Akalabeth

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Transcript:

Hello and welcome! My name is Katosepe and I’ll be your host for today’s Video Game of the Day.

Video game history can be an interesting thing. It isn’t always the best games that create the biggest ripples. In fact, sometimes the most influential and important games in history are downright bad by today’s standards because the new element that made them fun in the first place has been done so much better since then. Today’s game is one of the most influential for RPGs but is probably not worth playing today for entertainment value alone. Today’s game is Akalabeth: World of Doom, developed by Richard Garriott and released on Apple II computers in 1979.

Akalabeth has been nicknamed Ultima 0 and for good reason. Before Richard Garriott, better known by his moniker Lord British, created the legendary Ultima series, he simply wanted to craft a Dungeons and Dragons adventure that someone could play on the computer. After he showed his boss at the computer store he worked at, they suggested he package the game and sell it in the store. Akalabeth’s first retail presence was in this store, sold as floppy disks in ziploc bags and photocopied instructions.

If you have played his later Ultima games, Akalabeth will feel immediately familiar, if not a bit aged. You are instructed by Lord British himself to find and destroy 10 powerful monsters that are causing chaos around the world. You are given some gold and are sent off on your quest, without a clue to be had. The overworld presents players with a single pixel for their character. They can move around the top-down map to find dungeons. Food must be managed on the overworld as every space costs one food. Running out of food results in your character starving.

Once a dungeon is found, the game turns into a first-person dungeon crawler, using vector graphics to draw the corridors and monsters. When a monster is approached, players must use their equipped weapon to attack, cast spells, or use items to defeat them. Afterwards, the player receives experience for defeating the monster. Health potions can heal but the game will likely require multiple trips back to town to heal as the player levels up and can progress deeper into the dungeon.

Through sheer luck, a copy of Akalabeth would wind up in the hands of the California Pacific Computer Company who offered to sell the game for Garriott, only freshly out of high school. His family agreed and flew out to California. Akalabeth would sell 30,000 copies, a massive number for those days. Richard Garriott would improve on the idea to create Ultima only two years later and the rest is history.

Thank you so much for listening! If you are as big a fan of gaming history as I am, you should go take a look at the sponsor for our show, Old School Gamer Magazine. They have plenty of great articles on their site and have a bi-monthly digital magazine that can be sent to your inbox absolutely free. This isn’t a promo or a sale either where the price will kick in after a month or two, no, it’s just free! If you have fond memories of sitting down with your new issue of Nintendo Power, GamePro or Game Informer, you owe it to yourself to check out Old School Gamer Magazine. Subscribe using my link oldschoolgamer.com/day. That’s oldschoolgamer.com/day. Don’t forget to check back here tomorrow for another Video Game of the Day.

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Devin "Katosepe" Sloane is a long time gamer and host of the show Video Game of the Day. He firmly believes Darklands is the pinnacle of gaming achievement and this is a hill he will die upon. Where his nickname came from is a secret to everybody.