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Multiplayer Games

There are myriad games on PLATO. Some are for single players, but the most popular ones involve two or more players at separate terminals.

Games were certainly not a priority when PLATO was designed, but it turns out that its architecture supports multiplayer games superbly. The crucial features are:

  • shared memory areas
  • standardized terminal
  • high resolution graphics display
  • central computer processing of every key
  • fast key response
  • ability to abort display output
Rick Blomme wrote PLATO's first two-player game in the late 1960's, a simple version of MIT's Spacewar. Possibly the most popular game in PLATO history is Avatar, one of several dungeons'n'dragons games. Empire, a multiplayer game based on Star Trek, is another favorite. Other multiplayer games range from Airfight (a precursor to Microsoft Flight Simulator), to Wordwar (a spelling and speed-typing game) and card games such as contract bridge.

Most games were written by unpaid programmers. The only reward they could hope for was the prestige of having written a popular game. Some game authors now receive royalties, but it amounts to only a few cents per hour of use, often split between a number of co-authors. A number of games that originated on PLATO have been recreated commercially as video arcade or personal computer games.

Copyright © 1994 by David R. Woolley

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Copyright (c) 1996 - 2006 Elizabeth Mattijsen
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