The release of Stanford’s list of most important games, as posted in The 10 Most Important Games?, generated some discussion, especially as not one title on the list was an RPG.

Coyote posted a list of his own that redressed the error. I didn’t do one, because I’m not familiar enough with all genres. However, Presto suggested a compilation of just role-playing games. Hey, why not? Everyone else seems to be making such a list these days.

But such a list can’t be just “games I really liked”. To get on my list, a game had to introduce something new, and which was built on in future products (by that company or another), in some way or another.

Therefore, a lot of old games are here, which will be no surprise to most people. After all, it was mostly those early games that defined the genre. Later ones may have been more refined and sophisticated, but they were working off what went before. So let’s get started.

Advanced Dungeons And Dragons. This is where it all began. Not a computer game, of course, but without it, who knows how long it may have taken to bring RPG to the computer? The influence of this one system has been so enormous, it should be on every list.

Telengard/Temple Of Apshai/et al. Simple translations of the basic RPG combat system, these were mainly “smash and grab”. Kill critters, find Neat Stuff, grow stronger, kill more critters: the endless grind. However, they did show, very definitely, that RPG (or some aspects of it) could be translated to computers. Apres moi, le deluge.

Wizardry. It was a dungeon crawl, it was primitive, but it introduced a couple of important features. First was the goal. Unlike the above products, Wizardry had a definite conclusion: killing Werdna and retrieving Trebor’s amulet. Along with that came the first real party system. Finally, you could create an entire group of adventurers to slaughter dungeon denizens.

Ultima I. Took us out of the dungeon and into a full world. Now we could roam the outdoors as well as plod through underground corridors. This was the beginning of real exploration in RPGs, and the change from linear to open design. Ultima also gave us, though in a limited fashion, conversation with NPCs. That added some verisimilitude: there were people in the world who were neither shopkeepers nor monsters to kill.

Ultima IV. The first – and still, so far, the only – game that required more than just building fighting/magic skills for your character. Of the eight virtues, only one – Valor – related to combat. The other seven were about spiritual and personal values: honor, self-sacrifice, humility, justice, honesty, spirituality, and compassion. Each had to be built up; superificial lip service didn’t work here. Also, U4 brought in the non-Foozle ending: the conclusion was not to kill some ultimate “bad boss”.

Might & Magic I – Building on previous games, M&M introduced “Do this for me”, or, “The Quest”. While no people were to be seen – towns were overrun with monsters – you would come across locations where someone would give you a job to do. Additionally, there were NPCs you could take into the party, although they were mercenaries and had to be paid (however, I believe this showed up first in M&M II). Once in, you controlled them just like your own people. And finally, M&M introduced us to skills: swimming, mountaineering, etc. that were needed to reach certain locations, or would enhance a character’s abilities.

Wizard’s Crown. Here we had, for the first time, real tactical combat in an RPG. Perhaps not surprising, since it came from SSI, famous for their strategy and war games. Up to this point, combat had been a fairly bland (though still tense) activity.

The Gold Box Series. Also from SSI, these were the first well-done renditions of actual AD&D rules, 1st edition. They set the standard for all future AD&D (later just D&D) games.

Eye Of The Beholder. Yes, another from guess who? SSI. This was the game – fortunately or unfortunately – that began real-time combat in RPGS. Since movement was by keyboard, fights were often difficult. But the series went three games, and showed real-time was catching on.

Baldur’s Gate. Not a game that I liked. However, it introduced the “pre-generated NPC companion”, the person who could join your party but had a definite personality, personal goals, and sometimes was uncontrollable.

So, there’s my list, which stands at ten, though I didn’t plan it that way. No doubt there may be one or two I’ve overlooked. But before you all chime in, keep in mind this is about influence, and about what game gave us something first. Okay kids, go to it ;).