Interview: D.W. Bradley on Wizardry 6 & 7

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D.W. Bradley is best known as the man behind the second wave of Wizardry games.

After Andrew Greenberg and Robert Woodhead left, Bradley took over the series on Wizardry V: Heart of the Maelstorm (1988), expanding the game’s systems and dungeons. In Wizardry VI: Bane of the Cosmic Forge (1990) he revamped the graphics and character systems, added more story & NPC interactions and set the stage for an ambitious sequel…

Wizardry VII: Crusaders of the Dark Savant (1992) took the series to new heights with a large non-linear open world, where several alien factions searching for a legendary artifact – with NPC parties roaming the land and looting dungeons alongside the player.

After that he worked with Warren Spector at Origin on CyberMage: Darklight Awakening (1995), an early FPS\RPG hybrid, then went on to found his own company – Heuristic Park – and release two more RPGs: the vastly underrated Wizards & Warriors (2000) and the recently re-released Dungeon Lords (2005).

Despite this impressive career, there are extremely few interviews with D.W. Bradley, and most are about Dungeon Lords. However, I’ve managed to contact him this week and he generously replied two of my questions on the Wizardry series:

In Wizardry VI: Bane of the Cosmic Forge the dungeon door closes as soon as you enter – there’s no town to return to. The old Wizardry loop of exploring, killing, looting and going back was removed. What led you to change the series’s gameplay in this way?

DWB: Bane was a breakout – it was time to take the next step, time for our adventures to grow up and leave the safety of the nest, it was time that there should be no going back. Bane retained the full spirit of traditional Wizardry, braving ever deeper into the castle dungeon, but then, what happens?! At the point of climax we reach not the lowest depths, but instead ascend outside the confines of the dungeon prison, freed forever from the shackles of the past, and the end now the prelude for what is to follow. In the moment it was done, I knew where the journey would next be taking us. Nevermind that the brick forest still appeared as dungeon walls – this was a time when magical realms still lived in imagination and not the video display. But I vowed in that moment that the next realm would have trees and forests that looked like trees and forests, and cities and sunshine and lakes and stars at night, and no more would searching for stairs down suffice…

The rival parties in Wizardry VII: Crusaders of the Dark Savant are one of its most outstanding features – and one that has never been done by any other RPG. What are your thoughts on them?

DWB: While working on Crusaders of the Dark Savant my mind was soaring, and this innovation was only the beginning of more amazing things to come. Alas, Crusaders was my last Wizardry title. On its heels came the advent of 3D, Doom and real-time, and as video games went mainstream, recognizable brand name and blowing people up commanded massive profits, while with rare exception innovation in game paradigms were costly, and all too often ended in failed titles. When I was young and working on my first computer games (text on teletype!), I could see with clarity what would one day be possible, and this sight has always illuminated my path. What I didn’t know was how far we could go in my lifetime, inevitable though it was. This vision is almost realized in the caliber of 3D games today, and VR promises more to come, yet there remains a dimension of computer simulation not yet manifest, almost untouched. It was from this wellspring that the feature you speak of emerged. The sight of it remains clear to me, and though it is not yet made, it shall one day come to pass. The question is when and by whom, and who shall be there to experience it?

Update 14 – The fourth release!

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It’s here! – CRPG Book Preview 4

This is the fourth public “alpha” of the CRPG Book Project, now reaching 350 pages!
Finding volunteers becomes increasingly harder as we advance, so it was expected for the flow of reviews to get slower and releases become smaller as we approach the finish line.

Still, this release brings 50 pages of new reviews – pushing us over 200 reviews! The new additions range from absolute classics such as Deus Ex, Planescape: Torment, Daggerfall and Ultima Underworld; to hidden gems like The Summoning, Omikron, ZanZarah, TRON 2.0 and Dink Smallwood; to more dubious honors, such as Descent to Undermountain, Gothic 4 and Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Draennor (yeah, the game that erases Windows).

Two big changes were made – the historical context pages were momentarily removed until I re-write them (it’s hard to find reliable data on the 80’s & 90’s gaming industry), and the fan-translation section was expanded. Games like Chinese Paladin, Legend of Cao Cao and Labyrinth of Touhou are extremely interesting games, and having them crammed into simple half-page reviews was underselling them, so now they have a full page each.

This will also be my last release from Brazil, as I’ll be moving to Japan in the end of the month. There will naturally be a short down time until I adapt there and get my bearings, but fear not – the CRPG Book Project will continue no matter what. I’m too stubborn and too deep in to stop now.😉

Once again, there are many more games that still need to be reviewed, so if you’re interested in helping, please e-mail us: crpgbook@gmail.com

PS: On June 18th I’ll be appearing as a guest on Shane Plays radio show, talking about the book. You can hear it live here  at 1:05 PM Central, or check it later on Youtube.

 

Update 13 – Quick news

I’ve decided to release a 350-page preview before I depart to Japan in July.

Now that the book is nearing its end, progress becomes a bit slower, as I must hunt reviewers for more obscure games or play them myself. (Also, I’ve been freelancing A LOT to get monies for the trip). And since I’m not sure how things will play out in Japan, it’s a good idea to release a new preview to keep the ball rolling.

In other news, I’ve recently did a Gamasutra article on the history of the Quest Compass.

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I really enjoy looking into gaming history and trying to see where things came from and how they evolved, so I might do another of those on RPG dialog systems… we’ll see.

I’ll keep in touch, cheers!

Update 12 – On defining RPGs & Japan

One topic I get a lot of e-mails on is the dreaded “but what’s an RPG?” talk – mostly complaining that game X isn’t in the book, or (quite often) that game Y is in the book.

There’s no easy answer to this, but it’s something that’s constantly on my head, so I’ve decided to write an article for Gamasutra on the subject, exposing my views:

http://gamasutra.com/blogs/FelipePepe/20160205/253023/Why_RPGs_are_so_hard_to_classify_and_evolve.php

Also, big news: I’ll be moving from Brazil to Japan in July (extreme culture shock to surely follow), so things are a little confused now as I deal with all the paperwork and stuffies. That’s also why I’m weary of promising a date for the book’s final release – I don’t know how things will unfold once I get there.

I’m also announcing now I’ll be abandoning the CRPG Book in favor of a JRPG Book.

But worry not, work on the book will continue no matter what. In the last weeks we added reviews on games like the Sacred series, Gothic 3, Birthright: The Gorgon’s Alliance, Alter Ego, Mordor / Demise, Pool of Radiance, Amberstar / Ambermoon, Might & Magic IX, D&D: Shadow over Mystaria, World of Aden: Thunderscape, Omikron, The Summoning, The Faery Tale Adventure,  Descent to Undermontain, ArcaniA and other obscure RPGs (all posted on my twitter). I really enjoy scavenging these games, seeing what works, what doesn’t and all that.

So yeah, it’s a really fun hobby for me. A weird one… I bought XCOM 2 last week, loved it, yet spent way more time playing 1995’s Mordor… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Update 11 – The third release!

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Last month I skipped the updated, but I have something good this time to make up for it – the third, 300-page release of the CRPG Book!

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This is our third public “alpha”, once again released six months after the previous one and offering 100 additional pages of content – bringing us to amazing 300 pages! That’s more than many books already, but we still have a lot of work to do…

It’s hard to believe, but it has been now two years since I first began to work on this project. My first estimate was “I’ll finish this in 6-8 months”, the first page layout was horrible, and many other foolish mistakes were made, but the journey has been a blast so far. My thanks to everyone who joined!

I consider this release to be the “structure” update. That’s because it comes with at least a small glimpse of all the sections I wish to include in the final version, such as the “Further Adventures”, “Hardware” and “Further Reading” sections. They are still missing most of their content and changes might yet be made, but this should provide a good sense of how the final release will look like.

That in no way means it’s short on games – this edition adds reviews to many of the most popular (and controversial) RPGs, such as Skyrim, Oblivion, Fallout 3, Baldur’s Gate, Pool of Radiance, Quest for Glory, Knights of the Chalice, Neverwinter Nights 2, both KOTOR games, Dragon Age: Origins and its sequel and many more, pushing us to just over 150 reviews!

Once again, however, there are many more games that still need to be reviewed, so, if you’re interested in helping, please e-mail us: crpgbook@gmail.com or contact me on twitter @felipepepe

Merry Christmas everyone, a great 2016 for all of us!😀

EDIT: Just noticed some of the historical/timeline pages have the wrong text… I’ll find out what happened and update this as fast as I can.

Update 10 – Welcome to the machines

Another month, another update! Some may have noticed that I’ve posted few reviews this past month on my twitter account. There are two reasons for that:

First, it was a busy month. I’m a freelance video-editor & teacher, so my routine changes a lot. Some weeks I mostly derp around & work on the book (awesome!), while others I endure crazy work hours in the basement of evil ad agencies (not awesome!). This month was mostly the later. Brazil is in a tough economical crisis and I’m in no position to refute work.:/

Second, I’m focusing now on a different part of the book: the hardware session!

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To us who grew up with these machines, things like a floppy disks, VGA/EGA and MS-DOS are fairly obvious. But those under 20 certainly don’t feel the same. So if we want to talk about old games, I think it’s important to also talk about the computers in which those were played, showing some machines, screenshots, specs and that yes, games where sold in cassette tapes.

It’s tough work. Consoles are easily divided into 8 generations and are mostly constant trough their life-time. Explaining the Apple II family or what the hell is an IBM-Compatible isn’t as easy, and I have to avoid long rants on things like MIDI cards and AdLib, but we’re getting there…

Luckily there’s some nice releases to keep people busy while in the meanwhile, such as Fallout 4 Age of Decadence, a hardcore RPG by the good folk at Iron Tower Studios:

If you’re reading this blog then chances are you already know about it, but there’s no harm in showing this brilliantly edited trailer video again.😉

Update 9 – One year anniversary + Video

I couldn’t believe when the wordpress pop-up appeared, but it’s been a year since I began this blog –  and 18 months since I began the whole CRPG Book Project. To think I first expected to finish it all in just 6 months… heh. But the project is so much better now and so many cool things happened that I wouldn’t want it any other way.🙂

The big news I hoped to share this month aren’t ready yet, but these days I’ve managed to recruit some great new contributors, such as the man behind the excellent  Ludo Lense youtube channel, the journalists Richard Cobbett and GB ‘Doc’ Burford, plus Internet Archive’s Jason Scott, who kindly agreed to write an article on video-game preservation.

In other news, I’m away from my PC this week, unable to edit the reviews for the book, so I’ve put DOSBox and After Effects together to realize something I wanted to do for a long while:

A video series on obscure RPGs. No long intros, awkward camera stares, overdone YouTube personalities or 40 minutes rants – just a brief look at cool games, with 2-3 minutes highlighting its qualities, to invite viewers to give it a try.

I’m not a native speaker, but I hope it’s understandable and enjoyable. And until next month!