North American box art for Dungeon Keeper
|Genre(s)||Real-time strategy, god game, dungeon management game|
Dungeon Keeper is a strategy video game developed by Bullfrog Productions and released by Electronic Arts in June 1997 for DOS and Windows 95. In Dungeon Keeper, the player builds and manages a dungeon, protecting it from invading 'hero' characters intent on stealing accumulated treasures, killing monsters, and ultimately the player's demise. The ultimate goal is to conquer the world by destroying the heroic forces and rival dungeon keepers in each realm. The Avatar from the Ultima series appears as the final hero. Dungeon Keeper uses Creative Technology's SoundFont technology to enhance its atmosphere. Multiplayer with up to four players is supported using a modem, or over a local network. Dungeon Keeper took over two years to develop, and an expansion pack, a Direct3D version, and a level editor were released. The game received critical acclaim, with reviewers praising the uniqueness and depth. A fan-made mod, KeeperFX, was released, which fixes bugs and adds features. Dungeon Keeper was followed by a sequel, Dungeon Keeper 2, in 1999.
The primary method of control is the hand, used to pick up creatures and objects in the dungeon, carry them around, and drop them. The hand allows the player to 'slap' objects and thereby interact with them: creatures will speed up when slapped, some traps will be triggered.
The Dungeon Heart represents the Keeper's link to the world. If it is destroyed, the player loses. Along with the heart, the player begins with a small number of imps, the generic work force for dungeon activities: they can dig tunnels into the surrounding soil, capture enemy rooms and Portals, mine gold and gems, set traps, and even attack when desperate or threatened. Imps are obtained by using the Create Imp spell. Slapping creatures forces them to work faster temporarily, but removes some of their health and happiness. Gold is obtained primarily by digging Gold Seams, and Gem Seams provide an unlimited supply, though take longer to accumulate. Gold is used to build rooms, cast spells, and train creatures. To order the imps to dig a tile, the player must flag the tile.
Once the Imps are working, the player must then set up a basic infrastructure: Lairs for monsters, a Hatchery (where chickens, which serve as food, are bred), and a Treasury. After connecting the dungeon to a 'Portal', monsters will arrive. As the game progresses, the player moves along a technology tree, unlocking further rooms and spells. Rooms can only be built on tiles belonging to the player. The player is red and the tiles are coloured accordingly. Other keepers have different colours, and the heroes are white. Unaligned creatures and rooms are multicoloured. The player can build traps and doors, created in the workshop. Traps include lightning and boulder traps, the latter instantly killing creatures it comes into contact with. As with rooms, they can only be built on tiles that belong to the player. Traps are not built instantly; Imps need to place them on the blueprint. The Temple is a room where creatures are made happy, and the player can sacrifice creatures to the dark gods. The gods may reward or punish the player, or be indifferent depending on the sacrifice.
The dungeon has a fleshed-out ecology: certain creatures are natural enemies. For example, Flies and Spiders are often found at odds with one another, while a Horned Reaper, if gone berserk, will attack all creatures in its path. Other common behaviours when a creature is angry include vandalising the dungeon and deserting the player. The creatures are varied in their statistics; some excel at certain tasks, and others refuse to perform certain tasks. Which creatures enter the dungeon depends on which rooms the player has and how large they are; most creatures have prerequisites for entering service. Creatures require paying regularly, and when 'Payday' comes, will head for the Treasure room to collect their wages. Other ways to obtain creatures include imprisoning and torturing them, 'scavenging' (persuaded to defect to the player) from enemy keepers, and performing certain sacrifices at the Temple (for example, Horned Reapers are obtained by performing a certain sacrifice). Creatures entering via the Portal are at the lowest experience level, and must gain experience, usually by training in the training room. Training creatures increases their attributes (such as hit points) and abilities (such as which weapons or spells they can use). Such spells include lightning bolts, rebounding projectiles, and increasing armour. Creatures will frequently enter combat with heroes or creatures belonging to another keeper. Each creature has a star above it of the colour of the keeper it belongs to, with its experience level at the centre. The star is a health meter; as a creature takes damage, the spikes turn black. The player has the ability to possess a creature, seeing the dungeon from its first-person perspective and using its attacks and abilities. This is one of the spells; others include speeding creatures up, and healing them.
A world map is available, and at the beginning, the player is allocated one of the twenty regions of a fictional, idyllic country to destroy. As the player progresses through these regions, each representing a level, the areas previously conquered will appear ransacked, twisted, and evil. The goals for each level are straightforward: they generally fall along the lines of eliminating the heroic force or destroying all other Dungeon Keepers. The first few levels are tutorials, teaching the player the basics. Special items are hidden throughout certain levels. Such items perform actions such as increasing the player's creatures' experience level, or revealing the map. They can reveal a hidden level, where the player must perform a specific task, and is rewarded upon completion. Heroes will appear at various points and times, sometimes accompanied by a tunneller dwarf, who, like imps, are able to dig. The dungeon can be protected from being breached by having the imps fortify the walls. Usually, after enough heroes are defeated, the 'Lord of the Land', often accompanied by a large army, will appear to destroy the player and other keepers. This is usually the final battle of the level, or the final wave of heroes if the level requires the player to defeat enemy keepers too. In the final level, the Avatar, the strongest creature, appears as the Lord of the Land, and is resurrected after being defeated. He must be defeated again when he reappears with a large army. Defeating him a second time wins the level and the game.
The game uses SoundFonts to provide additional ambient sound effects. A Sound Blaster AWE32 or AWE64 is required to use this feature. The player can load a SoundFont and use it for ambient sound effects. Customised SoundFonts can be created to personalise the dungeon. The game features three SoundFonts, one of which is loaded at game startup, and Creative offered sample Dungeon Keeper SoundFonts for download.
Development and release
Dungeon Keeper was developed by Bullfrog Productions under Peter Molyneux, who wrote the game design, testbed, and the computer players and assistant. Development began in November 1994 by the lead programmer, Simon Carter, and took two and a half years to develop. Development on the level editor began in May 1995. The first-person view was developed in September 1995, and the creatures had shadows added, which was believed impossible at the time. In November 1995, Barrie Parker began writing levels, and developed content for the script language. Bullfrog tried to get a version out for Christmas 1995: it was then the development team realised the game should focus on a living world created by the player. In February 1996, Peter Molyneux decided to focus on the project full-time. In July 1996, Alex Peters joined the project and ported the game to Windows 95. Dungeon Keeper was shown at the European Computer Trade Show in September 1996. The final testing began in April 1997, and was signed off in June. Electronic Arts released the game in June 1997. Simon Carter wrote and organised 800,000 lines of code. This was Molyneux's final project with Bullfrog before he left in August 1997 to form Lionhead Studios. Richard Ridings provided many of the game's voice-overs. A Sega Saturn version was in development and due for release in early 1996.
An expansion pack, The Deeper Dungeons was released on 30 November 1997. It features fifteen new levels and an improved artificial intelligence for the enemies. The Avatar also reappears in the final level. A Direct3D version, which brought improved graphics and 3D acceleration support, and a level editor were released for the game. These add-ons, along with the Deeper Dungeons and a Dungeon Keeper-based desktop theme, were bundled with the game, re-released as Dungeon Keeper Gold Edition on 31 December 1998. Dungeon Keeper received a fan-made mod, called KeeperFX. This mod increases compatibility with later versions of Windows, fixes bugs, and adds features such as TCP/IP multiplayer support.
Dungeon Keeper received critical acclaim. The gameplay and uniqueness were its most heavily complimented aspects. Computer Gaming World praised the multiplayer mode, saying that it "promises to be extraordinarily rich and subtle". It was concluded that it was "The most unique game in years; stylish, multifaceted, and as deep as the pits of hell". Game Revolution complimented the "terrific" graphics and the "nearly as impressive" sound, and concluded that 'Dungeon Keeper is a revolutionary, terrific game". Gamezilla called the game a "classic" and concluded, "Any real-time gamer with a yearning for the dungeon life and the nerve to slaughter an army of Monks, Fairies and Lords will be pleasantly surprised with Dungeon Keeper". PC Gamer UK praised Bullfrog's "amazing attention to detail" and the depth, and described the game as "A stunning achievement". PC Format praised the game, saying "Dungeon Keeper is nothing short of brilliant", and the game was awarded their Gold Award. In a 2001 review, PC Zone called the game "classic", but criticised its "repetitive" gameplay. GameSpot remarked "It's a rich strategy game that is both intuitive and challenging, both innovative and polished", and said the game was "among the best games released so far this year". Edge complimented the presentation, detail, and depth, and described the game as a "masterpiece". Computer and Video Games praised the flexibility and detail, and described the game as "totally awesome!".
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