The photo's main page.
The full-size image.
Without further ado, here are some neat facts about this week's photo (feedback welcome!):
No doubt, one of the great "unsung" heroes of the computer gaming industry is PLATO, a "computer assisted instruction system" originating in the 1960s that was so far ahead of its time that it gives you goosebumps to read about it. Until a few days ago, all I'd been able to do was see second or even third-hand accounts of what gaming was like on this platform, but then I learned about Cyber1.org, an organization that simulates the PLATO system on the web. I applied for an account, received one a few days later, and have been having great fun checking out some truly classic CRPGs! Check it out (with screenshots!) below.
Gamasutra has now published my article on the History of Zork! Go check it out; it's loaded with plenty of facts, screenshots, and quotations from the authors. I had earlier promised to offer the interviews I conducted with the implementors and other folks here on Armchair. You'll find them below, organized more or less in a "round table" progression. Enjoy!
I recently had the great pleasure of interviewing Daniel Lawrence, a pioneer in the CRPG industry who started off writing CRPGs for mainframes. Perhaps his most famous CRPG is Telengard, which was one of the earliest (if not the earliest) game of its type for early platforms such as the Commodore PET, Atari 800, and TRS-80. It features "procedurally generated dungeons" so that no two games are exactly alike, and is set in real-time. Indeed, in many ways it's an early Diablo! In the interview below, I talk to Daniel about these early games and more general questions about what a good CRPG should be. The interview really helped me straighten out some important details about this historic game's development. Enjoy!
I can't believe I missed this great article at Next Generation: The Making of Ghostbusters for the C-64. For those of you who haven't played this classic, shame on you--go out and experience what many critics (including this one) take as one of the best, if not the best, ever licensed title ever. Considering that the development team hadn't even seen the movie (at least until the last stages), it's really amazing that this game turned out so well. After all, it would have been so easy to make a cheesy shooter or platform game out of it; anything but a business sim!
Like a few of the Odyssey's games, Roulette is supported by the use of "off-screen" technology: betting chips, a betting board and a huge wad of fake cash. Roulette also uses one of the nicest looking overlays for the system. It's clearly a roulette wheel and they don't dumb it down by doing anything so pedestrian as turning the numbers right-side up just to make it easier to read. The player is given the illusion that they could be looking at a genuine, roulette wheel, albeit, a non-spinning, vertical, silent roulette wheel . . .
The smart kid in the audience asks, "If the wheel doesn't spin, how is a random number generated?"
UPDATE: Dungeons and Desktops is now available from Amazon and many other booksellers! Buy your copy today!
Good news! The publisher A K Peters has accepted my proposal for my upcoming book about the Computer Role Playing Game. We're still in talks about the title (though leaning towards "Dungeons and Desktops" with Mat's permission), but if anyone has any good ideas, let me know. At any rate, I should be able to expand the coverage considerably and go into much more detail (we're tentatively capping it at 200 pages).
Well, it was a LOT of work, but I've finally gotten my third and final installment in my massive CRPG history series posted to GamaSutra. This installment covers all the classics from the 90s, including unforgettable games like Fallout, PlaneScape:Torment, Baldur's Gate, Arcanum, Diablo, Morrowind...The list goes on and on. I tried to be more comprehensive than last time, but I finally decided to omit coverage of MUDs and MMORPGs, as I explain in the article. I might also remind readers that I'm not covering console RPGs, or CRPGs that originated on consoles and were ported over later (i.e., the Final Fantasy games). Otherwise, I hope you enjoy the article! Please let me know if you find it interesting, entertaining, and/or helpful. I had a great time playing all these games and reviewing them for your pleasure--the best part is, I discovered lots of gems that I hadn't played or even heard of before. I hope you have the same experience after reading my article.
I love the Überlay for this game. It's a silhouette of a stereotypical haunted house. The house is three stories tall and filled with items such as bats, cats, skulls and candelabra. You play the game by moving your Detective through the house and "lighting" each item one at a time, in order, as specified by numbered, drawn cards. (For those just tuning in, "Lighting" involves moving your TV square behind an on-screen area, causing it to glow.) If you successfully light the item, you collect the card for that item.