Page to Pixel: Discworld

Posted: November 14, 2011 in Page to Pixel
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Look! A Clever Header!

Discworld II ScreenTerry Pratchett’s Discworld series is one of the longest-running series of stories in any genre ever. The main series comprises a whopping 39 books featuring Pratchett’s comedic fantasy, and before J.K. Rowling came along and ruined everything, he was the UK’s best-selling author not just of fantasy, but of any genre.

Since there are 39 books in the Discworld canon, it is perhaps impossible for me to summarize them with any kind of brevity. So I’ll talk about the basics of the Discworld. The world itself is, for starters, flat. The disc rides on the back of four massive elephants. The elephants ride on the back of the even massive-er turtle A’Tuin, who flies through the universe’s space with all that on his back. The Disc itself is home to several continents, and in the early Discworld tales (at least the ones I’m most familiar with), much of the action takes place in the city of Ankh-Morpork, home to the alma mater of many an intolerable and incompetent wizard, Unseen University.

The hero of the first Discworld novel (as well as two of the games based on the series) is Unseen University alumnus Rincewind, the consistently cowardly private part of the Gods – they play with him for their sport. While he’s saddled with the role of protagonist, he usually leaves the actual heroics and interesting feats of not running and hiding to other characters. Get used to him, because for the majority of the Discworld games, you’re in his robe and silly-looking pointy hat.

The first Discworld game was a text adventure based on The Colour of Magic. Released for the Commodore 64, Amstrad and ZX Spectrum, in 1986, it’s also probably the rarest and hardest to find of the Discworld games. As far as I know, Wikipedia could be lying to me (it’s hard to judge something’s existence while Jimmy Wales gives you a creepy, perverted staredown). I haven’t seen any hard proof that this game exists, and as such, rumors of its existence should be taken with a grain of salt. As the game was released on cassette tapes, it’s quite likely that any remaining copies would have long been recorded over with pop songs.

The first Discworld game that anyone remembers, however, is the 1995 point-and-click adventure game by Psygnosis. Very much in the style of the LucasArts graphic adventures of the time, it had high production values and a phenomenal voice-over cast, featuring ex-Python Eric Idle in a pitch-perfect performance as Rincewind, alongside the Third Doctor himself, John Pertwee, and BlackAdder alum Tony Robinson in supporting roles. The game received some criticism for its high degree of difficulty, but did well enough to receive a sequel in 1996, complete with a revamped art and animation style. Discworld II featured one of the more popular and well-known characters in the Discworld universe – Death! The game was somewhat more moderate in difficulty than its predecessor, and as a result was much better received. It also had the superb song “That’s Death” in the intro.

The final game in the Discworld series was Discworld Noir, which was only released in Europe (because by 1999 here in the States, our typical howling bloodlust had driven graphic adventures from the market in favor of Unreal Tournament and Counter-Strike). As it is currently exorbitantly expensive to import, I have not imported it. Maybe sometime in the future. But for now, coffee and ramen.

  1. I’m not familiar with the novels (something which I must remedy!), but a few months back I watched the Colour of Magic mini-series, which was very enjoyable.

  2. gnome says:

    Excellent piece! Mind you, The Colour of Magic is very real indeed and a pretty decent text adventure too. As for Discworld Noir, well, I do believe it’s the best Discworld game to date. Ankh Morpork shines when noir…

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