Shogoth

Fabio Rossi

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Shogoth was to be the first big title from a garage studio in Milano, Italy operated by soon-to-be game journalists Fabio Rossi (editor of the Italian editions of Zzap!, The Games Machine and CVG, among others) and Stefano Giorgi (reviewer in the same magazines and last seen working for Compaq in Italy). They had published a few small text adventure games for tape-based magazines, but this was a monster job taking them
around two years to complete.

The concept was to produce an Infocom-style text adventure with the capability of correctly parsing complex commands typed in natural Italian, which as a language is structurally much more complex than English to analyze and interpretate. Also, the double-sided disk game had a complex map of several hundreds locations, making it larger than the three canonical "Zork" games put together. The final, major characteristic was the amount of text involved, filling one whole side of the game disk – a huge quantity at a time when most games actually kept all the text in the RAM along with the game code.

Storywise, Shogoth was about a young man thrown unexpectedly in a weird parallel-dimension world which purposefully negated all the cliches of the sword and sorcery genre, giving it a novel approach somewhat reminding of the style of Douglas Adams’ and Terry Pratchett’s books. In fact, one of the major sources of inspiration were Warner Bros.’ Looney Tunes cartoons, with Wile E. Coyote-style traps and oddball characters to meet during the quest. Another source of inspiration was the "Mickey and Goofy in the Ice Sword Trilogy"
series of comic books published by the Italian arm of Disney.

The game was completed and previewed to the staff of the Italian edition of Zzap! magazine, which enthusiastically reviewed it and awarded Shogoth the Gold Medal – the highest possible honour for a game.

Soon after this the game was picked up for publishing by Systems Editoriale, probably the only Italian game publisher actually caring about quality in those days. Then tragedy hit.

The offices of Systems Editoriale where the source code and master copy of Shogoth was kept were destroyed in a fire, and the existing backup copies given to the publisher were never found again. The authors of course had their own copies, but another problem arose. One of them had in fact not the actual game, but a self-playing version created to show the publisher a complete demo and walkthrough – this was obtained substituting a huge part of the practical game code, so backtracking to a complete version was deemed impossible.

The other author had an actual correct copy which was kept safe for some time until the now-redefined Systems Editoriale decided to rethink its publishing schedules in orded to contain the financial damages incurred during the fire – and then sparsely distributed to trusted friends for their personal enjoyment "until a new publisher was found".

Unfortunately the text-only era was coming to a close and the lack of source code didn’t help either. The only printout from which the game could have theoretically be fully retyped didn’t contain the long texts for game locations, descriptions and interactions, and the authors gave up on the whole project.

In the early Nineties, the author’s huge collection of C64 disks among which the only "original" copy of Shogoth lied was stolen along with much more important stuff from his house, so he tried to casually recover at least one of the copies given to friends many years before… with no success.

Given the situation of the Italian game piracy environment, there is a strong possibility that somewhere a lone copy of Shogoth still lies awaiting – and the "antipiracy gimmick" imposed by Systems Editoriale, involving an abstruse key sequence to get the game running (something along the lines of "CTRL + *, followed by SHIFT + &") sure won’t help the one who might find it.

Is this lost forever?…

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