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Dunjonquest
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Developer(s) Epyx
Publisher(s) Epyx
Platform(s) DOS, Apple II, VIC-20, Commodore 64, Atari 8-bit, Atari ST, TRS-80, Amiga, Macintosh, Commodore PET, Coleco Adam
Release date(s) 1979
Genre(s) Dungeon crawl
Mode(s) Single-player
Input methods Keyboard

Dunjonquest (series) is a brand of single-player, single-character fantasy computer role-playing games from Automated Simulations, also known as Epyx. The Temple of Apshai and related expansions later repackaged as a "Trilogy" are the best known and most widely ported of the series. The games were heavy on strategy and pen & paper RPG-style rules and statistics. Games in this series are not to be confused with "roguelikes" as the Dunjonquest maps were not random (although some games like Sorcerer of Siva might place the character in a random starting spot in higher difficulty settings). Additionally, the 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 printed room descriptions.

The Dunjonquest games were ported across a wide variety of late 1970s and early 1980s home computers.

GamesEdit

Room DescriptionsEdit

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. Upon entering a room in Temple of Apshai, the player would note the room number on a frame/window of the UI, then check the corresponding room number listed in the "Chambers of the Dunjon". 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. The tradition of room descriptions in games continues today, however, with CRPG games such as the Avernum series that make ample use of room descriptions, though they are now free to display these in the games and no longer require a separate printed format to ship with the game.

The Commodore Amiga version of the Temple of Apshai Trilogy is known to have used condensed versions of the room descriptions on screen, in the game itself.

Gameplay and ControlsEdit

There were two basic types of Dunjonquest games:

  • Datestones of Ryn, Morloc's Tower and Socerer 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 of a traditional pen and paper Role Playing Game.

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)

Ambient SoundEdit

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 is particularly bad at capturing the effect without breaks and pops, and as a result it sounds much better on original C64 hardware.

Brian Hammerhand and William NailfootEdit

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 ArtEdit

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.

StarquestEdit

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. Rescue at Rigel 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 ApshaiEdit

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.

References Edit

External links Edit



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