Breaking News: Author of PEDIT5 speaks out!

Matt Barton's picture

I have exciting news for fans of computer role-playing games and readers of my book on the topic, Dungeons & Desktops. Rusty Rutherford, creator of PEDIT5, the first CRPG we know about, has contacted me via email to tell his story. I've printed it below for all to enjoy, and I'd sure like to get some discussion going here about this all-important first for the computer games industry. I encourage you to read the "dark ages" chapter before reading the below, unless you're already familiar with PLATO and that era of computing.

The Creation of PEDIT5
by Rusty Rutherford

In the summer of 1975 my friends and I started playing D&D in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. At that time I was working as a PLATO programmer for the Population and Energy Group under the direction of Dr. Paul Handler. The PLATO system had limited storage, so the files named PEDIT1 through PEDIT5 were allocated to our group well before any programming was done. As I recall, PEDIT1-3 were actually used to develop P&E programs (and renamed accordingly); PEDIT4 and PEDIT5 were surplus, so I appropriated them to write a computer dungeon. PEDIT4 was an instruction manual, PEDIT5 was the game.

During this period, the program DND was reputedly in development, but never seemed likely to appear on the system. So I decided to try my hand at it. I had to compromise a lot. First of all, the multiplayer feature was often promised but never implemented, so I wrote a solitaire game. The available storage space only allowed for a single-level dungeon with 40-50 rooms. The dungeon design was the same for every user, but the monsters and reassures were random – created at the same time as a new character, and stored with the character record. Only about 20 characters could be stored; when the game became popular, this turned out to be a real hassle.

I used the basic features of D&D as much as possible: hit points, monster levels, experience and treasure awards, and so on; the character was a combined fighter / magic user / cleric; in a monster encounter, the character had a choice of fight (F), cast a spell (S) or run (R); after that, if the monster was not defeated or avoided, it was a fight to the finish run entirely by the computer.

It should be apparent that this was a very primitive game, but the visuals (the PLATO plasma panel) made it quite tense and surprisingly addictive. I wrote it all in about 4-6 weeks in the fall and winter of 1975. I left the P&E Group in early 1976, so the program was left on its own. Other people had access to the code; I believe it may still exist in some form. I have been told that the original program was archived and transferred to the ownership of 3M when they took over the PLATO system.

Comments

Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Great!

Very cool. I hope "Vintage Games" receives a similar response once it's released and we get some much needed additional first-hand info from previously "unfindable" legends.

I think this will be excellent info for our chapter on "Rogue" too!



Wii: 1345 2773 2048 1586 | PS3: ArmchairArcade
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Rowdy Rob
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Joined: 09/04/2006
Very Cool!

Indeed, this is very cool! Are there any versions of this game out there that exist in a playable state, or at the very least, is the source code available somewhere (besides the 3M archives)? The tone of Rutherford's comments seem to imply that this game is lost forever....

BTW, how the heck did you dig up info on PEDIT5?!?! I've never even heard about it until now...

qoj hpmoj o+ 6uo73q 3Jv 3svq jnoh 77V

Matt Barton
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Joined: 01/16/2006
I first saw it mentioned on

I first saw it mentioned on Wikipedia, and dug a little deeper and found it mentioned on some other websites. In all cases, details were very vague, so being in touch with Rusty himself is wonderful.

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crcasey
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Joined: 11/17/2006
Since...

The PEDIT4 and PEDIT5 file systems would have been on the regular backup schedule, even if 'blank' or unused on the system at the time any good admin would make sure they would have been dumped to tape. Just as a CYA thing.

Therefore as those tapes were migrated to newer storage formats they would have been archived with the other three major file systems. Odds are that the data exists, somewhere. But in a file system stream that no one knows how to read.

This reflects back on how we are about to loose some of the CPM games due to the lack of hardware that can read the storage media of the times. 9 Track is bad, 8 inch is bad, of all the words of wisdom writen since the age of the word processor began, how much never got committed to paper? What have we lost? Is that elusive theroy of everything missing in action? I guess we will never know.

-Cecil

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Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
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Joined: 01/16/2006
Lost Data
crcasey wrote:

This reflects back on how we are about to loose some of the CPM games due to the lack of hardware that can read the storage media of the times. 9 Track is bad, 8 inch is bad, of all the words of wisdom writen since the age of the word processor began, how much never got committed to paper? What have we lost? Is that elusive theroy of everything missing in action? I guess we will never know.

This is something I've thought a lot about too, Cecil (another name I'll never see the same way after FF4). I read a book about it that you might be interested in: Dark Ages II: When the Digital Data Die. It is loaded with real examples of lost data. I remember a part that talked about NASA's moon missions; a lot of that is now inaccessible and will probably be forever lost (if not already).

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General Error (not verified)
pedit5 on cyber1.org

Nice interview! For all those wondering what pedit5 looked like: It can be played, in all its 1975 glory and basic-ness, on the PLATO emulator at http://www.cyber1.org/ ... For all those who'd like to know where rpg's started (like me), I would strongly suggest to get an account -- it's free, and people are very helpful, although considering it's age, PLATO really is quite user-friendly...

Enrot (not verified)
Doesn't this interview make

Doesn't this interview make dnd the first known CRPG? Information provided by Wikipedia claims that it was released in 1974. Really confusing.

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