Goblins (1979, 1981)   1 comment

We just went through a game Roberta Williams explicitly cited as an influence. But what if there was an influence that was intentionally left out?

Goblins was originally a text-only adventure game for Apple II by Hal Antonson and Linda Stix:

We sent the program to Programma International in California for publishing. It was “released” in 1979. This version was strictly text. There were no graphics. I have forgotten how many copies for which we were paid. I think it was 13 or 30! An interesting note. Roberta and Ken Williams had just moved to Coarsegold and had started Sierra Systems. They had a copy from Programma. Ken was the assembler guy and Roberta became the Queen of fantasy games. There are a dozen similarities in their first game, “The Wizard and the Princess,” to Goblins.

In 1981, a version with graphics was published by Highlands Computer Services. This is the version that survives today.

I’m not sure what to think of the above story – The Wizard and the Princess (from 1980) isn’t the Williams’ first game, and the business names they went through were On-Line Systems and Sierra On-Line respectively. I can chalk the discrepancies up the usual fuzziness of memory, but it means the rest of the story may include some of the same fuzziness. Really, the easiest way to confirm the link is to play the two games. Since Goblins theoretically came first chronologically, I’m playing it first.

However, the 1981 game clearly isn’t identical to the 1979 one. If Sierra borrowed from Goblins, then Goblins must have borrowed back from Sierra, because this game includes some rooms that are described purely by the visuals, which wouldn’t work in a text-only game.

These rooms are scattered throughout regular named text rooms, although the rooms are quite minimally described. (There’s enough of them I can understand why – the game undoubtedly pushed a disk capacity limit.)

Every item has an associated picture which gets drawn on top of the room graphic (those two strange ovals are the limes).

In any case, the premise is that you are tromping through “goblin country”. From the instructions:

GOBLIN COUNTRY IS A LAND OF MAGIC, TREASURE AND ADVENTURE. TO WIN, YOU MUST FIND ALL THE TREASURE AND TAKE IT TO A SAFE PLACE.

Also,

YOU INCREASE YOUR SCORE BY PUTTING YOUR TREASURE IN A SAFE PLACE (YOU MAY HAVE TROUBLE KEEPING THE PLACE SAFE!)

Every once in a while you get attacked by a goblin, with a random chance at killing the player. As far as I can tell so far there is no way to evade or avoid this, which means sometimes the player just dies because a random number generator decreed it to be so.

I’ll report back when I have more of the map filled in; I still can’t tell yet if this is going to be an easy game or a toughie.

Posted December 13, 2018 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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One response to “Goblins (1979, 1981)

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  1. It’s very interesting to follow your exploration of so ancient software. Keep it up!

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