I was writing a chapter about one of my favorite silver-age CRPGs, Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord today. It’s been awhile since I dug into the research, and was intrigued by one of CRPG Addict’s posts about its key inspiration, Oubliette. Oubliette was one of many highly innovative and ahead-of-their-time games for the PLATO system, which has been on my mind since my most recent interview with Richard Bartle, the main main responsible for MUD (forthcoming on Matt Chat). Bartle got pretty animated when the subject of PLATO came up. In his opinion, the influence of PLATO and its games is highly exaggerated. In his case, apparently people tend to claim or insinuate that he himself was inspired to create MUD after playing some MUD-like games on the system, though he’d never even heard of it.
Of course, in my interview with Robert Woodhead (co-creator of Wizardry), the subject of PLATO came up, too. Woodhead was very passionate about how influential PLATO had been, and as far as I know never made a secret of his passion for several PLATO games, including Oubliette, whose influence on Wizardry is clear to see (as CRPG Addict makes clear). Anyway, I noticed some pretty heated comments on CRPG Addict’s post, including some from Corey Cole, co-designer of Quest for Glory. Cole pointed out that basically there was no wrongdoing here, since the development context of Oubliette was entirely different (even though its designers did go on later to attempt a few commercial releases, one for the C64 and a more recent one for mobiles). In any case, I do have to agree with CRPG Addict that it’s a little odd that there wasn’t even a slight nod to the original game to be seen.