In my post about early versions of Adventure I mentioned a 1977 port which seemed to be the first past Crowther and Woods which tried to do more than just port the code. Unfortunately, it’s a little hard to know who to credit, exactly. This is from the source code:
c For x86_64, pgf77/ifort/gfortran, S. O. Lidie, 2015.04.01
Tested On Mac OS X Yosemite and CentOS 6.x.
Update for NOS/VE 1.4.x, 89/11/03. SOL, LUCC.
Convert to NOS/VE: use direct access reads instead of word addressable
NOS CRM files. S. O. Lidie, 87/05/01, LUCC. NOS/VE 1.2.2 L678
Program last updated from SCOPE 3.4 to NOS 1.3 by
Bill Hein and Shelley Hobson (ACCA).
Modified by Kent Blackett
Engineering Systems Group
Digital Equipment Corp.
Modified by Bob Supnik
Original version was for DECsystem-10
Next version was for FORTRAN IV-Plus under
the IAS operating system on the PDP-11/70
This version is for FORTRAN IV (V01C or later)
under RT-11 on *any* PDP-11.*
These credits don’t even mention the version I played was a recent port at Gobberwarts; so recent that the author bug-fixed something in it for me today (thanks!).
In any case, this text and another one like it in the game suggest to me that most of the long list of authors were merely porting between systems but Blackett and/or Supnik succumbed to the irresistible urge to add their own touch to the game.
Unlike Adventure II, there was just a small addition. Specifically, there are three new rooms near the starting building (Forest, Dell and Gazebo) and one new item: a palantir (orb).
Map via Steve Lidie. The new rooms are shown.
At your feet all the water of the stream splashes into a 2-inch slit
in the rock. Downstream the streambed is bare rock.
You are in open forest, with a deep valley to one side.
An overgrown path, barely discernible, leads south.
You are in a dell, deep in the woods. Before you is a steep
incline leading up to an old deserted gazebo. As you peer through
the overhanging moss and cobwebs you see a dark form.
A path, heavily overgrown, leads south.
You are in the gazebo. The dust is deep here, indicating
long disuse. Ancient elvish runes here describe this as a
place where one may see many things. Another, more ancient
inscription reads “PKIHMN”.
There is a palantir(orb) here.
If you check the map carefully, you notice there’s no exit out; the magic word is used in the gazebo to teleport to outside the locked grate at the start of the game.
The orb is a treasure and the source of the extra 16 points, but at least in concept the author(s) tried to add an interesting design element: peering into the orb to get hints.
>peer in orb
The lights dim…it now seems to be totally dark — in the orb
many visions pass by… many things are seen…..
now you are looking at …….
a grate at the entrance of a large cave……
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much actual hints; here all the messages possible for the last line of the palantir’s vision in the source code:
0205 a grate at the entrance to a large cave……
0206 a small stream feeding into a large cave…..
0207 a grate above you and a crawl west…..
0208 a hall,but the vision is clouded by thick mists…..
0209 yourself…the lights come up and an usher asks you to leave….
It’s possible there was intended to be more, or it’s possible this was simply meant as atmosphere.
In any case, there is a long history of modifications to Adventure and it’s interesting to see what (maybe was?) the very first one.
For further watching: GET LAMP interview with Bob Supnik.
Before I get to the winning path, I want to talk about a few other gameplay elements.
First a map, alas incomplete (click to enlarge):
There are forests arranged in mazes and tunnels underneath that are dark. Navigating the tunnels took using my torch, which I found ran out far too quickly; it was hard to explore more than a fraction of the tunnels before it went out. That element plus the secret doors (which I’ll talk about it a moment) plus the general randomness made it too hard to be fully comprehensive about mapping.
A lot of the enemies (vampire bat, goblin, and an evil magician) were lurking down in the tunnels. They apparently have no problem in the dark:
(If I had killed the magician, I might have finished a quest; there’s a “man in grey robes” wandering aboveground that warns “RETURN TO ME THE STAFF OF THE EVIL SHIMMERING MAGICIAN, BUT DO NOT USE IT YOURSELF!”)
What makes the light source issue doubly frustrating is there are secret doors hidden in a very odd way.
In other words, hang around and looking over and over and eventually a secret door may just materialize. I presume the intended mimesis is that by using LOOK you are searching the room, like an old-school D&D adventurer.
On to winning–
If you read my last posts carefully, you might have noted I ran across a king who wanted me to rescue the princess, and I shortly thereafter was killed by a knave near a “young woman in soiled but expensive clothes”.
It’s apparently possible to luck out, because I randomly came across the same knave / woman pair while playing a new game and attacked them even though I didn’t have weapons. I killed the knave with a single karate chop.
At this point the princess was willing to follow me, so I headed back to the king (who I hadn’t even visited yet that game!) and this happened:
After that bounty of karma points, I took the diamond to the church and gave it for even more karma points (quite a few!) and decided it was time to go inside the church and pray:
The problem with having a game with so many generative elements and a flexible goal it is quite possible to squeeze through via luck. I reset the game and tried to kill the knave quite a few times without weapons and had no success.
The amount karma awarded is random; I tried going through the princess-rescuing sequence again (with a weapon this time) and even after donating the diamond and several more items to the church, I was only at 176 karma points. Praying at 176 karma did nothing.
Apparently even the maximum required score is random:
The purpose of the game is to accumulate “karma points”, which are necessary for the character to go directly to Heaven. The player is never informed how many karma points are needed, and the chosen number of points is another example of the game’s randomness as it changes from game to game; some games end nearly instantly due to a very low karma point goal being randomly chosen, while others can last for hours.
Other than not defeating the evil magician I never got by one other obstacle: a giant in the forest. I’m not sure if it’s meant as an obstacle to something greater or if it’s just another notch for your karma score.
I also found a very neat item I never was able to use: a bomb with a fuse. I’m curious what would happen if I tried it on the idol of Baal, but I never had a situation where I both was holding the bomb and found the idol.
Normally my sense of completion might be enough to find out for myself what I’m missing but the fact goals don’t even give a consistent score rather takes my motivation away. If anyone else is dying of curiosity, though, I first recommend you grab an emulator as opposed to playing online, because there’s a several-minute startup time for the random generation; you can set the emulator so it accelerates the process and takes only a couple seconds. Download for the game itself is here (there are two versions, they both seem to work fine).
While my description of gameplay may seem underwhelming, Lords of Karma does feel chock full of texture. There’s randomly placed items, characters that can follow you, monsters that can chase you, and a weird religion system which feels suitably mystical. It’s certainly a promising first effort, especially for an author who programmed his own adventure-creation system from scratch in 1978 technology.
Lords of Karma (so far) features a very simple parser and gameplay which consists almost solely of wandering and slaying the occasional monster. This would be a recipe for a grind except the religion system is keeping things very interesting.
I have managed to gain some karma points. The simplest way was by defeating a monster, which I guess is improving the good of the world somehow.
I also found a “man in rags” who I could give treasures to.
YOU GIVE A BRASS FARTHING.
THE BEGGAR SAYS:
YOU HAVE 1 KARMA POINTS.
although I found a bigger bang for my dollar (so to speak) by giving at a church
YOU ARE AT THE ENTRY TO THE CHAPEL OF PRAYER.
YOU GIVE A TOPAZ.
YOUR TAX-DEDUCTABLE CONTRIBUTION IS APPRECIATED.
YOU HAVE 20 KARMA POINTS.
YOU ARE AT THE ENTRY TO THE CHAPEL OF PRAYER.
After entering the church and praying, I had some sort of religious experience:
Exploring the new area yielded a nearby “idol” to Baal. I had a ring I tried to give as an offering, but bad things happened:
While the church did not specify any kind of denomination, I’m guessing some sort of mutant Christianity? I’m not sure what to think yet what’s going on with religion, really — the name of the game is Lords of Karma, plural — other than I’ve been anxious to know what will happen next with the worldbuildling.
While Scott Adams had the good fortune of writing in a “meta-language” that made it easy to port to other system, his work originally was designed for the TRS-80. Of course, anything in BASIC was relatively portable, so people like Greg Hassett also embraced multiple platforms.
However, there’s another author working around the same time who was possibly the first to be ambitious from the start about portability on home computers: Gary Bedrosian.
So having what for the time was a fairly good system, I wanted to try to write an adventure game. The only trouble with that idea was that most people didn’t have what I had, so I knew if I wanted to reach a wide audience, I had to make it run on Apple, Atari, and TRS-80. The answer to my problem was a shareware program called Tiny Pascal. It was a very compact compiler (it had to be for a computer limited to less than 64 kilobytes of memory) designed for the 8080 or Z80 microprocessor. Best of all, we had the source code for Tiny Pascal in Tiny Pascal itself. So a friend and I modified Tiny Pascal so that we could cross-compile into 6502 microprocessor code for the Apple and Atari. The TRS-80 was a Z80 system so that wasn’t a problem.
Using Tiny Pascal, I wrote a very small adventure core that could handle text messages, parsing user input, and manipulating objects (matches, doors, swords, etc.) based on object tables. Remember, everything had to fit into memory, so we wrote another program that compressed text in a way that was fast to decompress on the fly, so we could store approximately 3 characters in every 2 bytes. In the final adventure game, everything including program, the text messages, and data describing the objects had to fit into less than 64 kilobytes of memory. [Source]
Using his system, he wrote Lords of Karma (1978), Empire of the Over-Mind (1979) and G.F.S Sorceress (1980). All were eventually published by Avalon Hill in 1980. Lords of Karma originally came on a single tape that worked for TRS-80, Commodore Pet, and Apple II (a tape published in 1981 also included Atari 400/800).
Some people think highly even now of Empire of the Over-Mind, so I am looking forward to seeing another early auteur in development.
But first, Lords of Karma. The game’s back cover is intentionally evasive about plot / worldbuilding / lack thereof:
However, this line in the manual is interesting:
The object of the game is to get to heaven with as many “karma points” as possible. You get these points performing deeds of kindness and bravery.
This gave me the impression the goal is not getting points by gathering all the possible treasures and hoarding them in a single room for no apparent reason, but rather to do as many good deeds as possible. After so many greedy sojourns I … think I could use a plot like that.
Before starting I also learned the map “partially randomises” [source] so we’ve got some generative roguelike-ness going on.
I actively tried to get Apple II and Commodore Pet versions to work since I’ve been doing a lot of TRS-80 lately, but unfortunately both of them had early crashes, so I had to stick with the old reliable.
You can see we’re not in for epic room descriptions. (I’m somewhat reminded of playing a old-style MUD, with a large landscape of curtly described rooms.) It turns out you are supposed to LOOK upon entering a new place.
Is the topaz a “treasure”? Do we need it? Will we get something for it? I also enjoy how the game feels compelled to mention “up” is “the sky” and “down” is “the ground”.
I guess just wandering into the throne room makes me qualified.
The MUD-like feel holds up: here we have some combat.
Picking up “treasure” did nothing for my karma, so it is possible the treasures are just means to an end (bribery, buying stuff) and not part of the overall goal at all.
At the very least this game feels very different from others I’ve played. Let’s see where it goes!
I have been trying to detangle the history of Adventure — the Crowther / Woods game — so I know which ports I should be playing in which order for the All the Adventures project. This turns out to have been very complicated as information is spread over a tangle of websites and not all of it is accurate. This is my best attempt to sort everything together.
This document will likely get edited as I tangle more things out. Looking at the full list of modifications gives a small glimpse into the insanity.
Adventure Family Tree, by Nathanael CJE Culver based on work by Russel Dalenberg
I link to sources whenever I can.
In the 1975 academic year Will Crowther starts what we know as Adventure. [Source.]
All Crowther family testimony is consistent with the 1975-76 date range. Responding to a direct request via e-mail, Crowther (2001) dated his original “Adventure” to 1975, “give or take a year.”
— Dennis G. Jerz
Will Crowther stops work on Adventure. The game is noticeably incomplete (there is a sign mentioning maintenance in a lower section of the cave where advancing further causes the game to crash). [Source.]
The most likely timeline places Crowther ceasing work on his original game in early 1976.
— Dennis G. Jerz
Original source code here
Windows compiled version here
Starting March, Don Woods discovers the source code and starts working on it. He produces a 250 point version [source] on his way to finalizing a 350 point version several months later.
I’m relying solely on memory which tends to be fallible (see above: the dwarf ‘vanishes’, not ‘disappears’) but my best recollection is that ADVENT.EXE first appeared on the PDP-10s at ADP (the old First Data in Waltham, Mass.) in 1977. It was an incomplete version which only had about 250 points worth of treasure. I seem to recall that there was nothing past the troll bridge but an ‘under construction’ sign or some such. I believe our copy came from WPI, but word at the time was it was developed at Stanford. Two or three months later we got the full 350 point game.
— John Everett
This version is then ported, in a fairly literal way, by Jim Gillogly into C. [Link to source code.]
The original 350-point version is separately ported July 1977 by Kent Blackett. [Source]
ADVENT.FOR: C REV. 17 ADVENTURES MODIFIED BY KENT BLACKETT ENGINEERING SYSTEMS GROUP DIGITAL EQUIPMENT CORP. 15-JUL-77 ORIGINAL VERSION WAS FOR DECSYSTEM-10 THIS VERSION IS FOR FORTRAN IV-PLUS UNDER THE IAS OPERATING SYSTEM ON THE PDP-11/70″.
This is followed by Bob Supnik, circa October (date given in his own source code). It has 366 maximum points and the cumulative efforts of Blackett and Supnik (probably) represents the first modification of the game past the Woods version.
Stephen Lidle’s version of Bob Supnik’s code modified for modern compilers, based on a SCOPE version by “R. Emerson, W. Wirth, S. Hobson, W. Hein, S. Connard”, et al.
There’s also a version of Bob Supnik’s port on if-archive, although I have been unable to confirm if it is exactly the same as the 1977 code.
Source code of Bob Supnik version
Kevin Black’s compilation of Bob Supnik’s source for DOS
Gordon Letwin made a 350 point version available by August 1978. It was the first version available on a personal computer — the Heath. [Source] It was not a literal port. [Source]
The version I played was written in FORTRAN. One of the treasures was an African gray parrot in a pirate aviary, accessible by a rubber raft. There was also an office of some kind with the words “how do you spell relief?” on the wall, and after you read the message, you could use “Rolaids” to teleport to and from the well house. I think the magazine at Witt’s End might have been a copy of Byte magazine.
While this version has been lost, there is a downloadable Osborne port which may be derived from the same source although I have been unable to test it as of yet.
David Long at University of Chicago starts on his own modification of Adventure (a process which goes on until at least 1980), although no versions from this year exist.
Peter Luckett and Jack Pike finish “Adventure II” by the end of 1978. [Source and executables]
George Richmond (“with the support of Mike Preston”) makes a 500-point version of Adventure in Pascal. [Information source] [Source code]
David Platt writes yet a different modification of Adventure into a 550-point version. [DOS version]
Microsoft Adventure is released as a commercial game for TRS-80 computers, with both v1.0 and v1.1 dated as June 1979. Gordon Letwin, who wrote the Heath port from 1978, is the one responsible. [Info from the Game’s Manual] It includes some slight modifications which mirror the 1978 Heath version somewhat. [Downloads for v1.0 and v1.1]
This year has a “501 point” version of David Long’s code (“Version 5.2/2, October-79”) although it rather confusingly this might be a “side release” by an anonymous contributor. Even more confusingly the version might actually be intended as 500 points (?) and the vanilla compile goes to 496 points (??) although the version online is fixed to be at 501. [Source code] [501 point version compiled for online]
The David Long story gets very messy past this point into the 1980s and I’m not going into every variant from his code, but I should mention the last version from David Long himself was at 751 points. While this version was playable on Compuserve for a while, it now appears to be lost except for a remake by Carl Ruby into QBASIC.
One of the games I have on my radar is Joel Mick’s Burial Ground Adventure, which is from 1979 and not that hard to find.
However, the game mentions a followup work called “Damsel in Distress” which I haven’t been able to find anywhere. It is mentioned in this comment from 2014:
I found the complete Odyssey series by Joel Mick (Damsel in Distress, Treasure Island, Journey Through Time) on Marmotking’s Vintage Computer Site, although it appears to be down at the moment. I tried the first game, but I don’t think I’m as patient as you when it comes to tackling primitive parsers. The game gets confused with the objects Horses and Horseshoes, for example. I didn’t get very far.
Marmotking’s Vintage Computer Site appears to be completely defunct, and archive.org barely has a few shreds. Since it’s a game that apparently was on the Internet at some point, I figured I’d throw out a request — anyone know where I can find this?
I expressed in an earlier post disappointment that most games in the adventure genre copied their model from Crowther and Woods meaning we didn’t get as many odd experiments as early CRPGs.
However, there is one person who seems to have gone completely his own way: Robert Lafore.
He wrote five games in an “Interactive Fiction” series published by Adventure International (the Scott Adams company) which are unlike most anything from the era.
Interactive Fiction 1: Six Micro Stories (1980)
Interactive Fiction 2: Local Call for Death (1979)
Interactive Fiction 3: Two Heads of the Coin (1979)
Interactive Fiction 4: His Majesty’s Ship Impetuous (1980)
Interactive Fiction 5: Dragons of Hong Kong (1981)
The dates are very definite because they show up in the source code from the author himself. It appears Six Micro Stories was written third, even though it was published as if it were first. The ad copy suggests it is a good introduction to the format, although I find it weirder and more experimental than the 1979 games.
Speaking of the ad copy, I think it’s interesting enough to reproduce in full. This is from the Summer 1980 Adventure International catalog; keep in mind this is not referencing their entire library of adventure games, but just these Robert Lafore creations.
WHAT IS IT?
Interactive Fiction is story-telling using a computer, so that you, the reader, can actually take part in the story instead of merely reading.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
The computer sets the scene with a fictional situation, which you read from the CRT. Then, you become a character in the story: when it’s your turn to speak you type in your response. The dialogue of the other characters and even the plot will depend on what you say.
IS IT A GAME?
No. In a game the situation is rigidly defined and you can select from only a limited number of responses. But in Interactive Fiction you can say anything you like to the other characters. (Of course if your response is too bizarre they may not understand you.)
IS IT IMPORTANT?
Interactive Fiction is the artform of the future. Just as the birth of the novel had to await the invention of the printing press, so does the widespread use of micro-computers make possible Interactive Fiction.
In all previous literature the information flow was one-directional: from the work (novel, story or poem), to the reader. Now the computer provides the medium to change this. The reader, instead of merely absorbing it, can now influence the story, explore it in his own way, become a part of it. The story will be different each time, blending the imaginations of reader and writer. And this is only the beginning. Technology will soon permit Interactive Fiction to become a verbal medium, as synthesized speech and speech recognition techniques eliminate the need for typing and reading. The user will be able to actually speak with the other characters in the story. Later, holography and animation will permit the user to “see” the characters he is talking with and we will have Interactive Movies!
Don’t miss this opportunity to participate in the birth of a new artistic medium.
For the game I’m going to be discussing:
Local Call for Death is a detective story in the style of Lord Peter Whimsey. Considerably more challenging than the above program [referring to Six Micro Stories], this one will put your analytic skills (and social savoir-faire) to the test.
The Scott Adams adventure games show up earlier in the catalog. Esentially, the writer(s) of the catalog considered the concept of Interactive Fiction an entirely different idea than adventure games.
So, back to the game — it feels like an evolutionary route from the genre of “solve it yourself” mysteries that date back to at least 1929 with Ellery Queen’s The Roman Hat Mystery. I was also reminded while playing it of reading one of the old Two-Minute Mysteries books.
All responses are “open prompt” where you are essentially typing what the main character says.
Later on, the game is even very picky that conversations have in complete sentences. I admit this won me over and had me role-playing reasonable wodges of text, even though I am certain (via the most advanced AI a TRS-80 can muster) the game was simply responding to key words.
To start the game off, though you are prompted for a name, gender, and background location
and then thrown into a setting that tries very hard to be British.
There’s the occasional prompt for verisimilitude (asking what you do in America, and if you play bridge) but otherwise the opening scene runs on a straight track.
Later there’s a crime scene:
At this point you are allowed to type single words corresponding to examining items in the scene. (Hint: Type ROOM to go back to looking at the whole room if you get stuck.) This gives a feel of an actual investigation.
I shall quibble that about half the words I tried were unrecognized, but this section was otherwise solid. Then Sir Colin starts asking you probing questions. This is where the complete sentences come in. You have to attempt to logically justify various arguments about who did the crime and what the evidence is.
And part of the time, the magic worked — I typed a totally logical argument, and Sir Colin not only understood it the way I meant but it advanced the plot.
There were also times here I struggled to communicate, but it honestly wasn’t as bad as some guess-the-verb experiences I’ve had (typing >GET UP from the opening room of The Count still burns). If you struggle for too long Sir Colin will even prompt you with suggestions.
There are also moments where you will be prompted to go back to examining the scene to help make more deductions.
I am intentionally being a little vague with spoilers (please note the game makes the identity of the murderer terribly obvious, so I’m not spoiling there, the proof is the hard part) because this game was enjoyable enough I’d recommend it for playing. (I’m quite serious — I was shocked by how good it is.) Even though it’s a circa-1979 TRS-80 game there is fortunately an easy way to play:
Give things a moment to load. After everything boots up, type RUN “STORY” at the prompt.
There is no save game feature so give yourself about an hour before you sit down with it. You’ll want to take notes.
The end is worth getting to — Sir Colin does a very satisfying period-mystery-appropriate spiel where he lays out all the facts.
If you like the era, Christopher Huang has very recently written two interactive fiction mystery games set in the same era (and a traditional book, if that’s more your style).