/The main character of the movie Tetris also made a very important role-playing game

The main character of the movie Tetris also made a very important role-playing game

According to its description on Apple TV, the new movie tetris is the story of “American video game salesman Henk Rogers (Taron Egerton) and his discovery of tetris in 1988.” now i’m not tetris historian, so I don’t quite know where the true story of the hotly contested rights negotiations to publish the world famous puzzle game ends and the film’s efforts to heighten the suspense with the thrills of a spy film begin.

But I do know one thing about the real Henk Rogers that the movie understandably doesn’t tell us: He was much more than a “video game salesman.” At his company, Bullet-Proof Software, he led the development of an RPG that played a crucial role in popularizing PC RPGs in Japan, without which the advent of JRPGs through series as Final Fantasy it may have looked very different.

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Title black onyx never spoken in the movie tetris, but nonetheless, the filmmakers find ways to acknowledge the existence of Rogers’ first big hit. In an early scene at a Las Vegas trade show, for example, you may briefly catch a glimpse of a sign that reads “black onyx at the booth where Rogers displays his games. Most prominently, you can see Egerton’s Rogers wearing a t-shirt with the game’s stylized title multiple times in the film. But what is it black onyxexactly?

black onyx and the beginning of the JRPG era

never released in the west, black onyx is a 1984 computer role-playing game designed and programmed by Henk Rogers, who grew up in the United States but was living in Japan at the time. Such a game might not sound all that significant right away, because we tend to think of the Japanese gaming landscape as overflowing with RPGs. But in 1984, that was definitely not the case.

The team behind Tetris in the new history of movies and games

The team behind Tetris in the new history of movies and games

Early computer role-playing games like sorceryinspired by Dungeons and Dragonsinitially got no Japanese releases, so when it came time to market black onyx, Rogers ran into a problem of ignorance. Japanese publishers were still unfamiliar with the concept of role-playing games, and early announcements met with a cold response. He had to do the work of showing potential customers the appeal. speaking to Edge in 2008Rogers said,

I rolled up my sleeves and started knocking on doors. I visited all the computer game magazines in Japan, sat down the editor and created the character for him. He had a series of questions that he would ask them in Japanese: “What’s your name? Which of these 50 heads looks the most like you? Please choose some clothes to wear.” Then he would tell them: “This is you. Now let’s go on an adventure.” I would play his character for an hour while they looked over my shoulder. That way they would see how to make maps with graph paper and pencil, how to explore the world, and how to buy and equip armor and weapons.

In the end, Rogers’ hard work paid off and the game became a huge success. It is probably historically inaccurate to call black onyx the first computer RPG released in Japan, but certainly the first to achieve considerable success, and is cited as an influence by the people behind other major early Japanese RPGs such as hydride and dragon quest In that same 2008 Edge In an interview, Rogers says that he often meets people in the Japanese game industry who were affected by his role-playing game. “When I mention that I used to have a publisher in Japan, Bullet-Proof Software, they ask me if I had anything to do with it. black onyx. I say I designed and developed it and many times they exclaim, ‘My God, you are the reason I am in this industry!’”

[PC-88] The Black Onyx (1984) (BPS) [Translation]

Even looking at it today, I’m impressed by the customization options and the interface in black onyx. At the beginning of the video above, you can see the player choosing from around 50 little pixelated hairstyles, and then between different colored outfits, before venturing out on his quest in first-person view. Even the bars representing health, now a common feature in games of all kinds, were something of a novelty for the time.

I understand why he tetris the film did not take long to play black onyx. That is a whole story in itself. But I think it’s worth keeping in mind when watching the film that Rogers’ impact on the game’s story goes beyond his involvement in that monumental saga, and may also have helped jump-start the development of the first games of the game. Japanese role.