Results tagged “wumpus”

Readings in narrative game history

If you follow Planet IF, you're already all over these links. But if not, you gotta start following two blog-post series that have been rendering early IF and choice-game history into a fine itchy mist of detail and insight.

Validating my existence

Well, not really. More like "acknowledging my existence," which is flattering.

Kingdom of Loathing, the massively successful indie casual MMO, has an achievement system. To be precise, an ever-increasing set of trophies. (See this trophy list on the KOL wiki. Spoilers there, obviously.)

Hunter in Darkness A couple of weeks ago, a new one was discovered. This trophy commemorates killing five Wumpuses in a row, without dying, in the hunt-the-wumpus miniquest. (If you're not familiar with KoL, it has a blinding overload of miniquests, all of which are pop-culture references of one sort or another. Gaming culture is well-represented: The Penultimate Fantasy Airship, The Enormous Greater-Than Sign, a whole text adventure segment, and so on.)

So why is this flattering? Because the trophy title is "Hunter In Darkness" -- a reference to my game Hunter, in Darkness. Which was my riff on the Wumpus theme, as text IF.

Fame! Something-like-fortune! Thanks, KoL dudes!

(Also thanks to the ifmud homies for pointing this out to me.)

Daily trivia: The Latin name of the Giant Suckered Cave Wumpus is Wumpus yobgregorii. According to me, that's who.

We have all just heard that E. Gary Gygax, the man who launched a thousand basement RPG sessions, has died.

Others will speak of his impact on the tabletop gaming world. But Johan Larson asked an interesting question:

I wonder how computer games would be different if GG hadn't created D&D. Conanesque fantasy [e.g., "kill him and take his stuff"] would surely be a smaller niche, but would there be any larger effects?

My immediate response is "Heck, yes."

(Note: the following is quite off-the-cuff. I haven't studied the history of computer gaming, outside of text adventures. I lived through that era, but I didn't see everything that went on. Nonetheless, this is my theory.)

Computer gaming would have been wildly different if D&D had never existed. As Johan implies, the earliest CRPGs (Ultima, Wizardry, Hack/Rogue) were explicitly inspired by the idea of getting D&D onto a computer. The earliest adventure wasn't derived from D&D, but D&D was a huge part of its evolution from Crowther's toy to the Colossal Cave that swept the computer world:

Kraley joined Crowther in a months-long Dungeons and Dragons campaign (led by Eric Roberts and including future Infocom co-founder Dave Lebling among the core of about eight participants). "[O]ne day, a few of us wandered into [Crowther's] office so he could show off his program. It was very crude in many respects -- Will was always parsimonious of memory -- but surprisingly sophisticated. We all had a blast playing it, offering suggestions, finding bugs, and so forth."

(from Somewhere Nearby is Colossal Cave, Dennis Jerz)

It's not a matter of a smaller niche. Withouth D&D, there would have been no such niche, not in those earliest years.

So what other influences were there? The arcade shooters (etc) were all there, independent of D&D. Maybe sim-type games would have taken off earlier, led by Hammurabi and Oregon Trail. There were Star-Trek-themed space-exploration games... Hunt the Wumpus? Maybe, maybe not, and Gregory Yob isn't around to ask. But Pong, Pac-Man, all those, they wouldn't be affected.

So there would have been games. But I can imagine years going by in which computer games did not have the notion of you on the screen acting. The player would control a starship, or an empire, or a yellow chompy dot, but not an avatar of himself.

It would have come along eventually, I suppose. And, okay, this is an extreme extrapolation.

Nonethless... I'd bet quite a lot that the computer game industry as we know it would have launched later and slower. Up until the mid-90s, it was adventures and RPGs that were big games; they drove the game industry in the direction of big budgets and big development groups. The arcade games weren't doing that. So, if RPGs had been delayed, the whole industry would have been delayed.

(Once Doom hit, it became the game-industry driver -- in the US, anyway. I suppose Japan remained firmly entrenched with CRPGs, the Final Fantasy crowd.)

And it goes without saying that a bunch of MIT wackos would never have formed a wacko startup called Infocom. So, there's my life unrecognizable. But I wouldn't be the only one.



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