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Computer Games That Defined RPGs In the 1980s 350

adeelarshad82 writes "The 1980s were huge for RPGs. This genre was one of the most defining game forms in the computer gaming world. A recently published article strolls down the memory lane to look back at classic computer games that both defined and extended the definition of the RPG in the 1980s. The roundup includes some obvious ones like Ultima and The Bard's Tale, and others which you may never have heard of."
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Computer Games That Defined RPGs In the 1980s

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  • Quest for Glory... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:28PM (#39322585)

    Nuff said. Great series...humor was great.

  • Only 70% (Score:5, Funny)

    by tpstigers ( 1075021 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:31PM (#39322599)
    I played 7 out of these 10 when they were cutting edge. I wonder if this makes me old or just "classic".
    • You're old. (Score:5, Funny)

      by khasim ( 1285 ) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:42PM (#39322667)

      I bet you even went to brick and mortar stores to buy such games.

      My favorite was "Nybbles and Bytes" across from the Tacoma mall. I was sad when they closed.

      • Re:You're old. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anarchduke ( 1551707 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @02:17AM (#39323501)
        Nah, but i did download them off a BBS, only took a weekend or two per game.
      • by Pathwalker ( 103 )

        At the local mall, there was a "Babbage's" and an "Electronics Boutique" right by each other. They would always try to undercut each other, so you would want to check both.

        I remember one stuck with the old 8 bit systems for longer than the other, but I can't remember which.

        There was also an odd local store which stocked Atari 8 bit series stuff until at least 1995; they had only Atari hardware; ST and Falcon 030 computers; and Jaguar game consoles.

    • by nomadic ( 141991 )
      Me too, I played them all except Wizardry, Starflight, and Dungeon Master. I do remember very vividly the Wizardry ad that used to run in Computer Gaming World (best game magazine ever until they changed the format) with the topless, green-skinned girl. Good times. Of course, the greatest RPGs of that era still remain Ultima 5 and Wasteland.
    • Wait till you get your fair share of "Pong" ... then you can call yourself "Old" or "Classic"

    • Re:Only 70% (Score:4, Interesting)

      by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Monday March 12, 2012 @02:48AM (#39323657) Journal

      I think the correct word is "retro", at least that's the word my oldest used when he STOLE ALL MY CONCERT SHIRTS!!! I found him wearing my DLR Eat 'Em and Smile tour 86 and i'm like "dude? my shirt?" and he said 'Are you kidding me? These retro shirts are cool! All the girls at the college just love how cool these retro concert shirts are!' moral of the story? you get old enough and your clothes even end up "retro hip".

      As for TFA, anybody remember "Eye of the Beholder"? Or the original Phantasy Star? Those were the games that got me into RPGs. I'll probably get hate for daring to say so but two of the most beloved series i never did get, syndicate and fallout. I don't know why but those games just left me cold. For a couple of good ones many may not have played (not as old as TFA though) head over to GOG and check out Sacred and Divine Divinity. Huge worlds, tons of missions and subquests that you can do pretty much in any order you like, pretty fun.

  • I always liked the RPG in Duke Nukem best, though that was more '90s.
  • Available at GOG (Score:5, Informative)

    by ckblackm ( 1137057 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:32PM (#39322611)
    Alot of those games are available for purchase at GOG.com Disclaimer: Not affiliated with GOG.. just a customer. :-)
    • I picked up all the Ultimas during a sale they had recently. Just for the record, some things don't always translate well from memory: U3 is tough grind, and unlike the grinding in WoW, staring at 3D wireframe dungeons is nowhere near as fun.

      I also picked up the entire M&M pack. Might and Magic 3, despite the robots, really kicked ass (it came out in '91).

      Playing MYST right now.

      GOG is awesome.

    • Yeah. Wish they'd bring back that game, plus its sequel, Eternal Dagger. I miss WC, with its complex turn-based tactical combat system.

      • by Creepy ( 93888 )

        I loved WC, but never got to play Eternal Dagger (nobody ever had it in stock). AFAIK, it was the first skill based RPG (you gain skill points as you play instead of levels). Still, the game was Ultima-ish in presentation. Was a relatively serious game, but had a killer rabbit "Easter egg" (quotes because it was easy to find - the big black area on the map).

        As far as innovative games, I'd say the platformer Below the Root was missed - while not the first platformer by far, and certainly not popular (due to

  • Final Fantasy 7 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by genjix ( 959457 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:35PM (#39322629)

    Seriously when are they going to remake this game? As a long term fan of old school RPGs like Chrono Trigger, Breath of Fire 3, Panzer Dragoon Saga, Suikoden, ... Final Fantasy 7 was an epochal and defining moment in the whole history of video games!

    It has been consistently voted as the best game of all time. The characters were stunning each deserving of games in their own right, and experienced large character arcs. The story was amazing and well ahead of any film or book I have ever seen/read. The story of FF7 can be understood on multiple levels and there are dozens of themes that are introduced throughout the game, left hanging while more are introduced and then wrapped up later.

    The end of disk 1 was the saddest moment I have ever felt playing a video game. Quite how the story built up that relationship and that the unexpected twist was gut wrenching.

    FF7 is a skillful masterpiece. The new generation needs this classic in an updated format. It's a shame that games are not timeless like books. They really do age fast.

    • Re:Final Fantasy 7 (Score:5, Informative)

      by jeffasselin ( 566598 ) <cormacolinde@gmai l . com> on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:55PM (#39322763) Journal

      People asked Squaresoft Enix if they would ever consider doing open-world, really long Final Fantasy games again, or if they'd consider making a remake of the older ones. They said it would be almost impossible to update those games to PS3 graphics because the amount of work involved to produce such a game would be too high.

      Which shows us the problem with modern consoles: great graphics, decent or terrible gameplay, short-ass games.

      I myself didn't like FF13 at all. I enjoyed FF13-2 a lot more, but goodness that game was short.

      • I find most of the best RPGs these days are coming out on the DS platform (mostly remakes of old games). I'm really surprised this genera hasn't caught on more in mobile devices. It's seems like a perfect platform for those sort of games.
      • Re:Final Fantasy 7 (Score:5, Interesting)

        by shish ( 588640 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:29AM (#39322971) Homepage

        They said it would be almost impossible to update those games to PS3 graphics because the amount of work involved to produce such a game would be too high.

        Personally I don't want "PS3 graphics" if that means looking like the modern games -- the whole reason I think FF 7/8/9 are so beautiful is that the worlds are largely hand-drawn 2D; all I really want changed in a remake is to have those same drawings re-scanned at a higher res :-P

      • Thing is, Square-Enix were wrong about the cost of producing an open(ish) world Final Fantasy game, with world map, side-quests, exploration and whatnot on a current-gen console. And they weren't just a little bit wrong, they were very wrong. Extravagantly wrong. Wrong with cherries on top.

        See, it's been done - and pretty early in the console cycle. Lost Odyssey, from Mistwalker, was a game cut from exactly the same mold as the Playstation era Final Fantasies. It had a world map, controllable boats and airs

    • Re:Final Fantasy 7 (Score:5, Informative)

      by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:55PM (#39322765)

      Title of this article: Computer Games That Defined RPGs In the 1980s When was FF7 released?

      Besides, FF6 was better :P

    • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

      ugh, get the PC version, and I personally think you read into it too much, its a traditional 2d RPG with video and the start of the OMFG get on with it overdramatic story lines, not jeebus

      "It has been consistently voted as the best game of all time."

      not by the lists I read ... see how that works?

    • Here here! FF7 was my very first RPG, and to this day, I am still trying to chase that high to this day... I don't think I will ever have an experience like that again.
    • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      Planescape: Torment puts FF7 to shame in any form or terms of a cRPG. I have one of the 'rare' PC versions of FF7, good game, enjoyable. But not a masterpiece.

  • Wasteland. (Score:5, Informative)

    by falzer ( 224563 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:35PM (#39322631)

    Wasteland. The spiritual ancestor of the Fallout series.

  • Obvious omissions (Score:3, Informative)

    by WinstonWolfIT ( 1550079 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:36PM (#39322635)

    Sierra Games was big back in the day, and the Kings Quest series from memory were almost as big as the Leisure Suit Larry series.

    • Re:Obvious omissions (Score:5, Informative)

      by Goaway ( 82658 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:46PM (#39322701) Homepage

      Those are not RPGs, they are adventure games.

    • Some of Sierra's old games are still amongst my favorites. However, there's no way they could possibly be classified as RPGs. They're adventure games.

  • by GoodNewsJimDotCom ( 2244874 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:45PM (#39322689)
    I like how if you run away from melee range, the melee guy gets a free swing at your back. I like aiming lightning bolts in a line and bouncing them off walls. I like trying to get as many creatures in a fireball without having allies inside. I liked the initial quest to clear the slums of monsters.

    Between Pool of Radience/Wasteland/Final Fantasy 1 and Legacy of the Ancients, I learned a lot about where game design can bring you in terms of successful systems.
    • I used to hire Heroes (level 4 NPC mercenaries), take them out into the slums, and at the end of a random enounter, put them under with a Sleep spell, murder them while they napped, and hock their magic weapons (after my characters were all decked out of course). Got me up the first few levels really quickly (lots of XP for a level 4 kill at level 1) and a decent chunk of change.

      And my Lawful Good characters didn't even care :P

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Reminds me of Liberation Captive 2 on the Amiga. Normally killing people and stealing their stuff would get you in trouble, but if you just sandwiched them in a doorway and kept pressing the door close button they would get crushed to death without your party being blamed.

    • by nomadic ( 141991 )
      Really? I thought Wasteland was brilliant, but I really disliked the SSI games like Pool of Radiance, they played like wargames (not surprising for SSI). They also had a tendency to feel like they were made with a construction set instead of coded from scratch.
    • by UpnAtom ( 551727 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @03:05AM (#39323731) Homepage

      TOEE is still going strong. For a game that's still closed source, the amount of fixing and extending that has gone on is incredible.

      http://www.co8.org/forum/index.php [co8.org]

      It's based on core D&D 3.5, although lacks prestige classes and a few things are broken.

      There was a discussion somewhere about why TOEE and Jagged Alliance are better than Dragon Age/2/Origins. One of the games' designers said that it's all about turns -- without them there's no proper rhythm.

      The graphics are decent in TOEE too.

      The new Jagged Alliance might get fixed up yet. The new XCOM might have awesome turn-based combat.

  • Temple of Apshai? (Score:5, Informative)

    by mveloso ( 325617 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:46PM (#39322695)

    Has everyone forgotten this classic?

    As a note, Wizardry 1 was really awesome - it was hours and hours and hours of fun. Trebor and Werdna ruled!

    • I loved Temple of Apshai and also the sequel, Hellfire Warrior.

    • by na1led ( 1030470 )
      My first RPG on a computer. My friend purchased this game for his Atari 800 computer and we played it for hours. I later realized the game was written in Basic and I could make modifications and cheat.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MikeyC01 ( 231948 )

      Temple of Apshai is a FABULOUS game. I spent many hours (playing and waiting for it load on the cassette player) on this game on my VIC-20. I even had to go out and buy the 16K expansion module to run it!

      It seems so long ago now :(

  • by Lando ( 9348 )

    Pool of radiance, Something like 15-20 disks

  • ADVENTURE (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:53PM (#39322749)

    That is all.

  • by Tastecicles ( 1153671 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:09AM (#39322857)

    NETHACK! Classic, genre-defining game. Unbelievably funny as well (where else do you get to write a spell with a magic marker(!)?)
    and Douglas Adams' BUREAUCRACY. Very difficult even now, but doable.

    • They do mention Rogue though, which I think will count as nethack. Bureaucracy was good, though I think the best Infocom game of all time was Trinity. Planetfall was awesome too.
      • They messed up though. They said rogue was first on IBM PC which is ludicrous.

      • by Miamicanes ( 730264 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:36AM (#39323329)

        Utterly brilliant ad -- "We stick our graphics where the sun don't shine" -- http://www.atarimania.com/pubs/hi_res/pub_infocom.jpg [atarimania.com]

        You know, it amazes me that whomever ended up owning Sierra Online's IP never officially resurrected their "VGA-era" remakes for iPhone and Android (if not Palm). I personally experienced "Day of the Tentacle" for the first time running under ScummVM on a Treo (we were having a hurricane, I knew we were going to lose power, and loaded it up in preparation so I'd have something to play when the lights went out), and it ran fairly well. If Sierra had any foresight (and whomever ended up inheriting them had any brain), they probably digitized everything at 640x480 & downsampled them from that point anyway (or still have the original art ready to re-digitize at 480x848), and with just a few tweaks, they'd sell like crazy (even people who know they can rip and run them with ScummVM would probably just say 'screw it' and pay a buck or two to save the trouble).

        • DOTT was 1993 :) Still, bloody good game. I have a copy - and it works on windows 7!

  • I've never been into RPG much; but I remember playing this one. The 3D maze was somewhat cutting edge at the time and it was quite fun.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Dungeons_%26_Dragons:_Treasure_of_Tarmin [wikipedia.org]

  • Telengard rocked (Score:2, Informative)

    by bocin ( 886008 )
    I used to play telengard on my Atari 800xl. Great oldie!!
  • Forgotten Realms Unlimited Adventures. It was a pool of radiance style game and a creator of such games. I remember making so many adventures and monsters with that game, well into the late 90's even.
  • by Wolfling1 ( 1808594 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:20AM (#39323237) Journal
    There were too many good games to name them all. EOB was one of them. What about Akalabeth? Truly classic. What about some of the early MUDs? Many an hour was lost (when i should have been studying).
  • by antdude ( 79039 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:40AM (#39323347) Homepage Journal

    http://desli.de/3ZZ [desli.de] for one ugly web page with all showing. ;)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:41AM (#39323353)
  • by Hackysack ( 21649 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @02:32AM (#39323577)

    Ultima, Bards Tale, how many of these games are franchises bought by EA which sits on them and doesn't develop the franchise?

  • by Majutsushi ( 205979 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @03:38AM (#39323825) Homepage

    This guy [blogspot.com] is playing through all of the computer RPGs ever released in chronological order and gives them a critical, but fair review from a modern perspective in addition to interesting observations while he's playing them. He's currently at the end of 1988. It's definitely worth reading if you're interested in the history of CRPGs.

  • a game spanning only two 360K disks that had hundreds of stars and planets, Easter eggs, and a great story, really hasn't been equaled. Even with just two diskettes they were able to know where you had been on planets. You could move the story for the most part at your own pace and some of the conversations with various races were down right hilarious.

    Starlight 2 while not as good had some great ideas as well, especially a race which had three distinct personalities.

    Sometimes I think that game designers were far more creative early on because the constraints of the systems were so great. They could not hide behind flash effects and graphics.

    • by Hatta ( 162192 )

      Star Control 2 is a fantastic update to the Starflight formula. Been a long time though, we could use another.

  • by Fross ( 83754 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @06:07AM (#39324337)

    One game that isn't given enough credit but was miles ahead of everything for the time was Tunnels of Doom for the TI-99/4A. It was a framework with two games bundled (the simplistic "Pennies and Prizes" and "Quest for the King") that was meant to host further games, though no more were ever released, to my knowledge. it featured:

      - 16 colour graphics
      - Randomly generated dungeons
      - 3D filled vector graphics for exploring, switching to overhead icon-based for combat
      - 4 character classes, level progression
      - Item upgrades, random effect treasure.
      - In-game maps

    And this was in *1982*!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tunnels_of_Doom [wikipedia.org]
    http://ridingthecrest.com/edburns/classic-gaming/tunnels/images/ [ridingthecrest.com]

  • Dungeon Master (Score:4, Interesting)

    by billcopc ( 196330 ) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Monday March 12, 2012 @07:18AM (#39324589) Homepage

    Even in 2012, I still play the fuck outta Dungeon Master. I fire it up every few years and play it through. I don't know why, but ever since I discovered it in my friend's massive pile of Amiga disks, I was hooked and had to get it for the ST, and later for the PC. But then, I've never even heard of:

    - The Faery Tale Adventure
    - Starflight
    - Pool of Radiance
    - Phantasie

    And yes, I've been around. I just wasn't a C64 guy, my home was the Atari. And I think it needs to be said: this top 10 list sucks! There is so much repetition in there, too many dungeon crawls that all end up being the same. DM was a real-time one, the others were turn-based, but beyond that distinction there was a staggering amount of repetition across titles. It simply isn't a genre that allowed much in the way of innovation. Walk, fight, loot, solve simple puzzles.

  • Alternate Reality (Score:5, Insightful)

    by na1led ( 1030470 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @08:41AM (#39324973)
    Now there is a game way ahead of it's time back in the early 80's. I'm surprised they didn't mention this because it was very popular back then.
  • Dungeons and Dragons (Score:3, Informative)

    by HeLLFiRe1151 ( 743468 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @08:43AM (#39324983)
    Those games didn't define RPG's, paper and pencils Dungeons and Dragons did that. Those games just advanced it to the masses.
  • by Njoyda Sauce ( 211180 ) <jnjpepper@hotmai l . com> on Monday March 12, 2012 @09:27AM (#39325335)

    to be a small 1 pointer at the bottom of an old thread, but in case anyone is still mining...

    In addition to wasteland which was already mentioned (which finally has WL2 coming!!) I think there was another awesome RPGs not mentioned:
    Alternate Reality (the dungeon)

    This great game has it all - humor, great music, discovery, tons of monsters and items and a neat story. It's really hard, but worth it.
    http://www.lemon64.com/?mainurl=http%3A//www.lemon64.com/games/details.php%3FID%3D101 [lemon64.com]

    and a modern reboot:
    http://www.crpgdev.com/ [crpgdev.com]

  • by KingMotley ( 944240 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @11:08AM (#39326207) Journal

    I was disappointed they didn't mention Alternate Reality. It was definitely ground break breaking technology in that game and it had so much potential if the series wasn't killed off.

Heuristics are bug ridden by definition. If they didn't have bugs, then they'd be algorithms.