18 April 2016

System Requirements

Back in 1998 or 1999, we were showing King of Dragon Pass to established game publishers. One of them turned us down by saying, “we only release games that make you buy a new computer.”

That’s not necessarily a bad strategy for a publisher (they knew their market!), but their rejection at least meant that we had hit one of our design goals: run on as many computers as possible.

You can find the original system requirements here:
Windows 95/98
Pentium processor, minimum 16 MB of RAM, 640x480 16-bit color, double-speed CD-ROM drive (faster recommended). 
System 7.5 or later, Power Macintosh or compatible, minimum 24 MB of RAM, 640x480 16-bit color, double-speed CD-ROM drive (faster recommended). 
You can run the game from the CD; an installation takes about 42 MB of hard disk space.

For a late 1999 release, those are pretty generous requirements (since Windows 95 had been released more than four years earlier, KoDP ran on computers that were at least four years old).

We kept the same goal when we brought the game to iPhone. Even now, the iOS build runs on iOS 5.1.1. This makes development more difficult (since we can’t use conveniences added in later versions of iOS), and increases the amount of testing we have to do. But it means owners of the original iPad can still play the game. (And they do — 220 sessions on an iPad 1 in the last month.)

And I think our goal was the right one — if we’d been chasing the latest hardware, the art would have quickly looked dated. Instead, the watercolors still look great.

Which is partly because of a suggestion made by another publisher. When we began the game, we were targeting 8-bit graphics systems that could display only 256 colors. We used a wonderful tool called DeBabelizer, that figured out the optimum palette (the 256 colors that were most frequently used in our specific set of art). The results were good, but the producer we showed the game to wondered why we weren’t targeting 16-bit graphics.

This did actually deliver a benefit — our art would look better — and given the game was still a year from release at that point, it seemed like we wouldn’t be cutting out too many computers. (It also had the benefit that we didn’t have to process the art, and make sure we had the correct palette, since different parts of the game used different ones.)

So we still weren’t making you buy a new computer to play the game.


  1. That kind of "watercolour" art style does indeed often look nice. Darklands, e.g. (the combat graphics of Darklands are badly dated, but the watercolour illustrations are still very good).

    1. Funny that you mention Darklands, because I’m pretty sure it was Arnold Hendrick who suggested we use 16-bit color.