Akalabeth: World of Doom
|Akalabeth: World of Doom|
|Publisher(s)||California Pacific Computer Co.|
|Release date(s)||circa 1979 (limited release),
1980-1981 (California Pacific release)
|Genre(s)||Role-playing video game|
Akalabeth: World of Doom (pron.: //) is a role-playing video game that had a limited release in 1979 and was then published by California Pacific Computer Company for the Apple II in 1980. Richard Garriott designed the game as a hobbyist project, which is now recognized as one of the earliest known examples of a role-playing video game and as a predecessor of the Ultima series of games that started Garriott's career.
The game was made by then-teenaged Garriott in the BASIC programming language for the Apple II while living with his parents and attending high school in the Houston, Texas suburbs. Begun first as a school project during his Junior year using the school's mainframe system and Apple II computer, as well as another Apple II bought for him by his father, the game continually evolved over several years under the working title D&D with the help of his friends and regular Dungeons & Dragons partners who acted as play-testers. Development of the game began soon after his initial encounter with Apple computers in the summer of 1979. When the game reached version D&D28b later that year (where "28b" refers to the revision), he demoed the game - now renamed to Akalabeth - for his boss at Clear Lake City, Texas-area ComputerLand, who suggested he sell the game to the store's clientele. Garriott consented and briefly packaged and distributed the game inside Ziploc bags, along with a cover drawn by his mother, within the store, selling fewer than a dozen copies. His boss secretly sent the sixteenth copy to California Pacific Computer Company, who proved interested enough to contact Garriott about purchasing the rights and publishing the game. Garriott flew to California with his parents and signed a contract with California Pacific to give them the publishing rights. He would receive $5 for each copy of his game sold. The game ended up selling 30,000 copies, netting Garriott $150,000. California Pacific went bankrupt not long after the release of his next game, Ultima.
In creating Akalabeth, Garriott was primarily inspired by Dungeons & Dragons, for which he held weekly sessions in his parents' house while in high school; and the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, which he received from an in-law of his brother. The name derives from Tolkien's Akallabêth, part of The Silmarillion; though the game is not based on Tolkien's story. Also, while not explicitly stated, Akalabeth is seen as the first game of the Ultima series, a very popular and influential series of role-playing video games. It was, therefore, included as part of the 1998 Ultima Collection where it officially picked up the nickname Ultima 0. The version in the Collection added CGA colors and MIDI. It ran on DOS, making it the first official port of the game to any system other than the Apple II, though an unofficial, fan-made PC version had circulated on the Internet since late 1995.
In the original game, the last monster on the need-to-kill list is called "Balrog", exactly like the demonic monsters from The Lord of the Rings, and unlike the later name for the monster in the Ultima games, Balron.
Gameplay and technology 
Essentially, the game attempts to bring the gameplay of pen-and-paper role-playing games to the computer platform. The player receives quests from Lord British (Garriott's alter-ego and nickname since High School) to kill a succession of ten increasingly difficult monsters.
The majority of gameplay takes place in an underground dungeon, but there were also a simple above-ground world map and text descriptions to fill out the rest of the adventure. The player could visit the Adventure Shop to purchase food, weapons, a shield and a magic amulet; the player's statistics can also be viewed here.
The game used concepts that would later become standard in the Ultima series, including:
- First-person gameplay in dungeons
- Requiring food to survive
- A top-down overhead world view
- Hotkeys used for commands
- The use of Elizabethan English
Garriott's earlier versions before D&D28b used an overhead view with ASCII characters representing items and monsters. However, after playing Escape, an early maze game for the Apple II, he instead decided to switch to a wire-frame, first-person view for the underground dungeon portions of the game.
While crude by modern standards, in 1980 Akalabeth's graphics and dungeon crawl gameplay mechanics were considered quite advanced, and the game attracted a large amount of attention. And, since Akalabeth was written in Applesoft BASIC, an interpreted language, it was a simple matter for users to modify the source code to suit their needs or desires. For example, the game's magic amulet, which occasionally did unpredictable things like turn a player into a high-powered Lizard Man, could be set to do so with every use, progressively increasing the player's strength to the point of virtual indestructibility. One could also set the player's statistics (normally randomly generated and fairly weak to start) to any level desired.
Release date 
Most sources, including Garriott himself and Origin Systems, say that Akalabeth was created in the summer of 1979 and sold that year in Ziploc bags. However, labels of the first release are clearly marked "© Richard Garriott 1980". The dates of 1980 and 1981 for the California Pacific releases are not disputed.
Remakes exist for
- iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad in cooperation with the author Richard Garriott at QuantumToast.com/Akalabeth
- Java ME-platforms in mobile phones by dimjon.
The game was reviewed in 1982 in The Dragon #65 by Bruce Humphrey. Humphrey concluded that "Akalabeth is a poor cousin in relation to Wizardry and some of the other recent role-playing computer games."
- Barton, Matt: Dungeons and Desktops: The History of Computer Role-playing Games (A K Peters Ltd, Wellesley MA, 2008), pg. 1
- King, Brad; Borland, John M. (2003). Dungeons and Dreamers: The Rise of Computer Game Culture from Geek to Chic. McGraw-Hill/Osborne. ISBN 0-07-222888-1. Retrieved 2010-09-25.
- The Official Book of Ultima, by Shay Addams, Second Edition, page 7
- The Official Book of Ultima, by Shay Addams, Second Edition, page 8
- Humphrey, Bruce (September 1982). "Campaigns for the Keyboard". The Dragon (65): 73–74.
- Akalabeth at the Codex of Ultima Wisdom
- Akalabeth: World of Doom at MobyGames
- GameSpot: "The Ultima Legacy - D&D28b and the Apple II"
- The Dot Eaters article on Gariott/British, Akalabeth, and his other Ultima games.