From the pages of the past! Ads of yesteryear – TSR Hobbies

In ’82, TSR Hobbies (the same TSR that would go on to bring us 2ed AD&D and license it out to companies like SSI and BioWare) published their own computer games. Three, actually, for the Apple: Dawn Patrol, Dungeon!, and Theseus and the Minotaur.

Dawn Patrol was based on the WW1 air-combat board game while Dungeon! snagged a few cues from other CRPG efforts like Wizardry. Theseus and the Minotaur, according to Mobygames, was played from first-person while navigating 3D wireframe dungeons, killing monsters to survive, all in an effort to eventually escape the labyrinth.

Thanks to the incredible archive at Virtualapple.org, I had a chance to try at least two of these games though had to fumble through the controls since there’s little documentation (UPDATE 6/05/14: Theseus the the Minotaur is now available in the Apple II library). Trying to play Dawn Patrol blind was a lot like trying to fly a biplane in the same way. Theseus and the Minotaur wasn’t in the archive in the link above, but it’s seeing new life on Windows, Macs, and mobiles.

Theseus' wireframe corridors were generated depending on how complex you wanted the maze to be. You could even determine how many secret doors you wanted (and the only way to find one was to try walking through a wall...tough stuff). And watch out for the critters...and the Minotaur!

Theseus’ wireframe corridors were generated depending on how complex you wanted the maze to be. You could even determine how many secret doors you wanted (and the only way to find one was to try walking through a wall…tough stuff…and there was a Hall of Mirrors option for even more of a challenge). And watch out for the critters…and the Minotaur!

As for Dungeon!, that was actually pretty fun from a very casual perspective. Players made up a name, chose a character such as an “Elf” or a “Hero”, and explored a multi-area dungeon. As far as I know, there was no way to save your game. It was in you go until you died, “won”, or got bored.

Combat was handled by simply walking into a colored room and hitting a key to automatically resolve things. Each character class had to collect a set number of gold to “win”. For example, a Hero needed to collect 10,000 pieces of gold. Magic items like  a + 1 sword were also dropped.

Dungeon!

Movement was controlled by tapping U (up), D (down), L (left) and R (right). They also had to be in CAPS or it wouldn’t know what you wanted to do.

Dungeon! Combat

Fighting in Dungeon! was a matter of walking into a room and just hitting a key to automatically resolve things. This game was all about the Button of Awesome.

As for the ad, it was completely hand drawn. The screenshots were also drawn in, probably because it was cheaper than to use photographs until later advances made it much easier to do.

TSR Hobbies video game ad

TSR Hobbies’ advertisement was hand drawn, right down to the screenshots, boxes, manual, and 5.25″ floppy disk.

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