Everything Quests: Games and Distractions

Game: Dragonflight

Potted description: Amiga fantasy RPG with varied perspectives and environments. Point-and-click interface, mainly 16-colour graphics. (also released for PC and Atari ST, but those are not the versions reviewed here).



Description of the gameplay and experience of Dragonflight by my computer-games savvy brother who is thinking of becoming a noder, and helped me build this WU for the Quest - your comments, please:

Dragonflight was brought out around the end of the 1980s by Thalion, a German company. It took the form of a fantasy adventure set in a totally original world which was notable, firstly for having a continent shaped like a dragon, and secondly for being shaped like a doughnut, although there was never any suggestion that the game's creators were aware of the latter. The map's opposite edges were simply identified. The player was presented with four pre-designed characters and the task of finding the world's last dragons - if, indeed, there were any.

My specific interest in the game comes from its ability to display many of the trademarks of a bad fantasy computer game, whilst being captivating, genuinely enjoyable and even inspiring. The flaws were, in general, small and irritating inelegancies. For example, in underground areas, there were teleporters and hidden doors in walls which dealt damage to the group, based on the party members' maximum health, however high or low they were. The exploration of urban areas was frequently hindered by peasants who stood in your way, and this became particularly frustrating when a certain maze area was encountered which relied on this means of creating moving obstacles. The trite message about courtesy which marked the labyrinth's entrance did not exactly encourage, either.

At a basic and technical level, an obvious merit was the flexibility of the game's interface. It had a set of nine buttons which would display a different set of icons, depending on the group's situation, which could be any of: the open country, a town, an underground area (done through a first person view) or combat, which was done on a turn based system with a side-on view and tactical map. The general rule was that when you had more interesting things available to do, you seemed able to move in fewer directions.

The variety of possible situations gave the game the potential to approach and develop its setting from many perspectives. This was achieved very effectively, mainly because of the constant sense of mystery, created partly by the manual's total ambiguity in describing anything. The opening novella seemed to have little bearing on the plot of the game itself, moreover. This forced the players to do their own research through exploring the extremely detailed world which was available and make their own notes and maps. The detail on offer was different from that of modern games. Today games' 'secrets' are made for their fanatics and devotees to find and have quoted at them as a percentage, but in Dragonflight even these form part of the game's carefully planned learning curve - which is all too closely linked to the world of marketing and target market groups. In this case, the target group was European-style roleplayers. Dragonflight was at times so obscure that you really thought the writers put things in purely for their own amusement, although it was a pity when these details proved to be vital to winning the game, which I feel I should add, I never came close to doing.


Characters:

Bladus the fighter, a blond himbo
Rinakles the mage, a scrawny fellow
Dobranur the dwarf, a sturdy type
Andariel the elf, a token female

The magic system was unexpectedly complex, with a potion-brewing engine and a light/dark magic split, with characters able to switch between the types of magic at any time, but at the cost of learning time. Temples could be used to regain magical strength, resurrect dead characters, and receive teleportation spells. The conversation system involved showing the NPCs various items, and suffered a little from the Denglisch translations. We also found that the learning curve was not pitched quite right: it was easier to obtain insanely good weapons, and stand a good chance against any creature, than it was to explore the plot satisfactorily.

There was an entertaining bestiary of monsters to encounter. Orcs were the weakest normal monster, appearing in this incarnation as hairy, bestial humanoids, and balrons the toughest. Balrons appeared in a form which their name will render entirely predictable to most fantasy readers. There were also energyballs - weird green glowing things - and an assortment of other cannon fodder. Some creatures - such as the crystal guardian and the banned unicorn - were undefeatable without the proper tools. Extensive travel by land, sea, dungeon and magic was necessary to find all the exotic locales and visit all the towns and cities, and it was quite possible to wreck your boat.

Fantasy clichés employed in the game included magic mouths, the inevitable dungeon environment with monsters staying nicely in identical square rooms, monsters that would attack a superior party for no apparent reason, magic-item shops, and artsy-fartsy elves. The game had a few Easter eggs, such as statues of 'Anne McCaffriel' and 'Girouar Tolkien' in certain towns, and NPCs who said absurd things.

Similar games include FTL's Dungeon Master, the Baldur's Gate series, SSI's Gold Box games such as Pool of Radiance. It's hard to think of many games both as early and as varied as Dragonflight.

A Dragonflight website at http://www.cus.org.uk/~alexh/games/dragonflight/df.html shows that the designers were Erik Simon, Udo Fischer and Jochen Hippel, that at least one version of the game had a release date of 1990, and that it was Thalion's first release.

Dragonflight is a novel of Pern by Anne McCaffrey - the first of the series to be written. Originally published in 1968, Dragonflight set up one of the most well known worlds in science fiction and fantasy.

The world Pern is one that is haunted by the Red Star -another planet swinging about the sun on a highly elliptical orbit. Every 200 years or so, Thread spews from this planet and attacks all organic matter, rapidly eating it away. Few things destroy Thread - cold, fire, acid and water.

To combat Thread, there are dragons - honest to goodness fire breathing dragons. Not only can dragons fly, but they can teleport through between - a brief and cold nothingness (also a quick escape from Thread that might have attacked a dragon). Bonded for life with a dragon are Dragonriders - humans who have Impressed the dragon at birth and form a telepathic link.

It has been 400 years since the last Threadfall and only Benden Weyr (caves where dragons and their riders live) remains occupied. The old queen dragon is dying and a rider for the new one needs to be found. At Ruatha Hold (stone fortress carved in the side of a hill or mountain - impervious to thread), Lessa, heir to the lord holdership but forced to work as a servant by an usurper lives and plots to retake what is rightfully hers until she is selected as a candidate to be the rider of the new queen.

This book brings back fond memories of old - my mother reading to us on the couch. Over the years, she read all 6 of the two trilogies to the rapt ears of me and my siblings. My parents also enjoyed the series and it turns out if I had been born a year later, my name would have been Jaxom (she didn't start reading the series until 1974).

Since the writing of this book, McCaffrey has returned to Pern many times. In the later cases the books are not well formed trilogies as were the first sets. Furthermore, these books often interweave with the same time frame from different points of view. Most obviously, The White Dragon, Dragondrums and The Renegades of Pern all happen at the same time... or timeish - they overlap.

Dragonriders of Pern

Harper Hall

Historical

White Dragon timeframe and later


ISBN 0345335465

Awarded a Hugo Award in 1968 for the novella Weyr Search and Nebula Award for novella Dragonriders in 1969. These two novellas were later incorporated into Dragonflight.

Dragonflight was the name of some amazingly successful doofs that were run late last century (1996-1999) in Brisbane

The first, and most amazing, was in a Valley about 1 hour north of Brisbane, all night us doofers were treated to an amazing lightning lightshow provided by mother nature (it didnt rain, though).

of course there was also a fantastic lightshow set up by tha masters of outdoor lighting in Briz, the Travelling Candle Kaleidoskope Bonanza

There were some great things about these events that made them special.

Firstly, I was surprised to see how nicely everyone cleaned up the place in the morning. This was always the case at these events, there was always a heartfelt care for the environment. (or that's what my addled brain thought at the time)

Later events were bravely held at Dayborough - and for those that put them on, thanks.

There were other doofs in and around BrisVegas, and there still are, but these had that undefinable magic that other old-timer doofers like me really pine for in these modern days of indoor frippery.

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