Kadath (1979)   10 comments

YOU STAND BEFORE A BLACK,& STRANGELY FORBODING DOORWAY AMID THE CHAOTIC RUINS OF THAT UNFATHOMABLE EVIL CITY OF THE ELDER ONES, THE DREAD – ‘YADDITH’.A CITY THAT DIED LONG BEFORE THE BIRTH OF MANKIND.

YOU & ONLY YOU,KNOW THE SECRET THAT WILL PREVENT THE RISE TO POWER ONCE AGAIN OF A FORCE SO DARK & EVIL,THAT TO DWELL UPON IT WILL SURELY BRING MADNESS

For those playing the home edition of our game Guess That Genre, yes, it’s our first — and what appears to be the very first — Lovecraftian horror game. The Commodore 64 port helpfully points out in the title screen this was originally written by Gary Musgrave in Altair Basic. (Altair, as in: the very first “home computer”, more ancient than even the Apple 1. It seems appropriate for the game style.)

The C64 version also mentions the Altair version was written July 15th, 1979, and in 1981 it was ported to the Commodore PET by Robert Hennings before getting again converted for the C64.

So, naturally … I played the Exidy Sorcerer version instead. (Exidy Sorcerer as in: the computer introduced in 1978 and promptly abandoned by the manufacturer, with only a few die hard fans.)

Why? Well, the C64 version clearly had some scrunching for a 40 column version, whereas the Sorcerer (and the Altair) had more screen real estate to work with, so the Sorcerer port seems to be closer to the original Altair text.

A comparison: C64 on top, Sorcerer on bottom. Notice how the Dark Star’s name is lost in the C64 version. Also, some exclamation points. Those exclamation points surely are important to author intent.

Enough with the obscure computer parade: what is this like? In typical Lovecraftian fashion, you learn of a horror that must be stopped. In the words of the game, you must:

ENTER THE LABRYNTHIAN CAVERNS
FIND THE HIDDEN (& GUARDED) EYE OF KADATH

RETURN THE EYE TO ITS RIGHTFUL PLACE

INVOKE THE ELDER POWERS

DESTROY THE GATE THROUGH WHICH THIS UNIMAGINABLE EVIL WILL GAIN DOMINION

This game does not use a parser, but rather menus where you choose numbered options. However, unlike the simulation games of the era that used menus (Oregon Trail, Taipan, etc.) this sticks to an adventure game format with a map that allows backtracking and items and puzzles to solve.

Make the links clickable with a mouse, and you’ve got a Twine game.

The map design is so unusual I’m fairly sure it has never been used in any game before or since this one.

NUMBERING THEM CLOCKWISE FROM THE PASSAGE BY WHICH YOU ENTERED,PLEASE INDICATE WHETHER YOU WISH TO ENTER PASSAGE 1,2,3 OR 4?

You need to keep careful track of the clockwise numbering: if you enter, say, exit 1, and then go back, what was previously exit 2 is now exit 1, and what was previously exit 3 is now exit 2, etc. Laterally, this means the game mainly uses a pentagonal map system which makes me squee with delight a little. I love it when old games go for something completely off-center.

To illustrate further: when you start, the Cliff Overlook is at exit “1”, counting clockwise. If I went from Pentagon #2 to Pentagon #1 and wanted to go back to the Cliff Overlook, I would need to use exit “4” instead (since relatively speaking, it’s now the fourth room clockwise).

I don’t have a sense yet whether this will be a long game or a short game. The lengthy texts (for a home computer game) suggest this will necessarily be short, but the vagaries of a parser do take a lot of disk space, so it’s possible there’s a fair amount of game stuffed in here.

Posted May 30, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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10 responses to “Kadath (1979)

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  1. Pingback: End of May Link Assortment | Emily Short's Interactive Storytelling

  2. What an interesting piece of antiquity !!!!

    So, there’s a more modern port or source available?

    • There is not. (This game’s pretty obscure, though not quite up there in Treasure Hunt or Adventure 500 territory; there’s a walkthrough and I’ve seen it mentioned a few times during my magazine research.)

      However, you can play the C64 version online:

      https://archive.org/details/Eye_of_Kadath_1983_The_Guild_Adventure_Software

      The Sorcerer one is a little trickier, and you need Java installed, but here are directions:

      1. Go to http://www.liaquay.co.uk/sorcerer/

      2. Go to the “Source Code Version 1.30” link at the bottom (or whatever version it happens to be at the time). The download comes with (I believe) all the known Sorcerer games.

      3. Run the Java file. (Just direct with whatever Java version you have installed, don’t go through a browser.)

      4. Click on the “Rom chip” icon in the lower right and pick Basic Mod 1.01. (If you need to, click the “reset” button after, but it should reset on its own.)

      5. Click on the first “Tape” icon in the lower right (two up from the rom chip). Pick kadath.tape.

      6. Type CLOAD in the window after the program says “Loaded cassette drive 0” and hit enter.

      7. It should say FOUND – KADAT and some other things … to speed it up, click on the “fast forward” button in the upper left. Re-click after you get READY to be on normal speed.

      8. Type RUN KADAT and hit enter.

      Since this is in BASIC it *should* be possible to make a modern port, if anyone feels up to it.

      • Thanks!

        Talking of other things. I think this dynamic placement of exits numbered clockwise is an effective way to build a proper compassless system. You know, we have discussed in the past (in the community) about how compassless games miss a way to provide the player a proper way to orientate themselves. So, I’m eager to read about your experience mapping this world.

      • It worked for this game, but would not work too well generally, for reasons I’ll get into (short game but a longish post, some time next week).

  3. One more question… so… This is the very first instance of a text adventure controlled by a list of options (a-la CYOA)? It is not clear reading the article.

    rubereaglenest
  4. This is indeed an interesting title. It would appear to be the very first ludic adaptation of Lovecraft in a digital or analog medium, preceding even the Call of Cthulhu tabletop RPG by a couple of years.

  5. Just today I released my interactive fiction collection app Gamebook. taplink.cc/questgamebook
    I think IF has huge potential and big future. Just as books never went out of market, IF never will too if we keep it interesting.

    • Interesting selection, it looks like they’re all “modern life simulator” type gamebooks as opposed to the usual fantasy/sci-fi?

      I’ll try them when I get a chance.

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