Avalon: The Legend Lives is a text-based online multi-player role-playing game world that was first released on 28 October 1989 at the gaming convention Adventure 89. It has maintained a continuous on-line presence with consistent and intact persona files and player history since the late 1980s, rendering it the longest continuously running on-line role-playing game in history.
While it follows closely in the tradition of many early Multi-User Dungeons, it was Avalon that pioneered many features that have since become signature components of the role-playing game genre: real economies, distinct ecosystems and weather effects, gods with followers and priests, player housing and autonomous governments, skill-based real time PVP combat, and a fully realized warfare conquest system as well as pioneering plotted quests rather than the standard puzzle or treasure dash systems seen in first generations MUDs and MUA.
Within Avalon, players are offered the opportunity to "live another life"; to fully immerse themselves in the gameworld—a world of merchants, thieves, princes, gods, dragons, and more. It was the first game of its—or any—kind with its own history and narrative that was decided by the players themselves.
Avalon's first non-public incarnation was written as a 4-8 player MUD called Lands of the Crown on the BBC Micro Model B 32K in 6502 Assembly Language during 1988 to Early 1989. It was superseded by the fledgling Avalon coded in the bespoke language Hourglass in ARM Assembler, written by Yehuda Simmons and then joined circa May 1990 by Daniel James, run on the Acorn Archimedes A440. It debuted at the last of the Mega Meets, Adventure 89, and initially ran on the IOWA system from 11 November 1989 until it went independent during May 1990. It opened its first 'Hostplay' in Camden, London, which hosted 10 2400 bit/s modem-based dial-in lines and 6 onsite machines from which to play. Avalon arrived on the internet via Avalon.co.uk on October 14, 1994 and made the leap from the venerable Archimedes to an Intel Pentium Architecture PC running Debian Linux. Moving forward it transferred to a dedicated managed server on Red Hat Linux where, other than shifting to Ubuntu (operating system), it has remained ever since.
A second iteration of Avalon opened in Sheffield, UK on 1 May 1992, primarily to circumvent the exorbitant cost of online play at national UK call rates. This remained open until Sunday, 7 May 1995 at Avalon Version '87 when its players made the journey and transferred onto the now global Avalon.
A further iteration of Avalon named 'Avalon: The First Age' went online 7 November 1999. It was created to represent a lost era of Avalon that lacked many of the evolutions that the main iteration of Avalon had implemented since its inception. It continued until December 31, 2014 when its final players took the 'Voyage of Apotheosis' and transferred to Avalon the Legend Never Dies, continuing Avalon's stance of continuous character development.
Avalon is noted for being the first text-based multi-user role-playing game to offer a developed profession and skills system. Avalon differed in that you could chose from one of 3 cities, each of which had guild variations of iconic professions, such as Mage, Knight, and Bard amongst many others. Choosing a profession then conveyed a bank of general skills and guild-specific ones each containing a ladder of skills that could be invested-in via lessons (see business model below). Initially there were around 30 such skills with approximately 17 abilities in each, covering a wide range from Riding, Perception, Thievery, or Demonology. As of 2015, Avalon possesses 66 Skills with a staggering 2194 distinct abilities developed over its 26-year tenure.
Avalon's virtual business model was also noted as being the first of its kind. Richard Bartle, the game's researcher highlighted the system by which Avalon rewarded players with lessons and thus skill advancement based on how long they remained logged in. It achieved early commercial success in an era of no internet and prohibitive telephone call rates. This system has remained in place through all variations of hourly charge, monthly subscription and current free-to-play model. Sponsored players have all the same access as subscribed players, and there is no distinction made by the game on how far sponsored-status players are able to progress their characters.
Avalon's gameplay innovations are numerous, but it is generally recognized for a number of landmarks in multiplayer text-based role-play: professions and skills (see above); a banking, commodity and trade system; Item ownership; purchasable real estate, which resulted in the first virtual transaction for housing in 1989 with first-born player Gniblik purchasing and then selling for profit a house in Avalon's first city Mercinae. This prompted the opening of the first bank and subsequent first deposit by Gniblik of the princely sum of 4000 gold.
Departing from the traditional end point of a player becoming a Wizard, Avalon was amongst the first to use the term God (MUD) alongside another 1989 launch, 'Lap of the Gods' by author Ben Laurie. Ordination in Avalon also comes not from amassing points via treasure or experience but by one of two routes: appointment through merit, or the arduous task of competitive ordination which often featured heavy elements of Avalon's pivotal player vs player combat system fought in team battles often over many months as the eligible players are whittled down to the final one who wins the right of a divine gemstone and a Gods soul. Typically this is in the style of Greco/Roman E.G Elmaethor the God the Stars, etc. To date there have been 10 competitive ordinations.
Winning ordination however is not the end. Avalon is an open-ended and ongoing game, a developed divinity system in which other mortal players can side with Gods whose sphere they identify with. Systems of offering and worship exist, as well as the rarer divine battles, when opposing gods contest their power. The complexity of this aspect was pioneered by Avalon as the gods, rather than becoming external to the game world, remain within the world's role-play as benevolent, malevolent or indifferent—the key phrase being: Gods do not exist because of the mortals; they exist despite them.
Avalon's gameworld features over 21,000 unique locations across 19 continents encompassing 60 individual areas. Each of these locations has its own unique description and may be one of 34 different atmospheric types including "forest", "city", "road", "snow", and dozens more. The four cities are the largest single areas in the world, each boasting around a thousand locations spread out among various streets, homes, shops, marketplaces, combat arenas, and the like.
Editor M. Woods of RPGamer says this is one of the few online games that is what he considers to be a real role playing game.