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RPGWatch Forums » Comments » News Comments » RPG Codex - Phantasie and Star Command Retrospective

Default RPG Codex - Phantasie and Star Command Retrospective

February 16th, 2013, 21:18
RPGCodex has done another one of their retrospective interviews; this time they've talked to Winston Douglas Wood. He talks with RPG Codex about Phantasie and Star Command -
a quote about these games:
Phantasie (1985) can best be described as a dungeon crawler, but with multiple dungeons, towns and wilderness areas. Unlike many of its contemporaries, it features a top-down view in which the geography is revealed incrementally through exploration, acting as an auto-map. The game's combat is similar to Wizardry in that it is phase-based and lacks character movement, but it contains a number of attacking options such as thrusting, lunging and slashin…….
Star Command (1988) is a different beast - a sci-fi cRPG that, while retaining the classic dungeon-crawling aspect, moves on to simulate an open world space environment, striking a good balance between missions and exploration. It features an eight character party, a Traveller-esque character generation system with four different classes, each with its own class-exclusive skills, and compelling character development with a lot of choice and an involved training process……..
Here's his answer about what he wanted to do when he created Phantasie:
What did you want to achieve from the creation of Phantasie? Were there things that you wanted to introduce to computer RPGs that hadn't even been approached by other games? What did you feel was missing from the genre or video games as a whole? Wizardy 1 was limited to a single dungeon with very little interaction other than combat and mapping. Ultima 1 was limited to a single character. I wanted to make a richer environment with a wider variety of places to visit: dungeons, castles, fortresses, islands, and even mythological places. I also wanted a more detailed combat system with a variety of weapons and magic. I felt that being able to have Orcs, Goblins, Trolls, Gnomes and Pixies in your party in addition to the traditional Humans, Elves, Dwarves and Halflings added a fun element as well. I also wanted more puzzles to solve by interacting with other characters and items.
Here's a quote about how he felt when he started working on Star Command:
After the conclusion of the Phantasie series you worked on Star Command, a science fiction RPG. At the time, how did you feel about switching from fantasy and mythological themes to a science fiction setting? When were your ideas for Star Command first conceived? I was excited to try something both new to me and to the computer game market. I also wanted to switch from developing for the Apple II to the PC because it was less restrictive and that market was growing while the Apple market was shrinking. Also science fiction seemed a better fit for the PC market.
More information.

Thanks Crooked Bee
Last edited by aries100; February 16th, 2013 at 21:55. Reason: additional information
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February 16th, 2013, 21:18
These are some of the old SSI games I never got around to playing. They sound interesting - it would be cool to see them show up on GOG sometime. I wonder who owns the rights to the Phantasie series these days.
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February 16th, 2013, 23:17
I picked them up from an abandonware site years ago; they are quite primitive.

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February 16th, 2013, 23:28
Played Phantasie I & II on my C64 back in the 80's. Never wanted to play the series because I thought having "evil races" as PCs seemed dumb. A friend recommended it and I loved them although #2 went unfinished. There were some bad design decisions such as not being able to enter a certain dungeon without a minotaur in the party. But overall it was great fun, with lots of puzzles & flavor text in the dungeon. You could even print out the maps and quest entries.

As commentary on how different things were then, before the WWW and finding answers at the click of a mouse— I actually had to call the SSI hint line a number of times, all the while racking up huge long distance charges. On one occasion I remember even speaking directly with someone from SSI. Another time I remember while playing the Magic Candle— again in the 80s, calling Mindcraft when I was stuck and speaking with one of the employees at length. He really must have been bored. When I finished the game, I was so overjoyed and loved the game so I called Mindcraft to tell them how great Magic Candle was. I happened to get Ali Atabek himself on the phone and was able to tell the creator himself. Assuming it wasn't an imposter, what an experience.
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February 16th, 2013, 23:43
Originally Posted by EvilManagedCare View Post
Played Phantasie I & II on my C64 back in the 80's. Never wanted to play the series because I thought having "evil races" as PCs seemed dumb. A friend recommended it and I loved them although #2 went unfinished. There were some bad design decisions such as not being able to enter a certain dungeon without a minotaur in the party. But overall it was great fun, with lots of puzzles & flavor text in the dungeon. You could even print out the maps and quest entries.

As commentary on how different things were then, before the WWW and finding answers at the click of a mouseó I actually had to call the SSI hint line a number of times, all the while racking up huge long distance charges. On one occasion I remember even speaking directly with someone from SSI. Another time I remember while playing the Magic Candleó again in the 80s, calling Mindcraft when I was stuck and speaking with one of the employees at length. He really must have been bored. When I finished the game, I was so overjoyed and loved the game so I called Mindcraft to tell them how great Magic Candle was. I happened to get Ali Atabek himself on the phone and was able to tell the creator himself. Assuming it wasn't an imposter, what an experience.
I'm a big fan of puzzles and flavor text in RPGs so I might give Phantasie a try.

That's a great story about calling the developers back in the day. Yeah things are so different now - though I guess with indie or small developers we can get a similar level of interaction - at least online.

I also played Magic Candle back in the 80s but I don't think I ever finished it. I remember filling many pages in a notebook with notes for it though! Ah.. the days before quest logs hehe. It was definitely a fun game - not sure why I lost momentum with it.
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February 17th, 2013, 00:59
Ah, Magic Candle. Loved it. I recall MC was the first if not one of the first that let you assign party members to do jobs in the town to earn extra cash. They would leave the party whilst doing whatever job they got.

Wish GoG would get these games.
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February 17th, 2013, 01:00
Both of these games seem like good candidates for remakes. I'd especially like to see a modern version of Star Command.
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February 17th, 2013, 03:20
Nice story, EvilmanagedCare and good description of the games.

I played the first two on C64 as well back in the mid 90s. Whilst I never completed either of them, their sense of slow inching progression through the dungeons and the descriptive prose you'd find in scattered locations made exploration quite atmospheric. The party configuration options were quite extensive as well, which is something I really liked both as a Bard's Tale and Goldbox fan. They're definitely something I could pick up again when the right mood strikes.

Well done to the Codex for the interview. A good, nostalgic read.

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February 17th, 2013, 04:28
Loved Phantasie and Phantasie 2.

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February 17th, 2013, 04:58
@Myrkrul:
I came across some old folders a couple years ago where I had written out all the combinations of the teleporting stones for Magic Candle I had found in game. The stones were spheres, cones & cubes a la EOA (Electronic Arts to you young whippersnappers). While I look back at this kind of thing nostalgically, I don't think I would have the patience for that stuff now. Regardless Magic Candle is one of my all time favorites. One of the best features: monsters respawned only after a certain amount of game time based on difficulty level (iirc 30, 60 or 90 days). Ooh and I almost forgot, you could see the monsters' positions on the world map.

Even more fond memories of the 80's 8 bit era: receiving new floppies with patched versions of Magic Candle. You didn't get those unless you took the time to complete the registration cards that came in the game. Most people probably threw those out, I always filled them out hoping to get some sort of extras or something. Plus, I believe there were game-stopping bugs fixed in those. Ahhh, while the early 90's DOS CRPGs were awesome, they didn't hold a "candle" (no pun intended) to the 8 bit era of the 80s.
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February 17th, 2013, 05:03
Originally Posted by Fargol View Post
Ah, Magic Candle. Loved it. I recall MC was the first if not one of the first that let you assign party members to do jobs in the town to earn extra cash. They would leave the party whilst doing whatever job they got.

Wish GoG would get these games.
Unfortunately I don't think they'd stand up. While MC was ahead of its time in so many ways, it's still so primitive. Having said that, I have boxed copies of the original series along with a DOS 6.2 box ready for them. Of course with that overpowered 486 in it, I need MoSlo to play the first installment of the series.
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February 17th, 2013, 13:50
Originally Posted by screeg View Post
Loved Phantasie and Phantasie 2.
I think both are vastly inferior to pt. 3 "Wrath of Nikademus". Easily the biggest and best of them all. Very atmospheric text descriptions there.

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February 18th, 2013, 18:36
Originally Posted by Sir_Brennus View Post
I think both are vastly inferior to pt. 3 "Wrath of Nikademus". Easily the biggest and best of them all. Very atmospheric text descriptions there.
I never got to play P3 (an abbreviation that now only you and I understand), but reviews of the time criticized its much more granular combat system, where health was tracked for individual limbs, etc. It certainly looks like a mess.

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February 18th, 2013, 20:01
I played all the ones people have mentioned and while they were ok to good for their time they are extremely primitive by the lowest of today's standards. I would guess that without their historical context most people wouldn't even consider them cRPGs.
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February 20th, 2013, 03:16
Well, I guess that answers my question about whether he's the same Winston Wood that worked on Deux Ex: Human Revolution. I just wish the interviewer had asked about the "Well slap mah fro, the party has been juiced!" quote that was hidden somewhere in the Phantasie III code (at least on the Amiga). Surely I'm not the only person to have found that.
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