Death Dreadnaught (1980)   6 comments

I want to keep my 1980 track going, but let’s stick with space theming —

Via 80-U.S. Journal, September/October 1980.

Death Dreadnaught is the fourth game published by The Programmer’s Guild (after Lost Dutchman’s Gold, Spider Mountain Adventure, and Temple of the Sun) and was written anonymously by two brothers in Texas who went by Biff Mutt and Spud Mutt. Bob Liddil (who ran The Programmer’s Guild) said in an interview that their royalty checks were endorsed the same way.

Also from the interview: “80 Microcomputing magazine would not accept The Programmer’s Guild ad for the game as originally submitted, until Bob amended it to label the game with an MPAA-inspired R rating.” I’m not so sure on this point, or at least, that it really was a problem; the ad above was printed roughly at the same time, so The Programmer’s Guild must have decided to lean in on the marketing. (This is despite the fact the MPAA ratings are trademarked so technically can’t be used in this way, but given we just had a commercial unlicensed Star Trek game with none of the names changed, it’s keeping in line with the era.)

The EXTREME depictions of VIOLENCE are pretty much straight gross-out horror.

It’s the sort of thing I associate with a.) teenagers trying to be edgy and b.) early Peter Jackson movies.

Despite the overheated predilection for gore and questionable spelling choices, I feel like there’s something original (for 1980) going on here. You start alone in an alien ship where the only objective is to escape, and as long as you don’t push any buttons or turn any knobs on the way…

This is from the first screen of the game. There’s a lot of knobs and buttons you don’t want to push.

…it’s smooth walking over to the shuttlecraft bay, where there’s a button helpfully marked FLY. If you try to push it, you die because the shuttle bay doors are still closed.

Oops. I found a lever to open the shuttle bay doors (which required solving a small puzzle), tried launching again:

Yes, the game really likes to kill you. The gimmick is you need to find all the supplies to survive the shuttle trip, but doesn’t detail exactly what those supplies are. So far I’ve found batteries, food, and oxygen, but the shuttlecraft currently still runs out of gas when I try to launch it.

My map so far.

The thing is: despite the small puzzle I mentioned, and two spots where the way is blocked by creatures (see death screens earlier in the post), the map is essentially open. This is a game mostly about wandering and taking in the blood-soaked atmosphere. Which is relatively original! The closest comparable games I’ve played for All the Adventures I can think of are Ringen and Battlestar.

Despite feeling light on puzzles, I’m stuck. I haven’t found gas anywhere, so I suspect I need to get by the monster. I do have a weapon, but shooting the monster just results in it killing you straight up. There aren’t any other items I have other than the needed survival ones, and the parser is not cooperative with creative approaches other than the ability to SHOOT basically anything in the game.

Posted April 25, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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6 responses to “Death Dreadnaught (1980)

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  1. “Vinyl grain leather”? Must be some kind of futuristic hybrid space upholstery substance or something. Or vinyl imitating some-kind-of-grain leather.

  2. Interesting. I think this is the first adventure that is complex enough and out of the f**king treasure quest, despite of the teenager-level of horror.

    • If you look at 1980:

      Fully collect the treasure plots:

      Quondam by Rod Underwood
      Ghost Town by Scott Adams
      Zork I by Tim Anderson, Marc Blank, Dave Lebling and Bruce Daniels
      Haunt by John Laird
      Temple of the Sun by Jack Powers
      Gargoyle Castle by Kit Domenico

      Mildly collect the treasure plots, but not really:

      Dante’s Inferno by Gerard Bernor
      CIA Adventure by Hugh Lampert

      Not collect the treasure plots:

      Mystery House by Roberta Williams
      Misadventure, Star Cruiser, Jailbreak by Roger M. Wilcox
      Odyssey #1, Damsel in Distress by Joel Mick and Jeffrey M. Richter
      Marooned by Kim Watt
      Wizard and the Princess by Ken and Roberta Williams
      Nellan is Thirsty by Furman H. Smith
      Mystery Mansion by Greg Hassett
      Reality Ends by Med Systems
      Trek Adventure by Bob Retelle

      “Trek Adventure” definitely had the same “just survive” vibe that this game does.

      I think the most “sophisticated” plot we’ve had, other than the LaFore games (which are almost in their own category) is The Count by Scott Adams, which really managed to perfectly integrate plot and gameplay.

  3. Gross.

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