“It all started with an alien…”
December, 1982. I was sitting in a crowded Sheffield cinema, eagerly awaiting the start of a movie that I had queued for two hours to see. The film was ‘ET: The Extra Terrestrial.’
I was ten-years-old at the time and was already a bit of a fantasy die-hard; having read and played the first Fighting Fantasy game book by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, devoured anything by Alan Garner and C.S Lewis, and shown rather excited curiosity at a metal miniature of a vampire that a friend showed me behind the bike shed. ‘That thing has teeth!’
“I knew then that I had to find that game and I had to play it…”
So there I was, popcorn in hand, ready to watch ET. I knew it was going to be great - after all, I had the t-shirt, mug, board game, action figure, duvet cover, pyjamas and cuddly toy. The film couldn't possibly disappoint - and it didn't. The opening ten minutes completely blew me away, but not for the reasons I was expecting. Forget little grey aliens, I had just discovered something far more exciting...
For those that have seen the film, they will know that Elliot’s brother and his friends are having a party. Not a normal party I hasten to add… they’re actually playing a game – and this game was called Dungeons & Dragons. And boy, did it look good. I just couldn’t contain my excitement at seeing this maze-like dungeon sprawling across the table, with metal miniatures of warriors and wizards fighting for space amidst the clutter of paper, dice and fast food. Just listening to the geek chat ('I'm already one of the undead, Greg, I can still throw death spells...'), I knew then that I had to find that game and I had to play it…
Ok, let’s fast forward. I got hooked on Dungeons & Dragons (although, to be fair, I was somewhat disappointed to discover that the sprawling maze and the metal miniatures did not come in the box. Cheated…) and then I got into the Play-by-Mail scene. Yes, you probably haven’t heard of that – but before computers, some sad people (like myself) played fantasy games through the post. You write down what you wanted your character to do… then post your instructions to the ‘gamesmaster’ (and no, that was not Patrick Moore). You would then get a reply updating you on the results of your actions. I suppose it was just like World of Warcraft… without the graphics, sound effects and griefing. I ran my own Play-by-Mail at the age of fifteen and within a year I had over 100 players. Not bad going, eh? My typewriter could barely keep up and the stamps cost a fortune...
“I could pick up a torch and hit a mummy on the head with it. You can’t beat that for entertainment.”
Then computer games came along. Well, one in particular. One that ‘ruled them all’: Dungeon Master. It came out on the Amiga and Atari ST and was the first game to really use pseudo-3D to make you feel like you were there… Let’s be honest, pen and paper games were on borrowed time now. Who needs those when you can have interactive environments. Hell, I could pick up a torch and hit a mummy on the head with it. You can’t beat that for entertainment. (Look, it was the late eighties ok…)
And now, we have MMORPGS: Massively Multi-player Online Role-Playing Games. They have brought fantasy gaming to the masses (I guess that is where the ‘massively’ comes in). I’ve played most of them… more than I should; more than is healthy. They are fantastic, addictive, crazy, frustrating, exhilarating… but they don’t really know how to tell a good story. Well, one where you feel like you are the hero and you are actually the centre of the storyline, the one making the decisions… but they do what they do well. Being able to customise your hero and watch them develop over the course of your adventures is the real joy of these games.
“...it's about getting back to the roots of gaming and rolling dice, reading a good story and being involved in a fun adventure.”
So, why DestinyQuest? Well, I loved the Fighting Fantasy game books when I was a kid – and I loved the pen-and-paper role-playing games. You can’t beat rolling a handful of dice and willing those ‘sixes’ to appear. Computer games are all well and good, but I really wanted to offer something that combined the best of both worlds – something that had the dice-rolling and stat-obsession of a good role-playing game, with the customisation and quest structure of an online game.
And so, DestinyQuest was born. It’s really a celebration of gaming – if that doesn’t sound too grandiose a term. It’s about getting back to the roots of gaming and rolling dice, reading a good story and being involved in a fun adventure. I really hope that gamers and fantasy enthusiasts get behind this project, so that it can grow and develop into an exciting and rewarding franchise. It has been enormous fun to put together and I can’t wait to share more DQ books with you in the future…
Michael J. Ward
I can be contacted at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org although please, use the forums if it is a general query regarding the game system.