ROTD is set in Los Angeles in the year 2053. The main (player) character is William "Blade" Hunter, a private investigator. Blade is born on September 27, 2013, place of birth Eugene, Oregon, so the very place where Dynamix was located in a different century.
He is asked to solve a "mayor" case: who gave the mayor's daughter a fatal dose of a new designer drug called "MTZ". This drug alters one's DNA and turns people into horrible monsters. The case leads Blade to uncover an underground Chinese mafia operation led by Deng Hwang - aka "the dragon" Bahamut - who is planning on world domination.
The concept of the story of Rise of the Dragon was developed by Dave Selle and Jeff Tunnel in 1988.1 After some initial designs, it was obvious that Dynamix would become the biggest game of the company untill then and that it would have to be designed in a new way.
Tunnell's catch phrase during the early phase of development was "Cyberpunk untouchables". They wanted the game to have a gritty, dark tone like in the movie Blade Runner and the William Gibson novels.
By the end of 1989, after the release of "David Wolf: Secret Agent", they started to develop the so-called "Dynamix Game Development System" (DGDS) after a concept by Tunnell. The system would provide a new way to build the games and a new way to play them. It allowed the designers (artists, programmers, writers) to work in the same development environment.
An unique feature of the game is that every scene got animations, and some scenes got over two hundred animations, each randomly generated. It inclues 105 scenes, 26,000 pieces of text and more than 12,500 individual animations.
RoTD was also rather innovative in the sense that, besides the graphic violence, it included nudity and profanity, and takes place in an environment where drugs, prostitutes, and violence are the order of the day.
One of the design goals, "characterization", was to give the (major) characters a personal history with likes and dislikes, and that they could become a friend or enemy depending on how Blade would treat them. They remember what is said or done and they use adult language.2
Asking the wrong questions or giving the wrong answers3 can result in a "game-over" situation, though Blake can die in a more "traditional and varied way" (bullets, electrocution, and broken neck). Another goal was the so-called "removal of frustration": the game "will never allow you to play for an hour only to realize you cannot win without an object that can no longer be obtained". The principle was also applied to the arcade sequences.4
ROTD offers a few dozen locations. Traveling between locations akes place by the "EM-Way". When the player progresses in the game more locations become available on the map.
Like some puzzles got multiple solutions, the game got also multiple endings. If Blade don't rescue his (kidnapped) friend Karyn, she will die and he will shoot the mayor, and if he doen't stop te villain Hwang, he will be killed when he drinks water that is poisoned by his henchmen. And of course: there is a "sunset- ending" too.
The designers included some referrals in the game. It includes one to a previous game made by Dynamix: David Wolf: Secret Agent. David Wolf in his tuxedo makes randomly his appearance outside one of the game's locations, the Pleasure Dome.5 Also a reference is made to Sierra, as one of the characters is called "Arreis".6
ROTD required 11,000 man hours (about five years) of development, and was published in 1990. It was released on several platforms: IBM-PC (1990), Apple Macintosh and Commodore Amiga (1991), and a modified version on Sega CD (1993). The latter includes voices but displays only 64 colors on screen at a time in stead of the DOS 256-color VGA mode.
The game got a "Special Award For Artistic Achievement" by Computer Gaming World in 1991.7
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