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General News - Retrospective Interview with Al Escudero

by Myrthos, 2012-11-07 13:32:16

RPGCodex have interviewed Al Escudero on his games Deathlord (1989) and Spelljammer: Pirates of the Realmspace (1992) including an introduction of Deatlord.

Deathlord allows the player to import characters from Ultima III, Bard's Tale and Wizardry. Were those the games that inspired you the most? Would you agree if I described Deathlord as, among other things, an attempt to bring Wizardry's hardcore dungeon design over to Ultima's top down perspective? (After all, dungeon design was never the Ultima series' forte.) How did you come up with this idea?

I observed that players tended to form attachments to characters in their RPGs and often used the same names in multiple games. The importation was a way to bring their favorite characters from another game into this one. Various aspects of those games also served as inspiration. There were aspects I liked that I tried to emulate, and aspects I didn't like which I tried to improve upon. For me it was the things I didn't like that really motivated me. If some aspect of a game annoyed me, it was in my nature to say "Ok, how do I fix this."

My shift to top-down dungeons was designed to create dungeons that had some personality. Lakes of fire, pillared halls, and rough walled caverns with dirt floors. 3D felt gimmicky to me, and I didn't think that the computers of the time were able to make 3D dungeons that didn't look like a rat's maze with a bunch of walls made out of 10x10 painted panels.

What motivated you to choose the quasi-Japanese setting for Deathlord? Were the Japanese names for classes, weapons, spells, etc., there just for flavor, or did the whole thing grow out of your fascination with Japanese culture?

Honestly, no. Though I had a budding interest in Japanese culture at the time, the game was originally created with a Norse/Teutonic theme, and I had the game finished that way. It was the marketing dept at EA that insisted we change it (at the last minute) to an Oriental/Japanese theme. I was given 5 weeks to change all the art, story, spell names, equipment names, location names, etc. I was quite upset about it. I had a game I had crafted over a year and a half I needed to convert to an entirely different style at the 11th hour and wasn't given sufficient time to do the new style justice. It felt like a hack to me, and I hated doing it. If I'd had a few months, time to do reading on Japanese culture and myths, time to craft a tale that tapped into their rich Mythology, I feel I could have done a far better job, as it was I felt very dissatisfied.

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Genre: RPG
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