinvigorated the largely BASIC-programmed Dunjonquest games that by the mid-1980s were beginning to feel quite dated.
The idea of room descriptions in top-down view CRPGs is carried on today in titles with limited budgets for voice acting or limited graphics, such as the indie titles of the Avernum series from Spiderweb Software and the Eschalon series by Basilisk Games. Like in the Amiga version of Temple of Apshai, the descriptions are presented in text windows.
||This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. (February 2011)|
- Dungeons and Desktops (A K Peters, Ltd., 2008)
- High score!: the illustrated history of electronic games, 2003, Page 55.
- Everyone's guide to personal computers, Ballantine Books, 1983.
- Barton, Matt (2007-02-23). "Part 1: The Early Years (1980-1983)". The History of Computer Role-Playing Games. Gamasutra. http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3623/the_history_of_computer_.php Retrieved 2010-08-26.
- Temple of Apshai series at MobyGames
- Gateway to Apshai at MobyGames
- Rescue at Rigel at MobyGames
- Dunjonquest titles with artwork and screenshots at Hardcore Gaming 101
- Hellfire Warrior at Atari Mania
- Morloc's Tower at Atari Mania
- Temple of Apshai at GiantBomb
- Temple of Apshai sound, SID Sound file player for Temple of Apshai (original) at Gamebase 64
- Rescue at Rigel at the VIC-20 Denial Wiki
- Gateway to Apshai at the Internet Movie Database