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Dungeon Keeper is a strategy video game developed by Bullfrog Productions under Peter Molyneux (also known for Theme Park, Black & White, and Fable) and released by Electronic Arts on June 26, 1997 for the PC. The game puts players in the rôle of an evil dungeon keeper, who recruits creatures to do his bidding and pit against goodly heroes and rival keepers.

The game was met with high critical praise and positive gamer reaction. An expansion pack, The Deeper Dungeons, was released on November 30, 1997. Around that time, a Premium version was released in Japan. A Gold Edition was released in North America and Europe the following year.[1] This was Molyneux's final project with Bullfrog before he left the company in July 1997 to form Lionhead Studios.

Product features[]

Gameplay[]

Dungeon Keeper gameplay screenshot

A built-up dungeon with several rooms and doors.

In the game the player attempts to build and manage a dungeon while protecting it from enemies (typically computer-controlled 'heroes' intent on stealing the user's accumulated treasures and causing your demise, but can also be the minions or rival Keepers). A game typically starts with a Dungeon Heart (the dungeon's life force; if this is destroyed, you lose the game), some Imps, some gold, and sometimes some rooms, and the player usually needs to construct the basic rooms (typically considered to be the Treasure Room, Lair, Hatchery, Training Room, and the Library) and tunnel to a Portal to attract creatures to his/her cause. Areas generally need to be dug out and claimed by Imps before rooms can be built there (Imps can also fortify walls to prevent breaches by hero Tunnellers or enemy Imps). Additional gold used to construct rooms, cast spells, and pay the creatures' wages can usually be obtained by excavating gold seams and gem seams.

Creatures need resting in the Lair and nourishment via the Hatchery, and can be put in the Training Room to gain experience (and with it, abilities and increased stats, but doing so costs gold) or in the Library to research additional spells and rooms, such as the Workshop (used to construct doors and traps) and Torture Chamber (used to torture creatures to convert them to your side or to boost the speed and efficiency of creatures of the same type by inducing fear into them). Creatures can be slapped with the Hand of Evil to make them work faster, picked up and dropped elsewhere, or possessed by using the Possess Creature spell, which allows you to take direct control of a minion, see the world from its perspective, and use its abilities.

Realms guarded by heroes often have a Lord of the Land, a Knight who serves as the boss of the level as he is the strongest and usually the final hero (not necessarily the final enemy) encountered. He is often accompanied by a large party or multiple parties of heroes and you are usually required to defeat him to win. The ultimate hero of the original campaign and boss of the final level is the Avatar, the strongest unit in the game.

Some levels feature Dungeon Specials to aid keepers in their quest. Neutral creatures can sometimes be found and will join the cause of the Keeper who reaches them first, and spells can be obtained by retrieving loose spell books too (traps and doors can also be obtained this way).

Development and release[]

Dungeon Keeper's development began in November 1994.[2] According to Molyneux, he came up with the idea while sitting in a traffic jam, and he hadn't noticed the traffic moving because he was too deep in his thoughts.[3] Lead programmer Simon Carter, however, said the idea "started with people at Bullfrog sitting down and messing with RPGs and stuff, and then thinking 'wouldn't it be more fun if you could play the evil guy?'".[4] The first version only had the ability to scroll around the map and enter third-person mode.[5]

Late 1995 trailer

Molyneux then developed a 2D top-down prototype, whose gameplay focused on constructing the dungeon and its rooms. The Treasure Room, "Feeding Room", Training Room, and Dungeon Heart were all in this prototype. The Torture Chamber was implemented afterwards.[5] Development of a level editor began in May 1995, and by September, the Possess Creature view had been developed.[2] A trailer was released in late 1995, and Bullfrog attempted to release a version by Christmas, but failed.[2] By around this time, the game was in a "playable stage", according to Carter.[4]

Early 1996 trailer

Another trailer was released in early 1996, showing aspects such as mana and creature summoning. Around this time, dead creatures released their spirits. The goal of the game at this stage was to create a dungeon, and use gold and mana to summon creatures to guard the passageways or unleash on enemies when you have a large enough army.[6][7] Gold was dug by the player him/herself.[6]

Late 1996 trailer
Another Late 1996 trailer

Not long afterwards, the development team decided that the game, despite being "playable and graphically gorgeous",[6] was too similar to Command & Conquer,[8] lacked the "magic" that Populous and Magic Carpet had,[6] and "wouldn't cut mustard with the Bullfrog name".[6] Tester and manual writer Jon Rennie said this version "wasn't very good."[9] The team moved out of Bullfrog's offices (Molyneux had decided to leave Bullfrog, so Electronic Arts wanted him to leave its offices[5]) and into Molyneux's house.[5] There, they fundamentally revamped the game. Out went the user interface, the idea of creatures being split into corporeal and magical categories, summoning them with resources, and eventually mana. In came claimed tiles, fortified walls, attracting creatures through Portals, and a brand-new user interface.[6] The team played the game in their spare time, and argued about the correct victor based on how they thought the game should be against the way it actually was. The design was changed when someone won too easily.[5]

By early-mid 1997, the team were confident that the new Dungeon Keeper had everything, including a "brilliant" intro (storyboarded by Mark Healey and created by Darren Thomas[5]), "amazing" sound and music, "flash" graphics, and the "best" gameplay. Rooms now have multiple purposes, and there was potential for many new features. The game had 25 Creature Spells, 12 Traps (including a Fireball Trap), 16 Keeper Spells.[6] The game went into final testing in April.[2] There are two existing prototypes from this period, dated 21 May 1997 and 28 May 1997 respectively. Even at this late stage, there are still minor differences to the released game, indicating that the game was still undergoing changes. The final build is dated 13 June 1997, and the game was released later that month.

The game was patched in August 1997 to improve the artificial intelligence and Computer Assistance, rebalance the creatures, streamline creature activity code, and provide extra savegame security. An expansion pack, The Deeper Dungeons, and repackagings such as Dungeon Keeper Gold and (in Japan) Dungeon Keeper Premium, which bundle that and other extras released afterwards, such as the level editor, the Desktop Theme, and the Direct3D version (these were also released individually), were released in the months following the game's release.[10][11][12] In 2008, development of a fan mod, Dungeon Keeper FX (or simply KeeperFX), which fixes bugs and adds features, began.[13] Version 1.0.0 was released on 10 November 2023.[14]

Versions for the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation were planned, but cancelled. The Saturn version was being developed by just one person (Carsten-Elton Sorensen), and was scrapped after only a few months. It was very primitive: it only had a third-person and a first-person level display and a minimap; there were no creatures, no menus, no gameplay, and no anything else. However, the Saturn's rendering allowed the roof corners to be completely smooth rather than the rough triangles they are on the PC version. The PlayStation version was scrapped because it was believed the memory requirements made it infeasible.[15]

A third-party remake, Natural Born Keeper, was in development; however, it appears to have halted.

Reception[]

"Some people say that Dungeon Keeper is the PC game of the century. They're right! Bloody right!"
Horned Reaper concurring with the game's critical acclaim (DK2 teaser)
 Reception
Review scores
Publication Score
Gamezilla 93/100[16]
Génération 4 6/Template:PluralStar fullStar fullStar fullStar fullStar full[17]
Computer Games Strategy Plus 4/Template:PluralStar fullStar fullStar fullStar empty[18]
Computer Gaming World 4Star fullStar fullStar fullStar half[19]
Computer and Video Games 5/Template:PluralStar fullStar fullStar fullStar full[20]
Edge 9/10[21]
GameSpot 9/10[22]
Game Revolution A[23]
Jeuxvideo.com 17/20[24]
PC Gamer (UK) 95%[25]
PC Zone 8/10[26]
Next Generation 5/Template:PluralStar fullStar fullStar fullStar full[27]

Dungeon Keeper received near universal positive reception. The humour, gameplay, and originality in particular were praised.

Computer Gaming World described the game as "The most unique game in years".[19] These sentiments were echoed by Game Revolution and PC Zone, who described Dungeon Keeper as "revolutionary" and "classic" respectively.[23][26] Similar views were held by GameZilla, Edge, Génération 4, and PC Gamer.[16][21][25][17] Computer and Video Games believed Dungeon Keeper to be "totally awesome!".[20]

The humour was complimented by Next Generation and Computer Games Strategy Plus.[27][18] The audio was complimented by Gamezilla, who described it as "great".[16] Jeuxvideo.com liked the game's replayability and sounds.[24] Next Generation praised the addictiveness, and described the soundtrack as "dark and edgy".[27] Their views were shared by Jeuxvideo.com.[24] Computer and Video Games described the game as "too staggeringly detailed!" and the atmosphere as "masterly",[20] a view Edge concurred with.[21] Criticisms included an "occasionally weak" artificial intelligence from Next Generation,[27] and "repetitive" gameplay from PC Zone.[26]

Dungeon Keeper appeared on a The Guardian list of Britain's 30 greatest video games.[28] In June 1997, Dungeon Keeper was named as PC Gamer's Game Of The Month.[25] It appeared fourth on a list of top 100 games the following month.[29] The game appeared at #16 on a Rock Paper Shotgun list of the 20 best management PC video games to play in 2022. They cited the KeeperFX mod as the main reason for its enduring playability.[30]

Re-releases[]

Dungeon Keeper Gold[]

Dungeon Keeper Gold was released in 1998. It includes the base game, The Deeper Dungeons, and various extras such as the Dungeon Keeper Editor and the Direct3D version.

Dungeon Keeper Premium[]

Similar to Dungeon Keeper Gold, Dungeon Keeper Premium was released in Japan and includes extras, including The Deeper Dungeons and the DIrect3D version.

Dungeon Keeper Collector's Edition[]

Dungeon Keeper Collector's Edition includes the original game, The Deeper Dungeons, and the Goodies disc.

Dungeon Keeper Collector's Edition back cover

Back cover


Trivia[]

  • Theme Hospital's intro contains two references to Dungeon Keeper: the Horned Reaper makes a cameo appearance as a patient being tended to by a nurse, and a doctor is seen playing a console version of the game.
  • Pentium Pro

    The Pentium Pro was the ideal CPU for Dungeon Keeper at the time of its release

    Dungeon Keeper has two video modes, and defaults to one of them depending on the PC's spec. There's 320x200 for low-spec PCs, and 640x400 for high-spec PCs. The game considers high-spec to be a Pentium Pro or higher with 16MB or more RAM. Therefore, it is impossible for the game to default to high-resolution when run in DOSBox (including the GOG version), no matter how much RAM or how many cycles you give it, for DOSBox only emulates CPUs up to a Pentium (the game looks at the CPU model, via the CPUID instruction; it doesn't look at the clock speed at all). However, you can force high-res mode if you have 16MB or more RAM (with less, high-res is disabled entirely), even if you don't have a Pentium Pro, by pressing ⎇ Alt + R. Likewise, the same hotkey can be used to force low-resolution if you have a high-spec PC.
  • Sound Blaster AWE64 Gold CT4540

    The Sound Blaster AWE64 Gold is arguably the best sound card for Dungeon Keeper, with its gold-plated RCA plugs and 4MB onboard RAM for SoundFonts

    Dungeon Keeper uses SoundFont technology to provide ambient sounds for the dungeon if the system has a Sound Blaster AWE32 or AWE64. In KeeperFX, this feature has been remade to work on any system KeeperFX runs on, without requiring a SoundFont-capable device.


Regional differences[]

  • In the German version, the tent torture animation is used for all creatures.
  • In the Japanese version, instead of the Mentor saying you can't give Imps any more work, the Imps themselves seem to tell you to wait if you try to overwork them.


Galleries[]

Covers[]

References[]

  1. Jason Ocampo (27 April 1998). Dungeon Keeper Gold Edition. Archived from the original on 10 July 2003. Retrieved on 14 August 2019.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Prima's Official Guide To Dungeon Keeper Gold Edition. p. 327. Prima Publishing. (1998). ISBN 978-0-7615-1581-4.
  3. Prima's Official Guide To Dungeon Keeper Gold Edition. p. 328. Prima Publishing. (1998). ISBN 978-0-7615-1581-4.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Elf Destruction". Bullfrog Bulletin (2): 4-6. 1995. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 "The Making Of: Dungeon Keeper". Retro Gamer (Bournemouth: Imagine Publishing) (143): 64–69. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 "Born-Again Keeper". Bullfrog Bulleton (4): 8,9. 1997. 
  7. "Bullfrog". Edge (Bath: Future plc) (31): 42–45. April 1996. 
  8. GameSpot Presents Legends Of Game Design: Peter Molyneux. GameSpot. Archived from the original on 1 September 2003. Retrieved on 3 February 2020.
  9. Jon Rennie Interview. Keeper Klan. Archived from the original on 6 November 2009. Retrieved on 18 February 2020.
  10. Jason Ocampo (27 April 1998). Dungeon Keeper Gold Edition. Archived from the original on 10 July 2003. Retrieved on 9 January 2022.
  11. Dungeon Keeper Premium (Japanese). Electronic Arts Japan. Archived from the original on 19 February 2001. Retrieved on 9 January 2022.
  12. ダンジョンキーパー プレミアム&ダンジョンキーパー2・エレクトロニック・アーツ株式会社 (Japanese). goo (19 February 2014). Retrieved on 9 January 2022.
  13. mefistotelis (7 September 2008). First working version.. GitHub. Retrieved on 8 January 2022.
  14. KeeperFX 1.0.0 has been released!. KeeperFX (10 November 2023). Retrieved on 19 November 2023.
  15. Matt Gander (5 October 2022). Dungeon Keeper. Games Asylum. Retrieved on 11 August 2022.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 McDonald, Chris. Dungeon Keeper by Bullfrog. Archived from the original on 8 February 2002. Retrieved on 13 May 2016.
  17. 17.0 17.1 "Dungeon Keeper" (in French). Génération 4 (100): 160–168. June 1997. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 Dungeon Keeper. Computer Games Strategy Plus (1997). Archived from the original on 10 July 2003. Retrieved on 20 November 2016.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Lombardi, Chris (October 1997). "Dungeon Keeper: it Brings Bad Things to Life". Computer Gaming World (159): 261. http://www.cgwmuseum.org/galleries/issues/cgw_159.pdf#page=263. Retrieved 13 May 2016. 
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 "Dungeon Keeper". Computer and Video Games (Peterborough: EMAP) (188): 70–73. July 1997. 
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 "Dungeon Keeper". Edge (Bath: Future plc) (46): 82, 83. June 1997. 
  22. Dungeon Keeper Review for PC (9 July 1997). Archived from the original on 6 December 2003. Retrieved on 16 May 2016.
  23. 23.0 23.1 Dungeon Keeper review (7 May 1997). Retrieved on 13 May 2016.
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 Test : Dungeon Keeper (French) (1 September 2009). Retrieved on 31 October 2016.
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 Flynn, James (June 1997). "Dungeon Keeper". PC Gamer (Bath: Future plc) (44): 70–73. 
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 PC Review: Dungeon Keeper (13 August 2001). Archived from the original on 14 July 2007. Retrieved on 15 May 2016.
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3 "Dungeon Keeper". Next Generation (Imagine Media) 3 (33): 140. September 1997. 
  28. The 30 greatest British video games (3 June 2014). Retrieved on 4 February 2020.
  29. "The PC Gamer Top 100". PC Gamer (Bath: Future plc) (45): 73. July 1997. 
  30. Graham Smith (1 January 2022). The 20 best management games on PC to play in 2022. Rock Paper Shotgun. Retrieved on 8 January 2022.

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