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A History of Korean Gaming

Table of Contents

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Part 2

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아블렉스 Ablex

Founded:

November 1992 (team)
April 18, 1995 (company)

Status:

merged into uPresto

Key People:

:
CEO (1995-1996)

CEO (from August 1996)

Website:

www.ablex.net (offline)


Team Ablex came into being as an assembly of computer science students at Chung-Ang University, shortly after one of the members, Oh Junkyoo, had won at a game programming competition at SKC for the title Aromi-wa Daromi1. As the oldest of the involved students, Park Sujeong became the leader of the team, and later founded Ablex as a registered company. In March 1995, Korea Select Ware announced the development of a 3D engine in cooperation with Ablex, which was planned to be licensed out to other developers2. There are no known licensed titles, but Ablex' own game Hades might be using it.

When he left the company together with other members in 1996 to found OnNet (which is developing online games since 2003, too)3, Ablex shifted its focus towards online games and wireless networking technologies, which became the company's main product after the online game projects failed to support it.

On July 21st, 2005 Ablex was assimilated by uPresto4, which still operates today.


Games

작은마녀 (Jageun Manyeo) / Little Witch - IBM PC (July 10, 1993)

Ablex' first game follows the titular Little Witch on her quest to become a full-blown witch. In a platformer/adventure hybrid she has to explore woods and caves, learn new spells and solve the problems of numerous people and magical creatures on her way. The game's mechanics and progression are similar to some of the Wonder Boy episodes, with slightly more emphasis on "RPG elements". It is also text heavy for this kind of game, and pages over pages on a special story book screen are no rarity.

The game world is divided into seperate areas, but some of the dungeons are huge and map-drawing is almost obligatory. Most of the witch's spells are used to fight the many imaginative enemies, but "talk" is a spell too, which results in frequent inconvenient switching in the menu. Without some serious grinding, most enemies are capable to kill the witch fast, resulting in many frustrating game over screens, but at least it is possible to save the game at any time. Yet the function should be handled with care, because it is also possible to save in unwinnable situations.

Little Witch has enough inspiration and fun ideas to be a very entertaining little game (it even uses pictures as doors to jump through between areas, two years before Super Mario 64), however done by a bunch of university students, the technical execution leaves much to be desired. There's hardly ever been choppier scrolling in a retail game and everything flickers like crazy, making enemies much harder than they need to be and not seldom rendering the game almost unplayable. The potential for a great game was there, and the graphics look really nice (if amateurish), but it would have needed a bit more programming expertise to truly shine.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Ablex

Publisher:

DS Game Channel

Designer:

Oh Junkyoo

Genre:

Action-RPG


Little Witch (IBM PC)

Little Witch (IBM PC)



하데스 (Hades) - IBM PC (May 1995)

Cover

With Hades, Ablex continued to walk untrodden paths, creating Korea's first FPS. The aesthetics are very closely oriented on Doom, complete with similar demonic enemies that almost count as plagiarism, although the weapon selection might be a bit more futuristic.

The most unique element in the game is the terrain made of voxel graphics, as the stages alternate between Doom style mazes of narrow corridoors (although they're more loosely designed than id's masterpiece) and open, hilly areas that just serve as combat arenas and offer ample opportunity to restock ammunition.

In many stages it's also possible to find and board hovering vehicles, but they completely break the game, as they can fly over most obstacles, are nearly indestructible and usually have so much ammunition that it might just as well be unlimited.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Ablex

Publisher:

LG Software

Genre:

Action: 1st Person


Hades (IBM PC)

Hades (IBM PC)

Hades (IBM PC)



지스의모험 (Zis-ui Moheom) / Zis the Adventure - IBM PC (November 1995)

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Developed by the same staff as Little Witch, Zis is a much more straight forward platformer with a strictly linear stage progressing, for 6 worlds a 3 levels. The basic elements are standard platforming fare, but this game is incredibly inventive. Each stage seems to introduce at least one completely new idea, giving even the better Super Mario games a run for their money in that department. There's a mountain climber hat, slides, shooter sequences, a pencil item that draws sketchy platforms on the screen, and much, much more.

The technical side, however, is once again much less to get excited about, but luckily not as catastrophic as in Little Witch. The scrolling is perfectly smooth this time, moreso than in most DOS games, but Zis occasionally gets stuck in the scenery, sprites aren't always deleted properly and there's a whole package of other glitches and even crashes. The game is still playable for the most part, but the overall impression is dragged down by those flaws, nonetheless.

All sprites are drawn well and have an unique, raw charme to them. Backgrounds tend to be a bit on the dull side, though. The music's fine, but lacks inspiration and goes mostly unnoticed. Ablex once again proved that they were one of the best creative teams in Korea, despite the repeated lack of fine tuning.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Ablex

Publisher:

LG Software

Designer:

Oh Junkyoo

Genre:

Platforming


Zis the Adventure (IBM PC)

Zis the Adventure (IBM PC)



Magic Land (매직랜드) - Windows (June 15, 1996 [open beta]; August 15, 1996)

Magic Land went online only a few months after Nexon's Kingdom of the Wind and was thus one of the earliest Korean graphical Multi User games. It was also among the first 3D MMORPGs, predating the commercial release of Meridian 59, although both games were around in beta form before5, and it becomes hard to tell which one really was first.

Magic Land was, however, a rather light game and would likely be called a "casual MMORPG" by today's standards. The game in its later iteration (a version 2.0 appeared in March 1997) consisted of only about a dozen peaceful areas, two monster hunting maps, a snow fight and a number of unrelated mini games6. There was no direct player vs player combat, but it was possible to turn each other into frogs or bugs with magic7.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Ablex

Genre:

MMORPG


Magic Land (Windows)



레가시 (Legacy) - Windows (January 30, 2000)

데스티니 온라인 (Destiny Online) - Windows (February 21, 2000)

Ablex' final game project(s) was/were so insignificant, it's even impossible to find out for sure whether it was two seperate games at all, given their close starting dates. Legacy was already shut down on April 15th, 2001, no certain information is to be gained about Destiny Online, as it was completely overshadowed by two later unrelated online games with the exact same title. There's not even any screenshots on the web except a tiny gif thumbnail for Legacy, unearthed from the ruins of its old home page.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Ablex

Genre:

MMORPG




Unreleased Titles:

잊혀진 나라 아이시스 (Ijchyeojin Nara Isys) / Forgotten Land Isys (1995)

프름이의 지구살리기 (Pureumi-ui Jigusalligi) (1995)

아마게돈 (Armageddon) (1996)


References
1. Game World 12/1993, page 150
2. ET News 3/3/1995
3. Interview with Park Sujeong (2008)
4. Saramin: uPresto company profile
5. Meridian 59's first primitive alpha test went online on December 15, 1995 with a beta following in April the next year (see Meridian 59 History). Dates for the Korean game are much more elusive, though.
6. Ablex Home Page retrieved April 16th, 1998 by the Internet Archive.
7. PC Champ 1/1998, page 256


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