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Wednesday, May 28, 2008
 

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The Silver Age Of RPGs
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

Gamasutra has published an excerpt from Dungeons & Desktops, Matt Barton's exploration of the colorful history of computer role playing games. The excerpt explores what Barton calls the "silver age" of RPGs, with a look at early successes in the market like the Ultima series.

In 1981, the CRPG was still in its infancy. Programmers were refining their techniques and discovering the true capabilities of personal computers. More importantly, standards were emerging that would greatly improve interfaces, making CRPGs much more intuitive and far less cumbersome. So far, most CRPGs had been of interest only to hardcore role-playing fans already intimately familiar with D&D conventions.

These games lacked the sort of user friendliness that would have made them accessible to a larger audience. In any case, many gamers didn't relish the idea of learning one role-playing system just to abandon it when the next game came out.

The solution came in the form of long-running series, such as Ultima, Apshai, and Wizardry. Once gamers had mastered the interface, they could move on to the next game in the series with relative ease. As we'll see, these series had benefits for both developers and gamers, and they mark an important turning point in the history of the CRPG.

The most important games of the Silver Age are Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness and Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord (both 1981). Both games launched successful and influential series that lasted into the 2000s, but it was Ultima that catapulted the genre into the mainstream -- indeed, its influence even extended overseas and inspired the Japanese console RPGs that so many of us are familiar with today.
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Gamasutra: Dungeons & Desktops The Silver Age


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