The Shadow of Yserbius

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The Shadow of Yserbius
Developer(s)Ybarra Productions
Publisher(s)Sierra On-Line
Release1991 (Incl. with TSN)
1992 (Offline Port by Sierra)
1994/5 (Incl. with INN)
Mode(s)Single player

The Shadow of Yserbius, originally published by Sierra On-Line and developed by Joe Ybarra of Ybarra Productions, was the first of three graphical MUDs for the online community. Opening to rave reviews, The Shadow of Yserbius, according to industry critics,[who?] set the standard by which all future MUDs would be judged. The game was followed by two sequels entitled The Fates of Twinion (1993) and The Ruins of Cawdor (1995). Until recently, only The Shadow of Yserbius and The Fates of Twinion were playable in offline mode.

The Shadow of Yserbius, along with its successors, remained online until 1996, when America Online purchased the rights from then-owner AT&T for an undisclosed price (rumored to be $40 million). AOL soon pulled the plug on The Shadow of Yserbius, which was a competitor to its existing online RPG Neverwinter Nights.

In late 2007, the ImagiNation Revival Project succeeded in resurrecting the long-dormant ImagiNation Network by using the original client software coupled with DOSBox. The Shadow of Yserbius was again available for online play with all features, graphics, sounds, and such fully intact and functional. Macros are fully supported and compatibility with old character and map files is enabled for TSN/INN versions 2.4 and higher. In early 2016, the server was shut down making online play not possible.


Combat was simple turn-based point and click fare, typical of many graphical RPG's of its time.

The goal of the game was to kill an evil elemental creature called En-li-Kil. There were a number of "rooms", where up to 30 (later 60) people could meet and adventure together in groups of up to four. Combat was turn-based.

The available professions were Barbarian, Knight, Ranger, Thief, Cleric, and Wizard. Player races included Human, Orc, Elf, Troll, Dwarf, Gnome, Halfling, and Gremlin.

Another popular pastime was player vs player sparring. This later became corrupted by cheating, as well as version compatibility issues, which later versions tried to address with little success. The most popular of these cheating programs was a macro called VitaminF.

Many players were members of guilds, ranging from the SoF (Soldiers Of Fortune), KoY (Kingdom Of Yserbius), EMPIRE and DEADZ, to guilds such as TheMercs, KoC (Knight of Chivalry), KAAOS (Killing As An Organized Sport), and the FTT (Friendship, Truth, and Trust Guild). While some guilds were based on role playing at times, some of the guilds were dedicated to helping others with interest in the Quests and building strong characters. A handful of the guilds started in Yserbius during the early 1990s, such as SoF, TheCelts, KAAOS, DEADZ, TheMercs, New Outriders, and the FTT, still exist to this day.

Source of information for gameplay. Detailed walkthrough available at Yserbius Forum Source of information for Gameplay Original Manual in PDF form at

The Tavern[edit]

The tavern was the social hub for the game. Players who spent a lot of time in the tavern were known as "tavern rats". Many games and challenges took place there, as well as a significant amount of roleplaying.


Computer Gaming WorldFinalist, Online Game of the Year, June 1994[1]

Computer Gaming World in 1993 called the online version's static artwork "lovely" and approved of the questing and, especially, the social nature of the game. The magazine concluded that "Those who possess the money would be well served to try out TSN and Yserbius".[2] In June 1994 Shadow of Yserbius: Fates of Twinion was a finalist for Computer Gaming World's "Online Game of the Year" award, losing to Multiplayer BattleTech.[1]

Computer Gaming World in 1994 stated that the boxed set of offline versions of Yserbius and Twinion "a hollow shell of its vibrant on-line self ... Playing Yserbius without fellow on-line gamers is like being in an amusement park after hours, on in which the rides aren't all that fun to begin with". While acknowledging that "there is something to be said for" its "refreshingly simple" gameplay, and the usefulness of an offline way to learn and level up characters for the online version, the magazine concluded that most fantasy RPG players would be disappointed when Betrayal at Krondor, Lands of Lore, and other alternatives were available.[3]


Doubtless due to the popularity of The Shadow of Yserbius, the perceived simplicity of its engine, and the fact that most of the graphics are easily reproduced, there have been several attempts to remake the game.

The Ruins of Cawdor (second sequel to Yserbius) has been patched to be playable offline.

Current Projects[edit]

ImagiNation Network[edit]

In May 2007, the INN Revival team were able to get their server emulator to the point where a playable version of Yserbius that is online and open to the public. Unlike the early remake versions, this successful attempt uses Reverse engineering of the client software to build a working server for all of ImagiNation Network features including Yserbius and SierraLand. With the emulation software used (DOSBox), it is possible to use the original INN client software and connect to the INN Revival server over a regular Internet connection, instead of requiring the use of a modem as the previous versions did. Once connected, many of the original features have been brought back on-line, including MedievaLand (the play area featuring The Shadow of Yserbius.) Once online and in MedievaLand, you can connect to Yserbius and join others in Sword Swamp (currently the only available Tavern). Preliminary testing indicates that almost all of the functionality of Yserbius Online has been retained under this setup. It is also backwards-compatible with popular macros such as VitaminF (a character modification program) and pre-existing player and map files from the original ImagiNation Network releases. Work on bringing back Fates of Twinion and Ruins of Cawdor occurred at some point during 2007 and was completed in early 2008. Once work on bringing back Fates of Twinion and Ruins of Cawdor had been completed, it had achieved similar results to Yserbius in terms of playability and was completely working online, since the two other games are based on the same gameplay engine and similar file structures.

Note: Since the current client in use is based on the 2.4 INN client, two popular Yserbius bugs/features are no longer available: characters can no longer "force" equipment into use that excludes their Guild, such as a Ranger being able to force into use the War Hammer of Doom; and, players below a certain level cannot be teleported past the Labyrinth Gate, as was possible in earlier versions such as 2.0 and 2.1.

As of the start of 2016, the INN Revival server has been offline, making the ability to play INN over the internet once again not possible.

Yserbius Java Chat[edit]

Another test version of The Shadow of Yserbius was created a year earlier in mid-2006 that allows users to enter the Tavern and chat with others. This version was built in Java and can be found at Yserbius.Org.

Abandoned Projects[edit]

The first remake attempt was Gandalf's 'Yserbius project', which was in development in 1998. Gandalf, a major force in the Yserbius community, disappeared in early 1999. With his going, all information regarding his project was lost. I was threatened by AOL's lawyers, even though they didn't have a leg to stand on, I didn't have the resources or support to do battle with deep pockets; further some of the hackers that were assisting me didn't welcome exposure. My deep regrets to all my old TSN /INN friends, mates, and fellow beta's. My love for you all remains in my heart. ☆GANDALF☆ yserbiusGANDALF January 2018.

In mid-1999, Xenther and EtoneDarkKnight worked together on developing Project Asunder, a spiritual successor to Yserbius. Numerous screen shots were shown, with actual gameplay implied. However, EtoneDarkKnight fell out of communication with the public late that year, and Project Asunder was closed shortly thereafter.

In early 2000, Mithrandel announced development of Yet Another Yserbius (YAY). While Mithrandel claimed to have finished development of the Tavern and extended beta test invitations to a small group of testers, no public beta test was ever released. Mithrandel later went on to develop FauxINN, a recreation of The ImagiNation Network.


  1. ^ a b "Announcing The New Premier Awards". Computer Gaming World. June 1994. pp. 51–58.
  2. ^ Baker, Samuel II (May 1993). "A Trip Into the Fiery Environs of TSN's Yserbius". Computer Gaming World. p. 78. Retrieved 7 July 2014.
  3. ^ Yee, Bernie (February 1994). "Role-Playing Reversal". Computer Gaming World. pp. 144, 146.

External links[edit]