Blizzard’s Blackthorne Back On Battlenet

By Craig Pearson on November 5th, 2013 at 8:00 am.


The last time anyone ever said the word “Blackthorne” aloud was in 1994: a young man went into a games shop and asked the teller for the “new Blizzard game”. The helpful shop assistant handed the customer Blackthorne, who looked at and then said: “I actually wanted Warcraft”. And thus the 2D platformer was consigned to history and a bit of Wikipedia. Well, it looks like a Blizzard employee found it’s Wikipedia entry and decided to make Blackthorne work on modern systems via DosBox. The cheeky scamp also uploaded it to Battle.Net, and it’s free to download.

Almost none of the above is true, apart from Blizzard re-releasing Blackthorne for free on Battle.net. But it’s an old game that’s new to me, so I had to come up with something. It’s also been lovingly created: the manual opens with a 20 page short-story setting up the shotgunning anti-hero’s tale of going commando on an alien world. I spent a few minutes playing it: the controls are a bit awkward, and there’s no pace at all, but the reverse shotgun blast more than makes up for that. 10/10.

More intriguingly is it installs into a folder called “Blizzard Classics”, which suggests that this won’t be the only game from their back catalogue to receive some spit and polish. What other 2D platformer could I possibly be talking about, readers?

Thanks, PCG.

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51 Comments »

  1. Daniel Klein says:

    Blackthorne’s reverse shotgun blast, aka shotgun a man in the face without even looking at said face, directly inspired the implementation of the passive ability on the League of Legends champion I helped create: when Lucian procs his double-shot passive, he can turn away from the target after the first shot and fire the second shot into the man’s face without even looking at him.

    What I’m saying is, homage! Also, Blackthorne was stupidly cool when I was 14.

    • Amun says:

      Please keep the lolspeak to yourself.

      • ividyon says:

        Please acquire some reading comprehension.

      • Koozer says:

        The only remotely esoteric term there is proc,’ which has been in usage since the MUD era.

        Also, nice work Daniel Klein!

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          jrodman says:

          As a programmer, the term ‘proc’ makes me sad, because it was the noun, but it got misunderstood as the verb.
          Those unwashed nonprogramming heathens!

          ‘trigger(s)’ is the english word that means this thing. But oh well, I cannot turn back the clock.

          • airmikee99 says:

            I blame Calvin & Hobbes for the growth of verbing.

            Calvin: I like to verb words.
            Hobbes: What?
            Calvin: I take nouns and adjectives and use them as verbs. Remember when “access” was a thing? Now, it’s something you do. It got verbed. Verbing weirds language.
            Hobbes: Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding.

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            jrodman says:

            In this case, I think it’s just that the players , or perhaps developers, of the muds didn’t really care that ‘proc’ was really just ‘procedure’ with part of it cut off. I don’t think they considered verbing, more than they considered what it meant at all. A more full description would be something like “a table of procedure entries” or “a list of procedures to trigger”. Or on use “triggered procedures”. The player/user-visible name would have been something like actions, or properties, or traits or attributes, where in this case they’re ones that activate. So possibly activated properties, or just triggered properties.

            But gamers are good at destroying meaning in language, and using the same word for lots of things (lag). So we now have haves proc, that proc. Where ‘proc’ has no anchor to meaning and has just become context-free jargon that would be better removed. But people like jargon and anti-meaning because it makes them feel part of a club. And I should just accept it, but I tilt at the windmills.

            The process of defiling words is not unique to gaming of course. In San Francisco we have a transportation system called “Muni”. This is of course short for Municipal Transit. Which means essentially city transit. Of course its essential nature is that it is TRANSIT, city is just an adjective. We also have city planning, city laws, city taxes, city government, and so on. But we took the transit out of the name, so now the name just means “city”. So there are sigils or glyphs written in enormous type on the side of our busses and such which serve to only miscommunicate a lie that they are in fact a city.

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            jrodman says:

            Or for anyone who doesn’t really understand what I’m on about regarding gamers and language, consider the Inuit.

            The Inuit have lived, for a good while, in a cold part of the world. There’s lots of snow, and ice there. Their language has come to have a variety of specific words for types of snow and ice. They have, apocryphally twenty-nine different words for things, where we would use the word “snow”, considering them more or less all the same.

            If we wanted to talk about the distinctions, we would have to get out descriptive phrases and if you weren’t there with me, you might not know how sparkly it was really.. very very sparkly? a little sparkly? When I say the snow is “fluffy”, you might have an idea, but if you saw some snow, would you know if your idea of fluffy matched mine? The point is that this standard, known lexicon is quite powerful and allows effective communication about a topic for people who have one, and without it precise and clear meaning and communication become laborious and sometimes impossible.

            Gamers on MMOs exist in a world where all kinds of things may induce stuttering, latency, slowness, freezing, and delays. The causes of these different things are, variously, computer resources, network behavior, game bugs, hardware faults, internet indigestion, game server indigestion, game server maintenance, and so on. MMO gamers, especially in organized groups must deal with these problems, identify them and resolve them in order to maintain decorum and achieve their form of entertainment, and they do so with great regularity. However, they still in the face of living in an environment full of sources of slowness insist on referring to all of them as “lag”.

            This isn’t a lack of linguistic tools either. Normal English has words like “stuttering”, “halt”, “sluggish”, “delay”, “stop-and-go”. People use them regularly to describe things like traffic flow without a second thought. There’s also the nouns involved in gaming. These are a little more technical but certainly not out of reach. They are “interface”, “mouse”, “view of the world”, “character”, “Icon”, “animation”. Not all gamers will know all of them, but pretty much everyone in these settings do.

            But even given this rich background of linguistic tools, and the omnipresence of various forms of time-sensitive wrongness, still, the default comment is “I have lag.”

            Basically this is the opposite result to this kind of stimulus that most groups will have under such linguistic pressure. It’s very peculiar seemingly counerproductive, and to me extremely annoying. USE YOUR WORDS.

          • jonjonjon says:

            lag and frame rates dropping are different things and most people are smart enough to know the difference.

    • honuk says:

      Lucian sucks, make him better

      Blackthorn does not suck

      • Philomelle says:

        Lucian is amazing if you learn how to use him. His raw damage potential is incredible and his Ultimate is good both for chasing down targets and punishing beefy targets barreling toward him (I’m looking at you, Nasus).

        We’re sorry he’s not Vayne “right click and win game on accident if I have three kills” the Dark Librarian and Caitlyn “lane bully who becomes a useless waste of a team slot if the enemy team refuses to surrender at 20 minutes” the Piltover Tits’n'Ass. But he IS an amazing champion if you actually spend time learning his ins and outs.

        • honuk says:

          every crappy character has someone claiming they amazing if only you aren’t a noob blah blah blah.

          • Philomelle says:

            That would be because they are amazing so long as you’re not a noob. What’s so difficult to understand?

          • airmikee99 says:

            Define: noob
            noob
            noun
            informal
            noun: noob; plural noun: noobs
            1. a person who is inexperienced in a particular sphere or activity, especially computing or the use of the Internet.

            Since experienced people are able to use him to great effect, how is a player that is inexperienced with that character not a noob with that character?
            Or should I just reply with, “Every crap gamer loves to complain about things they don’t understand because they’re too noobish to understand how not to be a noob.”?

          • honuk says:

            if you’re really good with lucian, that’s great, have fun, it’s a game–but you’d be even better if you played a strong character. it’s not a difficult concept. a diamond lucian will go 30/0 in a bronze game, that doesn’t mean lucian is any good.

          • airmikee99 says:

            You could have said that to begin with, instead of simply saying Lucian sucks and then calling someone a noob when they defend Lucian. If you don’t like Lucian, good for you, have fun without him, but that doesn’t mean he’s a crap champion just because you can’t figure out how to play him right.

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            jrodman says:

            Continuing my harangue from above. Noob is just a mispelling of newb. Which is a corruption of newbie. If you’re not aware of this, you’re a newbie.

    • thekelvingreen says:

      I’d always assumed that the backward shotgun was inspired by Evil Dead III.

  2. N'Al says:

    Yus!

  3. Guvornator says:

    I remember playing the demo of this when it came out (because, gentle reader, I am Old). I had a lot of fun with it as I recall, although I seem to remember reviews at the time being less kind…

    • Alien426 says:

      It’s one of those games whose demo I played. All. The. Time.
      The music was a major appeal, but the overall coolness (what Daniel Klein wrote about the shotgun), too. A world with wizards and orks, energy bridges/walls and computers, bombs and shotguns!

      • KenTWOu says:

        Finished the demo dozen of times. It turned out the demo was the best part of the game :(

  4. Tommando says:

    I fondly remember Blackthorne, and think of it as the earliest cover-based shooter I’ve played.

  5. Spacewalk says:

    Blackthorne is another game whose disks had an unfortunate run-in with my magnet collection ten years back. Other include Xargon, Secret Agent, Duke Nukem 2 and a chunk of my early PC gaming years.

  6. Inzimus says:

    I said it aloud not long ago, when I found (and purchased) my GBA copy of it… not as good as the PC version if you ask me; but hey’ it’s Blackthorne ‘on the go’

  7. somnolentsurfer says:

    Also the same time in about as long that Blizzard haven’t put out a release simultaneously on Windows and OS X…

    No Classics section seems to have appeared in the Battle.net client beta yet either.

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    Skeletor68 says:

    Likely to push awareness of the other IP before Heroes of the Storm moba thingy brings out all the Blizz characters.

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    Lim-Dul says:

    Well, it looks like a Blizzard employee found it’s Wikipedia entry

    UH-OH!

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    Oozo says:

    “What other 2D platformer could I possibly be talking about, readers? ”

    Rock ‘n’ Roll Racing, obviously. And damn it if it’s not time to remember that game.

  11. paralipsis says:

    I was very late to the party in discovering that Lost Vikings had a sequel. By the time I had located a copy for a few bucks in the bargain bin it was a nightmare to get running on the machines of the day. I don’t know if it’s a game that Blizzard can get control of again or whether it got lost in the Interplay shuffle, but I take this as a sign that it may perhaps see light of day in a form I might one day get to play.

    • InnerPartisan says:

      May I point out that The Lost Vikings 2 was also released for certain consoletoys, namely the Saturn and PSX? That these versions are potentially the definite ones?
      And wouldn’t you know it – there even are easy and reliable ways to play games for those consoletoys on PCs nowadays! Although one might rightly add that those ways are not exactly, ahem, legal.

      Of course, I’m not suggesting anything here! Just saying.

  12. Nevard says:

    It’s interesting to know that bizarre mixtures of fantasy and sci-fi were always Blizzard’s thing rather than something they came up with halfway through Warcraft II as I had always assumed.

    Did you know that in WoW the orcs are aliens, whose home planet was named by aliens to the orc planet who have now moved to the human planet as well, except it’s not the human planet because humans are also the descendants of aliens (alien vikings made of rocks), as are dwarves and gnomes? Gnomes apparently “evolved” from literal robots (thanks to the interference of scheming tentacular beings)
    The only playable species native to Azeroth are bug people (actually not playable but should be), Trolls, Tauren, Goblins and Pandaren (and the first two are far older than the rest, being the only ones that evolved before the arrival of the human/dwarf/gnome ancestors).
    And Elves, but they evolved from Trolls (which I always find deeply satisfying for some reason).

    • Bull0 says:

      Blackthorne is fantasy with shotguns, really. Not sci-fi on the level that WoW is.

      • Reefpirate says:

        Just shotguns? How do you explain the electric doors and elevators, the various hi-tech explosives, gun turrets, laser bridges and shock collars?

    • belgand says:

      Is it really necessary to say WoW and not merely “Warcraft”? It would imply that the original games actually had a role in all of this and it wasn’t just some MMOG that came up with it all at once.

  13. Kefren says:

    I played Blackthorne for the first time a few months ago, and really enjoyed it (apart from a few frustrating sections). I had played the demo when I got my first PC but didn’t buy many games back then so never got round to playing the full thing. It makes you feel good when you pull off a complicated sequence of moves successfully (e.g. run, dive over a gap and roll, stand then duck into the shadows just as an orc fires at you, pop out when he reloads and shoot him twice, move on.)

  14. BTAxis says:

    It’s Prince of Persia with a shotgun. How could anyone NOT like it?

    • Moraven says:

      That was my first thought when I booted it up the other day. Hey this feels like the original Prince of Persia… expect I have bombs and a shotgun.

  15. FecesOfDeath says:

    I believe in the last two episodes of Angel (Joss Whedon’s Buffy spinoff), Angel himself said that he discovered a secret evil organization called the Circle of the Black Thorn, so it’s possible that someone phonetically said “Blackthorne” in 2003.

  16. Risingson says:

    Blackthorne is, to this day, the best game Blizzard has ever created. Full. Stop.

    “Frustrating sections” Kefren? I mean, frustrating comparing to what? I mean, a game has to raise the difficulty to frustrate you a bit from time to time, doesn’t it?

  17. Snids says:

    The last time I said Blackthorne out loud was this morning, when I purchased some inexpensive cider from my local off license.

  18. DuneTiger says:

    “The last time anyone ever said the word “Blackthorne” aloud was in 1994″

    Not true. I played this game a couple of weeks ago and had to explain to a buddy of mine what it was. It is a great game. What’s not to like? PoP mechanics with a shotgun, a little bit of Flashback, and Jim Lee did the cover art.

  19. Spider Jerusalem says:

    i talk about james clavell’s shogun a lot, so i’m frequently saying blackthorne.

  20. Moraven says:

    I have Rock n Roll Racing on SNES and GBA. At BlizzCon they always have arcade cabinets of their classics. Hope to see more re-releases in the future.

  21. zeekthegeek says:

    Finally, a good game that can be played on the new battle.net

  22. Apocalypse says:

    Can I have rock & roll racing please?

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      jrodman says:

      Please, if you like, say a few words about the parts you like the most about rock and roll racing. I bounced right off it, and maybe it’s just not my cup of tea, but maybe I’m missing the boat.

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    Scandalon says:

    Wasn’t Backthorne the demo disk of the first PCGamer? Fond memories…