開發者訪談回顧:Richard Garriott談與遊戲行業的歷史淵源

開發者訪談回顧:Richard Garriott談與遊戲行業的歷史淵源

本文選自一本關於Apple II的新書

原作者:David L. Craddock 譯者:Willow Wu

下文選自Schiffer Publishing出版的Break Out: How the Apple II Launched the PC Gaming Revolution,你可以在亞馬遜上購買這本書。本書收錄了業內頂尖遊戲開發者們的訪談內容,通過閱讀你可以瞭解到超過12個里程碑式PC遊戲的製作過程以及這些遊戲給後繼者帶來了哪些影響。

Richard Garriott曾以爲跟他年紀差不多的孩子他們的父母都是宇航員。對他來講也確實是不足爲奇。“直到我去德克薩斯大學我纔看到人們現在說的‘芝麻街居民(the Sesame Street people),’”他說。

“我從沒覺得看過芝麻街會成爲鄰居跟我之間的共同話題,直到我搬出這個小區,來到奧斯汀我才知道‘等下,原來大家的父母並不都是宇航員,但是大家真的都看過芝麻街。’我着實嚇了一跳。”

Richard Garriott(from games)

Richard Garriott(from games)

雖然他1961年出生在英國劍橋,但他是在德克薩斯州休斯頓長大的。他所在的社區實際上是隸屬於美國國家航空航天局(NASA)休斯頓基地的約翰遜航空中心。他的鄰居大部分都是NASA的宇航員、承包商和工程師。比如Joe Engle,他是航天飛機項目(載人飛船發射活動)最早加入的宇航員之一。還有Robert Gibson,他的朋友稱他爲Hoot,執行過STS-27任務,這個宇航員小隊在4天多的時間內就環繞地球68圈。

他認識的所有航天工作人員中,最受人尊敬的就是他的父親。1973年,經過NASA嚴格篩選,Owen Garriott加入了美國天空實驗室項目的第二次載人任務:天空實驗室3號(Skylab 3),這是美國建立的第一個宇宙空間站。他離開了60天。安全着陸後,他的妻子Helen和四個孩子一直依靠收聽squawk boxes(連接單向內部通信系統的揚聲器設備)來關注他在太空的情況。通過這個設備,Helen和孩子們能夠聽到從外太空發回的消息。“我們甚至時刻關注着政府發出的簡報,這樣當我們聽到宇宙空間站出現故障的時候纔不會驚慌失措,” Richard回憶說。

別家的餐桌上散亂着賬單、雜誌和課本,但是Garriott家裏的到處都是航空模型、零件。“現在回憶起來,我在成長期真的接觸了很多很酷的東西。但是在那個時候,我並不覺得這有什麼奇特的,因爲我的鄰居他們也是這種家庭環境。”

Helen Garriott是一位非常能幹的妻子,在丈夫長時間在外工作的時候(不管是在地球上還是外太空),她總能料理好家裏的一切。當孩子們需要幫助來完成一項大工程時,比如建個樹屋、搭個美洲印第安風格的帳篷,她一定會二話不說捲起袖子。她是一位才華橫溢的女士,是一位藝術家,從事過藝術交易。每年夏天她都會教Richard一種新的藝術:先是繪畫,然後下一年是陶藝,她講的內容特別深,可能一般孩子都不會知道,比如她告訴Richard噴泉是怎麼建成的或者是銀器的製造過程。

從11歲開始,他脖子上就掛着一條銀蛇墜子——這是他的寶物,那年夏天手工課上做的。“它是固定的,這是我做的第一個手工作品,我還不會做鏈子扣,”他說,“鏈子扣是個技術含量挺高的零件。我到現在還沒做過一個。”

神奇的機器

Richard即將進入高中的時候,NASA給Owen指派了新的任務。NASA在1960年代招募科學家,在那之前Owen在斯坦福大學學習電氣工程,現在他的僱主想讓他回到學校,並且提供一年助學金。於是他們收拾好行李,搬到加州的帕羅奧圖市,這是一座離斯坦福大學很近的大都市。

進了古恩高中,Garriott發現這裏的很多學生都是斯坦福大學教師的孩子或者是孫子。這所學校有個優勢就是有很多在市場上買不到的硬件你都能在這裏找到。古恩高中執念於尖端技術的傳承,希望他們的電傳打字機能夠與衆不同,這臺機器和遠方某處的另一臺CDC Cyber主機連接在一起。

“我記不清那個連接有多大用處,”Garriott說,“在語言課上我們有用過:如果你用的是別的編程語言,那麼有些測試你就得在電傳打字機上完成。但是對我來說,那絕對是一臺非常神奇的機器。在那個時候,學校裏並沒有正式的編程課程,但是我可以利用放學或者下課時間自己寫程序,這並不難。

這一學年結束之後,老Garriott的助學金也沒了,他們一家人又回到了休斯頓。等待Garriott的是一個無聊至極的暑假。他纔剛剛習慣使用那臺終端機,現在卻不得不換到另外一個可能沒有這種設備的學校。Owen和Helen注意到兒子的這個興趣,就讓他參加了一個爲期7周的計算機夏令營,由夫妻倆的母校奧克拉荷馬大學主辦。那一年是1974年。“這是我第一次離家生活,”他說,頭一天他很緊張,Garriott忙着整理行李。有人來敲他的門,他開門之後,看到的是一羣孩子來跟他打招呼,說着“Hi”,他用比較正式的問候回了一句“Hello”。然後大家就笑了,男孩們說他聽起來像個英國人。從那天起,他們就真的這麼稱呼他:英國人。

“結果呢,我確實是出生於英國劍橋,我有英國護照,” Garriott說,“所以,實際上我的確是英國人。但是我只在那邊呆了一兩個月,所以我說話應該是沒有英國口音的。但是我是在NASA附近的休斯頓長大的,我的鄰居來自世界各個國家,所以我們都沒有休斯頓本土的南方口音。對於那些南方孩子來說,沒有口音的我聽起來就像個英國人。這就是爲什麼他們要用這個綽號,實際上這個綽號一直跟着我。”

Garriott和他的好友在那年夏天學到的不只是電腦知識。就像其他在1970中後期長大的少年一樣,他們迷上了TSR的《龍與地下城》,沉浸在一個奇妙的冒險世界中。“我在D&D中的角色就叫英國勳爵(Lord British),”他說,“白天我們學習電腦和數學,到晚上就是玩遊戲。”

Garriott還在學途結束之時還收穫了一段羅曼史。“從很多方面來說,那個夏天對我有着重大意義,”他說。“我第一次離家在外生活,也是第一次住在男女混合宿舍。你可以想象一下,7周的夏令營,一羣高中生離開父母居住在混合宿舍中,這樣會發生什麼事……”

兩個月之後,Garriott進入了Clear Creek High School成爲二年級生,他還得知了一個好消息:這個學校有臺電傳打字機,但是不像古恩高中那樣有連接到另一臺設備。一整個夏天他都把時間花在編程和角色扮演遊戲上,現在他有了新的目標。Garriott追求的並不是成績拔尖,他的大多數課程狀態都是沒有掛科的,但是成績並不怎麼樣,都是B或者是C。但是跟科學有關的活動是個例外。科學競賽他從未缺席,從幼兒園開始到高中畢業一直如此,而且他的參賽作品每次都能讓評審讚歎不已。隨着年紀的增長,參加的比賽規模也越來越大,從街區、地區、洲級、乃至世界級別的比賽,越來越多人見識到了他的才能。

Garriott向Clear Creek的高層提交了一份申請,並且還向他們證明自己有能力完成這些獨立項目,以此來增加說服力。“我回到休斯敦的時候,我告訴那些教職工‘我想繼續研究這臺機器。學校裏沒有和計算機編程相關的課程。因此我希望你們能夠考慮下把我使用的編程語言轉化成另一個版本的BASIC語言,而不是繼續使用另外一種語言。’”

他們欣然同意了。高中的最後兩年,Garriott還有其他少數學生根據他們各自的優勢對原有的課程做了一定更改,開啓了自主學習模式。最後,Garriott找到了和他的興趣最契合的領域:奇幻冒險遊戲和電腦。“那個階段我在自學電腦,從一開始被那臺機器的魅力所吸引,到後來我的目標就是要在電腦上嘗試運行遊戲。在這之前,我的嫂子給了我一本《指環王》。我那時還在玩《龍與地下城》。我已經很熟悉那臺特別的電傳打字機了,就跟奧克拉荷馬大學夏令營那時一樣。於是我就開始做遊戲了。”

高中的最後三年,Garriott慢慢把重心從自主課程轉到了遊戲編程。“在期末的時候,我跟教師們展示了在開學時我告訴他們我要做的那些事,然後他們就說‘聽起來不錯。這是你的成績,A。’”這就是我做的事:自學。”

《龍與地下城》

Garriott在自學編程的時候,他只能別無選擇地既當老師又當學生。沒有老師知道怎麼使用電傳打字機,他們只會啓動然後運行程序。爲了進一步充實他在夏令營所學的知識,他經常跑去報刊亭買像是Byte!和Creative Computing這類的雜誌,然後全神貫注地研究代碼清單。每份清單中他都能收集到有價值的信息,成爲他自用的編程小技巧。這樣的東西他積累的並不少,例如根據特定參數分類數據的運算法則等等。

雖說這些代碼清單很容易出現拼寫錯誤,但是排除故障也是學習的另一種方式。“當你把這些代碼輸入電腦的時候,你可能會碰到一些指令運行不順,或者它們會有拼寫錯誤,”他說,“你只能靠自己去排除故障,搞定一切事情。”

Garriott在第一個自學課程上花了非常多的時間,他開始着手設計DND1,這是他的首個角色扮演遊戲。受《龍與地下城》的啓發,DND1是個純粹的迷宮探索遊戲:進入地城,跟怪獸戰鬥,收集財寶。由於電傳打字機不能打印圖像,他就用文本字符代替圖像:星號(*)表示牆壁,空白格子表示地磚,美元符號($)表示財寶,大寫字母表示怪物,比如“A”就是巨蟻。

DND1就是根據玩家輸入的內容把對應的結果印在捲紙上。網格代表着地下城,小小的圖標代表着玩家,利用印刷一次次向網格中心移動。出現“下一步你想做什麼?”的提示時,玩家可以選擇東南西北四個方向中的任意一個,發起攻擊或者是查看物品欄。“輸入指令後,機器就會自上而下重複一遍你的指令,形成一個10×10的方陣,”Garriott說,“每個行動耗費的時間大概是10秒。”

更新、打印地城佈局是需要時間的,這就是爲什麼玩家的行動間隔要那麼久。電傳打字機把信號傳輸給校外的小型計算機設備,它可以一次性接入多個終端。必須要等計算機依次執行指令,然後把新數據發送回去。這個過程實在是太慢了,於是Garriott就換了一種比較原始但是速度更快的方法來寫代碼。

“我本來打算用筆記本來寫遊戲。那些標着DND1, DND2, DND3等等的筆記本到現在我還留着,”他說,“在‘我寫代碼的方式肯定是哪裏出了大問題。我以爲我能解決某個大問題,結果卻是讓我發現了另一些問題,重頭再來吧。’這種情況出現之前,我通常已經寫了10頁、20頁的代碼。”

進入高年級,Garriott買了一本新的筆記本,在封面上寫了“DND28”。當他進入到最後收尾階段的時候,他有機會可以用一臺新型電腦。“我剛好在學校的校長室中看見了一臺Apple II。當時我問說‘那是什麼?’他說那個是新電腦,才上市不久的。”

Garriott深深地被它所吸引,請求使用那臺電腦,也得到了准許。時長一個小時的語言課程轉移到了校長室中,在這裏他開始用AppleSoft BASIC語言寫DND28。軟盤驅動器在當時是罕見而又貴的商品,所以他把代碼存在磁帶中。

Garriott在那年夏天畢業,之後就到ComputerLand上班,這是一家連鎖零售店,主攻新型電腦市場。他平時的工作就是告訴客人們擁有一臺個人電腦的好處,引導他們購買,空閒的時候他就霸佔店裏沒人用的Apple II,繼續寫DND28。

接觸Apple II的機會並不多,這就讓Garriott犯難了。他在學校用過,在ComputerLand也用過,但他真正想要、真正需要的是一臺屬於自己的Apple II。他跟他爸說說起了這個話題,列出了在終端、Apple II上成功實現的各種東西,Owen靜靜地聽着。當Richard說到他最新版本的DND已經有了1500行代碼,他的父親微微睜大了眼睛。據他所知,這比市面上最暢銷的軟件還多。當Richard說完了這番“自我推銷”,Owen消化了這些信息,然後給出了他的回答。

“我爸他說‘Richard,你在做一件意義重大的事情’”他說,“我不太確定你最終能不能完成這個大項目。’我的感覺像是‘噢!你竟然如此低估我的能力!我不僅會把它做完,我跟你打賭它還能順利運行!”

Owen接受了這個挑戰,還給他兒子留了一些餘地。如果Richard能夠讓最新優化版本的遊戲運行起來,並且運行過程中不需要過多調試,那麼Owen就會跟他一同分擔Apple II的費用。結果Richard成功完成任務,Owen也沒有食言。Richard用自己的積蓄和他爸爸的贊助買了一臺Apple IIe,這是該系列最新、配置最好的產品。“首個REM語句產物就是DND28b,”Richard說,REM(remark的縮寫) 語句在BASIC語言中起着註釋的作用,人們閱讀代碼的時候可以看到,但是計算機會忽略。

“那就是《阿卡拉貝斯(Akalabeth)》”他說,“所以從DND1開始,到《阿卡拉貝斯》,再到《創世紀(Ultimas)》,一脈相承。我在1970年代做的遊戲都有着相同的核心構造。”

遊戲的進化速度十分驚人,字符轉換成了彩色畫面,吸引玩家的方法層出不窮,跟最初的遊戲相比可謂是天差地別。“我看着DND28,決定要把這種至上而下的字符畫面轉變成透視圖,做成俯視角度,”他說,“這就變成了DND28b。DND28b就是《阿卡拉貝斯》,其實在我設想中它還是《創世紀0》。”

Garriott計劃用簡單的線條來構成地下城。牆壁、地板和門都是由簡單的顏色線條構成,敵人也是。比起以前只用X-Y座標製作天花板和地板,用線框圖創造建築和角色需要更多的前期籌劃。他希望能夠利用距離創造出一種較逼真的視角:比如說玩家附近的門看起來應該比遠處的門要大些。高中學到概念,比如說正餘弦他都還清楚地記得。他分析問題,然後三角學知識來解決。

爲了確保他的工作不出差錯,Garriott諮詢了他最喜歡的藝術家。“我做的第一件事就是跟我媽媽一起坐下來,我問她說‘媽,如果我要畫一個地下城然後你也在裏面,你會怎麼畫?’然後她就跟我展示了她所用的幾何學技巧。”Helen在紙上畫了一條線,讓Richard發揮想象,把它當做是地平線。然後她畫了一排排豎線,代表着電線杆子(雖然Garriott腦中把這些想成了一條走廊和門),然後告訴他可以利用數學知識計算出每根“電線杆”之間的精確距離,這樣就可以在屏幕上顯得更加真實。

Helen說的幾何學技巧跟Garriott應用的三角函數所產生的結果完全吻合。爲了確保他的結果萬無一失,Richard又去找了Owen。“他用了微積分,”Richard說,“他畫的圖跟我媽一樣,然後運用微積分得出一堆方程式,最終算出來的結果跟我一樣。因此,我對我的三角函數有了信心。我得靠自己計算這些方程式,在屏幕上手動佈置像素點。”

每個像素必須非常精確地放到Garriott想到的位置上。有很多連接在一起的線條,比如說牆壁和天花板的線條,它們的連接點要設定在哪裏,這些都要計算、畫出來。“Steve Wozniak創造了硬件,”他說,“如果你是硬件製造商,你的目標就是最大限度地壓低製造成本,增加編程難度。雖然我做了一些比較明智的工作準備,能夠熟練操作硬件,但是我還是得說用Apple II畫圖實在是太難了。”

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An excerpt from a new book on the Apple II

The following excerpt comes from Break Out: How the Apple II Launched the PC Gaming Revolution, available on Amazon from Schiffer Publishing. The book chronicles the making of more than a dozen groundbreaking PC games, featuring interviews with their developers and details how those games went on influence many others that followed.

Richard Garriott took it as a matter of fact that every kid his age had parents who flew to outer space. To him, that was normal. “It wasn’t until I went to school at University of Texas that I ran into what I now describe as ‘the Sesame Street people,’” he says.

“I never specifically thought of people who watched Sesame Street as a cross section of my neighborhood until I moved out of the neighborhood I grew up in and came here to Austin and realized, ‘Oh, wait. My NASA upbringing was the fantasy; the Sesame Street fantasy is, in fact, reality.’ It was quite a culture shock.”

Although born in Cambridge, England in 1961, Garriott spent most of his formative years in Houston, Texas. His neighborhood was practically an extension of Johnson Space Center, the Houston-based outpost of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Most of his neighbors were astronauts, contractors and engineers at NASA. There was Joe Engle, one of the first astronauts to join the Space Shuttle program, a manned-vehicle launch initiative; and Robert Gibson, better known to his friends as Hoot, who went on to join STS-27, a team of astronauts who orbited the earth 68 times in just over four days.

Of all the spacefarers he rubbed elbows with, none awed Garriott more than his father. In 1973, NASA handpicked Owen to join Skylab 3, the second manned mission to Skylab, America’s first space station. He was gone for 60 days. Back on terra firma, his wife, Helen, and their four children kept tabs on him by listening to squawk boxes, speakers connected to a one-way intercom system. Through the boxes, Helen and the kids were able to listen in on communications beamed down from outer space. “We even had to get government briefings so we weren’t shocked when we heard about malfunctions,” Richard recalls.

Other kitchen tables were littered with bills, magazines, and schoolbooks. In Garriott’s household, space artifacts and hardware cluttered living spaces. “While growing up, there were things that, in retrospect, were truly amazing. But at the time, it not only seemed normal for our family, but for most families in the neighborhood.”

Helen Garriott was more than capable of holding the fort while her husband worked long hours on earth or elsewhere. When her kids needed help bringing one of their projects to fruition — such as building a treehouse or erecting Native-American-style teepees — Helen rolled up her sleeves. Among her many talents, Helen was a professional artist, and a Jane of artistic trades. Every summer, she taught Richard a new form of art: painting one year, pottery the next, going so far as to guide him in assembling fountains and showing him the ins and outs of silversmithing.

Since age 11, he has worn a silver snake pendant around his neck — his prized possession from that summer’s hands-on lessons. “It is permanently attached because, since it was the first thing I ever made, I didn’t know how to make a clasp,” he says. “A clasp is actually a fairly advanced item. I’ve still never made one.”

MAGICAL MACHINES

Shortly before Richard entered high school, NASA issued Owen new marching orders. Owen had taught electrical engineering at Stanford University prior to answering NASA’s call for scientists in the 1960s; now his employer wanted him to return for a one-year fellowship. The family packed up and relocated to Palo Alto, Calif., a metropolis located near the school.

Enrolling in Gunn High School for his freshman year, Garriott discovered that many of the students were the progeny of Stanford faculty. As such, the school had the benefit of sampling hardware not yet available to the world at large. Gunn High’s propensity for inheriting cutting-edge tech through its connections made its single teletype, remotely connected to a CDC Cyber mainframe stashed somewhere offsite, stick out like a sore thumb.

“I’m hard pressed to remember if they were used very often,” Garriott says. “It was used in a language class: if you took a foreign language, some of the testing was done on this teletype, I think. But for me, it was instantaneously a magical machine. Even at that time, there weren’t really programming classes for those machines, but it was easy for me to set up after-school or between-classes time to sit down and code them on my own.”

At the end of the school year, the senior Garriott’s fellowship came to an end, and the family returned to Houston. Garriott faced a summer of boredom. He’d just started feeling comfortable sitting at the terminal, only to be forced to join a high school that might not have one. Owen and Helen picked up on their son’s interest and enrolled him in a seven-week computer camp held at University of Oklahoma, their alma mater, in 1974. “That was my first live-away-from-home event,” he says. Nervous on his first day, Garriott busied himself unpacking. A knock sounded at his door. When he answered, a pack of kids greeted him by saying, “Hi.” He responded with a more formal “Hello.” Laughing, the boys declared that he sounded British. From that day forward, that’s precisely what they called him: British.

“Now, as it turns out, I was in fact born in Cambridge, England, and I carry a British passport,” Garriott says. “So I am, in fact, British. But I only lived there for one or two months, so I had no British accent. But having grown up in Houston near NASA, all of my neighbors were people brought in from foreign countries all over the world, so none of us had the local southern accent. My non-southern accent sounded to true southerners like a British accent. That’s why they used the nickname, but the reality behind the nickname is why the nickname stuck.”

Garriott and his cadre of friends learned about more than computers that summer. Like many teens growing up in the mid to late 1970s, they got sucked into the swashbuckling world of TSR’s Dungeons & Dragons. “Lord British became my character in D&D games,” he says. “We were gaming all night and learning about computers and math by day.”

Garriott rounded out his education with private sessions in romance. “That summer was formative in oh-so-many other ways,” he says. “It was also the first time I lived away from home, and the first time I was in a dorm that was co-ed. You can use your imagination as to what things might have occurred in a co-ed, seven-week program with a bunch of high school students living independently from their parents.”

Two months later, Garriott set foot in Clear Creek High School as a sophomore and got some good news. The school had a single teletype. A summer spent programming and roleplaying filled him with renewed purpose. Readily copping to an average academic career, Garriott survived more than thrived in most classes, pulling in Bs and Cs. Science fairs were an exception. Beginning in kindergarten and continuing through graduation, he showed up to competitions with projects that dazzled judges. As he grew older, he went on to compete in district, regional, state, and international fairs, making even bigger splashes.

Entering Clear Creek’s administration office, Garriott made a request and cited his proven ability to self-govern projects as incentive for them to agree.” When I got back to Houston, I told the faculty, ‘I want to continue working on this machine. There is no curriculum [for computer programming]. What I would like is your permission to, instead of taking a foreign language, please consider BASIC my foreign language.’”

The faculty gave him its blessing. Over his junior and senior years, Garriott and a few other students with permission to tailor their curriculum to their strengths embarked on self-guided journeys. At last, Garriott had found the perfect outlet for his interests in fantasy adventures and computers. “That was the moment where teaching myself about computers switched from a fascination with the machine itself to specifically trying to implement games on computers. Just before that, my sister-in-law had given me a copy of The Lord of the Rings to read. I was playing Dungeons & Dragons. I was beginning to master this unusual teletype, which was the same I used during the summer at OU. So off I went to start making games.”

For the final three years of his high school career, Garriott embarked on a self-guided foray into the world of game programming. “As long as I showed them at the end of the semester what I’d told them I’d do at the beginning of the semester, they said, “Sounds good. Here’s your ‘A.’” That’s what I did. I taught myself.”

DUNGEONS ‘N’ DRAGONS

Garriott had no choice but to fill the roles of master and pupil in his self-taught programming class. No teacher knew how to use the teletype beyond turning it on and loading programs. To round out what he’d learned at camp, he hit up newsstands for magazines like Byte! and Creative Computing and pored over their code listings. Each one contained a nugget of information he was able to roll into his growing bag of tricks, like algorithms for sorting data according to specific parameters.

Even though the listings were prone to typos, debugging them became another form of learning. “When you typed it into the computer you happened to be using, some of the commands wouldn’t work right, or maybe they’d made a typo,” he says. “You’d have to debug it on your own and therefore figure it out on your own.”

Starting day and date with his first self-taught class, Garriott kicked off the design of DND1, his first roleplaying game. Inspired by D&D, DND1 was a straight dungeon-crawl: enter a dungeon, fight monsters, loot treasure. Teletypes were incapable of printing images, so he used text characters in place of graphics: asterisks for walls, blank spaces for floor tiles, dollar signs for treasures, and capital letters to represent monsters, like ‘A’ for a giant ant.

DND1 proceeded by taking input from players and printing results on a paper roll. A tiny icon representing players was printed to the center of a grid signifying the dungeon. At the prompt, “What would you like to do next?,” players could move in the four cardinal directions, attack, or browse their inventory. “As soon as you input your command, the printer would re-print that top-down, 10-by-10 little grid,” Garriott says. “It took maybe 10 seconds to make each move.”

Time needed to refresh and print dungeon layouts was a critical reason players had to wait so long between moves. The teletypes dialed into a minicomputer located off-campus, and because minicomputers allowed multiple terminals to connect at once, each had to wait for the machine to process its commands and send back new data. The process was so slow that Garriott found himself turning to a more primitive yet faster method of coding.

“I would write [games] in notebooks. I still own all of these notebooks marked DND1, DND2, DND3, and so on,” he says. “Often I would only write 10 or 20 pages of the program out before thinking, ‘There’s something fundamentally wrong about the approach I’ve taken to writing this one. I thought I was going to solve some big problem, but it just led me to other problems, so I’ll start over.’”

Entering his senior year, Garriott purchased a new notebook and wrote “DND28” on the front. Around the time he applied finishing touches, he got an opportunity to make the jump to a new computer. “I happened to be in the office of the president of the school, and there was an Apple II. I said, ‘What’s that?’ He explained that it was a new computer that had just come out.”

Smitten, Garriott asked for permission to use the computer, and got it. His one-hour language class was moved to the office, where he set about writing DND28 in AppleSoft BASIC. Floppy drives were rare and valuable commodities, so he saved code on cassette tapes.

Garriott graduated that summer and picked up a job at ComputerLand, a chain of retail stores that specialized in the newfangled PC market. When he wasn’t educating customers about the merits of owning a PC, he commandeered a free Apple II and pecked away at DND28.

Limited access to an Apple II compounded Garriott’s difficulties. He used one at school and another during free time at ComputerLand. What he really wanted, what he really needed, was an Apple II of his own. He broached the subject with his father. Owen listened as his son outlined what he’d managed to accomplish on terminals and on the Apple II. His eyes widened slightly when Richard shared that his most recent version of DND came to 1,500 lines of code. That was more than most commercial software, based on what he knew of computers. When Richard finished his pitch, Owen processed the information and gave his answer.

“My dad said, ‘Richard, you know, you’re undertaking a monumental feat,” he says. “I’m not sure you’re going to be able to pull off something this big.’ I was like, ‘Oh! How dare you underestimate me! Not only will I pull this off, but I bet you this program will work right out of the gate!’”

Owen rose to the challenge, giving his son some wiggle room. If Richard could get a new-and-improved version of his game up and running with minimal debugging, Owen would split the cost of an Apple II with him. Richard pulled it off, and Owen stayed true to his word. Saving up paychecks, Richard pooled his money with his dad’s share and bought an Apple IIe, the latest and greatest in the family line. “The first remark statement is DND28b,” says Richard, explaining that a REM (short for remark) statement in BASIC is a comment meant for humans reading the code and ignored by the computer.

“That became Akalabeth,” he says. “So there’s a direct lineage from DND1 through to Akalabeth, through the rest of the Ultimas. There’s a direct lineage through all of my work starting in the 1970s.”

The game evolved far past its original form, trading text characters for color graphics, and a new way to maximize immersion. “I took DND28, and I decided to change the top-down, text-based graphics into perspective-view, looking down the corridor,” he says. “That became DND28b. DND28b is literally Akalabeth, which is, in my mind, Ultima 0.”

Garriott planned to assemble dungeons from line-based graphics. Walls, floors and doors would appear as single-colored outlines, as would enemies. Constructing architecture and characters from wireframes took more forethought than merely plotting X-Y coordinates to form ceilings and floors. He wanted to create a realistic perspective based on distance: A door right next to the player’s position should appear larger than a door farther down the hall. With concepts such as sine and cosine still fresh in his mind from high school, he mulled over the problem and sketched out the trig functions to get the job done.
Garriott plotted out every image on graph paper so he knew precisely where to map the image in his Apple II’s memory. Richard Garriott
To double-check his work, he consulted his favorite artist. “The first thing I did was sit down with my mother and say, ‘Mom, if I want to draw a dungeon that you’re in, how would you draw that on a canvas?’ And my mother showed me the geometry techniques that she used.” Helen drew a line on a piece of paper and asked Richard to imagine it as the horizon. Then she drew a series of vertical lines meant to represent telephone poles — although Garriott’s game-designer brain interpreted them as doors lining a corridor — and showed him the math he could use to calculate the precise distance between each “pole” and render them realistically on the screen.

Helen’s geometry matched the results he had reached using trigonometry. To make absolutely certain he was correct, Richard went to Owen. “He used calculus,” Richard says. “He took the same piece of art that my mother did and used calculus to come up with a set of equations that ultimately arrived at the same results I had. Therefore, I had confidence in my trigonometry. With those equations, I had to go hand-calculate and hand-place pixels on the screen.”

Every pixel had to be plotted on the screen precisely where he wanted it. Sets of interconnecting lines, such as points where walls and ceilings touched, had to be calculated and drawn. “Steve Wozniak created that hardware,” he says. “If you’re the hardware maker, your goal is to minimize the cost of the hardware, not make it easier to program. While I did some very clever things that made the hardware practical, [drawing] graphics using an Apple II was monstrously difficult.”(source:polygon