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The making of Dark Castle (gamasutra.com)
162 points by zeveb on March 23, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 37 comments

That article was pulled from book "The Secret History of Mac Gaming" which is full of same quality of research from same author.

You can get the digital version here - https://unbound.com/books/macgaming/

Or looks like you can buy on Author's site via Amazon here -


I was an original backer of the project, no other affiliation very cool to see it on HN and highly recommended the book is a beautiful piece!

I assume he must talk about Ambrosia SW, right? If so I might have to get it, I've always wanted to know more about them, especially the development of the Escape Velocity series.

Yep. From the above linked page, interviews with:

Andrew Welch (Ambrosia)

Ben Spees (Harry the Handsome Executive, Ferazel's Wand)

Matt Burch (Escape Velocity)


Alex Seropian (Bungie)

Eric Klein (former Mac game evangelist, Bungie)

Playable in-browser over here at the Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/mac_DarkCastle_1_2

An article about that collection: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/05/mac-a...

What a great game! I played this for hours back when it was released and I did finally make it to (and beat!) the Black Knight level. So many good memories. IMO, the difficulty level was much closer to today's tougher indy games.. Not sure I'd have the patience today.

Beyond Dark Castle was fun too, but it was way more sprawling and confusing. DC was just a compact, tight, totally winnable game. Loved it. It being in black and white was not an issue, either. Given the mood and subject, it totally fit.

The vertical blanking hack is real typical of Mac software of the era. There were a bunch of things that low-level devs had to use it for, but you had to be careful, as it didn't last very long.

Mark Pierce's Super Happy Fun Fun did release an amazing game called Return to Dark Castle: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/return-to-dark-castle/id4107... It runs on modern macs, is tremendously faithful to the original, recreates all levels from the original and the sequels, and adds some new levels (I think).

Also, at an amazing price!

50 new levels.

Price is $10, which I'll say is fair... but not exactly amazing.

Interesting. I bought it when it was $20 and felt it was well worth it. I was worried when they dropped the price to $10 about the company going out of business.

I guess there are probably better deals out there, but I'm happy to pay $10 for a game this well-done that provides this many hours of entertainment.

I'd hate to see good games like this disappear because there are too many free ones on the app stores and people don't want to pay for games anymore.

Haven't you noticed? In the 21st century everything's amazing!

An easter egg that I fondly recall finding: If you ran the game on December 25th, the suit of armor in the entryway is replaced with a Christmas tree.

It's striking to me to compare the state of games in 1987 on the Mac (as depicted in this article) and on the Amiga:


It doesn't even look like the two computers are of the same generation.

256 colors was a big deal back then and Amiga was reknowned for the visual quality of its games at the time.

However dont underestimate the resolution of the Mac, and the quality of animation, sound and especially play control in Dark Castle. It truly was a masterpiece of much higher quality than the vast majority of games whether 2, 16 or 256 colors.

Dark Castle was 1986, but your point stands. But 1987 was the year the Mac II came out, with excellent color graphics support. It just took a while for developers to support it.

When the Mac II came out it cost $5500.

The Amiga cost $600.




In Portugal Macs were never an option until NeXT saved Apple and got it reborn.

There was only one reseller located in the capital, and the prices were way beyond other systems that were available in any major city.

The first time I ever saw a Mac live was when I arrived at university, where the student campus had some LC (the pizza boxes ones) for doing the usual word processing stuff.

Programming, at any level, was done in PCs and UNIX terminals.

At home, it was split between Atari, Amiga and PC.

Wow, hadn't heard the name "Dark Castle" in eons. That was a pretty good game, but as someone who has pretty much sucked at platformers forever, I could never get very far in the game.

The game I probably ended up played the most on my Mac of that era was Canfield (solitaire).

Ah, the early days of PC gaming - where one kid could program the most popular game and make a fortune off it without Apple/Steam/etc taking all the profits in an commoditized market of games; but also where they had to be written in assembler by hand, a single PC would cost your life savings, and distributing a game could require a (third) mortgage on your house... They were interesting times, but as a consumer I definitely prefer now.

Can you name an example of a child video game prodigy who made millions making a game by themselves?

I knew that it was much easier to make a fully formed game as an individual developer back then obviously, but I've never heard of anyone who profited from it like that. I thought independent developers were much better off today with the ability to make a game like "Flappy Bird" and have it distributed and advertised for you by companies like Apple.

I seem to recall seeing a number of examples on filfre.net, and other games like _Prince of Persia_ were largely one-man jobs (he got some help with animation and whatnot, but it was essentially a one-man thing, judging from the famous developer diary). One problem is that people don't always cite exact dollar amounts, and when they do, they don't inflation-adjust - if you made 'only' $300k off a computer game in 1980, well, that's a million dollars now right there.

One example might be Jordan Mechner, who wrote Karateka between the ages of 18 and 20, which went on to sell 500,000 copies. One of his journal entries mentions he got 15% royalty, and one of his videos mentions that the original retail price was $34.95, so he may have made a couple million from it.

Don Mattrick and Jeff Sember. Not sure how much they made but they did evetually parlay the start into millions (at least for Don) http://www.cbc.ca/archives/entry/video-games-video-kids-stri...

Andy Gavin & Jason Rubin who created Naughty Dog started in high school, though the millions may not have come until later.

Richard Garriott?

You are forgetting the street bazars existing since the C64/Spectrum days, with endless printouts letting everyone chose which games to have, without that kid getting any money from those bootleg sales.

Anybody who went through the effort of typing in (and debugging) the source code of programs by hand probably deserved a copy of it. And hopefully learned a lot in the process.

(Though this wouldn't apply to the later versions where you were just typing checksummed data. That is just a lower bandwidth, more labor intensive channel of binary data transfer)

My mum would try to stop me playing this because it was too violent. The prisoners getting whipped in the dungeon really apalled her. Violence has come a long way since then.

I must admit that I stopped watching this video at the scene where the prisoners are getting whipped because I found it upsetting. I watch Game Of Thrones and have played violent video games. So I'm not your Mom. :)

Perhaps the audio is just too clear ? Or perhaps there isn't enough going on scene-wise to distract. Or just the fact that the whipping is perfectly periodic and programmed to go on indefinitely. I don't know.

Right... now I can whip the prisoners in VR with a haptic feedback whip controller.

Or if I'm feeling especially dangerous pay them to whip me.

Dark Castle and Beyond Dark Castle were astounding to me as a kid. Sounds like they had a great team.

I remember sitting with Charlie on a boat in SF Harbor during the first Apple WWDC (called something else) in 1986 listening to how they did the audio. He was definitely an inspiration to us younger Mac developers.

This was my one break during the year of my honors thesis! Once a week on Sunday morning I would stop work and play Dark Castle for a couple of hours. Good times!

If you like this, Jordan Mechner did a great series of journals about the making of Prince of Persia which you can buy in book form and I think also read for free on archive.org

That ending was spectacular.

>international style rapid-fire pistol shooting

and he made the team!

My startup partner will likely take his earnings and realize his dream of owning a club (adult variety) should it ever take off. I just want a jet (small like HondaJet).

Oh man I loved this game. Playing it on my Mac Classic felt magical.

TIL Jonathan Gay is a cattle rancher now.

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