Avalon - online RPG world

The First Online RPG Game

Until November 1989, there was no such thing as a true multi-player roleplaying game online -- tabletop roleplaying games existed for decades and multiplayer adventure games, but nothing that kept running with or without you with computer as gamemaster or dungeon-master, in a coherent world with a multiplayer environment. Before Avalon a game with a few hundred loosely connected locations was the as large as it got. Other multi user games of the late 1980s and early 1990s copied the template of MUD1: more like a traditional adventure game of neat puzzles where everything reset hourly and players competed for points using basic PVP automated non-interactive fights that started and ended with KILL <player>.

Avalon was different from the start.[1] It was a continuous online RPG[2] with a consistent game-world (initially over 10,000 locations) of players able to make decisions and write history nonstop. They had abilities and skills and made guilds and owned their equipment and sold real estate and lived in cities with elected governments. In other words, Avalon became the first computer-based game master in the first multi player computer roleplaying game (CRPG) and its history began.

There isn't a game in existence with its longevity or its continuous narrative integrity. It had access by modem since the start; in 1989 shared siting, from 1990 to 1993 in two dedicated premises with terminals and sleeping quarters in London UK and Sheffield UK; then, of course, from 1994 via world-wide Internet. It had presence on the JANET system in the UK prior to the Internet explosion but moved to the MAE-EAST hub and ended modem connections in 1995 as the net brought online gaming into the mainstream.

Upon release in 1989, Avalon was the first to create these online RPG game aspects:

  • a sophisticated combat system[3] based on equilibrium and balance (cooldowns)
  • player-run guilds and cities around which ideologies formed
  • balanced professions with unique skills each with dozens of abilities
  • skill-based PVP combat that favoured talent and skill over seniority
  • player-run cities and government, with princes, barons, laws and economies[4]
  • persistent world constantly accessible retaining character status, level, skills and inventories[5]
  • gold and actual currency economics, player ownership of items, inventories and shops[6]
  • personalised descriptions and customisation of one's own avatar
  • afflictions by poisons, cures using herbs
  • divinities that follow a Greco-Roman mandate of antagonising or helping mortaldom; they serve no administrative function whatsoever[7]
  • Ordination: a series of major Gem Quests culminating in an elimination sequence until the last mortal remaining becomes a god or goddess[8]
  • real allegiances of importance: guild, city, personal patron, guild and city patrons among the Pantheon of Olympus
  • non-scripted narrative putting the direction of the world in the hands of the players, allowing them to permanently affect the world

[Avalon] has already attracted great attention in the industry due to its departure from the traditional MUD1 mould.

Richard Bartle of mud.co.uk

Rapid Expansion

Avalon expanded rapidly in its first year:

  • crafting items as Loremasters
  • simple commodity economics
  • creation of all the major professions seen today: Mage, Knight, Sorcerer, Thief, Ranger, Seer, Bard
  • the introduction of Druids as the first character archetype defined by pacifism and altruism
  • first (only?) online game granted copyright in the UK as a novel
  • created thousands of unique, beautifully written locations by 1991
  • realistic weather systems and various intricate world terrains and climates
  • fatigue, hunger and thirst

In the mid 1990s, Avalon exploded with realism:

  • between 1990 and 1992, over 1000 abilities added to the game across over three dozen skills of the many professions, all balanced
  • complete herb, poison, flora and fauna systems for animal and plant growth
  • full blown commodity economics and trading, with over 30 commodities
  • Farming and Labours: the first real commodity hunting and trading system for harvesting those commodities with each having their own hyper-realistic methods and requirements, from mining for metals from mountainous mineheads to planting and harvesting various crops in fertilised fields (see Farming and Labours list of abilities, they are largely as they were since 1994 including animal husbandry)
  • crafting items by the cities and guilds using the vast economic system
  • the first full warfare system of legions that require rations and strategy, in a PVP system of taking battlements while fighting off other players

The first game with item ownership, virtual currency, real estate, player-driven combat, cities, guilds, economics, full RPG characters with multi-ability skill development

Raph Koster's online world timeline

The Longest Running RPG in History

All of these things exist today, though they are much more refined, improved and expanded from decades ago. Avalon's roleplaying experience has never stopped since it went live, making it the longest running roleplaying game in existence.[9] Since November 2014, Avalon clocked over 220,000 hours of roleplaying as a continuous game: an unbeatable record during which its players have spent millions of hours making epic history in its unique world.

Its age and longevity render it the longest running online RPG in gaming history


Latest Innovations

As the first online RPG, Avalon was exceptionally visionary and still is today.

  • 2001: 3D warfare system with guild and city legions with 50+ unique skills, including tunnelling, mine fields, archery, mortars, melee, plundering others of resources, razing to destroy locations, fortifications and besieging them
  • 2005: professions gain specialisations to make playing experience of each profession unique and years of enjoyment. The first specialisations were:
    • Thief: Burglary with the ability to create sophisitcated lockpicking kits honed by other thieves and improved by use and care
    • Thief: Assassination with the ability to kill silently and track opponents in new ways
    • Loremaster: Opalescence gathering special powers by weaving specific gems
      • Loremaster: Skymastery to direct the weather, bring forth rain and wind and hail, harnessing the storm to affect whole regions of the world
    • Knight: Holy crusades to acquire the powers of martialism and physical discipline, gunpowder and identity armour
    • Ranger: Falconry raising a menagerie of birds with unique abilities
    • Ranger: Sylvan Lore to court the empathy of the woodland, awakening trees and wielding the ancient powers of the forests
    • Mage: Elementalism directing the raw elements, building roots of energy and unleashing devastating powers
    • Seer Oracles that can watch and effect the whole world from the ethereal winds
    • Seer True Mystics with companions that can learn skills from their target and become dopplegangers to take over another player's existence
  • 2007: Divine Warfare system to commpete for control over the divine realms and obtain special Realm Powers based on percentage of ownership; every location in the world has a unique signature that influences other aspects of mortal gameplay
  • 2008: Reputation and renown system allowing whole cities and guilds to define their ideals and reap special Globe Powers for use
  • 2010: The entire world is given additional heights and depths to all places with hidden oil, caves, treasures and other secrets for tunnelling legions and players to explore
  • 2014, January: A new economic model called Sponsorship: player activity quantified as divine globe power and guild reputation can be used to 'pay' for another player so they can play for free indefinitely and exists alongside subscriptions without any difference between them
  • 2015, February: Divine Marriage, allowing divinities to couple together in a permanent alliance of shared give and take using each other's realm powers and patronage of mortals to their dual benefit

Sources and Corroboration:

  1. Richard Bartle's UK Reviews: "Avalon is a new MUA that has already attracted great attention in the industry due to its departure from the traditional MUD1 mould."
  2. Richard Bartle's UK Reviews: "There are no resets."
  3. Richard Bartle's UK Reviews: "Combat is non-automatic, which makes life hard for people without macros or fast modems."
  4. Avalon's Wikipedia article: "it was Avalon that pioneered many features that have since become signature components of the roleplaying game genre: real economies, distinct ecosystems and weather effects, Gods with followers and priests, player housing and autonomous governments, skill-based real time PVP combat and a fully realized warfare conquest system."
  5. Wikipedia's MUD article: "It was the first persistent game world of its kind without the traditional hourly resets."
  6. Raph Koster's Timeline of Online Worlds: "the first game with item ownership, virtual currency, real estate"
  7. Matt Mihaly of Iron Realms Entertainment: "Avalon had an in-game virtual religion system before we did, for instance."
  8. Richard Bartle on "firstmonday": "... players becoming gods was pioneered by the virtual world Avalon."
  9. Avalon's Wikipedia article: "Its age and longevity render it the longest running online RPG in gaming history."
  10. Avalon via Alexa
  11. Avalon on The Daily Dot