The Avatar

Player 4 Stage 2: "Why in the world would anyone want a computer at home?"

Why? Even though home PCs are outclassed graphically by home console units at this stage, thier games are already much more intelligent. VisiCalc may drive sales of computers at the office, but there are really only two reason to get one at home: word processing, and...

Tomorrow, the World!

Although online gaming only really starts to explode into the mainstream around the mid '90s, it has its start practically at the same time as Zork. In 1979 at Essex University in England, Roy Trubshaw writes the very first MUD (Multi-User Dungeon), created on that pantheon of computer game platforms, the DEC-10. Starting out as a simple chain of connected rooms, Trubshaw refines the program until he has a working version he calls MUD. It is a text-based multi-user world into which people can login and have limited interaction with an item database and use a rudimentary chat system. 20 rooms are present, Richard Bartle, circa 1997and there are 10 commands available. When Trubshaw leaves Essex, development of the program falls to Richard Bartle, who refines the gameplay on top of the MUDDL (MUD Definition Language) architecture created by his colleague. The play aspects FurryMUCKof the game are broadened to include player objectives, point scoring and better interaction and communication between players...along with a total of 400 rooms. When Essex is connected up to the ARPAnet in 1980, 'externals' from the US begin to augment the local players in the environment. The University has to limit the hours that players can access the game to reduce load on the now swamped DEC-10 .

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.

External Links

University of Essex -
Richard Bartle: Entry Point -
The Wheel of Time MUD - telnet://

Apple II Choplifter - Broderbund 1982

Let there be graphics

Apple II Mystery House - On-Line Systems 1980 Straight text doesn't placate computer gamers for long, however. In 1980, On-Line Systems is founded by Ken and Roberta Williams. Operating out of their house in Los Angeles, their first game is Mystery House for the Apple II, the first computer game to combine text with graphics. In an Agatha Christie-like mystery, the player must roam a house finding treasure and avoiding the deadly fates of the other occupants. While the parser is below the standard set by Infocom's Zork and the graphics are rough outlines, the game is a sensation. Priced at US$24.95, the Williams sell 11,000 copies inside the first year, grossing nearly 300,000 dollars for the new company.

PC King's Quest - Sierra 1984Moving 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 PCjr - IBM 1983prototype 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.

The Two Guys - circa Space Quest 3In 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
Space Quest - Sierra 1986
C64 Maniac Mansion - Lucasfilm 1987
references on everything from Douglas Adams' book series The Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy to actual alien crash sites, the series follows the exploits of space janitor Roger Wilco, and his uncanny ability to stumble into, and then unravel, the galaxy domination plans of arch-villian Vorhaul Sludge (who makes his first physical appearance in the second installment). Space Quest 7 is announced, complete with a demo avi movie, for 1998, but it appears to have been cancelled by Sierra. Incensed by Sierra's abondonment of one of computer gaming's most beloved characters, fans create the Save Space Quest 7 webpage.

Leisure Suit Larry - Sierra 1987 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.

Multimedia Files

Click here for sound sample of Maniac Mansion.Maniac.wav - Maniac Mansion audio clip(325K)
Click here for sound sample from Indiana Jones.indy.wav - Indiana Jones audio clip(222K)

External Links

Sierra On-line -
Save Space Quest 7 -
Softporn Adventure -
LucasArts -

Apple II Choplifter - Broderbund 1982

The Origin of the Ultimate CRPG

Akalabeth - California Pacific 1979
Richard Garriott/Lord British
Original Akalabeth Cover Sheet Texas, 1977. While attending Clear Creek High School in Houston, 15 year old Richard Garriott is writing dungeon games produced on a teletype machine at the school and getting A's for them from bewildered teachers. In 1979, while working part-time at a local Computerland store, he is exposed to the Apple II and decides to write an Applesoft BASIC game for the platform incorporating elements from his other interests, playing Dungeons & Dragons and reading Tolkein. Calling it Akalabeth, he finishes the program that summer. In the game the player scrolls around a map of ASCII symbols completing quests given by Lord British and battling creatures in black&white outline psuedo-3D dungeons. The game so impresses the manager of the store that he convinces Garriott to offer it for sale. Spending 200 dollars on Ziplock bags and cover sheets, he only sells about eight copies on cassette tape. But one copy makes it all the way to west-coast software company California Pacific, who fly Garriott to California to sign a contract for publishing rights. Releasing the game on 5 1/4" floppies, the game is a big hit, selling 30,000 copies. Dissatisfied with the original cover sheet design, a new one is commissioned by Garriott from aquaintance Denis Loubet, who goes on to provide artwork, both traditional and digital, for every Ultima game up to Ultima IX. All of Garriott's games are credited to "Lord British", a nickname having been created by his fellow students at the University of Oklahoma due to Garriott's use of proper English. Having been born in Cambridge, England probably adds to the effect.

Apple II Ultima I - Origin remake 1986
Ultima II - Sierra Online 1982
That fall, Garriott starts classes at the University of Texas. Still living at his parent's house in Houston, he and friend Ken Arnold begin work on another game Garriott calls Ultimatum, also programmed in BASIC. But a boardgame already exists with that name, so they shorten the title to Ultima. It features a tile-based graphics engine, with the same look-down perspective as Akalabeth. Set in the mystical land of Sosaria, our nameless hero must use might and magic to slaughter evil creatures roaming the landscape, gaining experience and hit-points for the ultimate showdown with the big boss...the evil wizard Mondain. When released by California Pacific in 1980, it sells even more than the first game (a re-release is made by Origin in 1986, featuring spruced-up graphics). While working on Ultima II (160K) in 1981, Garriott attends multiple showings of Terry Gilliam's movie Time Bandits, and uses maps and concepts from the film in the design of the game. After a Apple II Ultima III - Origin 1983falling-out with California Pacific, Garriott signs a deal with Sierra to distribute Ultima II as they're the only company he talks to that agrees to include a cloth map with every game. The second Ultima is released for the Apple II in 1982, with a limited intereaction with NPCs (non-player characters) now possible. The game also marks the beginning of Ultima's move to assembly language, greatly increasing the speed of the games. Deep into his persona as "Lord British", Garriott has taken to appearing at software trade shows in full royal regalia, including crown, cape and medieval sword.

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 Origin Logomulti-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.

C64 Ultima IV - Origin 1985 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 Ultima Underworld - Origin 1993graphic 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 Ultima Online Logo - Origin 1997of 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.

Multimedia Files

Click here for Ultima sound sampleUltimabattle.wav - Ultima battle sample (317K)
Click here for Ultima sound sampleUltimaIIstart.wav - Ultima II opening sound (165K)
Click here for Ultima III sound sample.UltimaIII.wav - UltimaIII Theme sample (318K)
Click here for Ultima IV sound sample.UltimaIV.wav - Ultima IV Theme sample (342K)
Click here for Ultima V sound sample.UltimaV.wav - Ultima V Theme sample (392K)

External Links

Ultima -
Origin -

Apple II Choplifter - Broderbund 1982

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