The Electronic RPG
A computer game called Adventure is often credited as being the first computer RPG. While it isn’t a true RPG, Adventure was created by William Crowther in 1972. Crowther was not only on the team building the Arpanet but also a rock climber and Dungeons and Dragons player. After getting a divorce, Crowther built the game as a way of getting closer to his daughters, who enjoyed the game. It started to circulate the net, occasionally receiving changes from others. The game involved a text interface where the player explored a world and had to find the way through difficult mazes and traps.
Comically enough, the first Adventure and appeared on the Atari in 1980. In this game the player controlled a group of warriors trying to kill a dragon.
In the early 80’s a number of computer RPG’s came into existence. Two of the bigger titles, Wizardry 1 and Ultima 1, both in 1981 on the Apple 2, involved the players navigating towns and crawling through dungeons fighting monsters.
Around 1986 VRPG’s gained a boon, Enix’s Dragon Quest on the Nintendo. The game was viewed through a third person perspective until combat was entered, at which point it would switch to first person. Players chose what actions to through pop up windows they could navigate. This system set a standard that is still being used by VRPG’s today.
The same year Shigeru Miyamoto's produced a game for Nintendo that would set the stage for a different style of RPG. The game The Legend of Zelda featured a small boy named link on a quest to save the princess Zelda from the clutches of the evil Ganon. The game was viewed from a bird’s eye perspective and instead of fighting through menu’s, the player had to fight monsters in real time combat hitting buttons to initiate attacks. The game allowed for a large amount of control, giving players the option to choose where they went.
In 1987, Squaresoft’s Final Fantasy came to the Nintendo. This incredibly popular series, currently over 14 games, with more in production, featured Dragon Quest style game-play, but set in a much larger world with more complex game play and most importantly a complex plot.
Another large step came in 1988 when SSI and Dungeons and Dragons released the first DND themed CRPG, Pool of Radiance. DND made it’s move into the digital world. The player made a party of six characters based on DND rules. It was one of the first CRPG’s to offer optional side quests and the ability to tactically control where the various characters moved during combat.
Doug Bell's Dungeon Master, in 1987, was the first CRPG to allow mouse control. Allowing the player to select objects in the environment and click on enemies.
In 1996 Blizzard, a name that any gamer will know, hit the CRPG scene with it’s hit game Diablo. This game allowed players to choose between rouge, warrior and Sorcerer. The player used the mouse to move the character through randomized dungeons fighting monsters, gaining experience and levels, with class specific abilities. The random dungeons and different classes gave the game replay value.
On both computer and console RPG’s have continued to flourish. With a large variety of games and game types, players have a multitude of options and preferences. With incredible computer advances the RPG’s have been able to develop far better graphics, game size and so on.
To find the next evolution of the RPG, we actually have to take a look a bit backward at the MUD.
Mathew Tschirgi’s article
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