Dragon Quest Design Documents
Creator Yuji Horii took to Twitter to upload some of the first Dragon Quest game’s original design documents. After drawing a map, Horii used tracing paper to overlay the characters. All the dialog was hand written. In the online forum Kotaku.com, commenter ShadowflareXIII says that the map is of Tangel Castle; the purple areas were the ‘barrier’ areas that took a massive 15hp for every step. The “Dragon Quest” series, while developed in a variety of different studios, has alway been headed by three people: Yuji Horii for game design and scenario development, Akira Toriyama on character design, and Koichi Sugiyama for music. It was developed for the Famicon and released in Japan in 1986. In the US, it was released as Dragon Warrior for the NES under the direction of Satoru Iwata. The name change was to prevent infringing on the pen-and-paper RPG DragonQuest. Numerous changes were made, ranging from the save system to the artwork. In Japan, the sprites face forward at all times, but in dragon warrior, they face in the direction of travel. The most distinctive change occurred with the dialogue when it was changed into pseudo-Elizabethan English.
Horii was inspired by video games Ultima and Wizardry and was instrumental in introducing Western computer style RPGs to the Japanese console market. Like his Western counterparts, he valued storytelling and emotional engagement. It was very successful in Japan but less so in the US, although both markets found devoted fans.
We occasionally get user drawn maps in donations – usually scrawls on notebook paper, like my original map to Zork 1, done long before there were walkthroughs. For those of us who drew maps as we were questing through our games, it’s lovely to see that one of the classics started the same way and to have the original artwork available. Thanks, Yuji Horii!