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Game 51: Rise of the Dragon - Introduction

Written By Ilmari

Entering the annual Manhunter convention;
now where did I lose my hood?


Infinitely replayable? We'll see...

Spellcasting 101  and Elvira have just been finished and both Aperama and Deimar are busy doing Final Rating, so it's a perfect time to begin a new game. For the first time since the Trickster era, it will be a solo run, with no other games being played at the same time (except the possible occasional Missed Classic).

Rise of the Dragon is the first adventure game designed by Dynamix, a company founded by Jeff Tunnell and Damon Slye, two guys not from Andromeda, but Oregon. The story of Dynamix begins 1981 when Jeff Tunnell bought his first computer, learned programming and founded a software store called Computertutor. After meeting Damon Slye, a fellow programming enthusiast, Tunnell hired Slye and couple of months later sold his store and created with Slye the Software Entertainment Company, which was meant to publish games developed by Tunnell and Slye. Computer game publishing was already getting hard for small companies, thus, with help of two more Oregonians, Kevin Ryan and Richard Hicks, the name of the company was changed in 1984 to Dynamix, which now focused on developing games for big companies like Electronic Arts and Activision.


First game by the founders of Dynamix. Not so stellar graphics


Even after this change, Dynamix struggled financially. Fortunately, help was on its way. Ken Williams of Sierra-On-Line -fame liked the works of Dynamix and reportedly suggested that Sierra could buy Dynamix and so end their financial worries. Dynamix did in 1990 become a part of Sierra. Ken Williams had originally bought Dynamix to create simulations, which was what Dynamix was really famous for and which no one at Sierra had been doing. Dynamix did continue developing simulations under Sierra, like the famous Red Baron, but they also started almost immediately publishing some well-known adventure games, like Willy Beamish.


We are quite excitedly waiting for Willy Beamish


Did the developers of Dynamix then think “now we are part of Sierra, now we must do adventure games”? Probably not, since Rise of the Dragon had been planned even before the sale of the company. Indeed, one might say that an earlier game, David Wolf: Secret Agent (1989), was already a step from simulations towards adventure games. David Wolf was an early attempt at what would later be called interactive movies. The majority of the game experience consisted of watching digitized cinematic cut scenes telling the tale of a spy in hunt of a missing stealth fighter (this seems a common trope), while the actual game play consisted of simple action sequences in a 3D environment. Somewhat prophetically a reviewer from Compute! suggested that the game should have given more control over the character and had a more intriguing plot and it would have been an instant hit.


Too bad THEY didn't get the James Bond license


And so we come to Rise of the Dragon. I’ve never played the game, although I am familiar with the later adventure games of Dynamix. The pictures on the original game box promise beautiful graphics, which is no wonder, since one of the artists, Robert Caracol, had worked with Dark Horse Comics. Indeed, the game was originally shipped with a comic book detailing the background plot of the game - an ex-cop with the rather unimaginative name, Blade Hunter, is awoken by a visit from the mayor, who wants Mr. Hunter to find out why so many people (especially the mayor’s daughter) have been recently killed in Pleasure Domes. The grim and dystopian tone of the comic is somewhat broken by wanna-be-humorous ads and letters-to-the-editor, which include a plea from a mother of one of the producers that her son should quit playing with silly Dynamix and get a real life. Included in the comic is also a Step-by-Step Guide to Private Investigation, which explains proper interrogation methods and also the use of equipment for eavesdropping on videophones.


Hopefully the quality of game's graphics is near this


Is anyone looking for a job?


In addition to the comic book, there’s also a control manual. I am not going to comment on the controls before I’ve actually played the game, although the manual speaks a lot about the “revolutionary concept” that through point and click the player actually picks things up and uses them. What seems more revolutionary is that even though the game will have arcade sequences, there are an unlimited number of chances to complete them, a sliding difficulty set and even a possibility to completely skip these sequences. I am also happily taking into note the promises that you cannot get yourself into a dead end without an important object you cannot find anymore and that there will be multiple solutions to major problems. I am somewhat more intimidated with the facts that passage of time will change the surroundings and that characters have distinct personalities and remember your previous interactions with them - these features can make the game more complex, but they can also screw things up. Oh well, I guess I’ve read the manuals enough - it’s time to start the game itself!

Sierra clock, I’ve missed you!

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle without putting in an official Request for Assistance: remember to use ROT13 for betting. If you get it right, you will be rewarded with 40 CAPs in return. It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.

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