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Nov 03, 2005



Some other news: SWG is revamping itself again, shifting from skills-based to class-based character templates and what's being described as "Diablo II"-like (aim and twitch) gameplay. This will be an even bigger change than the previous Combat Upgrade, removing a level of customizability and making Jedi a starting profession.

The surprise announcement was made November 2. Developers seem to be very aware that they may lose a lot of players over this, and are trying to implement "veteran rewards" to retain players who were playing the Jedi endgame.


And now, inevitably, some enterprising hacker has found a way to use Sony's spyware to defeat Blizzard's.


Someone needs to point these Chinese kids towards their front door. Or better yet, towards http://www.wizards.com . I noticed an ad for dungeons and dragons on gamepro.com today, showing a guy sitting in the dark clicking away at his computer, with the words "If you're going to sit there, PRETENDING TO BE AN ELF, at least invite some friends over to help." Funny stuff :) yet serious too.

But, if you won't listen to me, and you wont listen to the Chinese gov't, and you won't listen to the creators of Magic, how bout... social critic... Ralph Nader! This is taken from an article on the front page of my local paper on wednesday, about a speech he gave here at a dinner last week:

""Children live in virtual reality filled with screens, like television screens, computer screens and handheld screens. They don't know anything about the environment they live in. What we're reaping in is an increasingly robotic generation"
If youth don't know about the environment, they are going to grow up to be a passive generation, allowing the shocking rate of environmental devastation to continue, Nader said. Change is needed, and a good place to start is in schools, where classes should encourage students' interaction with their surroundings, he added. "

So there's another voice of reason recommending limited time in front of the monitor. Funny thing is, the last time i was in a classroom, the kids were learning from.. you guessed it.. Computers!


Greg>Richard can clarify why this really wasn't a MMORPG

It may well have been one!

Not having had access to PLATO, I never played any of these games myself so can only rely on the interviews I conducted and web pages I looked at when researching my book. From what I gather, the first PLATO program that would absolutely definitely qualify as a virtual world was Avatar, which was based on Oubliette. Oubliette itself fell short because it wasn't persistent (ie. if all the players quit, the game didn't keep on running) and because there was only limited interaction between the players.

That said, I was also under the impression that there was only limited ability to communicate with other players, but from what Andy Zaffron has since told me it sounds as if it did indeed have sufficient communication to merit being called (in today's vocabulary) a virtual world.

Thus, it may also be that I'm mistaken in my understanding of how its interaction and persistence hold up. I'll have to try it out and see.

Incidentally, I have to say that while MUD1 was excellent at interaction, it wasn't itself great at persistence because the program we wrote to ensure it remained in memory the whole time was banned by the operators; thus, were everyone to stop playing, it was merely the whims of the operating system that determined whether or not the game would persist. It generally did (at least until the mainframe crashed or was taken down for maintenance), but it could have disappeared within seconds of the last player's exit if the timesharing system was under heavy load.

Lest anyone think that I'm somehow trying to protect my own status as joint inventor of this genre, that's not the case. Virtual worlds have been invented independently at least half a dozen times, and it wouldn't surprise me if there were half a dozen other pre-MUD1 virtual worlds out there awaiting discovery by computational archeologists. If the only reason anyone listens to me is because I have the "co-invented virtual worlds" tag, I may as well give up; I'd hope people listen because of what I say, not because of some accident of history.

Oubliette certainly deserve at least an honourable mention in the history of virtual worlds, and if a reappraisal of it elevates it to the status of the (real) world's first virtual world, hey, that's fine by me.



I'm glad to see oubliette resurrected! I know there've been Plato systems running here and there for use with PC clients for quite a while, but I haven't actively tried to follow them and stay in touch - I know at times some of them have had at least a few of the old games from the 70s running.

While oubliette and moria are two of the oldest Dungeons & Dragons inspired games from Plato, and two of the most complex and sophisticated for their time, they're certainly not the first. I think it was 1976 (but might have been as early as 1975) when I saw "dnd" on Plato, a 2D dungeon crawl that was the inspiration for Telengard on various home computers by Dan Laurence, and "Dungeon of Death", which I bought for my 8K Pet, and only last month discovered was authored by Gordon Walton! Small world, isn't it? I received an email a couple years ago from a fellow who claims to have written the first avatar/oubliette/moria type 3D dungeon crawl on Plato around this time period too. It wasn't swords and sorcery at all, though, the game involved fighting mutants as I recall. I wish I could remember its name.

Later on I remember seeing drygulch (around 1979 I think), set in the old west with gold mines as the "dungeons", and a player elected sherrif (who could be assassinated any time he was logged off with a 100% chance of success, so he had to make sure to remain popular). The sherrif could assign rewards for capturing players who'd broken the laws. In 1980 I saw "Medmaze", an "educational" D&D clone set in a hospital. Instead of going down levels you'd go up floors, the monsters were germs, and your "spells" were different types of medicine. Being a pharmacy major helped - using the correct type of medicine would do a lot of damage, any of the others would only do 1 or 2 hitpoints to the germs!

Plato was definitely the hotbed of multiplayer game development activity in the 1970s. It was linked nationwide, not isolated like most university mainframes & their small clusters of gamers around whatever was coded there. It was graphic, and it was very technologically advanced for its time. 512*512 graphics, 1200 baud when most people used 300, smart terminals you could download custom character sets to with optional music peripherals and built in slide projectors, the first use of ECS in a mainframe computer instead of swapping jobs to disk, etc. The Tutor programming language was unusually "friendly" for its day, too. Having a "help" key on the keyboard was brilliant, and it worked in just about every app. They were groundbreaking in their user interfaces for text chat, email, and message boards as well.

Plato was also the home of the 32 player space game Empire, developed in the 70s also, which spawned Nettrek in the Unix world later on.


In terms of persistence, there was no difference between Avatar and Oubliette. Both mainframe-based games worked the same way: if no one was playing, the world was dumped from system RAM until someone started playing again (at which point, the system executed the game and the "world state" was the same as it was when the game last was in system RAM).

Dr. Cat, the PLATO dungeon games you mentioned (dnd, etc.) weren't multiplayer (players couldn't form parties and beat on a monster together in real time).


I'm pretty sure dnd was single player, apart from the shared high score list. But I'm also pretty sure some of the 1970s Plato dungeon games were multiplayer. Someone like Greg Corson or Gordon Walton could probably give a better account of which ones were and weren't. I do remember one story of a griefer building a character up to level 20 or so and then hanging out in the first level of the dungeon killing low level players. Finally a bunch of people coordinated a plan, and swarmed into the dungeon to attack him with 1st level characters, die, roll up a new one as fast as possible, and repeat. He figured out what was going on and started trying to wade through the swarm back to the exit staircase, but he never made it.

Empire and airfight were definitely multiplayer in the mid-70s as well. Empire allowed up to 32 players at once, 8 each for the Romulan, Kazari, Federation and Orion teams.

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