The following is a timeline of significant events for the development of virtual worlds. I welcome more additions to the timeline. Check at the bottom for a list of sources.
Created March 4th, 2000. Last updated April 5th, 2017.
- J. R. R. Tolkien publishes The Hobbit.
- Dr Cat adds, “I personally would like to see Lord Dunsany mentioned to counter any notion that Tolkien invented swords and sorcery. Even if everyone including the D&D authors were obsessed with him (and of course everyone after the D&D authors was obsessed with D&D).”
- Vannevar Bush conceptualizes aspects of hypertext, the Internet, virtual spaces, and lots more.
- The three books of The Lord of the Rings are published in England. This is their first publication. A US hardback edition swiftly follows.
- Ted Nelson gets the idea for hypertext as we know it now. He won’t coin the word until 1963, and the word won’t see print until 1965. He works alone on the concept throughout the decade, choosing the term Xanadu for his project in 1967.
- University of Illinois introduces and patents PLATO, “Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations”, a network running on the ILLIAC computer system.
- “The nation’s first computer-assisted program of instruction. PLATO, conceived by physics professor Chalmers Sherwin and developed under the direction of electrical engineering professor Don Bitzer, co-inventor of the plasma display panel, was the world’s first time-shared computer-based education system” according to the UI website.
- “The name PLATO was originally just a name, not an acronym. Someone invented the acronym sometime in the 1970’s, which was never officially endorsed, but someone printed it anyway.” – Eric Hagstrom
- Spacewar! on the PDP-1. It’s 2 player. And it’s graphical. And it is 9K.
- Modem patented by BBN.
- Concept of network connected by modems defined in a paper by Thomas Marill, Daniel Edwards, and Wallace Feurzig.
- According to Richard J. Auld, the concept of the “FAQ” is developed on PLATO.
- According to the Cyberpunk Timeline, “MIT researcher Lawrence G. Roberts & Thomas Merrill connected A TX-2 computer in Massachusetts to the Q-32 in Palo Alto, California with a low speed dial-up telephone line creating the first (however small) wide-area computer network ever built. (Jan.)”
- Ralph Baer conceptualizes the videogame.
- Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings reaches a wide audience in the US with the first authorized paperback edition, from Ballantine.
- By now they are up to PLATO IV, according to some sources.
- “PLATO III yes, PLATO IV no. I started working at CERL in June 1972. At that time we were in transition from PLATO III to PLATO IV. The new mainframe for PLATO IV had been installed and quite a bit of system software had been written for it, but it was still at an early stage.” – David Woolley
- Baer files a videogame related patent. This is going to be the Odyssey.
- Rick Blomme writes two-player Spacewar on PLATO. It works on the remote network, so it is now true network gaming.
- “The reason Plato was such a good gaming platform in the 70’s and early 80’s is that it had graphics abilities superior to anything else available. 512×512 random access monochrome displays were simply incredible in a year when paper TTY’s were still in use. Another significant factor was that everyone using the system had the same hardware capabilities, just as console systems do today. And response time, at least in the early years, was incredible…anything over 150ms was considered unacceptable anywhere on the net, and under 100ms was common.” – Eric Hagstrom
- “I think the cool thing to observe is that on PLATO programs would get deleted, and then some other person would go in and try to “out-do” the previous game, and so in the space of about 4 years we probably went through 20 different variants of dnd and sorcery-like games. This was very healthy and kept people playing the games, which were always changing.” – Don Gillies
- ARPANet is founded.
- The Cyberpunk Timeline puts this at August of 1968.
- UNIX is written.
- CompuServe is founded by John Goltz.
- This seems awfully early? Source: “Hacking Into Computer Systems.”
- Dave Arneson starts the first “roleplaying game” campaign, called “Blackmoor.”
- (Arneson himself is not sure whether this occurred in 1970 or 1971).
- Ted Nelson works with various guys individually. (1971-2: Ted invents/ discovers first “Model T” enfilade*), redesigns Xanadu around it.)
- Plato reaches capacity for 1000 users.
- Hunt the Wumpus is developed by Gregory Yob on a Time-Sharing System at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth. This is not an adventure game (it’s a text-only maze game), but a precursor. (Hans Persson, Adventureland timeline)
- Atari is founded by Nolan Bushnell.
- The second edition of the Chainmail miniatures wargaming rules are published, including a “Fantasy Supplement.” This ruleset will go on to inspire Dungeons and Dragons.
- Airfight aka Dogfight (flight sim) on PLATO.
- It may have existed earlier, but this is the first reference with a hard date that I can find.
- “In “Dogfight,” two players tried to shoot down each other’s “airplane” — a tiny spot on the screen — and avoid being shot down. You could control the position of your own airplane using the various keys on the keyboard. (This, of course, was ten years before joysticks and computer mice became common.) Unfortunately, the person with the fastest connection to the main computer in Illinois usually won that game.” – Guy Consolmagno, SJ.
- The literal command line name appears to have been “airfight” (Antic)
- “airfight” was actually someones clone of “dogfight”…same concept, different authors. Before that, there was “moonwar”, an where players took turns shooting lasers off walls and around moons trying to hit the other guy.” – Eric Hagstrom
- “Airfight and Dogfight were two entirely separate games. Dogfight was earlier — it just had tiny airplane icons that you moved around on the screen in 2-dimensional space. Airfight came later and gave you a cockpit view, and is what apparently inspired Bruce Artwick’s Flight Simulator, which later became Microsoft Flight Sim. I’m guessing Dogfight existed by 1973, Airfight maybe in 1975 or so.” – David Woolley
- “PLATO also had “airfight”, a 3-D real-time flight simulator with 3-D views of horizon & airport & enemy (icon only). One of the authors was brand fortner. These authors went on to found the company that became microsoft flight simulator. I think 1973 is the right year for the existence of airfight – it was EARLIER than Empire. I think it’s very important to realize that microsoft flight simulator came from plato, from the guys who wrote airfight. I cannot remember the name of the company they founded, but it was really successful for a few years before microsoft bought it in the mid 1980’s.” – Don Gillies
- “Dogfight was a really stupid 2-d game with a top-view of 2 planes. It was perhaps the earliest PLATO game with a “BIG BOARD” page. Every user appeared on the page, you could “Challenge” a user, that user would be given the right to “Accept”, then you’d go to this page where the 2 planes were displayed, top-view, travel allowed only in the cursor keys directions (cursor around the ‘s’ key, dirs are e w q a z x c d), when you shoot (‘s’) a line shoots out in front of you. You Could only change direction in inertial ways, I think. Unsophisticated. Not real time. You could move faster by hitting keys faster. A good programmer could write this game in a few days. ” – Don Gillies
- Talk-O-Matic, a proto-IRC with handles and chat rooms, is on PLATO at this point (it may have existed earlier).
- “One of the more popular activities was “Talk-O-Matic”. Five people at a time could write messages, and read each other’s messages, on the same screen. Today, Internet chat rooms work on the same principle. One of the remarkable new features of this page was that you could log in with an invented name, and pretend you were anyone you wanted — any name, any age, any gender. One favorite trick was to log in using the name of someone else already logged into the page, simply to confuse everyone else.” – Guy Consolmagno, SJ.
- “Term Talk on Plato, a 2-user chat, predates the five user Talkomatic, too. Term Talk also let you go into monitor mode, where one user saw everything the other user did on their screen. “- Dr Cat.
- “Talkomatic, by David Woolley, predated term-talk. Check this link out: http://www.thinkofit.com/drwool/dwconf.htm.” – Eric Hagstrom.
- The “Hacking Into Computer Systems: A Beginner’s Guide” doc reports PLATO hacked with the starship Enterprise attacking people on Airfight (who were expecting airplanes!)
- Dungeons and Dragons is first sold by Arneson and Gary Gygax as typewritten rule sets.
- The original Dungeons and Dragons set is published, though it had been well-distributed prior to this.
- “The original ’74 D&D set was the only version of D&D until 1977 (although supplements were printed during that “in-between” time).” – Travis S. Casey
- Somewhere in here, Mines of Moria (it had 248 mazes, according to Antic magazine in 1984) on PLATO.
- Empire: multiplayer space empire game on PLATO supporting 32 players.
- “A game called “Empire” allowed you to play over weeks at a time, making moves every time you logged in, building up your resources in an interstellar empire that eventually would interact with other players’ empires. But somehow it took so long to set up your own empire that most players lost interest before they ever encountered any other empire. ” – Guy Consolmagno, SJ.
- According to Antic Magazine in a 1984 article, it was in fact Star Trek based, with Romulans, Orions, Federation, and Kazars (formerly Klingons).
- Not to be confused with Peter Langston’s Empire, which is a different game.
- “The description of Plato Empire in 1972 contains “making moves every time you logged in,” which is misleading, that sounds more like the Unix army-tank-plane-boat kind of empire than the Plato spaceship empire. It was essentially almost the same as Nettrek in slow motion, with one animation frame every 2-10 seconds. Your spaceship would vanish if you logged off, though the planets and armies that were shared resources of your whole team would remain. And you could call the keystrokes that controlled your ship “moves” if you stretched it, but your ship would keep coasting and generating screen updates every ten seconds even if you didn’t type anything. As for a game lasting weeks – I don’t know if it sometimes stretched that long – when we logged on late one night at Purdue in the early 80s, we managed to conquer the galaxy three times in one night because nobody was on but us klingons, so a game certainly could be (and was) concluded in a couple of hours. I think maybe we won one last one after “You can’t kill / brian / slib” showed up, but he called for help from other well known good players and slowed us down enough we couldn’t take the whole galaxy any more. “Eventually interact with other players empires” sounds a lot like the text based Unix with land armies version as well – in Plato Empire they didn’t interact on their own, only when you attack planets with your spaceship and beam armies up and then beam them down to an enemy planet. And there’s no eventually about it, you’d be doing that within minutes of logging on unless you just wanted to dogfight enemy spaceships. Same with “took so long to set up your own Empire”, that’s the Unix Empire (which had many clones and descendants btw, a bewildering array). There was nothing to set up in Plato Empire, just log on and fly. ” – Dr Cat.
- “Not sure about the earliest evolution of the original Empire, but the surviving version (“conquest”) can be played through in a few hours. Action stops if nobody is in the game, however, so games could last weeks in the sense that nobody is playing. The more popular Empire (“empire”) is, as you say four teams of 15 players, with Klingons eventually being renamed Kazar for fear of copyright infringement. I’ve participated in wins that took less than 20 minutes, but that was using the fact that all planets start in a weakened state when the universe is reset after a previous win.” – Eric Hagstrom
- “I seriously doubt Empire existed at this early date, because PLATO IV terminals were still fairly scarce. You would have to check with the Empire authors, like Chuck Miller, but I suspect Empire started more like 1974 or so.” – David Woolley
- “I believe david woolley, Empire is circa 1974. It is the only game on your list that existed already when i started using plato in July/August 1975.” – Don Gillies (Based on these two notes, I have moved this entry to 1974 – RK).
- Don also provided a full description of Empire to settle some of the above arguments:
Empire is the game to end all games. It is played on roughly a 60×60 universe of “quadrants”, you fly through a quadrant in about 10 seconds, in real-time. Your view is a 3×3 long-range scan. You screen replots to update your location every 10 seconds, but you can hit a key to get an early partial update.
The universe is laid out like a 5-spot dice, there are home planets in the four corners (Klingon, Orion, Federation, Romulan). Each home system has 3 planets and a sun. In the center of the dice-like universe is a system of about 6 planets / suns. Also, there are two “dead planetss” halfway between each home space.
You have typical weapons (phasers, photon torpedos), long-range and short-range scans. Your ship is a 16×16 icon that looks like the real thing from startrek. You can fly or fire in any directgion, but the ship plots only in the cursor directions (d e w q a z x c) because its displayed with a limited set of loadable charsets. Everything – phasers, movement, torpedo travel – is performed in discrete real time. There is no animation, but you can take an updated snapshot any time by hitting a keypress.
Your goal is to drop armies on every planet in the universe. When this happens, the game ends and the team is declared the winner. If you get killed, you can go straight back into the game, which will place you someplace in your home space with few enemies. You can pick up armies from your home planet, take them to another planet, bombard the planet to kill armies, then drop your armies to overtake the planet. If your homespace is taken over, you can bombard the planets and then attmpt a “coup” to reignite your home team armies. The coup can only be attempted about once per hour, and it often fails.
Empire was a MIND BLOWING game. It had 3 million contact hours before 1980. Think about it. PLATO only had 1000 terminals. So, there were only something like 9M contact hours in a PLATO-year.
- DND (Avatar) existed by now, according to Steve Gray, who was 11 at the time and writing code for PLATO. DND was apparently the command line name, and Avatar the game name.
- “I think dnd and avatar were two different games on Plato. I personally played dnd sometime in the 1975 to 1977 time period, it was a 2D overhead view of a 3×3 sections of a dungeon map. Dungeon Of Death on the Commodore Pet (from Instant Software?) was a blatant clone of it. Avatar had a title screen with the cover art from Dragon Magazine number one for a title screen, probably traced somehow and converted into black and orange line art. (No white on Plato till they made a CRT version of the Plato terminal). Avatar’s title screen said Copyright 1980 at one point, not sure if they started earlier. Several Plato hackers got together to make Avatar as a newer and cooler version of Oubliette. ” – Dr Cat.
- Dr Cat says that Wizardry was directly based on Avatar, down to the spell names.
- “”dnd”, by Flint and Dirk Pellett predates “avatar”. So does “orthanc“, by Paul Resch, Larry Kemp, and myself and done about the same time. Both have overhead 3×3 views. Orthanc allowed players to meet and talk in the dungeon, but otherwise was a single-player game. This is 1973.” – Eric Hagstrom
- According to Peter Zelchenko, the original authors of DND were Gary Whisenhunt and Ray Wood, and Flint and Dirk Pellet were subsequent authors.
- “avatar” was the big hit, of course. Roger Uzan got hooked on it fairly recently, post-EQ launch. He tried to get me involved, but I burned out on it a decade ago….I’d rather play Everquest. There’s still a loyal following to this day. 1979?” – Eric Hagstrom
- “I also played Avatar (which was a late arrival to CDC PLATO) in the mid to later 1980s. The people who wrote it were supposedly going to to come out with a PC version (and I dont think Wizardry was it).” – Mike Lindeland
- “I am friends with steve grey, i don’t think he has the year right when he says that dnd appeared in 1974; i didn’t see it until months after i arrived in 1975/6.” – Don Gillies
- “Yes, it was a clone. I played a few hundred hours of DND on Plato in 1977 (in a bomb shelter in the Army no less) and when I got my first microcomputer in 1978 I wrote an 8k version of it. Also wrote a version of Empire (single player) called Trek-X the same year for the Pet. Both were published by Instant Software. So began the insanity. :)” – Gordon Walton
- “the very first graphical dungeon was probably Orthanc (Pedit5) on PLATO, written by Rusty Rutherford in late 1974, which would agree with the introduction of Gygax’s first book.” – Peter Zelchenko
- Notesfiles created on PLATO, the first BBSes, almost exactly like today’s Usenet.
- Also, around now Xerox visits PLATO and they trade ideas, according to Doug Jones.
- “To me, saying notesfiles are “almost exactly” like today’s Usenet is an insult to notesfiles or an unwarranted compliment to Usenet. Your mileage may vary. :X) Me, I would say “similar” or something. It is worth noting that the tin newsreader attempts to impose a notesfiles-like interface on the messy underlying structure that is Usenet, which can only imperfectly really be made to work that way – but it’s better than nothing, and I use tin exclusively to read Usenet being an old-time Plato junkie.” – Dr Cat.
- “Actually, the first version of PLATO Notes opened in August, 1973. Personal Notes (email) came along about a year later in 1974. Group Notes, the new version of PLATO Notes that allowed anyone to create a notes file, came out in January 1976.” – David Woolley
- Somewhere in here, DECWAR was created. It is Star Trek based also–perhaps a relationship to the Empire game on PLATO?
- “Sometime in the early-to-mid 70s there was a multi-player Space War game that ran on DEC VMS systems. I played that one for about an hour one day.” – Chris Gray.
- “That was called ‘Decwars’. Yes it ran on VAX/VMS. We used to play it on a pdp10. It used shared memory to communicate, not files – which was one of the ways the sysadmins could detect it. We generally played 5+ players per side. It had a lot of intelligent multiplayer design considerations.” – S. Patrick Gallaty.
- The first first-person shooter? Dave Lebling and Greg Thompson write a multiplayer first person Maze for the Imlac PDS-1, with PDP-10 as a server. It supported up to 8 players, chat, and bots.
- “We wrote this in (umm) 1974. It was based on a single-player Maze-exploring game Greg brought with him to MIT from NASA. Maze was 3D first-person perspective with up to eight players, any of whom could be robotic. The graphics were a _bit_ less compelling than Quake. You could also chat with the other players. Mostly a shooter. You could design your own mazes and pick which one you wanted to fight in, so there could be some exploration. Shooting was a keystroke (no aiming, you just shot in the direction you were facing). Hits were handled on the server: if the requisite amount of time passed for the bullet to travel to the target passed, and he/it was still in line with it, he/it was hit. Movement, peeking around corners, and shooting were all done with the keyboard. We had mice on the Imlacs, but they were very flakey. I’m not completely sure Greg wrote the single-person exploration version. It may have been a freeware program for the Imlac, or written by someone else at NASA-Ames. He did most of the Imlac coding and I did the server on the PDP-10. A guy named Ken Herrenstein came in later and redid the client and server to optimize throughput (sending position diffs instead of whole positions, and other such stuff). As mentioned above, you shot in the direction you were facing. You could then turn and run without affecting the path of the bullet (they were slow bullets). It was vector graphics, the look was sort of wire-framed, except the hidden lines (and hidden players) were removed, of course. You looked like your name floating in space (shades of EQ!), with little eyes visible if you were facing the viewer, an arrow showing which way you were facing otherwise. The later Alto and Mac versions did this part much more nicely!” – Dave Lebling
- Star Trader is written by Dave Kaufman.
- “People’s Computer Company (PCC), a company that is still around today and who brought us Dr. Dobb’s Journal among other things, publishes Volume 2, Number 3 of it’s newsletter in January. In this publication is a BASIC source-code for Star Trader by Dave Kaufman. This game outlined the general details of a sector-based game with ports and a player moving between sectors trading three basic products (Fuel, Organics, Equipment) to earn credits.” – John Pritchett’s History of Tradewars 2002
- A paper is published on “Teaching mathematics with games” on PLATO. This is the only formal reference I can find to PLATO and games. PLATO eventually banned games.
- Bridge on PLATO.
- “When I was in college in the mid-1970’s, the only form of computerized bridge play was on the nationwide PLATO network. After playing against humans at the local club, we would head for campus for late-night bridge on big monochrome terminals in the university PLATO lab. If we were lucky enough to find three other humans on the network, the game could be fairly challenging. Often, though, at least one of the four players would be the computer (called the PLATO “freak”), which was programmed with a bare minimum of bridge knowledge. PLATO’s primitive bidding was random after the first round of the auction, and its defense and declarer play defied logic — the program always pulled trumps, always played second-hand low and third-hand high, etc.” – Karen Walker
- “I was the main author of the bridge game (called “Contract”). Martin Wolff wrote the bidding logic, and I did pretty much everything else. Karen Walker says “PLATO’s primitive bidding was random after the first round of the auction, and its defense and declarer play defied logic …” Well, it was indeed a pretty pathetic player, I have to admit. However, the bidding was deterministic, not random. It may have *seemed* random, though…”- David Woolley
- John Taylor reports that he was writing and playing multi-player games at the University of Virginia in this year.
- John Brunner’s Shockwave Rider is published.
- Will Crowther creates the first version of ADVENT in FORTRAN on a PDP-1 while working for Bolt, Beranek and Newman (BBN) in Boston.
- Hans Persson’s Adventureland Timeline puts this at 1972, not 1976.
- “Well, Will Crowther made the game up after we had been playing D&D for a few months. A new arrival on the ARPANET project was also a housemaster at Harvard at the time and D&D had pretty much just appeared. He dungeounmastered up a dungeon and a bunch of us from the project team got sucked into playing.” – Sandy Morton in rec.arts.int-fiction
- “Since D&D had not been circulated in 1972, Crowther could not have written ADVENT then, if this memory is correct. Chapter two of Dibbell’s _My Tiny Life_ states that ADVENT was written in 1976, but I haven’t found anything else to confirm that.” – Travis Casey
- Don Woods put ADVENT on the PDP-10. This is the version everyone knows.
- Apple Computer is founded.
- Control Data Corporation buys the PLATO network.
- PLATO is up to PLATO V by now.
- “PLATO V was really just a microprocessor terminal (also known as a PPT..I have a manual at home someplace) that coexisted with the older hardwired terminals. It had some download and standalone capabilties, but was mostly used in a dumb role along with the older hardwired terminals (PLATO IV’s). The PLATO network did not radically change as in previous PLATO editions. There were also several CRT versions produced with similar and standalone (microTutor) capabilities. Eventually emulators were written for apples, pcs, and others — once VGA became an accepted standard (most VGA cards could be tweaked to display 512×512) and all old terminals were eventually replaced over the next decade. I gave mine away to a collector when I moved to San Diego in 1993…too heavy for me to lug around any more.” – Eric Hagstrom
- Lebling & Blank start work on Zork on the PDP-10, inspired by ADVENT. They form a startup with some friends, called Infocom.
- “The original Zork, started in 1977, was written by me, Marc Blank (note spelling), Tim Anderson, and Bruce Daniels. Infocom wasn’t founded until 1979. One source for Zork is that I was in the game D&D group, which was mostly BBN people, that Wil Crowther was in. Not at the same time, though; I think I actually replaced him when we dropped out. Zork was “derived” from Advent in that we played Advent, liked it, wished it were better, and tried to do a “better” one. There was no code borrowed, or anything like that, and we didn’t meet either Crowther or Woods until much later.” – Dave Lebling
- A new version of Dungeons & Dragons with simplified rules, later to be called “Basic Dungeons & Dragons”, is published. It contains the first known use of the term “role-playing game”.
- The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual is published.
- Kelton Flinn works on “the text-based amoeboid-like ancestor” to Air Warrior called AIR between 1977 and 1979.
- “If Air Warrior was a primate swinging in the trees, “AIR” was the text-based amoeba crawling on the ocean floor. But it was quasi-real time, multi-player, and attempted to render 3-D on the terminal using ASCII graphics. It was an acquired taste.” – Kelton Flinn
- Roy Trubshaw begins MUD1 development. In the fall, he and Richard Bartle complete the first version, which runs on a PDP-10. The name, “multi user dungeon” refers to a variant of ADVENT known as DUNGEN.
- “I promised to get in touch with Roy Trubshaw and nail this “how did the D in MUD come to be there?” question once and for all. I’ve now done so, and having exchanged a few emails and jogged each other’s memories, here’s the Authorised Version:
The D came first.
As Roy says, “We wanted to call it something and DUNGEN was the best adventure game that we had played up until then. (I was never really very keen on Haunt!)”. The D has always stood for “Dungeon” and the fact that the acronym was also a word was a secondary (though not unimportant) consideration. He didn’t start with an acronym and work backwards; he wanted to write something that was like a multi-user DUNGEoN.
It wasn’t the case that Roy thought Adventure games would be called “Dungeons”, because even then they were being referred to in the context of ADVENTure. He might have named it after that program if it had been better than DUNGEoN, but it wasn’t.
The “MUDD” title in the listing I have from 1979 was because someone else (Keith Rautenbach, an undergraduate in the year above Roy) went through commenting the code and put in two Ds, probably because he thought it was a reference to Dungeons & Dragons. It never was, and the file that refers to “MUDD” is itself called MUD.MAC (.MAC for the MACRO-10 assembly language).
My recollection of a gathering in Roy’s flat where we discussed the name was false. We did have such a meeting, but we were talking about the map for the BCPL version of the game. Roy wasn’t staying on campus in his second year, and another person at the meeting (Brian Mallett) didn’t come to Essex University until Roy was in his 3rd year and I was in my second.
Roy also mentioned that he’d recently written something on this subject to Jerry Pournelle, who in a small part of a longer report on 2001’s AAAS meeting (http://www.byte.com/column/BYT20010228S0009) had put “multi-user ‘dungeons'” as an expansion of MUDs. Here’s what Roy wrote to him:
“A totally minor quibble in a very interesting and succinct report on the AAAS meeting: MUD does stand for Multi-User Dungeon. There is no need to stick quotes around Dungeon.
I might have named it MUA after ADVENT(ure) [a text adventure popular on DEC-10s around the world] but a game called Dungeon appeared and saved me from trying to find a way to say MUA without sounding silly. There was also some slight influence from TSR’s Dungeons and Dragons.”
Dr Pournelle replied:
“Well, clearly you have a right to say it, but I used the quote marks because the guys at the conference clearly implied them after I asked. For some odd reason science people looking for grants aren’t interested in being associated with dungeons with or without quote marks!”
Some things never change (sigh).”- Richard Bartle
- “I promised to get in touch with Roy Trubshaw and nail this “how did the D in MUD come to be there?” question once and for all. I’ve now done so, and having exchanged a few emails and jogged each other’s memories, here’s the Authorised Version:
- Alan Klietz (rhymes with “bites”) writes Sceptre of Goth, also a mud system. These two developments were completely independent. Lauren Burka puts this date at 1979. Sceptre of Goth was also known as Empire for a while but is not generally referred to that way because of the numerous other games with the same name. Bob Alberti was responsible for the worldbuilding in Sceptre of Goth.
- “Bob, however, wrote the bulk of game world that ran on the engine. His relationship with Alan in the development of Sceptre of Goth is therefore similar to mine and Roy Trubshaw’s in MUD.” – Dr. Richard Bartle
- AD&D Player Handbook published.
- Interestingly, according to Lauren Burka, early mud developers never played the game.
- Richard Bartle clarifies, “In my case, that’s only true because AD&D wasn’t out yet; I had played D&D quite a bit in 1976-8. The only real impact it made on MUD1 was the “levels” system, though, which I thought was a neat way to give players short-to-medium term goals. Roy Trubshaw knew about D&D and may have tried it once or twice, but I don’t think he ever dived in deeply; he certainly never designed his own dungeons.”
- Walter Bright’s version of Empire makes it to the DEC-10.
- Somewhere in here, Oubliette on Plato.
- “Oubliette had a 3D wizardry style view of the dungeons (line drawings). Might have been the first on Plato to have that – Moria might have been but I’m not sure what the display style was.” – Dr Cat.
- “When I was a little boy, I went and played in the basement of the Lawrence Hall of Science where they had a small number of primitive terminals (I can still remember the sound of the teletypes!). On those machines, you could (if I remember correctly) login to the “Plato” network. On that system was a primitive D&D-like game whose original name I can’t remember, but it was renamed “Adventure” for a short while. The game was taken off of the Plato network, and I moved onto other things, as little boys are wont to do. I know it wasn’t the classic text adventure, “Adventure,” because it had Ultima I-like vector-based graphics for going into a dungeon, finding a Vampire or Balrog, and seeing its representation on screen. I remember some details about the game, like being ranked with other players based upon the success of your character.” – Paul Forbes. I don’t know which game this refers to. I have seen a graphical title screen for Moria.
- “”oubliette”, the first group-oriented dungeon on Plato, was the model the early “Wizardry” series ripped off, and also predates Avatar. Spells were cast by typing their names (i.e. alito, fieminamor), and you had to type them as fast as possible to beat the monster. 1977?” – Eric Hagstrom
- “1974 is far too early for “Oubliette.” Oubliette beta (e.g. very limited access list) was early spring, 1978 — with unlimited access list that summer. Oubliette definitely predated Avatar; in fact, Avatar was supposed to be the “Oubliette buster.” I’m thinking version 1 of Avatar was finished late 1978 or sometime in 1979 — maybe even later.” – Andy Zaffron
- Zork released as a standalone game by Infocom.
- The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide is published.
- “Swarthmore summer” of specification and design amongst Ted, Roger Gregory, Mark Miller, Stuart Greene, Eric Hill, Roland King. Mark and Stuart develop General Enfilade Theory* from Model T; from this the 88.1 architecture* of Granfilade*, Spanfilade* and Poomfilade*. Between now and 1992 the XOC team (Roger Gregory, Mark Miller) build two major designs (neither productized): Udanax Green (formerly Xanadu 88.1, for its time of near-completion and shelving), Udanax Gold (formerly Xanadu 92.1, for the intended delivery date).
- S, the multiplayer space combat and colonization game by Kelton Flinn and John Taylor, is coded over the summer at the University of Virginia.
- MegaWars III was based on S.
- “‘S’ was written in BASIC and supported eight users on the HP-2000.” – Kelton Flinn
- S used ASCII graphics.
- “Basic Dungeons & Dragons” and “Expert Dungeons & Dragons” are published.
- “This publication marks a split between “Dungeons & Dragons” and “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons”, as TSR modifies the rules of BD&D to be less like AD&D. The split was made for legal reasons — David Arneson, the co-creator of D&D, had left TSR and sued for royalties from D&D. TSR maintained that AD&D was a different game, and they therefore should not have to pay royalties to Arneson on it or its products. Maintaining this, however, required that they not replace D&D with AD&D, as had been their original intent. For this reason, TSR continued to produce both D&D and AD&D, and to change the two game lines to be different from each other, into the early ’90’s.” – Travis S. Casey
- “Nsorcery was another cool Plato fantasy game, it existed by 1980 when I played it. It was 2D, tile based, and single player.” – Dr Cat
- Empire introduces annual tournaments.
- Final version of MUD1 completed by Richard Bartle–Essex goes on the ARPANet, resulting in Internet muds!
- Steve Jackson releases Advanced Melee and Advanced Wizard, along with In The Labyrinth. The changes made from previous versions make the games into a roleplaying system.
- drygulch exists on PLATO by now.
- “Drygulch on Plato had a gold mine that served as the dungeon, it had a 3D line-drawing display like oubliette and avatar but I think it was fancier and would display more squares of the dungeon if walls were open to reveal them. The town had multiple shops that had 2D line art illustrating the inside of the shop. Among them were the sherrif’s office and the jail. The sherrif could assign rewards for the capture of players that broke the law and administer the jail in some way. He was chosen by election, and easily removed by the “veto” of any one player – you could go into his office when he was logged off and shoot him dead, and not being online there was no way he could defend himself from that! It was all a cowboys and gold miners in the old west theme, if I didn’t make that evident from the preceeding. No orcs or magic, there were some kinda varmints in the gold mines. Snakes and spiders and rats I think.” – Dr Cat.
- “You list under 1984 that drygulch “exists on PLATO by now.” While that is technically correct, it actually certainly earlier than that (IIRC by 1980 on CDC PLATO anyway [as opposed to CERL PLATO]). I played with w/ others in a friend’s parent’s basement on a PLATO terminal brought home by his father, who was a CDC employee. It was mentioned in a 1984 article by Antic magazine (though no dates of origination were given there).” – Mike Lindeland
- “Another PLATO game existing at that time (around 1980) was Panzerkrieg (sp?). You and an opponent would carry out extended campaigns against each other in a WWII simulation. Another was Wolfpack (German, American, and British multiplayer subs vs. destroyers).” – Mike Lindeland
- labyrinth also exists, but I know nothing about it.
- Kelton Flinn and John Taylor write Dungeons of Kesmai. It used ASCII graphics.
- “The summer of 1980 we wrote the game that became Dungeons of Kesmai, which supported six users on a souped-up Z-80.” – Kelton Flinn
- They didn’t know about MUD at the time. “No. The fantasy lineage started with the single player fantasy game written for the HP-2000 in BASIC during 1979-1980, basically extending a maze combat program I wrote earlier in 1979, to see if I could capture some of the essence of D&D. That game was rewritten in UCSD Pascal for the Z-80 running CPM, and as I mentioned, as that point became 6 user multi-player. Dungeons was the cut down single-player version of that game, still Pascal because CompuServe had a compiler. There was a TRS-80 Model 1 BASIC version in there also. At that time I hadn’t even heard of Adventure yet. Of course by the time we were doing the Island late in 1980, I had seen Adventure and Zork, but we were heading off in our own direction by that time, a lot more action-oriented and very little puzzle-solving.” – Kelton Flinn
- Atari starts trying to put PLATO on their eight-bits. But negotiations break down.
- “Plato was put on IBM PCs (as Plato Homelink?), with an emulator that reprogrammed the CGA card to do 512*256, which gave a passable scrunched reproduction of a 512*512 Plato screen. There was also an Apple II+ emulator made, but it was decided the quality was so poor it shouldn’t be released as a product. A CDC employee who remembered me from the old days gave me a copy and I briefly used it to access Plato over my modem at 300 baud with a 280*192 display, the font scrunched to 3*5 pixels or so and barely legible. ” – Dr Cat.
- Island of Kesmai is written by Kelton Flinn and John Taylor.
- “Island of Kesmai was written in 1980 and 1981, the goal being to soak up every bit of performance in the the CS department’s new VAX. We succeeded.” – Kelton Flinn
- “The look and feel of Dungeons actually did not change much, same basic screen layout and ASCII graphics from the first HP-2000 version through to the Island, but the addition of a quasi-natural-language parser in place of cryptic single character commands was done in the Island, and back-fitted when we did the Dungeons port to CompuServe, so that Dungeons would serve as a intro for the Island. The Island also introduced copious textual descriptions of things, whereas the earlier games relied on the ASCII graphics and terse combat results messages.” – Kelton Flinn
- William Gibson publishes “Johnny Mnemonic” in Omni.
- Vernor Vinge publishes True Names.
- Kesmai is founded by Kelton Flinn & John Taylor.
- “In November 1981, John saw an ad for CompuServe, namely a MegaWars ad (“if you had written this, you’d be making $30,000 a month in royalties!” I think the ad said. Bill was actually trolling for new games!) That kinda got our interest, so we sent a copy of The Island of Kesmai manual to Bill Louden and also to The Source. Even though the game already ran on the Prime computers that the Source used, they never responded intelligibly. Louden on the other hand was interested. We tried to bring the original UNIX version of the Island of Kesmai up on CompuServe’s DEC 20’s, and chewed up $100,000 of CPU time (at the then commercial rate) in 3 days. We got it working, but as Bill said, the lights dimmed in Columbus when it was running. So we headed back to Charlottesville to retrench. The first step was porting the old Z-80 code, that became Dungeons of Kesmai, which was cut back to single-player (probably the only time in history a multi-player game was made into a single player game!)” – Kelton Flinn
- Teletel is created.
- “Minitel was the outgrowth of a French Government telecom project in the early 80’s called the “Teletel” network. This went live in 1982. It wasn’t until early 1984 that the Minitel service – “phone top boxes” in many french telephone customers homes, etc – went live.” – Josh Kirkpatrick
- MegaWars I launches on Compuserve.
- According to S. Patrick Gallaty, the design of MegaWars I was based on that of Decwar.
- “Bill Louden, then at CompuServe, told me in 1989 or 1990 that he bought DECwar on tape for $50 in 1982 and turned it over to Kesmai for porting, and that the game did, indeed, become MegaWars I and then MegaWars III.” – Jessica Mulligan.
- “The page says MegaWars I was done by us. Not so, the game was done in-house at CompuServe. Either Bill’s or Jessica’s memory is a bit off. John can probably confirm, I think Russ Ranshaw did the port of DecWars. The quote from Jessica implies MegaWars III was an outgrowth of MegaWars I, which isn’t correct.” – Kelton Flinn
- “(fyi MW2 was a specific version that used the Radio Shack Color computer to provide rudimentary graphics)” – John Taylor
- “…we dusted off an old coffee-stained printout of “S”. We recoded tbe game in CompuServe’s BASIC, enhanced the game some, incorporated some ideas Bill had, and rolled out MegaWars III in December 1983. It was an instant hit and stole a lot of MegaWars I’s thunder. That enabled us to go back to the Island of Kesmai, rewrite it from Pascal into BASIC (a step backwards!) and rearchitect it for CompuServe.” – Kelton Flinn
- The film WarGames is released.
- The first commercial version of MUD1 opens on Compunet in UK.
- Islands of Kesmai launches ($12 an hour!).
- AUSI, a predecessor company to Mythic, formes & launches Aradath for $40 a month.
- Atari finally puts PLATO on 8-bits. It has a $5/hour connect fee.
- Minitel goes live.
- A detailed history can be downloaded here.
- Sometime prior to 1984, John Sherrick writes Tradewars. It’s similar to Star Traders, written in BASIC, and is for BBSes.
- “It’s not known whether or not Sherrick was inspired by Star Traders, but I suspect this to be the case since they were both written in BASIC. Sherrick’s Tradewars is developed in BASIC until December, 1989, when it is ported to C. I believe that Sherrick’s earliest work was freeware, without any restrictions. It is because of this public domain code, and the Star Trader code, that so many TW variations have been and continue to be written. At some point, Sherrick closed his code, releasing it under the new name of Tradewars II. His version continues to be developed by John Morris, I am told.” – John Pritchett, Tradewars history
- “Another BBS door game. This is such an influential game, at least to me. This was a multiplayer turn based space trading game with a bit of combat thrown it. You couldn’t actually play this at the same time as another player. You had X amount of moves per day. When your moves ran out, somebody else got a turn. Yes it was persistent as your merchant and fleet were left in the game for other players to destroy or destroy them if they found you.” – Jon Lambert
- Gary Martin starts work on TradeWars 2002 in this year. “Gary Martin, original author of Trade Wars 2002, states that his version of TW was inspired by Tradewars by Chris Sherrick, which was active in 1984 but not supported on the BBS he was running. In 1984, Gary decided to write his own version of the game simply because he wanted to run it under the BBS he was using. It’s clear that Martin’s version was inspired by Star Trader. In fact, the core trading system code still has the same variables as those found in the BASIC listing. It’s also clear that Omnitrend’s Universe was an inspiration for Gary’s work where it deviated from Sherrick’s, as many of the concepts in that game are identifiable in TW2002. There are also areas of the game that are taken directly from Sherrick’s earliest BASIC code, before he and Morris closed it. In terms of technologies, names and places, Gary’s version is derivative of both Star Trek and Star Wars.
Between the years of 1984 and 1990, Gary Martin and his wife, MaryAnn, took their version of TW, written in Turbo Pascal, through multiple versions, going from Trade Wars with 100 sectors, through TW2001 for the popular WWIV BBS, to TW2002 versions 1 and 2, adding the StarDock with its Tavern, Shipyard, Bank, Underground, Library, and Police Station, adding planetary Citadels, increasing the number of ship types, ramping sector count up to 5000, etc. By the time of TW2002v2, the Martins’ version is much more than just the sum of its various influences. An interesting footnote: during this time Gary enlisted the help of Drew Markham to create several of the ANSI images used in the game. Drew Markham later went on to found Xatrix and create some successful titles including Redneck Rampage.
Sherrick’s version was passed to John Morris during this time. He continued to improve that version of the game. Development diverged on these two games, taking place quite independently, so that both games are recognizable as having the same root, but are very much different in gameplay.” – John Pritchett, Tradewars history
- Neuromancer is published, and the word cyberspace is coined.
- Islands of Kesmai on Compuserve
- “My memory says that Island of Kesmai went live on CompuServe on December 15, 1985, after a very long internal test. The price was actually $6 an hour for 300 baud, $12 for 1200 baud. Serious players paid the bucks.” – Kelton Flinn
- Stellar Warrior (rewrite of MegaWars) launches on GEnie.
- “On the same day [as the launch of IOK], we rolled out Stellar Warrior on GEnie ($5 an hour for 1200 baud, raised a year or so later to $6.) Stellar Warrior was a cut down and simplified version of MegaWars III (not MegaWars), ported to FORTRAN.” – Kelton Flinn
- GEnie launches at $6 an hour.
- “For example: On GEnie during 1991, our average MMOG customer spent $156 per month, the equivalent of 32 hours at $3 per hour to play. However, the hard core players averaged three times that and accounted for nearly 70% of the total revenue. The top 0.5% had truly astronomical bills, well over $1,000 per month.” – Jessica Mulligan
- QuantumLink,, predecessor to AOL, launches in November.
- Habitat is developed by Randy Farmer and Chip Morningstar at Lucasfilm, as a product for QuantumLink. The client runs on a C64.
- Richard Bartle starts work on MUD2.
- Peter Langston creates PSL Empire, apparently as a single-player game. Not to be confused with the other game termed Empire that ran on PLATO and which was Star Trek based.
- “It was originally written on I -believe- a pdp 11, unknown OS. The thing that made it architecturally interesting was that it was designed to run in a server with a 64K code space limitation, and so it was broken up into 7 modules with user commands compiled into each of the 7 modules grouped together to try to minimize reloads. The original PSL Empire had an orthagonal map, which led to ‘funny math’ on moving diagonals. The fortran was run through a fortran to C processor, which is the format that I inherited it back in the mid 80’s. I was the games adminitrator on M-net, which I believe was the first public access (free access) unix bbs…” – S. Patrick Gallaty.
- “while there might have been some single player Empire initially, the version I played on a Unix box in the mid 80s was multiplayer, with BTUs (Beaureaucratic (sp?) Time Units) that slowly accumulated in your capital. You could log on whenever during the day you wanted, execute “get info anout my empire” commands for free all you wanted… But you only could do so much “build this, change production, route this here, move that unit there, attack that” type commanding ’cause each command used BTUs. So someone logging on frequently didn’t have as much advantage over someone who got on seldom. It had a lot of the attributes that got filed under your Plato Empire description. Mark Baldwin’s Empire was much more streamlined and didn’t take forever. (Maybe somebody somewhere actually finished a game of Unix Empire… Maybe not. I know people wrote shell scripts to automate a lot of the tasks involved in maintaining their empires because it was so much work!)” – Dr Cat.
- “Also Rabbitjack’s Casino was the first graphic multiplayer online game from QuantumLink for the C-64 (1985 or 1986, maybe?) and was later ported to the PC for America Online.” – Dr Cat.
- “This was developed by Rob Fulop’s company (name forgotten) and Ernest Adams was involved.” – Jessica Mulligan
- “The “(name forgotten)” Rob Fulop’s company (for Rabbitjack’s Casino) was Advanced Program Technology. I worked on the sound player code for this project back in 1985. 🙂 1985-1986 sounds about right for when the game was launched. Rob Fulop was earlier the author of many Atari 2600 games, including Demon Attack and Night Driver.” – Dan Peri
- xtrek, the predecessor to Netrek, is released.
- “Xtrek and Netrek are essentially Plato Empire with a much higher frame rate (in the animating range, rather than one frame every 2-10 seconds!) Computers got a lot faster from 1972 to 1986. There’ve been various refinements and new features (like the motionless starbase type of “ship”), but the basic gameplay and mechanics and commands are pretty close to Plato Empire.” – Dr Cat.
- Jessica Mulligan does first play by email game on commercial online server: Rim Worlds War.
- Air Warrior hits pre-alpha.
- MUD2 launches in the UK as a pay-for-play service.
- UCSD Empire, by Dave Pare, made Langston’s Empire a multiplayer game.
- MTrek is first run.
- “MTrek (‘Multi-Trek’) was up and running at University of California at Santa Cruz from 1986 through the early 90’s. At least through 93. Mainly through the good graces of then-sysadmin Tim Garlick, who designated ucscb.ucsc.edu as a ‘social and games’ system and thereby created an entire community. There was an author-endorsed variant called ‘S&MTrek’ (supposedly standing for ‘Sean and Madonna Trek’) hosted by Jon Luini (IUMA founder) at gorn.com, back when Jon worked for SCO.” – Jame Scholl
- Macromind (later Macromedia) releases Dave Lebling’s game MazeWars based on the 1974 game Maze.
- “Macromind’s version was based on the one for the Xerox Alto written by Jim Guyton (who heard about it from a friend who had been at MIT) in the late 70s.
Macromind’s version used the Appletalk network. It and the Alto version had a HUD of the maze (which we always refused to put in — cheating!). There was no mouse-look in any of these versions, if my memory is correct: it was all keystrokes. ” – Dave Lebling
- “Macromind’s version was based on the one for the Xerox Alto written by Jim Guyton (who heard about it from a friend who had been at MIT) in the late 70s.
- Air Warrior is released on GEnie.
- “Air Warrior had fewer overall players than GS III, but they played longer and the game generated equivalent revenue totals.” – Jessica Mulligan
- “Air Warrior debuted on GEnie in February 1986, Jessica has that one right. The initial client was on the Macintosh; the Amiga and Atari ST versions came along later that year, and the IBM PC the next. One thing that was unique about Air Warrior was that we supported Macintosh, Amiga, Atari ST, and IBM PC all in the same game, flying against each other. In 1988 we rolled out Air Warrior on the FM-TOWNS for Fujitsu. It was available in Japan for several years, but the price was too high due to telecom charges, so it never reached the level of popularity it had on GEnie.” – Kelton Flinn
- Mirrorworld is released.
- “IOWA (dreadful acronym for Input Output World of Adventure!) also hosted Mirrorworld by the way, the first multi player game as far as I’m aware not to do the “kick everyone off and reset the world” every hour – Essex MUD style – but featured instead what they called a “rolling reset” so there was never a moment the game wasn’t up and available. This seems a no-brainer now but was quite innovative back in 1986 when Mirrorworld first went online. I’ve just spoken to two of its creators (including Pip Cordrey, the financer and also host of IOWA from his mansion in Bletchingley, Surrey, UK). Rolling reset aside, Mirrorworld was an Essex MUD clone. I do think Mirrorworld deserves an honourable mention (1986) as the first game not to have total resets.” – Dave Austin
- Simutronics is founded; Gemstone goes alpha late in year.
- MUD1 is launched as British Legends on Compuserve.
- AberMUDs are released by Alan Cox.
- Gemstone launches as Gemstone II on Genie.
- IRC is invented.
- “If you’re going to mention IRC you might mention the invention dates of Compuserve CB, Genie’s chat, and the first chat on French Minitel (which was in the dawning days of Minitel and led to some users dropping off with multi-thousand dollar phone bills). No, I don’t know these dates.” – Dr Cat.
- Mark Baldwin does a GUI version of Bright’s Empire for the PC.
- QuantumLink launches AppleLink, soon to be AOL. Turns down Aradath and Galaxy II, though.
- Rich Skrenta at Northwestern University releases Monster, a multiplayer adventure game writen in Pascal that supported online creation.
- “I played and coded some changes to Monster back when I was in school. It did indeed have online creation, and did IPC through files.” – Jon Leonard.
- “I wrote Monster in about three months, during NU’s “winter quarter”. I was totally obsessed with coding it. Project obsession was normal with me (really boosts the productivity :-), but “Monster Madness” as I called it then really got out of hand. I was spending all night in the comp center, leaving at 7am, skipping classes, skipping everything. (My 10,000 line VMS Pascal wonder would compile faster when no one was around, which encouraged the nocturnal work). I went on spring break, and when I got back I forced myself to not continue working on Monster. I was afraid I’d fail out of school if I did. I left it alone until November of that year, when I started sending it out on the Bitnet.” – Rich Skrenta (from Lauren Burka’s MUDLine).
- “I can also assert to the 1988 date of Rich Skrenta’s “Monster” game. I have docs and a source listing of it dated Dec 1 1988.” – Chris Gray
- Club Caribe, a derivative of Habitat, is released on QuantumLink.
- TinyMUD is released by Jim Aspnes. It runs on Unix and is written in C. It was originally conceived as a front end to IRC.
- Galaxy I launches on GEnie.
- A-Maze-ing, 3-d online shooter, on GEnie.
- “A-Maze-ing was authored by Greg Corson, and ran on the Macintosh only. Greg’s an old friend of mine from South Bend, who taught me how to write a DDA line drawing routine to do faster graphics back in 1981 or so. He started doing multiplayer online stuff in the 1970s at Purdue and is another Plato guy from way back. He was later the lead engineer at Virtual World Entertainment (who made the Battletech centers with the sitdown cockpits linked together in groups of 8), worked at NEC coordinating the 3D chip stuff with Sega for the Dreamcast, and is now at Sony in San Francisco.” – Dr Cat.
- Lars Pensjö creates LPMuds and opens Genesis.
- “Having fun playing Tinymud and Abermud, Lars Pensjö decides to write a server to combine the extensibility of Tinymud with the adventures of Abermud. Out of this inspiration, he designed LPC as a special mud language to make extending the game simple. Lars says, “…I didn’t think I would be able to design a good adventure. By allowing wizards coding rights, I thought others could help me with this.” The first running code was developed in a week on Unix System V using IPC, not BSD sockets. Early object-oriented features only existed accidentally by way of the nature of muds manipulating objects. As Lars learned C++, he gradually extended those features. The result is that the whole LPMud was developed from a small prototype, gradually extended with features.” – George Reese’s LPMud timeline
- Simutronics launches Orb Wars on GEnie. Darrin Hyrup was the lead pogrammer on it. Later that year, Hyrup leaves Simutronics for AUSI.
- “Orb Wars was a team-based competition game where differing types of mages fought for control over the different orbs in an arena. You could either play it using ASCII representation or very basic graphic front-ends. Oddly enough, it would feel very familiar to the Shooter folks who play stuff like Tribes/Unreal Tournament etc. The game felt alot like Hack or Rogue except that you had very clear victory conditions, and the games were fairly short.” – John Moreland.
- “It was a tactical multiplayer mage vs mage combat game, top down, with a windowed interface similar to the old Islands of Kesmai.” – Darrin Hyrup.
- “Orb Wars was persistant in score and wizard type (?), but no objects were kept between battles. The scores were tallied every month and a ‘top 20’ list was posted, then all the wizards reset.” – J. Kerr
- Legends of the Red Dragon written by Seth Robinson in TurboPascal.
- “This was a multiplayer hack n slash adventure game that scaled up to a eight to ten users. It ran as a BBS door game. It accomplished this on DOS through some kludgy software interrupt time-slicing. Anyways I recall it had both PvP and PvCritter action. This game was wildly popular from it’s inception until the decline of BBSs. I remember redialing and waiting for hours to get into a slot on the BBSs that ran it.” – Jon A. Lambert
- The text mud Avalon opens in the UK.
- “Avalon was first online 11th October 1989 but this was apparently only with 4 lines hence the first publicised release on 28th October 1989 at the “Adventure 89” Convention is considered the online anniversary. The character/persona file predates and is continuous from that day to this surprisingly so one could literally grab the data from the file used in early October 1989 and drop it into the equivalent file used June 2015 and the character continuity would be in tact. Guinness Book favourable to the notion this makes “Zaphod” the oldest non-admin character in an online game. Gemstone is an “oldie” for instance and carried over the name but as anyone from the time will recall, it isn’t the same game and went through user file purges/restarts during the early years. Avalon was publicly online from “Adventure 89″ (28th Oct 1989) onward but places its own anniversary at 11th November 1989 because that’s when it was given top menu billing on the 20 line IOWA system it joined back then to be a local phone call from London. It was online from late October but under ‘other games’ label. Avalon was I believe the first game with item ownership, virtual currency, real estate, player-driven combat, cities, guilds, economics, full RPG characters with multi-ability skill development, etc etc. But it is only a text game in the end and these concepts were standards in tabletop roleplaying games like AD&D and Rolemaster.” – Dave Austin
- TinyMUD shuts down.
- TeenyMUD is created as a disk-based alternative to the TinyMUD codebase. Written by Andrew Molitor and Marcus Ranum.
- “It didn’t do much other than crash a lot, but it was the first TinyMUD clone that kept its database on disk instead of memory (or in swap as was more likely :-)).” – Jason Downs
- Diplomacy on GEnie, done by AUSI and Eric Raymond (yes, the open source guru).
- Federation II on GEnie.
- Avalon goes pay to play.
- “Avalon moved to London on May 15th 1990 with self-funded setup in Daniel James’ house. This was the point it became commercial in its own right. I believe IOWA had a small subscription but from May 1990 using the inhouse developed Nexus front end, Avalon was 10 UK pounds a month or 25 UK pounds a quarter subscription. All data including persona/user file was unchanged by the migration; the computer itself was carried by hand from Surrey to West London and its new home. Zaphod was the first customer too and the cheque is still kept in an old memorabilia box. Dan’s mother loved every moment of its residence there, including the mad dash to the Computer Shopper convention at Olympia (the ‘big time’) where the small corner space adjacent to the bling Virgin Media section was decorated with paintings from her own walls(!) and made a crazy and hilarious contrast to the high tech, slick design, cutting edge displays all the other players presented (most still around today in some form). The predominant expression on the faces of the thousands of consumers would have to be described as “WTF?” except nobody knew about WTF in those naive times…” – Dave Austin
- Negotiations for Ultima Online begin with Origin, Kesmai and GEnie. Nothing comes of it, however.
- 100 Years War launches on Genie.
- Gemstone II converted into chat space called ImagiNation.
- TinyMUCK is written by Stephen White. Over a weekend, he claims. Later that year, he releases MOO, which stands for “mud, object-oriented.”
- Pavel Curtis does substantial modifications to White’s MOO code, creating LambdaMOO. LambdaMOO opens, hosted at Xerox PARC, where it promptly becomes a major influence in the development of social issues in virtual spaces.
- Islandia opens using TinyMUD code.
- TinyTIM opens.
- TinyMUSH is written.
- FurryMUCK opens. It features avatars that are anthropomorphic animals.
- Fujitsu launches a Japanese version of Habitat that works on FMTowns at first and other platforms later.
- DIKU muds are released.
- The mud client tinyFugue is available now in version 1.4 beta.
- Shattered World, the first Australian LPMud, opens.
- “This MUD is the source of a private distribution LPMud server used by a handful of spinoff MUDs in the United States.” – George Reese
- AUSI’s Dragon’s Gate launches on GEnie, written by Mark Jacobs and Darrin Hyrup.
- According to Jessica Mulligan’s History of Online Games published on Happy Puppy and in Imaginary Realities, it’s a revised and expanded version of Aradath.
- However, Hyrup says, “It was a new creation, inspired by Aradath, but bearing little physical resemblance to it. We actually did do an Aradath remake a few years later, but the project never surfaced.”
- Jessica adds, “Darrin’s correct. What Mark Jacobs and I agreed to was Aradath for GEnie, but he and Darrin really went to town and gave us a far more interesting game. It cost an extra 6 months of development, which really irritated me at the time, but turned out to be worth the wait.”
- “We had one Dragon’s Gate player who spent $2,000 per month every month for over a year (at the time, GEnie’s access fees during the period 7am to 7pm were close to $20 per hour, and this guy would play during that time).” – Jessica Mulligan
- BatMUD opens.
- TradeWars 2002 is licensed to High Velocity software to port it to MajorBBS. This changes the game, which was already multiplayer and persistent, to also be interactive, since MajorBBS supported far more concurrent users.
- “At about this time, Gary opened Metropolis BBS, a Major BBS in his home. This was eventually sold to Multi Service where Gary and MaryAnn went to work as administrators of the new Metropolis that would have dialups in the cities of the then Big 8 college conference. Metropolis was one of, if not THE biggest BBS at the height of the BBSs popularity. It is still active today, though the parent company, Multi Service, has generalized their focus to include online game development and hosting. They can be found under the name Gameport. They are also the current owners of Legends of the Red Dragon, another extremely popular multiplayer BBS door game. Interestingly, the Martins and I left Multi Service before Multi Service became interested in online game development. That is unfortunate. ” – John Pritchett
- The apparent first reference to the word “avatar” in print, using the definition commonly accepted today, of a representation of a user in a virtual environment. The appearance is in Benedikt’s Cyberspace, in multiple papers. The word apparently originated on Habitat. Many claim Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash as the coinage for the term, including Stephenson himself in some editions.
- “According to the appendix of my edition of Snow Crash, Neal came up with the term by himself, but learned after the first publishing that Habitat had already used it with a similar meaning.” – Lars Duening
- “People were already using the word avatar to refer to a character they played in virtual worlds (albeit worlds residing in human rather than manufactured worlds). I found Usenet posts dating back before 1992 where people used it in the same sense.” – Matt Mihaly
- The usage of “Avatar” to mean “The graphical representation of yourself in a shared digital world” was first used in 1984-1988 in a product that was then called Lucasfilm’s Habitat. Chip Morningstar coined the usage. I was with him at the time. Yes, it was derived from the Hindi usage. This significantly predates any other similar usage that I am aware of.
(In 1988, the product changed names to Club Caribe, and the documentation changed the term for this concept, but by then some in the alt.cyberspace/VRML community had picked up the term. Neal Stephenson says that he had thought that the term was original with him, but when I contacted him at the time, he graciously put a corrected afterword in the paperback version of Snow Crash.)
It is important to note that the term “Avatar” was used in another game around later in that period (Ultima IV) and the concept of an Avatar was in several works of fiction prior to the development of Habitat, including Vernor Vinge’s “True Names” and John Brunner’s “Shockwave Rider”.” – Randy Farmer
- BSX muds are developed by Bram Stolk.
- LambdaMOO opens officially–however, there have already been several hundred regular players. That same year, it acquires tools such as site tracking, blacklists, and review boards for user building.
- PernMUSH is founded.
- Howard Rheingold’s Virtual Reality is published.
- Multiplayer Battletech, designed by Kelton Flinn as an attempt to appeal to exactly the opposite market as Air Warrior did (eg, a more community-oriented market).
- Electric Communities is founded by Farmer, Morningstar, and Douglas Crockford. They handle the WorldsAway contract as well as begin design work on a secure distributed “cyberspace OS.”
- At the suggestion of Walter Feurzig of BBN, MicroMush changes its name to MicroMuse. It develops into the first educational-outreach mud, focusing on grades K-12.
- Sierra network launches.
- “Sierra Network was first beta-tested in a 16 color EGA version as Constant Companion in 1990 or 1991. (I think 1990). The idea was that senior citizens would love to use this to play board and card games with each other. Ken Williams sent Richard Garriott a beta copy and said he’d like to get an Ultima Online on there…” – Dr Cat
- “The Sierra Network.. often overlooked for it’s contribution to online gaming started in 1991. Version 2.0 was release in Oct/Nov of 1992. Included in v2 was The Shadow of Yserbius, Red Baron and Leisure Suit Larry Vegas.. (gambling.. cyber-ing, etc) along with the v1 games of bridge, chess, checkers etc. I once played bridge with Bill Gates, as he is an avid bridge player and had an account on TSN.” – Brian Thomson
- Tangent Online is created.
- “[It] started out around 1991 as Dan Goldman’s attempt to make a graphic online gaming service as a big multiline BBS with a graphic front end. I was Creative Director and ‘Manda [Dee] art director for a while back then but it wasn’t going anywhere at the time. Tangent Online became Optigon Interactive…” – Dr Cat
- Stormfront Studios’ Neverwinter Nights launches on America Online. It was based on the Gold Box SSI AD&D games, and was programmed by Cathryn Mataga.
- Discworld opens. It is an LPMud based on the Terry Pratchett novels.
- “LambdaMOO takes a new direction”-an attempt to have a democratic, player-run government within a mud.
- Genocide, first PK mud (as in, first all player-vs-player combat, all the time, not the first to feature the ability). It is an LPMud.
- “Genocide starts as the first MUD dedicated totally to inter-player conflict, which is a fancy way of saying that its theme is creatively player-killing.” – George Reese
- MPG-Net founded, launches Kingdom of Drakkar (top view, graphical).
- Simutronics launches Cyberstrike (graphical).
- QuantumLink renames itself AOL.
- Valhalla, an LPMud, supports itself by charging money. (In 1995, it will switch to player donations).
- “Though the MUD was given permission to charge players by Lars, this move was still controversial among the LPMud community who belived that Lars no longer had the right to give such permission given the amount of code which had been donated to LPMud from various sources.” – George Reese
- First instances of intermud networks created using LP.
- “LPC sockets are added to the MudOS driver. This allows TMI to create a very rough TCP intermud network. This protocol is later replaced first by the CDlib UDP protocols, and later by Intermud 3. ” – George Reese
- Worlds of Carnage, first Diku with embedded scripting.
- The first version of Merc, a Diku derivative, is released.
- Legends of Future Past opens to the public.
- “As I recall, it opened its doors in 1992 as an independent, BBS-based service accessible through one of the dialup networks available at the time (Telenet, TYMNET, or Compuserve’s phone network, or some combination thereof).
The host service (NovaLink) was one of the early public ISPs to spring up after the “opening” of the Internet. I believe they were providing shell access as early as late 1993. I’m not sure at what point it became possible to telnet into the service, but if it was at the same time that they began offering shell access, this would make LoFP one of the earliest commercial MUDs on the Internet.
Its biggest legacy may have been the number of products it’s spawned, probably because it was a small, independent game that inspired thoughts of “Hey, we can do this too!” among its players and designers. I know for certain of four commercial games (two released, two in development) started by former LoFP players or gamemasters — making it, as far as I know, more fruitful than Simutronics.” – Ananda Dawnsinger
- “As I recall, it opened its doors in 1992 as an independent, BBS-based service accessible through one of the dialup networks available at the time (Telenet, TYMNET, or Compuserve’s phone network, or some combination thereof).
- Nightmare mudlib released.
- “Leaving IgorMUD, Descartes takes over the development of Nightmare from the mudlib point of view. He chooses to use the new MudOS server, throwing out Nightmare’s outdated LPMud 2.4.5 mudlib and driver. Flamme and Forlock join to help administrate the new Nightmare. Nightmare LPMud opens to the public. Its mudlib is eventually released as the Nightmare Mudlib. It becomes the first publically available mudlib for MudOS, which at this point is still considered a newcomer among drivers.” – George Reese
- Neal Stephenson publishes Snow Crash.
- The film Lawnmower Man is released.
- Mosaic makes the Internet graphical.
- Doom comes out in December.
- Discworld mudlib released.
- “The choice of mudlibs for MudOS helps add to the driver’s growing popularity. At this time, the Discworld Mudlib contains the most advanced command parser and user interface available in a mudlib.” – George Reese
- DGD Lpmuds released.
- “A single-user alpha release of the first LPC server not derived from LPMud, DGD 1.0.a3 (Dworkin’s Game Driver, later renamed Dworkin’s Generic Driver), is released for testing. DGD isolated essential LPC functionality, leaving all, if any, game functionality completely up to the mudlib. September 16, 1993: DGD is released in multi-player form as DGD 1.0.a4. This version introduces support for compiling LPC code to C, then linking C objects in with the driver. This makes DGD the first driver to support such functionality. ” – George Reese
- Worlds of Carnage closes. It will reopen later in the year, but several players and admins leave, never to return, including Damion Schubert, Rick Delashmit, and the Kosters.
- ROM, a Diku derivative codebase, is released.
- Merc 2.1 is released.
- CircleMUD 2.00, a Diku derivative codebase, is released by Jeremy Elson.
- Silly, a Diku derivative codebase, is released.
- By now, CDC has sold PLATO to The Roach Organization. CDC stays in Computer-Aided Instruction, but calls their clone of PLATO Cybis. CERL at UI started NovaNET to replace it, but that was then transferred to UCI.
- Howard Rheingold’s Virtual Communities is published.
- On LambdaMOO, Mr. Bungle is toaded.
- This leads to Julian Dibbell’s article “A Rape in Cyberspace” in the Village Voice, which catapults muds into the limelight.
- This also leads to the formation of a petition system on LambdaMOO, which is a voting mechanism for players with votes being binding on the mud admins.
- The Sierra Network first expands, then is purchased by AT&T and becomes the ImagiNation Network.
- “In 1993 TSN expanded and then collapsed, well was eaten by AT&T. When they expanded they added on to The Shadow of Yserbius with Fates of Twinion. Both games were written by Joe Ybarra, who last I heard was at Ensemble. After AT&T ate The Sierra Network.. It became The Imagination Network. Ken Williams was moving toward the Realm anyway. The bandwidth of running the sierra network was killing it. I believe the backbone was Sprint-net. Sierra leased the lines and subscribers could buy blocks of hours per month or unlimited hours for about $120 a month. This is what killed it. Ken had no idea at the how hardcore gamers would eat his bandwidth.” – Brian Thomson
- “Yserbius had a sequel, “The Fates of Twinion”, that was so buggy QA refused to test any more. The designer had no design experience. I was hired because I’d run LA Mensa’s RPG group for more than a decade, plus theatrical experience and writing experience. I fixed all the system code fatals in Twinion (there was also a bad PvP fatal in Yserbius but it didn’t get noticed much) since Cawdor was on the same code base, but I seriously redesigned everything for more balance; there was no need to be anything other than a Dwarf Knight in the first two games because of bad system design at moderate to high levels (Dwarf or Troll Barbarian also made some sense, but no other race or class was close to as good). I also encrypted the messaging so that none of the cheat codes worked any more, and attempting to use them was detected and generated an automated message about our TOS and a one week suspension of access. Our sysops loved that feature; no more arguing with teenage boys about how they cheated.” – Richard Aronson
- WOO and ChibaMOO meld the web with muds.
- Ron Britvich writes Web World, which I have not been able to find anything more on but which allegedly had 350,000 people log in. Could it be WOO?
- Dragonspires is opened by ex-Originite Dr Cat.
- News Corp buys Kesmai.
- AT&T buys INN. They subsequently lose their shirt.
- LegendMUD opens with Carnage refugees (both Kosters & Delashmit as well as others); first classless mud? Uses a reverse-engineered and improved scripting language based on Worlds of Carnage’s.
- Merc 2.2 releases with a modified version of Carnage’s scripting system, called “mobprogs”–the code was released by an abortive mud started by Schubert.
- Imperium Gothique releases with a Diku scripting language also, based on independent development.
- CircleMUD 3.0 appears.
- Work begins on Diku II, also called VME for Valhalla Mud Engine. It now includes a fully embedded scripting system called DIL.
- Fujitsu’s Cultural technologies division reintroduces Habitat in the US, as WorldsAway. it is later shipped in Japan as Fujitsu Habitat II.
- Worlds Inc founded, launches WorldsChat.
- “WorldsChat was developed at KnowledgeAdventure in Southern California, around 1994, then spun off into its own company, Worlds, which moved to San Francisco and also had people in Seattle (and elsewhere).” – Jeremy Leader
- Avalon opens as a pay-for-play mud on the Internet, after four years as a dial-up mud in the UK. Is this the first commercial mud on the Internet?
- “Avalon joined the internet as avalon.co.uk on October 14th 1994 though it had been “net accessible” through IBMPCUG and PIPEX from early 1992. The existence of net connectivity went unnoticed and was little used. It was far less significant than IBMPCUG having local dial-up numbers covering the whole UK where before London was the catchment area. Compuserve, Genie and AOL (like Prestel before them) were similarly positioned in the UK: dial-up modems were the market.” – Dave Austin
- Nexon, based in Korea, begins work on Kingdom of the Winds, a graphical tile-based mud.
- BBN receives a grant to demonstrate distributed architecture muds using Muse.
- TEN gets going.
- “”TEN” went into national beta testing in 1994 before Jack Heistand, Kleiner Perkins or Outland (It was just Planet Optigon then) were on the scene. It had a multiplayer version of SimCity, Chess, Checkers, chat spaces, multiple interface themes, game partner matching, editorial and the ability the play games like Descent with two players via the service. There were just about 12 people in the company. Outland and Kleiner Perkins joined in 1995. Jack Heistand joined in 1996.” – Daniel Goldman
- Jack Heistand was formerly of EA Sports. Funding came from Vinod Khosla of Kleiner Perkins, who merged Outland with Optigon and pumped in $10 million.- Jessica Mulligan
- At the end of June, version 1.0 of Envy, a Diku derivative codebase, is released.
- A company called Cyberspace, Inc gets going. This will eventually be Turbine.
- “Founders were Jeremy Gaffney (CEO), Jonathan Monserrat (President/Treasurer), Kevin Langevin (Secretary), and Timothy Miller. None of the rest of the founders are still in the games biz, they all left Turbine before I did (in January ’98)” – Jeremy Gaffney
- id starts testing Quake, which is going to be their real effort at making online multiplayer games. It becomes an instant phenomenon, redefining online gaming and virtual reality in the process.
- Gemstone III goes live on AOL.
- Archetype Interactive begins Meridian 59, with Mike Sellers as a designer and the Kirmse brothers Chris and Andrew as programmers. Mike offers Raph Koster a job, but he declines because of a job offer from Origin. He recommends Damion Schubert for the job instead. Archetype and Meridian are later acquired by 3DO, where Rich Vogel acts as producer for a time.
- Air Warrior goes live on AOL.
- LIMA mudlib offers Infocom-style parsing.
- Rick Delashmit hired by Origin for Ultima Online joining Starr Long and Ken Demarest. Demarest shortly thereafter leaves for Titanic, a startup. Later that year, Origin also hires the Kosters as designers.
- AlphaWorld launches, also by Ron Britvich. It’s a successor product to WorldsChat, not the same engine. It supports a whole twelve avatar appearances.
- “They say AlphaWorlds was a successor product to WorldsChat, which isn’t quite correct; the two were developed in parallel with very different design goals (though they both used the same underlying 3D renderer). AlphaWorld was oriented towards people being able to build out their own spaces, but had some performance problems with dynamic content downloading on low-memory systems or slow modems as a result; WorldsChat was designed for higher performance, but only in a pre-designed environment (the content was all delivered ahead of time, either on a CD or in one big download&install). Worlds also made several abortive attempts to build MOORPGs based on the WorldsChat engine; none ever saw the light of day. Worlds went under around 1997, then the technology was bought and the company was re-launched around 2000, with a plan to create 3D multi-user environments for various popular musicians. I know Hanson World and Bowie World both reached public view. I’ve heard that the WorldsChat servers are still running somewhere, though there are very few regular users.” – Jeremy Leader
- Electric Communities officially incorporates and gets venture capital. Their product is a major revision of Habitat, called both Habitat and Microcosm. It features a secure distributed architecture. It is later shelved as being ahead of its time, according to Farmer.
- Time Warner Interactive launches Jim Bumgartner’s The Palace.
- Jake Song of Nexon leaves Nexon to join Inet, and branches TK server to create Lineage. He joined NCSoft later at 1997.
- Illusia, a graphical mud with static backdrop scenes, opens to the public.
- TeenyMUD 2.0 is released.
- “All functional versions of TeenyMUD were released by Sean Coates and myself 1990 – 1993, with the last one (TeenyMUD 2.0) being a completely new implementation written by me and released in 1995. TeenyMUD 2.0 was still disk based, but its world paradigm was very much MUSH-like. Sean (Xibo) still runs his MUD, (EVIL!) to this day, evil.xibo.com 4201. It’s one of the oldest, if not the actual oldest, continuously operated server.” – Jason Downs
- Valhalla (the LPMud) moves to player donations instead of charging for access.
- Avalon relocates servers from London to Chicago and ends dial-up access.
- “Avalon relocated to the US in 1995, first to Chicago and then to Vienna, VA (location of the MAE-East Internet Exchange Point, optimum position for European and American players). Continuity was retained entirely. The London to Chicago move was – quite literally – a case of carrying the PC with “all of Avalon” as hand luggage: disconnected in London, taxi to Heathrow, plane to O’Hare, taxi to wwa.com ISP in the Loop, reconnect in their server room with avalon.co.uk diverted and the new www.avalon-rpg.com domain publicised – less than 12 hours from 10baseT to 10baseT. There were no backups. The journey was made by Yehuda Simmons (Genesis) and Matt Mihaly (Shaitan/Lazarus and later Sarapis of Iron Realms). This was the end of Avalon’s direct association with the UK.” – Dave Austin
- The TV show VR5 appears on US TV. In this show, a researcher has found a way to enter virtual reality, and through it enter other people’s minds. The show is cancelled after one season.
- The term “massively multiplayer” is first used.
- “The term ‘massively multiplayer’ was coined by John McQueen and Dale Addink of ICI in 1995 to describe to the gaming press Warbirds, an Air Warrior clone (Addink had been playing Air Warrior since 1988), in terms the press could more easily understand and to differentiate the game from retail hybrids.” – Jessica Mulligan
- The Ruins of Cawdor is launched; it is the third of three graphical MUDs for The Sierra Network aka The ImagiNation Network. It was designed by Richard Aronson.
- “When I was designing MMOs for “The Sierra Network”, one of our major strategic goals was to increase the number of female players. I accomplished this by creating two pathways through each floor of Cawdor Castle, one that required (mostly) puzzle solving, and one more traditionally combat path. I also put in a vastly larger amount of flavor, British and Scottish history, lots of humor (and the Beta Test team, which was about 50:50 male/female, kept asking for more jokes, the masochists). The male:female mix in my RPGs was about 37% female as compared to 25% or less for the other MMOs. And the men generally liked having smart women players in their party. And of course several of the major boss battles were women (The Wyrd Sisters were the final boss, and Lady Macbeth was penultimate) and each battle required tactical decisions as opposed to just hitting them harder.”
- “Cawdor racked up more game hours in its first week after launch than “Front Page Sports: Football”, a much more expensive and marketed game that we released the same year, did in its entire lifetime. The misogynists moved back to the older RPGs that were less interesting to women. Over time the gender mix for Cawdor rose. Cawdor’s facemaker was gender neutral, deliberately; 50:50 choices of male or female. If we had a larger art budget and more time, I’d have made sure that there were male and female options for each species/character class combination (48 all told) but 24 each was the best I could do on budget*. Cawdor was an absurdly cheap game, and definitely made money, which was important; of the nearly 40 games on TSN fewer than 10 earned back their development costs. But if AOL had not shut us down, I’m sure all would have been in the black long ago. At the time AOL shut us down, we were in the black on ongoing expenses, and the more games we added, the more people stayed and played (new development was always at a loss until the games ran for a while).”
- “* More accurately, on time. The artists could have delivered the extra options, but I’d have had to redesign some interfaces, rewrite a lot of code, and then test, to increase the facemaker options from 48 to 96 choices. Had I known the systems programmers would be six months late, I’d have done so, but my boss Stuart Moulder had left for Microsoft and nobody told me I had more time. The final push to meet my dates required I work 35 days straight of 12+ hours/day, only to find out that the systems guys weren’t ready for me. It did allow me six months to add a “stables” floor to the castle, write a lot more jokes, and put in a lot more polish; I’m not complaining, except about AOL. These days designers are more specialized; back then I did all the design, all the level design, all the systems design, all the dialog writing, and about 80% of the coding and all of the scripting. I was really quite tired.” – Richard Aronson
- “LambdaMOO takes Another New Direction”-the admins take back over.
- Meridian 59 opens.
- “Until Meridian 59 launched in 1996 and UO launched in September of 1997 with flat monthly rates, billing for commercial MMOGs was mainly on a per minute/hourly basis (with a brief period of free access to AOL’s games from 12/96 to about 7/97). Thus, the number of total subscribers was less important than how long you kept your hard core players (the top 10%) in game.” – Jessica Mulligan
- The Realm enters beta.
- Dark Sun Online enters beta.
- AmigaMUD, a graphical free mud system.
- AOL takes on Dragon’s Gate. At this point, AUSI has morphed into Interworld Productions.
- Quake is released.
- Origin demos Ultima Online at E3.
- Engage is announced at E3. It’s first beta opens in December, on AOL, with a multiplayer version of Castles II.
- AOL buys INN.
- Sherry Turkle publishes Life on the Screen.
- John Smedley at Sony’s 989 Studios hired Brad McQuaid and Steve Clover to begin development on EverQuest.
- Cyberspace, Inc, lears that the name is taken, and changes to Second Nature Interactive. Someday, they’ll make it to being called Turbine…!
- Nexon launches The Kingdom of the Winds.
- Splatterball, by Interworld Productions, is released on Engage. Shortly after, Interworld becomes Mythic Entertainment.
- The Journal of MUD Research launches. In the first issue is an article by Richard Bartle, “Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDs.”
- SMAUG, a Diku derivative codebase, is released.
- Furcadia, done by Dr. Cat and others, opens to the public. It is a graphical Furry mud, which allows player building and eventually, player scripting.
- TEN officially launches in September.
- MPlayer launches in early November.
- The Eternal City goes into beta. TEC focuses upon providing the most immersive roleplaying environment to date, as well a sense of space and a rich environment. The founders of TEC (Scott Martins, Ichiro Lambe, Charles Passmore) were originally staff at Legends of Future Past.
- GodWars, a Merc derivative codebase, is released unofficially.
- Diablo launches, from Blizzard. Though not a true mud, it is immensely popular and brings awareness of graphical multiplayer RPGs to the masses.
- Ultima Online launches commercially and breaks 100,000 users very quickly. Rich Vogel joins Origin before launch.
- Janet Murray’s Hamlet on the Holodeck published.
- Second Nature Interactive discovers that its name was taken, and renames itself Turbine Entertainment Software.
- A development deal is signed for Asheron’s Call, to be developed by Turbine. Jeremy Gaffney is among those involved though he later leaves before it ships. Toby Ragaini is principal designer.
- NCSoft launches Lineage.
- Neverwinter Nights on AOL was shut down on July 19th, 1997, when AOL made the official switch to WorldPlay (formerly INN) for the Games Channel.
- Mythic releases Darkness Falls, a commercial text mud.
- In September, UOX, the first UO server emulator, manages two simultaneous connections with UOX3. By 2000, there would be several hundred UO server emulators running.
- Tad Williams begins publishing his massive four-part novel Otherland, which deals with online worlds and artificial intelligence.
- Ultima Online is sued in a class action lawsuit. The suit is later settled out of court. Oddly, one of the plaintiffs is an ex-player of LegendMUD.
- Verant’s EverQuest opens in beta.
- Rubies of Eventide opens.
- Lyra’s Underlight launches doing a roleplay-enforced graphical game, on MPlayer.
- Electric Communities acquires The Palace from Time Warner. It also holds a closed beta of ECHabitats/Microcosm.
- Titanic releases NetStorm, an online only strategy title. The company folds later that year.
- Delashmit & others (including Todd McKimmey, formerly of LegendMUD & UO) form Wombat Games. One of the first contracts is to help get Sega’s massively multiplayer action-strategy game 10six off the ground.
- Julian Dibbell’s My Tiny Life is published. The first chapter is “A Rape in Cyberspace.”
- Sierra announces Middle-earth, a mmp based on the Lord of the Rings. Steve Nichols, creator of the Realm, leads the team with Janus Anderson, also of the Realm, and Daniel James of Avalon.
- Mike Sellers plays a role in bringing The Eternal City to The Big Network where it becomes one of the first (if not the first) commercial text-based RPGs to be supported by banner ads, using a Java client.
- John Pritchett creates the Trade Wars Game Server, which makes Tradewars into a TCP/IP game playable over the Internet. He also founds EIS.
- Mark Fabi publishes Wyrm.
- The first SF novel I’ve read to actually get muds right.
- EverQuest opens, and quickly becomes the second huge success in the newly dubbed “massively multiplayer online roleplaying game” (MMORPG) genre.
- Nine months later, Asheron’s Call releases on the MS Gaming Zone.
- VR-1’s Ultracorps closes on MS Zone.
- TEN ditches hardcore and persistent world gaming to become pogo.com.
- DWANGO dies in the US.
- EA buys Kesmai (& playNation). This is part and parcel of a deal to become the exclusive games channel provider for AOL.
- MPGNet was bought from the founder and owner, Jim Hettinger, by Interactive Magic. They combined I-Magic Online and MPGNet and eventually renamed it IEN.
- Verant’s Sovereign announced. It looks to borrow heavily from design elements from Empire.
- Simutronics announces a graphical version of their games, to be called Hero’s Journey.
- Bioware announces a new Neverwinter Nights, to be a distributed mud server, at GenCon in August.
- Electric Communities mothballs Microcosm.
- Nexon develops distributed game servers for Kingdom of the Winds. They subsequently peak with 12,263 simultaneous users in a single world, using this technology.
- Mythic releases Darkness Falls: Crusade, also a text-based game.
- UO2 announced with Starr Long, Damion Schubert & Jeremy Gaffney. Jack Heistand becomes general manager of Origin. The game is later renamed Ultima Worlds Online: Origin.
- Sierra re-starts development on Middle Earth Online and abandons The Realm. Codemasters picks up The Realm and Nichols joins them.
- Legends of Future Past closes on Dec 31st.
- Project Entropia is announced. The novel twist is that real-world currency will be freely convertible to gamne currency, and vice versa.
- On December 2nd, CompuServe stopped running MUD1 after 13 years of operation.
- “We were given a whole 0 days notice.” – Dr Richard Bartle.
- The film The Matrix is released.
- The film eXistenZ is released.
- LucasArts and Verant announce a Star Wars Online project.
- Sony Online Entertainment acquires Verant.
- Squaresoft announces Final Fantasy Online. Other major console series also announce later that year, including Phantasy Star.
- Sony announces that the PlayStation 2 will have a broadband solution by 2001.
- Mythic Entertainment announces Dark Age of Camelot, a large-scale graphical mud using some design elements from their Darkness Falls games. Both Hyrup and Jacobs are involved.
- Richard Garriott leaves Origin.
- Koster and Vogel and others leave Origin. It is revealed late in the year that Rich Vogel is producer and Raph Koster is creative director on Star Wars Galaxies. Other team members include Chris Mayer (former lead programmer for UO Live) and Anthony Castoro (former lead designer for UO Live). All except Castoro had been on a cancelled unannounced project, Privateer Online, at Origin, and departed for Verant in the wake of the cancellation.
- Wombat Games, composed of Delashmit, McKimmey, and Jason Spangler (former lead programmer on UO: Second Age) among others, announces Dark Zion, a graphical mud with a fully player-modifiable environment, no built-in currencies, and a number of other experimental features.
- Funcom’s Anarchy Online is a hit at both E3 and ECTS.
- In May, Electronics Arts announces the shutdown of most of the Kesmai games, including Legends of Kesmai and Air Warrior Classic.
- Also in May, Erwin Andreasen holds the 16K MUD competition. The 18 scratch-written MUD entries are later released to the public.
- In late August, Wombat Games closes, after failing to acquire a publisher.
- On August 31st, 3DO ceases operation of Meridian 59. The game continues to run in Germany.
- It is announced that Ragaini has left Turbine and is now working on LithTech’s unannounced massively multiplayer title.
- Several games try to break massively multiplayer graphical online games out of the RPG mold.
- World War II Online is announced. It is envisioned as a tiered military sim, where players give each other orders. Members of the team formerly worked on Warbirds.
- Also publicly displayed is StarPeace, a management and city-building massively multiplayer game (think SimCity in space).
- The already-open Mankind is a large-scale economics and trading sim.
- A group of ex-volunteers from Ultima Online file a lawsuit demanding back pay for their volunteer activities.
- British Legends, aka MUD1, returns when Viktor Toth, administrator of MUD2, completes a port of the original game to a new server codebase.
- Dark Sector is announced, a massively multiplayer first-person shooter by some of the developers of Unreal Tournament.
- Verant announced Planetside, a massively multiplayer first-person shooter. The principal technologist on the team is John Ratcliff, formerly lead programmer on Simutronics’ Hero’s Journey, which appears to have gone dormant.
- A small-scale online game, SiSSYFiGHT 2000, makes all the players into female high-school students, and casts the PvP dynamic as being about peer pressure, putdowns, and cliques.
- In October, EIS transfers trademark righs in TradeWars 2002 to Realm Interactive, a startup in Arizona. They begin work on Trade Wars: Dark Millenium, to be a graphical MMORTS.
- Phantasy Star Online releases for the Dreamcast, and is extremely well received. But the Dreamcast is discontinued shortly thereafter.
- Communities.com folds. Says a former executive, “It was a dot-com company with dot-com problems.” Randy Farmer says, “I wasn’t done!”
- Fallen Age is announced. Its producer is a former writer for the massively multiplayer editorial site “The Rantings of Lum the Mad.” The game is later cancelled due to creative differences between the U.S.-based and Korea-based portions of the team.
- EverQuest bans the sale of in-game items on auction sites, and eBay and Yahoo agree to remove the items from their listings. In response, a group of EverQuest players threaten to sue over their right to sell in-game items on Internet auction sites.
- Nexon continues to produce online games, announcing Elemental Saga.
- Westwood, a division of EA, announces Earth and Beyond with a cover article in major gaming magazines. It is a massively multiplayer RTS/RPG set in space. Janus Anderson is the lead designer.
- Will Wright starts to talk publicly about The Sims Online.
- Lineage goes commercial in the US in May. It acquires only a few thousand users in the US.
- EA publicly tests and launches Majestic, a conspiracy theory online game that contacts players via instant messenging, faxes, and email. A key force behind the game is Neil Young, who was general manager of Origin during the early days of Ultima Online’s live service.
- EA purchases pogo.com.
- Gamespy.com purchases MPlayer.
- The never-announced Dungeons and Dragons Online is cancelled.
- Steven Spielberg’s film A.I. makes use of a game extremely similar to Majestic as a form of viral marketing.
- Ultima Worlds Online: Origin aka UO2 is cancelled. There’s a “wake” for the game where design documents are burned in a huge pile.
- “At the wake, I crack a joke to Richard saying that maybe his next company should be called “destination or something.” I can only assume I was not the only one to make the joke!” – Raph Koster
- Richard Garriott, Starr Long, Kirk Black, Jeremy Gaffney, Carly Staehlin, and many others from Ultima Online and the cancelled Ultima Worlds Online: Origin form a new company entitled Destination Games. Shortly after, the company is acquired by NCSoft of Korea, makers of Lineage, and Jake Song moves to Austin, to begin work with the aforementioned on a new project called Tabula Rasa.
- Dark Age of Camelot starts public testing.
- There is legal trouble surrounding the development of a new version of Middle-Earth Online as developer MM3D sues Sierra.
- Mudpie, a massively multiplayer world based on MYST, begins to be discussed by Cyan.
- Seducity is live–it’s an online world about sex, and offers nudity and sexual animations in a 2d environment.
- World War II Online launches, and has a very rough time of it.
- Anarchy Online also has a rocky launch.
- Funcom announces Midgard. It is intended to be a roleplaying game with a heavy focus on community building.
- EA begins testing Multiplayer Battletech 3025.
- The non-violent crafting and socialization world A Tale in the Desert begins public testing.
- Jumpgate, an online space and trading sim, is published by 3DO.
- Numerous former writers from commentary websites join the staffs of various online games. Among them: Jumpgate, Dark Age of Camelot (where Lum the Mad, the person, went), and Shadowbane.
- Elemental Saga is now in public testing.
- Numerous smaller games are announced as being in development, all of them RPGs. Among them: Darkfall and Mimesis Online and Archaean.
- Blizzard announces World of Warcraft, a massively multiplayer RPG.
- Codemasters announces Dragon Empires. Steve Nichols is involved at first, but later departs.
- Dark Age of Camelot launches to glowing reviews and quickly outpaces Asheron’s Call to become the third most popular American online world.
- EA stops development of Multiplayer Battletech 3025 and kills Air Warrior III.
- Fighting Legends, which is perhaps best termed as a party-based tactical online world where you manage a group of units, launches.
- 3DO drops Jumpgate; the makers, NetDevil, decide to run it on their own.
- Brian Green and Rob Ellis purchase Meridian 59 from 3DO and revive it.
- Mimesis Online launches, from publisher Tannhauser Gate. It’s another science-fiction themed massively multiplayer 3d first person combat-centered RPG.
- VR1 announces Lost Continents, an online world themed around 1930’s pulp adventures.
- The Imagineering group within Disney publicly tests Toontown, a Disney-animation themed online world that sticks close to the “groups of players kill critters” paradigm, but changed around for a young child audience. It’s notable for not letting people communicate directly in game, to satisfy COPPA rules.
- Majestic is shuttered by EA, having failed to garner enough subscribers or retain them. The episodes of the game are released all together on one CD to the retail market.
- Funcom’s Midgard is put on hold so they can concentrate on Anarchy Online.
- Mythic is sued by Blacksnow Interactive, a small firm that makes its money by gathering in-game items to sell to other players. BSI is alleging that Mythic is damaging their business by preventing the sale of in-game items via online auction sites.
???? – MajorMUD “… a mud that originated on BBSs (MajorBBS?) …this one seems important though I’ve never played it. I just _know_ someone on this list has.” – Jon Lambert