The First MMO, Habitat, Enters Public Alpha Over 30 Years After Originally Going Dark
After four years dedicated to the project, the Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment, along with the game's original creators and various other entities, have brought the first ever MMO back to life.
A while ago, you may have heard that a little title by the name of Habitat was to be getting a revival of sorts by the Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment (MADE). Today, the Museum announced that Lucasfilm Games’ 1986 title back online.
Habitat was an MMO back before massively multiplayer games were ever conceived as a gaming genre. In fact, the game’s online capabilities ran on Quantum Link, the Commodore 64 online service that eventually became known as America Online. Back in the day, this service allowed players to dial-up and connect with each other, albeit by getting billed for it on an hourly basis.
Today, at 6 pm PST, creators of Habitat, Chip Morningstar and Randy Farmer announced the launch of a global online event to bring an alpha version of the game back after being offline for more than 30 years. Apparently the project to bring the game to a playable state has taken the team four years of translating the game’s logic to Java.
So, you might be asking why anyone would want to go through the trouble of bringing this game back online. The truth is that it’s a little-known gem of gaming history that MADE is looking to restore. For example, the term ‘Avatar’ as a digital representation of the self was first used in Habitat. The game also included innovative gameplay elements such as disease, murder, in-game currency, and private ‘turfs’ where players had their own bases. No unlike today’s MMO’s, Habitat players became fascinated with collecting various vanity items for their characters, despite the game’s art requiring a completely separate floppy disk for storage.
Alex Handy, founder and director of MADE, further explained even further the technological achievement that was Habitat in its time.
“Today, we think of thousands of players being in a single world at once as normal, but Habitat built this type of environment 30 years ago with the digital equivalent of sticks and stones.”
The efforts to bring Habitat back online are also credited to Fujitsu (the company who purchased the rights to release the game in Japan), as well as Dolby, Sony, and the creators of the original server hardware for the game, Stratus. All in all, Habitat’s revival sounds like it was a massive undertaking. Randy Farmer confirmed that in his statement about the project’s collaborators.
“We couldn’t have pulled off the small miracle of this game, then or now, without a lot of collaborators.
“Our contributors are around the world – and include various tech CEOs, CTOs and VPs! We’d all like to thank the MADE for making this project possible: to restore the first MMO, Lucasfilm’s Habitat.”
If you’re interested in taking part in the Habitat public alpha, you can find the instructions for using the C64 emulator to sign into the game’s server here. Habitat’s source code is also available on GitHub.