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I’d like to take a moment to discuss the Multiplayer Animated Roleplaying System (or “MARS”).  It began in 1995 by Badger Software as a project to create an RPG gaming engine that people could use to create their own games.

1993 had seen the phenomenal success of DOOM but also the birth of the “Modding Community.”  Where the creation of new scenarios/maps by players was equally as fun as playing the original game.  A number of companies rushed to produce a similar engine in the different genres of gaming, BadgerCom Software was one.

And what better way to showcase your RPG engine than by banging out an RPG yourself?  Enter “The Prince of Destruction.”

Believe it or not, the rather ancient website for both MARs and Prince of Destruction are still online in fact you can even download the entire game and play it for free (provided you have an older computer or an emulator)

As this was the first game to introduce me to Orcs I became obsessed with it some years ago, and sought to beat it once and for all.  Originally when I played it it was just a shareware demo that would automatically quit after an hour of play.  When finally in college I played the full game I was filled with giddy delight at the ability to progress farther in the game than ever before.

As I was in college I only played the game in a fraction of my spare time, but I played long enough to learn that the game was impossible to beat unless you mapped out every area on grid paper.  The game is chalk full of massive labyrinthine catacombs, dungeons, and straight up mazes.  Once I realized this in school I stopped playing.

Two years later after I had graduated and moved into an apartment I took up the game again, this time armed with graph paper and a graphic novel that needed putting off.  It was a deadly combination.  To my horror each maze in the game doesn’t have a unique shape or feel, they’re all massive squares, and as you progress in the game they get bigger and bigger and bigger.  And with the squares on my graphing paper being particularly small, it was easy to slip up while mapping them.

 photo POD.jpg

The whole process took hours, and let’s not forget that many of these caves/mazes were filled with monsters.  Every time I entered a room I would have to pause the game to map it out, or risk another monster spawning at the room’s entrance. Each of these passage ways looked exactly the same, so unless I was very careful it would take a matter of seconds to lose myself on my own map. Add to this crumby controls and looping music and it creates the perfect recipe for madness.  At the risk of sounding dramatic at this time I behaved much like an abusive alcoholic.

Alex would come home from work and I’d either be in a very pleasant mood (having finally finished a map) or in a terribly angry disposition (having encountered more setbacks).  With my bowels filled to the brim with misplaced anger, I would lash out at Alex over the slightest “provocation.”

Eventually we had to have a very serious conversation, and by the end of it I was amazed at how this game had reduced me to such a state.  It was, after all, just a game.  Wasn’t I playing it for fun?

Even though I was very close to beating this game I had to stop.  I’ve heard from others who have managed to beat it, but I am sure they are simply much more patient and diligent than I.  That’s life though, often times the things we love can become unhealthy addictions if we’re not careful.

I actually found a youtube video of the game while doing some research.  I think watching it for five minutes will prove to you how insane I was for spending hours and hours on it years ago:

In the end nobody ended up every using the MARS Player to create their own games. The bird’s eye perspective was too outdated, and “The Prince of Destruction” ended up being the only game ever built on it. In 1995 a ton of newer and more advanced games had come out, by comparison POD seemed quaint at best, and rather antiquated otherwise. What you see on their website now is all that is left of their venture.