Wasteland is a post-apocalyptic computer role-playing game first released in 1988. The game was designed by Alan Pavlish, Brian Fargo, Michael A. Stackpole and Ken St. Andre, programmed by Pavlish, and produced by David Albert for Interplay Productions, and published by Electronic Arts.
The game is set in the middle of the 21st century, following a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union. Parts of Earth have been turned into a "wasteland" where survival is the paramount objective. Players control a party of Desert Rangers, a paramilitary group based in the deserts of the Southwestern U.S. that survived the nuclear holocaust, and are assigned to investigate a series of disturbances in the desert. The party begins with four characters, and through the course of the game can hold as many as seven characters by recruiting certain citizens and creatures of the wasteland to the player's cause. Throughout the game, the player explores the remaining enclaves of human civilization, including a post-apocalyptic Las Vegas.
The game mechanics were based directly on those used in the role-playing games Tunnels and Trolls and Mercenaries, Spies and Private Eyes created by St. Andre and Stackpole. Characters in Wasteland consequently have various statistics (strength, intelligence and luck among others) that allow them to use different skills and weapons. Experience is gained through battle and through use of skills. The game would generally let players advance with a variety of tactics: to get through a locked gate, a player could use his Picklock skill, his Climb skill, or his Strength attribute; or he could force the gate with a crowbar - or a LAW rocket.
Wasteland was probably the first RPG in which all the characters in the party were not mere puppets for the player to control. The initial band of Desert Rangers encountered a number of NPCs as the game progressed who could be recruited into the party. Unlike those of other computer RPGs of the time, these NPCs might temporarily refuse to give up an item or perform an action if ordered to do so.
One of the other features of this game was the inclusion of a printed collection of paragraphs which the game would instruct the player to read at the appropriate times. These paragraphs described encounters and conversations, contained clues, and added to the overall texture of the game. Such paragraph books were a common feature of computer role-playing games of the period. Because programming space was at a premium, it saved on resources to have most of the game's story printed out in a separate manual rather than store it within the game's code itself. The paragraph books also served as a rudimentary form of copy protection, as someone playing a copied version of the game would miss out on much of the story as well as clues necessary to progress. Additionally, the paragraphs included a dummy story line about a mission to Mars intended to mislead those who read the paragraphs when not instructed to, and a bogus set of passwords that would trip up cheaters with results that ranged from character sex changes to detonating a bomb.
The game was also known for such combat prose as "Rabbit is reduced to a thin red paste" and "Thug explodes like a blood sausage", which prompted an unofficial PG-13 sticker on the game packaging in the United States.
Wasteland was first distributed for the Apple II and ported to the Commodore 64 and IBM platforms in 1988 - it is often (and erroneously) listed as being published in 1987, because that year appears on the title screen of the Apple version. Wasteland was rereleased as part of Interplay's 10 Year Anthology: Classic Collection in 1995, and also included in the 1998 Ultimate RPG Archives through Interplay's DragonPlay label. These later bundled releases were missing the original setup program, which allowed the game's maps to be reset, while retaining your original team of rangers. Jeremy Reaban wrote an unofficial (and unsupported) program that emulated this functionality. While all versions were nearly identical in terms of gameplay, the EGA PC port had upgraded graphics, although the C64 boasted the best sound.. The IBM version differed by having an additional skill called "Combat Shooting" which could be bought only when a character was first created.
Wasteland was a successful game, and has been included on numerous "best game" and "hall of fame" lists. Computer Gaming World Magazine awarded it the Role-Playing Game of the Year award, and ten years later in 1996, it named Wasteland the #9 computer game of all time. In its review, it cited "its ease of play, richness of plot, problem solving requirements, skill and task system, and graphic display" as elements of its excellence.
Wasteland was followed in 1990 by a less-successful intended sequel, Fountain of Dreams, set in post-war Florida. Electronic Arts got cold feet at the last moment, and did not advertise it as a sequel to Wasteland; in fact, none of the creative cast from Wasteland worked on Fountain of Dreams. Interplay has described its game Fallout as the spiritual successor to Wasteland.
Interplay also worked on a game called Meantime for a while, which was based on the Wasteland "game engine" but was not a continuation of the story. Coding of Meantime was nearly finished and a beta version was produced, but full production of the game was canceled when the 8-bit computer game market went into decline.