Archive for March 2017

Spelunker Play-By-Post   28 comments

To recap: I found an obscure, probably-only-ever-played-by-a-literal-handful-of-people game in the October 1979 issue of the magazine Micro. Partly due to it being printed in a magazine, it’s meant to be played with a “guide” who reads the location descriptions printed therein.

We’re going to do a little experiment where you, yes, you the readers, get to play. I’m going to consider the map off the cover to be fair game:

as well as this verb list:

Opening screen:

As the guide, I can also say:

You are at the mouth of a large cavern. The sides of the entrance slope steeply upward, and a mysterious passage leads west into the cave.

There is a KNIFE, TENT, TRUCK, and LIGHT here.


1. Post a comment with one or more parser commands you’d like to do.

2. After a unspecified amount of time I will take all the commands and try to put them in some sort of sensible sequence. If one player wants to pick something up and the other wants to move to a different room, I will sequence the item-picking first.

3. If two commands are contradictory, but one commands has been “voted on” more than the other, I will go with the majority. If there is a tie (say one person wants to go west and the other person east), I will flip a coin.

4. I will be posting future screens / room descriptions / responses to this post until it gets somewhat full, then making a new one which summarizes the action and keeps things going. Also, I’m going to use “guide discretion” and may occasionally give responses not provided by the Apple II program, but I will specify when it’s the computer and when it’s me.

Good luck! You’re welcome to plan/discuss in addition to just giving parser commands.

Posted March 23, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

Tagged with

Spelunker (1979)   8 comments

For reasons unrelated to this project I was browsing 1979 issues of the Apple II magazine Micro and happened upon this one from October:

Here’s a link to the issue in question.

Thomas R. Mimlitch’s Spelunker is not the very first type-in parser adventure (that honor goes to Dog Star Adventure) but I’m guessing it’s the second? (I’m excluding Quest — which appeared in a July magazine — because it doesn’t have a parser.) In any case, this game is so wildly obscure that I’ll be impressed if someone can post a personal story of having tried this before.

Fortunately, the program was featured on a compilation disk (Micro Apple 1) so I don’t have to type in the type-in. However, there’s another catch which you’ll learn about shortly.

Imagine if when computer games were invented the idea of a “stand-alone” game was unknown, and the computer was more of an aid or companion to play:

This is an adventure fantasy series in which you become directly involved in exploration of a mysterious cavern in southwest Kentucky called Devils’ Delve. If you have never played before, you should take a guide along. The guide will read the chamber descriptions as you enter each room for the first time. He can also supply some hints and clues to help you when you are stuck. Only the guide should use the room descriptions, word lists, and the map of the caverns.

Just to be clear:

a.) It’s an adventure game with an inventory and puzzles and map and so forth. However …

b.) All the room descriptions are inside the magazine, rather than the source code. Furthermore …

c.) The room descriptions are supposed to be read by the “guide”, analogous to the Dungeon Master of Dungeons & Dragons. While the room descriptions are numbered, the numbers are not given in the game itself, forcing the guide to check against a table. Not only are the room descriptions not shown in the computer, but the visible objects aren’t shown either; they have to be listed by the guide, again by cross-referencing off a table.

There are four things in this room, three which you can pick up, and they all have to be described by the guide. Update below!

UPDATE: Well, there was a bug in the code from the compilation I found! The line 9320 reads

9320 IF (STA(1) MOD 100)#LOC THEN 9360

but it’s supposed to say

9320 IF (STA(I) MOD 100)#LOC THEN 9360


After changing it appropriately, objects show up in the room description, huzzah! However, the room descriptions themselves are still printed in the magazine only.

In any case, I can’t really “play” this game without help. Also, in order to set things up / check the code’s sanity / realize what was going on I had to spoil a large chunk of content. So I think the most appropriate course of action is for me to be the Guide, and for some of you — yes, I’m speaking to you, the readers — to be the players.

So, quick survey: if you’d be interesting in playing, make a comment to this post. Also let me know which option you’d prefer:

Option 1: We could play-by-post where people put their parser commands into the comments and I provide the screenshots and guide commentary.

Option 2: We could play live. It would likely be sometime during the weekend of March 25th-26th; I would stream the game on Twitch, and y’all could type parser commands in chat.

ADD: We went with option 1. The play-by-post starts here.

I cannot guarantee the game will even be winnable without the code crashing and burning. This is as crazy as retro gets.

Posted March 15, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

Tagged with

Dog Star Adventure (1979)   1 comment

We last saw Lance Micklus in Treasure Hunt (1978) which was only sort-of what we’d recognize as an adventure game. This one is a clear Adventure-based game including a parser with the distinction that it is the first of its kind printed in a magazine: the May 1979 issue of SoftSide.


To be clear, this was a “type-in”, meaning it was intended that to play the game you’d have to first type in the source code. I used to do this all the time. When I was young (7 or 8 or so) I spent weeks typing in an adventure game from a book (this one, maybe) but somehow the source code was too large and the entire disk crashed as I was putting in the last lines. I was disconsolate and crying. My mother, being sympathetic, bought me a copy of Zork 1. This was my first Infocom game.

When typing an adventure it tends to be obvious in the process of typing what all the puzzle solutions are. Fortunately, Dog Star Adventure later got published under the Adventures International “Other Ventures” line, and there are plenty of copies besides (8 versions, at least). I do predict at some point in the future I will have type in a type-in, but not today.

Let’s quote the plot directly from the ad copy:

The evil General Doom and his Roche Soldiers are preparing to launch an attack against the forces of freedom led by the beautiful Princess Leya. Th Princess has been captured by Doom — and it’s up to you to pull of a daring rescue and save her and the royal treasury!

It’s not even trying to disguise its Star Wars origins, although science fiction adventures are still rare for this time period. Also note, even with a plot that really doesn’t demand it, there’s still a treasure hunt tossed in (at least if it’s the royal treasury you’re not trying to steal it for yourself, right?)

I ended up playing the commercial port; if you really want the classic type-in experience (complete with having to fix a typo in the source code) check out Jimmy Maher’s playthrough. Early on, there is a very significant gameplay difference:

The original supply room just states it has “all kinds of things” and you are literally supposed to just guess what the room contains, and then try to take it. I would call this “breathtakingly unfair”, even compared with games that actively strive to be unfair.

You can’t get that far without the supply room either. There’s no dark rooms, so no time limit as far as a limited light source goes; however, every once in a while a security guard will pop up (in some versions you can call them “stormtroopers”) …

… which you can take down with the blaster from the supply room. The blaster has a limited number of shots (and can only be refilled once, with the ammo that’s also in the supply room).

The game is otherwise fairly straightforward as far as puzzles go; you grab stuff mostly in the open and cart it back to the ship. At two points you need to use “key words” found elsewhere in the game (SECURITY to get into a vault and SESAME to open the space station doors). There’s also an infamous puzzle involving a hamburger:

Much to my own surprise, I figured out what to do with it. There’s an attack robot you find later, who is … hungry? Clearly instead of activating the clones in Star Wars Episode 2 to stop the droid army, the Republic needed to cook up some fast food.

Also of note: if you wait too longer the hamburger will get cold, and the attack robot won’t take your offering; it’s game over. This happened to me the first time I played.

In any case, the game ends by the player collecting as many treasures as possible (including Princess Leya, who you pick up like any other item), and then launching the ship to escape. Due to the primary tasks of rescue and escape you don’t need all the treasures to get a “win”, which I found to be a nice design finesse. For games that are pure treasure hunts, this often doesn’t come across as an option.

I still can’t recommend this one for modern players. The puzzles are either too hard (hamburger, original supply room) or too easy (most everything else) and the experience of making it to the end felt more grinding than insightful. Still, it is surely important in being the first readily available source code to people who wanted to write their own adventures. I am curious: does anyone know of any works in particular that specifically mention they were based off the Dog Star source?

Posted March 15, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

Tagged with

One Of the Lost Mainframe Games Found   3 comments

Two years ago I blogged about lost mainframe games, including this one:

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.

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.

I got a couple emails (by both Anthony Hope who helped unearth Wander, and the journalist Jukka O. Kauppinen) letting me know that the source has been found (by Mr. Paavola himself) and is currently at exhibit and playable at the Finnish Museum of Games.

Unfortunately, playing it means physically being in Finland; there’s no general release. Anyone in that neck of the woods?

The museum has on display one more text adventure I’d never heard of before — Aikaetsivä! (1986) by Jukka Tapanimäki:

Posted March 8, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

imaginary games has a Interactive Fiction Database page   Leave a comment

All the entries are nestled safely at the Interactive Fiction Database.

Please check yours for edits you’d like to make / cover art you’d like to add / errors you’d like to fix where I put 1878 rather than 2016 as the year / etc.

Posted March 7, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction