|This article does not cite any references or sources. (May 2007)|
|Genre(s)||First-person shooter, god game|
|Mode(s)||Single player, Multiplayer|
Magic Carpet is a video game released by Bullfrog Productions in 1994. Its graphics and gameplay were considered innovative and technically impressive at the time. A revised edition, Magic Carpet Plus, included the Hidden Worlds expansion pack which added 25 levels and a winter-themed tileset. The title also had a sequel released in 1995, Magic Carpet 2. Magic Carpet was considered by fans and critics alike to be a revolutionary game for its time and several aspects of it are still unique today.
- 1 Gameplay
- 2 Innovation
- 3 Lack of commercial success
- 4 Ports
- 5 Magic Carpet on modern computers
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
The player plays a wizard (on a magic carpet) flying over water, mountains, and other terrain while destroying monsters and rival wizards (which are controlled by the computer) and collecting "mana" which is gathered by hot air balloons and stored in the player's own castle.
The story is told in a cutscene that depicts the pages of a book being flipped. According to this back story, mana was discovered and though it initially had beneficial uses, the quest for it made the lands barren. Worse, many corrupt wizards began turning to mana for their own nefarious purposes, eventually leading to war between them. The battling wizards began using more destructive spells and summoning deadly monsters, the latter of which often turned against them. One wizard hoped to end everything with an all-powerful spell but instead only left the worlds shattered. Only his apprentice survived and his goal is to restore the worlds to equilibrium.
Greater amounts of mana stored in the castle allow the player to cast more powerful spells. As the player expands the castle, it spawns additional mana-collecting balloons and armed guards that defend the castle against attacks by enemy wizards. Besides storing mana, the player's castle also serves as a home base for the player where he cannot be killed and where he can regain health and mana.
Dying without a Castle forces the player to restart the level since the game does not have a mid-level save feature. As long as the player's Castle was at least partly intact, the player effectively had infinite lives.
Victory is attained by storing in one's castle the necessary percentage of the total mana in the current level (or "world"), restoring it to "equilibrium". The total mana level is fixed in a given world, and is acquired by killing enemy wizards and monsters. Often, the necessary mana could only be released by the defeat of other wizards or certain monsters.
At the end of the game, after level 50 "Volcania" has been beaten, a cutscene shows the apprentice flying away on his carpet and the book cover closing.
- Al Jahan
- Ar Ulnan
- Al Saumam
- Jan Tabar
- Ar Vilim
- Jondd Warr
- Ul Ramin
- Shai Yulim
- Ar Zaljan
- Shal Kazan
Magic Carpet has a wide range of spells (24 maximum) covering many categories.
For offense, there are scorching fireballs, very accurate lightning bolts and devastating meteors. For defence, players can heal themselves, bring up a shield to reduce damage from enemy fire, and even use rebound to deflect certain fire-based spells back at the enemy.
In multiplayer, there is no completely dominant spell, which often adds some balance to the game and results in several tactical dilemmas. For instance, meteor is usually considered to be among the most powerful attacks and can often kill weakened wizards with a single hit, but it becomes a double-edged sword if the target wizard has rebound cast. However, rebound is not a perfect defense. It costs a good deal of mana and, as with all other spells, does not allow one's mana reserve to recharge while it is in use. Moreover it does not defend against lightning and many other powerful attacks. Lightning bolts are more accurate and more powerful than fireballs but lack the latter's longer range.
Exotic spells include teleport to escape back to one's castle and recharge health and mana and then quickly return, and skeleton army which creates undead archer minions for either attacking enemy castles or wreaking havoc in civilian towns.
Revolutionary for the time were real-time terrain-altering spells such as crater, volcano, and earthquake; it is possible for the player to carve through a continent (rather than splitting apart a land mass, earthquake digs a twisting gorge in the ground), build up a volcano, or dig a lake (with crater). Even the staple build castle spell is interesting; casting it in a suitable location would cause the ground to morph up into the shape of a fortress. Players soon discovered that crater was very useful against monsters and wizards alike on high ground, as (literally) sinking the earth from under the target was often sufficient to kill it, and for monsters the resulting crater would provide a handy hole in the ground to keep all of the mana together. Volcano proves to be an extremely deadly castle killer, creating damage both from the initial strike and from the lava rocks that fly out in the subsequent eruption and bounce along the ground, causing further damage along the way. Even the staple castle itself is proficient at destroying legions of weaker enemies (indeed, it will kill nearly any kind of monster that happens to be over the player's castle at the time); strategically casting it right in the middle of a swarm can net a weak player lots of mana to quickly build up his strength.
After level 26 the player could not retain spells picked up in earlier levels. This presented a new challenges for players. For example, some levels' challenge depended heavily on barriers and mazes in the form of walls that the player could not cross over. Certain spells such as Crater, Earthquake, and/or Volcano would tend to make such obstacles useless. On certain levels, crucial spells, such as Castle, were left out entirely or were only available after the player had completed a desired task (usually along the lines of killing all of the monsters on the level).
Magic Carpet Plus replaced the rarely used flamewall with the guided meteor (specifically for anti-player duels, as opposed to the regular general-purpose meteor).
Krakens pose a deadly threat in bodies of water where they dwell; they use the Duel spell to prevent wizards from escaping and holding them within range of the Kraken's lightning bolts.
Wyverns are considered the most dangerous enemies (apart from other wizards), especially for weak players, due to their flight, rapid fireball breath weapon, and their large amount of hitpoints. Also unique is their aggression, being one of the few monsters to actively attack both castles and towns.
Genies cannot directly harm the player's health; however, their Steal Mana spell will drain the player's mana power, limiting his capabilities in encounters with other wizards or monsters. Genies are not only unrelenting in their pursuit, but if sufficiently wounded, they will teleport away to heal themselves.
Griffins are usually unaggressive monsters, but when attacked, the entire pack will retaliate and will carry a grudge against the player for the rest of the level (unless another wizard attacks them, causing the griffins to switch their attention to the latter). This has often resulted in the death of players who underestimated the numbers of these enemies or forgot that all griffin are protected by the Rebound spell.
The crabs are unique in that they can "consume" loose mana and by doing so gradually grow in size from tiny to large, gaining the use of increasingly powerful spells (first Fireball, then Lightning, and finally Meteor) accordingly. Sufficiently large crabs can even lay eggs to hatch new crabs to start this process all over again. As mana in each level is fixed, the consumed mana can only be released by killing the crab.
There are 7 computer-controlled wizards to be found along the journey:
- Vodor - Red
- Gryshnak - Purple
- Mahmoud - Blue
- Syed - Green
- Raschid - Pink
- Alhabbal - Orange
- Scheherazade - Black
The player character is called Zanzamar by default, and his flags are a white color.
The enemy wizard AI has limitations. Enemy wizards only use a subset of spells on any given level; most commonly this includes at most Accelerate, Fireball and Rapid Fireball, Lightning Bolts, Meteor, Rebound, and possibly Shield in addition to Castle and Possess Mana; on tougher levels, Volcano, Heal, Cloak, and Skeleton Army might also be part of their arsenal. As well, wizards also have "tendencies" which could be exploited. For example, on certain levels, one or more enemy wizards spend too much time attacking other castles, ignoring both the protection of their own fortresses and the need to acquire more mana. As a more general example, the computer-controlled wizard is programmed to always attack monsters when it has nothing else to do; on many levels this leads to the spectacle of wizards industriously attempting to kill griffin or wyverns with nothing more than the basic Fireball spell, often with disastrous results. Wizards will sometimes build castles in bad places, such as next to a maze wall or next to a town. When a castle is too close to a town/wall, it cannot be expanded. The limited AI was expected of the game at the time, but it often stood out more than it deserved, due to a mostly inaccessible multiplayer mode.
Magic Carpet was touted by its developers as being ahead of its time and it garnered many accolades and favorable reviews. It used a realtime 3D-graphics engine, which was considered cutting-edge for its time. It included features such as:
- dynamically lighted, gouraud shaded, changeable ("morphable") landscape
- Dynamic music that changes whenever the player enters a fight
- Scene reflections in the water
- Distance fog
- Transparency effects, such as the transparent HUD, the water, and the Possess Mana spell when cast.
- A particle system, like the mana balls and flocks of vultures and other creatures. Often attacking one member of such a group is enough to attract the attention of the rest of the group.
- Player viewpoint control using the mouse
Magic Carpet (as did the rest of the series) featured an optional stereogram mode. A set of 3-D red/blue glasses came in the box. The game also supported many virtual reality headsets that were available at the time. It was also the first game to be advertised as being optimized for the new Intel Pentium processor; the "Intel Inside" Pentium logo was shown if the game detected such a processor.
Well-designed for multiplayer, with a large number of spells geared specifically at human opponents, Multi-player play supported up to eight human players, but required a network card instead of the commonly used modem or null modem cable of the time. (Doom only supported four players, but supported modem-play.)
Lack of commercial success
Despite many highly positive reviews that the game got in computer game magazines, it was not commercially as successful as was expected. This was due to various factors:
Magic Carpet was heavily advertised as being technologically superior, but this alienated the mainstream customer base. Network cards were far off from mass-industry adoption which robbed the game of its potent multiplayer selling point. The system requirements were rather high for the time; a 486 was the minimum requirement and the Pentium was heavily recommended for smooth gameplay and full graphics detail; many gamers still had 386 processors at the time and as a result the game did not sell well.
Graphically, Magic Carpet also suffered from monotonous level aesthetics. The same tileset was used for all 50 levels, aside from some variation in civilian tents. Magic Carpet - Hidden Worlds attempted to rectify this by adding a winter-themed tileset.
Competition from Doom
In addition to having technical requirements ahead of its time, Magic Carpet was overshadowed by id Software's Doom, released a year earlier in 1993. Doom's appeal was partially because it did not have Magic Carpet's high system requirements. Doom was distributed on floppy, could run on 386 processors, and had modem support for multiplayer.
Both games were frequently lumped into the same category of "3D first-person shooter", even though Magic Carpet bore little resemblance to Doom and other FPS games in terms of gameplay. This categorization not only benefited Doom since it was considered the definitive FPS game for its time, it also marginalized Magic Carpet's unique attributes.
Adding to the confusion, Bullfrog had a print marketing campaign that contained a slogan "BFG==BFD"; the BFG is a reference to the ultimate weapon available in Doom, "
==" represents equality in many computer programming languages, and BFD is a three letter acronym standing for "big fucking deal", usually used sarcastically. This likely backfired as it drew further attention towards Doom, instead of touting Magic Carpet's unique gameplay.
Lastly, Magic Carpet played it safe to stay within an ESRB "K-A" (Kids to Adults) rating, like many other games of the time. Doom's gore and violence on the other hand was controversial, but that generated lots of attention and led to high sales.
The PlayStation version retains many of the PC version's spells. The map has changed slightly, and some of the monster graphics and enemy wizard graphics are slightly different. As in the PC game, one can only save at the end of the level. Enemy wizards now have a health-bar over their heads, so the player can see when they are close to death. This version does not support multiplayer, but does contain the Hidden Worlds expansion as a reward for finishing the game in "Normal" mode.
Magic Carpet on modern computers
Running under DOSBox
Using the most recent DOSBox Magic Carpet can be successfully played on Windows, OS X and Linux. If not running on DOSBox, it is recommended to be played in a higher resolution mode (by pressing 'r' during the game) or by lowering the CPU cycle down to around 6000 using DOSBox: the low resolution game-speed generally is too rapid, due to the speed of modern computers
- Sacrifice which is considered by some to be the spiritual successor to Magic Carpet
- Arcane Worlds, inspired by Magic Carpet.
- Magic Carpet at MobyGames
- Arcane Worlds a game inspired by Magic Carpet (pre-release version on Steam)
- Ogrian Carpet a game inspired by Magic Carpet
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