the arcade dungeon adventure revisited ___________
a study of Gauntlet
this is the introductory dialog for Gauntlet Sanctuary
why "sanctuary" ?
I didnt feel like calling it a "port"
lets go back to the past...
the year was 1986
the month was May
the end of my 4th semester of college pursuing a degree in math _and_ computer science
(yes a dual degree in both subjects)
a degree I desired so that I might work on video games
that was my dream career. well not exactly
the dream career was being a wizard...or perhaps a green lantern
I cant be sure now which was first
a little thing called z80 assembler changed all that in 1982
I also wanted to be an explorer, or adventrurer
explore what or adventure where?
woods, ruins, catacombs...
by 1986 I had more ideas and dreams than I could easily handle - I read a lot of books
and the internet was a decade away
Imagine life without the net, I challenge you!
did you succeed? You are likely close to or over 40
so the discussion is Gauntlet
I spent nearly every week of every year in college visiting the arcades
at near the rate of 3 - 4 nights a week
I studied the games
I studied the design
I played and mastered them
there were many games I could hold high scores on
there were many I could play for hours on a quarter
Gauntlet was very special
I could play for as long as my body could stand
at the time I was THE high score - no one could beat me
my longest game was 7 hours
if the arcade had cooperated I would have played a longer game
in 86 all I would have likely said was that it was an awesome game and you should play it
after decades of actually doing mods and games I will say this:
this dungeon style explorer for the time brought together a near perfect synthesis
of dungeon action, player character choice, maze elements, play mechanic
with much enjoyment
there was no story of note
you were a pretty generic warrior, wizard or...elf
it was amazingly foward thinking for the 80s by including a sword wielding female warrior
swords and spells
if you consider the "potion" - really a maze enemy clearing smart bomb - a spell
the 4 characters had different abilities providing different play styles
this was also advanced for the time, when most arcade games played exactly the same
or at most provided a shooter with varying weapons loads
the ability enhancing "hidden" potions could also be considered spells
and the enhancement was not permanent - a thief could spawn and steal your potion!
add to all this good sound effects and a digitized "announcer" voice
an announcer that mostly taunted you: "someone shot the food"
I have read a game design philosophy that well designed games contain no "fluff"
otherwise seen as pointless eye candy elements
Gauntlet fits this philosophy very well
now understand at the time there were many home computer games in this idiom
I played this one: En.wikipedia.org
Gauntlet had arcade machine power where home systems were just getting near with systems like the Amiga 500
the home games while possessing the same play elements had nowhere near the impact of the big "G"
this game was an andrenaline filled, dungeon clearing, adventure rush
what went wrong with such perfection?
well this is earth, not heaven...
all things come to an end as it were
Atari got reports of the stellar players for whom a single quarter represented endless play
at this point Atari was all corporate
no one was there to explain or even want to understand that a player that could do this on one
quarter had the benefit of attracting a lot more people that want to do the same thing
the hoard of people that swarmed the machine to watch this amazing play almost all wanted to try it!
would they not celebrate such success? no...
Atari responded by nerfing the near perfect design
the vital 100 pts of health per maze food element was monkeyed with
the game still looked great
all the vital elements were there
it just played like crap now
by some blessing (from my experience) this was short lived
Gauntlet II was soon on the scene
While the sequel added some interesting elements that fit well - it still had bad play
how do you create one of the greatest dungeon adventure video games of all time then miss the boat with the sequel?
keep the nerfed food system, make 2 characters useless and add some very cool elements
that would be great except with the food nerfed, they were just annoying wastes of time
side quest dialog:
would you like to know why arcades died?
I've had some time to analyze this and I think I have it nailed down
instead of concentrating on making great games, which happened up to 84 or 85
the companies were focusing on play mechanics that required players to put in more quarters for one game
this was clearly not the way to duplicate the early 80s success - as seen when arcades died off through the 90s
most games had some continue feature
a lot were racers, gun games or fighting games
a "me too" slosh of generic quarter munchers
Gauntlet (up to rev. 7) did it right - you could play on one quarter with mastery
if your game was weak you could put in more quarters for health and continued play
with the balancing element that if you added quarters it divided your high score by coin count!
I will follow this introduction dialog with pieces establishing the basis for the mod and the enhancement design decisions
( to Gauntlet sanctuary )
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