An example of Open-source Internet BBS software that has been cloned numerous times over. The original Citadel BBS code spawned variants such as Dave's Own Citadel also known as "DOC" (currently what powers ISCA BBS) and YAWC ("Yet another Wersion of Citadel").

Bryan Ansell the owner of Citadel Miniatures bought Games Workshop some time in the 80's (moving it to Nottingham) and turned it into the company that created games such as Talisman, Warhammer, and Bloodbowl to encourage people to buy more Miniatures. And because they owned the games only they had the right to create the lead figures. I don't know if they are separate companies or divisions of the same company now.

They also turned the Magazine White Dwarf (which used to be a good general role-playing magazine) into what amounts to a monthly Citadel Miniatures catalogue.

Citadel started in 1982. It first ran under CP/M. (requiring 64K of RAM) It was written by Cynbe Ru Taren

From the original README that came with Citadel:

Citadel is a room-structured message system. The fundamental design goal is to provide a congenial forum conducive to interesting discussions. The software is intended to be as unobtrusive, unintrusive and unconstraining as possible. In software as elsewhere, good engineering is whatever gets the job done without calling attention to itself.

The fundamental design metaphor is that of a building consisting of a series of independent rooms, each of which hosts a discussion devoted to a particular topic. Messages are stored and retrieved in chronological order within each room. Messages are formatted to the caller's screen width.

Callers may travel freely between the rooms, reading old messages and posting new ones. New rooms may be created at will, and old ones are deleted when they empty of messages.

People familiar with other electronic message systems may wish to compare Citadel rooms with EIES conferences, ArpaNet mailing lists, individual "linear" BB systems or whatever; the parallels are not exact but the functions are similar.

The fundamental Goto, Read and Enter commands have been streamlined as much as possible. The message display format has a minimum of unnecessary noise: the topic is implicit in the message's location within a room, no explicit TO field is present, no message ID # is printed, no redundant "END OF MESSAGE" blurbs etc. The most common Goto, Read and Enter commands are all single-key. Citadel automatically skips rooms which have no new messages, and old messages in the current room. (Less concise commands are of course available to override this.)

Citadel Version 1 offered no more than the above, and was quite well recieved. Version 2 leaves the basic structure unchanged, but adds some additional peripheral capabilites. Private person-to- person mail is now supported. Private rooms can host restricted conferences. Once visited, private rooms behave exactly like regular rooms to the participants, but they are not accessable to others who don't know the name of the room. The sysop can set up some rooms to be windows onto designated disk/userspace areas. These directory rooms support the usual message functions, but also allow one to to do directory listings by wildcard match, or to upload and download files via Ward Christensen's protocol. Various rough edges have been smoothed off. The message code has been reworked to support automatic networking of Citadel nodes.

Citadel is written in BDS C. The distributed system can be installed and run without recompilation in most cases. Citadel needs CP/M 2.xx, at least 300K of disk space, an auto-answer modem, and 64K RAM. (i.e., a 0100 -> CF00 TPA, at least). The source files run to about 150K, the .com files to about 100K. In an functioning system, the message and userlog files together take about 100K, and one would normally like about 200K for message text, to keep the wraparound time longer than a week. The code is a simple public-domain release: it can be used without fee in commercial systems, repackaged and sold, or whatever takes your fancy. (As a matter of good form, a pointer to the parent code would be nice, of course.) The author takes no responsibility for the correctness, reliability, security, use, abuse, contents or clientele of any Citadel installation. The release of version 2.1 concludes the author's involvement with the package.

Since Citadel was released into the public domain and came with source, it was ported heavily. It's safe to say that it can run on more machines than Linux can.

The original Citadel was taken by other people, modified, released and spread around.
First David Mitchell created some updates.
Then "Bruce King/T'an T'u" (I'm not sure if that indicates two names for one person, or two different people) made Citadel 2.10.
From Citadel 2.10 there was spawned Hue Jr.'s Citadel-86, Kerry Kyes' Citadel 2.28, Caren Park's Citadel 2.25 and Maher Maso's Citadel 2.?? (I don't know the subversion he created)
From Maher Maso's version, Babel was spawned.
From Citadel 2.28, 2.25 and Maher Maso's version was created StoneHenge, Ideatree and a bunch of New York, New Jersey and East Coast versions.

(Yes, if the internet had existed back then, the forks would have been much less likely)

Title: Citadel
Programmer: Michael Jakobsen
Title screen and music: Lars Osterballe
Publisher: Superior Software
Date Published: 1985
Platforms: Acorn BBC Micro model B and Acorn Electron
Genre: Arcade adventure

Note: this write-up describes the BBC Micro version.


Citadel was a huge and challenging side-on platform adventure computer game, which saw you running, jumping and climbing through over a hundred screens, dodging enemies, collecting valuable items, and solving puzzles. The game was set largely in a castle (or citadel), with various locations to either side: to the west was an Egyptian pyramid, a witch's house, and prehistoric standing stones, while to the east was an island with a temple. The castle itself had cellars and a deep well, and towers on top. The goal was to solve puzzles to gain access to a teleport, then travel to a strange alien place, and defeat the powers of darkness.

The basic gameplay consisted of collecting objects, and working out what you should do with them and where; this was often a matter of trial and error. To get around, you had to jump from platform to platform, climb ropes, and avoid various bad guys. The gameplay owed a debt to the likes of Jet Set Willy, but there was a much larger emphasis on problem solving. Puzzles required things like taking an ice crystal to the appropriate place to freeze water and walk on it; bringing various mystical articles to temples; and putting a chicken drumstick in a fireplace to cook it and then giving it to dog-faced guards so they let you pass. There were also a number of colored keys which would open the appropriately colored doors.

Unlike most games of the time, which gave you a number of lives and where each contact with an enemy would immediately lose you a life, Citadel gave you an energy meter. It started at 100 and if it reached zero, you would die. Energy could be recovered by collecting bottles labeled with an 'E', which were hidden around the play area. Loss of energy was caused by contact with the enemies and a variety of spikes, fires, lack of air, etc. If you were losing energy too quickly, you would be rescued by being whisked back to the entrance of a room with a strange sucking noise. This saved too great an energy loss, but also prevented you running straight through large pits of fire.

You were confronted by many enemies which ranged from glowing abstract blobs, moving flames, snakes, pig's heads, and strange crab-like things, to the very sinister and evil hooded monks with dark faces and glowing eyes who waited around levels or manned guard posts and in either case would slowly drift towards you. Luckily, you had the ability to shoot at the villains, although not all enemies were vulnerable, and it wasn't entirely obvious what your weapon was.

The game also gave you a good deal of control over the player's movement. In many games of that era if you pressed jump you would sail through a pre-determined arc, and have no further influence over the character until you landed; if you fell from a high platform you would drop straight down like a lead weight; and most annoyingly you could only climb ladders if you stood at the base and aligned yourself precisely. In contrast, Citadel let you zoom around in constant control of your character's direction: you could swerve in mid-jump or steer yourself as you fell, and leap nimbly onto and off ladders and ropes (much the same feeling as the NES Mario platformers).


Citadel was a classic largely because it was a hugely challenging game without ever becoming really annoying. Partly the high level of challenge was because it was very difficult to work out what many of the objects were supposed to be, and thus almost impossible to determine what you were supposed to do with them. A flattish object like a horizontally-stretched 'H', which my sister insisted was a bed, turned out to be a bone, and had to be dropped in a witch's cauldron. A light-blue rectangle was in fact a slab of stone that had to be taken to a Stonehenge-type megalithic site, and not any kind of pill.

Bigger hassles were caused by the fact that there was no saving the game. To complete it might take two or three hours, but one or two major slip-ups could strip you of your energy and kill you off, meaning you had to start all over again, and there was a lot of fruitless running around as you tried to solve problems. But at the time, we knew no better. You also had a very limited carrying capacity, meaning there was a lot of retracing your steps to collect objects as you attempted to try each object in each location.

As described above, the platform gaming side of Citadel was very well implemented; there is little doubt that without the freedom and control over your character, running around the castle would be a real chore. The degree of backtracking required was annoying, but the game's charms overcame this. Many of the villains seemed to have real character, like the pig heads which floated up and down in a sinister yet ludicrous fashion, and the green snakes that rushed back and forwards on the ground.

It was definitely one of the key games on the BBC Micro. Graphically, it was great in its time with bright colors and some excellent design, but even compared to later BBC games it is very dated with its static screens (no scrolling) and tiny sprites. But graphics are not everything, and Citadel appealed to every gamer who likes problem-solving and drawing elaborate maps. For all these reasons, it is fondly remembered for its personality and great gameplay.


One of the more notable features of Citadel came before you even began to play. Its publisher Superior Software was at the time trying to sell speech synthesis software, and part-way through loading you would hear a voice intone "Citadel, Citadel, Citadel, Citadel," maniacally rising in pitch. The point of this was uncertain, and it probably added a couple of minutes onto the tape loading time, but it was cool.

The game was promoted with a competition to find the location of crowns hidden in the game and win a cash prize. Another gimmick was the ability to choose whether to play as a boy or a girl: the only real difference was pigtails, but it added to the slightly offbeat atmosphere and the sense of player freedom.


A second game, Citadel 2, followed from a different developer but still through Superior Software. Despite bigger and arguably better graphics it was less interesting than the first game. It was also significantly easier. Part of the problem was that this time you could tell what most of the objects you came across were supposed to be, which was boring. It also lacked some of the charm of the original. And the larger sprites meant each screen was less packed with challenges and little passages than before.

Playing today

There are a number of BBC Micro emulators available today for Windows PCs and other platforms. Most of them will play Citadel, so if you can legally obtain the binaries you should have no trouble playing the game in the comfort of your home. Typically emulators allow you to save your position in the game at any point, but for the authentic experience don't do that.

Most of this write-up comes from my own memory and playing the emulated game, but some information came from:

  • Tim Margh. "Citadel". The House of Timmargh.

If you have any other information or memories of Citadel, please let me know.

Cit"a*del (?), n. [F. citadelle, It. citadella, di. of citt city, fr. L. civitas. See City.]

A fortress in or near a fortified city, commanding the city and fortifications, and intended as a final point of defense.

Syn. - Stronghold. See Fortress.


© Webster 1913.

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