I have so many guilty pleasures that I'm in a permanent state of mortification, and one of my pleasures is a good old-fashioned dungeon crawl. It's not because I love killing monsters and collecting treasures; the actual BULK of a dungeon crawl game is incidental to me. What I REALLY like to do is to EXPLORE.
I've always gotten a thrill out of mazes, tunnels, and imaginary digital worlds. Unfortunately there are few games that are simply about exploring...pissy monsters are always attacking you and you have to solve anachronous "eight queens" puzzles at every second step. I'm of the opinion that the world (the real one) is waiting for a computer simulation of a rich landscape that doesn't necessarily have anybody else in it. The fact that I'd enjoy such a thing is creepy, really.
But anyway, my favourite games as a teenager were the ones where you could wander around a maze and map it, and then stare for hours at the map wondering what sort of cool place it would be to live in. Unfortunately back then I had a very low threshold for frustration, so I rarely succeeded in finishing the games that were so fun to explore: Ultima, The Eidolon, Alternate Reality, and...
...the Dunjonquest series, considered to be the first dungeon crawls for the 8-bit home computers. Originally developed by Jon Freeman (who is most idolized these days as being one of the creators of Archon) for his fledgling Automated Simulations company (likewise most idolized for later becoming Epyx), these games were all about wandering around mazes, killing monsters, raising your stats, collecting treasures, and running from Antmen who apparently used a vanilla-scented body lotion.
The Dunjonquest game that most people remember is "Temple of Apshai" and its two sequels, "Upper Reaches of Apshai" and "Curse of Ra." These three games -- like the "Hellfire Warrior" trilogy that followed them -- presented you with a very basic depiction of your surroundings, requiring you to actually read the room descriptions from the accompanying manual (or "Book of Lore.")
Originally written in BASIC in 1979, the first games required a great deal of patience and imagination, and the subsequent games -- with the exception of "Gateway to Apshai," a very different arcade-style adventure -- used the same engine. Even when the Apshai games were eventually released as a re-written, integrated, machine-language "Temple of Apshai Trilogy" -- the way most people remember them -- you still needed to shuffle your little character along featureless corridors, bumping into walls and slaying barely-animated 4-colour monsters.
So Dunjonquest games don't have a lot of appeal to gamers these days, and they've slowly faded away from the eyes of even the most nostalgic 8-bit fans.
I'm happy to say I'm not alone in my love of these games, and I've been collaborating with Robinson Mason -- and scrounging the darkest corners of the internet -- to reclaim the programs. And not just the programs, but also the even more rare "Books of Lore" which are both essential for play and a delight to read.
While my compatriot tirelessly unearths more of the games and materials, I've been concentrating on reverse-engineering the BASIC code and mapping all the levels. I've discovered some interesting things buried in the convoluted rats-nest of oddly-ported BASIC, but that will come later. Right now, here are maps for the four levels of the first game, "Temple of Apshai."
I decided not to include room numbers, traps, or treasures -- that would not only clutter up my tiny drawings but would also spoil more of the game. And I make no claims to the 100% accuracy of these maps; they are complete and fully-connected, but their proportions may be slightly off. Click on an image to see a larger version.
Temple of Apshai - Level One
Temple of Apshai - Level Two
Temple of Apshai - Level Three
Temple of Apshai - Level Four
The maps for the next game ("Upper Reaches of Apshai") are coming soon (along with playing tips), and I expect there'll be a resource site starting up eventually. Until then, spare a thought to all those digital worlds that are locked up in decaying floppy disks in attics and basements, and consider rescuing them for one last time.