Creature Venture (1981)   13 comments

You have just inherited your UNCLE STASHBUCK’S MANSION but first you must rid it of the horrible creatures that have taken it over and find your uncle’s buried treasure.

Directing the computer with two word command such as ‘Go North’, ‘Get Key’, ‘Look Room’ ‘Punchout Boogeyman’,etc. You will need to explore deep into the mansion to finally find the Stashbuck Fortune.

— From the cover for Creature Venture

Art via the Gallery of Undiscovered Entities.

Butch Greathouse and Garry Rheinhardt so far have produced two oddities (Oldorf’s Revenge and The Tarturian) which involved the player controlling entire groups rather than single characters. They came off as interesting in a game-theory sense but slightly awkward to play.

Creature Venture is their third game, where they chuck most of the experimental ideas for a traditional adventure, except for substituting … well, I wouldn’t call it a new idea, exactly, but pushing a concept a bit farther than anyone else had.

The title screen is the only one in color, so I switched to black and white TV mode for the rest of the game. This means y’all miss out on the weird color bleed that happens rendering Apple II screens although you can see it on the screen above, with the purple vertical line to the left of the title and the green vertical line to the right (technical details at Jimmy Maher’s blog).

We can say the development of graphics in adventure games went through multiple phases, not really chronologically but overlapping all at once:

a.) scattered art (Zork, Stuga): a few occasional items have graphical renderings

b.) fully illustrated text adventure (Atlantean Odyssey): every location is illustrated, although the text is complete enough that the illustrations aren’t technically needed

c.) graphic adventure (Mystery House): gameplay is dependent on the graphics, and some items are only described by the graphics; however, if an item is picked up, it is described in inventory using text

and this phase I don’t have a good name for (graphic adventure, part II?), but really, nearly all pretense of giving names to rooms OR objects has been dropped.

Here’s the opening screen, which *does* include the “I’m in a field” boilerplate, but it ends up being rare.

On-Line Systems had plenty of rooms only described by pictures rather than words, but once an object is in inventory, it gets a name. Here, the objects are seen as images in the world and stay that way.

For example, peeking inside the mailbox (not described as such, you just have to recognize and LOOK MAILBOX) led to an item I originally thought was originally an ENVELOPE, but that word wasn’t recognized. It turns out to be a POSTCARD. Once picking up the postcard, it still is only shown as its graphic, and if you read the postcard, you’re shown it says SESAME without any text given outside the graphics window.

Once in inventory, here’s what it looks like. There’s batteries to the right, which *are* mentioned by name in the room description. The game no doubt thought they’d be a little too cryptic to puzzle out.

This is another raid-the-house hunt, but with odd creatures that I have yet to be able to deal with. If the blurb on the cover holds up I have to eliminate them all.

Like this elf. Maybe if I hand it a heavy enough item it’ll try to throw it and hurt their back?

The other curious thing about the graphics handling is the “zoom level”. We’ve seen this back in Mystery House — burning a hole in a carpet and zooming close to see a key — but here it feels a little more systematic. There is, for example, a kitchen:

You can LOOK STOVE

or LOOK TABLE

or LOOK SINK

or LOOK CABINETS.

This is far more extensive “zoom graphics” than any prior game I can think of, although having it be so extensive makes it more of a surprise when it doesn’t work (you can’t LOOK FRIDGE or even refer to it, for instance).

There’s one extra problem intrinsic to this sort of game of not knowing what to call rooms; I’m ballpark guessing, but if this map gets too large I could see myself not remembering what moniker I’ve given a particular place.

I described this room as “FIREPLACE” even though it appears you can’t refer to it. I think the letters FIRE are catching some other item in the parser you get later. Incidentally, the room exit is to the east, so you can’t depend that much on door positioning; I’ve just been testing every exit of every room, but fortunately diagonals are out, so I only need to test north/south/east/west/up/down.

I’m still getting my initial map written out, so not much more yet to report; hopefully I solve some puzzles next time and maybe put the kibosh on some on some monsters.

Posted May 20, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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13 responses to “Creature Venture (1981)

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  1. > They came off as interesting in a game-theory sense

    I read that at first as “they came off as interesting game-theory nonsense”, which probably doesn’t say great things about my appreciation of game theory/game design theory/some combination of those words.

    Andrew McCarthy
  2. Really seems like the parser errors would work better if you had called yourself “Dave.”

    Did you perchance try calling the fridge a “refrigerator”?

  3. Did you try “icebox”?

  4. For a game based on graphics, the pictures aren’t very good. Look at the perspective in the kitchen: the far end of the counter seems bigger and wider than the near end. Same with the zoomed-in table.

    Is the story set in some strange Lovecraftian dimension where angles are not what they seem? Or didn’t anyone involved in writing, designing or play-testing this game in any way have any idea about perspective?

    • Pretty sure the devs were flying by the seats of their pants on everything, including the graphics.

      So far I’ve only seen one mention of playtesters listed in any manual (G.F.S. Sorceress).

      re: Lovecraftan dimension, I’m remembering this picture from The Tarturian.

    • Look, it took humanity until the renaissance to figure out how to draw a horse. There’s a learning curve.

    • Yeah, this is that time where people were just using the “high res graphics” for the sake of it, without any artistic consideration. I CAN DRAW LINES; LET’S DO THIS.

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