Wasteland (video game)
||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (September 2012)|
Cover art by Barry E. Jackson
|Producer(s)||David Albert (EA)|
|Designer(s)||Ken St. Andre
Michael A. Stackpole
|Artist(s)||Todd J. Camasta (original version)
Charles H. H. Weidman III
|Genre(s)||Role-playing video game|
Wasteland is a critically acclaimed post-apocalyptic role-playing video game first published by Electronic Arts in 1988. The game was designed by Brian Fargo, Michael A. Stackpole, Ken St. Andre and Alan Pavlish, and programmed by Pavlish for Interplay Productions. Wasteland is set in a world decades after nuclear holocaust, which has turned Earth into the titular "wasteland" where survival is the paramount objective. The game's setting and concept would become the basis for Interplay's later game, Fallout, which itself would extend into a successful series.
In the year 2087, a remnant of the U.S. Army called the Desert Rangers is based in the Southwestern United States following the global nuclear war of 1998. A team of Desert Rangers is assigned to investigate a series of disturbances in the nearby areas and, throughout the game, explores the remaining enclaves of human civilization, including a post-apocalyptic Las Vegas. The player's party begins with four characters, and through the course of the game can hold as many as seven characters by recruiting certain citizens and creatures of the wasteland to the player's cause.
Over the course of the game the player's party discovers evidence of a larger menace that threatens to exterminate what is left of the human kind in the game's region and eventually the world. The menace a pre-war AI computer that is operating from a surviving military facility, Base Cochise, where it is constructing armies of killer machines and cybernetically modified humans with which it is attacking settlements; its goal is to replace the current 'flawed' population with genetically pure specimens. With the help from a pre-war android named Max the player recovers the necessary technology and weapons in order to confront the computer at its base and stop it by making the base's nuclear reactor go critical.
The game mechanics were based directly on those used in the tabletop role-playing games Tunnels and Trolls and Mercenaries, Spies and Private Eyes created by Wasteland developers Ken St. Andre and Michael Stackpole. Characters in Wasteland consequently have various statistics (strength, intelligence and luck among others) that allow them to use different skills and weapons. Experience is gained through battle and through use of skills. The game would generally let players advance with a variety of tactics: to get through a locked gate, a player could use his picklock skill, his climb skill, or his strength attribute; or he could force the gate with a crowbar - or a LAW rocket.
The initial band of Desert Rangers encountered a number of NPCs as the game progressed who could be recruited into the party of up to seven. Unlike those of other computer RPGs of the time, these NPCs might temporarily refuse to give up an item or perform an action if ordered to do so. The game was also noted for its high and unforgiving difficulty level and for such combat prose as "reduced to a thin red paste" and "explodes like a blood sausage", which prompted an unofficial PG-13 sticker on the game packaging in the United States.
Wasteland was one of the first games featuring a persistent world, where changes to the game world were stored and kept. Returning to areas later in the game, one would find them in the state one left them in, instead of being reset to their original state, as was common for games of the time. Since hard drives were still rare in home computers in 1988, this meant the original game disk had to be copied first, as the manual instructed one to do.
Wasteland was first distributed for the Apple II and ported to the Commodore 64 and PC DOS platforms in 1988 - it is sometimes (and erroneously) listed as being published in 1987, because that year appears on the title screen of the Apple version. While all versions were nearly identical in terms of gameplay, the EGA PC port had upgraded graphics (there was also a CGA version), although the C64 boasted the best sound. The PC version differed by having an additional skill called "Combat Shooting" which could be bought only when a character was first created.
Wasteland was rereleased as part of Interplay's 10 Year Anthology: Classic Collection in 1995, and also included in the 1998 Ultimate RPG Archives through Interplay's DragonPlay label. These later bundled releases were missing the original setup program, which allowed the game's maps to be reset, while retaining the player's original team of Rangers. Jeremy Reaban wrote an unofficial (and unsupported) program that emulated this functionality.
One of the other features of this game was the inclusion of a printed collection of paragraphs which the game would instruct the player to read at the appropriate times. These paragraphs described encounters and conversations, contained clues, and added to the overall texture of the game. Because programming space was at a premium, it saved on resources to have most of the game's story printed out in a separate manual rather than store it within the game's code itself. The paragraph books also served as a rudimentary form of copy protection, as someone playing a copied version of the game would miss out on much of the story as well as clues necessary to progress. Additionally, the paragraphs included a completely unrelated story line about a mission to Mars intended to mislead those who read the paragraphs when not instructed to, and a false set of passwords that would trip up cheaters with results that ranged from character sex changes to detonating a bomb.
Computer Gaming World awarded Wasteland the Adventure Game of the Year award in 1988. Their review cited "its ease of play, richness of plot, problem solving requirements, skill and task system, and graphic display" as elements of its excellence. In 1992, Computer Gaming World wrote that this "classic mix of combat and problem-solving" was the favorite of the magazine's readers in 1988, adding, "the way in which Wasteland's NPCs related to the player characters, the questions of dealing with moral dillemas, and the treatment of skills set this game apart." In 1996, Computer Gaming World ranked it as the ninth best PC video game of all time for introducing the concept of the player's party "acting like the 'real' people."
In 2000, Wasteland was ranked as the 24th top PC game of all time by IGN, called "one of the best RPGs to ever grace the PC" and "a truly innovative RPG for its time." According to a retrospective review by Eurogamer in 2012, "even now, it offers a unique RPG world and experience ... a whole fallen civilisation full of puzzles and characters and things to twiddle with, all magically crammed into less than a megabyte of space." According to an IGN retrospective article that same year, "time has not been kind to Wasteland, but its core concepts stand firm."
Wasteland was followed in 1990 by a less-successful intended sequel, Fountain of Dreams, set in post-war Florida. Electronic Arts got cold feet at the last moment, and did not advertise it as a sequel to Wasteland; in fact, none of the creative cast from Wasteland worked on Fountain of Dreams. Interplay themselves worked on Meantime, which was based on the Wasteland game engine and the universe but was not a continuation of the story. Coding of Meantime was nearly finished and a beta version was produced, but the game was canceled when the 8-bit computer game market went into decline.
Interplay has described its 1997 game Fallout as the spiritual successor to Wasteland. According to IGN, "Interplay's inability to prise the Wasteland brand name from EA's gnarled fingers actually lead to it creating Fallout in the first place." There are also Wasteland homage elements in Fallout 2 as well. All games in the Fallout series are set in the world described by its characters as "Wasteland" (for example, the "Midwest Wasteland" in Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel or the "Capital Wasteland" in Fallout 3). A major part of the Fallout universe is the military organization Brotherhood of Steel, whose origins are similar to the Desert Rangers and the Guardians of the Old Order of Wasteland. A group called the Desert Rangers actually appears in Fallout: New Vegas.
- Barton, Matt (2007-02-23). "Part 2: The Golden Age (1985-1993)". The History of Computer Role-Playing Games. Gamasutra. Retrieved 2009-03-26.
- "The Top 25 PC Games of All Time". IGN. July 17, 2000. Retrieved 2010-02-10.
- Why People Give a Shit About a 1988 PC Role-Playing Game, Kotaku, Feb 17, 2012
- Why Wasteland 2 is Worth Getting Excited About, IGN, March 16, 2012
- Interplay's 10 Year Anthology for DOS (1993) - MobyGames
- The Ultimate RPG Archives - PC - GameSpy
- The Unofficial Wasteland Reset Program
- "Retrospective: Wasteland". Eurogamer. 25 March, 2012.
- "Computer Gaming World's 1988 Game of the Year Awards". Computer Gaming World. October 1988. p. 54
- Kritzen, William (May 1988). "Wasted in the Wasteland". Computer Gaming World. pp. 28–29
- CGW 100: "3900 Games Later..."
- CGW 148: "150 Best Games of All Time"