Sword of Fargoal

Last updated

Sword of Fargoal
Sword of Fargoal.jpg
Developer(s) Jeff McCord
Publisher(s) Epyx
Platform(s) Commodore 64, Commodore VIC-20, iOS
Release 1982
Genre(s) Adventure
Screenshot of a modern PC remake of Sword of Fargoal, using a graphics set similar to the original C64 tiles. Sword map1.png
Screenshot of a modern PC remake of Sword of Fargoal, using a graphics set similar to the original C64 tiles.

Sword of Fargoal is a 1982 video game by Jeff McCord, published by Epyx.

1982 was the peak year of arcade and console games during the Golden age of arcade video games. Troubles at Atari, Inc. late in the year triggered the North American video game crash of 1983. Many games were released that would spawn franchises, or at least sequels, including Dig Dug, Pole Position, Mr. Do!, Pitfall!, Q*bert, and Xevious. Additional consoles add to a crowded market. The new Commodore 64 goes on to eventually dominate the 8-bit home computer market.

Video game electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a video device such as a TV screen or computer monitor

A video game is an electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a two- or three-dimensional video display device such as a TV screen, virtual reality headset or computer monitor. Since the 1980s, video games have become an increasingly important part of the entertainment industry, and whether they are also a form of art is a matter of dispute.

Epyx video game developer and publisher

Epyx, Inc. was a video game developer and publisher active in the late 1970s and 1980s. The company was founded as Automated Simulations by Jim Connelley and Jon Freeman, originally using Epyx as a brand name for action-oriented games before renaming the company to match in 1983. Epyx published a long series of games through the 1980s. The company went bankrupt in 1989 before finally disappearing in 1993.



Screenshot from Sword of Fargoal ported to the PC. Here the Sword has been found by the player. Sword map.jpg
Screenshot from Sword of Fargoal ported to the PC. Here the Sword has been found by the player.

Sword of Fargoal was created by author and programmer Jeff McCord and based on his original dungeon adventure, Gammaquest II, which was programmed in BASIC for the Commodore PET computer and written in 1979-1981 while he was still in high school in Lexington, Kentucky. Gammaquest II created randomly generated dungeons that were revealed piece-by-piece as the character explored the map, and stayed "lit" behind the character as it moved, emulating the "mapping" of a dungeon level. The game graphics, however, were limited to the character set of the computer. [1]

BASIC programming language

BASIC is a family of general-purpose, high-level programming languages whose design philosophy emphasizes ease of use. In 1964, John G. Kemeny and Thomas E. Kurtz designed the original BASIC language at Dartmouth College. They wanted to enable students in fields other than science and mathematics to use computers. At the time, nearly all use of computers required writing custom software, which was something only scientists and mathematicians tended to learn.

Commodore PET home computer

The Commodore PET is a line of home/personal computers produced starting in 1977 by Commodore International. A top-seller in the Canadian and United States educational markets, it was the first personal computer sold to the public and formed the basis for their entire 8-bit product line, including the Commodore 64. The first model, which was named the PET 2001, was presented to the public at the Winter Consumer Electronics Show in 1977.

McCord accepted an offer to publish the game from the video game developer and publisher Epyx in 1982 on the Commodore VIC-20. His original name for the new version was Sword of Fargaol, deriving the name from the Old English spelling of jail (gaol), but his producer at Epyx, Susan Lee-Merrow, convinced him to change it to its present form. [1]

A video game developer is a software developer that specializes in video game development – the process and related disciplines of creating video games. A game developer can range from one person who undertakes all tasks to a large business with employee responsibilities split between individual disciplines, such as programming, design, art, testing, etc. Most game development companies have video game publisher financial and usually marketing support. Self-funded developers are known as independent or indie developers and usually make indie games.

A video game publisher is a company that publishes video games that have been developed either internally by the publisher or externally by a video game developer. As with book publishers or publishers of DVD movies, video game publishers are responsible for their product's manufacturing and marketing, including market research and all aspects of advertising.

Commodore VIC-20 Home computer

The VIC-20 is an 8-bit home computer that was sold by Commodore Business Machines. The VIC-20 was announced in 1980, roughly three years after Commodore's first personal computer, the PET. The VIC-20 was the first computer of any description to sell one million units. The VIC-20 has been described as "one of the first anti-spectatorial, non-esoteric computers by design...no longer relegated to hobbyist/enthusiasts or those with money, the computer Commodore developed was the computer of the future."

The following year, with the release of the Commodore 64 (C64), McCord was asked to release a version of Sword of Fargoal for that machine as well. McCord was unable to implement the conversion as it was written in BASIC, and the sprite-based graphics required machine language programming. McCord's friend, Scott Corsaire (then Carter) and Steve Lepisto wrote all the machine language code that was needed so that game would perform fast enough for the C64 version of the game (including the main redrawing of the dungeon levels, clearing of the screen in a spiral pattern effect, monster AI, collision detection, and joystick control).

Commodore 64 8-bit home computer introduced in January 1982

The Commodore 64, also known as the C64 or the CBM 64, is an 8-bit home computer introduced in January 1982 by Commodore International. It has been listed in the Guinness World Records as the highest-selling single computer model of all time, with independent estimates placing the number sold between 10 and 17 million units. Volume production started in early 1982, marketing in August for US$595. Preceded by the Commodore VIC-20 and Commodore PET, the C64 took its name from its 64 kilobytes(65,536 bytes) of RAM. With support for multicolor sprites and a custom chip for waveform generation, the C64 could create superior visuals and audio compared to systems without such custom hardware.

Sprite is a computer graphics term for a two-dimensional bitmap that is integrated into a larger scene, most often in a 2D video game.

Collision detection is the computational problem of detecting the intersection of two or more objects. While collision detection is most often associated with its use in video games and other physical simulations, it also has applications in robotics. In addition to determining whether two objects have collided, collision detection systems may also calculate time of impact (TOI), and report a contact manifold. Collision response deals with simulating what happens when a collision is detected. Solving collision detection problems requires extensive use of concepts from linear algebra and computational geometry.

Sword of Fargoal is a roguelike game, with the player controlling an adventurous warrior attempting to reclaim the "Sword of Fargoal" from the depths of a monster-infested, treasure-stocked, randomly generated dungeon. The Sword is placed randomly somewhere between the fifteenth and twentieth dungeon level. This so-called "Sword Level" also has the unique characteristic of being a randomly generated, twisty maze of single tile-width passages, rather than a conventional dungeon level like the others. This helped make reaching the "Sword Level" an exciting event in the game-play; once the player sees the maze design, they know the Sword is nearby.

Roguelike subgenre of role-playing video games

Roguelike is a subgenre of role-playing video game characterized by a dungeon crawl through procedurally generated levels, turn-based gameplay, tile-based graphics, and permanent death of the player character. Most roguelikes are based on a high fantasy narrative, reflecting their influence from tabletop role playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons.

Labyrinth maze-like structure from Greek mythology

In Greek mythology, the Labyrinth was an elaborate, confusing structure designed and built by the legendary artificer Daedalus for King Minos of Crete at Knossos. Its function was to hold the Minotaur, the monster eventually killed by the hero Theseus. Daedalus had so cunningly made the Labyrinth that he could barely escape it after he built it.

Sword of Fargoal is noteworthy for being one of the first microcomputer games to introduce elements later used by so-called roguelike games, such as dungeons that are randomly generated for each session of play, and gave a nod to earlier games such as Colossal Cave Adventure, which was played without graphics on mainframe computers of the day using Unix terminals.

Microcomputer small, relatively inexpensive computer

A microcomputer is a small, relatively inexpensive computer with a microprocessor as its central processing unit (CPU). It includes a microprocessor, memory, and minimal input/output (I/O) circuitry mounted on a single printed circuit board. Microcomputers became popular in the 1970s and 1980s with the advent of increasingly powerful microprocessors. The predecessors to these computers, mainframes and minicomputers, were comparatively much larger and more expensive. Many microcomputers are also personal computers.

<i>Colossal Cave Adventure</i> video game

Colossal Cave Adventure is a text adventure game, developed between 1975-1977, by Will Crowther for the PDP-10 mainframe. The game was expanded upon in 1977, with help from Don Woods, and other programmers created variations on the game and ports to other systems in the following years.

Mainframe computer computers used primarily by corporate and governmental organizations

Mainframe computers or mainframes are computers used primarily by large organizations for critical applications; bulk data processing, such as census, industry and consumer statistics, enterprise resource planning; and transaction processing. They are larger and have more processing power than some other classes of computers: minicomputers, servers, workstations, and personal computers.

Sword of Fargoal has remained somewhat notorious within C64 fandom as being extremely difficult to win. Due to the random design of the "Sword Level," it is possible that the player may enter it with no way of actually reaching the Sword room, and he or she must exit and return to that level for another chance. Further, once the Sword was claimed by the player, they have exactly 2,000 seconds (33 minutes and 20 seconds) to escape the dungeon by going back through each level, or the Sword would be destroyed by a curse. Of course, since all levels are newly generated when the player returns to them, they must be fully explored to find the correct staircases leading upward, of which there is usually only one per level on this return trip. Complicating matters further was the fact that if the Sword was lost for any reason (such as being stolen by a wandering foe), the player must return to the level he or she originally found the Sword to reclaim it, and the clock did not stop or reset when this occurred.

The game was originally released on computer cassette tape and 5¼" floppy disk formats. An open-source remake exists in both PC and Macintosh versions. An iPhone version was also released in December 2009.


In the game, the player controls a warrior who explores numerous dungeon levels in search of the legendary "Sword of Fargoal" artifact. The levels become progressively harder to survive as the player descends deeper and deeper into the dungeon. Each dungeon is covered in complete darkness that illuminates as the dungeon rooms and corridors are explored. When the Sword of Fargoal is successfully found, a clock countdown begins where the player must successfully escape the dungeon without it being stolen before the time expires, or the Sword is lost.

The warrior gains character levels by gaining experience points, which increase the character's fighting ability and hit points, (called Hits), as they progress through the dungeon. There are several items in the dungeon that help the character, which can be found in treasure chests or on slain adversaries.

Combat in the game is controlled by the computer, and the player has no control over how well or how bad their warrior fights. A warrior can flee an attack at any time, unless they fall victim to a sneak attack (which is when a monster engages in combat before the warrior has a chance to move). The warrior can move freely about the dungeon, whereas monsters take intermittently timed steps.

Each dungeon has a number of staircases that go up or down. In the iPhone version of the game, there are even slippery staircases that will move a character down two levels. Because each map is randomly generated, a level the player returns to will not be the same as when they left it. Stairs also provide an entry for wandering monsters that, over time, replace slain ones on a level. In the iPhone version of the game, floors stay the same on a single game, but change when the player dies or starts a new game.

Characters can find bags of gold scattered around the dungeon. The bags can be taken by enemies if they step over them. Gold can also be stolen from the character by humanoid enemies. If those thieves are killed, the gold is returned to the warrior. A warrior can only carry 100 pieces of gold, and Magic sacks must be located that allow the warrior to carry more.

Each dungeon level contains a temple. Every time the warrior steps on a temple, their gold is sacrificed to their deity, which earns additional experience. In the iPhone version, shields the player is carrying will be renewed when they are blessed. If a warrior remains standing on a temple, it acts as a sanctuary where they become invisible to enemies around them.

Chests in the game are both a bane and a boon to the player. Some contain something useful, or contain a deadly trap. Some chests explode, causing damage, and others release crumbling ceiling or pit traps. A player doesn't know, however, if a chest contains a trap or a useful item, and must take a chance of encountering either. Chests can be picked up by enemies if they step over them. There are six spells that can be found in the dungeon.

Another view of the "Sword Level" (C64 version). In this case, it was on level 15 for which he user had previously found a map for. Note that this is not the end game; upon retrieving the sword, a timer is initiated and the player must reach the surface. Labyrinth for Sword of Fargoal "Sword Level".png
Another view of the "Sword Level" (C64 version). In this case, it was on level 15 for which he user had previously found a map for. Note that this is not the end game; upon retrieving the sword, a timer is initiated and the player must reach the surface.

There are several enemies in the dungeon. In general, "human" type enemies are more dangerous than creatures. Some new monsters appear in the iPhone version of the game, and "human" type enemies also carry (and use) treasure, such as potions. Often the game will describe whether the monster one encounters is strong or weak.

The latest version of the game ported to modern computers allows the player to adjust the settings and difficulty of the game. The player can choose such things as graphics themes and monster behavior. The player can also trade increased skill in combat over hit points, or vice versa.


Aggregate score
Metacritic iOS: 85/100 [2]
Review score
TouchArcade iOS: Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg [3]

Computer Gaming World noted some bugs and inconsistencies with the documentation, but called Sword of Fargoal "an exciting and intriguing adventure game. The graphics are beautifully crafted". [4] Ahoy! called the VIC-20 version "an engrossing adventure-type maze game". [5] The magazine stated that the Commodore 64 version was "nearly addictive", but criticized the lack of a savegame feature. More seriously, it stated that the randomized dungeons removed mapping and solving mysteries, important aspects of adventure gaming, and concluded "This game is so close to its goal, and yet so far". [6]

Computer Gaming World in 1996 listed Sword of Fargoal as #147 on the "Top 150 Best Video Games of All Time". [7] The iOS port has a Metacritic score of 85/100 based on 6 critic reviews. [2]

Related Research Articles

<i>Rogue</i> (video game) video game

Rogue is a dungeon crawling video game by Michael Toy and Glenn Wichman and later contributions by Ken Arnold. Rogue was originally developed around 1980 for Unix-based mainframe systems as a freely-distributed executable. It was later included in the official Berkeley Software Distribution 4.2 operating system (4.2BSD). Commercial ports of the game for a range of personal computers were made by Toy, Wichman, and Jon Lane under the company A.I. Design and financially supported by the Epyx software publishers. Additional ports to modern systems have been made since by other parties using the game's now-open source code.

<i>Pool of Radiance</i> 1988 video game

Pool of Radiance is a role-playing video game developed and published by Strategic Simulations, Inc (SSI) in 1988. It was the first adaptation of TSR's Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) fantasy role-playing game for home computers, becoming the first episode in a four-part series of D&D computer adventure games. The other games in the "Gold Box" series used the game engine pioneered in Pool of Radiance, as did later D&D titles such as the Neverwinter Nights online game. Pool of Radiance takes place in the Forgotten Realms fantasy setting, with the action centered in and around the port city of Phlan.

<i>Wonder Boy in Monster Land</i> video game

Wonder Boy in Monster Land, known by its original arcade release as Wonder Boy: Monster Land, is an action role-playing platform video game developed by Westone Bit Entertainment and released by Sega for arcade cabinets in 1987 and for the Master System in 1988, with a number of other home computer and console ports following. The game is the sequel to the 1986 game Wonder Boy and takes place eleven years after the events in the previous game. After enjoying over a decade of peace on Wonder Land following the defeat of the evil King by Tom-Tom, later bestowed the title "Wonder Boy", a fire-breathing dragon called the MEKA dragon appeared; he and his minions conquered Wonder Land, turning it into "Monster Land". The people, helpless due to their lack of fighting skill, call for Wonder Boy, now a teenager, to destroy the monsters and defeat the MEKA dragon. Players control Wonder Boy through twelve linear levels as he makes his way through Monster Land to find and defeat the MEKA dragon. Players earn gold by defeating enemies and buy weapons, armor, footwear, magic, and other items to help along the way.

<i>Temple of Apshai</i> 1979 video game

Temple of Apshai is a dungeon crawl role-playing video game developed and published by Automated Simulations in 1979. Originating on the TRS-80 and Commodore PET, it was followed by several updated versions for other computers between 1980 and 1986.

<i>Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness</i> 1981 Computer game

Ultima, later known as Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness or simply Ultima I, is the first game in the Ultima series of role-playing video games created by Richard Garriott, originally released for the Apple II. It was first published in the United States by California Pacific Computer Company, which registered a copyright for the game on September 2, 1980 and officially released it in June 1981. Since its release, the game has been completely re-coded and ported to many different platforms. The 1986 re-code of Ultima is the most commonly known and available version of the game.

<i>Ultima III: Exodus</i> 1983 video game

Ultima III: Exodus is the third game in the series of Ultima role-playing video games. Exodus is also the name of the game's principal antagonist. It is the final installment in the "Age of Darkness" trilogy. Released in 1983, it was the first Ultima game published by Origin Systems. Originally developed for the Apple II, Exodus was eventually ported to 13 other platforms, including a NES/Famicom remake.

<i>Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord</i> 1985 video game

Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord is the first game in the Wizardry series of role-playing video games. It was developed by Andrew Greenberg and Robert Woodhead. In 1980, Norman Sirotek formed Sir-Tech Software, Inc. and launched a Beta version of the product at the 1980 Boston Computer Convention. The final version of the game was released in 1981.

<i>The Movie Monster Game</i> 1986 video game

The Movie Monster Game is a computer game released by Epyx for the Apple II and Commodore 64 in 1986. The game offers a variety of scenarios, playable monsters, and cities to demolish. The monsters are based on popular movie monsters such as The Blob, Mothra, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, and the Transformers, and Epyx was able to officially license Godzilla.

<i>Gateway to Apshai</i> video game

Gateway to Apshai is an action-adventure game for the Commodore 64, ColecoVision and Atari 8-bit family, developed by The Connelley Group and published by Epyx as a prequel to Temple of Apshai. It is a more action-oriented version of Temple of Apshai, with smoother and faster graphics routines, more intuitive controls, fewer role-playing video game elements, and fewer room descriptions.

<i>Aztec</i> (video game) computer game

Aztec is an action-adventure game, created by Paul Stephenson for the Apple II and published by Datamost in 1982. It was later ported to the Atari 8-bit family and the Commodore 64.

<i>Gemstone Warrior</i> 1984 video game

Gemstone Warrior is an action role-playing game written by Canadian developer Paradigm Creators for the Apple II and published by Strategic Simulations in 1984. It is an action-adventure title set against a 2D screen with the player controlling an armored figure that they would move from area to area in search of treasure and the pieces of the stolen Gemstone. Gemstone Wariror was SSI's first game to sell over 50,000 copies in North America.

<i>Telengard</i> 1982 video game

Telengard is a 1982 role-playing dungeon crawler video game developed by Daniel Lawrence and published by Avalon Hill. The player explores a dungeon, fights monsters with magic, and avoids traps in real time without any set mission other than surviving. Lawrence first wrote the game as DND, a 1976 version of Dungeons & Dragons for the DECsystem-10 mainframe computer. He continued to develop DND at Purdue University as a hobby, rewrote the game for the Commodore PET 2001 after 1978, and ported it to Apple II+, TRS-80, and Atari 800 platforms before Avalon Hill found the game at a convention and licensed it for distribution. Its Commodore 64 release was the most popular. Reviewers noted Telengard's similarity to Dungeons and Dragons. RPG historian Shannon Appelcline noted the game as one of the first professionally produced computer role-playing games, and Gamasutra's Barton considered Telengard consequential in what he deemed "The Silver Age" of computer role-playing games preceding the golden age of the late 1980s. Some of the game's dungeon features, such as altars, fountains, teleportation cubes, and thrones, were adopted by later games such as Tunnels of Doom.

Beach-Head II: The Dictator Strikes Back is a 1985 computer game, a sequel to Beach-Head. It was developed and published by Access Software. It was designed by Bruce Carver and his brother, Roger, and was released for the Amstrad CPC, Apple II, Atari 8-bit, Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum.

<i>Dragon Quest Characters: Torneko no Daibōken 3</i> video game

Dragon Quest Characters: Torneko no Daibōken 3 – Fushigi no Dungeon is the third game in the Torneko series. It is part of the Mystery Dungeon series and contains randomly generated dungeons and uses turn-based action combat. It is the third Dragon Quest spin-off game in the Mystery Dungeon series. The game was also made for the Game Boy Advance, called Dragon Quest Characters: Torneko no Daibouken 3 Advance, in 2004.

Caverns of Xaskazien is a video game originally written in 1995 for DOS by Jeff Sinasac, but updated since 2004 to run on Windows. It is a rogue-like roleplaying video game (RPG) in which the player is tasked with descending to the 30th level of a dungeon to defeat the arch-daemon Xaskazien.

<i>Dunzhin</i> video game

Warrior of Ras: Volume I - Dunzhin is a fantasy role-playing video game developed by Med Systems Software. The game was released on the TRS-80 in 1982, then ported to the Apple II, Atari 8-bit family, Commodore 64, and IBM PC.

Dunjonquest is a series of single-player, single-character fantasy computer role-playing games by Automated Simulations. Temple of Apshai was the most successful and most widely ported game in the series. The games relied on strategy and pen & paper RPG style rules and statistics.

<i>Alcazar: The Forgotten Fortress</i> 1985 video game

Alcazar: The Forgotten Fortress is a dungeon action-adventure game, similar to Dungeon Master and The Legend of Zelda. It was released in 1985 for the Coleco Adam computer and accessory. There was also a port for the ColecoVision. It was created by Tom Loughry from Activision, graphics by Keri (Janssen) Longaway. The game was also ported to the Commodore 64 later.

<i>Questron</i> (video game) 1984 video game

Questron is a 1984 game from Strategic Simulations, the first fantasy title from a company known for computer wargames. It was written by Charles Dougherty and Gerald Wieczorek and released for the Apple II, Atari 8-bit family, and Commodore 64. A sequel, Questron II, was released in 1988.


  1. 1 2 Official Sword of Fargoal website
  2. 1 2 "Sword of Fargoal for iPhone/iPad Reviews". Metacritic . CBS Interactive . Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  3. Kim, Arnold (1 December 2009). "'Sword of Fargoal' – A Classic Dungeon Adventure Reimagined". TouchArcade . Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  4. Wilson, Dr. Johnny L. (July–August 1983). "The Commodore Key". Computer Gaming World. p. 42. Retrieved 31 October 2013.
  5. Salm, Walter (March 1984). "VIC Game Buyer's Guide". Ahoy!. p. 49. Retrieved 27 June 2014.
  6. Herring, Richard (November 1984). "Sword of Fargoal". Ahoy!. p. 40. Retrieved 27 June 2014.
  7. "150 Best Games of All Time". Computer Gaming World. November 1996. pp. 64–80. Retrieved 25 March 2016.