Using the original code, new MUDs are created by other students from Essex and around the world. The concept evolves from MUDs to MOOs to MUCKs to MUSHs, each incorporating new options and abilities for the growing player base. Multi-User Dungeons become a huge attraction for students on networked educational computer systems, and prove to the world that online gaming will be a continuing and growing force in the coming years. MUD itself is licensed to CompuServe and is still running there, making it the longest lasting Multi-User Dungeon environment ever.
Moving up north to Coarsegold, California, the couple change their company name to Sierra On-Line and produce 20 more games for the Apple II, even recieving correspondence from Steve Wozniak on the benefits of entertainment programs for the increasingly popular computer. In 1983, IBM asks Sierra to produce a game to show off the graphical capabilities of a new computer they are skewing towards the gaming market, the PCjr. Using a provided prototype system, Roberta designs the next evolution of the graphical adventure, allowing the player's onscreen alter-ego to walk around the landscape in astounding 16-colour CGA psuedo-3D graphics. With a team of six programmers and a development cost of $700,000, King's Quest is released in 1984. Players control Sir Graham , who is charged by King Edward to search the kingdom of Daventry for three treasures. While the PCjr tanks in spectacular fashion, Sierra has a major hit on their hands. Ported to more popular systems, King's Quest sells over 2.7 million copies, and is followed by eight sequels.
In 1986, early Sierra employees Scott Murphy and Mark Crowe, aka The Two Guys from Andromeda, approach Ken Williams with the idea of creating a humorous science-fiction adventure game . Unconvinced of the commercial viability of the project, Williams says no. But they go ahead and develop a four room game around the premise during their spare time, and when Williams sees the demo he gives Murphy and Crow the okay to procede. Released that year, Space Quest is another huge hit for Sierra, and it spawns six follow-ups. Packed full of SF
1987 sees release of the controversial Leisure Suit Larry, by Al Lowe. Based on a 1982 text-only adventure game called Softporn by Chuck Benson (Gary Thompson later develops his own improved version of the program) , the goal of the game is to get the sleazy title character into bed with three different women. The game is a particular hit with bored male office workers, and it introduces the "Boss" key, which instantly clears the screen of any evidence of the game in case the manager walks by. Of course, many sequels ensue. With Larry and other additions to the Quest series of games including Police Quest, created by real-life LAPD detective Jim Walls, Sierra retains its lock on the graphic adventure market until challenged by George Lucas' Lucasfilm computer games division (later re-named LucasArts), with the 1987 release of their first in-house produced game, the graphic adventure Maniac Mansion. Along with their Monkey Island series and the Indiana Jones graphic adventures, LucasArts adventure games eshew the verb-noun command parser for a slick point-and-click user interface. While Sierra succeeds in revamping their games to take advantage of this new technique, they lose their near-monopoly on the graphic adventure market.
After the release of Ultima II, Garriott drops out of the University of Texas to work on the Ultimas full-time. Porting UII over to the Atari 800 computer for Sierra, Chuck Bueche meets "Lord British" and they becomes friends..and Chuck becomes the character Chuckles the Clown in the Ultima series. When Sierra offers a questionable royalty deal for the release of the PC version of Ultima II, Garriott decides to create his own company to produce and distribute the games. Origin Systems is founded in 1983 by Richard Garriott, his brother Robert, their father Owen, and Chuck Bueche. That fall the company releases Ultima III , with some major advances over the previous games. A multi-party system is introduced, allowing the player to create 4 adventurers to control. The combat system is also revamped, with a zoom-in to the battle, and allowing each character a turn to attack.
Signing a distribution deal with Electronic Arts in 1984, Origin begins work on Ultima IV, the first in the "Avatar" trilogy, which will be a drastic departure from the original trilogy games. It is the first "ethics" based CRPG, requiring the player to answer moral questions, whose answers detirmine their character. Actions taken throughout the game are remembered by the citizens of the world, and one could be refused business at a local shop if one's reputation was tarnished enough. Instead of simply roaming the country-side looking for orc ass to kick, the player must seek out the temples of the eight virtues and integrate them into his being. The Apple II version of Ultima IV is released in 1985, and in 1988 Ultima V becomes the final game for that platform as Origin games move exclusively to the PC. 1992 sees the release of Ultima VII, the last game independently produced by Origin, as EA buys the company soon after. Ultima Underworld is another huge departure in the series, being one of the earliest fully graphic 1st person 3D games. Released in 1993, right behind id Software's 3D makeover of MUSE's Castle Wolfensein, it features several technological advances over id's product, including the player's ability to look up and down. In 1997, in the middle of the multiplayer gaming explosion, the company releases two years of work with Ultima Online, the largest Internet gaming system yet concieved. Here players can move about the Ultima universe with real-life human counterparts, joining guilds and participating in multi-character quests assigned by "Lord British" himself. There are, however, several digruntled players who sue Origin in 1998, claiming that the online service has met none of it's extravagant promises a year after it's creation.
Along with Chris Robert's Wing Commander francise, the Ultimas have given Origin its powerful place in the world of computer gaming. Ultima IX is sheduled for release in late '98, marking almost 20 years of the long, fruitful reign of Lord British.