Oklahoma Programmers Give Life to Literary Online Game


Local Oklahoma programmers develop and maintain a small but significant online game, www.grendelscave.com, hosted in Oklahoma City by Meridian Data Systems. Grendel’s Net started work on the game in 1997 and ran it on the Web until 2001. Grendel Enterprises revived the project in 2005. They continue to operate it to this day.

The game, GrendelsCave, is an online retelling of the Beowulf Myth. It is set in Hrothgar’s Kingdom and follows the plot of the original story. Grendel, the monster of the story, is also the main nemesis in the game. He terrorizes Thanes, the player characters, by stalking, stealing from, chasing and killing them. The objective is to kill Grendel; just as in the original story, Beowulf killed the beast. Further, just as in the story, you can kill Grendel’s Mother and then the Dragon.

This game is of literary significance. In the late 1990s, several high school programs used it as an online learning tool for teaching Beowulf to English students. Literary scholars site the game as an online literary resource that goes beyond the written text.

In the late 1990s and to 2001 the game was popular among many middle and high school students. Students played the game incessantly, at school, in the library and at home. Several high schools banned the game because too many of their students were playing it during school hours.

Grendel’s Net started development of the game in late 1997. They designed it as a Web experiment in Classic ASP and MS SQL. It went live August 1, 1998. During the last year of this initial run, it was plagued by hacking and cheating. This, combined with a collapsed business model, based on ad revenue that had evaporated, eventually led to the end of the game. In July 2001, Grendel’s Net, unable to cope with the abuse, and a total loss of revenue, finally shut down the site.

In January 2005, the programming staff from Grendel’s Net started up a new company, Grendel Enterprises, to revive the dormant project. Grendel Enterprises acquired all of Grendel Net’s assets but soon discovered that the original source code was missing. After an extensive search, a programmer discovered an old backup copy of the source code on a long forgotten Grendel Net’s IBM database server in an office closet. In four months, the new company, using this old copy of the source, along with a backup copy of a later version of the database structure, was able to reconstruct the game. Grendel Enterprises released this reconstructed version, with enhanced security features to thwart hacking and cheating as on the earlier version, on April 1, 2005. The company spent the next seven months developing the next version. This version, though retaining an old, outdated look and user interface, included more complexity of play and many Norse mythological elements. GrendelsCave v2.0 went live on November 11, 2005.

Grendel Enterprises continues to run the game to this day. The company makes regular enhancements to it as well as monitoring daily activity on the site to make sure it runs smoothly. The game moderator maintains a close relationship with the user base. The company plans to rewrite the game in ASP.NET as well as update the user interface to give it a more contemporary look. Grendel Enterprises continues to breathe life into a classic game, based on a classic poem, handed down to us from the distant past.