The First Computer-Based RPG Might Surprise You

MUDs, Rogue, and other roguelike projects were already being played at universities around the world and Richard Garriott had technically been selling Akalabeth: World of Doom in Ziploc bags since 1979 before moving on to Ultima I in the first half of 1981, but apparently the Syfy channel believes that the first commercially available CRPG to debut upon the PC scene was Sir-Tech's Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord (also in 1981).

The validity of that statement can easily be disputed, but it's the premise of their "The First Computer-Based RPG Might Surprise You" video featurette that looks at the mark the title - which was followed by a long-running, influential franchise - left on the gaming world:

And a bit from their intro:
Nowadays, when we think computer-based RPG, probably the first thing that comes to mind is World of Warcraft (the first game was actually Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, released in 1994 on PC). However, the hugely popular MMORPG wasn't the first gaming franchise of its kind to be released on computer. That honor goes to a game released in 1981 (so nearly 15 years earlier!), originally made for the Apple II at the very height of Dungeons & Dragons' popularity.

Created by Andrew C. Greenberg and Robert Woodhead, Wizardry began its life as a simple dungeon crawl but became a "melding of first-person dungeon crawling with a kind of stat-based character management D&D players loved." There were eight games in all in the Wizardry series, starting with the notoriously hard Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord and ending with Wizardry 8, released in 2001.

Greenberg and Woodhead started developing the game back in 1978 while they were students at Cornell University. They had to face the technical limitations of the era (such as writing the game in basic and very limited memory space), making their accomplishment even more admirable. Oh, and they were also trailblazers in the play testing department, recruiting friends and fellow D&D fans to hone the game and work out the kinks before releasing it to the masses.