OAKLAND, CA – The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment (MADE) is re-introducing Lucasfilm Games' Habitat, the very first graphical massively multiplayer game.
Created originally in 1986, it ran on Quantum Link, the Commodore 64 online service that would eventually become America Online.
On June 2, 2017, at 6 pm Pacific Time, the MADE and Habitat creators Chip Morningstar and Randy Farmer kicked off a global online and local on-site event (at the museum’s Oakland location), opening the server ports on an alpha version of Habitat, bringing the original MMO back online after a more than 30-year absence.
Habitat originated many of the terms and paradigms that continue in today’s online games. The term “avatar” as a digital representation of the self was first used in Habitat. The original game also featured disease, murder, in-game currency, pocket mail delivery, scarce objects, “ghosts” (observer mode), and “turfs” (private player homes). As is still true today, players became highly interested in Habitat's cosmetic items, despite the fact that the game’s art took an entire separate floppy disk to store.
“Habitat was so far ahead of its time, it was never able to reach even a tenth of the potential of its capabilities due to the future having not been evenly distributed enough at the time,” said Alex Handy, founder and director of the MADE. “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.”
Randy Farmer was the original C64 client programmer and first “oracle” (or virtual world host/administrator). He is also the lead in this effort to restore the Habitat software and service. Said Farmer, “We couldn’t have pulled off the small miracle of this game, then or now, without a lot of collaborators: some original team members returned to help out, like original lead Chip Morningstar, myself, and a few of the 500 1986 Habitat Beta testers (who built much of the online world you can see today). Also, many fans of the worlds/MMOs descended from Habitat and contributors from the vibrant C64 retro gaming community. 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.”
The effort to restore Habitat was helped by Fujitsu, the company which purchased the rights to Habitat and released it in Japan. Also a part of the project were the MADE’s financial sponsors, Dolby and Sony, and the original creators of the server hardware for Habitat, Stratus. Alpha hosting is provided by Spi.ne. Players wishing to join the fun can find instructions for using a C64 emulator to sign into the server at http://neohabitat.org. Habitat’s source code is available online at https://github.com/Museum-of-Art-and-Digital-Entertainment/habitat.
The public alpha of Habitat began June 2, 2017, both at the MADE proper, and around the world as the server is brought back online after 30 years. The event in Oakland is further detailed on Facebook: https://fb.com/events/271740406569018.