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Codex Interview RPG Codex Retrospective Interview: Winston Douglas Wood on Phantasie and Star Command

Discussion in 'News & Content Feedback' started by Crooked Bee, Feb 15, 2013.

  1. Crooked Bee (no longer) a wide-wandering bee Patron

    Crooked Bee
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    Codex 2013 Codex 2014 PC RPG Website of the Year, 2015 Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire MCA Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    Tags: Phantasie; Phantasie II; Phantasie III: The Wrath of Nikademus; Phantasie IV; Phantasie V; Retrospective Interview; Star Command; Star Craft, Inc.; Strategic Simulations, Inc.; Winston Douglas Wood

    Back in the 1980s, there used to be a popular CRPG series that would vie in popularity with the two titans, Wizardry and Ultima. That was SSI's Phantasie, designed and coded by Winston Douglas Wood, who also co-designed (with Eric Liebenauer) another SSI-published CRPG, Star Command. Today we present you our interview with the man himself.

    The West saw Phantasie as a trilogy, but actually - and this is major news that hasn't been known before - WD Wood went on to design Phantasie IV after Japanese company Star Craft, Inc., approached SSI for a publishing deal. Unfortunately, as the interview tells us, Winston didn't have the time to adapt the fourth game to non-Japanese PCs, so SSI never published it in English and it has remained a Japanese exclusive. In other news, old-time Phantasie fans will also be excited to find out that Winston is currently working on a Phantasie V in his spare time! We'll be sure to keep you informed about the game's progress.

    Here are some tidbits from the interview:

    Phantasie made use of passive skills during exploration to inform the player of such things as traps, hidden treasure and upcoming monsters. These features were rare at the time and are still rare today. How important do you think these mechanics were in terms of the overall gaming experience? Did you have any ideas for further skills that failed to make it into any of the games?

    Those skills came from RuneQuest and D&D. They encourage the player have a greater variety of characters so that all of these skills are well balanced in their party. To imagine that your characters are listening for monsters and searching for traps gives a greater sense of realism and danger that was typically more present in tabletop games. I would have liked to have added rock climbing to Phantasie and generally make better use of the other skills but time and resources prevented that.

    In 1990 Phantasie IV was released exclusively in Japan for MSX, NEC and Sharp computers. The game credits you as the creator of the series, but the actual development is credited to a Japanese company called Star Craft, Inc. What do you know about this game and did you have any involvement in it at all?

    I designed Phantasie IV completely. I was able to go to Japan and meet the programmers from Star Craft but I was never able to test the game to any extent. I did consider doing another fantasy RPG but decided to do Star Command instead.

    That's exciting to hear! Did you design Phantasie IV specifically for Star Craft, or have you already had it designed (for SSI perhaps) by the time Star Craft approached you? And why wasn't it published in the West?

    Starcraft approached SSI with the idea of doing Phantasie IV in Japan. SSI then contacted me and I designed the game. SSI would have published it if anyone had been available to adapt it to computers like the Apple II or Commodore 64 but that never happened (I was busy designing and programming other software).

    As far as I'm aware you left the industry at some point after the release of Star Command. What was the reason for your departure and what have you been up to since?

    After Star Command I designed three games for Japanese companies. I thought designing the games without doing the programming would give me a chance to improve graphics quality and game play. However only one of the games (Phantasie IV) actually made it to the market and I found that I missed the opportunity to interact with the games during the design process.

    At the same time I was given an opportunity to do some programming for a civil engineering software company (KYPipe, LLC). This proved to be a more stable source of income since sales of one product would continue for years instead of just a few months. I am still in that field to this day as part owner of KYPipe, LLC.

    By the way I am currently working on Phantasie V. I don't get much time to work on it so its a very slow process. If you want you can check back with me in about a year and I will let you know the status of the project.

    We will be sure to! Can you maybe tell us a bit about how you approach it? Will it look and play similar to the previous Phantasie games, or are you aiming for something new with it?

    It is still very early in the development stage and it's really just for fun right now. I haven't given any thought to publishing. It will be a PC game though if it turns out well I may consider Android and IOS versions.

    In general the scope should be quite a bit bigger but it should play very similar to the previous Phantasie games. I don't yet know how it will look but the main visual feature will still be the scrolling map on which all combat and exploration takes place.​

    Be sure to read the full interview.
     
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  2. Jaesun Fabulous Moderator

    Jaesun
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    He is working on a Phantasie V? Nice.
     
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  3. getter77 Augur

    getter77
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    Always a good thing to see one of the old guard still tinkering at it even if just here and there in spare time---excellent interview. I certainly hope Phantasie V ultimately sees the light of day and is a quality realization.
     
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  4. Luzur Prestigious Gentleman Good Sir

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  5. Desktop Commander Savant

    Desktop Commander
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    Star Command is a really awesome game that, for some strange reason, hardly anyone seems to remember nowadays.

    Massive :bro: and thanks for the interview, MMXI and Crooked Bee!
     
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  6. Indranys Savant

    Indranys
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    What a good read.

    :thumbsup: and :hero:
     
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  7. BLOBERT Prestigious Gentleman Arcane Patron

    BLOBERT
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    BROS PHANTASIE 3 WAS MY FIRST CRPG STILK HAD FUN WITH IT A YEAR OR SP AGO
     
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  8. Kosmonaut Lost in Space

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    Another SSI series that I missed and I need to play ASAP.
     
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  9. Jaesun Fabulous Moderator

    Jaesun
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    Yeah I never played them either. I feel bad. They are on my list of a million cRPG's I need to play someday list.
     
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  10. mediocrepoet Arcane Patron

    mediocrepoet
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    Very nice. Phantasie (C64) was probably my favourite CRPG when I was a kid.
     
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  11. Excidium P. banal

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    Codex content! :dance:

    P. cool interview.
     
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  12. Dorateen Arcane

    Dorateen
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    Music to the ear. May he find an abundance of time and a boatload of money while working on this project.
     
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  13. Beautiful Clown Painting Arcane

    Beautiful Clown Painting
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    Great interview from the guy behind a great trilogy. I really enjoyed the Phantasies that were published on the C64. I never understood why Shard of Spring/Demon's Winter and the Phantasies were such underdogs at the time, they had great atmosphere, the flavor text added a lot and paved the way for Wasteland; Bard's Tale or Ultima III were lagging way behind in this particular department.

    By the way, I find it a little sad that there are only 11 comments about this great interview while a news item which would say "Fallout IV will take place in Boston" would have had 34500 comments in 2 hours. But well I guess that's the lot of us old-RPG-fags.

    Anyway, thanks for the interview Crooked Bee (and that's why I love the Codex despite all the derp).
     
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  14. winterraptor Cipher

    winterraptor
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    Divinity: Original Sin Torment: Tides of Numenera
    Mostly it's just that hate is more powerful than love here. But I know there's the temptation to root for the underdog, however futile.
     
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  15. Excidium P. banal

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    Bitching is more fun than posting what amounts to a thumbs up.
     
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  16. Hobbit Lord of Mordor_ Dumbfuck! Patron Dumbfuck

    Hobbit Lord of Mordor_
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    Codex 2012
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  17. Deuce Traveler Prestigious Gentleman 2012 Newfag Patron

    Deuce Traveler
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    Grab the Codex by the pussy Divinity: Original Sin Torment: Tides of Numenera Shadorwun: Hong Kong Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    :love:

    If I never played the Phantasie games I would never have fallen in love with computer RPGs. I played the Apshai series before them but they weren't really RPGs like Phantasie. After that it was Wizard's Crown (which was too hard for me to figure out at my early teenager years) and Ultima 4, and then I was hooked for good.
     
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  18. DaveO Augur

    DaveO
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    Phantasie I is worth the price of entry, and I finished it in 10 hours. I never did play or finish the other Phantasie games. I did play other games in the SSI catalog, including the Gold Box precursor Wizard's Crown and Eternal Dagger.
     
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  19. Beautiful Clown Painting Arcane

    Beautiful Clown Painting
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    Did you have the manuals for the Apshai serie or did you play pirated versions? It changes everything for in the manual you have written descriptions for each room related to their number.

    Examples (taken from the manual):

    Room Eighteen - The passage reeks of spoiled and rotten matter. A strip of
    cloth sticks out from beneath a mound of dirt in the southern portion of
    the passageway.

    Room Nineteen - Small bones litter the floor of this chamber and crunch
    under the boots of the incautious traveller.

    Room Twenty - The walls of the room are covered with algae. Most of the
    algae is black and rotten, but the few remaining brown patches have a nutty
    aroma, and, if tasted, are reminiscent of spiced bread.
     
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  20. Deuce Traveler Prestigious Gentleman 2012 Newfag Patron

    Deuce Traveler
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    Grab the Codex by the pussy Divinity: Original Sin Torment: Tides of Numenera Shadorwun: Hong Kong Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    Beautiful Clown Painting

    I shamefully admit it was pirated, though I was 8 and didn't understand at the time. My school mate's cool older brother had an Atari XE like I did and made me a copy from his official floppy disk. He also introduced me to the DnD Red Box Basic Set, which I pushed my Dad into getting for me. I don't even remember the kids' names, just that they were as devoutly Jewish as my Puerto Rican family was devoutly Catholic, but they had such an influence on my hobbies. I moved from New York City shortly after but I took those games with me. I wish I had those manuals, because they seem like something I would have loved reading. I really got into those kind of descriptions in the solo adventures inside the red box.
     
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  21. Beautiful Clown Painting Arcane

    Beautiful Clown Painting
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    I tell you this because I also had pirated versions at the time and found the Apshai games tedious and bland. I was astounded to discover many years later that they had a paragraph system way back then. Playing them with the manual (I recommend the C64 Apshai Trilogy remakes) changes everything.
     
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  22. BigWeather Scholar

    BigWeather
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    Wonderful interview, thanks! Was just thinking the other day about how much I missed SSI and all their wonderful RPG series (Phantasie, Questron, Wizard's Crown, Gold Box, heck even Road War 2000).
     
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  23. Ogg Prophet Patron

    Ogg
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    Codex 2012 Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Codex USB, 2014 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech
    And now for the first time, IN ODORAMA!

    Seriously, those descriptions are great. I don't remember any other games with so much references to odours. That's a level of immershun none of those modern AAA games will ever reach. Words, my friends, words are magic.
     
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  24. Tramboi Prophet Patron

    Tramboi
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    What are the best versions for each Phantasie?
    I had the Atari ST ones in the good ol' days and I'd like to replay the series.
     
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  25. laclongquan Arcane

    laclongquan
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    Too old games are too old. 80s games? Laughable. I only know and care about games of Fallout era and later.
     
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