The Wonder of (Virtual) Discworld
With the incredibly sad news today that Terry Pratchett had passed at the age of 66 we thought we would have a look back at what was one of the more entertaining adventure game series of its time, Discworld. Based on Pratchett’s famous comedy/fantasy novels the original Discworld was a point and click adventure game released in 1995 and was set in a similar mould to the famous Lucasarts adventures of the day.
The game while not remembered for its gameplay, which was solid if not outstanding, will always hold fond memories for one reason. Pratchett’s excellent humour was brought to life by some of England’s most recognisable voices. The lead character Rincewind was voiced by Monty Python alum Eric Idle and the rest of the game feature Blackadder’s Baldric aka Tony Robison and 3rd Doctor John Pertwee contributing to multiple voices. This glut of top voice talent brought the wit and humour that was Pratchett’s trademark to life like never before. We heard Rincewind’s slightly mad ponderings, DEATH’S VOICE WAS FINALLY HEARD and we knew exactly what OOK actually sounded like. It was a dream for fans of the novels and despite some gameplay issues it became a cult hit.
Like all good games a sequel was promptly announced and towards the end of 1996 “Discworld 2: Missing Presumed…..??” was released. Once again players took control of Rincewind and his multi legged and slightly aggressive chest called Luggage. The developers Perfect Entertainment took the lessons learned with the first game seriously and fixed a multitude of gameplay issues to create a much better game this time around. The cracking jokes and super voice talent was still there and that was really the main attraction. No one wrote a joke, play on pop culture or subtle stab quite like Pratchett and having a comedic legend such as Eric Idle deliver the lines only made them funnier.
Much to many people’s surprise Rincewind was sidelined for the third and final Discworld adventure game. Discwold Noir was the title and it was described as Bogart meets Python. The lead character was named Lewton and he was Ankh-Morpork’s only Private Investigator. The game follows Lewton as he investigates a series of brutal murders in Discword’s main city. Noir didn’t have as much input from Pratchett as the previous game though he is listed in the credits as “causing far too much interference”. Perhaps it was Terry’s absence or the genre’s decline in popularity but Discworld Noir didn’t sell nearly as many copies as the previous games and subsequently was the last Discworld Adventure game the world saw.
All three of these games are now hard to come by and struggle to run on modern PC’s. Hopefully one positive of Terry’s passing will be that an organisation such as GoG will use renewed interest in Pratchett’s works to pick up the titles and get them working so today’s gamers can relive the joy that is present in these games.
Terry Pratchett’s death has left the world a little bit of a sadder place, but his presence will be felt by all those that know the names Nanna Ogg, Commander Vimes and The Grim Squeaker for years to come.
“No one is really dead until the ripples they caused in the world die away” – (Reaper Man – Terry Pratchett)