Burial Ground Adventure (1979)   7 comments


Joel Mick is another young entrepeneur, like Greg Hassett or the trio of Viggo Eriksson, Kimmo Eriksson and Olle Johansson. In all these cases (including Joel himself) the authors were about 13 when they started.

I do wonder if I missed my fame/fortune window by being born 10 years too late. I wrote Night of the Vampire Bunnies at roughly the same age, but by 1990 the market for slightly dodgy text adventures in BASIC was long closed. It’s currently 2 1/2 stars on IFDB, which might be a little overrated, but it’s still much better than Burial Ground Adventure.

Five of the first inventory items. Art by Laymik, Simon Child, Baboon Designs, Joshua Ganyon, and Amelia Edwards. CC BY 3.0 US.

Five of the first inventory items. Art by Laymik, Simon Child, Baboon Designs, Joshua Ganyon, and Amelia Edwards. CC BY 3.0 US.

1.) Just like many other games from the era, there is no plot: your only objective is to collect treasures. Also unfortunately like some other games of the era, the setting is pretty random: you’re on an island that happens to have a catacomb and a house with treasure. The house, of course, must include every room possible:


2.) There’s a “pit” you fall into and can’t get out without the right item. This is par for the course for the era, but things ratchet up a level in that even when you *do* have the correct item, it’s difficult to figure out how to use it:


What I think Mr. Mick was running into was the adventure game problem I call “implicit action”. He really seemed to visualize: a.) forming a lasso with the rope b.) throwing the looped end of the rope and c.) catching it on a rock which is not described anywhere in the room. The actions needed to be boiled down to a single two word command (having an intermediate state would have been more complex than the coding here could handle) so he went with THROW ROPE which is puzzling on its own. If you imagine the literal action, it’s just throwing the entire rope; you have to have the other parts to it for the command to make sense.

3.) A portion later suffers the same problem, even worse.


This time I confess to checking Dale Dobson’s walkthrough, but he admits he had to check the source code himself, so it’s faintly possible nobody in the world other than the author figured out this puzzle without help.

Again, implicit action seems to be to blame, although in a different sense. The author seemed to have in mind raising the trapdoor by pushing it up with the bamboo, but couldn’t figure out how to express it in a two word parser. He could have gone the route of PUSH DOOR working as long as the bamboo was in the inventory, but that would allow the implicit action of utilizing the bamboo to do it. This would lead to a puzzle likely being solved without the insight, so he settled on the nonsensical PUSH BAMBOO instead.

So in first case, the puzzle was confusing because it allowed the implicit action; in the second case, it was confusing because it disallowed the implicit action. Implicit action still bedevils adventure games to this day, where in games that involve a single-click interface the character does some action that turns out to be useful but never actually occurred to me until the game did it for me.

4.) After obtaining a key by feeding two types of meat to some dogs, you can break into the catacombs which I presume are the “burial grounds” of the title. The catacombs are connected to a maze which in several directions will inexplicably drop you in the upper rooms of the house. This is an easy contender for the most nonsense piece of geography I’ve seen in an adventure.


I guess we’ll just say it’s “magic”, right?

There are two elements that I found interesting and different, so I’ll switch from numbering to lettering:

a.) There’s not only a gun object, but ammunition you can find later; when taking the ammunition the gun will automatically be loaded. However, the gun is a complete and utter red herring. You can attempt to use them on the previously mentioned dogs (the ones you feed meat to) but things don’t turn out well.


This suggests both a game design finesse (having a weapon be useless really is a nice red herring) and possibly some sort of social commentary on violence.

b.) Right before the catacomb, there’s a dark room. The only light source is a match, but the source lasts very briefly.

There is way to “see” the room, but it turns out to be totally unnecessary. While I’ve played text adventures while fumbling in the dark that mostly due to trying to preserve battery life; here there is a room that is meant to *never* be seen, which makes for a nice moment.

So here, again, I find a common experience for this project: authors still fumbling with a new art form, with faint glimmers of possibility. Did I really need more than that?


Posted February 25, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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7 responses to “Burial Ground Adventure (1979)

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  1. Thanks for a great blog. Really like your The Night of the Vampire Bunnies. Ported it to my favourite 8-bit: https://youtu.be/wWYw8odR0FE

  2. Do you remember what year you wrote The Night of the Vampire Bunnies?

    • 1989. I was 11.

      I really like your ports! I’ve also been meaning to mention the Hungarian game at some point, so if you happen to make a post about Bunnies, I’ll link to both over here.

  3. Jason, I’d just thought I would let you know since you expressed an interest in the Hungarian game I ported and translated (A Hos Lovag) that I have now ported and translated a Czech game with an anti-soviet theme, written as a protest when Czechoslovakia was still behind the Iron Curtain. It’s called P.R.E.S.T.A.V.B.A. Info can be found here: http://faculty.cbu.ca/jgerrie/Home/Type-in-Mania.html

    • Neat! I’m guessing you picked up on it from Arron Reed’s writeup? The part of the story I found most astonishing was how the author was one of the few good programmers in Czechoslovakia at the time so intentionally mangled his BASIC source code as a way of disguising his identity. Did anything seem particularly noteworthy in that respect?

      • Yes, Arron’s write-up was what brought it to my attention. I link to his article via the acronym on my page It was funny to hear how Fidler used BASIC as a screen to prevent his identity from being rumbled by the authorities– The people’s language being used to protect him against the people’s gov’t. The code is generally very clean, .Not sure if he did it completely himself, or drew on some standard engine. There was an error in the room DATA that would have the program read beyond the room description strings available. In any other machine than the Spectrum, this would cause an error, but due to a quirk in Speccy BASIC, trying to read a string when a number is the next DATA item, just results in a null string being returned. Essentially, I believe that string DATA items and number DATA items are handled completely separately. You can read all the strings in order or all the number items in order– the Speccy just doesn’t care. But in other BASICs you have to read all items, string and numeric, in their precise sequence, so I had to do some fixing. It also has a hidden DATA statement that gets read, but never used. Line 103 DATA”DON’T BE AFRAID OF THEM!” Chilling. All the graphics and sound in my version are my additions. Including a flashing screen for the pyrotechnics.

  4. The program also contains a weird technique of using the PI function along with the functions NOT, SGN, and INT as replacements for the numbers 0, 1 and 3. For other numbers instead of using simple digit, it uses the VAL function and then the integer expressed as a string “11”. This might be why Reed suggests that the code was somehow mangled as a further protection against detection of the real author. However, this might just be a memory saving trick of Speccy BASIC. Instead of multiple bytes being used for each numeric value, 2 bytes for each key word is all that is needed. I know in Micro Color BASIC floating point numbers require 5 bytes. But it might be more in Speccy BASIC. Perhaps even the VAL plus a string and its 2 quote marks can thus still provide a saving of memory.

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