Wizardry Retrospective Interview

27 Apr 2012

RPG Codex managed to track down Sir-tech founder Robert Woodhead for a lengthy interview about the classic Wizardry series he helped create, what the development environment was like years ago, how the series evolved over the years, what he thinks about the series' popularity in Japan, and more. Robert's answers are pretty short and to the point, so I'll quote a few:
The early Wizardry titles were first developed for Apple II and then ported to other platforms. How did you go about this process?

We wrote Apple Pascal p-code interpreters for each target machine. That plus a little assembly language code to abstract the graphics did the trick. We also had a text localization system that moved all the text in the game into a database; it got done for the Japanese localizations and permitted us to create any message we needed on the fly, with all the variable parts inserted into the right places.

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The ruleset Wizardry used was D&D derivative rather than a faithful implementation of D&D. Was it mainly due to hardware limitations or copyright issues? In particular, why did you not introduce D&D-style spell memorization?

We just did what we thought would work best. But some things, like the spell names, were driven by programming decisions; spell name matching was done by hashing to a 15 bit number, which was much more space-efficient.

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Have you played D.W. Bradley’s Wizardries, and if you have, what do you think of them? Design-wise, were you happy with the direction the series took with Wizardry V and, later, VI and VII?

I helped David get up to speed on the Wizardry code, and supported him when he made some changes to it for Wizardry V. But I didn't play the later games in the series. When I left Sir-tech, that part of my life was over -- it was time to move on to other things.