Fantasyland (1982)   13 comments

We’ve had lots of people writing adventure games from the United States and Britain; one person likely from Scotland; another few writing from Australia. There is a country that has been conspicuously absent: Canada.

It is odd they’d be left out; they do have a tradition of games that goes back to at least Microchess from 1976. The author, Peter Jennings, was later a member of the Toronto PET Users’ Group, founded in 1978 and still ongoing. They were at one point one of the largest Commodore enthusiast groups in the world.

It all started in the summer of 78. I decided to buy a TRS 80. Some how a Newfie friend of mine (Fred Wilson) convinced me to buy a PET instead … It came with a free program (Lunar Lander) and a copy of Pet Users Notes #2.

After tiring of Lunar Lander I typed in “NIM” from the Users Notes. Six times I typed it in and it wouldn’t work *@#$!! Humm! seems to be written by some chap from Toronto named Butterfield! I called him on the phone and he invited me down to his home. While I was there I met a friend of his (Peter Jennings) who was writing a program called Microchess. Impressive!!

— From “Lyman Duggan, TPUG’s Founding Father”, from the September 1982 issue of The TORPET

Vince Sorensen, the author of today’s game Fantasyland (aka Fantasia Land) hails from Regina. We know this because it says so in the source code.

1 REM MAY, 1982

He was also a contributor to TORPET. Here’s a clip of his review of some C64 games in the September 1983 edition:

When I first got my C-64. the only game that I could find for it was called Froggee. It’s a fun game. but there’s only so long you can keep playing the same thing over and over. I almost went back to my VIC. but happened to run into another or TPUG member who had a C-64. and was saved. He directed me to a place that sold more C-64 games than one could imagine.

It is interesting from a game-history standpoint to have someone switch from VIC-20 to C64 but be tempted to switch back just due to game selection, despite the heavy technical advantage the C64 has. (He even points out later that Omega Race is better on the VIC than C64; to be fair, that might be the actual best of all the VIC-20 games.)

I would say this is the first time a game for the All the Adventures project is from Canada, but John O’Hare (who had three games from 1980) is mentioned as a member of the Toronto group in an issue of TORPET. So it is likely those were the first Canadian adventure games, just I didn’t have a nationality marked at the time. Sorry, Canadians!

It is still safe to say Fantasyland, despite being all the way out in 1982, is extremely early in Canadian adventure game history. This isn’t as odd as it might sound; for instance, the first commercial game made for consoles in Canada had to wait until 1983 with BC’s Quest for Tires. (You can read the details as well as terrific pictures of every version at Ernst Krogtoft’s blog.) The earliest computer game company may have been Software Magic, which I quite recently wrote about, and they only started advertising in December of 1981. (ADD: Rob from the comments mentions Speakeasy which goes back to 1978.) So while the Toronto PET Users’ Group came early, the commercial market got a slow start, meaning a little lag time is understandable (while we’ve seen some freeware, the vast majority of adventure games have been commercial).

Vince Sorenson incidentally has credits for one other game, a version of hockey using ASCII characters which is two-player only. It later surfaced in the Keypunch Software series, which appropriated old “public domain” software and resold it (how public domain it really was is often unclear).

(If Keypunch sounds familiar, they were the ones with the Cavern of Riches port stuffed on an “Adventure Pak” that was impossible to beat due to a scoring bug.)

Returning back to Fantasyland, being written for VIC-20 (with the C64 literally just being copying the BASIC code) in under 8K it falls into the same club as other super-minimalist games.




We’ve seen various angles for how to handle extra-small sizes (like the Bruce Robinson games): reduced verb lists, cut-down parsers, room descriptions that are just the name and any items nearby. This game includes all of them with a streak of complete and total surrealism. I’ve played some very bizarre games for the Project, but this genuinely might top them all.

The opening room seems to be random; the item placement at first seems to be not. I say “at first” because one of the commands you can type is NEW GAME, and then things get weird indeed:

I’m going to suspect the above — which starts you with two items, including one I suspect is not meant to be portable — is a genuine memory bug. But the game is so utterly wild I wouldn’t put anything past it. Some screenshots to demonstrate:

The goal is to find five treasures. You just need them in your inventory, you don’t have to drop them anywhere.

A sample of the total chaos of the map. Click here if you want to see the whole thing.

I’ve only found four of the treasures, which I have marked above.

1. Find a chest of diamonds. You need to be holding KEYS in order to take them.

2. Find some jewels nearby MOM. MOM needs a picture of herself in order to let you take them. If you use the picture MOM will give you a BOOK OF SECRETS.

You can use the BOOK OF SECRETS to teleport to other places. If you hold the BOOK OF SECRETS for too long it will get stolen by a wizard.

Yes, the COPS are an inventory item in the above shot, and that isn’t a bug.

3. Take a crown by a guard. The game seems to have been designed so the guard stops you, but I haven’t been able to trigger that.

The source indicates multiple solutions (that involve you having the right item in inventory, one possible item being the COPS), and let me just quote:

4. The “secret” treasure is a toilet.

5. The source code indicates something about digging up a statue with a SHOVEL. I have the shovel but despite checking the map thoroughly I have not seen a statue.

Given the BOOK OF SECRETS does a teleport, and there are other rooms that vaguely hint at magic words…

…it is perhaps possible there is a secret area only reachable via magic, but the game hasn’t been welcoming enough for me to try to tussle with it longer.

I will say that Fantasyland is fascinating in the sense of — despite having just treasures to collect — being something entirely different. I can’t think of another game to quite compare it to. That is, even with the absolutely sparest of elements there’s still the potential for variety. There’s been a few truly erratic maps (see Intergalactic from Atom Adventures) but nothing at the level we have here, and where you have a MINISTER OF ROCKS who can’t even be referred to by the parser but is just there for color.

I tried bringing the ROCK and using it to see if the Minister would be impressed, but alas.

Posted April 13, 2023 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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13 responses to “Fantasyland (1982)

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  1. I tried leaving this comment on the Software Magic post the other day, but I think it was eaten by your spam filter or something:

    I’m pretty sure that there were earlier Canadian companies producing game software. Check out the entry for Speakeasy Software of Ontario (commercially released games dating back to 1978) on Stephane Racle’s Gallery of Undiscovered Entities, for example.

    • Hm, it didn’t even get caught by the “here’s stuff to approve” spam filter. Was hoping people would point out the earlier companies in that post too, d’oh.

      Research on Canada is still pretty loose. I found some other things digging through more TPUG materials, too.

      I’ll add a link to this comment in the post.

  2. Perhaps the Minister of Rocks was there to make the display look boulder? I’ll get my coat…

  3. I was fascinated by your story and the whimsical game, so I have started reverse engineering the (very short and simple) source code.

    There is a fifth treasure in a place which it seems you have not found yet, there are also more places where you have not been (judging from the linked map).

    Every turn you are carrying the book or is in the same location as the book there is a 1/10 chance of the evil man turning up and stealing it. It will then be placed in a random location and I think that some of those locations are not accessible, leading to an unwinnable status, so you probably want to avoid that.

    I will probably be able to post an almost fully annotated source code and full spoiler tables for locations/connections and items later today.

    • Let me know if you figure out the deal with the guard’s coding, it feels downright broken as is.

      I’m also really curious if the bizarre shuffling with NEW GAME is intentional. Nearly any other game I’d say it is a memory bug, but this one, maybe not.

      • I wrote a longer comment about many things, but I didn’t really respond directly about the “new game” (you can actually type with the same effect!) functionality.

        Yes, I think the new game behavior is intentional. (For those who did not source-dive yet, it randomly selects some items and switches their locations with some other randomly selected item, it also does a similar thing to another more spoilery thing in the game which is possibly even more problematic than what it does to the items.) It seems the author had an idea about replayability in an almost roguelike way, which could have been really good. But – the framework of the game does not seem robust enough to handle something like that. Alas, I think it is more likely that the shuffling will cause an unwinnable game than not. However, this is judging only from the code and some simple tests. Maybe when I have become more familiar with the game it will reveal itself as absolute genius and I will be blushing and apologizing! :)

        I could however write a rather long list of all the strangeness in the code already. Not that my BASIC code was any better when I made games in the 80s, probably much worse…

  4. Hint!

    NB – this is all based on source-diving, I have not tried anything in-game.

    There are some locations (six of them) that are not reachable using the normal N/S/W/E directions. There are other “directions” (plural!) to go in. There are subtle hints in the game to this. It is possible to move in these alternative directions at many many places. I am rather sure that you need to use this to find the fifth treasure and complete the game.

    Also, the code is a mess. :)

  5. I think line 207 is buggy, it checks if you are trying to get the crown and if the location of the guard is 43 (= DEATH), where the guard normally shouldn’t be and which does not make sense. That is why it does not go into the intended section of code, but instead just gives you the item.
    There are some other similar bugs, and there is also more (leftover?) code that never gets used.

    Still, even though the map layout is a total horror (even for me, who sort of like it that way) and some functions in the game does not work as intended and the game can get awfully broken if you use (documented!) commands that randomize things too much, there are some very interesting concepts in it, also some that I do not fully grasp yet.

    This is why I have not posted my spoiler data yet, I have not completely figured out the workings of things like the non-standard movement mechanism.

    I strongly recommend to not restart the game with the “new game” command or otherwise, but instead start over from a newly loaded machine every time. Otherwise things could get very complicated, non-reproducible and/or unwinnable.

    From here on there be spoilers…..

    Here are some undocumented commands to try (there are no more “verb” commands than these and the documented ones), many of them should be considered cheating and are probably remnants of development/testing:
    score – synonym of quit (not so exciting…)
    find [item name] – gives name and internal id# of the item’s current location
    destroy [item name] – destroys/banishes an item
    place [item name] – places an item at a location by location id#, not as overpowered as you might think since the item has to be available to you (at your location or in your inventory)

    Also try these:
    go home / go magic – try them out… (there are no other “directions” except these two and NSWE)
    get game – more of an easter egg, really broken

    These are the only items that you can USE:
    DEFOGGER – not really what I thought it would do
    BOOK OF SECRETS – important and powerful item!
    HAMMER – pretty straight-forward
    FLASHLIGHT – interesting functionality
    MAGIC BEANS – probably mostly harmful
    PICTURE OF MOM – you know about this
    \CHRYSLERS – probably a bug and should have been MAGIC FROG, but not really important AFAICT
    ANCIENT STATUE – interesting functionality and important
    USELESS(?) WOOD – you know about this too, not that interesting

    You can fight many (even most!) things, every fight is a 50/50 chance of you or the “opponent” being banished. Note that banishing the wrong thing probably can lead to an unwinnable game.

    Look for ways to access these locations:
    ??? – can be accessed by losing a fight, but perhaps also in some other way?
    STREET OF CONFUSION – can it be accessed?

    More about the book and the book-thief… Every turn you are carrying the book or is in the same location as the book there is a 1/10 chance that the “evil man” steals it. It will then be dropped in a random location with an id# between 0 and 50, with a an equal 1/60 chance for all locations, except location 43 (DEATH) which has a 10/60 chance.
    Location 0 will make it mostly impossible to access the item, some other locations may also present insurmountable problems.

    Try to avoid risking “falling” in the PIT OF BATS and DEMON’S locations, another thing that seems it can lead to an unwinnable game.

    I am writing some things here about id# of locations and items. I will post detailed tables of all these things, I just want to know a little bit more to present the information in a non-misleading way. I also made a complete map of the “normal” travel connections.

    I would concentrate further efforts first on working out how to get go magic/home working and how they work… :)

    • Addenda:
      1. If you have the book you can also insta-travel with GO followed by a numerical value up to 50. The number is a location id#, you can find out about them in-game using the FIND [item name] command. This is somewhat broken/cheating, but not just as broken as you might think, because you can’t take your carried items with you, they are left at your former location. Still breaking the challenges of the game enough for me to consider it cheating.
      2. The book-thief is no real problem of course, just a very minor nuisance, as long as you carry the picture around. As a bonus, when you use the picture to get the book you circumvent the limit on the number of carried items. :)

  6. OK, here is a “winning solution”:

    Starting from HOME location:

    1. This is obviously based on items being in their default locations (no NEW GAME restarts or other shuffling done). It is also based on the player starting in location HOME (should be 50% chance, with 25% chance each of the starting location being CHANCE SAYS “HERE” or SING FOR MAE AT HOME).
    2. You could shave a move or two off by using SCORE/QUIT to transfer all currently carried treasure items to the ??? location, then you don’t need to use as many moves to DROP obsolete tools. I just preferred to avoid this way. You could probably also optimize the move count (without using the various broken commands) a bit.
    3. GO MAGIC works just as well as GO HOME. There are other (non-broken) ways to come to the location of the statue, but I think it is absolutely necessary to have discovered how the GO HOME/MAGIC command(s) work.
    4. If you have any problem with random book theft, just USE PICTURE again to get the book back.
    5. Just say if you want spoilers on how the GO HOME/MAGIC command works.
    6. You can explore around the location of the statue for a couple of other hitherto undiscovered(?) locations.
    7. As an extra easter egg – after following the steps in the solution above, GET PICTURE again, GO WEST three times, USE PICTURE and then GO HOME. :) I still haven’t found any way to reach STREET OF CONFUSION (try FIND £MIRRORS).

  7. Pingback: Fantasyland: City of Treasures | Renga in Blue

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