Flashback Friday: Pool of Radiance for C64

One of the games that I remember most when growing up was Pool of Radiance for the Commodore 64. My brother, cousins and I would spend hours playing that game by the glow of the old Commodore monitor in the basement. Those were much simpler times as we were driven by 8-bit color graphics and a gripping story line. Players today would scoff at the idea of loading up a game from a floppy disk. There were no 3D graphics, mouse and our controller was nothing more than a stick with one button on it.

What Pool of Radiance Meant for Me

Before Wizards of the Coast, the grandfather of all RPGs had been developed by TSR, Inc. As we were into the dice game, the next logical step would easily be that of playing it on a computer. Pool of Radiance was the first real game that I connected with in terms of plot and game play. Sure there were plenty other titles out there and fun games that I played repeatedly. But none of them gripped me like the way SSI envisioned Dungeons and Dragons on the Commodore. Every time we played, it felt like a different game – mostly because the encounters were true to being random. I had disks upon disks of different characters and saved games, all of them with a different feel to the experience.

Although I have the TSR/SSI collectors edition for the PC, there is still something about playing on the original systems that gives the game more allure. For starters, the text didn’t race past too quickly to read. But it was more than that – it was the system and the general ambience itself.

Multiplayer Out of the Commodore?

The way Pool of Radiance was designed, it was a virtual representation of the D&D pencil and paper RPG. Essentially, each of us made our own characters and took turns moving about the Forgotten Realms. It was the dice game without the dice. And, it was the first game that allowed us to play it as such. While there were plenty of SSI titles created after Pool, this was the first one we delved into.

Looking Back…

I spent a great deal of time at my Grandma’s house “testing” all of the new games she would get form the Commodore Users Group she belonged to. I played a role in demonstrating various titles at those meetings and had a great deal of fun. I know I probably won’t be able to recapture those kinds of days again, but the memory is still fresh in the mind – even after the past 30 years of life.

Pool of Radiance is what pulled me into the genre of role playing games. Between gripping story lines and micromanagement details, I was hooked on RPGs from that first moment I typed in, Load “*”,8,1. Now there have been many games that pulled me in, such as Star Craft II, but it all started with that one game sitting at an old metal air force desk hammering away at the keyboard.

I recently pulled the old Commodore out of storage. I am currently setting it back up as I am feeling nostalgic for those past moments. I am also curious to see how my daughters view Pool of Radiance. I’m not sure if my disks are still viable – I took excellent care of them over the past 30 years. If they’re damaged, I’m sure I’ll spend some time looking for their replacements…because that’s the kind of geek I am.

Even though the system is old, it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it. While today’s generation has the advantage of superior technology, it’s still fun to go back and relive the early days of where gaming had come from. Today, Pool of Radiance will always have a special place in my heart – and on my desk.

What was the game that brought you into the world of digital entertainment? What was the game console you got the most out of when growing up?

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Michael Brockbank

I have been playing games for more than 30 years. I wouldn’t consider myself a hard-core gamer, but I have brought the pain in my day. Now that I am rounding the horn at 40, I still enjoy everything from booting up the old Commodore 64 to exploring new titles in Steam. You’re never too old to enjoy a good plot and mind-numbing graphics.

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