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The History of Computer RPGs

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the welcome-to-the-dnd-world dept.

Role Playing (Games) 77

Gamasutra is running a series of articles about the history of CRPGs. The first piece covers the early years, from 1980 to 1983, and deals with with games like mainframe dnd, Wizardry, and Ultima. The follow-up, The Golden Years, touches on the gold box Dungeons and Dragons titles, as well as the Bard's Tale games. "The first Gold Box game is Pool of Radiance, a game which marked an important turning point in CRPG history. The game shipped in a distinctive gold-colored box (hence the nickname for the series), which sported artwork by celebrated fantasy illustrator Clyde Caldwell (Caldwell also designed the covers for Curse of the Azure Bonds and several other TSR-licensed games and books). It was initially available only on the Atari ST and Commodore 64 platforms, though soon ports were available for most major platforms, including the NES."

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turning point (1, Flamebait)

nomadic (141991) | more than 7 years ago | (#18155676)

Pool of Radiance, a game which marked an important turning point in CRPG history.

The SSI games were a travesty. They were wargames masquerading as CRPGs, they were buggy as hell, they were all produced using the same system so there was very little difference between them, they followed neither the spirit nor the rules of the system they were supposedly based on, and gameplay was just constant grinding with very little story, puzzle solving, or individuality. The graphics were bad even by the standards of the day.

There were some really amazing games out prior to and during that time; Ultima 5, Wasteland, Bard's Tale, for example. The SSI games were huge steps backward, and I think ultimately one of the reasons CRPGs faded from the market for several year.

Re:turning point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18155820)

Interesting take on it. However, I have to disagree with you. The Gold Box games were the first time a ruleset was used that all the RPG players at the time were familiar with. The difference was that computer did the die-rolling for you. Sure the graphics were fairly crude, but I think they captured the spirit of D&D quite well.

Re:turning point (1)

sholden (12227) | more than 7 years ago | (#18155984)

That was the problem they were the computer version of rules lawyering RPG players, where you spent all of your time rolling dice. All roll, no role.

Re:turning point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18156436)

Yeah, that's why nobody bought them. They were "all roll and no role". Oh, wait....see, the thing is, EVERYBODY bought them. Why? Because this is WHAT WE WANT. If I want "roll-ee playing" with the amateur thespian society of Loserville, I'll move there (i.e., buy Wraith the Oblivion or something). I, and a lot of other people, want to play a damn game with rules, levels, classes, and number crunching. See: WoW. You don't want that, great, but don't pretend that these were a 'failure' and that people wanted some sort of "more roll-eee" sort of thing instead. That is wrong all the way to the night depository at the first national bank of wrongness.

Re:turning point (1)

Sowelu (713889) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161496)

Actual "roleplaying", where you really get into your character's role and play it to the hilt, is strictly impossible without other human players: The plot forces you to pick between saying a small number of things the writers included. The role that these games DO let you get into, is that of an explorer in dangerous territory. For me, the silver age of computer RPGs was the age where you had to draw your own maps. Wizardry epitomized that age for me, and it was pretty rules lawyering itself. When the rules are simple enough that you can't really abuse the AI or anything, "rules lawyering" is actually fairly realistic... It's fairly in-character for an adventurer to take any possible advantage he can. The place where it gets questionable is when you sit around and farm the monsters for experience points. If that's the player's goal, then no, it's not a roleplaying game at all. If finishing making your maps while trying not to get killed is the player's goal, then hey, it's all good. But then, I enjoyed early RPGs the same way I enjoyed early text adventures.

Re:turning point (2, Informative)

sholden (12227) | more than 7 years ago | (#18162484)

I'm referring to picking the weapon with the highest damage per round, and min-maxing stats, and so on. Casting Harm on the dragon before he goes hostile (because you know from last time you can stand next to him until you trigger the special dialog that sets him off) and killing him with a single hit next round, that sort of stuff...

The computer couldn't throw in something designed to punish the min-maxer the way a human DM could.

If you can keep a journal as the character in the game that doesn't consist of entries like "went to the goblin cave for XP all day" then all is well. It can still actually be a level grind (the Baldur's Gate series, for example) but hopefully there's something to justify it being done from the character's point of view.

Of course the masses like the grind, which I understand in a multi-player game (there's a get better then the next person thing) but not in a single player game, in which you can save all that grind by changing a few bytes in the save file.

I like story, but I'm old and crusty...

Re:turning point (3, Interesting)

PhilipMckrack (311145) | more than 7 years ago | (#18156564)

I disagree as well. I loved Pool of Radiance and probably played it all the way through 6 or 7 times or more on my old C64. I liked the fact that the gold box games all pretty much used the same system, I could go from one to another and gameplay was almost the same. I would liken it to the expansion packs of todays mmorpg games, the later gold box games added to the earlier ones, you could even import your party from the previous games with all stats intact.

I never really tried Ultima games until 7 or 8 so I know I missed out with them, but I did try Wasteland and never really got that far into it. I loved the premise of the game, but the gameplay was just not my style.

I was not a D&D paper gamer, just someone that liked computers and those were the games that had an impact on me. From Pool of Radiance, I played the entire Gold Box series. I even got the PC versions when I finally got a PC.

Re:turning point (3, Interesting)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 7 years ago | (#18159048)

One of my first RPGs was Ultima III on the Apple IIe (yes, old timer). One of the best tricks that I did to entertain myself was the fact that treasure chests dropped by monsters outdoors were obstacles and permanent (until opened). Monsters also blindly followed you. So I put 2 and 2 together and strategically led and killed monsters until I had created a "monster zoo" outdoors filled with all sorts of helpless meanies trapped in treasure box pens.

The other trick I liked was to build boat bridges between islands using boats captured from pirates but that was a bit harder to pull off.

It's always fun to find loop-holes in games.

Re:turning point (1)

nuzak (959558) | more than 7 years ago | (#18159702)

The other trick I liked was to build boat bridges between islands using boats captured from pirates but that was a bit harder to pull off.

I spent all day doing that once. Then the whirlpool came and sucked them all down to Davey Jones' Locker.

Re:turning point (1)

Creepy (93888) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161368)

heh, heh - Ultima III makes an old timer - youngster, you've got a lot to learn about being old

How about Atari 2600 Adventure [] (technically the first action-RPG)? I don't remember if I played that before or after Odyssey (see below).
somebody can now 1-up me and talk about Adventure on a mainframe (which is where it came first, I believe).

My first RPGs on a computer were Akalabeth [] (Ultima 0) and Odyssey: The Compleat Apventure [] on the Apple ][, which were mostly single player RPGs, though the mechanics of Odyssey were very different than most RPGs. Akalabeth was incredibly hard, then after I figured it out, incredibly easy. Instead of being an icon, you were a dot on a map. In a dungeon, you got the first person view like in the other Ultimas (Wizardry-like).

The first multi-player in a party (that wasn't a number) game I played was Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord, then the Ultimas (backwards from III). I remember even writing a map editor for Ultima I-III (which were the same format), too, though one of my friends made a much better one (he could edit the icons and design his own monsters).

Re:turning point (2, Interesting)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 7 years ago | (#18166834)

I played the first 3 Wizardry's with my brother. He was older so he usally got the keyboard and I manned the graph paper mapping and navigating for him. We occasionally fought over the keyboard too.

I remember getting stuck once and called Sir-Tech in NY in fustration. A person who sounded like a kid answered and very patiently explained what I needed to do. Free of charge too! I thought that was pretty cool of them.

If you played Wizardry 1 you'd remember the "Creeping Coins" which gave big XP points but you needed a mass destruction spell else you'd have to leave your chair and come back in 10 minutes until they finished attacking.

I don't need a "Blue Ribbon" to use the elevators here at work fortunately.

Re:turning point (1)

Clock Nova (549733) | more than 7 years ago | (#18162216)

To do you one better: in a week-long fit of boredom, I decided to make it my goal to fill every last square of land with chests. The hardest part was leading monsters into mountainous areas, using the time-stop spell or a powder to freeze them in place, then getting back to attack them before they woke up and moved out of the square I wanted them in. I think I finally just about got it, too.

Re:turning point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18165770)

My favorite RPG with loopholes in it was Ultima 6. My favorite two were:

- You can go into "solo" mode with any party member. You can also put *anything* in a treasure chest, including people! So, I put myself into a treasure chest and turned on solo mode...I emerged somewhere in the middle of the ocean!

- There's a crypt with some stalagmites that you're not supposed to be able to pass because you can't move diagonally. However, whenever you move, the game engine decides the optimal place for your party members to go to stay close to you, and they will go there, even if diagonally. So, I walked around the stalagmites until a party member finally managed to show up behind them. Then I turned on solo mode as that party member and did some exploring. No crashes or anything, but it was still fun.

I won't even go into the time I pushed everyone in town into one room and then got the powder kegs out of my backpack...

Re:turning point (2, Insightful)

MiceHead (723398) | more than 7 years ago | (#18157216)

they followed neither the spirit nor the rules of the system they were supposedly based on, and gameplay was just constant grinding with very little story, puzzle solving, or individuality. The graphics were bad even by the standards of the day.

(Score:1, Flamebait)

Flamebait? I think Nomadic has a point on many counts! Compare Pool of Radiance [] to Dungeon Master [] , which came a year before it. I enjoyed some of the Gold Box games, but I always felt like they were stamped out of a machine. The Ultima series and Dungeon Master were dew-picked and flown from Iraq, cleansed in the finest quality spring water, lightly ki- sorry. I meant that they felt like they were lovingly created by hand. You could tell that their designers lavished care on them.
Indie Superstar - Season 2 Episode 1 on Indie Games and Indie Games. []

Re:turning point (3, Interesting)

Bieeanda (961632) | more than 7 years ago | (#18157582)

This is probably going to get me modded as flamebait, but I felt the same way about their spiritual descendants, the Baldur's Gate series. They were ostensibly Second Edition AD&D to begin with, but used rules that were heretofore only found in the Basic D&D ruleset (weapon mastery and such), had heavily modified critters (mustard jelly is not green slime, and neither of the BG variants are anything like the ones statted in the Monstrous Manuals) and made a travesty of D&D combat by making everything real-time and eliminating any sense of range or radius. There isn't much point in casting a fireball when everything on the screen is halfway toward you by the time you begin to cast, and completely out of the blast radius by the time the effect goes off. Meanwhile, missile weapons have no trouble following fleeing targets around corners and far out of normal range. PC spellcasting was a fool's errand, and THAC0 was clearly the hand of destiny.

D&D has always had its roots in wargaming, from complex range, movement and initiative rules in earlier editions, to the numerous tactical combat examples in 3E and 3.5. In that way at least, the Gold Box games were true to that.

Re:turning point (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 7 years ago | (#18158200)

You could play BG, BGII, etc. in turn-based mode, you know. Aside from the lack of squares, stuff had a range and an area of effect.

Re:turning point (1)

Bieeanda (961632) | more than 7 years ago | (#18159188)

I'm not sure why people make this claim, because turn-based and automatically-pausing-simultaneous-activity are not the same things. I'll reiterate: By the time a spell effect goes off in the Infinity Engine, most of the targets have already vacated the area. That may be realistic, but it's not D&D.

Re:turning point (2, Insightful)

east coast (590680) | more than 7 years ago | (#18158718)

The graphics were bad even by the standards of the day.

You want to see some bad graphics? Come to my pen and paper game.

RPGs don't need to be graphically intense to be good.

I will agree that the were wargames to a point, that's what SSI was always best at. I still don't think many CRPGs are story intensive. Sometimes I'm thankful for it.

Re:turning point (1)

Atrox666 (957601) | more than 7 years ago | (#18159632)

Rogue/Hack/NetHack were old school.
These would be mentioned more if the average videogame columnist was old enough to shave. ..and those games are only if you don't count Zork. [] [] []

Re:turning point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18160580)

Your "reply" has nothing to do with its parent. Replying to get yourself further toward the top, into eyeshot of moderators, doesn't work; neither does dropping extremely well-known, fondly-remembered names.

Furthermore, this is the second article in a series; the first article included precursors to Rogue. Zork is an adventure game, not a CRPG.

If you're going to Karma whore, at least do it right. As it is, you're looking for -1 offtopic. Kudos on the needless wikipedia links, though.

Re:turning point (1)

pigeontheory (969456) | more than 7 years ago | (#18169276)

For me, the turning point was Might and Magic II. The article mentions the M&M series near the end of the article but I thought this game was a much grand version Bard's Tale. The hours it consumed in my childhood. I couldn't quite understand why the Quest for Glory series had a lengthy section. To me, this was a sub par CRPG -- more of a Sierra Adventure game with some stat points. Although a fun game, don't get me wrong, but I fail to categorize it with all the other great titles mentioned. If there was a segment on Adventure games, then this title certainly belongs there.

LSL (4, Interesting)

Ikyaat (764422) | more than 7 years ago | (#18155758)

Is leisure Suit Larry considered a roleplaying game since its the only time I ever get to be a suave ladies man. That game rocked. Same as Space Quest series and Kings Quest series on the Tandy 500.

Re:LSL (2)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 7 years ago | (#18157522)

Your comprehension of a "Role Playing Game" is a bit broad. In just about any game you play, you are assuming the role of one of the charactors, so by your definition, almost all games are role playing games.

Games like Liesure Suit Larry are what we call "Graphic Adventures". This is an unfortunate name, because one who doesn't know the explicit definition of Graphic Adventure will confuse it with "Adventure" games like Diablo.

I'm just the messanger. Please don't kill me.

Re:LSL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18163356)

Lets drop the pretense "Graphic" actually is part of the genre tag. Diablo isn't an Adventure game. The Quest series are Adventure games.

Re:LSL (1)

TheJasper (1031512) | more than 7 years ago | (#18165726)

Say rather that your comprehension of role playing games is rather narrow. Traditionally, role playing games have been exactly that, you take the role of a character. go play. Mind you this is not computer RPG. what we call computer RPG took basically only the statistics/war gaming aspect of rpg's and pretended like it was the same (which, sadly, for some people it is). Personally I always thought it was silly calling games like Larry an adventure while Bard Tale et al got to be RPG's.

Diablo is most definately a roguelike, not an adventure. An adventure focuses on puzzle solving and is story driven. Diablo is a go down to the dungeon and kill things to find the amulet of yendor game.

Mind you, the adventure market seems to have died a little...or perhaps crpgs have matured. The traditional split between adventure and rpg's (vis a vis computer games naturally) is all but gone. RPG's are now story driven and incorporate puzzles. They are more and more getting closer to table top role playing (allthough they still have lightyears to go).

Genres in general are of limited use. With racing games getting adventure/rpg like aspects, rpg's becoming adventures, first person shooter becoming rpgs, strategy and action all getting mixed up in one big package. When is it multi-genre and when do the old genre's lose meaning? Torment - and rpg, but story is it an adventure? GTA - a racing game...or was it a shooter? you get my point, I think.

Re:LSL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18173234)

First of all, there is considerable cross-breeding between game definitions. Especially as we, the gamers, have gotten more sophisiticated.

Strictly speaking RPGs AND Adventure games were differentiated from Action and Platform games because gameplay did not primarily depend on the "twitch factor" of the player, that is, the player's skill with the controller.

What differentiated RPGs from Adventure games was that the statistics of the played character could be altered significantly by the player in a way that changed play style, but not gameplay. For example, you can develop into a wizard or a fighter in a Fantasy RPG, you can't choose to increase LSL's Stamina instead of his Charm score.

There are, of course, many many cross breeds and very few "pure" genre games.

No one mentions Magic candle (1)

Joe Snipe (224958) | more than 7 years ago | (#18156052)

I loved Magic Candle III; I always wonder why people don't mention it when making lists like these.

Re:No one mentions Magic candle (1)

revlayle (964221) | more than 7 years ago | (#18157200)

hell, even magic candle 1 was an interesting game... i was amazed how much was slammed in a few disks for the C64 version also

okay (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18156172)

In the itchy and scratchy CEEDEE ROM How do I escape from the dungeon without using the wizard's key

Rerun & Magic Candle (1)

kgagne (983841) | more than 7 years ago | (#18156232)

Wasn't this article already Slashdotted [] in December?

And I agree, Magic Candle is wonderful, though I played only the first one on my Apple II. At the end, it saved my characters to be imported into the sequel -- which I don't think was ever released for that platform...

TES II Daggerfall (3, Interesting)

Drakin020 (980931) | more than 7 years ago | (#18156264)

Daggerfall was a great RPG in my opinion. So open ended with a large world. So what if it was randomly generated. I think that was one of the games that made a huge success in my world followed by Morrowind and Oblivion. Never played much of Areans though. (TES I)

Re:TES II Daggerfall (1)

smbarbour (893880) | more than 7 years ago | (#18158268)

To each his own, I suppose. I had bought Daggerfall a long time ago and could not even get out of the starting dungeon (and that was with an edited character). I tried Morrowind, but it was so boring I wanted to gouge my eyes out. I guess they were too open-ended for my tastes (or perhaps I just really suck at playing 1st-person RPGs).

Re:TES II Daggerfall (2)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 7 years ago | (#18159540)

Daggerfall was a raging bug-fest. It was literally impossible to beat most dungeons without cheating-- not because the monsters were difficult, but because that "randomly generated large world" you're so fond of often generated bottomless pits that caused you to fall out of the world, or frequently designed dungeons with one-way traps in them.

You could steal anything from any shop by just entering the shop, then using "Wait" until the shop was closed-- shopkeeper leaves you locked in! You can take whatever you want, then "Wait" until the shop opens again to leave. Moronic AI.

Sorry, but how anybody can like a game that buggy, I'll never know. Morrowind made up for it, being excellent on all levels, and Oblivion more-than made up for it.

Re:TES II Daggerfall (1)

IceDiver (321368) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160482)

Yes, Daggerfall was buggy.

However, I never needed to cheat to complete the game. Every time I ran into a bug, I discovered that Bethesda had released a patch to fix it.

As I recall, there were over 200 patches released for the game. Sure the game was buggy, but I have never before or since seen a game company that supported their game to the degree that Bethesda did for Daggerfall. It is one of my favourite games of all time.

Re:TES II Daggerfall (1)

Petrushka (815171) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160346)

Also a lot later than the ones discussed in the article -- like, a decade later. By the look of things, they'll be getting on to that around about part 4 of this series :-)

Oh the humanity. (1)

eddy (18759) | more than 7 years ago | (#18156292)

Apparently I hail from the Bronze Age. <picks up cudgel and shakes it at the WoW-generation>

Looking forward to the rest of this series. (As long as the Infinity Engine games win!)

(Temple of Apshai on the C64)

Re:Oh the humanity. (1)

jdigriz (676802) | more than 7 years ago | (#18157314)

Temple of Apshai, great game, very hard as I recall. I was constantly schlepping about giant copper ingots so I didnt get very far.

Fight Fight Fight (1)

bogie (31020) | more than 7 years ago | (#18156352)

Parry Parry Parry

Re:Fight Fight Fight (1)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | more than 7 years ago | (#18157036)

Parry Parry Parry

You're doing the "Summon Kibo" incantation all wrong. He's not like Bloody Mary or the Candyman or Biggie Smalls, whose name you say into a mirror three times to make them appear.

Re:Fight Fight Fight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18158234)

You forgot the Tiltowait!

For some, the golden age remains. (1)

6350' (936630) | more than 7 years ago | (#18156362)

Fun article that definitely made me a bit misty-eyed for ye olde days. However, its unfortunate that the article paints roguelikes as being firmly past-tense. In terms of pure dungeon crawl hack-n-slash, roguelikes have persisted [] , grown in interesting [] directions [] , and remain vibrant [] today.

Re:For some, the golden age remains. (1)

dancingmad (128588) | more than 7 years ago | (#18156682)

OK, so you kind of look like a grandpa, even with the games you linked to ;) , and I'm not quite old enough to remember rogue in the present tense (I'm one of those Coleco/NES brats), but the roguelike has seen a lot of play in Japan with the Fushigi no Dungeon [] (Mysterious Dungeon) series, which has had games in the Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and Pokemon series. There are some other similar (more recent vintage) titles, like Dokapon Monster Hunter for the GBA. I feel like there was another rogue-ish game for the GBA that only came out in Japan but the title escapes me...

Which is all to say that, the Dragon Quest Yangus title does back up your point, that genre is still alive and kicking, but it being a PS2 game with pretty cell-shaded graphics, emphasizes it more than (what many would call, but not me) musty titles like Angband.

Re:For some, the golden age remains. (1)

6350' (936630) | more than 7 years ago | (#18156784)

On the topic of roguelikes, your comments bring up an excellent issue: at what point do we stop calling a roguelike a roguelike, and call it something else (say, and RPG). Conventionally, the "mustyness" of Angband (still rocking along in development, btw) is actually part of a broad/vague definition of "roguelike."

All cRPG's pretty much have their roots in roguelikes, simply because roguelikes were early in the family tree of computer RPGs. But, in the same way that I am not a monkey, some of the games you mentioned are no longer roguelikes. This is probably a good analogy to use here, as new things branched off the old, but the old has persisted (ie, roguelikes are alive and well along side conventional cRPGs these days, in the same way that loads of other primates are alive and kicking contemporarily with us humans).

Re:For some, the golden age remains. (1)

snuf23 (182335) | more than 7 years ago | (#18156764)

From a commercial basis, Rogue-a-likes just evolved into games like Diablo picking up the action element from games like the arcade Gauntlet and Gateway to Apshai [] .
The most recent commercial examples include be Titan Quest and Fate [] . Fate even borrows the pet concept from Nethack (I'm sure it was in other Rogue-a-likes - I'm not expert).

Re:For some, the golden age remains. (3, Interesting)

6350' (936630) | more than 7 years ago | (#18156890)

Absolutely - all this represents the evolutionary tree of cRPGs. Diablo in particular is quite interesting: as any roguelike player knows, Diablo was very clearly inspired and heavily influenced by roguelikes. It wasn't until quite recently, however, that I heard a story that demonstrates just direct the inspiration was.

(the following is unsourced, and comes to me from that awesome vector of "some dude at work":)
It seems that Diablo, the story goes, was originally turnbased! Some engineer had the kooky idea of converting the game over to be realtime, which noone he worked with was to fired up about. So, he did it on the side as a pet project. When finished, he checked it in and had everyone give it a shot. They of course realized they had a winner on their hands ...

Re:For some, the golden age remains. (1)

king-manic (409855) | more than 7 years ago | (#18157316)

It seems that Diablo, the story goes, was originally turnbased! Some engineer had the kooky idea of converting the game over to be realtime, which noone he worked with was to fired up about. So, he did it on the side as a pet project. When finished, he checked it in and had everyone give it a shot. They of course realized they had a winner on their hands ...

I doubt it. The code difference between a turn based and a real time game is non-trivail. In fact I doubt 1 person working in their sparetime could do it. As well Blizzard has never made a turn based game, the desing for diablo is so different from a turn based one. If it did happen it would have had to be exstremely early in the dev proccess.

Re:For some, the golden age remains. (1)

MaXimillion (856525) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161116)

While it might not have been just one guy changing it, according to [] Diablo was originally intended to be turn-based.

Re:For some, the golden age remains. (1)

Empiric (675968) | more than 7 years ago | (#18162584)

FWIW, I heard much the same thing, from the even-more-awesome vector of "Yeah, I think I read that in a gaming magazine once."

Though, a quick googling reveals some remnants of that apparent history [] .

Re:For some, the golden age remains. (1)

Dutch Gun (899105) | more than 7 years ago | (#18170584)

Ok, I'll go ahead and confirm this for you. I happen to know one of the devs working at Blizzard during the development of Diablo, and asked him about this.

According to him, yes, Diablo actually did start out as a turn-based game. Blizzard North was heading up the development, but under pressure from Blizzard South (everyone there figured that real-time would be much more popular), the switch was made from turn-based to real-time.

I think the conversion process was slightly less dramatic from the way he described it, but the meat of the story appears to be true.

Atari ST Flashbacks / What about Sierra? (3, Interesting)

xjmrufinix (1022551) | more than 7 years ago | (#18156808)

I remember being young (very young, I was born in 1981) and playing Dungeon Master on my dad's Atari ST 1040...according to my parents, I learned how to read so I could play play Planetfall and Hitchhiker's Guide!

The one gripe I have with this article is that it neglects the now mostly-extinct genre of interactive fiction. Sierra and Lucasarts both expanded on the Infocom format and made games that I think were as much role-playing games as all the hack-and-slash dungeon games. Both were only able to capture certain aspects of table-top RPG's, and I liked both but always enjoyed the adventure games more. You don't see too many RPG's today that don't rely and tons of mindless combat to fill up space, and these were long, involved games which had few or no combat sequences for the most part. Most early RPG's were pretty light on the RP....

I miss The Bard's Tale (1)

infinite9 (319274) | more than 7 years ago | (#18156458)

I still have fond memories of this game. A friend and I played through all three on the C64. Then I did it again when I finally got an Amiga. For me, no game has ever made as much of an impression, although Shadow of the Colossus really impressed me. I still remember some of the 4 digit spell codes from BT. I was really hoping the recent bard's tale would capture the same feeling for me. But sadly, it was a joke.

Re:I miss The Bard's Tale (1)

regular_gonzalez (926606) | more than 7 years ago | (#18156650)

Indeed. MIBL forever!

Re:I miss The Bard's Tale (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18156958)

But did you ever meet HERB?

Re:I miss The Bard's Tale (1)

Kelson (129150) | more than 7 years ago | (#18158662)

But did you ever meet HERB?

I met Herb. Repeatedly. Concurrently, even.

Tolkien in D&D (5, Funny)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 7 years ago | (#18156724)

Although there's some question about how deeply J.R.R. Tolkien's Ring trilogy played in the development of D&D,
The only question was how fast could they scrub words like Hobbit and Ent out of the game books.

Re:Tolkien in D&D (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18159656)

There are a few places in the original D&D manuals where they forgot to rename Hobbit to Halfling.

Re:Tolkien in D&D (1)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161270)

The original rules and the suppliments (Greyhawk, Blackmoor, etc) all had Hobbit. I don't think they started stripping it out until the first Basic Set or AD&D. (Tolkein's estate was doing a periodic legal flexing, I think.)

Why only fantasy considered? (1)

myrrdyn (562078) | more than 7 years ago | (#18157898)

Why only fantasy is considered? Where is SF CRPG? Don't tell me SF CRPG did not exist back in 90'.
As example, i played Frontier - Elite 2 on Amiga back in 1993
I presume it was a RPG, but it was sold as space-combat-trading game.
But, if you think a GALAXY of 100000000000000 star system is not big enough to make an RPG...
3D real-time graphics, details from galaxy to clock tower in your city (on Mars), newtonian physics and much more... on just 600KB...
Argh, where is UAE? I'm in dire need now!

Re:Why only fantasy considered? (3, Insightful)

east coast (590680) | more than 7 years ago | (#18158598)

I presume it was a RPG, but it was sold as space-combat-trading game.

Elite was a flight/trade simulator. I love the game myself. It's far from an RPG (IMHO) because the entire time I played it I never really felt the need to conduct myself like the captain of a space cruiser. I felt it was a video game with a bit of meat that made it worth playing for hours at a time. Anyway...

This is the problem with this whole subset of games (RPGs that is); little, if any, require any real roleplaying. I like to play "rpgs", both on the PC and pen and paper, but I never really roleplay. I guess it's a very very grey area on what real RPGs would encompass. I guess that stuff like D&D and EQ are more like real RPGs since you're taking on the identity of another to the point that you have to deal with "life" from within their abilities. Elite simply doesn't do this. In EQ or DnD I may be a great fighter even if I'm bound to a wheelchair without the ability to lift my arms more than a few inches, it's just about the roll of the dice, it has nothing to do with my own real world abilities. In Elite it was much different, if you sucked at playing the game you just sucked... you needed to be as good a player IRL as what it came out as on the PC. I guess that may be the first sign of a game being an RPG; that barrier between real life abilities and the ability to work within the game scenario. Anyone has the same chance of rolling a 20 from a disabled guy in the wheelchair to the best athlete to a mathematician. In Elite you had to be a good physical player to reflect a good Captain Jameson.

I don't know, just some of my thoughts on the matter.

sorry for being long winded.

Re:Why only fantasy considered? (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180994)

Elite was a flight/trade simulator. I love the game myself. It's far from an RPG (IMHO) because the entire time I played it I never really felt the need to conduct myself like the captain of a space cruiser. I felt it was a video game with a bit of meat that made it worth playing for hours at a time. Anyway...

So how is that different from 95% of the CRPGs out there? Although it didn't involve any dialogue, in some ways, Frontier felt more like actual roleplaying that some so-called computer RPGs.

This is the problem with this whole subset of games (RPGs that is); little, if any, require any real roleplaying. I like to play "rpgs", both on the PC and pen and paper, but I never really roleplay.

Although I've seen some pretty good roleplaying in some pen-n-paper RPG sessions, I get the impression that some of the best roleplaying actually takes place in play-by-email RPGs. They're more verbal and a lot less "hanging out with friends and having a laugh".

That said, Placescape: Torment was absolutely brilliant. Best CRPG ever, and possibly the only one deserving of the name "Roleplaying Game".

Re:Why only fantasy considered? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18158618)

Yeah, I remember spending weeks on Sentinel Worlds back in my grade school days.

As for Elite type games, be sure to check out Oolite [] (which is a faithful remake of Elite, with a lot of optional add-ons for extra ships, missions, etc.) and Vega Strike [] , which is a modern Elite-style game. VS is an awesome game (once you upgrade the tugboat you start off in) although I always thought the universe's backstory felt like it was written by a Libertarian slashdot troll. (See the way-cool net/brain-interface techno-utopia guys who are in conflict with teh dumb space Socialists who don't realize how dumb socialism is, especially in teh space!)

Re:Why only fantasy considered? (1)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160390)

*apt-get install vegastrike*

Thankyou for that, in return I give you glfrontier [] . If you use a debian-package management system, you can use my debian source packages for glfrontier (which I packaged myself) with apt-build or such:

deb-src deb-source/
If you use ubuntu-edgy, you can use the binaries I built here:

deb ubuntu-edgy/
The package is called 'glfrontier'.

About the first Wizardry games (2, Informative)

Pluvius (734915) | more than 7 years ago | (#18157978)

The first article mentions that the NES versions of those games are the best available. Well, not exactly; the best way to play them is through The Story of Llylgamyn, a compilation of the first three games for the Super Famicom. Unfortunately, it was only released in Japan for the Nintendo Power accessory (not to be confused with the magazine). It was a nifty little device similar to the Famicom Disk System; you could go to a store and load games onto a flash ROM inside of it. Of course, you can't do that anymore.

But then, that's what emulation is for. If you can find the ROM, which is easy enough (hint: The name is "Wizardry I-II-III - Story of Llylgamyn (J) (NP).smc"), then you're golden. You might want to use the translation patch [] for it, but it's not necessary; the games are dual-language, so the only Japanese you'll have to muddle through is in the pre-game menus. A minor note: For some reason Knight of Diamonds is listed as the third game while Legacy of Llylgamyn is listed as a second, which is a transposition. Play them accordingly, or not.


Re:About the first Wizardry games (3, Informative)

Petrushka (815171) | more than 7 years ago | (#18160408)

It might also be worth mentioning that the middle Ultima games can be played in modernised forms: for Ultima IV there's xu4 [] , which is simply a better-looking (and sounding) version of the original, and is also cross-platform; and Ultima V has been recreated as Lazarus [] , as a mod for Dungeon Siege 1.

wrong golden age (1)

Allison Geode (598914) | more than 7 years ago | (#18158264)

i disagree with what they label as the "golden age." i'd venture to say that, for me at least, the golden age was in the mid to late 90's, when we had releases like the Baldur's Gate series, and Planescape: Torment, and Fallout (and bioware and black isle, period!), Daggerfall, diablo (yes, not really an rpg, but we're including it because it helped revitalize the genre at the time) and others. there was a great glut of AWESOME RPG games.

the article's "golden age" I think, is too close to the "original age," and really, i also feel that, while they were great games for the time, they haven't aged as well as most of the stuff released in the mid 90's.

Re:wrong golden age (1)

Allison Geode (598914) | more than 7 years ago | (#18158442)

never mind. i missed the last page somehow and i see how he's calling what irefer to as "the platinum age," but I'd still have to say, those earlier "golden age" games really leave a lot to be desired by today's standards, and yet, i feel stuff like baldur's gate will NEVER seem out-dated. a friend of mine, who has only recently become very interested in games, was asking about "computer RPG's with great plots" and the Baldur's Gate series was the first thing in my mind, followed shortly by Planescape: torment" (which i think is one of the best rpg's ever, but i hesitate to recommend it to people unfamiliar with the setting, because it can be "too weird" for some people."

Betrayal at Krondor (1)

Malakusen (961638) | more than 7 years ago | (#18158960)

It was a great old CRPG. I liked it anyway. The graphics were simplistic, comically so, but it was enjoyable.

Tunnels of Doom (3, Interesting)

British (51765) | more than 7 years ago | (#18159898)

For the small minority of TI-99/4A owners, there was the incredibly fun Tunnels of Doom. It would take forever to load on cassette! Typically, 1st party games were among the worst, but ToD was the exception! It had serious depth for a TI-99/4A game. Later on in life I would meet the author of Legends, another RPG which was pretty fun.

Okay, so we(TI-99/4A owners) had a grand total of 2 RPGs, still, better than none.

Re:Tunnels of Doom (1)

shalla (642644) | more than 7 years ago | (#18166750)

I loved Tunnels of Doom! To this day, I can start singing the song it played while loading a level and my brother will join in. Ah, the hours we spent trying to save the king...

I always considered the Scott Adams games to be early CRPGs, just done completely in text form. Ah, the joys of Pirate Adventure! (Yes, I spent hours loading those on cassette too.)

Missed "Scepter" (1)

bill_kress (99356) | more than 7 years ago | (#18159968)

The article didn't even go into Scepter of Goth or the other really early MORPG (Forget the name). (Since it could only handle up to 16 dial-in users I had to forgo the MMORPG title--it wasn't really "Massive")

I also didn't see any mention of online MUDs but they came later(so they may not have been mentioned yet); Scepter was around in the early 80's, predating (or at least paralleling) most of the games listed in the article and the IBM PC itself.

Re:Missed "Scepter" (1)

Teckla (630646) | more than 7 years ago | (#18161402)

Scepter of Goth was a fantastic game. I still occasionally pull out the source code for it, and take a walk down memory lane.

Re:Missed "Scepter" (1)

bill_kress (99356) | more than 7 years ago | (#18168752)

Do you really have that code? I and a few friends would love to see that! Any chance you could send me a copy?

bill.kress is my gmail acct if you think you could.

Truly Radical games (for their time) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18162432)

Alternate Reality(1985). The stinkin' tune is still wandering around in my head after 20+ years.

Wizard's Crown(1986). The granddaddy of the graphic sprites role playing games. If memory serves, it was a peer to Wizardry 1.

While all of Infocom's games were great, both of those games really cemented my life long addiction. A shame they don't get better press.

Jus' an old fart reminiscing.

Where's NetHack? (1)

Clete2 (823221) | more than 7 years ago | (#18163244)

Forgive me if this was mentioned in the article, but where is NetHack? I briefly scanned the article and didn't see it mentioned.

Re:Where's NetHack? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18169126)

Nethack is a "roguelike", like Moria, etc. Rogue was the name of the original game. I'm not sure of the differences between the two, if any.

SF RPGs (1)

Kancept (737976) | more than 7 years ago | (#18171936)

I grew up on Sentinel Worlds, Wasteland, Hard Nova, Starflight (I & II) and goodies like that on my Tandy. In fact, I still have them all in storage. I should pull those out and play em... They just don't make games like they used to- fun.

PC only? (1)

Plekto (1018050) | more than 7 years ago | (#18172918)

They seem to be missing quite a few gems fro the early days, including the very first 2.5D game ever, Alternate Relality: The City. Wizardry was just coming out. But in 1985, there was a new pseudo-3d game with a persistent state(actual time went by), shops, weather, nighttime, and so on. It also had the typical player inventory, levels, spells, and such. Oh - and banks, gambling, and so on, as well as morality(if you were evil, good guys came after you!). Plus, a really nice, convoluted plot that we didn't see done better until Marathon.

It was way ahead of its competition.

But it never gets any mention despite being still worth playing if you have an emulator.
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