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Avatar is an early graphics-based multi-user highly interactive role-playing video game, created on the University of Illinois' PLATO system in the late 1970s. It has graphics for navigating through a dungeon and chat-style text for player status and communication with others. It can currently be played online via Cyber1 or a simulation called Javatar. What makes Avatar popular is the high level of interactivity with other players and the sense of community that develops. Development on Avatar began on the University of Illinois PLATO system around 1976 by Bruce Maggs and Andrew Shapira, who were junior high school students at the time. They were soon joined by David Sides, who was a student at the University of Illinois. The first version was released in 1979.
Avatar was a successor to several innovative and highly successful role-playing games on the PLATO system, most notably Oubliette, written by Jim Schwaiger and published on the PLATO system in 1977. It was so difficult that one could not play it alone; in order for players to survive, they had to run in groups. Following Oubliette, also on PLATO, was a game called Moria written in 1977, copyright 1978.
Classic as well as modified versions of Avatar 84 are operating on Cyber1. When the NovaNET system existed, it hosted original versions of both Avatar 95 and Avatar 90. It was also possible to play versions of Avatar 84 and Man 60 Avatar on Novanet. These last two games operated with the old game data on the Avatar 95 engine, which was not quite the same as playing through the original engine. The NovaNET system was shut down in November 2015.
- Mordor: The Depths of Dejenol - a PC based clone of Avatar
- Dear, Brian (2017). The Friendly Orange Glow (First ed.). Pantheon Books. pp. 298–305. ISBN 9781101871553. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
- Bartle, Richard (2003). Designing Virtual Worlds. New Riders. p. 741. ISBN 0-13-101816-7.
Jim Schwaiger's 1977 game Oubliette (inspired by Dungeons & Dragons and Chuck Miller's earlier multiplayer game, Mines of Moria) had a first-person point of view and used line graphics to render the scene ahead. [...] In late 1979, the first ever fully functional graphical virtual world was released: Avatar. Written by a group of students to out-do Oubliette, it was to become the most successful PLATO game ever--it accounted for 6% of all the hours spent on the system between September 1978 and May 1985.
- "PLATO History: August 31, 2015: The End of the Road for NovaNET". www.platohistory.org. Retrieved 2018-11-11.
- Richard A. Bartle · MMOs from the Inside Out: The History, Design, Fun, and Art ... 2015- 50b: "PLATO was a more integrated system, running on Control Data Corporation machines. It was way ahead of its time... It also saw several multiplayer games, the most celebrated of which, Avatar, would today be regarded as an MMO".
- "The Game Archaeologist: The PLATO MMOs, part 2". Engadget. Retrieved 2018-11-11.