Lost Ship Adventure (1980)   12 comments

From 80 Microcomputing, December 1980.

Charles Forsythe joins the ranks of Greg Hassett, Joel Mick, and the authors of Stuga as a teenager publishing software (15 at the time of this game). After playing the Scott Adams games, his biography mentions that:

He was excited about adventure, but like all youngsters, was unable to buy the programs he needed to satisfy his new interest. So he began writing them.

This sounds familiar. When I was very young if I wanted a new adventure I had to write it. The first adventure game I remember playing was a type-in from a library book.

I’ve been relatively glib whenever we’ve hit a treasure hunt (gather all the treasures, put them in central location X) but I decided to chart all the games I’ve played so far for All the Adventures to track the evolution of plot styles:

“Rescue” has a primary motivator of someone or something being extracted, “Investigation” is about figuring things out and putting pieces together, “Escape” is motivated by getting the player out of danger, and “Enemy” is a plot about an opposing force that must be defeated.

These categories are quite rough and some games I just had to make a ballpark decision, but you can at least get a fair idea of how well-copied the treasure hunt concept from Crowther and Woods Adventure was in this era. In 1978 it made up essentially every game, but by 1980 (assuming the ratio continues when I play the rest of the year) only about half of the adventure games were treasure hunts.


For this game, the idea of lost ship salvage is one of the most appropriate uses of a treasure hunt, since it matches the experience of real-life salvage (if not the lawyer fees).

Noteworthy: the steak is rotten so does *not* work on the dog, who has apparently been resourceful enough to live alone on an abandoned ship for several years.

This game opens badly, with a serious parser issue:


I’ve got enough grizzled experience I can neatly plow through this kind of problem (“hmm, I better test a couple verbs, even though the first one implies not to do the action, because that’s a default message”) but I can see someone booting up the game and stopping right there.

Besides the section above I haven’t been able to make much early progress. I have access to

  • The main deck as shown above, where I can’t reach the black flag. I can attempt to SET SAIL but the game says I haven’t set a course.
  • The crow’s nest, where there are some gull eggs (and I get knocked into the sea if I try to get them).
  • The map room of the ship, where SET COURSE is recognized but the game says I have nothing to mark the map with. (Trying to STAB MAP to be all pirate-style just gets the “DON’T BE SO DESTRUCTIVE!” message.)
  • A nearby beach where a sign says I can STORE treasures there. I have stored 0 treasures so far.
  • A cargo hold with a rusty machine, some decaying bags, a working fishing net (although no fish around) and a bag of gold. I tried to take the bag of gold to the beach to STORE it but the game says I don’t know what’s inside (??). I suspect a genuine bug at work.

Despite the early stuckness, I’ve got some goodwill left because I like the environment. The main character wears a diving suit and can walk around underwater. The abandoned ship feels mysterious but not mystical (yet), and while I don’t think the layout is “authentic” the author also didn’t feel obliged to pack in an unrealistic amount of space. I can read a simple description like


and take a few breaths of another world; sometimes, that’s all I’m needing out of an adventure game.

(Part 2 of this post here, or read All the Adventures here.)

Posted July 22, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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12 responses to “Lost Ship Adventure (1980)

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    Maybe we’re meant to be picturing hitting the coral with the pommel of the dagger? Though in that case a hammer or rock might have been better, unless there were something about the description of the dagger that suggests use as a blunt object. (Probably, distinguishing between ordinary coral and soft corals that lack an exoskeleton and thus might be more cuttable with a dagger edge is picking too small of a nit, here…)

    I tried to take the bag of gold to the beach to STORE it but the game says I don’t know what’s inside (??)

    I agree this is weird, but — OPEN BAG?

  2. Is this playable online? I have some guesses for where you are (PYVZO EVTTVAT, PYVZO, or HC).

    I found a reproduction of a book with the source code but I’m not involved enough to try typing it in. (The OCR looks pretty sketchy; if you click “other formats” you can find a scan. “Lost Ship” starts on p. 76. This also has source code for David Huntress’s Adventure Generator and seventeen other adventures–I don’t think you’ve done Arctic Adventure or any of the ones by the Boners? At least a search of your site for “boner” yields nothing.

    • Ah I see you already linked that book for CIA Adventure.

    • Ira Goldklang’s (trs-80.com) has both the original and published-by-Programmer’s-Guild versions (LDOS format). It’s not on any of the other sites so not exactly playable online, but I set things up so can still kind of do it anyway.

      First, go here, and copy the text into your computer’s buffer:


      Then go here,


      and pick any BASIC program whatsoever. Replace the BASIC code that’s there with the new code, and then pick Emulate Edited Program.

      The graphics at the start are a little bit messed up but it does play correctly.

      I linked to that book you mention with my “He was excited about adventure” quote. The Captain 80 book has been a pretty good reference! The Don & Freda games seem to be 1981, although I’ll definitely make one last sweep through the book before closing out 1980. (I’m looking forward to their first one, Thunder Road, just ’cause the premise is a bit different. “You must try to deliver White-Lightening (Moonshine) from your farm in Possum Hollow through the hills and hollows to Knawbone, but you must watch out for the revenuer and the sheriff. This is your last run and if you are successful you will have enough money to go to college.”)

      I *think* Arctic Adventure is 1981 as well. Note the author, Harry McCracken, is currently the technology editor at Fast Company.

      • In case anyone is reading this comment thread: After not having played ARCTIC ADVENTURE myself since I wrote it—I never got a copy of the CAPTAIN 80 book—I have debugged it, tweaked and expanded it a bit, and made it playable on the web at http://arctic81.com.

    • One source claims Thunder Road at 1980 and another claims 1981. This will take a little leg work.

  3. Lost Ship Adventure now added to the list at https://willus.com/trs80/?q=lost+ship

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