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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 Edit

  • 3-D isometric views.
  • First-person perspective and action.
  • Survey your dungeon with an easy-to-read map.
  • Zoom in, zoom out, rotate your world 360 degrees.
  • Modem and 4-player network multiplayer options.
  • Pit yourself against computer-generated hordes.
  • Unveil hidden levels.

Gameplay Edit

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 Icon Small Dungeon Heart (the dungeon's life force; if this is destroyed, you lose the game), some Imp-icon Imps, some gold, and sometimes some rooms, and the player usually needs to construct the basic rooms (typically considered to be the Treasure Room Icon Small Treasure Room, Lair Icon Small Lair, Hatchery Icon Small Hatchery, Training Room Icon Small Training Room, and the Library Icon Small Library) and tunnel to a Portal Icon Small 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 Tunneler-icon 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 Icon Small Workshop (used to construct doors and traps) and Torture Room Icon Small 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 Possession Icon Small 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-icon 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-icon 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 Edit

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]

Dungeon Keeper (1997) - Official Trailer

Dungeon Keeper (1997) - Official Trailer

Late 1995 trailer

Molyneux then developed a 2D top-down prototype, whose gameplay focused on constructing the dungeon and its rooms. The Treasure Room Icon Small Treasure Room, "Feeding Room", Training Room Icon Small Training Room, and Dungeon Heart Icon Small Dungeon Heart were all in this prototype. The Torture Room Icon Small Torture Chamber was implemented afterwards.[5] Development of a level editor began in May 1995, and by September, the Possession Icon Small 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]

Dungeon Keeper 1 1996 early demo

Dungeon Keeper 1 1996 early demo

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]

Dungeon Keeper Trailer

Dungeon Keeper Trailer

Late 1996 trailer

Sometime afterwards, the development team decided it was too similar to Command & Conquer,[8] and "wouldn't cut mustard with the Bullfrog name" and lacked the "magic" that Populous and Magic Carpet had,[6] despite being "playable and graphically gorgeous".[6] 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, Mana, the idea of creatures being split into corporeal and magical categories, and summoning them with resources, and in came Claimed Tiles, Fortified Walls, attracting creatures through Portal Icon Small 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.

Reception Edit

 Reception
Review scores
Publication Score
Gamezilla 93/100[9]
Génération 4 Star fullStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg[10]
Computer Games Strategy Plus Star fullStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg[11]
Computer Gaming World Star fullStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar half.svg[12]
Computer and Video Games Star fullStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg[13]
Edge 9/10[14]
GameSpot 9/10[15]
Game Revolution A[16]
Jeuxvideo.com 17/20[17]
PC Gamer (UK) 95%[18]
PC Zone 8/10[19]
Next Generation Star fullStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg[20]

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".[12] These sentiments were echoed by Game Revolution and PC Zone, who described Dungeon Keeper as "revolutionary" and "classic" respectively.[16][19] Similar views were held by GameZilla, Edge, Génération 4, and PC Gamer.[9][14][18][10] Computer and Video Games believed Dungeon Keeper to be "totally awesome!".[13]

The humour was complimented by Next Generation and Computer Games Strategy Plus.[20][11] The audio was complimented by Gamezilla, who described it as "great".[9] Jeuxvideo.com liked the game's replayability and sounds.[17] Next Generation praised the addictiveness, and described the soundtrack as "dark and edgy".[20] Their views were shared by Jeuxvideo.com.[17] Computer and Video Games described the game as "too staggeringly detailed!" and the atmosphere as "masterly",[13] a view Edge concurred with.[14] Criticisms included an "occasionally weak" artificial intelligence from Next Generation,[20] and "repetitive" gameplay from PC Zone.[19]

Dungeon Keeper appeared on a The Guardian list of Britain's 30 greatest video games.[21] In June 1997, Dungeon Keeper was named as PC Gamer's Game Of The Month.[18] It appeared fourth on a list of top 100 games the following month.[22]

Gallery Edit

References Edit

  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 "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. 9.0 9.1 9.2 McDonald, Chris. Dungeon Keeper by Bullfrog. Archived from the original on 8 February 2002. Retrieved on 13 May 2016.
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Dungeon Keeper" (in French). Génération 4 (100): 160–168. June 1997. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Dungeon Keeper. Computer Games Strategy Plus (1997). Archived from the original on 10 July 2003. Retrieved on 20 November 2016.
  12. 12.0 12.1 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. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 "Dungeon Keeper". Computer and Video Games (Peterborough: EMAP) (188): 70–73. July 1997. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 "Dungeon Keeper". Edge (Bath: Future plc) (46): 82, 83. June 1997. 
  15. Dungeon Keeper Review for PC (9 July 1997). Archived from the original on 6 December 2003. Retrieved on 16 May 2016.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Dungeon Keeper review (7 May 1997). Retrieved on 13 May 2016.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Test : Dungeon Keeper (French) (1 September 2009). Retrieved on 31 October 2016.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Flynn, James (June 1997). "Dungeon Keeper". PC Gamer (Bath: Future plc) (44): 70–73. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 PC Review: Dungeon Keeper (13 August 2001). Archived from the original on 14 July 2007. Retrieved on 15 May 2016.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 "Dungeon Keeper". Next Generation (Imagine Media) 3 (33): 140. September 1997. 
  21. The 30 greatest British video games (3 June 2014). Retrieved on 4 February 2020.
  22. "The PC Gamer Top 100". PC Gamer (Bath: Future plc) (45): 73. July 1997. 

External Links Edit


Dungeon Keeper Series
Bullfrog Productions/EA
Main Games
Dk1iconDungeon Keeper (Demo) / Dk2iconDungeon Keeper 2 / Dungeon Keeper 3 / Dko iconDungeon Keeper Online / Dungeon Keeper Mobile
Add-ons, expansions and tools
Dk1iconThe Deeper Dungeons / Dk1iconDungeon Keeper Gold / Dk1iconDungeon Keeper Premium / Dk1iconDungeon Keeper Collector's Edition / Dk1iconDungeon Keeper Editor / Dk2editorDungeon Keeper 2 Editor
Fan projects
Main Games
Reapers day out2Natural Born Keeper / WftoWar for the Overworld
Add-ons, expansions and tools
Dk1iconDK1 Editors / Dk1iconDungeon Keeper FX / OpenKeeper
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.