Dragon’s Lair

Developed by Advanced Micro Computer Systems, distributed by Cinematronics, and animated by the Don Bluth Studio, DRAGON’S LAIR uses the laserdisc to accomplish what computer graphics have yet to do, create life-like animation for arcade games. The gamer will watch (or ‘create”) an animated adventure each time he plays as he attempts to lead Dirk, the hero, through a labyrinth of halls and chambers to find and rescue the fair princess held captive in the DRAGON’S LAIR.

The new screen images are made possible by the ability of the laser-disc to random access any spot on the disc. When the hero is suddenly placed in peril, the game player decides the action Dirk will take. Upon that decision, the computer immediately accesses the conclusion of that decision. Though 22 minutes of animation were created, the full game takes around 12 minutes to play out. The use of disc also allows for a full range of sound and music, not the usual synthesized sounds associated with videogames.

This new and exciting approach may alter the entire arcade industry. Arcade owners will no longer have to keep buying new game machines. Rather they will simply be able to change discs. This reduced cost translates into more sales and money for newer games. The end result could be a new market for animation that will allow studios to seek young talent and train them. It also offers a new market for the animator.

DRAGON’S LAIR is definitely a first, and as with all firsts, there is a gamble. We’ll have to wait for the historians to decide who won.

Dragon’s Lair

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Printed in Animator’s newsletter Issue 8 (Spring 1984)