Matt Chat 176: Eye of the Beerholder

Matt Barton's picture

Hi, guys! I'm back this week with another fan request: Eye of the Beholder! Produced in 1991 by Westwood Associates for SSI, EOB was an attempt to wed AD&D rules to Dungeon Master-style gameplay. The finished product wasn't the best--apparently the second game is much better--but it's still a fun game well worthy of an episode. If nothing else, you get to watch me flip out about R.A.T.S.!

Download the mp4 here.
P.S. Indie Retro News has a DOS version of EOB with an Automapper and mentions a special Amiga AGA version that also had this feature (who knew?).

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sstacks
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Joined: 11/05/2012
Back in time

So glad you covered this game. It's not a favorite, but it DOES take me back to an era in my life when I was in Japan in the Air Force in the early 90s. I can definitely remember playing this late at night on my Amiga 500 (with the Fat Agnus upgrade, thankyouverymuch), although I gave up when I got into some sort of puzzle where you were teleporting around.

For gamers, I think a game is a reminder of a time of life like a song is.

It also of course also makes me think of Dungeon Master, which I never played but I watched my friends play and it brings back good memories of them. I always thought the "dragon" looked like a T-Rex that spit fireballs.

On an unrelated note, I haven't gotten to this time yet in your Dungeons and Desktops book to see if you make the same observation, but around the time of Eye of the Beholder is when it seems like SSI started going downhill.

Best,
Shane

sstacks
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Joined: 11/05/2012
Legend of Grimrock

By the way, bought Legend of Grimrock a few weeks back when GOG ran a sale. Looking forward to checking it out.

clok1966
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Joined: 01/21/2009
Dungeon master was the first,

Dungeon master was the first, but to me Black Crypt was the best, with EOB 2 and 1 coming in close 2nd and 3rds.. EOB3 was the kitchen sink design .. It worked quite well up to a point, something I truly hate in games that require graph paper.. layers.. when a dungeon has you on level 3, you go down stairs to level 4, up to level 3 again, then up to level 2, then down again to 3.. they don't use 1 or 2 levels.. but often 3 or 4.. tiny parts to confuse your mapping. Often using teleports to do the same.. it just make mapping exceedingly hard which really doesn't add to the game in any way in my mind. EOB did one thing horribly after DM.. why move the arrow keys to the left? While most of us use hotkeys, in the early MOUSE PC days.. some of us used the MOUSE!.. moving the keys way off and not keeping them close like DM did forces Keyboarding on users who may or may not heave wanted it. I agree keyboard shortcuts are the best (nowdays).. but back then forcing it on us, not a good plan.

I am surprised EOB just doesn't seem to hold the love DM did.. heck even the Lands OF Lore that came after it seems to garner more. I thought EOB followed the AD&D rule set well, with known monsters and a good feel. But again I really think ANYBODY who loves this type of game should play BLACK CRYPT (amiga only) it just did it all right, used Half Bright mode and the monsters are.. how would you put it, vibrant. maybe to colorful for some, but I thought it looked great. They also did some cool things like a mini boss early in the game to spice it up.

There where alot of knock offs far more bad then good.. one that was quite good that you wouldn't think was ELVIRA (yes the big boobed queen of the dark). And quite possibly my favorite RPG of all time Wizardry 7.

and one last note.. matt talking about the boring throw and pickup not being streamlined.. (i thought the same way back then).. but one must remember if it picked stuff back up for you automatically.. or if you never ran out of rocks to throw .. how could you do several of the puzzles? many are based on dropping stuff on pads (auto pickup and you cant) or based on having so many items you can "leave" hence unlimited rocks would have made those puzzles worthless. DANG I wish i had not throw my rocks across a hole at a mob.. i cant get them back (for now) and i need stuff for these pressure plates.. food? weapon? what if i need it later? yes it was kinda boring to pick it up by hand.. but it was part of the puzzle system.

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
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Joined: 01/16/2006
They could have fixed this

They could have fixed this easily by introducing "quest items." Smarter games identify these as such, keep them separated from the rest of your inventory, and won't let you drop them or use them in such a way that would remove them prematurely from the game. I think it's a nice way to let the player know what the designer is thinking, so they don't end up stuck with no way to solve a puzzle.

I interviewed Joel Billings awhile back--still haven't caught up with my interviews to get to his stuff yet. He talks about this mainly in the context of trying to make the leap to consoles and failing hard. A lot of PC gaming companies were doing the same thing--they just keep seeing the millions of dollars kids were piling into console games and couldn't resist the urge to try to move into that space. Most of them, like Interplay, did a half-ass job and ended up losing out.

In retrospect, they should have just shrank with the PC gaming market and stayed true to it. There are still plenty of PC gamers out there; not as much as 360, PS3, or DS, of course, but still enough to feed and clothe a decent team. SSI (or the team formerly known as that) ended up doing that, and now Joel and a very small team are still making those super complex PC wargames for a small but very loyal following of fans (and they're definitely not starving!).

I'm convinced that if enough beloved companies like Interplay, SSI, Sierra, Origin, etc., had stayed true to their roots and not tried to dumb down or enter the console space--eventually at least SOME of the console kids grow up and want something more mature to play. Imagine if these companies had continued to put high quality PC titles catered to an adult audience. It'd be a very natural move for many kids, I'm sure.

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Matt Barton
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Joined: 01/16/2006
Huge news! Eye of the

Huge news!

Eye of the Beholder DOS version with Automapper.
Well, I'll be damned. I wish like hell I had seen this earlier! Looks like somebody has answered our prayers.

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clok1966
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Joined: 01/21/2009
nice
Matt Barton wrote:

Huge news!

Eye of the Beholder DOS version with Automapper.
Well, I'll be damned. I wish like hell I had seen this earlier! Looks like somebody has answered our prayers.

that is big news.. I recently grabbed all 3, installed 1 and played about 3 minutes and quit.. automapers have spoiled us.. I WILL be grabbing this tonight and testing it out.

Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
I just wanted to point out

I just wanted to point out that the one version of Eye of the Beholder I actually beat was the one for the GameBoy Advance, which came out in 2002. Interestingly, it had the same first person dungeon exploration, but used the Gold Box-style isometric turn-based combat, which it obviously had to switch to. It also had an automap. Authentic it was not, but it was quite good.

There was also a cool prototype version for the Atari Lynx and was more authentic. Sadly, that was never released...

Page 40 of our book, Vintage Games, mentions "Eye of the Beholder" briefly, but the image for the GBA version was left on the cutting room floor, which I reposted here: http://www.armchairarcade.com/neo/node/2249

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clok1966
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Joined: 01/21/2009
It annoys me to no end that

It annoys me to no end that the Game Boys are the VERY BEST spot to get RPG's for the last 10 years almost... Thank goodness for emu's or I would have missed some of the best games (RPG'S) ... I never did play EOB on the advanced, but I just might now. Funny, as I scanned your posted page I saw the back cover of EOB and then the Diablo III shot and thought.. WOW Game Boy games have acme a long way! till I read the captions :) and really looked at the Screenshots on the back of the EOB box.

Matt Barton
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Joined: 01/16/2006
I meant to show the GB

I meant to show the GB version since Bill piqued my interest in it last time. Just clean forgot.

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Anonymous (not verified)
Liked the review. My favorite

Liked the review. My favorite of the Black Box D&D games was Dungeon Hack, which was basically an Eye of the Beholder roguelike.

A small correction... The Sega CD version of EoB supported the Sega mouse, it was one of the few games to do so. It's been awhile, but I think it may have also had a map. If I recall correctly, you'd find a map of the level, and it would give you an orientation; however, it didn't automap. I may be misremembering though.

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