USG History of RPG's part 1 & 2


History of RPG's

These illustrations accompany a series of articles on USGamer that detail the early days of Role Playing Games and process of bringing pen-and-paper games into the digital realm.


Pioneering Play

"I wrote a series of games while I was in high school [on] that teletype," he says, "and at the same time, I was introduced to two other very formative events. One was reading Lord of the Rings, and the other one was the publication of the game Dungeons & Dragons. Those three things in my sophomore year mixed together and I wrote a series of… well, they weren't exactly text games like Zork or Adventure. They were 'graphical' in the sense of having asterisks for walls, spaces for corridors, dollar signs for treasure, and this would print out every time you made a move. So if you moved north, you'd actually have to wait for the machine to print a 10x10 grid of text to see what the scene around you looked like from sort of a top-down perspective."


The Saga Begins

In a spiritual sense, Akalabeth had more in common with the D&D series than with Ultima. Like those early programming exercises, it was more about getting a sense of things on a technical basis and feeling out the realities of game design in a new medium. It was only after kicking the Apple II's proverbial tires with Akalabeth that Garriott would finally go on to create his first truly notable game, the original Ultima. A much larger adventure than Akalabeth, Ultima required Garriott to make use of all the game making tricks he had learned to that point.


Combat and exploration

"…Yet even this process was more easily said than done. Unlike players, the game didn't have to play fair. A few levels into the dungeon, nasty tricks began to appear. Teleporters would drop players to another location within the maze. Cruel spinner tiles would change the player's orientation. These traps were not always obvious, forcing players to pay meticulous attention to their location and surroundings—more easily said than done in a world consisting entirely of white outlines on stark black. A specific magic spell could help with the orienteering, and later updates of the game blunted the ferocity of the traps to a degree, but Wizardry made its intentions clear: It was not your friend, it wasn't your mom, and it didn't feel the need to coddle you."


Enemy defeated

This illustration was more general and does not align to a specific quote. It was used instead to evoke a sense of nostalgia for the old RPGs depicting the moment an enemy is defeated to reveal a treasure chest.