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Default RPG Codex - Golden Age SSI AD&D CRPGs

October 5th, 2013, 00:54
The RPG Codex has a new post many of you might find interesting. The post contains retrospectives of many Golden Age SSI AD&D CRPGs.

Upon hearing the phrase "Golden Age of RPGs", many gamers might immediately think of Origin's Ultima series or Sir-Tech's Wizardry series. Some might also remember New World Computing's Might & Magic or even Interplay's Bard's Tale or Wasteland. However, the company that perhaps embodied the Golden Age most of all was Strategic Simulations, Inc., commonly known as SSI.

Over a decade before Baldur's Gate and the Infinity Engine games, SSI published a whole slew of licensed AD&D CRPGs, starting from 1988's legendary Pool of Radiance. The most famous among these were the "Gold Box" titles, named for the distinctive gold-colored boxes in which they were sold, but there were many others. Sadly, these classics remain inexplicably absent from modern digital distribution portals, and their memories may eventually be lost in time…like tears in rain.

To help remedy that, Reggie Carolipio, a chronicler of gaming history whose work we've featured before, has spent the last month finishing up his retrospectives of SSI's Golden Age AD&D titles.
More information.

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October 5th, 2013, 00:54
I do wonder who holds the rights for SSI's portfolio nowadays ?

Edit . Okay, I've read through the EOB entries … One thing was there that made me thinking … : Scorpia was mentioned there … What has become of her, I wondered ?

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October 5th, 2013, 02:18
My favorite in the series is still Dark Queen of Krynn, which had more of a unique flavor compared to the more stodgy FR-based games. I still like that turn-based tactical combat system. The games are definitely showing their age though. I recently replayed a couple using DOSBox and, well… they're pretty dull and repetitive. The state of the art has left them far behind.
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October 5th, 2013, 08:59
Originally Posted by Alrik Fassbauer View Post
I do wonder who holds the rights for SSI's portfolio nowadays ?

Edit . Okay, I've read through the EOB entries … One thing was there that made me thinking … : Scorpia was mentioned there … What has become of her, I wondered ?
(Speaking of online contacts . . .)

She is very accessible. She used to have a web page of sorts and would return her Emails. She even returned snail mail back in the day. I saw her participating in some forum a couple years ago but I can't recall which one.

As far as the SSI's A&D games, I never liked em. The early games were too much work to have fun, so I was biased against the more accessible later games. One gold box game I did enjoy was Wizards Crown but that wasn't A&D.

Nice thread over there however . . . .
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October 5th, 2013, 10:07
Like rjshae I enjoyed the Krynn series and Pool of Radiance of cause.

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October 5th, 2013, 10:48
Originally Posted by Dajjer View Post
(Speaking of online contacts . . .)

She is very accessible. She used to have a web page of sorts and would return her Emails. She even returned snail mail back in the day. I saw her participating in some forum a couple years ago but I can't recall which one.

As far as the SSI's A&D games, I never liked em. The early games were too much work to have fun, so I was biased against the more accessible later games. One gold box game I did enjoy was Wizards Crown but that wasn't A&D.

Nice thread over there however . . . .
Can't make head or tails of your post.

Why did you like Wizard's Crown if you didn't like the challenging SSI games? WC is a over complex hog of a game, while POR (and especially all games from Curse of the Azur e Bonds on) has very fulent gameplay.

@rjshae: Why Dark Queen? It is the most buggy of all Gold Box games and has even more silly D&D high level elements than Pools of Darkness. PoD at least brought the Moonsea back…

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October 5th, 2013, 12:35
Originally Posted by Dajjer View Post
(Speaking of online contacts . . .)

She is very accessible. She used to have a web page of sorts and would return her Emails. She even returned snail mail back in the day. I saw her participating in some forum a couple years ago but I can't recall which one.
Yes, the blog ? forum ? still exists … sort of. Her last post is from 2009, in which she says that she wasn't able to maintain it anymore.

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October 5th, 2013, 15:09
Originally Posted by rjshae View Post
My favorite in the series is still Dark Queen of Krynn, which had more of a unique flavor compared to the more stodgy FR-based games. I still like that turn-based tactical combat system. The games are definitely showing their age though. I recently replayed a couple using DOSBox and, well… they're pretty dull and repetitive. The state of the art has left them far behind.
My feeling too, even if Pool of Radiance and its followup was a great time at their (Mac) release. But if GOG was releasing that specific series, at very cheap price, I'd probably get Pool of Radiance anyway. The abandonware stuff is usually tedious and rarely removes problems of DRM. Moreover just the hassle to configure DOSBox is enough to stop me try again.

EDIT: Ooops wrong because of manual map (I forgot this) I'll never buy it.
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October 5th, 2013, 16:31
Originally Posted by Sir_Brennus View Post
@rjshae: Why Dark Queen? It is the most buggy of all Gold Box games and has even more silly D&D high level elements than Pools of Darkness. PoD at least brought the Moonsea back…
I suppose at the time it felt fresh, challenging, and held my interest. Tastes change…
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October 5th, 2013, 17:15
Pools of Darkness was everything I wanted from an RPG at the time.. I was completely addicted to it and played it a few times in a row back-to-back (was in grad school at the time and had a lot more free time for gaming then). I played the Savage Frontier games first (as a friend had them and we used to liberally "swap" back then), so that series holds a special place in my heart. Man, that was some great D&D gaming for its time.
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October 5th, 2013, 18:20
Nothing has been as good for me as the SSI games were. Games like Stonekeep, the EoB series, M&M, Wizardry, they were all close but the goldbox are the champs for me. It goes without saying that nothing in the past 15 yrs even comes close. I really do miss that style and expertise of game-making.


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October 5th, 2013, 18:50
Originally Posted by Alrik Fassbauer View Post
Yes, the blog ? forum ? still exists … sort of. Her last post is from 2009, in which she says that she wasn't able to maintain it anymore.
I saw that too last night but that was not the site I was talking about. It was something big "like" quarter to 3, but as I said previously, I can't recall the exact site. It was nothing formal she was just participating in some discussion.
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October 5th, 2013, 18:56
Originally Posted by Sir_Brennus View Post
Can't make head or tails of your post.

Why did you like Wizard's Crown if you didn't like the challenging SSI games? WC is a over complex hog of a game, while POR (and especially all games from Curse of the Azur e Bonds on) has very fulent gameplay.
…
What can I say? Back in the day there was a ton of RPG gaming options. I had a couple bad experiences with some of the early SSI A&D games so I looked else where for my gaming pleasure. It was a very long time later that I realized the subsequent games had far better gameplay.
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October 5th, 2013, 22:10
Originally Posted by Dajjer View Post

As far as the SSI's A&D games, I never liked em. The early games were too much work to have fun, so I was biased against the more accessible later games…

Nice thread over there however . . . .
Have to agree. Of the big big 5 of the Golden Age, Ultima, Wizardry, M&M, BT, and the Gold Box games the GB were my least favourite. I was very disappointed when SSI got the contract as they had a reputation for doing tedious, ugly, heavy math simulations over and over again. The GB games were no different, though better looking than most of their other fair. I remember wondering why TSR couldn't do it right like Ultima and M&M, did they get a cheaper contract offer from SSI?

OVer the years though I've learned to appreciate the GB's games more. No one obviously did a more thorough combat system, and the isometric design that could generate itself around the dungeon itself was quite an achievement for the time.

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October 6th, 2013, 00:29
azure bonds, silver blades, gateway to… amazing Crpg at its best. in terms of turn based its much better than anything afterwards, even baldur's gate pause.
the only thing that came close is fallout games.

and the copyrights for SSI i think are owned by HASBRO.
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October 6th, 2013, 01:28
My most favorite of the Gold Box games were the Dark Sun games and Al-Quadim: The Genie's Curse. I liked Pool of Radiance and the Savage Frontier games also but I was never able to play Pools of Darkness since it wouldn't work on my computer at the time. The older games were not really very good and I couldn't get into them.
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October 6th, 2013, 20:59
Originally Posted by guenthar View Post
My most favorite of the Gold Box games were the Dark Sun games and Al-Quadim: The Genie's Curse. I liked Pool of Radiance and the Savage Frontier games also but I was never able to play Pools of Darkness since it wouldn't work on my computer at the time. The older games were not really very good and I couldn't get into them.
Dark Sun and Al-Quadim didn't use gold box engine.
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October 7th, 2013, 07:54
I enjoyed the Goldbox titles immensely. IMHO they were spiritual predecessors to Icewind Dale.

I'd argue that the later Darksun games are much deeper RPGs though.
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October 7th, 2013, 13:38
Originally Posted by tolknaz View Post
Dark Sun and Al-Quadim didn't use gold box engine.
This is true, but they were included in the great SSI Masterpiece Collection pack, so I can understand the confusion/inclusion.

The Goldbox games are a fantastic series of games and the mere mention of them evokes some truly wonderful memories. I can still vividly recall standing in line waiting to use the photo-copier at school with a mate, just to get a few more alignments from his Dethek/Espruar Curse of the Azure Bonds codewheel! And when that didn't work, I'd be calling him up after school or guessing/reloading constantly.

I'd also have to agree with Zaleukos and add more generally that the Infinity Engine most certainly was the spiritual successor to the Goldbox games as far as party based AD&D is concerned.

The only games that I never played to completion from the blog list was Heroes of the Lance (although I did put in some effort; its appeal didn't last due to the gameplay style) and Shadow Sorcerer, which I haven't actually played.

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October 7th, 2013, 13:41
Shadow Sorcerer was pretty awful, but Heroes of the Lance had great music

Just for kicks, I'll rank the Gold Box games I played - with some additional comments for the top 3.

1. Pool of Radiance

This ranks first, because it's the perfect campaign for someone like myself. You start at first level - and I always prefer having the build-up stage in my games, and I love the traditional high-fantasy setting of Forgotten Realms. I remember loving Sokol Keep, Thieves Mansion, Temple of Bane and other locations.

2. Buck Rogers - Countdown to Doomsday

I love sci-fi - and I love the quirky 50s take on it as well. Lots of great locations and who doesn't love Needle guns?

3. Champions of Krynn

Like Pool of Radiance - you start with low-level characters, and I've always liked Krynn a lot. Some of my favorite books include the Legends trilogy (Raistlin is the coolest mage ever) - and the graphics were spectacular on my Amiga 500!

4. Curse of the Azure Bonds
5. Death Knights of Krynn
6. Secret of the Silver Blades
7. Dark Queen of Krynn

I did try all the others, but never played them enough. The Savage Frontier games never appealed to me that much - for whatever reason.
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