You may remember Matt Barton's three-part history of CRPGs at Gamasutra some time back. It turns out Matt has extended the material into a full book titled Dungeons & Desktops and Gamasutra has an extract on the Silver Age:
In 1981, the CRPG was still in its infancy. Programmers were refining their techniques and discovering the true capabilities of personal computers. More importantly, standards were emerging that would greatly improve interfaces, making CRPGs much more intuitive and far less cumbersome. So far, most CRPGs had been of interest only to hardcore role-playing fans already intimately familiar with D&D conventions.
These games lacked the sort of user friendliness that would have made them accessible to a larger audience. In any case, many gamers didn't relish the idea of learning one role-playing system just to abandon it when the next game came out.
The solution came in the form of long-running series, such as Ultima, Apshai, and Wizardry. Once gamers had mastered the interface, they could move on to the next game in the series with relative ease. As we'll see, these series had benefits for both developers and gamers, and they mark an important turning point in the history of the CRPG.
My Amazoned copied just showed up. Only started reading it. Looks like 436 pages worth of what was in the Gamasutra article, from obscure mainframes to present-day. Only complaint so far is that the screenshots — which are fairly numerous — are small and dark. Would have liked larger, color versions of them. But Moby probably has pics of most of them.
Later on, the Rogue team signed a deal with Epyx to distribute the game for home computers, but, sadly, their commercial efforts failed miserably (the authors blame piracy).
Some things never change. Bloody pirates have been killing the industry for three decades.
— Hammer, anvil, forge and fire,
chase away the hoofed liar.
Roof and doorway, block and beam,
chase the Trickster from our dream.