Well, maybe the exclusive is being a little 'economical' with the truth, but I have done the next best thing, I have bought the software which built the Bard's Tale games.
If there is one thing that is more fun than playing games, it is creating your own. But, there is one tiny problem associated with writing your own computer games - it is damn hard work. Of course, you can let someone else do the difficult bit for you, and Interplay has done just that.
There have been many game construction packages on the market in the past and it is got to be said that it is a bit of a game just trying to use most of them. The trick which must be achieved by a construction kit is to give you enough different building blocks to create a game which is unique to yourself, but at the same time to keep the package simple enough for the average user to handle.
All of the games you can create with this system will look similar to one of the legendary Bard's Tale role playing games. The main screen will be identical and all of the options will be the same.
The combat sequences and the spell casting techniques will also operate just as they did before. There are a limited number of graphic tiles available to be used as walls, doors, trees, houses, etc. with which you will be able to construct your dungeons and cities so, yet again, the graphics of your game will be identical to every other one.
In the main you will also use the library of pictures for the monsters and the fighters provided, simply because they have supplied you with approximately 30 great mug shots which you probably could not better yourself. You can import graphics from the likes of Deluxe Paint but, surprisingly, this kit does not make it as easy to do as should be.
So, what can you bring for a game of your own creation? For a start, you can design the actual layout of the world, placing monsters, secret doors and 'specials' wherever you like. You can create new spells and decide who can and cannot use them.
You can also decide which sound effect goes with these new spells and choose from a large list of options what effect the spell will have. However, it is in the ability to create 'specials', that you will have the power to put your stamp on the game. When you design your world using the map editor, you can place 'special points' wherever you like and then decide what will happen to the player when he arrives at that point.
Each 'special' will have a name, and you will be able to choose (from an option list) what the game should do when the special square is entered. The option may be a single effect, such as a message being displayed (e.g. 'Turn Back or you will be sorry!'), or you can have up to 20 lines of complex logic taking place, including graphics and sound effects.
With many game creators it is this part of the job where things get tough. There has to be some way in which you can tell the computer what you want to happen, and this generally involved typing something resembling a piece of computer language. Being human, it is here where things always go wrong. Either you mistype something, or you simply cannot work out what you should type to implement your great idea.
Consequently, when you test your creation the game either goes loopy and hangs up, or it gives out some meaningless message in techno-speak. To get around this problem, the Bard's Construction Set forces you to select each line of code from a long list of options which the designers have worked out to deal with most eventualities.
The only bits you will be allowed to type yourself are those which will not make the fame fall over. You may decide you want a monster to appear at some special place and steal some of your gold. In that case you will select which monster you wish to appear, which graphic screen will be shown for it, what line of text it will say, and how hard the monster will thump, should you decide to select the option 'No' to its demands.
You won't be able to type in a semi-colon in the wrong place which will make the whole thing go 'phut'!
Surprisingly, the manual is only 42 pages long which initially looks encouraging, but experience soon proves that it could have done with being bigger to answer all of the questions which you have. A picture is worth a thousand words and in this case the package includes a small game which you can take to pieces to see how it sprockets and springs go together.
There is a 'Test Game' section which allows you to jump into your creation at any point and try out a section, but I was surprised that it does not include any test options which would allow you to monitor and set 'flags' or other variables which you will want to inspect.
This game creator is much easier to use than most of the others I have come across, which means that with a bit of effort you will actually be able to create a finished game. The 'downside' is that all of the games will superficially look the same.
All creation requires perspiration, and to create a game which really has something different in it, you will need to spend a long time wrestling with the more awkward aspects of the package, namely the graphics and the 'special' logic sections. This type of open-ended software is what computers are really about. It is unlikely that you are ever to create a game which will make you money, but the weeks of creative fun contained in the box will be its own reward.