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?