Adventure in Murkle (1981)   2 comments

Micro-80 was a magazine published in Australia (from Goodwood, a suburb of Adelaide) starting in December 1979.

micro80

The System 80 and Video Genie mentioned on the cover are both TRS-80 clones.

Each issue endeavored to give source code for a selection of programs that would work on 4K and 16K models. The April 1981 issue (cover above) had an adventure game by Graeme Moad titled either Adventure in Murkle or An Adventure in Level I depending on where in the magazine you looked; I went with the more distinctive title. (It’s hard to find and I originally thought I was going to have to type it in, but this collection from New Zealand has it.)

I’ve discussed games with low memory requirements before — Haunted House was in 4K by being split into two parts — but we never had one that entirely fit in 4K. So I was very, very surprised upon booting the game up to find not only is an adventure that fits in 4K, it’s a graphical adventure that fits in 4K.

Now, you might quibble that the animation above and screen below don’t represent “graphics” — it’s just drawing things with ASCII characters — but I wouldn’t call it just “text” either.

In order to fit, the game simply jettisons the parser. All commands are given via numbers. 0 = HELP, 1 = NORTH, 2 = SOUTH, 3 = EAST, 4 = WEST, 5 = LOOK, 6 = OPEN, 7 = GRAB, 8 = READ, and finally 9 = DIG. (I think the commands may have been intended to be displayed on the bottom but I was having an emulator error; in my play experience I could see them by just hitting ENTER but only temporarily.)

Now, having said all that, this is neither long nor a shining hidden gem of a lost game, but again, we’re working with 4K here. It’s essentially just a maze.

I initially didn’t quite understand it was a standard maze — the trees are randomly placed in each forest room, so my early attempts to draw where they landed were stymied and I assumed I was supposed to navigate somewhat at random.

Picking action #8 (READ) reveals that the sign says “DANGER — DO NOT OPEN DOOR.”

After about half an hour of flailing I buckled down and mapped the thing, albeit having to use “reference directions”; for example, once I found a particular place where going west led to the building shown above, I assumed if I encountered a room where going west led to the building that I was dealing with the same room.

As small as it looks, this was quite a difficult map to make, and I had to check the source code after I was done to make sure I was accurate.

After realizing I likely had the full map, I tested LOOK around until I found a shovel.

Then tried the shovel in every room I could find

then took the key back to the building with the “Do Not Open” sign. Upon opening it, the game said

OH NO, IT’S THE HOOGLY!

and ended with this screen:

And … that’s it! That’s the only ending. Did we just die? Mission: Asteroid kind of had a bad ending but it was only an unintentional coding error, here it’s clearly quite intentional.

This could potentially be the first “forced bad ending” adventure. I think given this was essentially just a trifle, the author didn’t feel obliged to clarify further. It reminds me of how Nellan is Thirsty had the first mini-map because it was written for children and the author didn’t feel obliged to force navigational difficulty; in this case, there’s so little room for plot the author just made do with what he could fit and perhaps accidentally innovated in the process.

Posted February 19, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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2 responses to “Adventure in Murkle (1981)

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  1. A strange ending. I was not able to find the source code to check out that that ending is the only one. Did you do it yourself?

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