December 9, 2009
Creatures Of Habitat (@1up.com)
There is a loving historical tribute to the role that Lucasfilm’s Habitat played in the history of MMOs at 1up.com:
Creatures of Habitat
What modern day MMORPGs borrowed from Lucasfilm’s ahead-of-its time adventure — and what they still could learn from it.
By Scott Sharkey
After another year of massively multiplayer online game crib deaths, we can’t help but be reminded of the MMOG that started the whole thing back in 1985 — well over a decade before the genre even had a name. Lucasfilm Games’ Habitat remains an unaccountable anomaly in the history of videogames, a multiplayer online world from the days long before the advent of the World Wide Web. It’s the sort of historical oddity that stands out as dramatically as, say, the discovery of a fossilized dinosaur holding a machine gun: Incredible, but pretty damn cool.
Hell Is Other People
In addition to being perhaps the earliest example of a graphical MMO, Habitat was one of the first games to embrace the concept of emergent gameplay. Habitat’s designers threw a bunch of strange people into a huge space full of a whole lot of weird toys and items and just watched to see what would happen. It was a kitchen sink approach, in line with their philosophy that “[c]entral planning is impossible. Don’t even try.”
Of course, some of the things that happened were murder, theft, bug exploitation, and runaway currency inflation. The game’s designers advocated a hands-off approach to administrating the world, encouraging players to administer themselves, but they did intervene on occasion. The solutions to those problems (and the debate over whether they even were problems) were enlightening glimpses of the kinds of things that other designers would have to wrestle with decades down the road…
The two-page article is worth the read if you’d like a great short summary of what’s possible when no one tells you that chasing your dreams is a fools errand…
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