DragonRealms is a medieval fantasy game set in the world of Elanthia., it was developed from 1992-1995 and released in February 1996. It was originally intended for an online service planned by the Ziff-Davis company. When Ziff-Davis did not launch the service, DragonRealms was offered on GEnie and later AOL, Compuserve, and Prodigy. After AOL and other services went to flat fees instead of an hourly rate, DragonRealms was offered on the web on its own site and through the Microsoft Gaming Zone.
The design basis for the game was created by Simutronics founder David Whatley, in response to a production request for a new game to open at the same time as the then-pending Ziff-Davis online service. While in development, the team called its as yet unnamed game many things, including "GemStone IV" and "Project Bob." When the Ziff-Davis contract was cancelled, the game was renamed as DragonRealms, and opened on the GEnie service, where Simutronics already had other games including GemStone III and Orb Wars.
The game was implemented by a team of on-site employees and off-site contractors, led by Eric Slick, Elonka Dunin, and John Donham, with assistance from Tina Hill, Stephanie Shaver, David Dean, Nancy Gross, Jim Penrose, and Melissa (Callaway) Meyer, who later became producer of GemStone III. In later years, GemStone III was extensively updated and took the more appropriate name for itself of GemStone IV, though this was no relation to the earlier working title of the DragonRealms game.
The two games, DragonRealms and GemStone, are said to take place in the same game universe of Elanthia, but in different eras, though it has not always been clear which game world pre-dated the other. Both games are considered flagship products of Simutronics, and have been some of the longest-running and most popular online text games in existence. They were the top two products on GEnie, and in the mid-1990s were the top two games on America Online, together bringing in over one million hours per month of usage.
During the first half of 2004, the staff of Simutronics and DragonRealms engaged in a major overhaul of the system to make it work with the newer game engine (IFE2). This project was dubbed "DR2" but, unlike GemStone IV, the actual name of the game was not changed.
DragonRealms 2 removed some programming limitations which made it difficult to come up with some kinds of new content and new mechanics. However, DragonRealms 2 did not in itself come with major new gameplay systems or content visible to the player; it was a behind the scenes transition enabling the Gamemasters to create such systems in the future.
DragonRealms 3 went live on January 19, 2013. This update, much like DR2 before it, updated a many systems of the game and the underlying code. However this time, many of the changes were highly visible to players. Some skills in the game were combined, and new skills added, and many systems were rewritten entirely. Simutronics sent out some free trial emails for players who had previously made a Dragon Realms account to return to the game and experience the new changes.
On March 10, 2015, Dragonrealms began offering "free to play" accounts.
Character creation and gameplay in DragonRealms allows players to assume the role of a variety of races and professions and participate in combat, trading (in multiple currencies) and other activities in an array of different settings. Naval travel and combat, non-standard casting (magic) classes and a use-based training system and a comparatively active base of players distinguish DragonRealms from many other text games. Subscribers can choose to play on one of three different game servers, including the "Prime" server (intended for normal gameplay), the "Platinum" server (intended for mandatory roleplay acting) and "The Fallen" (intended for unrestricted player killing, idle time and use of scripted commands).
Gameplay on DragonRealms also shares elements common to many role-playing games, including the ability of players to increase character level (referred to as "circles" in DragonRealms) through experience gained in-game. Players train their characters' skills in specific categories in order to gain strength and abilities, and progress becomes more difficult as the character develops.
- Olivetti, Justin (2011-04-19). "The Game Archaeologist plays with MUDs: The games". Massively. Retrieved 2011-04-25.
- Bartle, Richard (2003). Designing Virtual Worlds. New Riders. p. 311. ISBN 0-13-101816-7.
A virtual world can have multiple currencies, and exchange rates between them ... Simutronics' game DragonRealms successfully runs three "local" currencies.