Back in the day, few RPGs were as good as The Bard’s Tale. Released in 1985, it was a pioneer in computer games and really brought the Dungeons & Dragons feel to the PC.
The game was a straightforward dungeon crawl, where you led a group of adventurers to seek their fame and fortune in the dark depths. Though simplistic compared to today’s games, you have to wonder why the game disappeared after three sequels and being so hugely popular.
Turns out, Electronic Arts is at fault according to an interview with Rebecca Heineman, Interplay co-founder. In 1989, though Interplay wanted to continue making Bard’s Tale games, they were parting ways with EA as a publisher. EA, it turns out, had better lawyers and owned the rights to the name. They still released a fourth Bard’s Tale game, but had to change the name.
Strangely, they named the game Dragon Wars, even though there were no dragons in the game. It was good, but without the name and distribution of the past titles sold rather poorly. The creators tried several times to pitch EA with new games, though none ever got past the concept stage.
In 2004, Brian Fargo decided to create his own Bard’s Tale game. Though he found a legal way to use the name, he couldn’t use anything else. What he created was more comedy than fantasy and didn’t really have anything to do with the original.
By now, way too much time has passed for anyone to really revisit Bard’s Tale. However, we’ve got Dragon Age, and that’s just fine by me.