Wizardry: The Birth of Role-Playing Video Games

Robert Woodhead explains how he created Wizardry and inspired future generations of stat-mongering roleplayers. (Part 2 of 5)

Robert Woodhead explains how he created Wizardry and inspired future generations of stat-mongering roleplayers. (Part 2 of 5)

Part 2 of our interview with Wizardry creator Robert Woodhead.

Mat Westhorpe: Robert, thank you for agreeing to answer a few questions. It really is a privilege to get some insight from someone who has played a fundamental role in the early evolution of RPG video game design. Looking at your legacy, it certainly seems to make sense of your commitment to your role as a member of EVE Online‘s Council of Stellar Management. With the recent release of F2P MMO Wizardry Online, the modern reinvention of your brainchild, I’d like to know more about that legacy.

Along with Andrew C. Greenberg, you created Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord on the Apple II way back in 1981. It was well received at the time and is described as one of the first RPGs to evolve beyond the text adventure format. How did Wizardry come about and what part did you play in its creation?

Robert Woodhead:Andy and I were both at Cornell, and avid users of the PLATO system (which basically invented everything you love about the internet, including multiplayer games, in the early 70s). I had to take a year off because of low grades (too much PLATO, not enough studying) and during that year, was writing computer games. I wanted to see if something like the PLATO dungeon games could be written on a microcomputer, and started working on a game I called Paladin, in Apple Pascal. At the same time, Andy had been writing a game he called Wizardry, in Apple Basic. By some happenstance, we found out of our similar interests, compared notes, and decided to collaborate. And the rest, as they say, is history.


MW: It seems that Wizardry was built on similar ideals to the Ultima series which was first released around the same time. Wikipedia states that by 30 June 1982, Wizardry had sold 24,000 copies to Ultima’s 20,000. According to your Wikipedia page, you made a cameo appearance in 1982’s Ultima II. What was the relationship between the two games and its developers? Was there rivalry?

RW: We ran into Richard Garriott [aka Lord British, creator of the Ultima series] a few times at computer game conventions, but other than that, there wasn’t much of a connection between us, and certainly no rivalry. Back then, everyone basically did their own thing, and we rarely saw other games before they were released (especially since Andy and I were living in upstate New York).

Next: Wizardry: Turning Japanese and MMORPG That Nearly Was


Feature Index:
  1. An Interview with Robert Woodhead, Creator of the Genre-Defining RPG, Wizardry
  2. Wizardry: The Birth of Role-Playing Video Games
  3. Turning Japanese and MMORPG That Nearly Was
  4. The Mad Overlord and the Online Generation
  5. The Wider World of Woodhead

About the author

Mat Westhorpe

Broken paramedic and coffee-drinking Englishman whose favourite dumb animal is an oxymoron. After over a decade of humping and dumping the fat and the dead, my lower spine did things normally reserved for Rubik's cubes, bringing my career as a medical clinician to an unexpectedly early end. Fortunately, my real passion is in writing and given that I'm now highly qualified in the art of sitting down, I have the time to pursue it. Having blogged about video games (well, mostly EVE Online) for years, I hope to channel my enjoyment of wordcraft and my hobby of gaming into one handy new career that doesn't involve other people's vomit.