At the moment I’m about a third of the way through Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks, and I’ve been watching Orphan Black on Amazon streaming, and in the one case I haven’t finished it yet and in the other I don’t think you need me to tell you Orphan Black is really good if you are at all in Orphan Black‘s target demographics. In other words I don’t have a new It that I Liked this week.
So instead you get a brief paean to Pool of Radiance.
Pool of Radiance by SSI was an early licensed AD&D computer game. I’m steadfastly refusing to refer to any of the reference material for this game available online, so I’m forced to guess it came out in 1987 or so? I played it for the C64 in the 1980s, and later in the early 1990s I played the IBM-PC version. Chances are you don’t need this information: either you are already quite familiar with POOLRAD, as I and possibly someone else somewhere call it, or else you have zero interest in it. It’s one of those things.
I’m not going to sit here and waste your time typing about how innovative Pool of Radiance was, or how it sparked a ridiculous eight sequels and spin-offs by the time George H.W. Bush left office. This is one of those things that’s absurdly well-documented. Instead I’m going to simply tell you that…
…Okay, it’s a pretty great game by the standards of 1987 and I’ve enjoyed replaying it. I’d probably like it if, and you have to go with me a ways on this one, I lived in a parallel universe in which POOLRAD had never been released and then a version of it with low-fi modern-indie-game graphics appeared on Steam. There’s a certain amount of nostalgia in my memory of it, because it’s one of the things I remember having fun with my father with, but still: good game.
Nevertheless. I came here to tell you not that I liked a game I liked as a little kid, I came here to tell you that the fine people at Good Old Games Dot Com have done the Lord’s work. They bought the ancient rights to this ancient game, and then they rejiggered it into a version that can run on today’s machines, and run properly, and ruin without the bullshit codewheel copy-protection. It took turning a game that shipped on six 360k 5.25″ disks into a 200MB download file, but they did it. And, and, and you can buy it with money right now. It’s not even expensive! Ten bucks gets you not just POOLRAD but its sequels Curse of the Azure Bonds, Secret of the Silver Blades, and Pools of Darkness. Plus the spin-off games Gateway to the Savage Frontier and Treasures of the Savage Frontier! Plus the spin-off-off games Hillsfar and Unlimited Adventures (which last is not a game but a construction kit for making your own games using the POOLRAD engine, and which I wasted enormous, enormous amounts of time on between 1993 and 1998). That’s basically the best deal I have ever seen, and I get weekly Humble Bundle emails.
I’d go into more detail, but you wouldn’t read it. Either you stopped reading this when you figured out I was just going to blather for a few hundred words about a thirty-year-old computer role-playing game, or else you stopped reading this when I posted the link to Good Old Games and are, even now, fiendishly downloading and installing POOLRAD.
I’m kind of curious how the Unlimited Adventures port worked out. In the late 1990s there was a very active community on AOL and then the internet dedicated to it, with numerous third-party patches and wrappers and art packs and adventures that did things the original programmers went out of their way to make pointlessly difficult. I haven’t looked into this at all. Last time I checked, which admittedly was about a decade ago, that community was pretty well dead but its archives survived. It’s not impossible that this version of Unlimited Adventures would enable you to find and download and run the two modules I wrote for FRUA when I was literally a high school sophomore. I wouldn’t if I were you, because they were pretty awful.