Castle of the Winds
April 23, 2011
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A couple of days ago I uploaded Castle of the Winds, which in a way renewed my interest in roguelike games and led to all that discussion about hack121 and so on. Here are some additional tidbits for this game.
First, you’ll often read that Castle of the Winds was originally released in 1989. That’s complete nonsense. There are two releses, 1.0 from 1992 and 1.1 from 1993. That’s all. 1989 was the year Rick Saada started working on it, and he reflected that in the copyright notice (1989–92). That’s not an uncommon thing to do. Castle of the Winds was quite certainly a Windows 3.0 game from the beginning. Windows 3.0 was released in May 1990, but the SDKs tend to be available several months earlier, especially to Microsoft employees.
A question that is less easy to answer is whether it is correct to see Castle of the Winds as a roguelike game. Rick Saada never used that term, in the help file he refers to his game as a “graphical adventure game, loosely based on fantasy role playing games, and drawing much inspiration from Norse mythology.” Some dungeons may be random (this is usually seen as a main criterion), the first one definitely isn’t. The game also puts a stronger emphasis on story than roguelike games usually do, which due to their randomness take more of a sandbox approach.
However you want to answer this question, Castle of the Winds is definitely a remarkable game. With 13500 registrations, it may have been the greatest shareware success on 16-bit Windows. It still has its fans and fan sites, and Rick Saada still gets mail about it. It was one of the first RPGs for Windows, it remained one of few, and better than most. While back than it was often said that there were so few arcade games for Windows, this was never really true. The type of game that was really rare on Windows was exactly this kind, RPGs and adventures, games that demand a sort of commitment from the player and offer a sort of immersion (the big exception here, as in so many aspects, is Balance of Power). They got more numerous as SVGA cards with Windows drivers became more widespread, but Castle of the Winds remains one of the few 16 color games with these qualities.