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GemStone IV

GemStone IV

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GemStone IV is a multiplayer text-based online role-playing game (often known as a MUD
A MUD , pronounced , is a multiplayer real-time virtual world, with the term usually referring to text-based instances of these. MUDs combine elements of role-playing games, hack and slash, player versus player, interactive fiction, and online chat...

) produced by Simutronics
Simutronics is an American online games company whose products include GemStone IV and DragonRealms. It was founded in 1987 by David Whatley, with husband and wife Tom & Susan Zelinski...

. Players control characters in a High Fantasy
High fantasy
High fantasy or epic fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy that is set in invented or parallel worlds. High fantasy was brought to fruition through the work of authors such as J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, whose major fantasy works were published in the 1950s...

 game world named "Elanthia". The first playable version of the game was known as GemStone ][ and was launched in April 1988 on GEnie
GEnie was an online service created by a General Electric business - GEIS that ran from 1985 through the end of 1999. In 1994, GEnie claimed around 350,000 users. Peak simultaneous usage was around 10,000 users...

. It was one of the first MMORPG
Massively multiplayer online role-playing game is a genre of role-playing video games in which a very large number of players interact with one another within a virtual game world....

s and is one of the longest running online
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide...

 games still active. Access to the game is subscription-based (monthly fee) through its website, with three additional subscriptions levels available, "Premium," "Platinum," and "Shattered".

Technical Information

GemStone IV is a text-based game built on Simutronics' proprietary engine, the IFE (Interactive Fiction Engine). This engine is capable of changing nearly any aspect of the game on the fly
On the fly
-Colloquial usage:In colloquial use, on the fly means something created when needed. The phrase is used to mean:# something that was not planned ahead# changes that are made during the execution of same activity: ex tempore, impromptu.-Automotive usage:...

 which allows updates without the necessity for downtime
The term downtime is used to refer to periods when a system is unavailable.Downtime or outage duration refers to a period of time that a system fails to provide or perform its primary function...

, a problem of many graphical RPGs. Due to the use of the IFE, GemStone is rarely taken offline, giving a 24-hour uptime cycle aside from the occasional game crash
Crash (computing)
A crash in computing is a condition where a computer or a program, either an application or part of the operating system, ceases to function properly, often exiting after encountering errors. Often the offending program may appear to freeze or hang until a crash reporting service documents...


The GemStone interface is simply a text stream, and the game can be played with a Telnet
Telnet is a network protocol used on the Internet or local area networks to provide a bidirectional interactive text-oriented communications facility using a virtual terminal connection...

 interface after authentication. There are several official interfaces to the game, as well as several unofficial ones. The oldest interface for Windows
Microsoft Windows
Microsoft Windows is a series of operating systems produced by Microsoft.Microsoft introduced an operating environment named Windows on November 20, 1985 as an add-on to MS-DOS in response to the growing interest in graphical user interfaces . Microsoft Windows came to dominate the world's personal...

 is called the "Wizard Front End" and offers several useful features such as status readouts, macros, and limited scripting abilities. The Wizard has since been superseded with the "StormFront" Front End introduced in 2003. StormFront offers several additional extensions to the game, including a "point and click" interface that allows one to click on text within the game and bring up action menus applicable to that portion of text. The Java FE and a browser-based version named "eScape" are less popular alternatives. A Wizard (similar to the Windows version) also exists for Macintosh Classic
Macintosh Classic
The Macintosh Classic was a personal computer manufactured by Apple Computer. Introduced on October 15, 1990, it was the first Apple Macintosh to sell for less than US$1,000. Production of the Classic was prompted by the success of the Macintosh Plus and the SE...

, while a Front End named "Avalon" is available for Mac OS X
Mac OS X
Mac OS X is a series of Unix-based operating systems and graphical user interfaces developed, marketed, and sold by Apple Inc. Since 2002, has been included with all new Macintosh computer systems...

. No official Linux
Linux is a Unix-like computer operating system assembled under the model of free and open source software development and distribution. The defining component of any Linux system is the Linux kernel, an operating system kernel first released October 5, 1991 by Linus Torvalds...

 client exists.


GemStone was first demonstrated to GEnie in 1987 before Simutronics was officially incorporated. It was only used as a demonstration model and was never available to the general subscribers. GemStone ][ was released in April 1988 to GEnie customers. However, GemStone ][ was very short-lived, and GemStone III went into open beta testing in December 1989, officially launching on February 1, 1990. The transition from "][" to "III" maintained significant portions of the environment, but not all, and character records were not maintained over the transition, requiring all players to begin anew. GemStone III evolved into GemStone IV in November 2003, but the game world and character records were maintained over the transition. GemStone III was promoted on GEnie by promising players the opportunity to receive real-life versions of gems found in-game, something that persisted for many years.

GemStone originally operated with a license to use the Rolemaster game mechanics and Shadow World
Shadow World
Shadow World is a high-fantasy campaign setting situated on the fictional planet of Kulthea. Originally produced for the Rolemaster role-playing game system, the setting is owned by Iron Crown Enterprises . It is currently maintained by the primary author of the setting, Terry K...

 environment from Iron Crown Enterprises
Iron Crown Enterprises
Iron Crown Enterprises was a publisher of role playing, board, miniature battle, and collectible card games.ICE was incorporated in 1980 shortly after the principal founders graduated from the University of Virginia...

 (ICE). In 1995, Simutronics and ICE agreed to let the business relationship expire, necessitating the removal of all ICE intellectual property from GemStone. Many of the game changes were simply renaming ICE names, such as changing the world name from Kulthea to Elanthia, and renaming the deities while keeping their previous characteristics.

Game mechanics were greatly changed with the de-ICEing (as the period is colloquially named), which required every game character to undergo significant changes. Character racial and class choices were also changed, making any direct translation between the two systems difficult. The end result was that every character was required to "re-roll" their character with the option to change race and skills, but maintaining their old experience level, class, and equipment.

GemStone became available on AOL
AOL Inc. is an American global Internet services and media company. AOL is headquartered at 770 Broadway in New York. Founded in 1983 as Control Video Corporation, it has franchised its services to companies in several nations around the world or set up international versions of its services...

in September, 1995, just after the de-ICEing process. It had already become available on CompuServe
CompuServe was the first major commercial online service in the United States. It dominated the field during the 1980s and remained a major player through the mid-1990s, when it was sidelined by the rise of services such as AOL with monthly subscriptions rather than hourly rates...

 and Prodigy
Prodigy (ISP)
Prodigy Communications Corporation was an online service that offered its subscribers access to a broad range of networked services, including news, weather, shopping, bulletin boards, games, polls, expert columns, banking, stocks, travel, and a variety of other features.Initially subscribers...

before that. When AOL switched to flat-rate pricing, GemStone did over 1.4 million customer-hours in a single month and was attracting 2,000-2,500 simultaneous players. Simutronics launched a web portal in 1997, and started phasing customers off of the online services and onto the web interface, although it would take several years before the last of the online service portals were closed.

Awards and achievements

  • 1998 Finalist, Online Game of the Year, Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences
  • December 1996, AOL Members' Choice Award