Bilingual Adventure (1979)   5 comments

Vous etes dans la maison. C’est une maison de captage d’une grande source.

Il y a plusieurs clefs la

Une lampe de cuivre brilliant est ici

De la nourriture est ici

Il y a la une petite bouteille

This game seems to be the very first text adventure playable on home computer in a language other than English. It’s a translation of the Crowther/Woods version of Adventure, released by Creative Computing for the CP/M operating system.

Via an old eBay auction.

You pick a starting language (English or French) and then can swap between the languages at any time by typing “english” or “francais” appropriately. (The design seemed to allow for new languages, but those two are the only ones that were made.)

It’s another formerly “lost” game, but I managed to unearth a copy (via a dead link that the Internet Archive, fortunately, had saved). I’ve now uploaded it so you can play online.

It was written in the obscure computer language SAM76, the brainchild of Claude Ancelme Roichel Kagan. It claimed to be “designed by people for people“. SAM76 removes all English text from coding and uses only cryptic symbols and abbreviations. (Why this would make the language more user-friendly is an exercise left to the reader. I guess this makes the language potentially more international? … but it never took off, anyway.) The side effect is that while it was originally released on CP/M, the version at the link above is essentially the same, with a DOS instead of CP/M interpreter.

The credits go to:
– Jim Manning (did the majority of the implementation)
– Ancelme Roichel (author of SAM76, added some features and wrote the French)
– Harley Licht (proof testing, verifying)
– François Brault and Thierry Gauthier (checked the French)

This was written in New Jersey, not France, but Ancelme was originally from France and François and Thierry were visiting from France. So: written and checked by native speakers. I’ll bring that up again in a moment.

This is not an exact port by any means. Eagle-eyed readers may have already spotted “XYZZY” got changed to “SAM”. There’s text changes aplenty in general:

Original: A huge green fierce snake bars the way!

New: A huge vicious looking green snake is eyeing you malevolently.

The way dwarves worked in the Original Adventure was that the first one you met threw an axe, while the remainder threw knives, but the axe was the only thing you could take. In Bilingual Adventure:

There is a sharp knife lying on the ground here

The dragon has been removed entirely. There’s a silver sword embedded in a stone. (Borrowed from Adventure 550 maybe? It’s smack dab in the middle of the swiss cheese room, though.) Dropping the magazine in Witts End does not yield you an extra point, and the magazine in fact counts as a treasure (5 points).

There are enough differences I’m going to have to play this through (and even remap things) so I’ll save details for next time. Before closing out I wanted to point out a study done in 1983 on using computers to study languages where “teachers and supervisors of foreign language programs from 29 high schools in six states provide reviews of foreign language microcomputer courseware.”

French included some standard tutorial software, but also both this game and the French version of Mystery House. (…there’s a French version of Mystery House!?) The reviewers did not think well of the quality of the French:

The French version is clearly a translation of the English. The translation is frequently awkward and occasionally incorrect.

Clearly, just being a native speaker is no guard against spelling and grammar errors.

Like most text adventure software at this period, the parser only accepts the first couple letters of each word (so TOOTHPASTE and TOOTHBRUSH would be considered the same thing.) One of the educational catches of this is not catching word endings in languages where it matters!

The grammar is rudimentary (every input is imperative verb with direct object, and incorrect forms are accepted).

Since the game doesn’t even read to the end of the word, it can’t tell if word endings are correct, and as the 1983 study points out, accepts “prend nourr” for “prends la nourriture”. (Native French speakers: is leaving off “la” that horrifying? I don’t have a good sense.)

In spite of problems with language usage, vocabulary level, lack of instructions, etc., La Grande Aventure would be a strong activity for some students and, if it were accompanied by a variety of sound teaching devices (such as discussion, in French, of the goal after a session, speaking French during the game, requiring that the students draw and label the map that develops while playing, acting out scenes or situations from the game, having students’ compose their own branches of La Grande Aventure or their own games), could evolve into a very beneficial learning tool.

I like the idea of a class “acting out scenes and situations” in Adventure. Too bad the bit where you punch out a dragon is taken out.

Posted June 28, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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5 responses to “Bilingual Adventure (1979)

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  1. I was wondering why on earth the keyword for switching to French would be “François” (which is a man’s name) rather than “Français” (which is the French word for the French language), but, I guess the thing of the parser only reading the first few letters answers that :)

    • Just my bad spelling combined with my bad French, there.

      Also (as the ERIC critique notes) there are no symbols on characters, so it’s “c” rather than “ç” in the game.

    • ” François ” is the equivalent of ” français ” but in ancient french. I don’t know if that’s voluntary in the game.

  2. This is a really neat finding.

    Also, the feature of changing the language “on execution” is… just cannot be done in some modern systems, like Inform or TADS. So kudos to 1979.

    Also, I wonder… this should be added as a translation, in IFDB. Actually, I wonder if all these findings are being recorded by the community. For example, the other day I searched for Kadath, at IFDB, and it was not there. Of course, I’m not saying that you must update IFDB, but I feel these are important findings to not to be added to IFDB. (probably I should add Kadath there). I see that you upload these findings at archive.org, so I think that is already a good way of preserving all this stuff.

    • I’m barely able to keep up updates on my own site, let alone other sites (although I did send a couple fixes to Casa Solution Archive recently).

      IFDB doesn’t have the greatest coverage of very early stuff — I usually refer to Casa first, then Mobygames, than IFDB as a last resort. It would take quite a bit of work to bring it up to parity (not like that isn’t a worthy cause, though!)

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