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You Could Be Playing Dungeon Master Right Now

I always saw the bodies top-right as some kind of weird logo.

With Legend Of Grimrock coming up soon, my thoughts turned back to the original Dungeon Master. Released in 1987, a year I mostly spent aged 9, it was for me one of the most defining games of my childhood. Smart, enormous, and terrifying, it was such a stride forward for gaming. But I was pretty certain getting it working on a Windows 7 box was going to be something of a fiddly nightmare. Not so!

Browsing through the comments below my article on Grimrock, I noticed something from the unimprovably named ‘Swabbleflange’. There is a version that just works, without an emulator, and it’s free. It’s right here.

I’m not quite sure what the deal is with the copyrights here. Developers FTL no longer exist, although publishers Interplay still sort of carry on in some form. And this is, in some peculiar form, almost an original work. A madman by the name of Paul Stevens spent six months, eight hours a day, writing 120,000 lines of what he calls “pseudo-assembly language” to rebuild it in C++. And then released the game and source code for free. Can he do that? I’ve decided that yes, he can, which legitimises my promoting it to you.

If you’re wondering why someone would be mad enough to do that for a game that was actually released on PC, it’s because peculiarly, its first sequel, Chaos Strikes Back, never was. And thus the necessity for such an astonishing amount of labour. Which means both are available. Although if my 11 year old self is anything to go by, it was impossibly difficult.

I don’t think there’s any game that immediately evokes memories of a period of my life as vividly as Dungeon Master. I’ve written before about the terror of watching my dad’s hand shake as he fought the dragon, but this is the first time I’ve actually played the game since, and goodness me, just the opening screen seems to open the door to a loft of young emotions and experiences.

The first corridor makes me shiver, immediately sent back to my parents’ kitchen, two refits ago, my dad’s Atari ST on the recently fitted surface near the door (such that you’d always hit the TV it was plugged into if you opened it too quickly).

And then I met a group of mummies and instantly died. And my dad’s on the other side of the country, so can’t get me past that bit.

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John Walker

Senior Editor

One of the original co-founders of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, I'm now a senior editor and hero of humanity. Old and special.

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