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A brief history of Might & Magic
04/23/2018, 12:49:46

    The Elf Herself writes:

    The first two M&M's were quite primitive by today's standards. Back then, hard disks were practically unknown to the common home computer user, and the Internet was non-existent. Most were written in some form of Basic, a rather inadequate, slow user language. Most started with "Load *, 8, 1;" which translates to "Read the disk in device number 8 (the 5-1/4" floppy drive,) then copy it to device number 1 (the CPU.)" The asterisk stood for whatever contents were in the drive. Otherwise you'd have to type out the full title of the game, with no errors in spacing, spelling, or letter case. This took several minutes. Of course you will have copied the original game disk onto a separate floppy, lest you accidentally erase/alter any part of it, then put the original away in a safe, non-magnetic place. I can't remember exactly about M&M, but all the other RPG's I played (i. e. every one I could get my hands on) also required making disks for dungeons, disks for game instructions, and disks for characters.

    Magic in the first two M&M's was formidable. Instead of clicking on a dialog tree, you typed in the pseudo-Latin magic spell when it was your mage's turn. This then cast the spell, provided you typed it correctly. All the RPG's were turn-based then, with parties of six or eight. The first real-time RPG came a few years later, with an old SSI (Strategic Simulations, Inc.) game whose name escapes me now. It was post-Gold Box, and hit the gaming community like a storm. But I digress.

    All this time, our hero, Jon van Canegham, who of course designed and probably programmed the games, was chafing under the restrictions of RPG's. He had designed a primitive fantasy/strategy warfare game, "King's Bounty." Some of you may remember it. This was in 1990, when the gaming world had advanced to 3-1/2" disks, which held a lot more data than the old floppies. The game featured characters whose names appeared later in both the M&M RPG's and the present-day "King's Bounty" series. (Lord Haart, for example.) Incidentally, JVC and New World computing are given credit for pioneering the KB series, but are otherwise unaffiliated with it. (This information from the manual for the 2008 Atari PC game, "King's Bounty,The Legend.")

    Of course, M&M 3 really shook the foundations of RPG's. This was the first to show facial expressions on the party characters. Not even Richard Garriot's "Ultima" series or David Bradley's "Wizardry" series had progressed that far. It also had elements of humor, which were heretofore utterly lacking in RPG's. (I laughed out loud the first time my archer stepped into that poison puddle outside the creation hall--and turned green with her tongue stuck out and her eyes crossed. I had formerly liked M&M--now I loved it!)

    I think that possibly Might & Magic never achieved the popularity of some of the other series because of the (to me, witty) puzzles. Yet JVC always included many hints to their solution. Personally, I ate that stuff up.

    As Might and Magic RPG's dwindled down (not entirely the fault of our favorite "villains" at the time,) "Heroes of Might and Magic," JVC's pet "babies," took off running and never looked back. I believe they're still popular, to judge from their availability.

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