Would you happen to know what game established the color-coded rarity for items? What made the industry as a whole accept and adopt universally the white, green, blue, yellow/purple/orange?

This topic actually came up fairly recently on our discord server. Back in 1990, some University of Warwick students built a game named Angband, a LOTR-based roguelike named for the fortress of Morgoth. The items players could find were color-coded based on power. Angband inspired the creators of Diablo (1997) who are generally regarded as the first ones to have different colors indicating quality. Magic the Gathering added rarity colors to its printed cards in its Exodus set shortly after (1998), and Diablo 2 solidified the color-coded quality (e.g. normal, magic, rare, unique, set) in 2000. I believe World of Warcraft conquering the world in 2004 was what solidified the grey > white > green > blue > purple > orange color power progression that everyone knows today.

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