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Did LucasArts invent the avatar-based virtual world in 1985?

Shawn Schuster

The computer gaming industry of the 1980s was akin to the automotive industry in the 1950s: experimental and courageous. LucasArts (through a branch known then as Lucasfilm Games) had the money to throw around in game development at the time. As we can read in a new book, one of their experiments was at least a decade ahead of its time.

This book, entitled Rogue Leaders: The Story of LucasArts, chronicles the history of George Lucas' vision through more than just his films. A project entitled Habitat enabled Commodore 64 users to create an avatar and chat with other players in a simple virtual world via a modem. Despite the fact that this game never got off the ground, its ideas were still brand new to everyone. Why didn't the project ever see the light of day? There were several reasons, but mainly the fact that C64 users were paying CompuServe $12 an hour for network access back then. This innovation also pushed Commodore to invest in a new company called Quantum Computer Services to undercut CompuServe with rates "as low as" $3.60 an hour. Quantum Computer Services eventually changed their name to America Online. Sound interesting? There's much more to the story, as you can read over at GameSetWatch, or the book itself, found at Amazon.

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