Trek Adventure (1980)   10 comments

There were many Star Trek games before even 1980 (mostly simulations based on the 1971 mainframe game), but Trek Adventure by Bob Retelle is the first Star Trek text adventure.

From the June 1980 Aardvark newsletter.

This game also marks this blog’s first occurrence of the Ohio Scientific computer (or OSI). There does happen to be a lovely emulator for OSI computers which even has Trek Adventure as one of the games in the original package, so I gave it a try.

To clarify: you don’t play any of the main characters of Star Trek. You play a random crew member who has been left behind; perhaps you might even say YOU ARE THE REDSHIRT.

Ship severely damaged by freak Ion Storm-
Engines damaged-
Transporter out-
Abandoning ship in

I’ve been back and forth on whether this scenario is reasonable. The Enterprise has at minimum around 100 crew, and seems to have at least about 12 shuttlecraft, so it looks like there’d be room for everyone to evacuate at once. As far as the crew member being left behind, I suppose they were assumed dead.

The premise lets you wander around the ship without any of the pesky “characters” or “conversation” making things complicated for a coder trying to stuff a game into 8K of BASIC.

Many games of this era — like the Scott Adams ones — only recognized the first three letters of each word as a compactification method. With this game, only the first two letters of each command are recognized, which gets to the point of genuine confusion. Does the verb PU push or pull something? Does FI fix or fill? Is PR pry or … something else? Usually the game’s responses would be enough to infer what was going on, but the responses are often either “Can’t do it!”, a blank line, or “Does not compute!”

Most of the gameplay occurs on the “middle floor” of the Enterprise as shown above. The game tries hard to make things feel bigger than they are; there are quite a number of “jammed” doors but my suspicion is most don’t open. There’s a “ventilation” system you can climb into, but that consists of a single room where NORTH, SOUTH, EAST and WEST and loop back to the same room. Sometimes (at random, when “looping”) a DOWN exit appears and you can go down into any of the main rooms of the ship. (And again, I said “at random”: if you’re aiming for, say, Storage, you have to keep trying over and over until you land there.)

In Auxilary Control I found a message

Extremely FRAGILE
Magnatomic VALVE
On the Starboard ENGINES
is CRACKED! Starting
Engines will result in an Anti-Matter IMPLOSION

which strongly suggests the final goal of the game is to fix the ship.

There is a “parts storage” right next to engineering that has a replacement VALVE, but unfortunately, it is too big to get into the ventilation system so you have to get through the door the “regular” way. However, the door asks for an ID card which I don’t yet have.

There’s a third floor with just a shuttlecraft bay, but the game says I can’t get in there without a spacesuit because the room is depressurized. There’s a spacesuit in STORAGE next to the TRANSPORTER ROOM, but the only way to get into storage is via the ventilation system, and the spacesuit is too bulky to bring back through the ventilation system.

I’ve essentially made no progress otherwise, even though I suspect I’m missing something very small. The almost-no-responsiveness parser doesn’t help matters. I did work out PU was “PUT” (you can PUT SPACESUIT to put it on) but I’m still fuzzy on FI and PR. I also found (via brute force search) that BL corresponds with a verb, I’m guessing BLAST? … but I don’t really know. There’s also SH (for SHOOT I suppose) but I haven’t found a phaser yet — there’s an “Armory” in security that presumably has one, but it requires an ID card (just like the parts storage does).

Everything above makes the game sound like a bit of a mess — and it truly is — but I’m having more fun than you’d expect. I think this is because the subject matter manages to match vaguely enough to the real thing that it does “feel” like the Enterprise. I’m able to blast some Star Trek The Motion Picture music and get tingly retro-futuristic vibes. I imagine this is why people write fan fiction; it’s easy to paint a few broad strokes, rely on people’s rich memory of past stories, and get to the action.

Hopefully, a break will lead me to finish this by next time, although it looks like source code diving will be required.

Posted April 8, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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10 responses to “Trek Adventure (1980)

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  1. I believe the Enterprise has a canonical crew of 450, for what it’s worth. (Which rather raises the question of why the captain and all of his senior staff are constantly beaming down into danger. It’s a bit like General Eisenhower and his entire command staff picking up rifles and personally storming the beaches at Normandy as the vanguard of the first wave. But that’s well-covered in David Gerrold’s The World of Star Trek.)

    • Yeah, I went with 100 as the minimum plausible for it to still be flying around under “regular” circumstances; there’s going to be some backstory stretch no matter what. But to keep rolling with it, if the Enterprise was doing a dangerous operation I could see a chunk of the crew being offloaded.

      I also checked more into shuttlecraft count, and it looks like 4 to 6 is the normal number to be actually present at one time. Still doable with 100, definitely not doable with 450.

      At least an ion storm was a pretty good choice of disaster, even post-TOS there are a lot of ion storms hurting ships, including a full-on Borg Cube in Voyager once.

  2. I have heard about Star Trek as one of the first adventures, apart from adventure itself. I believe it has had a lot of incarnations, though, both text-based and say, simulation or strategy based.

    • I’ve checked everything with “Trek” vaguely in the title that I could get my hands on from 1970-1980, but if you know of one that might qualify as an adventure (in the sense we’re using the word) I’m happy to take any suggestions.

      I’d designate mainframe Trek, Camel, Oregon Trail, Highnoon, Pirates!, King of Dragon Pass, etc. as “narrative strategy” games. They’re honestly a genre that needs more attention. (There’s only one of me, though, I can only do such much.)

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  4. Don’t know about other versions, but in the C64 version I stumbled accross “LOOK AROUND” to re-displays the room contents. “LOOK” on its own didn’t work fo me.

  5. There’s another adventure game called “Star Trek Adventure”, whose program listing appeared in the August 1982 issue of _80 Microcomputing_ magazine. It involved the planet “Tieras 80” (get it?), and informed us that the Klingon word for surrender was “Troxaeti” (which also sounds like TRS-80).

    The nice thing about the source code was the way it avoided spoilers. Surely, typing the entire program in by hand would mean you’d see all the messages and give away the plot, right? Wrong! All of the text that appeared was scrambled, in a manner similar to ROT13 (if you remember ROT13) — easy to decode, but hard to read accidentally at a glance. (This DID make it more of a challenge to type it in.)

    I put the .cas file (TRS-80 emulator cassette file) for this game here:

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