Successfully unsuccessful:

How a failed playthrough made history

THEN: A solitary light flickers in the abyssal darkness. Close by, a soft clacking sound sporadically shatters the silence. A writer is reading words he did not write. A creator of worlds lies lost within a world of another’s creation as a lowly guide. As text continues to scroll and change, a group of people make their way deeper into a dark dungeon buried within the simplistic code of an unassuming home computer entertainment system.

The year is 1984, the system is the Apple Amiga, and the dungeon…


Title screen from 1984’s Shadowkeep


Character Screen

Shadowkeep was sold as a text based interactive story with illustrations, in the vein of early game prerunners such as Oregon Trail. Existing in a world just shy of creating the term “Role playing game”, Shadowkeep was a fairly mundane dungeon crawler with few of the elements RPG gamers expect in today’s market. Save one, character customization.

With a fairly simple text based creation process you sent a full team into the depths of the foreboding castle known as ShadowKeep to find and destroy an unknown source of evil. Along the way you fight monsters, find items, juggle inventory all to the urging of a fairly substandard story. A story that was just interesting enough to inspire that final, as yet overlooked, piece of the tableau. The man sitting at the keyboard.

Because this was not an average man and all the embellishments lofted upon him earlier in this writing were indeed earned, for he was a true creator of worlds. This man, was the illustrious author, Alan Dean Foster.

Highly prolific, at 38 Foster was already a well known author , having heretofore written and published 34 books, including numerous movie adaptations, “Star Trek” episodes, and the near infamous first “Star Wars” novel “Splinter of the minds eye”;

And this expansive mind was taking every step of his playthrough and turning it into something more. Deciding on an idea, Alan began expounding on the unwritten history of his team, considering their choices not within the context of the game, but in a wider expanded world. Giving them names and identities, Alan Dean Foster turned his playthrough, piece by piece, battle by battle, into the world’s first novel adaptation of a video game.

But sadly, the games of the era were not kind, and as Foster reached the final tower, and in turn the final chapter, the lack of safety features combined with a small oversight in forethought would lead our heroes to a seemingly dead end. Foster, you see, had sold a quest item halfway through his quest. This fatal mistake leading him into a locked door he could not pass, and thus, could not write past. While Alan Dean Foster would go on to write many more books, (135 total at the time of this writing) the castle of shadowkeep he would never revisit. The final door would remain locked, the dungeon unexplored, and while the novel does have an end for our readers, for the band of explorers it holds no answers.

You and I however, are luckier. We gained not only the world’s first video game adaptation, but also the world’s first streaming playthrough. And, while yes, the stream is not live and up to the minute. And, while yes, the failure of the author (ergo the party) is forever written for all to see, we have a snapshot of of a grand expedition, written in the bemoaned sorrow of one lost team of adventurers, by the hand of an artist enjoying someone else’s art. A snapshot that, by its very nature, the world will never see again. Unique. Priceless.

But maybe you want more? Because shadowkeep is still out there my friends, With his book as a guide, (And the added fact the game is now in the public domain) maybe you can finally unlock the secret of Shadowkeep.

Purchase and download information for Shadowkeep:

Buy the Book.

Download the game

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