Ask the Blogosphere…Game Design Elements

06 Dec

There’s an answer to everything on teh intraweb.  You just have to ask.  As a gamer, and someone who appreciates great design, I’ve always wondered what games actually pioneered some of the basic features or design elements we now all take for granted.  With most new games, we only notice when some of these things are absent.  Sometimes when we see them in a new game, we say “oh they just ripped this off from game X.”  This is where innovation meets convergent evolution.

If I get sufficient responses, I’ll summarize and repost.  We all have a general idea where some of these originated, but game lore masters, help us out.  Part trivia, part design retrospective.  Call it an exercise in back filling game design lore.

Name the game and/or approximate date that the following was implemented in a game.  I’ll throw out eleven to start, but feel free to suggest other elements and their origin as well.  Note, many of these things may have been developed outside of MMOs (maybe even non graphical games), but we find them now in many games across many genres.

1.  The target circle (that ground level highlight that shows who you’ve targeted).
2.  The radar/mini map
3.  The In-Game World Map
4.  Taxi Travel (birds, boats, trains, teleports and other non-player controlled transport)
5.  The Bank (Player specific storage)
6.  The Quest Log
7.  Recall Travel (the ability to return to a fixed point instantaneously)
8.  Player Housing
9.  WASD movement controls (out of the box).
10. Player to Player Trade
11. Mail

Anyone? Anyone? Buehler?


Posted by on December 6, 2007 in Uncategorized


Tags: ,

10 responses to “Ask the Blogosphere…Game Design Elements

  1. tenfoldhate

    December 6, 2007 at 8:39 am

    Ew, I really like this challenge, though my wet brain and lousy memory make me hesistant to even take a stab at answering. I bet the answers will really show just how darn derivative MMORPGs are and how game mechanics, though more polished nowadays, have pretty much just been repackaged and recycled for the better part of the last decade.

  2. p@tsh@t

    December 6, 2007 at 10:02 am

    C’mon, take a chance. The blogosphere only piles on the weak and wounded occasionally…;)

  3. osiris1975

    December 6, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    Alright, I’ll take a shot at this. If I’m wrong I’m wrong. I don’t think I have any clue for half of them.

    1. The target circle (that ground level highlight that shows who you’ve targeted).

    Everquest 1

    2. The radar/mini map

    Wing Commander

    3. The In-Game World Map

    The Original Elder Scrolls

    4. Taxi Travel (birds, boats, trains, teleports and other non-player controlled transport)

    Asheron’s Call

    5. The Bank (Player specific storage)

    Everquest 1

    6. The Quest Log

    Anarchy Online

    7. Recall Travel (the ability to return to a fixed point instantaneously)

    World of Warcraft

    8. Player Housing

    9. WASD movement controls (out of the box).

    Wolfenstien 3D

    10. Player to Player Trade

    Meridian 59

    11. Mail

    World of Warcraft

    I’d also like to add one, because I was listening to a podcast and someone claimed that WoW was the first MMO to feature instances, which is not the case. I know the answer obviously, but I won’t spoil it :)
    Also, I’m pretty sure every one where I answered WoW is probably wrong :P Just couldnt think of anything I played that had those features htat is older.

  4. osiris1975

    December 6, 2007 at 12:10 pm

    Oops, I missed player housing. I’ll go with Anarchy Online on that one too.

  5. damianov

    December 6, 2007 at 12:53 pm

    Got to remember this one for when I’m not buried. Excellent idea.

  6. Marchosias

    December 6, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    Instanaces were avail in Anarchy Online as well… Just not sure if they were first.

  7. Marchosias

    December 6, 2007 at 1:04 pm

    And to add yet another, who was first to add conspicuous “Quest Markers” (a la WoW exclamation points).

  8. damianov

    December 7, 2007 at 5:45 am

    (Note that I’m leaving aside text MUDs almost entirely here…)

    1) Target circles: those were an RTS feature first, weren’t they? I can’t think of an early graphical MMO or RPG that had them (UO? M59? The Realm Online didn’t, as I recall.)

    I think Warcraft 1 did in 1994 (I just checked the screenshots on the box, I see target squares, but not sure if that’s a selection of a target or a unit to control/move). If Warcraft 1 had target circles, I somewhat doubt they were first with that (seems to me Fog of War was the big innovation there). I’d load it up to find out, but I don’t have a 5.25″ drive any more (doh!)

    2) M59 has a minimap now (link), but I don’t know whether it did at release (1996)… I just ran across an old Apple II game from 1987 (Phantasie III: The Wrath of Nikademus) that might qualify as a mini-map based on the screenshots… except I think that might be the _Main_ Map…

    3) In-game world map: I seriously doubt it was first, but here’s a verified data point: the RPG Betrayal at Krondor (1993) had an in-game world map, just checked the manual.

    4) Taxi Travel
    The boats in EQ1 probably qualify here, which would pre-date AC (c. 1998?).

    5) Bank
    UO had banks (“vaults”) at release… The Realm Online (1996/97) had housing and a chest within that house that might qualify as a bank, depending… as far as earlier single player CRPGs, it seems to me there were banks as far back as Wizardry… but I can’t seem to confirm anything at present. (no screenshots or manual mentions so far)

    6) Quest Log
    Good heavens… I don’t recall. Amongst MMOs, EQ1? CRPGs, I don’t know… I checked some old Apple II games from the late 80s (Might and Magic 2, Sorcerian), nothing in there that I saw along those lines, although M+M2 mentioned multiple simultaneous quests…

    7) Recall Travel:
    Do the Moongates of the Ultima Series count? Aside from that, I seem to recall a “Return to Surface” spell in Wizardry I, which would be early 80s, that migth qualify…

    8) Player Housing
    I’ll say The Realm Online, which beat UO to market by a few months as I recall. (1996?) I wouldn’t guarantee that was first even amongst graphical MUDs, and it certainly wasn’t when you include text MUDs.

    9) WASD movement
    I think this might depend on how you mean it. WASD has been an option since Wizardry I… (side note: Phantasie III (1987) used 3WES=NWES on the Apple II out of the box, which I thought was kind of cute when I spotted it…)

    10) Player to player trade
    I might go with M59 as far as graphic MUDs. Player-to-player trading was a MUD1 feature, tho, in the wider world.

    11) Mail
    This was fairly common in MUDs. Back to MMOs, didn’t EQ1 have mail, or am I misremembering? Regardless, it was another under/un-utilized feature like the bulletin boards…

    12) Instances
    Heck, the Realm Online had instances in 1996, and a limited number of them per dungeon (which would only reset every minute or so) to boot, such that you waited in long lines for your chance to go in and trudge the corridors… you had to feel sorry for the monsters assigned to randomly appear in those “entryway” zones. Ah, those were the days… :-)

    13) Quest Markers
    I think that was a WoW innovation, actually. I largely skipped single player RPGs since MMOs emerged tho, so I could well be missing a CRPG candidate…

  9. p@tsh@t

    December 7, 2007 at 11:55 am

    @damianov: You sir are a god. You should seriously consider posting the index of your archives on your site. Sounds like you’ve got some gems in there!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: