Wizardry, the classic dungeon crawl computer role-playing game (CRPG) from Sir-Tech, is back as a massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) as Wizardry Online, developed and produced in Japan by Gamepot, Inc. In my book, The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, I explained what made Wizardry different from other CRPGs:
Whereas previous games centered on creating a single adventurer, Wizardry perfected the party experience. Up to six characters from an assortment of races were possible: dwarf, elf, gnome, hobbit, and human, and four classes: fighter, mage, priest, and thief. It featured six stats: strength, I.Q. (intelligence), piety, vitality (constitution), agility (dexterity) and luck. There were also four elite classes, shades of prestige classes that would appear later in Dungeons & Dragons 3.0: bishop, samurai, lord, and ninja. The party then ventured into a maze of ten levels, with each level becoming progressively more difficult.
Wizardry used a first-person perspective, three-dimensional vector graphics, and supplemented the graphic with textual descriptions. When monsters are encountered, the picture of the maze is replaced by the monster.
Inspired by Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Wizardry was very unforgiving. There was no mapping program, which meant that players had to draw their own map as the game unfolded, just like the mapper in the early tabletop versions. Teleportation could randomly teleport the party into a solid objecting, killing them instantly – also an artifact of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Wizardry would go on for another eight installments over the next twenty years.
This latest iteration of Wizardry builds on the fearsome reputation of the original, according to Massively:
Wizardry Online is marketed as a “hardcore” MMO, which means all the things you think it does: permadeath, open PvP, players looting your stuff and general fearing for your life. Gameplay relies mostly on traditional MMO mechanics but raises the stakes by making death a very serious thing and letting everyone attack everyone else at will. This “hardcore” layer is then tossed on top of a visually bland dungeon-related minigame collection in the guise of an MMO. The result is a hodgepodge of stellar ideas that are frustratingly under-delivered.
Although Wizardry Online claims to be the first MMO to debut these innovations, many of them have been a trademark of Multi-User Dungeons (MUDs) for decades. Permadeath and open PvP, along with the possibility of having your character’s corpse looted, were all part of the Ivory Towers and Shades MUDs. As I explained in my book:
My experience with MUDs began with Ivory Towers, a game wherein two different-aligned cities, one chaotic the other lawful, battled in an endless struggle against each other. My character, Lamech, ascended in the ranks of a tight hierarchy of chaotic priests and was a peaceful non-combatant; a novelty in a bloodthirsty world where killing other player characters was the norm.
It’s noteworthy that I was playing Ivory Towers at the same time Indra Singh was playing Shades (1999). Shades players were reviled across Ivory Towers, who would invade when Shades was down (or they were bored), gleefully committing mass murder in a bloody invasion that ended as quickly as it started.
It remains to be seen if Wizardry Online will live up to the hype of its predecessor. To sign up for the beta of Wizardry Online see the web site.
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