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Great Hierophant

RPGs and the Apple II

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If you were to ask me what system to buy to play RPGs in the 1980s, I would have unhesitatingly replied, buy an Apple II. Why an Apple II? Apple IIs were what RPGs were written for. Consider the following list of RPGs:

 

2400 A.D.

Adventure Construction Set

Akalabeth

Autoduel

Centuri Alliance

Champions of Krynn

Curse of the Azure Bonds

Deathlord

Demon's Winter

Dragon Wars

Knights of Legend

Might and Magic: Book One, Secret of the Inner Sanctum

Might and Magic: Book Two, Gates to Another World

Phantasie

Phantasie II

Phantasie III: The Wrath of Nikademus

Questron

Questron II

Pool of Radiance

Shard of Spring

Tales of the Unknown: The Bard's Tale

Tangled Tales

The Bard's Tale III: Thief of Fate

The Destiny Knight: The Bard's Tale II

The Magic Candle

Ultima/Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness

Ultima II: Revenge of the Enchantress

Ultima III: Exodus

Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar

Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny

Wasteland

Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord

Wizardry: The Knight of Diamonds, The Second Scenario

Wizardry: The Legacy of Llylgamyn, The Third Scenario

Wizardry: The Return of Werdna, The Fourth Scenario

Wizardry V: Heart of the Malestorm

Wizards Crown

 

Note, all of these games require at least a 48K Apple II or II+. Some may require a 64K Apple II, II+ or a IIe. Games that use the 16 color double high resolution mode require a 128K Enhanced or Platinum IIe.

 

All these games were developed for the Apple II platform and came out for the Apple II (either first or contemporaneously with other ports.) This list, which covers pure RPGs, covers virtually every important RPG created during the 1980s. Certain other games, which may or may not be Apple II originals (Epyx's Dunjonquest series, for example) were always present on the Apple II contemporaneously with other versions. The Apple II always had nearly-contemporaneous ports of the very few important RPGs not made for that system (Alternate Reality: The City and Alternate Reality: The Dungeon, Legacy of the Ancients) While the same could be said for the Commodore 64, very, very few RPGs were ever designed to to take advantage of the graphics and sound capabilities of that system. Too many games looked exactly like what they were, Apple II ports.

 

Why were so many RPGs written for the Apple II? In terms of gaming power it originally was more powerful than its competitors the Commodore PET and the TRS-80. It had high resolution graphics modes and color graphics while its competitors had neither. It could also produce sound via beeper, it competitors couldn't even do that. The Commodore PET was marketed more as a business tool and its small built-in screen would hardly be attractive to gamers. While the TRS-80 could equal an Apple II with add-ons, it just wasn't a viable game system. The Apple II was far more encouraging to budding programmers, who had all the documentation they could ever need while Tandy and Commodore did not.

 

But RPG makers did not drop the Apple II and embrace the Atari 800 or the Commodore 64 wholeheartedly. These machines had more powerful graphics and sound capabilities than the Apple, better suited for fast paced arcade ports than the slower paced RPGs. But the Apple had years of market penetration over these systems, even though it cost more than either competitor. More designers grew up around the Apple II than anything else, so they developed on the platform they felt most comfortable and left the porting to subordinates, publishers or specialty firms.

 

Nor did they when even more powerful machines like the Commodore Amiga and the Atari ST emerged onto the scene. RPG designers were a notoriously conservative lot, relying on imagination and strong, detailed game mechanics to keep players engaged rather than flashy graphics that would have little value for this reptitive type of game. Not only until PC compatibles started to utilize the VGA did they jump ship, but when they did they chose the PC platform as firmly as they did the the Apple before it.

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I noticed you don't have one of my favorites up there: The Dark Heart of Uukrul. I loved that game, it had some nifty turn based combat scenes kind of reminicent of Ultima, but better. The graphics were also top notch. I think it's also the only Apple II game I ever saw that said it absolutely required an Apple IIe.

 

Tempest

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I certainly agree with your general premise, though I think you're often too absolute in the particulars. I still enjoy reading them though :) A couple points:

 

The Apple II always had nearly-contemporaneous ports of the very few important RPGs not made for that system (Alternate Reality: The City and Alternate Reality: The Dungeon, Legacy of the Ancients)  While the same could be said for the Commodore 64, very, very few RPGs were ever designed to to take advantage of the graphics and sound capabilities of that system.  Too many games looked exactly like what they were, Apple II ports.

I'd consider the Bard's Tale series to be an important RPG, and it played fairly well to the C64's strengths.

 

Nor did they when even more powerful machines like the Commodore Amiga and the Atari ST emerged onto the scene.  RPG designers were a notoriously conservative lot, relying on imagination and strong, detailed game mechanics to keep players engaged rather than flashy graphics that would have little value for this reptitive type of game.  Not only until PC compatibles started to utilize the VGA did they jump ship, but when they did they chose the PC platform as firmly as they did the the Apple before it.

Seems to me there was a wealth of RPGs well suited to the strengths of the Amiga and Atari ST, though perhaps they were mostly European productions and weren't widely available in North America? I can dig more if no one comes up with more examples, but the prime example is "Dungeon Master" which really moved the genre on beyond what the 8-bits were doing.

Edited by MacbthPSW

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The first two Bard's Tale games look very similar on the C64 and the Apple II. The plus of the Commodore 64 was that the games had music, appropriate for a series which called itself The Bard's Tale.

 

As for the Atari ST, I forgot to mention its groundbreaking original games Dungeon Master and its sequel, Chaos Strikes Back, both important RPGs that were released in the late 1980s. The first did get an Apple II GS port.

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Pretty much everything on that list was also available on the PC platform, some even specifically set to take advantage of the PCjr and/or Tandy 16 color palettes. Avalon Hill and EA heavily supported the PC platform early on.

 

The Apple 2 and C64 were definately more game friendly platforms though.

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I was a big RPG fan, and an Atari 8-bit owner. While we had a decent selection of RPGs, there was always a few notable ones that didn't get ported, that I used to be jealous of when I'd see them in magazines. For me, there was no game I wanted more than Adventure Construction Set. I never played it, but what I saw and read sounded awesome. And it got ported to just about everything EXCEPT Atari systems.

 

The other downside about RPGs on Atari was that these games spanned multiple disks, but every publisher used 90K SD floppys on Atari to ensure 810 compatibility. That meant more disk flipping than it would require on Apple or C64.

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ACS was pretty cool at the time, but overall, it was kind of clunky. I had it on the Apple ][ and Amiga, but found creating decent "adventures" (more accurately RPGs, but when it came out, RPG wasn't really the terminology used) to be quite tedious. Still, the random dungeon generator definitely helped me kill many hours of playing time back in the day.

 

I loved a game called Xyphus by Penguin/Polarware, even though it played very slowly on a regular Apple ][. I was lucky enough to own a Laser 128EX which could be sped up to 3 MHz. Never got to complete it, but definitely spent many hours playing that one as well. Not sure which was the original platform, Apple of C64.

 

Trillium/Telarium's Shadowkeep was another one that really looked cool but was dreadfully slow to the point of being nearly unplayable in 1 MHz mode, not to mention its ridiculous copy protection that even made playing with original disks difficult. No idea if the original platform was the Apple though.

 

Good times and great memories~!

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2400 AD is hard to figure out and none of the walkthroughs help with directions

Do you have a copy of the directions for the game? If not I can send you a copy of a PDF I downloaded for it.

 

magnus

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I would argue the Apple II is only better for early and mid 80s RPGs. The C64 got sequels like Curse of the Azure bonds that did not get Apple ports. You also got things like Times of Lore on the C64, which the Apple did not get, etc.

 

Overall in regard to graphics I would almost take the Apple II's faster disk access over the more graphical C64 (Might and Magic, Might and Magic II, Pool of Radiance, etc. all look better on a C64).

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I would argue the Apple II is only better for early and mid 80s RPGs. The C64 got sequels like Curse of the Azure bonds that did not get Apple ports. You also got things like Times of Lore on the C64, which the Apple did not get, etc.

 

Overall in regard to graphics I would almost take the Apple II's faster disk access over the more graphical C64 (Might and Magic, Might and Magic II, Pool of Radiance, etc. all look better on a C64).

 

Actually, both of those games were released for the Apple ][:

 

http://www.mobygames.com/game/apple2/curse-of-the-azure-bonds/cover-art/gameCoverId,169637/- 128K required

http://www.mobygames.com/game/apple2/times-of-lore/cover-art/gameCoverId,120918/- 64K required

 

I remember the old C64 joke from when I was in high school (mid-80s):

 

Did you hear about the new 3-speed C64 disk drive?

Yeah - slow, slower and slowest.

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I think the poster may have been thinking about Secret of the Silver Blades, which was not ported to the Apple II. Sadly, despite the fact that the Gold Box engine was developed for the C64, none of the multi-game epic series, Pool of Radiance, Dragonlance/Krynn, Buck Rogers and Savage Frontier can be completed on that system. All of them are missing the final game.

 

Manuals and documentation for 2400 A.D. is available here, http://www.mocagh.org/loadpage.php?getgame=2400adand while for the IBM PC I am sure you can figure out the Apple II version from them.

 

Twelve years ago yesterday I posted that list. I don't remember that there even were subforums at the time.

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Wow, 12 years of posting, congratulations on that! I second your thoughts on the Apple II being the best for old RPG's. If there was one game that I liked better on the Apple than any other platform, it was Wizardry. On every other system the graphics were all dolled up into fullscreen mode, and it just didn't feel the same. The Apple version was elegant in its simplicity, and I was delighted when the Bard's Tale and SSI Gold Box series more or less copied the timeless design, with the maze permanently stationed in the upper left quadrant.

 

Another one of my Apple favorites was Wilderness Campaign, although I never got very far. I played more for the laughs, when my party would inevitably get mauled by a tribe of 12 trolls or whatever it was.

Edited by butterburp

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