D&D Based Computer Games

D&D was the inspiration for the entire genre of computer role-playing games.

There is nothing else in the modern world, with the exception of The Lord of the Rings, has propelled imaginations to far off fantasy realms as Dungeons and Dragons. D&D, as most people who play call it, started with Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. They created a game that can be played without a board or any clear way to win. The game encouraged players to use their imaginations to get out of fantastical situations. The first D&D game set came out in 1974 and has expanded from a tabletop game to magazines, books, cartoons, movies and computer games.

The first computer game based on D&D was developed in 1974-1975, less than a year after the first box set came out, by Gary Whisenhunt and Ray Wood for the PLATO system. It was not affiliated with Gygax’s game, but it used elements from D&D including its name, dnd. In this game, you created a character and went through a multi-level dungeon to collect treasure, kill a dragon, and find an orb. You had to fight through assorted monsters to reach your goal.

From those humble beginnings, many other D&D games were created and as technology improved, so have the games. Games have also been released on gaming consoles but most of the games released continue to be for the computer. The first officially licensed D&D games were Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Cloudy Mountain and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Treasure of Tarim. They were released in 1982 for the Intellivision. After these two, TSR, the company that owned the D&D rights, signed on with SSI in 1987. The first D&D game they put out was Pool of Radiance in 1988.

Most RPG’ers consider Pool of Radiance to be the starting point of the Golden Age of computer RPG’s. It had a wide platform release range including Nintendo, Atari, Commodore 64, and a PC version. Players were able to choose one of the four basic classes (fighter, magic user, cleric, or thief) and would have to manage a party of six characters. It is considered to be the first game to portray the rules of D&D accurately. Many of the images of the monsters you encountered came straight from the Monstrous Manual, giving it more of a genuine gaming feel.

After Pool of Radiance, TSR and SSI developed over 30 games based on the D&D settings including Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, Dark Sun, and Mystara. In 1991, Neverwinter Nights was released, the first multiplayer online RPG that used graphics. TSR, SSI, and AOL co-developed this game that allowed hundreds of people to adventure at the same time in the same city. The game was run by AOL from 1991-1997.

In 1998, Baldur’s Gate was released and revitalized people’s interest in computer RPG’s. It was the first D&D game to be released after Wizards of the Coast bought TSR. It did not use a turn-based system like other games did up to that point, instead it used a pausable real-time system where characters were issued orders when the game is paused and carry them out when it is un-paused. Game play and NPC’s reactions to you were affected by your actions throughout the game.

After Baldur’s Gate, an expansion for Baldur’s Gate (1999), Planescape: Tournament (1999) and Icewind Dale (2000) were released but none of them were as well received as Baldur’s Gate. In September 2000, Baldur’s Gate II was released and became an instant best seller. You were able to import your group from the first game or you could create a new group and start adventuring. It allowed you the freedom to do side quests if you wanted or just stick to the main storyline. It was also multi-player compatible so you could adventure with your friends. To this day, most people say that this is the best computer RPG ever made.

The next important D&D game released was Neverwinter Nights. It was not a great game like Baldur’s Gate II, it was average at best, but what distinguished this from previous games was it featured full 3-D graphics and it had a DM Client and adventure maker. The DM Client was a tool you could use to create your own adventures to play by yourself or to play with your friends in multi player. Two expansions have been release for Neverwinter Nights that helped smooth over some of the weaknesses of the game.

Then in 2006, D&D finally took the last step it was working towards since the AOL version of Neverwinter Nights and became an MMORPG. Dungeons & Dragons Online was developed over two years by Turbine in coordination with Wizards of the Coast. It is set in the realm of Eberron and a large part of it is based on D&D 3.5 rules. In 2009, DDO tried to entice more people to play by switching from a paid subscription to a limited free to play subscription.