GameInformer: The History And Evolution Of First-Person Melee Combat

GameInformer has published a new multi-page feature entitled Knife In A Gunfight: The History And Evolution Of First-Person Melee Combat. And with a title like that, you just know they have to begin with Ultima Underworld:

Ultima, Nazis, and Demons

Almost 20 years after Maze War and Spasim pioneered first-person gaming, Blue Sky Productions (later known as Looking Glass Studios) released Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss. This 1992 dungeon crawler is one of the most important 3D first-person games, inspiring foundational works like The Elder Scrolls and Deus Ex. Underworld famously replaced the previous tile-based environments of games like Wizardry with a true 3D world to explore. Most interactions played out through your character’s eyes, from exploring shadowy labyrinths to fighting goblins.

If not for id Software’s Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, computer RPGs might have ruled the first-person genre unopposed. Wolfenstein 3D set the stage in 1992 and then id unleashed Doom a year later. Full of macabre imagery and graphic violence, Doom’s runaway success caused a moral panic and established first-person shooters as a dominant genre.

I still haven’t gotten over the fact that Wolfenstein, in particular, supplanted Ultima Underworld as the dominant exemplar of 3D first-person action gaming. I still earnestly believe that 3D engine technology was set back a number of years by that turn of events.