The History of CRPGs

This guy has been working on a book about the history of CRPGs for the past 4 years and finally put out a version 1.0 of it.

You can read it online here (PDF):

Pretty cool dive into some games I forgot about a long time ago. I have to say I was sad not to find Citadel: Adventure of the Crystal Keep in there. :)

Cool, I read about that a while back. Nice to see it released. I will have to give it a read!

Wowie. Thanks for this.

Wait, Starflight isn’t procedurally generated! I’m gonna print up a copy just so I can throw it out a window!

Dude, the game comes with a starmap.

I know! It’s not procedurally generated at all! It’s VERY static. Still huge enough to make exploration meaningful of course, but not procedural. Man I’m mad.

I misunderstood where you were going with that, my bad. I haven’t had a chance to read the doc yet, maybe tonight. Coincidentally, I’ve rediscovered the CRPG Addict’s website again to see what he’s up to, he always has a far more methodical way of working his way through the CRPGs he plays. Good analysis of both Starflights too.

Could he mean that the (static) map was procedurally generated during development (and selected from however many runs because it felt good) rather than human designed? I seem to recall some games of the era that have done that, but don’t recall if Starflight was one.

This is super cool! Thanks for posting, Clay.

The original Elite had a procedural map that changed with each playthrough, but nope, both Starflight games were static.

But the real universe was procedurally generated, and Starflight was made by humans who exist in that universe, so in that sense it too is procedurally generated.


Also, there was probably some procedure used to generate Starflight’s universe, so in that sense as well Starflight is procedurally generated.

There are a few articles about it around and I think the source code is hanging out somewhere.

Elite (1984)
Elite, created by Ian Bell and David Braben and released on the Acorn BBC Micro, defined a generation of British games and started a history of procedural generation.
Elite is a game that...

That tumbler thing didn’t embed properly but the gif is cool.

Understatement of the millennium!

Never mind all those images of people faceplanting off of skateboards. This is why the gif was invented.

That gif is really cool - I never played the original elite but I think it’s awesome that the basic design of the Cobra has been consistent.

Still the best ship in the game.

To complete the effect you need this tune running in your head while you look at it.

I’m quite pleased with this book. It points out that games like Fallout 3 and Mass Effect 2 were not the unblemished gems that critics claimed they were, but it’s not overly contrarian and edgy. And most importantly, it correctly calls Darklands “one of the best RPGs of all time”.

Seeing as how Mass Effect 2 is, at best, 1/3 the game that Mass Effect 1 is, that’s reasonable.