Robert Alan Koeneke, the creator of the influential early roguelike Moria, has passed away aged 64.
As the name suggests, Moria was inspired by J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, specifically the Mines of Moria location within the novels. The goal of Moria is to travel through the mines and eventually defeat the fiery Balrog. The game was also inspired by the mechanics of Rogue, making it one of the first roguelikes.
Koeneke began development on Moria while studying at the University of Oklahoma using VMS Basic. However, he wasn’t satisfied with the game until he discovered the programming language VMS Pascal, with which he re-wrote the game and released Moria 1.0.
Koeneke then partnered with colleague Jimmey Wayne Todd Jr, culminating in the release of Moria 4.5 in 1986. Koeneke was working on version 5.0 when he left the university for a job, though he made Moria open source so others could work on the project (via Umoria).
In an email posted by Koeneke to a mailing list for Angband (a subsequent popular roguelike derived from Moria) in 1996, the developer reflected on his legacy.
“I have since received thousands of letters from all over the world from players telling about their exploits, and from administrators cursing the day I was born… I received mail from behind the iron curtain (while it was still standing) talking about the game on VAX’s [an early range of computers] (which supposedly couldn’t be there due to export laws). I used to have a map with pins for every letter I received, but I gave up on that!”
“I am very happy to learn my creation keeps on going… I plan to download it and Angband and play them… Maybe something has been added that will surprise me! That would be nice… I never got to play Moria and be surprised…”
While Koeneke never developed another video game, his influence on the gaming industry cannot be understated as his work directly inspired games like the Diablo series.
Those interested in playing the original Moria can do so here.