It struck me last evening that not everyone reading this blog will be aware of the game or its genre. As this certainly may serve to draw people to the game I will endeavor to explain and illustrate Gemstone IV, its history, and the playstyle.
Gemstone IV, previously Gemstone III and Gemstone II is a MUD (Multi-User Dungeon) and is the precursor to MMOs that would later become Ultima Online and Everquest. The GUIs of these games and Warcraft with chat based communication and overhead UIs still have a lot of the same elements as you’ll see in the screenshots below. This particular MUD is a fantasy based game with heavy player interaction and storytelling components. There is a strong social draw to MUDs, which present the storytelling as a more intimate affair that you feel that you matter and get to be an actor in the evoling story as opposed to someone interacting with the environment in an MMO. In MUDs and Gemstone IV you actually influence how a story unfolds and therefore the roleplaying elements can be more engrossing.
I started playing Gemstone III in I believe 1994, but for sure in September of 1995. I had previously had a Genie and Compuserve account then prodigy, which were available prior to AOL having the game available along with Neverwinter nights on it’s Online Gaming forums, but since it’s been so many years I can’t place the date. I began playing heavily in September 1995 until 2002 then sporadically through the years until 2008, with another sabbatical due to stagnation in the game expansion and GM (Gamemaster) driven stories. I’ve been a full time playing again since December 2010 and have continued at a regular playing schedule since largely due to GM Kenstrom’s storylines in Wehnimer’s Landing. The main city and hub of the world, in 1997 the city of Icemule and in 1998 Solhaven were added. Since that time multiple cities have been added, but for much of it’s existance the playerbase had a single hub city that remains the most popular.
The game is developed by Simutronics, who have other properties such as Dragonrealms and Cyberstrike, but as a piece of trivia are known for creating the HeroEngine in an attempt to make a graphical MMO that has since been used as the primary engine behind SWTOR (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic).
Here is a Screenshot of the Games User Interface:
Until about 2008 the GUI was static, but since then has been moded by programs such as Lich and Psinet based on Ruby coding that allows for additional scripts and userinterface modification. The map in the right corner is an optional popup along with some of the sidebar additions such as current buffs with durations on the bottom left and some of the injury data, XP gain, etc on the left sidebars.
The game itself operates in the middle section through command entry or click attacks on various hotbars on the righthand side.
For example my character Geijon would see an enemy, highlighted in yellow, similar to well known/friendly players in this screenshot you can see Lady Korinn, a ranger who has cast some beneficial spells on me. I would see the creature enter the area or room, feint it or fake an attack so it’s offbalance, headbutt it in the head to stun it, then smash it’s skull. The progression of combat is more step by step or a mixture of real-time combat with command entry similar to moves in table-top gaming. The best example I can think of is Final Fantasy 10 and it’s meter system. You are given roundtime or RT for certain actions, but the monsters continue to act regardless of your actions when in your vicinity.
The biggest draw remains the story engagement. Stories in Gemstone have run concurrently in some cases since 1996 to 2010 and some players have continually played for as many as 20 years since the games inception in 1990.
I’ll include my MMO timeline in a later blog, but I hope this helps. If you’d like to learn more read my upcoming blog on my website creation through the years for summaries on some of the stories I’ve aluded to here to gain a sense of the level of engagement within the Gemstone IV community.