The ISA-Bus

One blog to bind them all.

Monthly Archives: July 2012

IMSAI PCS-4X Ad

IMSAI went bankrupt in October 1979, and the trademark was bought by the Fisher-Freitas Corporation which firms in this ad. The text “Thinking ahead for the 80’s” probably indicates that the 80s had not yet started when it was printed, so it is most likely from late 1979.

The advertised machine is a PCS, the successor to the better known 8080 (Matthew Broderick’s character in WarGames had one of these), more specifically a PCS-4X (40, 42, or 44), which had dual built-in floppy drives. The 8-bit processor would have been an Intel 8085, the optional 16-bit processor probably an 8086 or 8088.

The PCS came in several flavors, here are numerous photos of an 80/30, which had a small built-in monitor instead of the floppy drives.

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Dungeons & Dragons in Japan

An unfortunately very short history of Dungeons & Dragons in Japan, written in March 2008, after Gary Gygax died.

Strength and Constitution

The RPG tradition that has probably puzzled me the most is that physical prowess is nearly always divided between two character attributes. One is invariably called Strength and usually determines melee damage and carry capacity. The other goes by names like Constitution, Vitality, or Endurance and determines things like hit points and damage resistance. It has been so ever since the first D&D rules.

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The Beginning of an Era

Screenshot of Google Beta, 1998

The Samurai in Wizardry

It is entirely possible that Wizardry was the first computer game ever to print the word “Samurai” to the screen. I’m not sure, but it might well be. (Update: It was not. There are at least two older ones, the Sega coin-op Samurai and Winged Samurai for Atari.)

In 1981, Japan wasn’t the big thing it became during the decade. Anime and manga were still mostly unknown outside Japan, and many of those that would become most popular weren’t even drawn and printed yet (Akira: 1982, Dragon Ball: 1984, Urotsukidoji: 1986). Lately, several very successful arcade machines had come from Japan, but they did not attempt to introduce any Japanese themes. Indeed, some (like Crazy Climber or Donkey Kong) had a definitely American flavor.

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Two Knights Playing Backgammon

From the Manesse Manuscript, early 1300s.

MetzoMagic

Most gamers will probably know Steve Metzler. He used to be an editor at Games Domain and wrote many reviews and walkthroughs. Yahoo acquired that site in 2003 and shut it down less than two years later. Steve moved on Quandaryland, an Australian site specialized on adventure games and RPGs founded by Rosemary Young and Gordon Aplin in 1995. In 2008, this site shut down as well. Now, Steve has his own site, metzomagic.com, which archives not only his own work but most of the articles from Quandaryland as well.

Wizardry and NetHack

Most of the gameplay elements in the Wizardry series have been lifted directly from the Dungeons & Dragons rules with little or no change. But for the last three games, there was possibly another inspiration. After reading this blog entry by CRPG Addict, I browsed the NetHack Wiki a bit and came across several remarkable details:

  • NetHack 1.3d, released 1987, added a Valkyrie character class, not a common thing in CRPGs. So did Bane of the Cosmic Forge 1990.
  • Another new character class in the same NetHack version is the Healer, wise in medicine and apothecary, who starts with more money than the others. Bane of the Cosmic Forge introduced the Alchemist, who can mix expensive potions from cheap ones and thus provides a near unlimited money source for the party.
  • The goal of NetHack is to retrieve the Amulet of Yendor and offer it to your deity on the Astral Plane. This will make you immortal and is known as Ascension. The Astral Plane was introduced in 3.0.0 (1989). In Wizardry 8, Ascension plays a big role in the religion of the Higardi. Endgame consists in bringing three sacred artifacts to Ascension peak, placing them each in a temple, and finally becoming a god.

Coincidence? I don’t think so. Guess someone in the dev team was an avid NetHack player. You can download NetHack for Windows and try it yourself.