Sword of Fargoal

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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.

Contents

Development

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.

Gameplay

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.

Reception

Reception
Aggregate score
AggregatorScore
Metacritic iOS: 85/100 [2]
Review score
PublicationScore
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]

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References

  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.