Some games I’ve investigated for the All the Adventures project simply don’t seem to exist any more. I have cataloged them here for reference and especially if someone has a lead.
Wander (1974, Peter Langston)
This is probably my “most wanted”, not only because comments on old newsgroups indicate wide distrubtion, but also the early date (earlier than Adventure!) and author (who earlier wrote Empire and later went on to fame at Lucasarts).
Wander uses “databases” as its worlds. These are reportedly by Peter:
castle: you explore a rural area and a castle searching for a beautiful damsel.
a3: you are the diplomat Retief (A sf character written by Keith Laumer) assigned to save earthmen on Aldebaran III
library: You explore a library after civilization has been destroyed.
tut: the player receives a tutorial in binary arithmetic.
The date of 1974 I have only seen mentioned in one place, the Inform Designer Manual.
Peter Langston’s ‘Wander’ (1974), a text-based world modelling program included in his PSL games distribution for Unix and incorporating rooms, states and portable objects, was at least a proto-adventure: perhaps many others existed, but failed to find a Don Woods to complete the task?
The PSL games distribution might still be active somewhere (it’s mentioned on a gopher at MIT), but not any account I have access to.
We now know that Crowther’s Adventure was already an adventure before Don Woods got to it. Could Wander be an adventure before Crowther? I won’t know unless I find I copy.
(ADD: Big update here.)
LORD (1981, Olli J. Paavola)
I’ve got dual interest in this one, not only from it being a mainframe game from Finland (it was written while Olli was at the Helsinki University of Technology) but also for being allegedly the first interactive fiction book adaptation.
However, by all reports I’ve seen this didn’t have wide distribution and is probably lost forever.
There’s a touch more detail at this newsgroup post from 1995:
With 550 separate locations, this game is huge by most standards. It does not really try to be completely consistent with Tolkien but mixes elements from many other sources. It is clear, however, that it is made with a great love for and knowledge of Tolkien’s books.
The same post mentions The Shire as a text adventure from possibly 1979, which puts the “earliest book adaptation” statement into question. (Orthanc is also mentioned but is an RPG.)
New Adventure (1979/1980, Mark Niemiec)
Martian Adventure (1979/1980, Brad Templeton and Kieran Carroll)
These were written at the University of Waterloo and it mentions here that “Archive tapes for this mainframe exist and it might prove possible to get at the source code for these games.”
FisK (1980, John Sobotik and Richard Beigel)
From here: “A really big, Zork-like game that started at an innocuous house like Zork and led to a big complex of rooms with treasures and bad guys.”
Underground (1978, Gary Kleppe)
According to David Cornelson, this was on the Milwaukee Public School’s mainframe in PDP Basic. While the original tape is lost it is possible the game made its way elsewhere.
Gary Kleppe himself later has added some details. The full list is in the comments, but here’s a few relevant parts that might help identify the game:
* At the entrance to the caves is a robot, but you have a laser pistol with which you can shoot it.
* There is a chess set locked down by a computer. If you initially play against the computer you will lose, but if you’ve found and read a certain book then you can beat it and it will give you a trophy (a treasure). After that you can blast the computer to take the set which is also a treasure.
* There’s a room where the description is written backwards, as is any message that gets displayed to you while you’re there. You also need to type commands backwards for the parser to understand them.