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Dragon’s Descent

Todd Furmanski

Dragon’s Descent is a roguelike action game created for the Atari 2600 and other “Retro” game platforms – Within 16 kilobytes, the player can explore thousands of levels, with a variety of encounters and an escalating challenge as they descend through a sprawling labyrinth.

The player must navigate the maze, searching for keys to the next level, avoid monsters and finding treasure rooms that can give them a choice of potential powers. Many of the classic roguelike tropes, such as emergent environments and precarious power levels, exist in the game, but in a largely streamlined fashion due not only to the technical specifications of the Atari but the arcade-like paradigm that informed the hardware design as well.

The game is in part experimenting with procedural gameplay on a constrained hardware platform more than 40 years old, leveraging the evolution of game design that has occurred in the subsequent decades against the technological constraints of yore.

The simple design of the game has encouraged me to port it to other hardware platforms as a method of learning them, a kernel of design that encourages exploration of different hardware and software structures – its necessarily simple focus proving an interesting challenge as well as a vacation from the “bigger, louder, better” philosophy that often permeates game design and technology in general.

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