Video Game Firsts: The First Online Game - Snipes - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Video Game Firsts: The First Online Game - Snipes

Geek Dave chooses level Z9...

Think online gaming is a 21st Century phenomenon? Think again! Snipes kicked the whole craze off way back in 1983.

The story of Snipes begins in November 1981 when Drew Major bought one of the very first IBM PCs to hit the market. Together with his partners at SuperSet Software, Major quickly began looking for ways to connect the PC to the company's  Control Program for Microcomputers (CP/M) network, and so the Local Area Network (LAN), a heterogeneous system of PCs connected by a common data transmission medium, was born.

Feeling that they needed a way to prove their concept, Major and Dale Neibaur wrote an application that could be used to test the network and demonstrate its capabilities. The application they developed for that purpose was a text-mode game called Snipes.

The objective of Snipes was to control your creature by moving it around a maze to destroy snipes and their hives, and/or destroy other networked players. Each game was different because the computer generated a random new maze.

Several level options were available. First, a letter is chosen, which controls the environment settings ranging in difficulty from A to Z (with options including what bad guys are available, whether or not diagonal shots bounce off the walls, and whether running into a wall will simply block or kill you). The next choice is a number, which controls the maximum number of snipes that may exist and how many hives are initially created within the maze.

Of course, for 1983 Snipes could've been fun to play alone, but the fact that it could be played with others remotely was just too tempting to not be explored. As a requirement to play the multiplayer version of Snipes was that all users share a common network drive, it was the perfect way for the SuperSet Software team to encourage all employees to connect to the LAN.
Snipes is also officially credited as being the original inspiration for the very popular 90s online game NetWars. This came about when a newer implementation of Snipes was developed and shipped with NetWare Lite 1.1 in September 1991. NetwareLite itself was again a peer-to-peer local area network system, developed by American company Novell for IBM PC's running Disk-based Operating Systems (DOS). Rather than just connecting employees of the same company together via their CP/M, no dedicated server was required, but instead all PCs on the network could share their resources with anyone else.

When Novell released the improved Personal NetWare 1.0 two years later, they replaced Snipes with NetWars 2.06. Its programmer, Edward N. Hill, Jr., was one of Novell's engineers in its European Development Centre in Hungerford, UK. Inspired by Snipes, he had started development on NetWars back in 1989, originally under the title LiteYear. His eventual released version contained IPX-based 3D vector-graphics.
Graphically, it may look like a quantum leap forward from the basic layout and design of Snipes, but it was that little game developed by Drew Major to test the capabilities of his new PC which eventually led to NetWars and the beginning of all the online gaming experiences which are available to us today.

View all our "Video Game Firsts" articles here.

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