A Long Crawl Through The Dungeon
2018 marks the 50th Anniversary of the dawn of Role-Playing Gaming.
As you may well know by now, we’re creating an awesome new dungeon crawling experience. Depths of Erendorn is well into development, with many of the characters and entities, story and game lore now in place. Whilst we continue development, we at Project Gamechanger wanted to give you a little walkthrough of the history and development of the Dungeon Crawler format, from its initial inception in the 1970s through the ensuing decades, right up to the present day. So tighten your leather armour and strap on your broadsword, we’re going on an awesome adventure…
The Early Days
It all began half a century ago in 1968 when Gary Gygax attended the first Lake Geneva Wargames Convention, shortened to Gen Con – where he witnessed a tabletop game of the Siege of Bodenburg. He later developed a game called Chainmail which by 1974 had led onto the game changer which became Dungeons and Dragons. This concept and format captivated imaginative game players, much as chess, draughts, and backgammon had done for the previous centuries and millennia. The latter is believed to be at least 5000 years old, with a board game consisting of two dice and 60 checkers found in archaeological excavations in ancient Mesopotamia at Shahr-e Sukhteh – ‘The Burnt City’ in Persia, now Iran. Games have been with mankind for much longer than we would expect!
From Board to Screen
It would be a whole decade however before Dungeons and Dragons was brought into development as a computer game. As the decade shifted towards the age of the games console, fantasy role-playing games jumped onto the TV screens. The Digital Age saw the multiplayer game Dandy being released in 1983. This was followed two years later by the seminal Gauntlet, developed by Arrowhead. Two years later, 1987 finally saw Dungeons and Dragons make it onto the console format. In amongst other releases were Wizardry, “The Bard’s Tale” Tales of the Unknown: Volume I, Cosmic Soldier, Might and Magic, Megami Tensei, Phantasy Star, Dungeon Master, Mines of Moria and Madō Monogatari which all set the standard for the genre in one way or another.
It was 1985’s Gauntlet however which was the key game to produce a sizable enough following and be the inspiration which would pave the way for the role-playing games which would invade computer screens over the next few decades. The eighties are now looked back at as the Golden Age of Gaming.
The Age of the Console
By the 1990s the genre had exploded in popularity, as it emerged from the arcade slot machines of the 1980s and into the homes of fledgeling gamers during the 1990s with the ZX Spectrum, the far superior Atari ST and later Nintendo and Sega leading the way.
One of the monumental games along the path included Angband in 1990. To follow was Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss, released in 1992 to critical acclamation. The plot revolved around the remnants of a failed utopian civilization, with the main avatar taking the role of the hero who attempts to find and rescue a baron’s kidnapped daughter. Blue Sky Productions the forerunner of Looking Glass Studios was behind its development.
As the decade drew on so did the development of 1995’s Stone Keep project which was meant to take 9 months to conceive and create, but ultimately ended up taking 5 years. Stone Keep’s hero is called Drake. Drake’s spirit is sent out of his body by the Goddess Thera into the ruins of his home, the eponymous castle to explore and retrieve the mystical orbs which contain planetary gods, and to ultimately reclaim the land.
If the 1980s had been the Golden Age, the 1990s could be considered the Platinum Age of Gaming. The decade peaked with classic games like Diablo from Blizzard North and the Japanese release Shining the Holy Ark.
No rundown of dungeon crawler role-playing game milestones would be complete without a mention of 1996’s Tomb Raider, featuring the lady adventurer that was Lara Croft. Yes – in the game she was literally, A Lady – complete with her own stately home and Butler, the rather aged Winston. It is debatable whether this action-packed and much-loved game is strictly a dungeon crawler, but it had all the necessary ingredients to spawn a succession of follow-ups and at the last count three movie spin-offs. The Nineties drew to a close with the release of Baroque on the PlayStation from Sting Entertainment and the first Baldur’s Gate, which was very well received by all who love the genre.
The 21st Century
The millennium began with a bang, as Nox and Diablo II were released in the year 2000. Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance crept out of the shadows the following year. Dungeon Siege and Neverwinter Nights succeeded that in 2002, along with The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind which had elements of a dungeon crawling experience within its ambitious and immersive open world. By 2004 a remake of The Bard’s Tale had made waves in the genre. Titan Quest would be released halfway through the decade, along with The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. By the close of the early part of the millennium, there were Demon’s Souls, Torchlight and Dragon Age: Origins, all in 2009. 2011 saw the release of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim which has been critically acclaimed as one of the best games made of all time, as well as Dark Souls, which became a cult phenomenon in its own right.
The highly adored and seminal Legend of Grimrock came along in 2012, along with Diablo III which went on to sell more than 30 million units worldwide alongside its expansion Reaper of Souls, which was released in 2014.
Speaking of 2014, further waves were made with the release of Divinity: Original Sin by Larion Studios which went on to receive highly favourable reviews. In 2016 Darkest Dungeon was released by Red Hook Studios with many praising its combat and difficulty, harkening back to the old school games of the past. In 2017, Divinity: Original Sin 2 was released to an even greater reception than the original, pushing forward the RPG and Dungeon Crawler genres even further.
So many games, so many great titles and endless hours of extraordinary gaming adventures.
So to the present day and looking towards the future, and Project Gamechanger’s development of Depths of Erendorn continues the fine tradition of the role-playing game in the online gaming multiplayer format. Now it seems that the future of gaming is as strong as ever. It is deeply imbued within the human psyche to reenact story and strategy.
As a final thought, we ask you this: Who would have thought that the anonymous Mesopotamian creator of backgammon far back in the year 3000 BC would have conceived that mind-stimulating and strategic games will still be played 5000 years later? What games will we be playing 5000 years from now?