[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Early Online Game Service

November 8th, 2010 by Benj Edwards

Games Computers Play Ad - 1985“System Requirements: 48k Atari, 1 disk drive, modem”

You’re looking at an ad for what may have been the world’s first multiplayer graphical online gaming service, Games Computers Play (1985). It may also have been the world’s first graphical multi-user environment, as it predated the Lucasfilm Habitat beta test for the C64 (1986) by six months or more.

I don’t know else much about this Atari 8-bit-only service beside what can be gleaned from the advertisement above, a 1985 article in Antic magazine, and this thread over at AtariAge.

One of the posters in the forum thread linked above mentioned that he/she found the creators of the service, whom I’d love to talk to myself. I’m trying to get in touch with that poster, but if anyone knows anything about this service (including info about who created it) or has stories to share, please email me here.

[Update – I did get in touch with one of the creators of this service. More info to follow. ]

[ From Computer Gaming World, November-December 1985, p.20 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What was the first game you played with another human (or humans) over a modem?

9 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Early Online Game Service”

  1. RC Says:

    The first game I played over the modem was Tradewars on a BBS my friend’s brother was hosting. I tried playing Doom over a modem a couple times but there was just too much lag.

  2. Brian Says:

    I played a number of BBS games via modem. Tradewars (the version before 2002), the Pit, Solar Realms Elite … it’s hard to know where I started.

    The first person-to-person game via modem was probably either a tank simulator (I believe cleverly named “Tank”) or 688 Attack Sub. A number of simulators at that time had attempts at multiplayer via modem, so I can’t say for sure.

    Playing Doom over modem is nothing for lag, though. Telnetting via modem to *run* Quake remotely but display it on the local machine … that’s lag! 🙂 Pointless, really, but I did that once.

  3. SirPaul Says:

    The first game I played online was probably either Quake, or Age of Empires. Probably the former.

  4. Bruce Says:

    I started playing Barren Realms Elite & Legend of the Red Dragon using an Atari 800XL with a 300 baud digital modem. Played on a local BBS in upper MI in the late 80s through 94 or so.

  5. Scott Says:

    The original NASCAR Racing by Papyrus, on their prototype dial-in multiplayer service called Hawaii. I think this was in…1994 or 5. I clearly remember the several hundreds dollars in long distance charges from dialing into the servers in Boston!

  6. Xyzzy Says:

    The first game I definitely recall playing was my friend’s BBS copy of Legend of the Red Dragon (though only one could play at a time) in 93/94. Otherwise, it would have been the Ultima Dragons’ MOO at Weyrmount in early 1996 — though as I recall, there wasn’t a game quite as much as a really detailed world to wander around while chatting.

  7. ffr Says:

    my first online experience was with heat.net and mplayer.

    the games i first played online were netfighter, quake, and postal.

    shortly after i received a copy of vigilante and played that online.

  8. Kevin Savetz Says:

    Here’s an interview with one of the founders of Games Computers Play: http://ataripodcast.libsyn.com/antic-interview-18-the-atari-8-bit-podcast-gardner-pomper-games-computers-play

  9. Benj Edwards Says:

    I’m glad you got a chance to talk to him, Kevin. I heard that Gardner passed away in November of last year.

    I interviewed Gardner Pomper in detail in 2011, but I have not published the interview yet. Hopefully with some Patreon funding I can find the time to transcribe and edit it

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