The Tarturian: Kileng the Traveler’s Powerful Ring   13 comments

The entire operation was run out of our basements and all the manuals were produced by us and a local printing firm. We started on a shoe string and it was just a passion for writing programs that would drive us. There were all night sessions, lost weekends and it was strictly learn as you go. As I recall, the two Utilities (MCAT, CRAE) probably took close to 6 months of development because we were picking apart the Apple OS and learning how things worked. We would ask questions at the A.P.P.L.E. meetings and one person or another had the answer then we would be up 2 days straight making some new feature work. Creature Venture made it up number 8 or 9 on the best seller list then quickly faded.

The games went faster once we developed the utilities we need to make screens and parse input but it still took 3-4 months to generate a game. Sometimes, the phone would ring and I would answer it then ask what they needed. If they needed a hint, I would pretend they had reached the right person and give them a clue or answer their questions any time day or night.

— From an interview with Butch Greathouse, one of the duo that formed Highland Computer Services

Some fussy history to get out of the way first — I’ve been using “1981” as the date because that’s what the Gallery of Undiscovered Entities (host of the interview above) uses and what the title screen of the game has, but Mobygames uses 1980, presumably because of the copyright listed on the manual. Highland Computer Services started early 1980, so based on their own estimate of “6 months” for their first utilities, then “3-4 months” for each game, and the fact the Tarturian came after Oldorf’s Revenge, means the game was developed late 1980 and not published until 1981.

This update will be relatively short; in addition to a busy push at work, The Tarturian has been an uphill trudge. There’s a lot to map and at each step I need to

a.) check every direction, since the game doesn’t describe exits

b.) SEARCH every room with the gladiator, sometimes there’s a secret exit

The majority of rooms don’t use NE/SE/SW/NW but there have been a few tiny exceptions, enough so I need to test those exits out too.

The philosophy behind room descriptions is a little odd, too. They often aren’t describing the room as directing messages directly at the player:

I’m unclear how I’m supposed to be parsing that last one. Despite some extensive mapping, I’ve only found two of the supposed ten treasures which will help defeat the Tarturian. In one of them, after encountering the Count from last time…

I am contractually obliged to show the screenshot again.

…I simply had to return to the room after leaving and there’s a potion of strength left behind. The other was at the end of a maze, and it turned out slightly more interesting than I expected because there was a new trick.

The “hint” is just the word “WRITE”. That’s one of the Cleric’s powers. Normally all the rooms of the maze are indistinguishable (and there’s no DROP command in this game so you can’t use a trail of items) but writing puts letters on the floor.

The maze then becomes a relatively straightforward exercise. It lead to a dead and but the Strongman’s SMASH ability led to the treasure.

More to report next time, I hope? Here’s another silly creature.

No idea what to do here. Fun looking, though!

Posted December 19, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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13 responses to “The Tarturian: Kileng the Traveler’s Powerful Ring

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  1. “Wholly room bat wizard!” seems like Robin’s exclamation “Holy [whatever they’re talking about] Batman!” Don’t know if it has more significance.

    The Yummy Yakky is cute and, according to the ad copy from the last post, has a secret. The phrasing reminds me of Fat Albert but I don’t know if that suggests anything to do.

  2. Is it possible that the “wizard” thing is a hint that you have to CAST something as the wizard in that room? (Possibly somehow tying into the Batman reference?)

  3. Regarding the date… I’ve noticed that The Tarturian appears both in adverts in later 1980 and also very early (Jan/Feb) 1981… So, was actually, as MobyGames suggests, a 1980 game? Certainly on the cusp, anyway.

    For example, see Micro 6502 Journal (December 1980) issue 31, page 30. Apple Orchard v1n3 1980 (Winter), page 78. Creative Computing, December 1980, page 107. Perhaps even Call-APPLE magazine 1980-10… that’s no longer on the Internet Archive so I can’t check that reference.

    • Hmm, I swore I had a long discussion on the date with my posts here, but it looks like I just cut it out of this one. I considered putting 1980/1981 since there was some uncertainty.

      I was going with GUE’s date, since they had the most detail of any site and even mentions how long it took to write each game. Given the re-use of content, it is possible they squeaked in late 1980.

      The magazine listing could still be just hopeful (Time Zone certain seems like it should be published by the end of 1981 based on ads) but not if there’s an October ad. I’ll see if I can find someone with access to Call-APPLE.

  4. I think, at the very least, that the whole timeline needs to be shunted back a little bit…

    There’s a mention of Creature Venture in the April 1981 issue of Softalk and, perhaps more tellingly, there’s a letter from a Belgium reader in a *British* Apple (BASUG) publication from May 1981 telling them about a “new” adventure called Creature Venture. If it’s true about them taking three-four months to create a game (and I take any comment about time with a huge pinch of salt… people rarely remember time-related facts accurately) then an early 1981 release for Creature Venture would shift The Tarturian back into 1980.

  5. I notice that an early Highlands advert, from Compute vol 1 issue 6 (September 1980) mentions a game called Sinbad… apparently a “hires adventure-like game using over 100 pictures”.

    • yeah, that sounds like they were into hopeful pre-advertising

      I’m 100% behind tweaking Tarturian’s date, still want to investigate Creature Venture a little more, especially given the information above

      • Yeah, giving the positioning of the game in the “November” catalogue (last entry on the price list) and the lack of any magazine references in 1980 for Creature Venture, I think it’s likely it was just a very early 1981 release in the end. Still surprised how early it made it over to Europe, though.

        That seems to be the sole mention of the Sinbad game. I wonder what became of it. Imagining that it was reworked into one of the other titles seems a little bit of a stretch.

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