Oberon was born from an idea that struck me while playing Dungeons & Dragons in 1983, I started drawing it out on paper and in 1984 I got a computer I thought I could use to write the game. I will also add that the original name was Fortune, it was renamed to Oberon in 2013.
1984[edit | edit source]
It was originally written in basic on an Apple 2e and was a modification of the game Taipan! which happens to still be one of my favorite games of all time. The premise was similar except that I added more locations to travel to and more items to trade. I was building on the basic problem in Taipan where once you had a million dollars, there was no reason to trade anything other than opium. So my goal was to make a game a little more interesting by offering at least a dozen things worth trading once you have a reasonable bucket of cash in the bank.
One thing the game lacked was a multiplayer aspect to it. I had this vision of an online D&D but space themed. My only exposure to networking at the time was some primitive BBS dial-in things a few friends and I played with. I toyed with a concept of sharing the game on a floppy disk so that players could swap disks and get updates in a very primitive manner. I stopped programming the game in 1988. My computer was starting to seem old in comparison to the newer IBM, Amiga and MacIntosh machines.
2008[edit | edit source]
In 2008 I fired up the old mac and was digging through some of the old floppy disks. Sadly, the disk containing the source code for Fortune is missing. But I did have some floppies with the math I used to calculate much of the game.
2012[edit | edit source]
In 2012 I decided to start programming the game again. I had originally selected XNA as the platform and planned to create it as a 3D shooter based in space. The one problem I ran into was creating the types of screens I needed to manage the trade/finances and other largely text/form based features of the game were difficult to create in XNA. There was also the issue of Microsoft abandoning XNA. So I started looking at the option of coding it in C++. While this was attractive in a number of ways and C++ is my favorite language, I ended up switching to C# with a DirectX connector.
During the first year of programming I found that I was spending a significant amount of time just managing the 3D aspects of programming and I lacked the graphic design skills to make sprites that were good enough to truly prove the concept. So I shelved the new game and went back to the whiteboard.
2013[edit | edit source]
In 2013 I took a radically different approach. I started to program the game as a text based adventure. I mapped out a concept where the game would infinitely expand in any direction and the multiplayer aspects were designed in a way that the solution to one puzzle spawned 2 more puzzles. Players had to craft the items to solve a puzzle and as a result those items would then be required to craft new items to solve another puzzle. From a programmer's point of view, the game was fascinating, from a player's point of view, it was several hours of your life you would never get back.
By the end of 2013 I merged some of the concepts of the text based adventure, mostly the crafting, trade and stock market, and planned using Windows forms to give the game a much needed GUI interface. In looking for themes to base the interface on, I came across the LCARS Computer Network which really inspired me. I started creating the Win form using graphics heavily inspired by the LCARS graphics. I really liked the look of the game I created but grew concerned that I was copying something and I really wanted to create something original.
2014[edit | edit source]
In January 2014 I headed out on vacation and brought a notepad with me that I use to scribble ideas down for the game. I realized the problem I had in struggling to create the game was simple, it had no story. Without a storyline, the game was nothing more than some useless space sim with some weird gameplay options tacked on.
For several years I've been collecting vintage computers. I like the strange consumer models but really have a passion for the old mainframe computers, mostly the panels they use. Google image searches on "KL-10 panel" or "PDP-8 panel" will demonstrate some of the cool things they did with the look/design of computers in the 1970's. So I started to move the game to use the look and feel of the PDP-8 style computer.
Then while on vacation it all sort of came together when I had the strangest idea. What if, in 1967, the hippies took over Earth? Then, for whatever reason, they started to build spaceships using PDP-8 computers as the main command terminal?
And so Oberon was reborn...