Adventure 448 (1978-1979)   10 comments

Adventure 448 is a variant of Adventure that isn’t listed (as of this writing) on Nathanael Culver’s giant list of variants, nor does it appear anywhere in the archives. As far as I can tell it simply has been dematerialized from history until very recently. I came across it in rather a strange manner —

Last year, early source code for Zork (circa 1977) was unearthed from MIT archives and put up at Github. This later became playable via a telnet link, which I tried out, but didn’t dive into deeply (I will eventually write about 1977 Zork more in depth, but it hasn’t been a priority).

Unrelatedly, Aaron Reed has recently embarked on a “50 Years of Text Games” series, writing about one text game each week; in 1977 he covered Zork. As part of that he mentioned being able to play Zork online, linking to Andrew Plotkin’s page.

Out of curiosity, I tried the link which included these instructions:

You can try the ITS environment online! Telnet to, port 10003 (telnet 10003). When it says “Connected…”, hit ctrl-Z. Then type :login yourname. (Any name will work.) Then type :zork to play. :advent is also available; that’s the original Crowther version. You can also try :games;adv350 and :games;adv448.

This boggled me for a second — I wasn’t looking at Zork, but rather the last statement, about adv448. I’d never heard of such a thing, and after checking all my sources, nobody else had either. I consulted with Lars Brinkhoff (one of the main people behind the MIT archive finds) and he said someone else had added adv448 to the PDP emulator that Zork was on, and he gave the credits from the source code:

C Modified for the Brown University system, April 1978
C Dave Wallace ’78
C Dave Nebiker ’79
C Eric Albert ’80
C Modified for the ITS system, July 1979 by EJS@MC

The actual game itself doesn’t list any of the names, but just states “Additional features added at Brown University.”

For most mainframe games with a long time span, the vast majority of the work was done early, and the later dates involve bug fixes (like Warp, Haunt, and Battlestar). Given this game passed through at least four different pairs of hands, I’m not sure if the same metric applies; however, for mainframe games I’ve been going by “first time available to people other than the authors”. I can’t definitely say what happened here, but to be internally consistent with the other versions of Adventure I’ve written about I’ll be shelving it on my big All the Adventures list as 1978.

ADD: Arthur O’Dwyer made the point that the years ’79, ’80’ and ’82 are probably graduation years, so that means it was done all in one go at Brown in 1978, with the “modified for the ITS system” happening a year later in 1979. That makes sense to me (and otherwise the sequence listed is a bit mystifying) so I changed the title to be just 1978-1979.

I knew I had to make this game priority on my queue, not just due to the mysterious circumstances of it being unearthed, but due to the generally ephemeral nature of telnet servers (although I hope the Zork one stays up a long time!)

While I’ll need to do another test run, it looks like nothing outside is changed, but the famous building is slightly different.

You are inside a building, a well house for a large spring.
There are some keys on the ground here.

There is food here.

There is a bottle of water here.

I didn’t make a typo: there is no lamp! The game forces you to use the iconic grate before reaching the lamp.

You are in a 20-foot depression floored with bare dirt. Set into the dirt is a strong steel grate mounted in concrete. A dry streambed leads into the depression.

The grate is locked.

unlock grate

The grate is now unlocked.


You are in a small chamber beneath a 3×3 steel grate to the surface.
A low crawl over cobbles leads inward to the west.
There is a shiny brass lamp nearby.

I find this an interesting change, and not one I’ve quite seen before. Other versions allow skipping unlocking the grate altogether and blazing through with already-known magic words, but here the authors wanted to force one particular narrative.

That means in Adventure 448 there should be a lamp in this picture. Detail from map by Dennis Donovan.

I haven’t checked far enough to see all the differences, and assess if the changes are major or minor, but here’s the room north of the Hall of the Mountain King.

You’re in the throne room where the walls are covered with large brightly painted murals of Colossal Cave and the lands surrounding it. In the center of the room is a large throne on a raised dias. To the south can be seen the entrance to a large hall while a low passage exits to the north heading slightly downwards.

There is an old crown sitting on the throne!

The resemblance is strong enough I’m wondering if there’s some relation to David Long’s Adventure 501

You are on the east side of the throne room. On the arm of the throne has been hung a sign which reads “Gone for the day: visiting sick snake. –M.K”
An ancient crown of elvin kings lies here!

but I’ll need to get in deeper to tell. My suspicion is this is just coincidence caused by the fact that the named “Mountain King” strongly hints to writers who want to extend the game that it would be appropriate to insert something royal nearby.

Posted February 21, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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10 responses to “Adventure 448 (1978-1979)

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  1. That’s some news, Jason! I love it when finds like this turn up – and part of my fascination with your site is that you tend to pick up on them right away.

    • The source has been up for a few years (although it wasn’t playable until recently). So it’s (kind of) been hiding in plain sight, but that has been true for some other things, like the map of 250-point Adventure which was up on a high-traffic adventure game news site.

  2. I’ve poked through the “main part” of the game trying to keep careful track of new things and the only new room I’ve found is that throne room. According to the source code there’s some way of opening a secret passage there so I assume it is the gateway to any new parts, but I haven’t had any luck.

    I’ll keep trying. I may end up playing a game in parallel.

    • You noticed that the lamp has moved; did you notice that the silver bars have moved also? :) They’re in a new location — literally!
      I really like the geography of this game. It hangs its new rooms in places I haven’t seen in other versions; but at the same time the new stuff isn’t hard to stumble across.
      Re the secret passages under the throne room, you might be barking up the wrong tree, because actually gur guebar ebbz vf jurer gur cnffntr pbzrf BHG (tvira gur nccebcevngr rdhvczrag). Gur jnl VAGB gung fhecevfvatyl ynetr pbzcyrk vf abg uneq gb svaq, ohg vs lbh qba’g oevat gur evtug rdhvczrag vg’yy or n bar-jnl gevc!

  3. Nice find! On the topic of undocumented variants, there is a Zork inspired game on the PLATO system. If I remember correctly, it is named adventure. It is preserved thanks to the work of the guys.

  4. Pingback: PLATO Adventure (1979) | Renga in Blue

  5. There are a couple of early Zorks when you get around to playing them.

    285-point version from June 1977 (PDP-10 its on telnet)
    387-point version from July 1977 (PDP-10 its on telnet)
    500-point version from December 1977 – January 1978 (PDP-10 its on telnet, source modified for Confusion)
    500-point version + end game from March – April 1978 (not yet available, but I’m trying to modify the source code or Confusion)
    616-point version + end-game from December 1979 – July 1981 (Modified for Confusion. EJS have a working compilation for PDP-10 its but it’s dependent on MDL v 55, not yet publically available).

    The last one is the one you already played. The difference between the 1979 and 1981 one are minimal.

    • Yeah, at some point I do intend to play some of the earlier Zorks at least a bit — I have scanned the source code enough to know I’m not missing anything significant. Maybe as a prelude to Zork III when I get to 1982 (which I anticipate to be sometime this year).

      • In my personal opinion the 285 or 387 point versions are very different games from the later ones. The limited parser in these games makes them feel much more like Adventure than the later Zorks. They are not better games in any sense but well worth the experience.

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