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Wizardry: The first CRPG?

Many of us know that the venerable Ultima [1] series of role-playing games [2] had its spiritual origin when Richard Garriott [3] developed Akalabeth [4] for the Apple II in 1979. But according to SyFy [5], it was the 1981 game Wizardry that qualifies as "the first computer-based RPG".

Although declaring anything the "first" is debatable, the video is a good overview of the era in which Wizardry released and the factors that made it popular. I would've appreciated if the video dissected the game's reception in other regions: Wizardry achieved significant fame in Japan and saw many sequels exclusive to that country. The game was also translated to French, as I discovered with this manual that Brutal Deluxe [6] brought to KansasFest [7] 2017.

The Wizardry manual… in French!

The write-up that accompanies the SyFy video is less accurate: observing that "[The developers] had to face the technical limitations of the era (such as writing the game in basic and very limited memory space)" overlooks that the final game was developed in Pascal. And saying that "There were eight games in all in the Wizardry series, starting with the notoriously hard Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord and ending with Wizardry 8, released in 2001" is accurate insofar as the main series goes, but it omits the franchise's spin-offs, of which there have been many.

Sadly, there aren't many modern versions of Wizardry available for gamers to choose from these days. In 2011, I blogged [8] about the PlayStation 3 and iOS release of Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls. But the PlayStation 4 supplanted the PS3 in 2013 [9], and the game is no longer available on iOS, either. The only modern incarnation of the franchise that's currently available is Wizrogue – Labyrinth of Wizardry [10], available for Mac, Windows, and Linux on Steam as of February 24, 2017.

Given the lack of gameplay, it's not the most compelling trailer. But it's nonetheless good to see the series live on, if in name only.

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#1 Comment By Jonathan Badger On Mar 12, 2018 @ 7:38 am

So the French version has the "Mad Overlord" be a heretic suzerain. Not exactly a direct translation. Is Werdna a Lutheran in this version?

#2 Comment By Trilkhai On Mar 13, 2018 @ 1:48 am

All I can imagine is that either the SyFy people didn't do their homework, or they had already decided to do a video about Wizardry and chose to define "RPG" in a way that targeted it specifically — because even if we ignore the 1980 Cal Pacific release of Akalabeth, EPYX published a best-seller called "Temple of Apshai" in August 1979…