FTL Games

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FTL Games
IndustryVideo games
FounderWayne Holder
Area served
Key people
Wayne Holder
Bruce Webster
Doug Bell
Dungeon Master series
ParentSoftware Heaven Inc.
Websiteftlgames.com (offline, existed in the mid 90s)[2]

FTL Games (Faster Than Light) was the video game development division of Software Heaven Inc. FTL created several popular video games in the 1980s. Despite the company's small size, FTL products were consistently number-one sellers and received the highest critical acclaim and industry awards.[citation needed]

FTL was founded by Wayne Holder in 1982. Holder started Software Heaven and FTL as its game division after founding Oasis Systems, which specialized in spell checking software. He hired Bruce Webster, with whom he graduated from high school, to head FTL. After Webster left FTL in 1984, Doug Bell joined FTL and served as the Technical Director until FTL ceased operations in 1996.[3]

The games[edit]

FTL released several games throughout its relatively short history. Most went on to become best sellers and some even set new standards for games of their genres.


Holder and Webster co-designed FTL's first game, SunDog: Frozen Legacy, a space trading game. It was released first for the Apple II in March 1984.[4] Webster did most of the programming for the Apple II version, but resigned from FTL after the release of version 2.0. Doug Bell, Andy Jaros and Michael Newton significantly enhanced the game's graphics when porting the game to the Atari ST, releasing it in late 1985. SunDog became the best selling game on the Atari ST during the system's first year, and garnered lavish critical acclaim.

The packaging cover art was designed and illustrated by David R. Darrow.[5]

All of FTL's subsequent games contain at least one subtle reference to Sundog.


Oids, an arcade game, was one of FTL's minor releases. The original Atari ST version was created by Dan Hewitt who did both the graphics and all of the programming. It received little attention with a later conversion to the Apple Macintosh, but received 5 Stars on Macworld 1990.[6][7] However the original Atari ST release received rave reviews in the UK, where it remains a cult favourite. Later, after FTL ceased operations, an updated authorized shareware version of Oids for the Macintosh was developed and released by Kirk Baker. It was however eclipsed by the release of FTL's next game.

As with SunDog, the packaging cover art was designed and illustrated by David R. Darrow.[5]

Dungeon Master[edit]

Dungeon Master is a fantasy role-playing game, the first to feature real-time gameplay. The game included a number of user interface features that made gameplay particularly enjoyable, from a spell system that seemed to be "logical" to the intuitive way the player used the mouse to directly manipulate items in the simulated 3D view.[8] It was released on the ST in 1987 and went on to become the ST's best selling product of all time. It was eventually ported to over a dozen platforms in six languages.

It received too many awards to list here, including the first ever Special Award for Artistic Achievement from Computer Gaming World when it was initially released.

Darrow did the cover artwork for this game as well.[5]

Chaos Strikes Back[edit]

A Dungeon Master sequel, Chaos Strikes Back, was released in 1989 for most platforms, but notably excluding a PC version. It uses the same engine as Dungeon Master but features new creatures and graphics.[3]

Dungeon Master: Theron's Quest[edit]

Dungeon Master: Theron's Quest was a simplified Dungeon Master version with new dungeons from 1992 for TurboGrafx-16 and the PC Engine.[3][9]

Dungeon Master II[edit]

Dungeon Master II: The Legend of Skullkeep was the best-selling game of the week when it was released in Japan in December 1993. For some reason, it took two years before it was released in the US and Europe in 1995 by Interplay Productions. While the game had been anxiously awaited by legions of Dungeon Master players, by 1995[10] it was considered too dated and sold poorly. FTL broke up about this time.[3]

Dungeon Master Nexus[edit]

Dungeon Master Nexus was released 1998 for Sega Saturn and only the Japanese market under the FTL and Software Heaven brand.[11] It was published and maybe also developed by Victor Interactive Software Inc..[3][12]


  1. ^ Maher, Jimmy (11 December 2015). "Dungeon Master, Part 1: The Making of". The Digital Antiquarian. Retrieved 26 August 2022.
  2. ^ Anyone know the story with FTL? Archived 2019-08-10 at the Wayback MachineDungeon Master Encyclopedia, Rob Christensen, 2001-07-08
  3. ^ a b c d e McFerran, Damien (2006). "The Making of Dungeon Master" (PDF). Retro Gamer. No. 34. pp. 30–31. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 February 2012. Retrieved 2011-01-19.
  4. ^ Markowitz, Maury (2000-09-01). "SunDog: History (Interview with Bruce Webster)". Archived from the original on 2003-06-18. Retrieved 2011-01-08.
  5. ^ a b c My Illustration Career from David R. Darrow's website
  6. ^ Cohen, Peter (25 March 2002). "OIDS -- Classic Mac game returns from the dead". Macworld online.
  7. ^ Durgan, Daniel (October 1998). "FTL History". The Un-Official Dungeon Master Web Site. Archived from the original on 2000-12-05.
  8. ^ Stahl, Edwin Robert (2002). "Exploring the Virtual Frontier: The Evolution of Narrative Form in Immersive Video Games" (PDF). Saint Louis University. pp. 44–45. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-06-26. Retrieved 2008-06-19. It was the most advanced RPG experience available and a true immersive milestone. [...] What made Dungeon Master so important [...] was its combination of a first-person 3D engine, point-and-click interface, and enveloping sound.
  9. ^ Theron's Quest for TurboGrafx/PC Engine - from Dungeon Master Encyclopedia
  10. ^ "Dungeon Master II". interplay.com. 1996-11-07. Archived from the original on 1996-11-07. Retrieved 2011-01-02.
  11. ^ Dungeon Master Nexus for Sega Saturn - from Dungeon Master Encyclopedia
  12. ^ "Dungeon Master Nexus" (in Japanese). Victor Interactive Software. 2003-03-10. Archived from the original on 2003-03-10. Retrieved 2011-01-09.

External links[edit]