Matt Chat 40: Sword of Fargoal - Interview with Jeff McCord

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Hi, guys! I have a special treat for you this week--a SKYPE interview with Jeff McCord, author of Sword of Fargoal! This is one of my favorite CRPGs, and Jeff did a fantastic job detailing the history of his game and what makes it so special. Check it out, and also check out the awesome SoF contest--be the first to find the Sword of Fargoal, and win $500!

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Jeff McCord -- early 1980s CRPG god graces us with his presence

I never solved Sword of Fargoal, but I did get my hands on the sword of the game's namesake... once. I think it's a superior game to Rogue in many respects because of the simplicity and intuitiveness of the interface. With many CRPGs of that era, you're forced to look up an instruction sheet to find out which key does what. Although Fargoal does use some keypresses, they are fairly obvious (such as pressing I to read a scroll of invisibility).

The randomly generated mazes really give it infinite replay value. I'm a big fan of using randomization or a procedural algorithm to design a maze. Telengard uses the latter in creating a 200x200x50 dungeon that remains static but is generated entirely with a Fibonacci-like mathematical sequence. It's a great way to save memory space, and it's also good for the designer in that, he will be able to play his or her own game after it's completed and still find surprises.

I wholeheartedly agree with your parting thoughts at the end. Thank you for this video!

Mark Vergeer
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An interview with Jeff McCord??!?? Wow, this is awesome.

Anyways, its amazing what some Ibuprofen and some Grog ( hot lemon high vitamin homebrew anti flu drink - not scientifically proven whatsoever) can do when you're feeling sick.

Game: Sword of Fargoal (1982)
Publisher: Jeff McCord, E p y x
Platform: VIC-20 (1982), C64 (1983), PET, Apple-II, PC (Remake)

I was moved to play Sword of Fargoal on the C64 because of a review my colleague Matt Barton has written for it on Armchair Arcade. I played the VIC-20 version which has loads of atmosphere and is very similar to the c64 version. The c64 version has enhanced graphics and more sounds warning you of upcoming monsters and such.

The story is about a hero willingly going down in a monster infested dungeon to find a magic sword named Fargoal. This sword is located somewhere in the dungeon in the lower levels between 15 and 20 and you need to find it and bring it back up before time runs out - approx 30 minutes.

Gameplay:
- move the joystick in the direction you want to move and you'll walk to the fog that will disappear revealing the dungeon.
- collect experience points in order to successfully fight the monsters, you can also deliver gold to the temple found on each level
- with the magic bag you are able to transport more gold then you normally would be able to
- in order to move up or down stairs just stand on top of the symbol and press fire
- to fight your opponents just walk over to them and stand on top of their quadrant. Attacking is better than waiting for them to come to you. Hit and run is also a technique that can be quite effective.

Keys used in the game:
-S hield Spell - the next fight you won't be damaged or injured.
-R egeneration - hitpoints will increase faster
-T eleport - to teleport to a random spot in the dungeon
-I nvisibility - your opponents won't be able to see you and won't follow you.
-L ight - will increase the range of vision. You can turn it off by using the 'O' key.
-D rift - protects you against a fall. Can be used once by pressing fire.

http://www.fargoal.com/

PS3: MarkVergeer | Xbox 360: Lactobacillus P | Wii: 8151 3435 8469 3138
Armchair arcade Editor | Pixellator | www.markvergeer.nl

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Matt Barton
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Thanks for the post, Mark.

Thanks for the post, Mark. Having those key codes handy is vital and something I never knew when I was a kid (thank you, pirates!).

I wish I could have included Jeff's comments about piracy. He talked quite a bit about the subject and had a very liberal and fair mindset about it. He said that he figured for every legit copy of SoF, there were probably dozens of pirated copies. Once he was invited to a friend's house (I believe in Sweden or the Netherlands), and the guy there recognized him and said he played SoF all the time and wanted to thank him! Then when he went inside, he found that the guy had a pirated copy! LOL!

Jeff's attitude was basically that piracy is wrong, but DOES have a positive side in that word gets out about your game, and many people who never would have played it get the chance. Some of those will buy it themselves, or at least tell others about how great it is and THEY will buy it. Still, it is sad that so many people got a pirated copy, played it to death, and never considered buying a boxed copy despite having the money to do so. I hope very much that anyone who pirated it back in the day will consider buying this iPhone version, since it will really make a difference to Jeff and to the future of retrogaming in general.

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Chris Kennedy
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Enter Me

Hey Matt -

Interesting you wrote that comment about piracy, people getting exposed to a particular game, and people electing to buy it after having seen it or experienced it. The reason this is all interesting is because of the comment that I dropped in to make.

Now you know I generally like to collect classic versions of games for the original machine or at least obtain a port to a nicer machine from the similar era. An example of this would be picking up Sword of Fargoal for the Commodore 64 rather than the VIC-20. Gaming on original hardware is just my thing.

That said, watching Matt Chat 40 made me immediately say "ahh what the heck," pick up my iPhone, and purchase Sword of Fargoal! So good job getting the word out, a special thanks to Jeff McCord, and what do you know but someone else has picked up the game.

I haven't picked up any games for my iPhone that really keep me occupied save for a free Sudoku - which isn't much. Sword of Fargoal seems like a game that can keep me occupied when the need arises. It just seems like a game that is my kind of genre and that would work well on iPhone.

Thanks again, Matt. That is +1 purchase of Sword of Fargoal from someone that would have otherwise had no clue of what he was missing had it not been for Matt Chat.

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Rowdy Rob
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SoF
Chris Kennedy wrote:

Thanks again, Matt. That is +1 purchase of Sword of Fargoal from someone that would have otherwise had no clue of what he was missing had it not been for Matt Chat.

Same here, I just downloaded the PC remake to play. The iPhone version looks fantastic.

Perhaps this "Fargoal" company could post a link to your video on their homepage? That would be nice.

Great episode!

qoj hpmoj o+ 6uo73q 3Jv 3svq jnoh 77V

adamantyr
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Vintage Fun and Piracy

A great interview. Jeff's mention of how the game grew "organically" from feedback given by his friends sounds very familiar to a lot of us that grew up in the BASIC era.

It's too bad that such design methodologies can't be used for modern software... gotta to it the boring way of plotting it all out on paper first. Most of us liked slamming out some working code, then adding a little at a time, backtracking, adding a bit more, getting some opinions... good times.

As for piracy, it doesn't surprise me that's how the game got around. My brother had a Color Computer, and he got most of his software (tapes usually) from a friend of his who also had one. We were kids, so we didn't see it as theft.

When I went to a computer store in Everett called Bits N' Chips, I was able to make copies of software they had on archived disks for free. It didn't occur to me at the time, but what I was doing was essentially piracy, since they were selling me commercial software for a few bucks. :S Later I amended myself by purchasing the actual software titles, if for no other reason than to get the manuals.

But in an orphaned community, every dollar counts, so I saw a few years after that the companies I had tried to support fail, one after another. Most of that was probably due to the support faltering for an orphaned system, but I also saw how piracy could affect things at the small-scale side. Why would an indie developer continue to write anything if his work is stolen by people who fail to recognize the effort that goes into development?

So, my tolerance level for software pirates these days is absolute zero. For most vintage software I'll grant a pass... there's no money there to be had. But anything you could buy in a store or online somewhere, there is NO excuse.

Adamantyr

Matt Barton
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Do you guys think I should

Do you guys think I should cut out my video bits and do a text or anamorphic type effect? I'm not egotistical enough to think I need to be in each video, particularly if it's detrimental or distracting. I could easily just display some text instead of my voice and perhaps an avatar of some sort (or even just a blank screen) instead of my own "footage."

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Bill Loguidice
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It's a video, why do you

It's a video, why do you want people to read? Why are you changing the formula that's working? Just continue to refine it and introduce new ideas like you have been, but why change the host segments? If you're going to do that, don't call it "Matt Chat".

Books!
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.
[About Me]

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Matt Barton
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I've been thinking about

I've been thinking about renaming it, too. Maybe something like "Game History" or the like.

I was mainly thinking of something like your abe lincoln video. Perhaps I could get one that looked like a videogame character. Or I could just do voiceovers off screen.

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Bill Loguidice
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Renaming it is one thing

Renaming it is one thing (though "Videogame History" is better than "Game History" if you're going to go to the trouble of changing names to improve relevance), but doing the avatar thing is not a good idea in my opinion. It's the equivalent of us using pseudonyms--it just lowers legitimacy.

Books!
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.
[About Me]

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