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Dungeons & Desktops 2nd Edition – the History of Computer RPGs – Now Available!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 29, 2019

Matt Barton’s outstanding history of computer role-playing games is now out in a second edition. I haven’t read the whole thing yet (it’s HUGE), but the last ten years have brought about some enormous changes and tons of new games to the genre. This is kind of funny to me, as Matt had kind of closed the previous edition on a down note, thinking the era of quality single-player RPGs had come to a close.

Oh, Matt… The indies, the kickstarters, all that was only beginning to hit its stride. He admits to the failure of his crystal ball and rectifies things with a vengeance in this new edition, featuring a lot more content, color screenshots, and a lot more colorful commentary. (And to be fair… in some small ways, he has had his own influence over recent developments. So he’s been helping to make the history he’s recording… )

Oh, and Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon has a mention in the appendix. Yay, I’m in the history books! Well, a history book. THE history book. ๐Ÿ™‚

Besides the new material, the original book has been revised and refreshed. I haven’t compared all the changes yet, but like the original it covers the origins and “evolution” (I hate that term when describing how RPGs have changed, but … there it is) of the genre. Aside from the dice-and-paper origins, it also goes back into the early mists of history, uncovering the ancient predecessors of modern games as they existed on university mainframesย  in the 1970s (and were frequently deleted by administrators, making this a very challenging area of research). Matt traces the different styles and influences through almost fifty years of history, maintaining both objectivity as well as letting his absolute love of the subject matter show through.

Matt has always had an entertaining writing style, but the assistance of Shane Stacks and the additional commentary throughout has made this *anything* but a dry read. After all, it deals with an obsessively fun style of game, so it ought to be a fun read, right? Mission accomplished!

Yeah, this is not a cheap tome, but it is well worth it IMO. You can grab it from Amazon at this link, and probably other fine book dealers.

Filed Under: Books, Computer RPGs, Impressions - Comments: 12 Comments to Read

  • Captain Kal said,

    Damn!! It’s expensive, especially if you include p&p to Greece!!! But I very much enjoyed the first book!!

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Yeah. Going with color photos was great, but it increased the price a lot.

  • Captain Kal said,

    I will buy it eventually, but for now, I have already a pile of books waiting to be read!!!!!!

    I ‘ve also found this on Amazon, since I know that you are interested, in WWII Air Combat:

    “On Spartan Wings: The Royal Hellenic Air Force in World War Two”


  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Didn’t you mention that one before? It looks familiar.

    I can put it on my list. I just read one about the training of F/A-18 pilots. I have a similar one I want to get to about F-16 pilots. But right now I have two novels I’m reading and I need to get Blood Creek Phantom cleaned up and sent to my publisher.

  • Captain Kal said,

    I ‘ve just found it, while I was searching a local online store, for a book about WWII (World War II In Photos). I had sent you some pdf links, from the official HAF site, that’s why it seems familiar.

    Reading books about training pilots. Talking about light reading!!

    Good luck with your novel!!

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    That must be why.

    It’s funny — I have been a military aviation buff forever, and reading that stuff does feel like light reading. I blame it on Star Wars. I wanted to be an X-Wing pilot. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • FallenAngel said,

    My computer role-playing “bible” has been “The CRPG Book” so far.

    Basically a 500+ pages non-profit community project by over a hundred contributors, including lots of folks from the Codex, but also industry people.

    Incidentally also received a 2nd edition recently.

    Might have to check this out as well, probably gonna be a very different style throughout(2 authors vs 100+ contributors) even if they’ll cover a lot of the same ground.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    That’s an awesome one, too. I have an article and a review in that one! ๐Ÿ™‚ “What is an old-school RPG?” is a reprint of one of my blog posts, and I did the review of Ultima Underworld. Filipe did an outstanding job with the book, and I’m looking forward to receiving my collector’s edition hardcover.

  • DGM said,

    Speaking of Frayed Knights, do you ever plan to do part 2? It seems like you’ve lost all interest in favor of writing literature.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    @DGM – I have a response as a comment in another thread about that. It’s admittedly been back-burnered, but it’s not a lack of interest, more of a lack of resources (especially time, and art.) It’s frustrating. At some point, we should be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with the day job, and I may get back to working reasonable hours again, and be able to put some of that energy back into game development!

  • MalcolmM said,

    Thanks for writing about this, I wouldn’t have known about it otherwise.

    I just ordered it from Amazon Canada. Strange, usually Canadians have to pay a significant premium over the US price, often far more than the exchange rate. For this book the Canadian and US price are almost identical ๐Ÿ™‚

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