Inside interview by Performance of Karateka, a wonderful interactive journal and a game-by-game, Chris Kohler of Digital Eclipse notes that, based on industry data, people don’t actually play games in “classic” collections. Maybe they spend 5 minutes in a few games that they remember, but that’s about it. Presenting unique games, exactly as they were when they arrived, can be historically significant but often fall short of real engagement.
That’s why it’s fun to see (as seen first by PC Gamer) we won 1.0 Release from GuardianFXopen source “repair and fan expansion” of Dungeon Keeper, 1997 Bullfrog strategy game that had players take on the other side of a crawling hole. The project has already, over 15 years, moved the game very far, giving it modern Windows support, hi-res support, and loads of bugfixes and quality-of-life improvements. Now, said the team, all the original code from the original executable has been rewritten, freeing them up to change anything they want in the future. There can be more than 2,048 “items” on the map, maps can have more than 85 square tiles, and the script and mods can go further.
But note: “Ownership of the original game is still and will always be required for copyright purposes.” You can, like I did earlier today, fix that too purchase $6 GOG, at least while it’s on sale today. After downloading GuardianFXhe opened it, launching it, pointing to where he had put the original cave keeper, and launch it. And then you are ready to type.
I distinctly remember trying to play Dungeon Keeper a few years ago after reading one or the other about how it was, like many titles from Bullfrog and game designer Peter Molyneux, who had a lot of influence on many games. I give Dungeon Keeper more than 5 minutes, but repeatedly clicking on sprites that look like graphical errors (while listening to sound samples from the Sound Blaster heyday) gets old before an hour is up. Computers have changed, I’ve changed, and I no longer feel like banging my head against a heavily plastered wall.
Getting up GuardianFX think instead of how I was being played Dungeon Keeper in the best possible sense. I guess about half of the game shortcuts, can easily reset the rest, and is not surprised by how any key or keyboard press responds. The graphics are the same, but on a 4K monitor, the game is painless to watch, and it runs so fast that it doesn’t feel like a retro racing car. The main campaign and its tutorials are still a bit opaque, but the game feels smooth. The release notes for 1.0 and earlier versions suggest several minor tweaks to both enemy and drone behavior and perhaps some fair behavior by computer opponents. Nothing is spelled out, but not my first foray, learning as I go will not feel quite cumbersome.
I decided only to take one map of GuardianFX for the purposes of this post, but I ended up playing… a little more than that. Each level in the main campaign introduces a new mechanic, some new items, and a non-patronizing increase in difficulty. That’s in addition to small jolts of nostalgia for Bullfrog’s late-90s brainchild of dark humor, deep systems, and deep gameplay challenges.
Current IP management Electronic Arts hasn’t done much with cave keeper, Besides, it also made it into a blog-transaction sinkhole so bad that the regulators asked him to stop calling himself “free to drink.” Molyneux said back in 2008 that, when he wanted to be able to take another crack at it Syndicate, Famousor maybe cave keeper, won’t hold your breath waiting for EA to call. “I’m not worried about anyone else doing it,” Molyneux told VideoGamer.com. “I would just love to see an update, the idea is alive.”
GuardianFX, and projects like it, are keeping the old games fundamentally alive beyond simply porting their code inconveniently forward to our time. It deserves praise, maybe some money, and as few roadblocks as possible to do so.
Image listing by KeeperFX