Monday, March 16, 2015

Wrapping Up the Early Ages (1975-1983)


With the final post on Moria completed, I have now played and blogged about every RPG released in the western world (at least, that we've been able to collectively identify) through 1983, including console games. I have won all of the winnable ones except Moria. Damn that game.

When I originally started playing and blogging in 2010, I absolutely blasted through this era without any true care or consideration. By Game #9, I was in 1985. It was only a later rescinding of my "DOS-only" rule that got me back to the early days of RPGs. In my actual playing chronology, Ultima III was my 8th game. If I'd not adopted the DOS-only rule in the first place, it would have been 47th. That's really the way it should have been. The game is such a stand-out that I should have taken longer to build to it.

As I wrapped up 1988 (the first time through), I offered a turn-of-the-year post, reflecting on the themes of 1988 and what I was looking forward to in 1990. I also started selecting a "Game of the Year." It's time to do that retroactively for the earlier years. I'm going to cover a huge swath of time with this post and then do annual posts as I complete 1984, 1985, 1986, and 1987.

The lineage of some early RPGs. Ultima III is notably the first game with multiple parents in its lineage.

Rather than covering individual years, I'm going to use this post to talk about general themes throughout this era, but for those readers who haven't read the entirety of my blog over the last five years, it's important to remember some of the games that we've discussed. The major categories are:

1. The PLATO games, developed by students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign between 1975 and 1979. The first ones appeared within a year after the release of the tabletop Dungeons & Dragons and include The Dungeon (aka "pedit5," 1975), The Game of Dungeons (aka "dnd," 1975), Moria (1975), Orthanc (1975), Oubliette (1977), and Avatar (1979). As these games appeared before the first commercial RPGs, they relied only on each other and tabletop RPGs for their sources.

Oubliette (1978) offered a first-person perspective and multiplayer exploration, with better graphics and RPG mechanics than anything we'd see on the commercial market for several years.

2. The first independent commercial RPGs, generally developed by programmers with some tabletop RPG experience but without experience with the PLATO games. These pioneering authors were feeling their way into an era in which nothing was standardized. Many of these titles launched short-lived series, but they're all somewhat insular, showing little awareness of other titles being released around the same time. For this reason, they are also occasionally innovative, offering features that didn't make it into the later genre. They include:
            
  • The Maces & Magic series, including Balrog (1979), The Stone of Sisyphus (1980), and Morton's Fork (1981).

The Dragon's Eye is one of many Apple II games that had some interesting ideas but never went anywhere.

         
3. The Ultima line, which technically belongs with the games listed above, but are so important that they deserve their own category. Like the other independent commercial RPGs, they were written by someone with no experience playing other computer RPGs. Titles are Akalabeth: World of Doom (1979), Ultima (1981), Ultima II (1982), and Exodus: Ultima III (1983), as well as the first Ultima clone: The Ring of Darkness (1982).

3. The DND line, directly descended from the PLATO Game of Dungeons via Daniel Lawrence's adaptations. In this era, they include only Dungeon of Death (1979) and Telengard (1982) as well as Lawrence's lost versions. We'll see more in 1984 and 1985. They feature top-down gameplay, rapid random encounters, limited mechanics, and permadeath.

Telengard is difficult and random.

4. Roguelikes, starting of course with Rogue (1980) and continuing with Moria (1983). Rogue is starkly original, shows no dependence on earlier games, and offers a complexity in mechanics that is way ahead of its time.

5. The Wizardry line, adapted from the PLATO Oubliette, and consisting of Wizardry (1981), Scenario #2 (1982), Scenario #3 (1983), plus one clone: Maze Master (1983).

There are many "first" games in this era, but Exodus: Ultima III serves well as a "last" game (even if it wasn't technically released last), as it's the first game with an identifiable linage that references more than one prior game. While obviously a child of Ultima II, it was also heavily influenced by Wizardry in its multi-character approach (Richard Garriott has said as much) and any one of several games in its use of a separate tactical combat screen.

Themes of the Early Era

Among the first eight years of RPGs, we can identify several common themes:

1. Single-player was the second choice. To those of us who grew up with single-player commercial RPGs and saw the advent of MMORPGs as an unwelcome offshoot, it may be surprising to learn that the first RPGs were, fundamentally, multi-player. In the context of the time, it makes sense: Tabletop RPGs were a group experience, and the PLATO system was meant to facilitate communication and collaboration. Even the top-down, single-character games had a chat function and allowed various PCs to interact with each other, and the first-person games (Moria, Oubliette, and Avatar) were explicitly meant to be played with a party--to the extent that I found them mostly unsurvivable as a single character. It's amazing to me how fast this functionality appeared.

Jockeying for position in the "Hall of Fame" was a key motivating factor in the PLATO series.

In an era of limited network connectivity, multiplayer games couldn't hope to survive outside the educational environment, and the first commercial RPGs were naturally single-player. But even in this transition, many games were curiously reluctant to give up the idea that RPG playing should be a shared experience. A remarkable number of titles from this era have "leaderboards" that track high scores, even though it was unlikely that people would share copies. Wizardry had password locks on characters, expecting that a single disk might store several players' characters. Space allowed multiple players to engage their characters in duels. Eamon assumed that eager players would trade scenarios. A few titles (e.g., Crown of Arthain, Fracas, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves) offered the ability for more than one player to control different characters, and a lot of the era's manuals offered examples and scenarios that assumed friends would be playing side-by-side.

Many games took it for granted that you'd have friends to play along with.

Only as this era drags on do developers seem to realize that CRPG playing is going to be a lonesome, solitary experience. In my opinion, games start to improve in quality as developers include more NPCs, quests, and story rewards to make up for the lack of real-life friends giving high-fives over top scores.

2. Hardware limitations forced considerable compromises. The PLATO games were built on a powerful system whose capacity probably exceeded the time and effort the students were willing to spend programming. As a result, the very first RPGs are anything but primitive. We didn't see commercial games with the complexity and size of Oubliette and Moria for almost a decade.

But on the microcomputer, the story was different. Recollections of developers are rife with stories about cutting material and functionality to fit in the memory and storage media of the era. Offering a splash screen at the beginning of the game might mean the sacrifice of three dungeon levels. A few bloops of sound meant having to cut out combat mechanics.

The result is that there isn't a single game from 1975 to 1982 that has both decent graphics and decent gameplay. The games with the most primitive graphics and sound are those with the best mechanics, as we see in Wizardry, Rogue, Moria, and SwordThrust.

In Eamon (1980) and Swordthrust (1981), a complex set of factors determined accuracy and damage in combat.

Developers are never really freed from these shackles completely, but we start seeing a lot more advanced games as storage media and memory specs improve. By the mid-1980s, we've clearly hit the "good enough" point. We're not there yet, but we almost are with Ultima III.

3. Cross-platform games are still rare. Temple of Apshai was the leader in this regard, with ports to the Apple II, Commodore PET, Commodore VIC-20, Commodore 64, TRS-80, and DOS within the first few years of the decade. Most other games were only released for one or two platforms; the exceptions, like Wizardry and Ultima were only because they became wildly popular later.

In comparing games to each other, we always have to keep in mind that some platforms were woefully starved. If you had a TRS-80, you could play the Dunjonquest series, The Wizard's Castle,  the all-text Dungeons and Dragons, and that's about it. PET owners were even more limited and probably cherished Dungeon of Death and DUNGEON for that reason. Even a DOS user was mostly out of luck prior to 1984; most of the games eventually released for it were released years after their originals.

The Ring of Darkness (1982) was probably the best game of the era for the ZX Spectrum or Dragon 32.

4. The era is characterized by innovative dead-ends (at least temporarily). The large number of independent developers, working without any kind of template, came up with remarkably innovative mechanics, many of which didn't make it. Consider Stuart Smith's games, in which every enemy is a named NPC and can actually collect treasure and level up; or Robert Clardy's games, with soldiers in place of hit points. The otherwise-mediocre Crown of Arthain (1981) is notable for using hexes instead of squares. The Dragon's Eye (1981) had action-based side-view combat. Dungeons and Dragons (1980), which I ranked low, is notable for reflecting character speed in the speed of its text-based combat. How long will it be before we see another game with an audible heartbeat, like Dungeons of Daggorath (1982), or a lockpicking minigame, like Tunnels of Doom (1982)? Almost every game of the era, good or bad, at least does something different.

I didn't really like Empire II (1982), but there wasn't any other game of the early 1980s in which I was gambling, doing drugs, and hiring prostitutes.

5. Content takes a back seat to mechanics. Looking over the list of 1975-1983 games, you're hard-pressed to find one with a good story or memorable NPCs. At best, the manual has a framing story, usually goofy, that offers the most banal explanation for why your character is on-screen. The only outliers are Ultima, Eamon, and Temple of Apshai, all of which excel to some degree in story-telling rather than just battle. Starting over the next couple of years, a regular in-game narrative becomes the norm.

It's particularly interesting to reflect on how the text adventure was developing during this period, with games like the Zork series, the Savage Island series, and the Scott Adams Graphic Adventure series offering loads of content and puzzle-solving without any combat mechanics. The two types of games spring from a common source, and it's good to see the approaches re-unified (unified for the first time in computer RPGs, of course) later in the 1980s.

What do you think? Any other major themes that I'm missing?

Games of the Year

When I finished 1988, I retroactively chose "Games of the Year" for 1981-1983, but of course those were based only on the DOS versions. Let's take a look at these choices and see how well they hold up. Since there were less than three games per year prior to 1979, I'm going to start with that year. Keep in mind that in "Game of the Year," I look not only for quality and enjoyability but also for its enduring influence on the genre.

1979. I'm tempted to give it to Akalabeth, but as innovative as Richard Garriott was, I don't think his lasting influence is solidified until Ultima in 1981. Dunjonquest: The Temple of Apshai is the better choice. The developers tried hard to model a classic tabletop RPG experience with the limitations of the times, including a full set of character attributes, a complex inventory system, and detailed descriptions of rooms and treasures in an accompanying game manual. More than any game until perhaps the Gold Box series started in 1988, you really feel like you're playing Dungeons & Dragons on your computer.

1980. Eamon and Fracas are both worthy candidates, offering very different experiences. Eamon is the first RPG/text-adventure hybrid, and it still offers good combat mechanics, inventory, and spellcasting. Fracas is a wonderfully fun game from Stuart Smith with plenty of features we no longer see. But in the end, if I'm talking about excellent mechanics and enduring influence, I can't not give the award to Rogue.

When a game lends its name to an entire sub-genre, it gets "Game of the Year."

1981. Nothing I've played since my "new plan" took effect has come close to challenging Wizardry and Ultima for the title. It's a difficult decision between the two, but I think Wizardry is the clear winner, for enjoyability (it's one of only three or four games from this entire era that I've happily played multiple times), innovation (it's the first multi-character game), and endurance: we owe Might & Magic, The Bard's Tale, and Dungeon Master to it, and it even had an influence on Ultima III.

1982. I gave it to Telengard when my only choices were Telengard, Ultima II, and Wizardry II. My reasoning was that Telengard was the best representative of its particular line (the DND games, which we'll be talking more about soon). Now I have 14 games to choose from, and it's a bit tougher. Since I first panned it in a scathing post back when I was just getting started, I've come to feel better about Ultima II. For all its idiocies, it has some decent game mechanics, and it's one of the only games of the era to even recognize the concept of NPCs.

Sword of Fargoal is a fun action RPG from the same year. Tunnels of Doom offered the first tactical combat screen that I know about, as well as the fun lockpicking minigame. The two Warrior of Ras titles had very innovative approaches to combat and exploration.

I'm going to reluctantly switch my choice to Dungeons of Daggorath, which stands out as the most innovative game of the year, if not the most influential. It has features we won't see again for several years: real-time action in a first-person environment (but with text inputs!), a critical importance of sound, and a consideration of fatigue as well as health. I say "reluctantly" because I don't think these features influenced later RPGs so much as anticipated them; I'm not sure that the developers of Dungeon Master, for instance, even heard of Daggorath, let alone played it. But it's hard to see lasting influence from any of the 1982 titles, and Daggorath, if nothing else, is the game I'll remember the longest. Telengard might be the best representative of its line, but its line isn't very good.

The screenshot doesn't do it justice. Daggorath is the most sensory game of the entire era.

1983. I gave it to Ultima III, and there it remains. There are some decent games in 1983, including some starkly original ones--Expedition Amazon, Galactic Adventures, Moria, and The Return of Heracles all have their charm--but Ultima III truly feels like it's pushing us into the next era, with a well-structured plot, a complex spell system, character choices that really matter, NPCs that offer lore and clues, and the best tactical combat screen to date. It's a clear standout in my GIMLET scale: I gave it a 51, 14 points higher than the highest game before it (Wizardry), and it remains the champion until Ultima IV, Might & Magic, and Starflight come along in 1985.

Ultima III isn't just game of the year; it's game of the era.

Looking Ahead

While this post was in its draft form, I already started 1984. I've yet to offer a "Game of the Year" for the year, since the only games I had to pick from, before my backtracking began, were Caverns of Zoarre, DND, and Zyll, none of which I completed.

In many ways, 1984 is an odd year. We might call it the "lost year" of RPGs. None of the major franchises--Ultima and Wizardry, primarily--had 1984 offerings. The "Golden Age" marked by Ultima IV, Phantasie, Might & Magic, The Bard's Tale, and Wizard's Crown wouldn't start until 1985. The year encapsulates the rise and fall of computer gamebooks, the last gasps of the inadequate DND lineage, and a series of one-offs that would have been more at home in 1982.

There are a few titles I'm looking forward to. Questron was my first RPG, and it's a crime that I haven't yet played it as part of the blog. (It was supposed to inaugurate my fifth anniversary, but I didn't get to it in time.) I want to go back and finish Zyll, an innovative text RPG, and give another chance to Rivers of Light now that I've played Stuart Smith's other offerings. I've heard good things about SunDog: Frozen Legacy. I'm anxious to try Hack to see how it bridges Rogue and NetHack.

I expected to have more time into Tunnels & Trolls by now, but I still haven't caught up to where I was almost a year ago, so rather than re-hash old territory, I'm going to continue into 1984 with DND. Happy reading!


125 comments:

  1. It's particularly interesting to reflect on how the text adventure was developing during this period, with games like the Zork series... offering loads of content and puzzle-solving without any combat mechanics. The two types of games spring from a common source...

    What do you think? Any other major themes that I'm missing?


    Zork did have some pseudo-randomized combat, as described in http://www.filfre.net/2012/01/exploring-zork-part-2/ , but of course that was a thread that quickly petered out in the Infocom canon.

    Before you close the book entirely on this early period it would be interesting to see your thoughts on 1978's MUD, which can still be experienced much in its original form at http://www.british-legends.com/CMS/, as a further Eamonian extension of hack 'n slash gameplay labouring beneath the text adventure I/O model.

    Eamon is the first RPG/text-adventure hybrid, and it still offers good combat mechanics, inventory, and spellcasting.

    It has good bones! As recently as 2010 it was used as the basis for a survival horror game, Leadlight, in the IF comp. http://www.ifwiki.org/index.php/Leadlight Like the proverbial dog walking on two legs, remarkable not for doing it well, but for (in 2010) doing it at all!

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    1. I started playing MUD1 not too long go over at All the Adventures.

      https://bluerenga.wordpress.com/tag/mud1/?order=ASC

      I'm not sure I'd recommend it to the Addict -- it really is meant to be done with other players.

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  2. "I'm going to reluctantly switch my choice to Dungeons of Daggorath"

    Hurrah! So glad to see this remarkable game get its due. It's shaped my expectations of video games, occasionally haunted my dreams, and will always be a part of my personal mythology.

    As one of the most visible CoCo titles by far -- and certainly one of the most popular -- I think it may be more influential than we realize. I suspect there are a lot of people out there who might not have consciously remembered it but who took that one trip to Radio Shack where it was being demoed.

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  3. What a great post! If you eventually turn all of this work into a book, it's analysis like this that would make me look forward to it.

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    1. A lot of this material was originally written for the book. I think by offering it here, I've finally come to terms with the fact that the book isn't going to happen unless I become independently wealthy somehow.

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    2. One hopes that with the audience that you have built here, publishers will march to your door. And if they don't, there's always kickstarter.

      But that said, I hope you can find a way to become independently wealthy just by building this blog. This is a very enjoyable format for your work and while it would be great to have it all pulled together in a reference tome, I would hate to lose something here in the process.

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    3. And how do you expect to become independently wealthy, if you don't publish the book? (Said tongue in cheek; I've found attempts to publish to be more expensive than lucrative. You've got a nice niche, and I'd like to see the book, but it probably won't substitute for a retirement account.)

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    4. Publishing is often a financially risky venture.

      Getting picked up by a publishing house can be difficult, to put it mildly. Publishing contracts should always be reviewed by a lawyer *who works for you*. Hiring a vanity publisher to print copies of one's book has multiple drawbacks that others far more knowledgeable than I have discussed at length.

      One way to mitigate the risk is to start with e-publishing. An ebook takes far less resources to create and distribute than a print book, and most of your potential readers probably read more online than print material anyway. Also, ebooks can be self-published fairly easily.

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    5. I think Chet knows more about publishing and the financial viability of writing than most :p

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    6. You could selfpublish the book. It's not that hard anymore with print on demand.

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    7. I gave the wrong impression. My "independently wealthy" comment wasn't meant to suggest that I need capital to publish the book. I have extensive experience with print-on-demand services and I know how to use them. My point was that producing a book takes time, and to do it I'd either have to take a long break from gaming/blogging or quit one of my actual paying jobs.

      The money thing was a joke anyway. Even if I COULD give up some of my gigs, I don't think I would. I like what I do professionally, I'm good at it, and it matters. So it's much more a time thing than a money thing, and it takes time to put together a book. Even if the book was just a compilation of my existing posts, there's lots of formatting, editing, legal, and art work to do (or get done).

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    8. Yeah? Well, your job sucks (to us because it takes you away from writing)!

      We'd rather you don't have to do anything else other than playing games, writing about it, sipping on gimlets and spending time with Irene.

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    9. That would be a nice retirement gig.

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    10. How about instead of a peaceful retirement, you join the army and make your reality into an R.P.G?

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    11. Who needs to be in the army to be in an RPG?
      http://www.cracked.com/photoplasty_204_if-real-life-worked-like-role-playing-game/

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    12. Well, if you were wealthy you could hire a secretary, cleaner, caffure, and use private jets so that you could have more time each day while still doing your job and playing games. (Heck, imagine if you could hire someone to turn your manuscripts into formatted blog posts and professionally edit them ;) )

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  4. I really enjoyed this posting since I didn't play any of those games and it's interesting to read how it all began.

    If you want to make the subtitle with the genre-naming a rule, you have to think about crowning Dungeon Master. It has a lot of clones and even more remarkable is that very few of them actually beat it.

    I remember Sundog: Frozen Legacy as a really great game. I am not sure if it is more of a crpg than Pirates, but that seems good enough.

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  5. Not surprising about the multi-player nature of these games. One-player games didn't take off until the advent of the personal computer. Before that, the idea of a single person owning his own computer was crazy stuff. An entire computer, dedicated to a single user? Wow, that sort of thing is paradigm-shattering.

    I always wanted to play nethack properly, on a multi-user system with a high score board and shared bones files. Multiplayer games are great - as long as you're lucky enough to have a group of people available to play. Multi-user systems have this property inherently. I remember installing linux on my PC in the nineties and longingly gazing at all the multi-user tools, finger, talk, whois and so on, and wishing that I was on a multi-user system.

    "I have now played and blogged about every RPG released in the western world through 1983, including console games."
    An impressive accomplishment. People, this is why the man plays every single game instead of just skipping ahead to games you've heard of. I get the distinct impression that people just want to see our host play a game they know just so they can drop hints in the comments and spoil the game.

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    1. There are servers for that! In fact there are a lot of people who only play Nethack on a public server. Also since the new version just came out the high score and death lists aren't all maxed out yet.

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    2. I should have mentioned: https://alt.org/nethack/ is the most popular public server.

      This blog comment brought to you by the fact I have an hour long office hour, and only one student has dropped by so far.

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  6. "In many ways, 1984 is an odd year. We might call it the "lost year" of RPGs."

    Wasn't there a huge crash in the consoles market in 1983? How did that affect things?

    Also, for me 1984 was like a crowning year for the British computer game industry with the releases of Elite and Lords of Midnight.

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    1. 1984 was a rather eventful year though. Below are the possible big events that may have affected CRPG output.
      The first Apple Macintosh was released.
      First World Youth Day started.
      Celtics beat Lakers.
      Cirque Du Soleil is founded.
      Crack is introduced into America.

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    2. Maybe because there's something Orwellian in regards to 1984? ;)

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  7. What a great post. Your blog has completely transcended its humble origins and you're certainly the biggest historian of our loved hobby.

    Seriously, this is very in depth but also fun read. Great work chet!

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    1. I can only agree with RuySan here. You are a CRPG archaeologist!

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    2. I appreciate it. Thanks for the feedback.

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  8. Fantastic post man, I'm especially glad that you gave such highlight to Dungeons of Daggorath, I always thought that it was a forgotten but extremely innovative title.

    Keep on the good fight! :)

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  9. This might be as good a time as any to post this. For years, I've been trying to identify a game that I used to play in the mid-'80s with someone who is no longer alive. I remember it as a text-based strategy/RPG hybrid for the Commodore PET (or possibly VIC-20) where you moved around overland gathering an army. It had no graphics that I remember, just text encounters. Details that I remember include crossing a river and recruiting a group of centaurs.

    The disk was hand-labelled, and I remember it saying "Sword of" something, but through the years I've begun to doubt that I could be remembering/applying that correctly, because it certainly wasn't Sword of Fargoal or Aragon or Sodan. Does this ring a bell for anybody?

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    1. I'm afraid I'm stumped. MobyGames doesn't offer anything that seems to fit the bill.

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    2. This sounds like a computer version of the boardgame Titan that was published in 1980.
      http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/103/titan

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  10. I've enjoyed seeing you warm up to the roguelike genre. It seems like your relationship had a rocky start with the Rogue postings back in 2010 but it was great watching you tackle Nethack and Moria.

    You may have said something about this earlier, I forget...have you sampled any more modern roguelikes? Are you excited to get into some specific ones in upcoming years? For me they scratch a particular itch that few other games can satisfy.

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    1. I've certainly come to appreciate roguelikes more since Rogue, but I still have an odd relationship with the sub-genre. I don't find myself looking forward to the games, mostly because they have such steep learning curves and you have to forget your detailed knowledge of other roguelikes. I wouldn't have any problem playing NetHack again--I do, in fact, in some idle moments--but I don't have a strong desire to learn a new one. I'm sure that once I play one, I'll change my mind.

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    2. Dungeons of Dredmor is a decent modern roguelike. It's a fair bit easier than Nethack, but still challenging.

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    3. DoD is ok but really nothing compared to Dream Quest. Easy to get into, relatively short and ideal for "just one more try" but unbelievably complex in the end. Not ASCII but the art is quite close ;)

      http://www.pockettactics.com/reviews/review-dream-quest/

      I can only recommend it as a real step forward in the roguelike genre combining deck building with roguelike dungeon crawls. Unfortunately it´ll take you decades till you reach it legitimately but if you have an ipad give it a shot in between.

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    4. Dungeon Crawl is pretty good, though tough. Look up Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup. It has a lot of complexity but not so much hidden information and oddities as NetHack.

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    5. I don't know if Chet will have the patience or time to explore all the mechanics of DCSS when he reaches it: religion, races, classes, branches...
      But I think he will like it.

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    6. I've heard from several people that once you gain experience with a couple it is fairly easy to learn more RLs. They draw inspiration from a common pot after all.

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    7. In my experience, this is true in some ways. But in other ways, it's harder. Roguelikes tend to LOOK very similar, which makes it all the more jarring when they don't behave the same way. I never was quite able to escape a NetHack mindset when playing Moria, for instance.

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  11. Thanks for this post, I enjoyed it very much!
    Since reading this blog, I've also tried to define eras along the lines of the history of mankind, like bronze age, golden age, and the like.... The PLATO years remind me very much of the pre-historic era where a couple of impressive buildings survived and left later generations with the question of how they were built, like the Gizeh pyramids, or Stonehenge. Similarly, the Plato games were much more complex than anything until, well, Ultima III? So there's an era from 1975 to 1979, and then another one from 1979 to 1983. Then there is another one from 1983 to 1988 (Pool of Radiance) and then from 1988 to 1993. Then there is an intermediate period until Fallout and then the Silver Age of Fallout and the Infinity Engine. After Icewind Dale II it gets harder. In a way, the next era-defining CRPG was World of Warcraft, the final return of multiplayer CRPGs, which basically pushed single-player RPGs into the background for a couple of years. This development has only gradually los tmomentum and now the genre is defined by a few big franchises (mainly by Bethesda and Bioware) and a certain crowdfunded retro movement.
    I also like your choice of Dungeons of Daggorath. Its ambition was so much ahead of the time that it took 10 years until Ultima Underworld did something similar.

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    1. Matt Barton already did a pretty good job with this. He has the "Dark Age" from 1974-1979, the "Bronze Age" from 1979-1983, the "Silver Age" from 1983-1985, and the "Golden Age" from 1985-1993. I don't quite agree. I'd end the "Bronze Age" at 1983 for sure--Ultima III feels like the end of one era and the beginning of the next--but I'm not sure I'd start the "Golden Age" in 1985. I feel like even the best RPGs of the year, and the next, were just establishing their themes. I'd extend the "Silver Age" through 1987 and start the "Golden Age" with 1988. To me, the year of Pool of Radiance, Ultima V, and Wasteland deserves to stand out as the beginning of something big: CRPGs had arrived.

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    2. If the Golden Age begins in 1988, what do we call the mid 90's landscape? A drought? There's certainly a period between 1988 and 1992 that produced a lot of amazing games, but that period quickly gave way to a "rush-to-3D" period that really lasted until 3D, first-person RPGs came into their own (perhaps around the time of Gothic 1). In many ways, the first two Fallouts and the Infinity Engine games were the exception, rather than the rule. They were advertised as throwbacks to a earlier era even at the times of their releases.

      Thoughts?

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    3. I'd call that the Decline. It basically follows the Golden Age of every historical timeline.

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    4. I don't think there'll be a decline in the Gimlet sense. As it stands, every year from '85 onwards has averaged in the ballpark of 35. '85 is a useful watermark in that sense - all previous years had averages of less than 25.

      There probably aren't too many entries from 93 thru 96 that will challenge the top 15. Maybe Stonekeep, Diablo, Betrayal at Krondor or ES 1 or 2.

      We also got Nethack 3.1 & 3.2, ADOM and various [Z]Angbands.

      Delete
    5. That's because of the inevitable improvement in Sound & Graphics, doesn't it?

      Ultima 9 definitely has some prettier graphics and sound when you compare it Utlima 4, but to say that it's better? I'd rather douse my pubes with industrial alcohol and set fire on it that to play that atrocity.

      Delete
    6. Later games might get a free point or two in the Sound/Graphics/Interface category. Keep in mind that even in 1990 several games got as high as 6 or 7.

      I'm guessing that most of the improvement in scores will come from greater scope for world building thanks to having full time writers.

      Delete
    7. Yeah. Bigger RAM and disk space helped too, no doubt.

      Delete
    8. Another title from the 'slump' that will do well is QFG 4 - arguably the best of the series..

      Delete
    9. GQF4 is the best in the series, hands down. I cannot wait for the Addict to get there.

      I have started to play QFG5 but was turned off by the change in game engine. It did not age well at all. I am sure that once I get into it (some day...) I will get used to it, but initial impressions were such a turn-off that I didn't get more than a few screens in.

      Delete
    10. Yeah, the only reason to play 5 is if you've played the other 4 to death and are desperate for more QFG.

      3D games age pretty badly - especially character models. People are hard to animate in 3D and faces require a ton of polygons. I think I prefer looking at the QFG 1 rerelease than QFG V.

      Delete
    11. @ CRPG Addict: A silver age is usually after the Golden Age, a prosperous, but still not quite as outstanding period:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silver_age
      For example, in Roman Empire history, the Silver Age (the adopted Emperors from Nerva to Commodus) follows the Golden Age (Caesar and especially Augustus). So Matt Barton's chronology is a little wrong by timing it the other way round. Also, from what I've read in this blog and the little I know myself, I don't know how the years 1983-1985 form a unity.
      @ Daniel: I like to call it an intermediate period. I also like to include 1993 within the Golden Age, because of Ultima VII II, Ultima Underworld II, Betrayal of Krondor, Might and Magic V and Ambermoon. This way, the Golden Age covers perfectly the time of the Gold Box releases (with Unlimited Adventures from 1993).
      Curiously, the Might and Magic series had this five-year gap between part V and VI that also matches this intermediate period. Might and Magic VI-IX are then part of the Silver Age, which is indeed not as golden as the Golden Age.
      There are some things that don't fit perfectly though, for example, World of Xeen in 1994, the rise of Blizzard, Arena and Daggerfall, Heroes of Might and Magic. And the number of games declines after 1992, the Amiga and Atari dies, so the ratio of quality to quantity will probably increase, it's just that the Grade A games are missing (unless Chet finds a hidden gem).

      Delete
    12. Personally I consider the Golden Age of CRPGs to be from December 14th 1987 (release of Dungeon Master) to December 10th 1993 (release of Doom).
      Using Pool of Radiance as the start of the Golden Age is a bit problematic since games like Ultima 5 and Wasteland were released earlier that year.
      I don't know for a fact that Doom actually _caused_ the Dark Ages of 1994-1996, but I know a lot of Doom clones were released those years, but hardly any CRPGs. It may of course have been just a coincidence that after the peak of 92-93 suddenly hardly any CRPGs were released anymore.

      Delete
    13. It aligns quite well with the heyday of console rpgs

      Delete
    14. Thing is... I think that we are enjoying a great amount of quality RPGs now. We have great indie titles, small studio Kickstarted offerings and blockbuster AAA titles (I'm looking at you, Witcher 3!). Also, we see a revival of retro games with them being available on digital platforms.

      What do we call this current age then? Platinum? Diamond, maybe?

      Delete
    15. We could call it the post-modem age. (Somewhere, my friends in English just shuddered, and don't know why.)

      Delete
    16. I think it would be pretty selfish of our generation if we hog the word "modern". What would our CRPG playing descendants describe THEIR age then, amirite?

      Anyway, since we're at it and Schulz did rightly point out that a Silver Age doesn't always mean a preceding age, perhaps we can discuss and agree on a more defining term for each period of CRPGaming that does not need to rely on previous literature that has been proven to contain some slight error and missing out some key information to begin with?

      Delete
    17. @Alexander Sebastian Schultz. '93 seems like a fair end for the silver age* then. We'll have to wait a few years for The Addict to confirm the hypothesis for us though. Blizzard, to me, was one of the biggest causes of the decline of CRPGs in the mid-90s.

      Delete
    18. @ Daniel:
      Now that I think about it, for me, as an Amiga/PC player (never played console games), the mid 90s were an age of real time strategy. So Blizzard's Warcraft and Warcraft II were definitely symptoms of how the times had changed. I just realized that Command & Conquer which I initially "blamed" for this development, was released AFTER Warcraft I, so yes, the trend was already there.

      Delete
    19. Dune 2 was the genesis of the RTS explosion.

      Delete
    20. Modem Wars was the genesis of RTS itself.

      Delete
  12. The moment you read about games that were made in -75 and realise that "holy cow, guys who made these games are on their 60's and 70's by now".

    ReplyDelete
  13. Great post, and a worthy capstone to your long "backtracking" endeavor, which has indeed been great to follow as you turn up all these bizarre and original games. Might be fun to include the GIMLETs here, too, as a ready reference on how much the games are really recommended...but maybe it would clutter things up.

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  14. 1983 is also significant for one more game "Ultima: Escape from Mt. Drash".

    The game itself was terrible and not an RPG-- as you indicated in your playthrough-- but it marks the first time that an RPG consumer "brand" had emerged and that in itself is an amazing leap forward.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a really good point. I deliberately excluded it from the discussion because of it's lack of RPG credentials, but I didn't consider that it was notable for other reasons.

      Delete
    2. It's certainly notable for being very valuable. The first complete-in-box copy of the game on eBay sold for $3,605 in 2004, the final (so far) for $1,875 in 2009.

      Delete
    3. Lord British: I think it's time for us to try out real-time first-person dungeon-spelunking again.
      Dr. Cat: Are you effing sure? The last time we did that, it was... ugly.
      Lord British: What are you trying to say?
      Dr. Cat: I'm saying that Escape from Mt. Drash was a piece of trash.
      Lord British: Just because you can make that rhyme, it doesn't make it right... er... time... lime... um.... crime?
      Dr. Cat: Psshhh...
      Lord British: Whatever. Why are you so risk-averse? Does being Dr. Cat make you a puss-
      Dr. Cat: Hey. You're the boss. Knock yourself out. Call that new series Ultima Underworld for all I care.

      Delete
    4. On second thought, Mt. Drash may have been the first glimmer of this, but the real appearance of side-games under a well-known brand would not really start until the 90s:

      Ignoring Mt. Drash, I can quickly think of:

      Ultima: Savage Empire (1990)
      Wizardry Gaiden 1: Suffering of the Queen (1991, Japan-only)
      Heroes of Might and Magic (1995)

      The only other two RPG "brands" that I can think of that did similarly were console RPGs:

      The Final Fantasy Legend (1990) - US-only title, considered the first game of the SaGa series in Japan
      Torneko no Daibōken: Fushigi no Dungeon (1993) - Japan-only spin off from Dragon Warrior IV

      Delete
    5. The mostly-Japan-only Megami Tensi series was another that "spun off" fairly early on, with no less than three spin off series by 1995 (and something like 5 or six now).

      Delete
    6. Shadowrun (2007) - A FPS without any RPG elements; confirming that, yes, God no longer exists for allowing such crap to exist.
      Ultima 8: Pagan - Stupid platforming action game that, if God is dead and has a tombstone, pisses on it so hard till the pee turns red with blood.

      Or how about games from other genres that jump onto the RPG train?

      e. g.
      1. Super Mario RPG: Legend of The Seven Stars
      2. World of Warcraft
      3. Serious Sam: The Random Encounter
      4. Doom RPG

      Delete
    7. Pagan will do alright in the Gimlet. There's lots of content and player freedom. I wonder how it would have been received were it simply called 'Pagan'.

      My favourite example of an RPG brand doing some genre jumping is Pokemon Snap :D


      Delete
    8. It would get a lot less in sales but also receive a lot less flak, obviously.

      I'd be pissed if I ordered rosti in a deli and they gave me french fries instead, just because it has potatoes in it. I like french fries but it's not what I ordered.

      Delete
    9. You make a fair point, but I also think more time in development and more spent on QA would have seriously improved its legacy. I think most people would have even forgiven the jumping had it been implemented in an entertaining manner. In some ways Pagan reminds me of KotOR 2. rather than a continuation of a great RPG series: Shovelware.

      Delete
    10. Pagan was my introduction to my series, and only after I went back and played 6, 7, 7.2 and the underworlds. I can see why it copped some flak from series fans but as someone unburdened by that I thoroughly enjoyed it and it holds a special place in my heart. I also think it should do pretty well in the gimlet. It won't match U7 of course, but then not many other games will either.

      Delete
    11. It's not easy to correlate U8 with the U7 and earlier. The crazy jumping sequence aside, gone are all the companions who had known/been with you since U3. The whole magic and moongate systems are also gone.

      Instead of customizing your Avatar, you get a cookie-cutter buckethead. They could have just created a new franchise for that game instead. EA must have been smoking crack when they made that decision.

      Delete
    12. Once the jump puzzles were patched out, Pagan wasn't that terrible. It was just small. Everything about it was a step backwards from Ultima VII. It feels like a fan-made tribute, or a the start of a new series by an Ultima alumnus.

      Delete
    13. Maybe it should have been packaged as a spin off, even if it were just called 'Ultima - Pagan'. Calling it Ultima VIII made it seem like part of a lineage that it didn't really belong to. The again, UIX, didn't exactly atone for that sin!

      Delete
    14. I go with "Too bad Ultima 7 Part 2 was last last Ultima game. Penultima 8 was a pretty good game with a weird number, but I've never played Penultima 9. Maybe some day."

      This is very similar to my view of the second season of Not-Quite-Heroes, and Quicklander II.

      Delete
    15. Kenny: The Nintendo "kid-friendly" RPGs in the various Mario series are actually pretty good. Mario RPG (1996) was followed by "Paper Mario" (2000) on the consoles and "Mario and Luigi" (2003) on the portables, both of which spawned series several games long. Depending on the game, some of them had decent (if simple) plots with some platforming elements mixed into the RPG, and a combat system that allowed you to dodge enemy attacks and similar with well-timed button presses.

      I *hope* that in a few years (1996!) that the Addict takes a console excursion and reviews the "kid" title that launched a thousand ships: Pokemon Red/Blue. That game will not only invent a sub-genre of console RPGs, but also add collecting mechanics to dozens of other games whether they needed it or not. One of these years, I want to play Red/Blue straight since when I did it as a young-in, I always used a walkthrough because I did not want to miss any Pokemon. Playing the game as it was originally played-- by discovering Pokemon based on NPC clues and yes, missing some, will be quite different than the completely-spoiled does-anyone-want-to-trade-me-a-squirtle mentality that I approached the game the last time. (But I'm not touching my cart. If the poor battery hasn't given out yet, I don't want to lose my Mew. Had to go to a Nintendo event surrounded by 10-year olds to get that.)

      Delete
    16. Calling it now - I bet it's U7 that shows the biggest GIMLET drop. Amazing world/NPCs/encounters but I suspect Chet will find the combat and magic totally bungled. Pagan is a sad mess though, and deserving of its reputation as an insult to the franchise, a few scattered good ideas notwithstanding. We'll find out when we get there of course.....

      Delete
    17. Personally I feel like Ultima 7 was more an adventure game than rpg. That's not a bad thing, necessarily, but it does have just about the worst combat (and dumbest companion AI) of any rpg I've ever played.

      Delete
    18. Joe: I get you, man. Mother (or Earthbound) is a pretty kiddy RPG too but I loved it so much I helped funded a rather shady Kickstarter for its unofficial sequel.

      doc & BG: No matter how bad the mechanics in U7 were (there's also plenty of bugs and companions sometimes missing in your party because he/she got stuck due to lousy pathfinding and murdered by random mooks), it was still Ultima. I really can't say the same for U8. I paid $80 for it. 80 F***ING BUCKS! FOR A PIECE OF TRASH!

      Sorry. I never could quite get over it and you'd have to forgive me for that immense mental scarring EA gave to me; an impressionable and fragile teen who gave up his social life to hang out with Iolo and gang. I still hate EA. Anyone who thinks that any other gaming company should top EA in my list will have to brain me before I could ever change my opinion on this.

      Delete
    19. Hmm, Pagan, lots of content and player freedom, but small game world and simplified mechanics... the Dragon Age 2 of the Ultima series? (I am playing Dragon Age 2 right now, will probably finish it at the weekend. It's true, the repetitive nature of the encounters and the maps is annoying. But at the same time, I like the concept of being a "rising star" within a city. I think it's better than people give it credit, but then the critics are always the loudest. With all the additional content, I think it's a satisfying game, though not quite as good as the predecessor.)

      Delete
    20. Ultima 8 was a horrible game, even worse than the pointlessness of Dragon Age 2, and one of the worst games ever. I posted this before, but here it is again:


      Ultima was a complex series of role-playing games, but it suffered from the awkward interfaces and navigation that were common in its time. Ultima 7 improved upon those flaws, and though it was still problematic, it succeeded as an epic adventure in a large, detailed world. Ultima 8 was a rushed pile of worthless bullshit that crushed all the style and value of the series, leaving only the crippling.
      Ultima's role-playing is gone: The character is no longer the greatest symbol of goodness and virtue, he has become a genocidal sociopath who destroys everything in his path and cares naught about anyone else. You have no choice but to follow the commands of all the irritating characters in this stupid, featureless world, one filled with empty space and confusing wastelands. Players no longer search for curiosity's sake, but because they have no idea where to go or what to do until they stumble upon the right cave. Virtue is irrelevant, as the Avatar must be pure evil.
      Ultima 8 is not even consistent: Commit crimes most of the time, and you will be killed--but under certain circumstances, you must kill and steal from innocent men. Have fun trying to figure out the difference.

      Controls, jumping, combat, perspective: All are terrible. Electronic Arts forced Origin to turn this into an action game, but the great combat of Wing Commander and Crusader bear no resemblance to this shit. Jumping puzzles appear throughout the game, but you never get a clear indication of where you are jumping, the position of the target relative to the character, or the length of the jump. One can easily spend hours on a single jumping puzzle. Fighting suffers all the same problems, and involves nothing more than blindly clicking on the enemies, only slightly less tedious and frustating than Diablo. It was compared to Super Mario Brothers, but Mario is defined by its steady controls; clear situational awareness; exciting action sequences; imaginative settings and enemies; and clearly defined objectives, none of which is present in this game.

      Ultima 8's magic system is a mess: The worst example is a type of magic that requires the player to place items in very specific spots throughout pentagrams, leading to endless frustration and confusion. This has to be repeated many times to complete one training sequence, one of the many pointless, tedious, extraneous sequences that destroy the pacing.

      Delete
    21. Mother has a cartoonish exterior, but it has the strangest and most unique world in all of videogames, good plots and characters, and sometimes gets very dark. It is also a difficult and slow paced R.P.G. series that requires an investment and thought. Unfortunately, only Mother 2 was translated into English--there are translated ROMs of the other games, but legal translations do not exist.

      Shin Megami Tensei is a better choice than Pokemon, as it inspired the series and provided a nice, complex R.P.G. for all ages. I wish the first game was translated to English, though number 2 is almost as bad as Ultima 8 and Dragon Age 2 and it can stay in Japan.

      Delete
    22. Alexander, sorry to hear that you are playing Dragon Age 2. You might as well stop: Nothing you do will ever make a difference, there will never be any kind of conflict, and the game will just peter out with a minor political struggle that will not be affected by your actions in any way, then a vague piece of nothing for an ending. Combat will never be more than throwing waves of trash mobs at you, and your character will never succeed at anything.

      Delete
    23. I will disagree with KBetc about DA2. I don't know what games he's playing that do a much better job varying their story direction and endings based on player choices during the game, but I found that the story progression was satisfying and interesting, with ramifications that carry all the way to the next Dragon Age game, and in a pretty significant way.

      No argument that the combat sucks.

      Delete
    24. Wait a frickin' minute... you are:
      1) compiling your thoughts on all the CRPGs you have played,
      2) trying to figure out how to use an Apple ][ emulator,
      3) playing through DND,
      4) restarting T&T,
      5) starting Escape from Hell
      6) completed DA2
      7) playing DA: Inquisition
      And still find time for work and your wife?

      Do you own a freaking TARDIS, Chet? Are you a goddamn Timelord? Y'know what, forget about writing a book about CRPGs. You'd earn millions by publishing a book about Time Management/Manipulation or whatever you do to bend Chronos over like a little bi- uh... bitumen, yes, bitumen.

      Delete
    25. And it's done (Dragon Age 2). A bit of a missed chance... Three quarters of the whole package is really good, but the quarter of it that isn't, hurts the overall impression overproportionally. I really didn't like the trigger of the end-game, but then the forced confrontation at the end of Act 2 was bad as well. Ah well, next on my own play list: KoToR.

      Delete
  15. Nice recap of the early years. It's especially useful since they were played in a more fragmented fashion. I've been wondering, is there an index or other way to get your posts presented by year rather than order of play? Game history buffs, dedicated rereaders, and others might appreciate a way to approach in historical order rather than Addict order.

    Only slightly related, but I haven't found the place to ask and Daggorath reminded me: Have you read "Ready Player One"? It seems like something you might enjoy, but I couldn't find any references to it on the blog. Daggorath is briefly featured in the book along with nods to lots of older games (and other general 80's culture).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Someone commented about this.

      http://crpgaddict.blogspot.sg/2014/07/fallthru-won.html?showComment=1405518843715#c7888835046520160426

      Delete
    2. In the upper-right of the regular page, or the top of the mobile page, you can switch to indexes by year or title.

      I have not read the book. It does sound like something I'd enjoy.

      Delete
    3. Can't believe I missed that index. Very handy, indeed, thanks.

      Delete
  16. http://crpgaddict.blogspot.com/p/index-of-games-played-by-year.html

    ReplyDelete
  17. I am reading your blog from the beggining and it seems i will never get here XD. I am when you are playing Dungeon Master.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you've stuck with it that long. I think the posts get a lot better starting in 2011.

      Delete
  18. I've been lurking around your blog for years and, after reading this, I just felt like throwing my two cents worth; as much as I enjoy reading about the individual experiences you've had with each game, it's this sort of piece that I truly love. Honestly, if somehow you'd manage to write one of these analyses every day and it still wouldn't satiate my hunger for more.

    Anyways... here's to the next five years of the CRPG Addict and to a (more) independently whealthy Chester Bolingbroke :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did a lot more "general theme" posts during the first couple of years, but I got a (perhaps mistaken) idea that people didn't like them as much as the individual game posts. Perhaps I should try to do them a little more often.

      Anyway, thanks for reading!

      Delete
    2. Eh, the heart of this blog is game posts. The analysis posts are great, but they're the salt, not the meat. Too much salt and it ruins the dish.

      The problem with the attitude described above is that it wants the analysis with as little gaming as possible. I see this on other blogs, and it sucks. I just want to read about a game I've never heard of, and the guy is obsessing about if it belongs in the Dark Age or the Bronze Age. Who cares? Just play the damn game and tell me about it. That's what's most important.

      Delete
    3. I think a retrospective/analysis/human interest piece every 8 - 12 posts would be a nice addition.

      Delete
    4. They're both very important. Too little "general" posts and we start to forget how far we've come and what the landscape of the rpg's used to be like.

      Delete
    5. So says Anonymous. That's the difference between a dabbler and a scholar. If Chet played and won a game that you have never heard of, what are you going to do about that game and why is THAT the most important part?

      I, personally, follow this blog as an observer of how games evolved over the years. How ideas branched/died/inspired and genres crossed/mutated in a historical manner.

      Here is someone putting in an effort to tackle this task in the most systematical manner the world has ever seen and you want to belittle it with a "my-opinion-equals-your-entire-universe" attitude? Well, let me answer your question: "Who cares?" I do and even my nuts are bigger than you. With respect of course. And totally not obscene since there ain't no swear words anywhere.

      Delete
    6. You can't analyze what you don't play, so of course I wasn't suggesting that Chet should write less about individual games and more about general topics. I was merely stating a personal preference for analysis and synthesis of information.

      That being said, I've grown to appreciate this website most for its historical element. And history is just a series of dates and individual set-pieces if you don't take the time to look at the broad picture, at context, causality and the human element.

      Delete
    7. I really like the analysis, but it's much more interesting with the context of the game posts. So I'd definitely like to see general theme posts when they are appropriate in the context of the games recently played.

      Furthermore, hurrah for this endeavour. I've now been reading this blog for over three years and it is the only blog where I regularly read the comments.

      Delete
  19. First, amazing post. I wouldn't mind seeing more of these, though playing the games and telling us about them should remain the main part, IMO.

    Second, about this:

    It's particularly interesting to reflect on how the text adventure was developing during this period, with games like the Zork series, the Savage Island series, and the Scott Adams Graphic Adventure series offering loads of content and puzzle-solving without any combat mechanics.

    Savage Island is a 2-part game also from Scott Adams. Is this a minor mistake, or were you deliberately separating it from S.A.G.A., which were graphical versions of his earlier hits, while Savage Island was text-only (except on the UK-produced ZX Spectrum and Commodore Plus/4 ports)?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. By "graphical" I mean "a picture per location", the games were still text adventures, by the way.

      Delete
    2. I was pulling that out of the air. I'm not familiar with text adventures of the era beyond Zork, so I just quickly looked up some titles on MobyGames for examples and inadvertently chose some from the same developer.

      Delete
  20. That is pretty impressive. Within just 5 years, you managed to play all of the CRPGs released in the genre's first 8 years (and more, since you are still playing games from more recent years.

    It might partly be due to the lower amount of RPG released in those years. With the fact that you're busy with work and other things, how do you manage it? Good time management skills?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha. I think the opposite of good time management skills!

      I'm the guy that most people hated in college--the guy that could skip every class during the semester, cram the night before the final, and ace it. I was the guy who could start a term paper 8 hours before it was due and get an A. This has carried with me my entire life. I half-ass a lot of my work and people still think I do a good job and give me more. Meanwhile, *I* know I'm not giving 100%, but I guess as long as the rest of the world doesn't notice...

      Delete
    2. Okay, now I know. Smart, bald and loves to play games. You're Lex Luthor. Canageek was right all along.

      Delete
    3. Glad to know people still remember me.

      Delete
  21. Nice post. I still think that you haven't played Tunnels of Doom enough to grasp how great it was. 1-5 level dungeons are pleasant diversions, but in a 9 or 10 level dungeon (especially with 4 characters) the tension starts to build, the time can run short, and the monsters get pretty hard. And that is on the easy setting.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Congratulations on not only getting thru an "era" but also getting back in touch with Alex Schulz which has led to his post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think perhaps you have Alex Schulz mixed up with Andrew Schultz.

      Delete
    2. Ha! I was wondering what that was about, because I'm not a famous person (yet...).

      Delete
    3. Yeah there was a guy named A. Schulz who made FAQs that I used to use and I was wondering if you were him.

      Delete
  23. This is a fantastic post. Most likely the most clear overview of that era of CRPGs on the internet. Congratulations, it's a really fascinating read.

    I also like the concept of "lineages". It gives the whole thing a mythological feel. Like the genealogy of the Olympians or something. But maybe that's just me being weird.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Rik. I appreciate the feedback. Matt Barton also has some good posts on the early days.

      http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20070223a/barton_pfv.htm

      Delete
    2. But unlike you Matt does not have firsthand knowledge about all the games, at least judging by how he plays games on Matt Chat.
      OTOH Matt has probably been more conscious about the history of the games he plays much longer than you have.

      Delete
  24. Great post. While I really enjoy your incredibly thorough reviews of the games you play, pulling back to look at how they influenced each other is at least as fascinating to me.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Excellent wrap-up! You should add some tags to these "general" articles, we can skip all the boring specific games :) Just joking of course, I love those too, but it would be nice to have a "thread" of general crpg philosophy & history stuff.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agree. A tag would make these specific posts easier to find.

      Delete
    2. Very well. I added a "Year-End summary" tag to the articles that "close" the year. I also added links in the appropriate places on my chronological listing page.

      Delete
    3. It would be great to add tags that describe a certain CRPG mechanism for each game. It would be easier to find out which game is the first one that has that particular mechanism and what other games were inspired to employ them as well at a later date.

      Like: e.g. Encumbrance, Paperdoll, Top-Down, Isometric, 1st Person, Hybrid Views (i.e. Gold Box, Realms of Arkania, Ultima 0-5 & etc.), Real-Time, Crafting/Alchemy, Dual-Wielding, Gear/Spell Customization and many others.

      Delete
    4. If I had that many tags to worry about, I'd forget to use them most of the time, and it would render the tag useless. As it is, I forget to tag the game with its own name half the time.

      Delete
    5. We'd remind you. Trust me. It happens all the time.

      Delete
  26. http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/dragonlair/dragonlair.htm

    Here is interesting article about first proto-RPG released in Japan!

    ReplyDelete

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