Monday, October 7, 2013

Game 12: Oubliette (1977)

Seeing an iPhone reference on this screen is a bit surreal.

In a week or so, U.S. CRPG addicts will celebrate Columbus Day (or maybe not; it's become a bit un-PC over the last couple of decades), which commemorates Christopher Columbus's discovery of the Americas on 12 October 1492. Armchair historians will spit out their Cocoa-Puffs in protest at the last sentence, bellowing semi-coherent phrases about the Norse, Leif Ericson, John Cabot, St. Brendan, and perhaps the Chinese. But whether earlier explorers reached the New World before Columbus, or whether Columbus even had the vaguest notion where he was, doesn't really matter. None of the earlier voyages "took." Though Columbus's voyages were flawed to the point of being comical if not for such horrific consequences to the indigenous populations, it was incontrovertibly his trips that led to the widespread knowledge of the Americas in Europe, launching the Age of Exploration. Hence, we give Columbus the credit for "discovering" America, at least from the European point of view.

By the same vein, we give PLATO the credit for the "first CRPGs," even though we don't have any evidence that this is the case. For all we know, hordes of eager young programmers were building dungeons and simulating combat rolls on IBM 5100s within months of the release of the original D&D booklets in 1974. Perhaps the researchers over at PARC created multi-user dungeons on their Xerox Altos before the first line of code of pedit5 or the elusive m119h was ever typed. But if these games existed, they were the equivalent of L'Anse aux Meadows: they didn't "take." No one remembers them, and they left no legacy.

PLATO, as a series of multi-user mainframes intended specifically to connect and educate young people, was in a much better position to develop the progenitors of the CRPG genre, and of course it did. The original Dungeon/pedit 5 led directly to The Game of Dungeons/dnd, which in turn led to a series of commercial top-down dungeon crawlers (developed off-PLATO) with random encounters. PLATO's MUDs (multi-user dungeons) are the direct ancestors of today's MMORPGs. But perhaps most important for our current purposes, the multi-character game called Oubliette inspired Wizardry, which in turn inspired Might & Magic, The Bard's Tale, Dungeon Master, and even Ultima III.

I was going to wait for my book to offer any more reviews of the PLATO games, but circumstances essentially demanded that I say something about PLATO this week because I'm here, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, teaching a class on the same campus where it all began.

None of my professional colleagues understood why I was so excited to see this old terminal, and I couldn't explain it to them.

Moreover, I'm about to begin Wizardry VI, which starts a new generation of the franchise born 35 years ago, and...well, let's just say that some other Wizardry stuff is happening that we'll discuss later in the season. It was a good time to go back to the origins.

I've touched upon Oubliette before, in a December 2011 post about the PLATO series, and a brief July 2010 post in which I played (but didn't score) the 1983 DOS version. On PLATO, the game was continually developed between 1977 and 1982 (and at least some edits have been made as late as the current year), so I don't know how much of what I'm about to describe is from the original 1977 version.

An equipped character heads down the corridors.

Unlike the 1983 version, the original Oubliette is a multiplayer game--a shared environment, including a castle (Ligne Castle) and dungeon, in which multiple users can meet in a tavern and form parties for dungeon exploration. (A single character can adventure by himself, but it's deadly.) The amount of detail in the game is astonishing for the era in which it was created. It includes:

  • 15 character races: human, elf, dwarf, half-dwarf, half-elf, hobbit, orc, Uruk-hai, ogre, pixie, goblin, hobgoblin, kobold, Ur-vile, and Eldar elf. A cute mix of Lord of the Rings, Dungeons & Dragons, and the Thomas Covenant series.
  • 15 character classes: cleric, demondim, courtesan, hirebrand (fighter), mage, minstrel, ninja, paladin, peasant, ranger, raver, thief, sage, samurai, and valkyrie, the choice of which is dependent on minimum attribute rolls. Demondims and ravers also come from Covenant, though they aren't really classes.

The game's classes and prime requisites.

  • A fully explorable main castle of 841 squares, with various types of shops, taverns, hotels, and temples.

The castle, which I--for some reason--took the time to map.

  • The ability to retrieve and resurrect slain characters. 
  • Perhaps the first gambling mini-games in a CRPG, with choices for blackjack, craps, and a "roachrace."


  • A great selection of equipment, with the ability to simultaneously wield weapons, armor, shields, helmets, gloves, boots, cloaks, rings, and other items, both magical and non-magical.
  • An extremely detailed spell system. Each spell has an arcane name comprised of consistent syllables. There are seven levels of spells and spellcasters get additional slots as they gain experience. If this is sounding a lot like Wizardry, keep reading.

The spell list, from the in-game documentation.

  • Dozens of monsters, most unapologetically drawn from the D&D list, to which the game refers you for questions about both monsters and equipment.
  • The ability to bring a "hireling" into the dungeon with you, purchasable at various amounts from all of the game's monster classes.

Buying a robber as a hireling.

Add these elements to the game's cooperative multiplayer and chat abilities, and we've got a game that's well ahead of its time.

Character creation is a relatively simple process of selecting a race, rolling the standard D&D list of attributes, and choosing a class based on the roll.

Rolling a new character.

After character creation, you find yourself on the safe castle level, where you can spend your meager starting gold pieces on some equipment (weapons, armor, torches), try to gamble them for more, or visit a tavern to join up with a party. After that, it's to the dungeons and its random encounters with both enemies and treasures. Movement is through the WASD keys, and most of the other keys have some sort of specific option, varying by capital and lower case, such as assigning (E)quipment and (I)gniting a torch.

Surviving a trip to the dungeon allows you to spend accumulated gold on more advanced equipment at the magic shop, potions, healing, and hirelings, some of which are extremely expensive. You can also join a guild specific to your character class--necessary if you want to level up.

Beginning adventurers start with 50-100 gold pieces It will take a while before I can buy anything here, but I like the idea that money always has value.

If your character dies, he can be found, returned to the town, and resurrected by another adventurer (or dumped in the morgue)--or you can delete and start over.

I found these guys two steps from the entrance but lacked any money to raise them.

The game essentially assumes that you'll adventure with a party. It's not impossible to win a few combats as a sole champion, but it is quite difficult. When you enter combat, you're presented with a screen listing your foes. When it's your turn, the word "Options" flashes, and you have a few seconds to fight, parry, cast a spell, hide, evade, use an item, or use special abilities such as the courtesan's seduction, the bard's charming, and the cleric's dispel. When the foes are defeated, you divide the experience and treasure.

Fighting a gang of thieves.

Each party has a "leader" who controls the party's movements; other party members can basically just wait for fights and hit the combat keys. As such, it seems a little boring to go with a party, but still quite impressive for the era in which it was created. Since there were only a handful of adventurers on Cyber1 each time I logged in, I wasn't able to find any active people to join a party. I focused on building up my own character and using hirelings, but I wasn't able to get very far in the dungeon.

As far as I can tell, there's no way to "win" Oubliette, though there are hints of a greater complexity to the gameplay that I haven't been able to experience. For instance, there's a jail where you can look for other players, though I don't know what they do to get there. There's a temple where you can donate a lot of money for an audience with the high priest. There's a building called the "Ghenghis Army Recruiters" where I only get a message saying that it's closed because of loss of federal funding (did this message just appear this week?).

Oubliette's primary creator was Jim Schwaiger, apparently inspired by a previous game called either Moria or Mines of Moria (having nothing to do with the later roguelike), which I've been unable to play. In 1983, through a company called Bear Systems, Schwaiger and programmer Victor Helsing tried to market a commercial version of the program for DOS and the Commodore 64.

I'm going to go with "rite of passage."

Lacking the full power of the PLATO mainframe, the 1983 version strips some of its features. Ligne Castle is a menu rather than a fully-explorable environment, and some of the locations (like gambling) are gone. Races and classes specific to either Tolkien or Thomas Covenant were stripped. Characters join guilds immediately on creation and either graduate with enhanced abilities (and age) or die.

Most important, the game is no longer multiplayer. Rather, a single player controls up to six party members at once. Dungeon exploration has both top-down and first-person options.

Crawling through the dungeon with a re-engineered interface and a five-character party.

Beyond that, the basic gameplay is the same: descend into the dungeon, survive as long as you can, rotate slain party members for fresh ones. There's still no main quest or overarching goal.

Let's consider the extent to which Oubliette influenced Wizardry. In a history of the PLATO games, and particularly dnd, available only on Cyber1, dnd contributor Dirk Pellet has this to say:

Sometime around 1977, Robert J. Woodhead (who was non-affectionately known on PLATO as "Balsabrain") through means unknown to the dnd authors, obtained a copy of the source code to the current version of dnd (probably 6.0 or 7.0). He "created" "his" own game from it, in a file called "sorcery." It had essentially all the same features of dnd except the messages, monsters, and magic items had different names and pictures (although identical functions). Apparently the illicit copy hadn't included the charset. The elven boots were socks, among other alterations.

When the dnd authors were informed of the existence of Woodhead's copy, and took a look at it (including looking at the source code in a monitor mode with a concerned sysop), the copy was promptly deleted, and Balsabrain learned that if he wanted to plagiarize PLATO games, he would have to do it OFF of PLATO. He put that lesson to use by plagiarizing Oubliette when he "created" "his" game of Wizardry and began to market it.

I've referred to these claims in past postings, and I've declined to offer a serious opinion, but I'll try to now. First, it's obvious that Oubliette did significantly influence Wizardry. Points of similarity (excluding those obviously adapted from D&D) include:

  • The overall structure of the game, with a castle and shops on top and a first-person wireframe dungeon below
  • The specific types of shops and visitable locations on the castle level
  • The system of rolling attributes first, then determining the character class
  • The basic combat system
  • Some identical spell names and root syllables, identical spell effects, and the basic spell "slot" system
  • The traps associated with chests found in the dungeon, which are exactly the same in both games
  • Some of the character classes (I don't think samurais and ninjas were common RPG classes at the time)
  • Permadeath and the ability to retrieve slain characters in the dungeon
  • Raising in temples having a chance to fail, based on the character's constitution
  • The ability to rest in an inn to slowly restore hit points
  • Secret doors found by simply walking through a wall as if it was a regular door

At the same time, Woodhead and Andrew Greenberg (who, according to numerous sources, was also on PLATO) introduced a ton of material not found in Oubliette, not the least of which is an actual plot and quest, plus associated dialogue options, special encounters, and NPCs in the dungeons. Oubliette has only random encounters in its dungeon levels; Wizardry has numerous fixed encounters. Wizardry also features some different spells and slightly varying combat options, a system of item identification, and different enemies with special attacks. Perhaps most important, a single player controls multiple party members in Wizardry, which appears to be the first time this happened in any CRPG, unless the 1983 version of Oubliette was based on a prior PLATO version now lost.

Nonetheless, it seems clear to me that the Wizardry developers started with an Oubliette paradigm and worked from there, and certain aspects, like the spell names and trap system, can legitimately be seen as "plagiarism." What is damning is that Wizardry gives no credit to Schwaiger or Oubliette--no acknowledgement, no mention in the manual, not even a sly wink with the name of a monster or NPC. It was probably this that most raised Pellet's hackles. In an era where the makers of Questron decided to license the "look and feel" of Ultima from Richard Garriott, Woodhead and Greenberg's failure to even tip a hat to the PLATO game is slightly unforgivable. (Of course, we can't discount the possibility that they did make such an acknowledgement in a source now lost to us.) There's a poorly-sourced quote floating about that says that Robert Woodhead posted on Slashdot back in 2001, saying "Wizardry was in many ways our attempt to see if we could write a single-player game as cool as the PLATO dungeon games and cram it into a tiny machine like the Apple II." If this quote is true, his failure to mention Oubliette specifically seems like an extension of his original disservice.

The welcome screen from the iPhone version of Oubliette.

Oubliette lives on. Schwaiger (now a radiologist) and co-creator John Gaby (a PhD/software developer) created an iPhone and Android versions through Gaby's company, GabySoft, in 2010. I downloaded the free version the other day and have had a lot of fun with it so far, finding the controls much more intuitive than the iPhone version of NetHack. (In general, the size of the iPhone screen supports first-person exploration much better than top-down.) It appears to be based on the 1983 version of the game, and in every way that I've discovered so far, it implements the same rules, just with much nicer graphics.

Fighting spiders in the dungeon.

For GIMLET purposes, the PLATO, DOS, and iPhone versions of Oubliette should probably be considered separate games, but I'm going to try to rate them all at once, noting a few variances:

  • 1 base point for the game world in the PLATO version, which gives you only the name of the world and its castle. The DOS version would get 2 for having more of a story about Tokal being a harsh and cruel place, and a great wizard named Ligne establishing the one civilized outpost.
  • 5 points for character creation and development. Experience and leveling is basic D&D-derived stuff, but the great selection of classes and races, and the ability to join a guild, put it above its competition in the era.
  • I don't know exactly how to rate NPC Interaction in a MUD. Technically, those people are "PCs," though I suppose each PC is an NPC to each other. Since it doesn't advanced the "plot" to talk to them, let's call it a 3, which partly reflects the ability to bring hirelings aboard. There are no NPCs or hirelings in the non-PLATO versions, so it would be 0 for them.

I did find two characters in a tavern at one point, but both of their users were offline.

  • 3 points for encounters and foes. There are no RPG encounters, but the enemies are varied and have special attacks and defenses that I didn't get to fully explore.

A table of some of the game's monsters. Everything in this game is well-documented.

  • 4 points for magic and combat, perhaps 6 for the DOS version where you control six characters and can explore all the options. The nature of combat varies considerably depending on whether you're a fighter or mage. If you are a mage, the mage spell selection is sufficiently eclectic and powerful.
  • 5 points for equipment. You've got weapons, helms, cloaks, boots, armor, torches, potions, and other items to buy or find. Very sophisticated for an early RPG. The game offers no information about them, however, simply referring the player to the D&D guides.

Purchasing items at the general store.

  • 4 points for economy. Gold is very valuable, but the economy isn't well-balanced. There's a huge gap between affording basic equipment and affording magic equipment or good hirelings.
  • 0 points for quests. The lack of a main quest is the major failing of this game and one of the reasons I didn't bother to play beyond a couple of levels. There are doubtless some players who enjoy the open-ended nature of games like this and Telengard, but "just play it and enjoy it" is not attractive to me. I want a mission and a defined endpoint. [Later edit: Based on a commenter's report, it appears that the iOS version might have a main quest and several "boss-enemy" sub-quests on each level. I'm primarily rating the 1977 version here, so that doesn't change the overall GIMLET, but it's welcome intelligence.]
  • 2 points for graphics, sound, and interface. The graphics are wireframe primitive, and there is no sound in any version except the iPhone one, where it would get an additional 2 points. I don't like the controls very much in any version.
  • 4 points for gameplay. Though very difficult, the game benefits from nonlinearity, replayability, and the different experiences it offers to different characters or combinations of characters.

This gives a final score of 31 for the PLATO and DOS versions (though different combinations) and 33 for the iPhone version [later edit: the iOS version might go up to 36 if there are quests]. This is the highest of any PLATO game so far, and the highest of any game at all prior to 1981, when its child, Wizardry, would trump it with slightly better encounters, NPCs, combat, and of course a main quest.


The rating might be higher or lower if I had experienced more of the game. Among other things, I barely touched upon spells. But with no main quest and such a steep difficulty curve, I just don't have any more time to devote to it. I'm satisfied that I've seen the elements that inspired Wizardry, and glad I got to stand in front of a PLATO terminal in person. Now, it's back to Massachusetts and on to Wizardry VI.

*****

Note: Why "Game 12" instead of "Game 120?" Did the CRPG Addict forget a 0? No. During my first pass, I somehow miscounted and skipped right from Game 11 to Game 13. Rather than keep listing that game as "The Quest to Solve Chester's Problem with Counting," I'm claiming that space for Oubliette, which I originally played in its DOS version around that time anyway, and would have given a proper number and GIMLET if I had been thinking.


111 comments:

  1. Golden Diapers +3?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do they give you a "Full of shit" perk? )

      Delete
    2. Special made for Baby Richie Rich.

      Delete
  2. Actually it makes me kinda angry that woodheads version was deleted off of the mainframe. I thought one of the points of open source is that you can fork and create different versions of things.
    Now I also think woodheads owes something to schweiger. Maybe some cash, not millions of dollars though. Does this mean Greenberg's story about his room-mate telling him to 'put DND on his computer' was a lie?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As far as I can tell there was no requirement for the programs on PLATO to be open source. And it doesn't look like dnd etc. were open source either (also, the term "open source" was coined in 1998).

      Delete
    2. Right. It depends on the culture of the time. I'm assuming programmers considered themselves the "authors" of their works and were just offended to find evidence of plagiarism (note that Pellet specifically used this term, not "copyright violations") as you would be if you found another student had copied your dissertation.

      Delete
    3. The sysops on PLATO in the late 70's were draconian. Just because they deleted someone's project or claimed that they had copied someone else's source code does not prove anything. I had several projects locked and was kicked off the system. My crime? I collected a list of users' favorite "lessons" and created a lesson which would showed an index with a one-line description of the project and allowed you to jump directly to that lesson. I was shut down because I had not asked for individual permission from every lesson author and because my "jumpout" button looked too much like a system interface, so clearly I was "stealing" the system.

      Incidentally, copying an existing game or tool, then modifying it, was both common hacker practice and an excellent way to learn programming back in the 1970's. One of my other PLATO projects was initially a straight conversion to TUTOR of Guetzkow's Inter-Nation Simulation. I had the source code to (I think) a FORTRAN version of it from a Political Science class. On PLATO, I started by directly copying the original, then started to enhance it by adding diplomatic features (modeled on PLATO's popular Talkomatic program) and other extensions. I credited the original, but it was very common in the 1970's to consider all software effectively community property and open source. PLATO had many lessons that were small variations of earlier ones.

      I sent a link to this page to Robert Woodhead; perhaps he will comment on his PLATO experience. In my case, I frequently credit PLATO as one of my major inspirations for becoming a computer game developer. But the sysops... They sometimes overstepped their bounds in my opinion.

      Delete
    4. The idea of Woodhead copying the game to make "sorcery" doesn't bother me for the very reasons you mention. I only included that stuff because it set up the rest of Pellet's quote. I'm more intrigued by the ethics of marketing a commercial game that include elements copied from someone else's free game with no attribution.

      Delete
    5. Thank you for the intriguing insights, Corey! Good read!

      Delete
    6. In their defense, I should mention that the purpose of the PLATO experiment was to further educational computing. So treating non-teachers as second-class authors on PLATO may have been reasonable and appropriate. They really didn't like that many PLATO authors and users were there primarily to make and play games - Those were not the purpose of the system.

      Delete
    7. Corey, thank you for sharing your experience with the PLATO system. Makes for nice background information and a history lesson!

      Delete
  3. This was an interesting. I always thought Wizardry was like the first dungeon crawler to which all later turn based "blobbers" like Bard's Tale and Might&Magic could trace their lineage. And then it turns out it wasn't so original after all...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Is "blobber" supposed to be a derogatory term or not? I could never tell if it's simply a neutral descriptive term or a way for people from RPG Codex to refer to games they don't think are hardcore enough or meet whatever criteria they have decided is a good RPG.

      Delete
    2. Originally I think it was a derogatory term, but now it's more of an affectionate term for a certain type of old school CRPGs with step based movement where you move your party as one entity and the combat is abstract (for turn based game) or real time (Dungeon Master type of games).

      Delete
    3. Ugh, it's finally happening - insider lingo begins turning casual readers off. The initiated having conversations with each other, and anyone else can get lost.

      Delete
    4. Anonymous, your point would make more sense if I used "insider lingo" in my posts. If you really expect commenters not to use language commensurate with their own knowledge and experience, I don't know what to say except that it's a little unrealistic. In any event, "blobber" isn't really "insider lingo" so much as a standard term for a game in which the entire party moves as a unit, or "blob," through the corridors. If you don't know what a term means, just ask. No one will make fun of you. This isn't RPGCodex.

      Delete
    5. It refers to the dungeon exploration? Does that make games of Pool of Radiance's ilk blobbers? I could have sworn blobber refers to combat in which party positioning is abstracted instead of tactical. So from my point of view, Wizardries and most of the Final Fantasies, Wasteland, Dragon Wars, Dungeon Master, etc would be blobber CRPGs and PoR would be a tactical CRPG. Interesting stuff.

      Delete
  4. I played the DOS version for a while, and I found it was surprisingly addictive for a while. As I recall, there were a couple other things Wizardry had in common with it.

    First, there's the ability for characters to change classes. This is probably the primary means of advancement. Unfortunately, due to the way races and classes were designed, there was effectively an optimum party setup. I believe elves were immortal, so all characters should be that race. Two characters should be samurai, as they had the best fighting skill, their armor class improved with levels, and they could cast spells (cleric, I think). The other four should be rangers, as they can also cast spells (mage?), but were better in every way over regular spellcasters (more hp, primarily). Of course, achieving this setup is fairly difficult, and will require a bit of work.

    Second, the idea of a front row and a back row. In Oubliette, only the first two characters could normally be attacked by melee monsters, while the other four could only be hit by spells and monsters with some sort of special attack. Only the first three could be attacked in Wizardry.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, yes! I meant to add the idea of a "front line" to my list of similarities. Thanks for the reminder.

      I see what you mean about the party. I just can't get excited about the idea of min/maxing a party when there's no actual quest or goal.

      Delete
    2. Rangers may have been "broken" (overpowered) because they were that way when introduced in D&D. The Ranger class was created because Gary Gygax's young son wanted a more powerful character to play. Starting with two hit dice (every other class gets just one) and getting multiple special abilities with no disadvantages, the Ranger was always an unbalanced character class. The class was also clearly inspired by Aragorn in Lord of the Rings, so clearly had to be amazing. :-)

      Delete
  5. courtesan, sounds like a interesting character...

    ReplyDelete
  6. The slashdot comment is still online:

    Both Andy and I were active on the PLATO system, which was a tremendous influence on us. PLATO had email, chat, newsgroups, multiplayer realtime game, and much more, all starting in the early 70's. The multiplayer dungeon games were particularly good. Pretty much all of the basic concepts of multiplayer gaming were developed there.

    Wizardry was in many ways our attempt to see if we could write a single-player game as cool as the PLATO dungeon games and cram it into a tiny machine like the Apple II.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. I don't know why I couldn't find that.

      Delete
  7. I'd wager that much of the resentment has little to do with any actual plagiarism and more to do with the fact Wizardry was so commercially successful by expanding on the ideas from earlier PLATO games.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Is that not understandable? You spend a lot of time programming something and someone else makes money off of it? Even if the product that makes money only uses a part of your original work, I think it makes sense to get upset.

      I write this blog for free, but if I found out someone else had plagiarized it and was selling a book, even if his book only contained 25% my material and was 75% his material, I'd be pretty steamed. Lawsuit steamed.

      That said, there doesn't seem to be any indication that Schwaiger ever felt burned.

      Delete
  8. Constitution as a variable that affects resurrection success is actually a mechanic from Dungeons & Dragons, so Oubliette "stole" that just as much as Wizardry (or any other game) has.

    That said, it's clear that a lot of the core Oubliette mechanics made it into Wizardry without so much as a mention, which is much too bad.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fair enough on the constitution. I tried to exclude elements from the original D&D, but I don't know the original D&D so well.

      Delete
    2. It's one of those things you probably wouldn't know without having played the pen-and-paper game at some length. Most D&D CRPGs (even the Gold Box ones) never implemented it. :^)

      Delete
  9. It's quite appropriate that the Oubliette, a place for forgetting things, has been assigned to the place for a forgotten thing!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Honestly, this sounds like an MUD to me (having played them... a lot in the past). Wikipedia puts the original "MUD" in 1978 on a PDP-10, but many features sound similar (the obvious one being the persistent multiplayer, but others like the equipment system, a lack of a real goal, etc. seem similar). Other aspects such as the race / class / stat system seemed to come about later (saw most of this in LPMud variants down the road), but there definitely seems to be an influence.

    Or maybe I'm reading it differently? Still seems pretty advanced, with some features that didn't show up again for a quite a while.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Like you, I was a little confused not to see this at the top of the history of MUDs. My hesitation comes from the fact that I'm playing a version whose last copyright date is 1982 and which has clearly been updated even beyond that. I don't know how much of what I experienced was there in 1977. Perhaps it wasn't originally a MUD. I haven't been able to find much information about it one way or the other.

      Delete
    2. There's also Avatar, which was still being played and updated into the 90s (and actually was an attempt to "out-Oubliette Oubliette"):

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avatar_%28PLATO_system_video_game%29

      I never played it, but it looks like it had actual realtime co-op (multiple players could join a party, cast buffs that would affect all players in the party, etc). Probably not too viable as a single-player game (apparently it was _hard_), but it seems to be another precursor to the MUD family.

      I didn't see it on either of your lists, so if you're not sick of amber screened-PLATO games yet (or are feeling particularly masochistic), it might be worth a shot. You have another game based on Avatar coming up in 1995 ("Mordor: The Depths of Dejenol") on your list, but it might be worth mentioning Avatar for completeness' sake. I know you're not "The MUD Addict" (that just sounds wrong...), but I thought I'd bring it up while we were on the subject. :)

      Delete
    3. Demise is the third game in that series that began with Mordor: The Depths of Dejenol, and an expansion for it was just recently released, so the Oubliette model of gameplay can still be seen today.

      -BelatedGamer

      Delete
    4. Avatar and the other PLATO games I haven't blogged about are on my alternate list. I played the game for a few minutes to see how similar it was to Oubliette, as I didn't want to accuse Greenberg & Woodhead of plagiarizing from Oubliette if Avatar had the same interface, spells, and such. But it's quite a bit different. I'll probably offer a post on it eventually.

      Delete
  11. Thanks very much for covering this one. I found it very informative, and was amazed to see how much Oubliette actually had to it.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Wow, Wizardry is basically a blatant ripoff of Oubliette. Are there any major features that Wizardry had that Oubliette didn't? I guess you could say that it had a "quest" but out of the 10 level dungeon, the way to beat the game is find a few keys on the first few floors, win a fight on floor 4 against some tough guys, ignore floors 5-9 (half the damn game!) then win a fight on floor 10 against Werdna.

    So I guess the main difference between the two is that Wizardry had "event squares" and Oubliette didn't? Otherwise, Wizardry does seem like a bit of a step back from your description. But just like with your historical analogy it seems like Oubliette really did create the first person dungeon RPG genre, and Wizardry pulled a Columbus and took all the credit for it.

    Would've been fascinating to see what would've happened if Oubliette became the major franchise rather than Wizardry (who failed to really improve the game much until VI, except for Wizardry IV which I consider to be brilliant though unfortunately probably one of the most dated games of all time which tarnishes what they actually accomplished with it).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Though even though the quest is paper thin, at least you have a goal, motivation and sequence of events to go through, rather than just "go in the dungeon and have fun!" which could work but seems like you finish Wizardry when you beat it, however you finish Oubliette when you get bored of it.

      Delete
    2. If my post left the impression that Wizardry is a "blatant ripoff," then I didn't write it very well. I meant to present a scenario that's a bit more complicated than that. Adding a main quest and special encounters to the dungeon, as well as the ability for one player to control multiple party members, are not trivial contributions.

      Delete
    3. I wonder if was Wizardry more of an evolution from Oubliette than Bard's Tale and Might&Magic was from Wizardry?

      Delete
    4. If Oubliette allowed a single player to control a party and had a plot similar to Wizardry, which one do you think would be better? Or are they so different in tone and style that it's hard to compare the two? (Example: If someone accused Might and Magic of just being a Wizardry rip-off I would have to disagree with them because even though they both are 1st person RPGs with a 6 person party, M&M plays so differently than Wizardry, with its quests, open areas, play mechanics, tone, etc.)

      Delete
    5. M&M is obviously a rip-off of Bard's Tale.

      Delete
    6. If the DOS version of Oubliette (which allowed control of all six characters) had an actual plot and quest, it would be at least equal to Wizardry, and perhaps superior in its character development and use of "guilds." Wizardry might still get the edge on combat tactics, but I'd have to play Oubliette more to be sure.

      Delete
    7. While the article isn't leaving an impression on me that Wizardry being a blatant ripoff, it is a little bit leaning towards it, I think. No idea if that was the original intention, to me it seems that Wizardry did upgrade the Oubliette concept enough to pass the bar as just inspired by it (if for nothing else, just for the user controlling the whole party vs the original scheme).

      PS - long time reader, don't think I've posted before, great blog, keep up the great work!

      Delete
    8. I wouldn't call any game that appeared on a different system from its inspiration a "ripoff", especially if the author did not have the original source code. Getting anything to run at all in Apple ][ assembly language was a feat. Getting it to look like an existing PLATO game (on which graphical coding was trivially easy) is a bigger one. And really, all these games are based on D&D, Tolkien, mythology, and so on. There is a reason that source code can be protected by copyright, but there are much tighter restrictions on the look and feel of a product.

      Everyone needs to keep in mind that making a game is HARD. If sometimes one game has similar features to another, that doesn't mean they were copied. Being inspired by another game or other source does not take away from the very hard work and original coding that is needed to express any idea in a game. It's easier to critique than create.

      Delete
    9. I'm glad to see Corey Cole confirm much the same opinion on the subject as mine, especially since he's been making games for longer than I have been playing them.

      Delete
    10. "But just like with your historical analogy it seems like Oubliette really did create the first person dungeon RPG genre, and Wizardry pulled a Columbus and took all the credit for it."

      The impact of Wizardry cannot be understated. While it may or may not be wrong for the creators to have not acknowledged Oubliette, they did bring the CRPG genre to the mainstream (Ultima also did this). The Digital Antiquarian blog documents the painful process that Woodhead and Greenberg went through to adapt/create a PLATO-style CRPG for a machine that was very limited in resources (the Apple II) in comparison to the University mainframe computers that hosted the games that inspired it.

      http://www.filfre.net/2012/03/making-wizardry/

      The Columbus analogy may be apt, but while the Vikings did technically reach the Americas before him (and there are even disputed anecdotes of Chinese explorers having reached the continent as well), the impact of Columbus of opening up the new world to European trade and exploration cannot be understated as well.

      Oubliette certainly did come before Wizardry and the latter certainly borrows a lot from it. And I was grateful of having found out about it from Matt Barton's "Dungeons & Desktops", and I am an enthusiastic fan of the modern incarnation of the game on my iOS devices and Android phone.

      Delete
  13. You weren't kidding about the monsters being drawn from the D&D list. If the excerpt in that screenshot is representative, it's not even a matter of most of them--every single creature there is straight out of the original Monster Manual.

    (Which, incidentally, means the game's makers drew upon an odd mishmash of Basic and Advanced D&D... at least one of the monsters in that list only appeared in Advanced D&D and never in Basic, but the alignments being limited to just Lawful, Neutral, and Chaotic is a Basic D&D thing. (And originally inspired by the works of Michael Moorcock, but that's another matter.))

    Incidentally, the monsters being each assigned a "type" (as shown in that screenshot) wasn't a feature of either Basic D&D or first-edition D&D, but did become standard in third-edition D&D. (Even some of the types were the same -- among the 3E D&D types were Animal, Dragon, and Giant, and 3E also had a Vermin type which despite its different name seems to correspond to the Insect type here.) While it's unlikely that the creators of third-edition D&D got their inspiration from Oubliette, I think it is kind of interesting that in one way Oubliette anticipated a future edition of the game that inspired it that would come along more than twenty years later. (Unless, of course, this is one of those things that wasn't in the original version of Oubliette and was added in a later edit.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This post is very heavy on hindsight, which people in 1977 didn't have. Oubliette didn't "anticipate" 3rd edition D&D, they just took a fairly obvious concept and applied it to their game. The basic mistake is assuming a continuum between Oubliette and 3rd edition D&D. Yeah, looking backwards you can do something like that, but not in the other way. Again, Lawful, Neutral, and Chaotic are pretty obvious, why would anyone assume that it was stolen from Basic D&D? Yeah, I know, don't need to explain...hindsight.

      Delete
    2. Er... what are you talking about? First of all, yes, obviously there's hindsight involved, in that I'm looking back at things in the past. That's what "hindsight" means: "recognition of the realities, possibilities, or requirements of a situation, event, decision etc., after its occurrence." Any time you talk about anything that happened in the past, you are using hindsight, by definition. You seem to have some other meaning in mind for the word, but I'm not sure what it is you're trying to say.

      You also don't seem clear on what "anticipate" means. "Anticipate", in this context, just means Oubliette had a feature before third-edition D&D:
      to be before (another) in doing, thinking, achieving, etc.
      . Oubliette clearly had monster types before 3rd Edition D&D (assuming, again, that this was a feature of the original game and not a much later addition). That's a simple statement of fact. (Incidentally, if it's such an "obvious concept", why is it that the vast majority of role-playing games even today don't do that?)

      As for Lawful, Neutral, and Chaotic being "pretty obvious", it may seem "obvious" today, but D&D was the first to use those as alignments, and no, if they hadn't already been used there, I don't think using Lawful and Chaotic as alignments instead of Good and Evil would have been "obvious" at all. (For that matter, the very word "alignment" as used to refer to good/evil/law/chaos was original to D&D. It's commonplace in RPGs now, but D&D did it first.) Given that Oubliette clearly did copy other things from D&D (the six attributes, the aforementioned monster list), I think it's fair to conclude that it copied the alignments from D&D as well.

      I haven't assumed any sort of continuum between Oubliette and 3rd Edition D&D; in fact, I explicitly said that it's unlikely the designers of 3E were inspired by Oubliette. All I've said is that Oubliette took some concepts from Basic D&D (which it clearly did), and that it had one feature which later came into 3E D&D (though almost certainly independently). I don't think there's much room for doubt regarding either of those statements.

      Delete
    3. Jalen, everything you said in your reply was implicit to me in your original, and I think you had some good insights.

      Unfortunately, as the readership of my blog grows, so does the trollership.

      Delete
    4. Thanks... actually, I'd just been thinking maybe I'd been a little too harsh in my reply to the anonymous poster, and was about to delete my reply and post something a little more placative (at least without the dictionary links)... but if you don't have a problem with my reply I guess I'll leave it.

      Delete
    5. Jalen: Yeah, as a heavy D&D player I think all your observations are spot on. Also, yes, you can tell any RPG based on really old D&D by the 3 point L/N/C alignment system that D&D borrowed from Micheal Moorcock. No idea why they did so, but who else would think up such a crazy system that ignores good and evil over law vs chaos? (Ok, Dominic Deegan does, but for all I know they are Moorcock fans)

      Delete
    6. Many of the terms / stats referenced are very reminiscent of Judges Guild material - JG being one of the first third party publishers with permission from TSR to make D&D compaitible material. It's very possible much of this was drawn from their Ready Ref Sheets - a common reference for dungeon masters in the 1970's - particularly hearkening back to original Dungeons and Dragons, the precursor to AD&D (which is in turn different from basic D&D). It's relatively confusing, but the short list is:
      Dungeons and Dragons 1974
      Advanced Dungeons And Dragons (Monster Manual only) December 1977
      AD&D Players Handbook and DMG 1978
      The Basic set, which these are definitely not based on first appeared in 1977, but wouldn't gain popularity until the "red box" release of 1983.

      Delete
    7. You're right about Basic D&D, of course... I was using "Basic D&D" to mean the original, pre-AD&D Dungeons & Dragons, but yes, of course actual Basic D&D was a different beast that didn't come around until later, and I was misusing the name. Just read "original D&D" for everywhere in my comment where I said "Basic D&D".

      I'd forgotten that the Monster Manual was the first AD&D book to come out... that explains why this game uses some monsters from the Monster Manual (the "axe beak", in particular, made its first appearance in the AD&D Monster Manual and had never appeared in original D&D), but seems to take most everything else from the pre-AD&D rules.

      Delete
    8. It could be what books they could get: My Dad started by playing a mix of OD&D and AD&D, because that was the books you could find in his area. It wasn't like now, where you can get anything of eBay or Amazon, if the local shop didn't have it then you basically couldn't get it (I'm not even sure if you would have been able to mail order it to Canada, and I"m sure it would have cost a fortune.)

      Delete
  14. Wow - I am shocked at all the similarities between Oubliette (does that means something in French or Latin?) and Wizardry. As a life long Wizardry fan it's like finding out that Rod Serling didn't actually write the 92 episodes of The Twilight Zone he is credited for (at least Rod Serling would credit where an idea came from if the situation dictated him to do so).

    I think at the very least Robert Woodhead and Andrew Greenburg could have credited Oubliette in some way, shape or form. Again, we're talking about a bygone era and perhaps in the zietgeist of the time they honestly didn't see a need to do so - alternatively, doing so at this point may sully their names as "Gods" in the CRPG history books.

    Anways, I just started playing Wizardry VI a few days ago and I'm enjoying it. I had started playing it probably 15 years ago but I didn't get very far. I'm usually not one that likes when "engines" are updated, but I must say the new system is very user friendly and it somehow retains the feeling of the older Wizardry games. I am playing it on my 386 with no mouse. It runs a bit slow and I was thinking about putting it on my 486, but that sounds like a lot of work.

    Ps - Trebor Sux

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am super jealous that you have working retro PC systems like that. :^)

      Delete
    2. Oh, god. I'm not. The ability to play in a nice emulated window and do other things in other windows, not to mention near-instant loading times and virtually no possibility of crashes or saved game corruptions, is what keeps me sane during all of this.

      Delete
    3. Haha! Very true. But I do have a sort of collector's mentality about these things. Also, there are a few of the odd Elder Scrolls games (Redguard, Battlespire) that I'd love to have a vintage PC to play them on, because unfortunately DOSBox doesn't handle them well.

      Delete
    4. I have the 386 hooked up to my 46" Tv and I have a 25' keyboard extension to reaches to my easy chair. I also have a 26" Tv sitting next to the bigger TV and my laptop on the table next to me. Not sure what other "multi-tasking" I'd need. Most of the games I enjoy work perfectly on my 386 (or I can slow it down to 286 if the game runs too fast), but like I said Wizardry VI is slightly crawling. It's not bad enough to curb my playing though.

      Like all other Wizardry's, I had to reload a bunch of times until my guys started making levels. They are level 4 now and are doing a reasonable job. The game is quite addictive as it's opening up at this point. I'm thinking about saying I'm sick and going home for the day so I can go and play it. :)

      Delete
    5. I've got the collecting bug as well. I have an Atari 800XL due to it being just as old as me (November 1983), an IBM Model 25 PC (due to it having the original 8086 chip), a 100mHz Pentium machine for DOS games, and a 700mHz Windows98 machine for the in-between games that fail to run on Windows XP, rare as that is.

      Plus my usual desktop. Each machine has a specific purpose the other ones cannot fulfill, though the 100mHz system is a bit redundant with the Windows 98 machine right there and able to do DOS fairly well.

      Delete
    6. "Oubliette (does that means something in French or Latin?)"

      The French root word is oublier, which means to forget. My understanding is that it's a particularly unpleasant type of prison/dungeon cell: basically a deep well or a closed pit with a trap door in the ceiling, where you throw people and then...forget about them.

      Delete
    7. And everyone who's played at least one game of Crusader Kings II knows that that's literally what happens :D

      Delete
    8. Yeah, PK Thunder's explanation is spot on regarding what an oubliette is.

      Delete
    9. Sweet, sweet Crusader Kings II. One of my favourite games :)

      It's also clearly a strategy game, but has quite a few roleplaying aspects. Probably too recent a game that we'd ever see it covered here, even if it were to fit the criteria :(

      Delete
    10. Oubliettes in Middle Age castles were sometimes really pits for prisoners, but they were more often some Victorian Age Romantic's misunderstanding. Many of the old castle oubliettes were really part of the castle sewage system, not holes for throwing people into. The early Victorians didn't worry too much about sewage, they dumped it wherever. So they didn't recognize sewage systems in old castles. Now that's scary.

      Delete
    11. In terms of old hardware I think I'm doing pretty well: http://canageek.wordpress.com/tag/crpg-addict/

      Delete
    12. @Equlan:
      It's probably true that we'll never see it covered here in anyone's lifetime, but nevertheless, Crusader Kings II is an interesting case indeed.
      I guess you are right in saying that it's clearly a (grand/4x) strategy game - but the role-playing aspects are just so damn *interesting*. The game's main focus is, after all, on character development - or rather, *family* development.

      Delete
  15. Nerd question: what is the screen resolution of the original PLATO terminal? A fair number of your screenshots are taller than they are wide, which is quite rare today, of course.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Resolution was 512x512 monochrome orange on black (plasma screen). "Lessons" (which could also be games or other programs) were developed in the custom TUTOR language. I think I still have some printouts of my lessons in a box in the garage or maybe in the filing cabinet. It was a very easy to use language designed for interactivity, graphics, and maintaining a user database.

      Delete
    2. 512x512... that's a lot of pixels for the era... although they're only one of two colors.

      Sometimes I wish I had been born about 20 years earlier so that I could have done my professional programming in that era. In some ways it was harder, of course, but I think overall it was definitely a lot easier for an enthusiastic programmer to make their own game as a one person effort. And even easier if you've got your SO on the team, right? ;^)

      Delete
    3. I'm just really digging the amber color. Amber monitors are always too expensive on eBay, but I'd love to pair one up with an old Hercules video adapter and go to town with some high resolution monochrome.

      Delete
    4. The Plato IV and Plato V was a 512x512 gas plasma screen with touch panel tech, not a CRT less eye strain. Unless you used an IST 2 or 3. When they creeated an emulator for the PC ASCII color was introduced.

      Delete
  16. If your still in town Thursday or Friday, or Coming up to Chicago to fly out, I could offer you a gimlet.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, I really appreciate the offer, but I was already home by the time this posted. It's too bad, because I did fly in and out of Midway. I'll alert you next time I'm in the area.

      Delete
  17. Sheesh, you'd think they'd add in some sort of main quest or ending for the iPhone version, at least. But nope, I searched the net and found no evidence of any such thing.

    There is a fan site at

    http://www.zimlab.com/oubliette/

    with tips, maps, monster lists, spell lists, etc. Apparently the dungeon is limited to 10 floors, same as Wizardry. I guess you "win" by getting a party strong enough to map & loot the 10th floor.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually, in version 2.1 (dunno about iPhone, but it is on Android) there is an 11th floor with a final boss.

      Delete
    2. While I never made it to the 11th floor on the iOS version of the game, there is a randomized 'mini-boss' hiding in a secret room for every floor. Basically, the secret room contains an encounter that is stronger than usually encountered for that level in the dungeon.

      The point of the game is grinding for grinding's sake. As someone who was perfectly content to just wander around to build up a character or a party without trying to solve the game back in the old CRPG days, then I'm pretty much the target market of games like this (and Telengard, of course).

      Delete
  18. Two notes: despite the culture of adapt-and-share-without-credit, it wasn't unanimous -- you can see to what lengths Don Woods went to find Will Crowther to get permission to distribute the expanded ADVENTURE. Also, and feel free to correct me if I've gotten the sequence out of order here, but I'm pretty sure that the "D" in "MUD" isn't just "dungeon" as in D&D, but "Dungeon" as in the unauthorized FORTRAN conversion of mainframe MDL Zork, which contained a small quantity of randomized combat. Hence the first MUD, "Essex MUD" or MUD1, would have looked a lot more like a text adventure than like Wizardry. (Which probably explains why Jason Scott interviewed its administrator in Get Lamp.) The early Kesmai games and their roguelike interface may offer a clearer precedent to the MMOGs, though there is so little firsthand documentation it is hard to make substantive claims.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know much about MUDs, so thanks for that bit of history.

      Delete
  19. Another interesting point is the alignments that Oubliette uses are "Lawful" "Neutral" and "Chaotic" while Wizardry has "Good" "Neutral" and "Evil." Though if you actually read the Wizardry manual the way they describe them is more like "Selfless" "Neutral" "Selfish."

    The example in the manual is if an old woman needed help crossing the street the "good" character would go out of his way to help her, the "neutral" character would help her if he had time to spare and she wasn't out of his way, and the "evil" character would charge her for the crossing. So I guess it makes sense why an "evil" party would want to help kill Werdna and save Llylgamyn.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. On a side note, has any game ever actually implemented alignments in an meaningful way, rather than just as a holdover from D&D?

      The early Wizardries and M&M games had some classes/items/places restricted by alignment but nothing really changed in gameplay. M&M3's main quest was related to alignment but again, regardless of your alignment, it basically played out exactly the same. I can't think if the Gold Box games actually used alignment at all. I don't think you could be evil in those.

      Not to make games feel too bad since I doubt 90% of actual D&D players ever used alignment and D&D acknowledged this by simplifying the whole thing in the new version.

      Delete
    2. I thought Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and its sequel did a good job. The Sith philosophy and the "dark side" are explained not as "evil" but more like strength, self-reliance, and tempered indulgence in passions. Characters in the game sometimes argue that by always helping the helpless, you're diminishing their ability to help themselves. The games are certainly more nuanced than the films.

      Delete
    3. Dragon Lore also comes to mind although the details escape me. The council was judging you at the end for something.

      Delete
    4. Mass Effects Paragon and Renegade are basically lawful vs chaotic, rather then good or evil.

      Dominic Deegan sums up a good way of looking at it: I found this quote: http://www.dominic-deegan.com/view.php?date=2005-01-10 after much searching (Ok, I found it early on, but thought Dominic was the one to give the speech, so I skipped it).

      Delete
    5. Yeah, don't really like how KOTOR kept harping on the notion that being a hero would make people around them become bums. There's always the chance where a bunch of kids would inspire to be a hero because of his actions.

      Or miscreants being so ashamed of their past misdeeds when compared to that of the Jedi that they would, at least, tone down on their behavior.

      Just because one is helpless in one situation doesn't mean he would be helpless in another. He may jolly well be such an expert in that new situation as to be the one to provide the Jedi reprieve instead.

      So, IMHO, screw the Sith philosophy which is totally self-serving and anti-social.

      Delete
    6. Knights of the Old Republic and its sequel certainly include interesting insight to the Jedi and Sith philosophies on the dialog level, but ultimately the alignment mechanic boils down to whether you hand out all your money to anyone who dares ask, or do petty and psychopathic acts of villainy for no sensible reason. The games have a very polarized and juvenile good and evil dichotomy in the roleplaying choices they present.

      The lecture that Kreia gives about the evils of helping a poor bum simply becomes a lecture about you being an inconsiderate ass if you choose to not help him instead (the only option being to do it as rudely as possible of course). It's basically just Kreia – and the game – being a massive dick.

      Delete
    7. All right, perhaps I was remembering the game through rose-colored glasses. It's been a long time since I played it, and clearly my memory is being overly-selective about parts of the dialogue.

      Delete
    8. It's not an RPG, but one game that springs to mind is Chaos, for the ZX Spectrum (which was an early work by X-Com's Julian Gollop)

      It was a turn based strategy game about battling wizards, and rather than the characters themselves having an alignment, the spells they could cast were rated lawful/neutral/chaotic. Succesfully casting a spell of one type would make the environment more lawful or chaotic, which would in turn make subsequent spells of that type easier to cast.

      Probably more of a curiosity than anything, but worth mentioning.

      Delete
  20. As someone who has Oubliette on Android, iOS, DOS and the Commodore 64, I thank you for posting this article. I never knew that the original PLATO version was this elaborate, with 15 races and 15 classes to choose from. I really should register for a cyber1 account.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I am still boggling at the thought that this is from 1977. The amount of detail in it, and the graphics (for 1977!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel that way about almost all the PLATO games. The computing power available on the PLATO mainframe wasn't available on home PCs for a while, so the original developers could do things that were way ahead of their times.

      Delete
  22. All these beautiful amber screenshots got me jonesin' to modify my terminal apps with an amber theme. It's ridiculously hard to find terminal color schemes through web searches, and I couldn't find one in amber. So I made my own!

    Some screenshots (some are kind of small, sorry!)
    - http://tinypic.com/r/20tj77a/5 (my CLI RSS reader)
    - http://tinypic.com/r/ih01tc/5 (the my terminalrc file)
    - http://tinypic.com/r/2m2vtyc/5 (the README.md file for an app called pwman3)
    - http://tinypic.com/r/2my4v8x/5 (a python file from pwman3)

    I'm not sure I always made good choices for all the colors you can configure in terminalrc, but for the CLI apps I use, the results are pretty good. Obviously, there's some reddish and brownish tones thrown in so that it's not just straight monochrome.

    If you're interested in using or modifying it, here's the info you need for your terminalrc file. In Mac and Windows you'll have to figure how/where to apply these on your own.

    ColorPalette1=black
    ColorPalette2=OrangeRed3
    ColorPalette3=tan3
    ColorPalette4=#d0b03c
    ColorPalette5=chocolate2
    ColorPalette6=DarkGoldenrod3
    ColorPalette7=chocolate3
    ColorPalette8=orange3
    ColorPalette9=orange1
    ColorPalette10=gold3
    ColorPalette11=chocolate4
    ColorPalette12=chocolate4
    ColorPalette13=DarkOrange4
    ColorPalette14=OrangeRed1
    ColorPalette15=DarkOrange3
    ColorPalette16=orange2

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I forgot a few of the settings. Here it is again in its entirety.

      ColorForeground=orange2
      ColorBackground=black
      ColorCursor=DarkOrange4
      ColorPalette1=black
      ColorPalette2=OrangeRed3
      ColorPalette3=tan3
      ColorPalette4=#d0b03c
      ColorPalette5=chocolate2
      ColorPalette6=DarkGoldenrod3
      ColorPalette7=chocolate3
      ColorPalette8=orange3
      ColorPalette9=orange1
      ColorPalette10=gold3
      ColorPalette11=chocolate4
      ColorPalette12=chocolate4
      ColorPalette13=DarkOrange4
      ColorPalette14=OrangeRed1
      ColorPalette15=DarkOrange3
      ColorPalette16=orange2

      Delete
  23. Is that Lex Luthor-like face in the reflection on the right of the photo you? I'm just asking because I'm not sure whether you realized it and are comfortable with it if it's really you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Egad, you've solved it! Chet is Lex Luthor, and he hides his identity so that Superman can't find him!

      Delete
    2. That's funny. I was deliberately standing off to the side and holding my camera out at an angle because I kept getting my reflection when I tried to take it straight-on. I didn't notice that it managed to capture me anyway.

      Oh, well. I don't think anyone's going to identify me from a partial image in a glass case.

      Delete
    3. I could photoshop it out if you want. Or change it (Want some hair? A scar? Pirate hat? Too bad I suck with photoshop :D)

      Delete
  24. Nice touch to choose Oubliette of all titles to fill in the forgotten number.

    ReplyDelete
  25. In hope anyone is still reading this: Does the PLATO version of Oubliette have class changes like Wizardry, or are you stuck with the class chosen at the beginning?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just logged into Cyber1 and went into the game and manual again. I can't find any evidence that you can change your class after creating it.

      Delete
    2. If the reason you asked was to add another bullet point to the the things that Wizardry innovated beyond Oubliette, this is a legitimate one.

      Delete
  26. An element of PLATO Oubliette not mentioned here was the competition. Multiple parties wandered the same instance of the dungeon. There was one "boss battle" more or less randomly located on each level of the dungeon, and there were especially-powerful and -desirable magic items that could only be acquired by winning one of those boss battles (n.b. - the phrase "boss battle" wasn't used at the time, but I don't remember specifically what people called them. Also, don't think of those battles as having unique opponents - rather, they had unusually large numbers of the hardest enemies found on the level; I remember 15 Orcuses being an example) . So for the most experienced players, who participated in regular groups, the game was about getting their parties down to the lowest levels as quickly as possible, and then competing with the other parties to find and win boss battles. Add to that the chance of permanent death for a character and the fact that the players of the various parties might very well all be playing in the same computer lab at the same time - things could get noisy and heated,

    ReplyDelete
  27. I've sunk 50 or so hours into Oubliette on Android (which is identical to the iPhone release), and as for the GIMLET...

    -There are quests of a sort, and a main quest of a sort. Each floor has a "special encounter" (which you can use items to find- the item to find B1's special encounter is sold in the shop, an item for B1-B3 special encounters sometimes drops from B1's special encounter, an item that finds special encounters from B1-B6 is sometimes dropped from B3's special encounter, and so on) where you fight a group of monsters from several levels deeper (basically a boss battle.) These generally give powerful items of all sorts (consumables and equipment) but sometimes drop the aforementioned special encounter finding items. Also, they drop a single temporal gem if your levels are below the level of the enemies, which essentially allows you to "save" your game (as opposed to suspending it.)

    -As for a "main quest", B10 has a special encounter, and new to the phone version there's a puzzle to get into B11. B11 has a boss, and beating it is sort of the main quest (although you can keep playing afterwards.) I've (barely) made it to B11, and have yet to find this boss, but John Gaby (the author of the Android port) and several users have confirmed that it exists (though they're very tight-lipped on revealing the nature of this boss.) So while it's not an explicit goal, mobile Oubliette has a sort of main quest.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the additional information! I made a few updates to the post. Perhaps I'll download it again and give it more of a chance.

      Delete
  28. Fired it up again- if you do decide to go secret room hunting (but make sure you can easily deal with all of the B1 monsters first) you want to buy Gems of Finding from the shop, which will highlight the way to the secret room on B1.

    ReplyDelete
  29. While listing similarities between Oubliette and Wizardry you've mentioned "raising in temples having a chance to fail, based on the character's constitution". This rule wasn't invented by Oubliette. It was already in Dungeons & Dragons.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, only now I noticed that someone already pointed it.

      Delete
  30. I have to put in plug for my own PLATO game released in 1977, originally called "nsorcery" and now, "sorcery". It is a star-trek like fantasy role-playing game. Mine is the third version, after 'think15' and 'think2' - both written by Uni High School students - I was a student at Urbana High School. Luckily for me, those earlier versions were deleted which gave me the opportunity to write my own:

    https://www.facebook.com/donald.gillies ... 938&type=3

    It's a dungeon game played outdoors in 10x10 quadrants, in a world of up to 100 different sectors (anywhere from 1x1 to 100x1 or 10x10, etc.) Unlike Trek, there are treasures and trees bordering the universe and also obstructing movement in some other locations. Rather than photon torpedoes and phasers, there are (magic) swords and (magic) arrows. Instead of starbases there are magic circles where you can refuel (with standard swords and arrows), purchase experience, adrenaline, etc. This was the #7 most popular game on UIUC PLATO in 1980, some of the games of higher popularity were : airfight, empire, moria, and avatar. The game lives on today at http://www.cyber1.org because I typed it in from a printout in about 2003.

    You might think, #7 most popular game, no big deal? Well, I remember when Empire hit 1M contact hours in the late 1970's, sorcery had tens of thousands if not 100,000 contact hours, at least.

    People played sorcery to rack up experience points and the players were ranked in the records system by the number of experience points. I estimated that in 1980, the top players (out of ~300 total) had more than two hundred hours of gameplay, based on my productivity in playing the game, and their scores.

    i will also put in a plug for the first infinite machine-generated dungeon (much like No Man's Sky today) called (I think) orthanc (or was it baradur?). Unfortunately, the software generated maze walls - not rooms - and it was incredibly difficult to navigate. In any case, there were roughly 10 dungeon games on the PLATO system, and 280 games total, when I left for college in 1980.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cool! Is this on the Plato emulation service that Chet uses?

      Delete
    2. It is. I checked it out last night. I didn't get very far, but I didn't have a lot of time. This one isn't mentioned much in the RPG histories, so it will be fun to blog about it.

      Delete

I welcome all comments about the material in this blog, and I generally do not censor them. However, please follow these rules:

1. Do not link to any commercial entities, including Kickstarter campaigns, unless they're directly relevant to the material in the associated blog posting. (For instance, that GOG is selling the particular game I'm playing is relevant; that Steam is having a sale this week on other games is not.) THIS ALSO INCLUDES USER NAMES THAT LINK TO ADVERTISING.

2. Please avoid profanity and vulgar language. I don't want my blog flagged by too many filters.

3. Please don't comment anonymously. It makes it impossible to tell who's who in a thread. Choose the "Name/URL" option, pick a name for yourself, and just leave the URL blank.

Also, Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

NOTE: Spam has gotten so bad lately that I've had to turn on comment moderation for posts older than 10 days. I apologize if it takes a little while for your comment to appear.