Archive for the ‘before-adventure’ Tag

Before Adventure, Addendums   1 comment

First off, Jason Scott over at The Internet Archive managed to fix what was ailing my upload, so you can now try out The Public Caves as it was exhibited at Narrascope 2019:

https://archive.org/details/PublicCavesNarrascope

Special thanks to everywhere there who contributed, even if you only added one line or room.

Second, let’s talk about Caves 4 and Wumpus 4. Yes, really.

From the PCC Games issue. THESE COMPUTER-MADE CAVES ARE ON ALIEN PLANETS (THERE ARE 4 PLANETS TO EXPLORE) AND EACH HAS DIFFERENT DANGERS.

Caves 4 may have never existed “(PROGRAM NOT AVAILABLE YET)”; it looks like Dave Kaufman was still trying to make his original design more game-like. I’ve been trying to armchair-design a fix for the original Caves based on the prompt, but I’m really not sure where to go with it.

The existence of Wumpus 4 is only known through a hand-scrawled note on the source code of original Wumpus as printed in the same PCC Games issue:

WUMP4: HIDE-N-SEEK

This one’s fun to theorize about. It loops back all the way to the thing that started it all, the educational game Hide and Seek. Could it be a version of Wumpus where the location clues are slightly more enigmatic, so you have to “triangulate” like the original grid?

Last, and this is for the sake of completeness, is it possible Wumpus came *before* Caves? It certainly doesn’t read like that from the newspaper issues (May and September 1973):

There is one wrench in the equation, and that’s in the September issue on the same page:

We know Mugwump came first, because it was based on Hide and Seek which was written outside the People’s Computer Company. So these particular arrows are sequencing in terms of complexity rather than order being written.

This could get really in the Thicket of Historical People Not Clearly Dating Things for Posterity. It isn’t like Gregory didn’t know how things were being published (and wrote an article himself about his computer language Pilot in the April 1973 issue of PCC). He also mentions Dave Kaufman specifically in his famous narrative about how Wumpus was created.

If you like, send me a picture of your version of a Wumpus. Perhaps friendly Dave, our editor, will publish the best one in Creative Computing.

Keep in mind Dave Kaufman himself was the editor for this very article explaining the history of Wumpus. He didn’t seem particularly upset to leave Caves out.

Still, Caves has some very complicated code. and it’s much easier to imagine Wumpus being made while looking at Caves rather than the other way around. The “tree” basis of the Caves series has mostly dropped off by The People’s Caves, suggesting the order went something like a.) use a computer science structure to make the idea of physical caves (Caves 1) b.) use the idea of nodes-as-caves on a dodecahedron structure (Wumpus) and c.) realize it’s much simpler to drop the tree (Public Caves).

This may have all just been a manifestation of the hacker culture of the early 1970s; just trying to get things made when there was barely anything to work with, both borrowing and creating with equal measure. Maybe there was an aspect of parallel creation between Wumpus and Caves but Gregory and Dave decided to go with the simplest story. If some future historian wants to get finicky about a timeline, they’re welcome to try, but it looks like for the people involved it didn’t really matter.

Posted June 25, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Before Adventure, Part 6: The Public Caves (1973)   3 comments

HAVE SHOES ON THEIR FEET
AND SOMETHING TO EAT
WOULDN’T IT BE FINE
IF ALL HUMAN KIND
HAS SHELTER
HI THERE
************* TO GET TO THE UDDER SYDDE

WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO NEXT? MOVE
TUNNELS LEAD TO:
1 ‘OUTSIDE OF YOU’
2 ‘PIPPIN TRIPPING’
3 ‘SPACEMEN AND OTHERS FROM AFAR STAR’
4 ‘OUTSIDE OF YOU’
5 ‘CAN’T DIG TO THIS ONE !’
6 ‘ADDENDA, ADDENDA, ADDENDA !!!’

The last we saw of the Caves series by Dave Kaufman was perhaps a little underwhelming. The game generated a set of “caves” in tree format and challenged you to escape, but it was arranged in a manner that didn’t provide any challenge.

However, Mr. Kaufman wasn’t quite done yet, and according to the date on the source code, returned to the Caves in August 1973.

PCC Nov. 1973. “The ‘Public Caves’ are ever-expanding and forever changing. Each visit, the graffiti is different; new tunnels have been dug and new caverns added. New names have appeared and there is always someplace new to explore!”

One of the issues (perhaps, the only issue) with both Caves and Wumpus passing into adventure-game territory was the sameness of the rooms. The Public Caves does away with that. Each new room is built by a visitor who names it, each room has “graffiti” that the visitors can add to.

PCC Nov. 1973. While a touch confusing to read, this is showing an actual gameplay transcript.

The system is very clunky (although to be fair, the first of its kind). You must type WRITE, MOVE, BUILD, DIG, or OUT in full to do a command. WRITE lets you add to the text of a room. MOVE gives a list of adjacent rooms; if only one room is adjacent, you are moved there automatically. BUILD lets you make a brand-new room that is linked to your current room, and DIG lets you make a new tunnel into an existing room (which requires you type the exact name of the existing room you’re thinking of).

You can only BUILD once and DIG once per visit. This does not seem to be due to the technical limitations of the system, but as a sort of social engineering: encouraging people to contribute as a mass group, rather than having one person dominate and write a lot of content at once.

During the weekend that this post is going up, a version of The Public Caves will be live at the conference Narrascope. (I typed the 1973 source code and compiled it with QBASIC, so it runs under DOSBox.) The plan is to take what is collaboratively built and make it accessible to everyone. I will modify this post after the conference is over and include a link to play online. (ADD: Here is the link to play online.)

(Incidentally, the Narrascope setup is using a batch-file loop, so it’s not hard to quit and return to make more rooms, but I’m guessing that was true of the original game as well.)

Now, is this an adventure game? This post is part of “Before Adventure” so I guess I’m still waffling, but mainly on a technicality: it’s a system for creating a world but doesn’t come with one. (Of course, it’s possible to render the screenshots above as the start of a world, so if you consider the November PCC article part of the source code then that objection is taken care of.) The other question is if adventure games need puzzles. A fair number of definitions require them, like:

Adventure games focus on puzzle solving within a narrative framework, generally with few or no action elements.
adventuregamers.com

or

a video game in which the player assumes the role of a protagonist in an interactive story driven by exploration and puzzle-solving.
Wikipedia

although the mention of “puzzle solving” is more to distinguish the mechanics from, say, that of an action or strategy game. If you want to get technical, you could say there is an “narrative/exploration genre” but there needs to be some puzzle element added on to be a full “adventure game”. To which I say: fair enough. Game genre definitions can be useful for identifying what techniques work in which settings (see: Quarterstaff having a bad time when RPG and adventure elements clash) and isolating exploration games may even be useful in finding things adventure games can’t do that exploration games can (like having the audience itself make all the content).

But whatever this game’s designation, it gets tantalizingly close to a new era, and it seems like that’s worth celebrating. To paraphrase Stanley Kubrick, the universe may be dark and devoid of meaning, but that just means we get to create our own light and meaning to bring to it.

Posted June 14, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Before Adventure, Part 5: Wumpus 2 and 3   4 comments

Wumpus 2 took the same mechanics as the first game and added some new cave layouts (including a “make your own” option). I tried each a few times to feel out if there were any gameplay differences. (I used this C64 version which seems to be accurate and bug-free.)

Cave 1 (Mobius Strip): Very easy: this is just essentially two rows

20-18-16-14-12-10-8-6-4-2
19-17-15-13-11- 9-7-5-3-1

although the 2 goes to 19, and the 1 goes to 20 — that’s the “half-twist” of the Mobius Strip.

It’s possible to get entirely blocked off, but it isn’t terribly common (imagine pits at 3 and 6, with bats at 13 and 12) and for the most part the easier-to-visualize geography also made it much faster to play.

I also noticed you don’t really need to know where the Wumpus is to get off a good shot, you just need to be next to it. For example, from actual gameplay:

I SMELL A WUMPUS!
YOU ARE IN ROOM 18 TUNNELS LEAD TO 16, 17, AND 20

I had just come from room 20, so I knew the Wumpus had to be in either 16 or 17. Based on the map, I could just shoot both of them.

SHOOT OR MOVE? S

NUMBER OF ROOMS? 3

ROOM #? 16
ROOM #? 15
ROOM #? 17

Just passing through a room is enough to shoot a Wumpus, so if it is in Room 16 you will be as successful as if it is room 17. With Cave 1 in particular this would work even if you didn’t know about any of the adjacent rooms beforehand, since you can pass your shot through 5 rooms:

That is, if you’re standing at 18 next to the Wumpus, a shot through 16, 15, 17, 19, and 20 will be guaranteed to hit the Wumpus.

Cave 2 (String of Beads): This one’s not a good map to play on, as one of my first attempts will illustrate:

The red indicates pits. The only thing to do here was to fire an arrow along the strip and hope I got lucky. This is a little different than the Minesweeper you-have-to-guess scenario where you start next to a pit — in that case it’s a gamble rather than a guaranteed death. Here, the map itself made for an impossible scenario overall, and one where it took some mapping beforehand to realize that fact. It felt like trying to solve a Sudoku puzzle only to realize part-way through the given numbers were placed wrong.

Cave 3 (Toroidal Hex Net): This one was very satisfying to play on, and had the same level of complexity and interconnectedness that the original dodecahedron map does. I also made a very satisfying 5-room-shot:

I had smelled the Wumpus from room 13, so knew it had to be in either 9 or 17. Moving around the other way, I got stopped at 3 by sensing bats nearby. The bats had to be in either 7 or 8. However, rather than trying another direction or gambling on the bats, I shot an arrow in the path

7 - 2 - 17 - 13 - 9

guaranteeing that I would hit the Wumpus no matter which room it was in.

Cave 4 (Dendrite): Easily the worst map of the set; it’s very common to be blocked off by just a single pit. Do not play.

Cave 5 (One Way Only): This one definitely gets some tangled looking maps if you go freestyle.

I eventually did the brute force method of copying the exact room numbers and exits from the source code. This let me look at a situation like

I SMELL A WUMPUS!
BATS NEARBY!
YOU ARE IN ROOM 4 TUNNELS LEAD TO 3 7 8

so given the knowledge that

3 goes to 2, 6, 7
4 goes to 3, 7, 8
5 goes to 8, 9, 12
6 goes to 5, 9, 10
7 goes to 6, 10, 11
8 goes to 7, 11, 12

it was possible to make a route that hits all three adjacent rooms with one arrow. (Specifically here, 3-7-6-5-8 works.)

The best strategy seems to be to increase the room number slowly and backtrack when possible. That way you are more likely to have rooms you’ve already been in or at least “scanned” as exits from the new room, so if there’s a pit or bat hazard it’s possible to avoid it by leaving for the “known safe room”. For example, suppose you’re at 6 with no hazards nearby in the adjacent rooms (5, 9, 10). Then you step back to room 5; with adjacent rooms (8, 9, 12) and a pit nearby. Since you didn’t sense a pit when the adjacent rooms were (5, 9, 10), that means 9 is safe and leads to escape.

This led to satisfying loops where “known territory” was revisited in avoiding hazards and gave a small sense of atmosphere.

From best to worst I’d rank the new caves as roughly

Cave 3-Cave 5-Cave 1-Cave 2-Cave 4

with the original Cave 0 tied for first. Really, the main issue with the problem caves was the generation of impossible scenarios; technically speaking there are only two absolute barriers (the pits) so a “good” map just needs to avoid “single chokepoint” situations.

Now that I’m an “expert” I suppose it’s time to up the ante:

From the article accompanying the Wumpus 2 code in Creative Computing.

Wumpus 3 returns to only having a dodecahedron layout. It was not written by Gregory himself but a “Howard” as mentioned in the article clipped above. Also, as implied, the code wasn’t published. Because of this, people have known about it but it has long been considered a “lost game”.

Fortunately, I found it in a special “Games” booklet that PCC put out in 1974.

As of right now you can play Wumpus 3, entirely in your browser.

(I’m still using DOS QBASIC, but after some tech hiccups I managed to compile the code. This has the fortunate side effect of making it easy to put a playable version online. I’ll give a similar treatment to Caves1 soon.)

The gimmicks here are:

1. “Tumareos” that eat your arrows.

2. All of the hazards (wumpus, pits, bats, tumareos) are capable of moving about the caves at random.

A sample of play:

I FEEL A DRAFT!
YOU ARE IN ROOM 13 TUNNELS LEAD TO 16 17 20

I SMELL A WUMPUS!
I FEEL A DRAFT
MY ARROWS ARE QUIVERING
YOU ARE IN ROOM 6
TUNNELS LEAD TO 5 7 15

In this case, I started with *all* the adjacent rooms containing a hazard. I decided the safest bet was to try to shoot an arrow into two of the rooms. The Wumpus moves to a random adjacent room if you miss a shot (meaning you have a 1/3 chance of dying if you’re next to it) but I already had the pit giving me a 1/3 chance of death on the first move, so I figured I’d rather take the 2/3 shot at victory first.

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? S
NO. OF ROOMS(1-5)? 4
ROOM #? 15
ROOM #? 16
ROOM #? 17
ROOM #? 7
MISSED

Alas, I missed. But the fact I didn’t get eaten means the Wumpus was in Room #5.

WHAT A FLAP YOU’RE IN . . . IT’S BAT MIGRATION TIME!!

This message means the bats moved. Note that there is no check to if they move to the player’s position, so it’s possible to just be minding your business and have bats swoop in and teleport you somewhere.

I FEEL A DRAFT
MY ARROWS ARE QUIVERING
YOU ARE IN ROOM 6
TUNNELS LEAD TO 5 7 15

Now, the fact I’m not dead means that the Wumpus moved to either 1 and 4, which are the adjacent rooms from 5. Since they are both part of the “central pentagon” I could shoot at both of them.

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? M
WHERE TO? 5

I SMELL A WUMPUS!
YOU ARE IN ROOM 5
TUNNELS LEAD TO 1 4 6

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? s
NO. OF ROOMS(1-5)? 4
ROOM #? 1
ROOM #? 2
ROOM #? 3
ROOM #? 4
AHA! YOU GOT THE WUMPUS!

I gave Wumpus 3 a good number of tries, and I’m sad to say I agree with Gregory on this one: the game is a little too chaotic. The arrow-eaters are just a nuisance (I never had an arrow supply shortage even with them in the game) but the randomly moving obstacles mean you have more opportunities to get trapped in an unwinnable position or even just die arbitrarily when you have a hazard get moved to the room you’re standing in.

There’s a major difference between a set-up gamble that the player has to roll the dice on, and the game essentially telling you now is the time to die and you can’t do anything about it. (Even in the “bad caves” of Wumpus 2 where the player is essentially trapped, you can do some last-ditch arrows and hope you hit the Wumpus.) I can understand why there was no rush to get the game in print.

One more theoretical tangent before I let Wumpus go:

. . . even more importantly, Wumpus is a prototype version of the system of geography that is still with IF today: a set of discrete, self-contained rooms linked together by connectors the player can use to pass from one to another. Compass directions are not yet here, but the rest of the scheme is. Wumpus is all about mapping. The early IF games that would follow were continuing its tradition in being full of those twisty little passages that so frustrate modern players who try to go back to them today.
— Jimmy Maher, writing on Hunt the Wumpus

So Wumpus no longer has the distinction of being the first to put the player inside the Caves. Does it matter?

I guess it depends on what you mean by matter? As I’ve mentioned before, history is not a competition. Looking through every human achievement like there are Points attached can distort the true thread of influence. And besides, considering the Maher quote, the “prototype” idea is still perfectly accurate.

But more nebulously, it still feels like Hunt the Wumpus was the “first” of … something. I’ve played everything available before 1973 (it isn’t as long or as hard as you’d think, I wasn’t kidding when I said this era had “almost no computer games at all”) and there really is a spark of compact design in Wumpus that is unique. Rather than being a simulation of an experience seen elsewhere (a basketball game, the 19th century Oregon Trail, an episode of Star Trek) the possibility of computer games as a doorway into new worlds opened up in a way *orthogonal* to pre-existing media.

Posted April 5, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Before Adventure, Part 4: Hunt the Wumpus (1973)   9 comments

From PCC Nov. 1973.

I. The Frozen Man

Soon before he died, the author of Hunt the Wumpus adopted the name Gregory H. Coresun. His name before that was Hara Ra, one he took after becoming a shaman.

I perhaps should put “died” in quotes because his head is now cryogenically frozen at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale.

He had some stories. For our story, we return to 1973, where he was Gregory Yob. To offer some continuity to his possible immortal self 1000 years from now when he reads this, I’ll call him Gregory.

II. The Game Itself

WELCOME TO ‘HUNT THE WUMPUS’

THE WUMPUS LIVES IN A CAVE OF 20 ROOMS.
EACH ROOM HAS 3 TUNNELS LEADING TO OTHER ROOMS.

Thus starts Gregory’s parvum opus. The 20 rooms are arranged in a “squashed dodecahedron” shape.

You have 6 arrows, and your goal is to hit the Wumpus with an arrow. In addition to the Wumpus itself being hazardous (it eats you if it is in the same room as you) there are bats which can randomly drop you in a new room and bottomless pits that can drop you to death.

If you are in a room adjacent to bats, you will get the message “BATS NEARBY!” Next to a bottomless pit, the game will say “I FEEL A DRAFT”. Next to the Wumpus, “I SMELL A WUMPUS.”

I FEEL A DRAFT
BATS NEARBY!
YOU ARE IN ROOM 1
TUNNELS LEAD TO 2 5 8

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? M
WHERE TO? 2
YYYIIIIEEEE . . . FELL IN PIT
HA HA HA – YOU LOSE!

As the game above illustrates, it’s sometimes possible to just get bad luck on a game setup and have to guess, just like in Minesweeper.

III. Strategy

Minesweeper is a good comparison; this is, in a way, a game of Minesweeper at the ground level. If you play carefully (and don’t get unlucky) it’s possible to chart via deduction where hazards are without stepping into them, and shooting the Wumpus without missing.

In practice, I tried more gambles than I needed to, just because it made the game flow better and was more fun. A sample game:

YOU ARE IN ROOM 4
TUNNELS LEAD TO 3 5 14

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? M
WHERE TO? 14

I FEEL A DRAFT
YOU ARE IN ROOM 14
TUNNELS LEAD TO 4 13 15

I could actually be careful here, but since it was just the start of the game, I decided for a 50-50 gamble and went to room 15. Fortunately, the pit was in room 13 instead.

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? M
WHERE TO? 15

BATS NEARBY!
YOU ARE IN ROOM 15
TUNNELS LEAD TO 6 14 16

I know bats are in either rooms 6 or 16, but not which. Instead of taking another gamble, I went back to the start (room 4) to try a different direction.

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? M
WHERE TO? 14

I FEEL A DRAFT
YOU ARE IN ROOM 14
TUNNELS LEAD TO 4 13 15

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? M
WHERE TO? 4

YOU ARE IN ROOM 4
TUNNELS LEAD TO 3 5 14

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? M
WHERE TO? 5

BATS NEARBY!
YOU ARE IN ROOM 5
TUNNELS LEAD TO 1 4 6

Because I knew bats were in either room 6 or 16, and I sensed bats again while being adjacent to room 6, I decided to guess that 6 had the bats and 1 was safe. It could be that both rooms 16 and 1 had bats, so this was still a gamble, but a small one.

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? M
WHERE TO? 1

I SMELL A WUMPUS!
YOU ARE IN ROOM 1
TUNNELS LEAD TO 2 5 8

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? M
WHERE TO? 5

BATS NEARBY!
YOU ARE IN ROOM 5
TUNNELS LEAD TO 1 4 6

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? M
WHERE TO? 4

YOU ARE IN ROOM 4
TUNNELS LEAD TO 3 5 14

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? M
WHERE TO? 3

I SMELL A WUMPUS!
YOU ARE IN ROOM 3
TUNNELS LEAD TO 2 4 12

There is only one Wumpus, so this last sequence was definitive: I smelled a Wumpus in either rooms 2 or 8, and in either rooms 12 or 2. This meant the Wumpus had to be in room 2.

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? S
NO. OF ROOMS(1-5)? 1
ROOM #? 2
AHA! YOU GOT THE WUMPUS!
HEE HEE HEE – THE WUMPUS’LL GETCHA NEXT TIME!!

Part of the reason I was gambling when I didn’t have to is that bad luck isn’t just confined to the starting room; because the pits and bats serve as “blockers” of sorts on the map, it’s possible to land in a scenario later in the game where guessing is needed.

On the map above I had gotten to room 12 where I had both the “smell” and the “draft”. Every other route to those rooms was blocked, so I had to take a gamble. Fortunately, the arrows of the game can pass through multiple rooms, so I had a little bit of safety: I could take a step back to room 13, then try shooting an arrow all the way into 3 or 11 (passing through 12). If the arrow missed, the Wumpus would wake up, but at least I’d have another chance at killing him.

YOU ARE IN ROOM 13
TUNNELS LEAD TO 12 14 20

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? M
WHERE TO? 12

I SMELL A WUMPUS!
I FEEL A DRAFT
YOU ARE IN ROOM 12
TUNNELS LEAD TO 3 11 13

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? M
WHERE TO? 13

YOU ARE IN ROOM 13
TUNNELS LEAD TO 12 14 20

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? S
NO. OF ROOMS(1-5)? 2
ROOM #? 12
ROOM #? 3
AHA! YOU GOT THE WUMPUS!
HEE HEE HEE – THE WUMPUS’LL GETCHA NEXT TIME!!
SAME SET-UP (Y-N)? N
HUNT THE WUMPUS

IV. A Chain of Creativity

Last time, writing about Caves, I showed a list with a progression from Caves1 to Wumpus. The next issue of PCC was even more explicit:

PCC Sep. 1973.

According to Gregory himself, writing two years later in Creative Computing, the chains ran a little differently:

Two years ago I happened by People’s Computer Company (PCC) and saw some of their computer games — such as Hurkle, Snark, and Mugwump. My reaction was: “EECH!!” Each of these games was based set on a 10 x 10 grid in Cartesian coordinates and three of them was too much for me. I started to think along the line of: “There has to be a hide and seek computer game without that (exp. deleted) grid!!”” In fact, why not a topological computer game — Imagine a set of points connected in some way and the player moves about the set via the interconnections.

To summarize:

A. We started with an educational game (Hide and Seek) created in a classroom, using a Cartesian grid and the thin narrative of a hide-and-seek game.

B. The game directly caused the creation of a trio (Mugwump, Hurkle, Snark) involving the same grid, but only looking for a single point, and changing the narrative to “hunting” some sort of creature.

C. Alongside this came a game (Caves) based on the computer science construct of trees; it may have had some sideways educational motivation, but by putting the perspective “inside the data structure” the game turned into one of exploration that started to resemble the modern adventure game.

Hunt the Wumpus combines (B.) and (C.) and adds a fair number of innovations besides — arrows to take down the Wumpus, hazards, and the possibility the Wumpus wakes up.

Every current history of Wumpus only mentions the influence of the grid games, since Gregory didn’t write anything about Caves. I am not certain why the Creative Computing article left it out, but due to the survival of Gregory’s article surviving and the early PCC newspapers not being reprinted, Caves left the public consciousness almost entirely. (As far as I’ve been able to find, I’m the first to write about it since the 1970s.)

The same Creative Computing article includes a transcript with maps that look a lot like the “tree branching” of Caves.

Theory #1: Gregory was trying to write a condensed story, and he felt his particular insight and contribution had more to do with transferring the hide-and-seek setup to topologically constructed caves rather than the caves as a concept in theemselves.

Theory #2: Gregory was trying to take credit that was undeserved, that he was the inventor of “probably the first game to take place on a map consisting of rooms connected by passages.” (Quote by Magnus Olsson from a port of Wumpus.)

I’m fairly torn. Given he was only writing 2 years after the fact, it’d be hard to know just how historically important the game was, or what people would focus on (reading the article, it’s almost like he considers the dodecahedron the most interesting thing). It would also have been impossible to know just how thoroughly Caves would be wiped from the record. On the other hand, the text really gives the impression Gregory came up with the topologically-connected cave idea on his own. Substantiating this, Gregory wrote this in 2005, again leaving out any mention of Caves:

71 was a long time ago. Teletypes were the main interactive terminal, lucky people had “glass teletypes” which could hold 80 columns by 40 lines of text. games? nothing much – blackjack. or PCC’s litle edugames like mugwump and hurkle which were very simpleminded.

About the time I wrote Wumpus, a version of StarTrek came along, it wasn’t bad. Versions of aventure for CP/M personal computers came along 5 years later. You know, like using a pencil in pre calculator days, duh.

Star Trek came out in 1971; given that Mugwump and Hurkle weren’t even written until 1973 — and based on a game from 1972 — the chronology here is a bit off, which isn’t unusual regarding interviews with people about old mainframe games. Still, the “trying to tweak one’s historical legacy” warning flag is waving a bit.

If we take things all the way after his death (“death”?) his partner Andrea van de Loo wrote

He was the creator of the very first computer game, Hunt the Wumpus.

which sounds like the sort of exaggeration that came from Gregory himself. (Again, to be fair, most discussions of the early-70s computing era have a large number of inaccuracies — I’ve seen Hunt the Wumpus attributed to every year from 1971 to 1975 inclusive — so it’s possible she picked up this idea from somewhere else.)

Despite all that, I’m going to stick with Theory #1 for the moment; there just wasn’t enough motivation in 1975 to be revisionist about the connection with Caves, and with the other cases of this sort I can think of, there’s enough historical time gap it’s clear some fame was at stake (see, for example, Daniel Lawrence claiming he wrote DND “first” with no prior influence).

Even if there was a bit of historical omission involved, there is no denying Hunt the Wumpus became the most influential game out of PCC. It showed up not only in derivative versions (like Treasure Hunt) but in adventure games like Zork (referencing the superbats in the 1980 edition), Adventure 501 (where the Wumpus is an actual enemy you must run away from), and Hunter, In Darkness (an Andrew Plotkin game from 1999 which could be considered a remake).

The Wumpus is also now the mascot of Discord, the “modern voice & text chat app” designed for gamers.

Wumpus had two direct sequels (the first by Gregory himself, the second probably by Howie Franklin) which I’ll get to next time, and then I’ve got one more surprise to go before the Before Adventure series concludes.

Posted April 3, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Before Adventure, Part 3: Caves (1973)   9 comments

Let’s start things a little differently.

Visualize you are living in 1973, where there are almost no computer games at all, and those that exist tend to be conversions of board games and educational games, with a smattering of simulation games and Star Trek.

WELCOME TO THE CAVES

IS THIS YOUR FIRST VISIT (1=YES, 0=NO)? 1

DO YOU WANT AN INTRODUCTION (1=YES, 0=NO)? 1

IMAGINE YOURSELF AN EXPLORER OF THE FAMOUS
DUZZLEDORF CAVES. YOU'VE BEEN UNDERGROUND
FOR DAYS, TRIPPING THROUGH THE CAVERNS AND
TUNNELS. UNFORTUNATELY, YOU'RE LOST, AND
YOUR FOOD HAS RUN OUT.

THERE IS ONLY ONE PATH OUT. SEE IF YOU
CAN FIND IT.

WHEN I TYPE A '?', YOU GIVE ME THE NUMBER
OF THE CAVERN YOU WANT TO GO TO. LIKE THIS:

WHERE NEXT? 7

ADVICE: MAKE A MAP AS YOU GO - IN THE HARDER CAVES
YOU SOMETIMES HAVE TO GO BACK AND TRY ANOTHER
WAY, GOOD LUCK!

YOU'RE IN CAVERN # 1
# 2 # 3 # 4 ARE WHERE YOU CAN GO
WHERE NEXT? 4

YOU'RE IN CAVERN # 4
# 5 # 6 # 7 # 1 ARE WHERE YOU CAN GO
WHERE NEXT? 5
DEADEND
WHERE NEXT? 6
DEADEND
WHERE NEXT? 7

YOU'RE IN CAVERN # 7
# 8 # 9 # 10 # 4 ARE WHERE YOU CAN GO
WHERE NEXT? 10

YOU'RE IN CAVERN # 10
# 11 # 12 # 13 # 7 ARE WHERE YOU CAN GO
WHERE NEXT? 13

!!! SUNLIGHT !!!

!!! FRESH AIR !!!

... REPORTERS ...

WELL, AT LEAST YOU'RE OUT

CONGRATULATIONS, INTREPID EXPLORER
OF THE FEARSOME CAVES. IF YOU WANT TO
EXPLORE AGAIN, YOU CAN CHOOSE A HARDER SET
OF CAVES OR ANOTHER ONE JUST AS DIFFICULT

AGAIN (1=YES, 0=NO)?

Again: take a moment, visualize, imagine your take of the transcript above as of you-in-1973, not you-in-now. Hold that thought.

From People’s Computer Company newspaper, May 1973.

The first mention of Caves, aka Caves1, aka Lost in the Caves, is from PCC May 1973, which gives a “sample transcript” of the game being played, and labels it as being by Dave Kaufman. It does not provide source code, which doesn’t appear until a special “Games” PCC publication from 1974, presumably because the game is fairly long by PCC standards.

Back to you-in-1973: what do you think? Is it a different experience, at least? Does it make you want to try again, at a harder difficulty?

From a 2019 perspective, the game doesn’t offer much: it’s a pure-exploration game in a morass of undifferentiated rooms. To summarize: you’re dropped in a cavern that is numbered, with other caverns attached, and need to navigate from cavern to cavern until finding the exit. Although not clear from the transcript above, every map is in the form of a “tree”, with each cavern branching down.

For 1973, there was definitely some novelty. While prior games had placed “you” in a simulation context (most notably in HIGHNOON from 1970) this was “you” as an explorer navigating a space at a “first person” level.

But in 2019 … argh. Although the author doesn’t state it outright, I suspect there was a pedagogical purpose of exploring a computer science structure; the end result is a very mechanical feeling to gameplay. The higher difficulty levels aren’t much better; sometimes you have to backtrack, but there is very little surprise. This is map-as-topology rather than map-as-exploring a real place, and the difference is fairly clear after a few playthroughs.

Of course, you don’t have to just trust me, you can try it yourself. The source code isn’t easy to get to these days, so I hand-typed the entire thing from the PCC publication.

Caves1 BASIC source

This is in a modified version that QBASIC can handle. While I’m not selling the game very well, it does verge close enough to Adventure Games to be worth a try by anyone interested in the genre.

Perhaps sensing the gameplay needed more complexity, the author tried very hard to add “meta-game” activities. Here’s one example, from the book What to Do After You Hit Return:

As shown above: play through, pick a room, swap places with your friend, and have them try to find the room you picked.

This is the sort of thing people do all the time with video games (i.e. playing Halo by ignoring the objective and trying to do stunts instead) but I’ve rarely seen endorsed. Board games, sure. But video games always present a veneer of only the “official” rules being used. Anyone else have some more examples of playing video games in an “alternate” way?

One of the newspaper clips above mentioned Caves2, Caves3, and Wumpus. Wumpus deserves its own post, but let’s get Caves2 and 3 out of the way. They’re both “create your own” games.

Caves2 has the exact same structure as Caves1, except you enter the maze yourself first, rather than having the computer randomly generate it. The idea is that you can then challenge friends to solve your maze.

The problem here is, again, the “tree” structure is highly limiting. There’s not much to differentiate a “creative” maze from one made at random. I suppose someone could try alternating patterns, or embedding Fibonacci sequences, or spelling words based on the numbers the dead ends are at.

Caves3 is a bit more interesting; now connections can be arbitrary.

PCC September 1973.

With Caves3 it might be possible to make something approaching a real map, but without distinguishing factors like names, the rooms are still just undifferentiated topology. There needs to be either be a.) some activity other than pure map-making which makes otherwise “blank” rooms gather narrative value or b.) some extra element to the rooms themselves that make them interesting to look at.

In the remaining posts for the Before Adventure series, we’ll be looking at a set of games that does (a.) first, followed by a fascinating attempt at (b.)

Posted March 20, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Before Adventure, Part 2: Mugwump, Hurkle, Snark (1973)   9 comments

Before leaving Project SOLO, I’m going to quote from an essay by Dr. Richard Bellman printed in one of their early newsletters, Number Four from October 16th, 1970.

We are citizens of a large and successful society. Consider, for example, the following statistics. We tolerate one-half million serious auto accidents a year plus 60,000 fatalities; we support an 80 billion dollar a year military establishment of our own in addition to subsidizing those of Cambodia, Thailand, the Philippines, South Korea, South Vietnam and North Vietnam, (albeit involuntarily and indirectly), and others; we can allocate 40 billion dollars to a TV spectacular on the moon using a hand-held camera. This is impressive evidence of success.

The essay carries this same tone for 7 pages. This is kind of hardcore for an educational program partly funded by the National Science Foundation. However, it does give a good sense of the dread and optimism permeating this era: massive global strife cojoined with massive technical innovation.

I mention this because it helps explain the front page of the first issue of People’s Computer Company, October 1972.

Computers are mostly
used against people instead of for people
used to control people instead of to free them
time to change all that —
we need a …
People’s Computer Company

The People’s Computer Center (and the accompanying People’s Computer Company newspaper) was founded in 1972 by Bob Albrecht. At the time, the only feasible way to use a computer was either to be associated with a large institution like a university or have the good fortune to attend a K-12 school that had access. There were unfeasible ways, of course, but it’s safe to say computers were Not for the Public. (Personal computers also weren’t an option: the first wasn’t released until 1975.)

PEOPLE’S COMPUTER CENTER

is a place.

…a place to do the things the People’s Computer Company talks about.
…a place to play with computers — at modest prices.
…a place to learn how to use computers.

We have a small, friendly computer . . . an EduSystem 20 (see Page 14), a timesharing terminal that connects us to the world and a Textronix programmable calculator, and some small simple calculators and books to help you learn …

Most relevant to us is to remember that the People’s Computer Center was open enough that it consisted of young children all the way up through adults. Games might be targeted at one, neither, or both.

The folks at PCC somehow had gotten hold of Hide and Seek (aka Project SOLO Module #0201), because they mention it as the inspiration for a game called Mugwump, which itself was the inspiration for a game called Hurkle.

Via PCC, Feb. 1973.

A game called Snark appeared a few months later. All three games shared the idea of finding something hidden in a 10 by 10 grid. Unlike Hide and Seek, which had 4 “players” to find, each of the three games had only one.

I. Mugwump

I’m not going to spend too long on this one, as it was a direct adaption of Hide and Seek. The only changes were

1.) to reduce the number of “players” to 1

2.) to change the “player” to a “mugwump”

3.) throw grammar to the wind and write UNIT(S) as UNIT, leading to the possible phrase “YOU ARE 1 UNITS FROM THE MUGWUMP.”

4.) to modify the maximum number of guesses from 10 to 4. (The exact value is tweakable by a line in the source code.)

THE MUGWUMP IS HIDING. TRY TO FIND HIM.

WHAT IS YOUR GUESS
?0,0
YOU ARE 9 UNITS FROM THE MUGWUMP.

WHAT IS YOUR GUESS
?9,0
YOU ARE 1 UNITS FROM THE MUGWUMP.

WHAT IS YOUR GUESS
?8,0
YOU ARE 1.4 UNITS FROM THE MUGWUMP.

WHAT IS YOUR GUESS
?9,1
YOU FOUND HIM IN 4 GUESSES!!!

Note the rounding is still in effect: this is why I was told the mugwump was 9 units away at (0,0) even though (9,1) is a little more than 9 units away. I don’t mind the issue since it makes the game slightly less mechanical.

Also, while it’s not relevant enough for us to get too deep into, there were multiple versions of Mugwump within PCC itself. The first version (based on the February 1973 transcript) had a limit of 4 guesses, whereas a version printed in 1974 had unlimited guesses. Perhaps there was some interplay between “pedagogical tool” and “game”; as a game it’s (maybe?) better to have the ability to lose and add tension to a fourth guess, whereas when trying to teach the specific topic of distance on a coordinate grid it might be better not to cut the player’s calculations short. (Although again, maybe? … perhaps the tension would be more motivating to find a good method of winning, as opposed to trying repeatedly.)

II. Hurkle

Hurkle changed the thing hiding from a “mugwump” to a “hurkle”. Instead of giving a distance after making a guess, the game gave a direction of indicating which way where the hurkle was hiding relative to the last guess.

THE HURKLE IS HIDING. TRY TO FIND HIM.

WHAT IS YOUR GUESS
?5, 5
GO SOUTHWEST

WHAT IS YOUR GUESS
?3, 3
GO SOUTHWEST

WHAT IS YOUR GUESS
?1, 1
GO EAST

?2, 1
YOU FOUND HIM IN 4 GUESSES!

This essentially took a relatively complex mathematics exercise and turned into one for younger children. Again, the original game had a guessing limit (5) that was removed in a printed 1974 version.

Technically it’s possible to always win in 4 moves. Think of the first coordinate alone: it could be at any one of

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Pick 5 (guess #1), which is either correct, or cuts the list to 0 1 2 3 4 or 6 7 8 9. Suppose it is the longer of the two lists:

0 1 2 3 4

Now pick 2 (guess #2), which is either correct, or cuts the list to 0 1 or 3 4. Suppose it is 0 1:

0 1

Now pick either choice (guess #3), which if it is the right choice it means you have the right number for that coordinate, and if it is the wrong choice then there’s only one possibility left (which can be used for your guess #4).

The other coordinate can be treated independently with the same method.

In practice, this easier than I’m making this sound, which is why I said this game was for younger children; just go “halfway” in the right direction at each prompt and you’ll make it to the hurkle in time.)

III. Snark

Snark’s concept is somewhat a hybrid of Mugwump and Hurkle. You guess a position and a circle radius, and then the game tells you if the hurkle is inside, outside, or on the circle that you guess. To guess an exact spot, the radius should be 0.

SNARK IS HIDING … START GUESSING!

COORDINATES
?3,3
RADIUS
?3
THE SNARK IS INSIDE YOUR CIRCLE

COORDINATES
?3,2
RADIUS
?2
THE SNARK IS OUTSIDE YOUR CIRCLE

COORDINATES
?3,4
RADIUS
?2
THE SNARK IS INSIDE YOUR CIRCLE

COORDINATES
?2,4
RADIUS
?1
THE SNARK IS INSIDE YOUR CIRCLE

COORDINATES
?2,4
RADIUS
?0
YOU CAUGHT HIM IN 5 GUESSES!!!
GOOD SHOW!

This was the most complicated of the games to play, and I never ended up settling on an optimal strategy.

IV. Observations

These certainly came across more as math exercises than as games. The only reason I enjoyed playing them was the historical creation angle.

For one thing, you might expect that Hurkle (the easiest game) was made first, but since Mugwump was a direct adaption from elsewhere (including parts of the same source code) development happened in reverse: the next game added simplicity rather than complexity. Snark went both directions; aesthetically, simpler, since it’s just stating if a point is inside, outside, or on a circle; in gameplay practice, more complicated in that the best general algorithm for winning isn’t as obvious.

Additionally, two of the three games insert a slightly-ambiguous creature as the thing being sought after, whereas one is … a humorous political word?

Mugwump, as discussed by the Oxford English Dictionary blog:

The word mugquomp, meaning ‘war leader’ or ‘great chief’, appeared frequently in John Eliot’s 1663 translation of the Bible into the Massachusett language, where it was used as a gloss for ‘officer’, ‘captain’, and ‘duke’. By the early 1800s the form ‘mugwump’ had been adopted into English as a humorous term for an important person, leader, or boss.

One of the PCC publications admits directly that Hurkle comes from the short story The Hurkle is a Happy Beast by Theodore Sturgeon. As discussed in this science fiction blog:

In a “different universal plane,” there is a planet called Lirht. There, during a disaster, the door to a lab is carelessly left open, and a hurkle kitten wanders in. Hurkles are pets on this world. They’re small and cheerful and purr by emitting radiation.

Snark is from the most famous source, The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll, but no easier to visualize. Quoting directly from the poem:

They hunted till darkness came on, but they found
Not a button, or feather, or mark,
By which they could tell that they stood on the ground
Where the Baker had met with the Snark.

In the midst of the word he was trying to say,
In the midst of his laughter and glee,
He had softly and suddenly vanished away—
For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.

This is “narrative by association”, so to speak, but it’s still a little stronger and more vivid than the “players” of Hide and Seek.

A picture of the “mugwump” from the book What To Do After You Hit Return. It looks like the mugwump was meant to be a fictional creature as well, although the only references I can find are like the Oxford one where it’s just a name for “leader”. Anyone know of a 1973-or-earlier story that uses the word in a different sense?

V. The Next Link

We need a little more of the chain for anything we’ve seen so far to link to adventure games.

For our next step, we’ll look into a game which was the first to bring game perspective to “first-person exploration”: in a cave, navigating via room numbers from place to place.

Those familiar with it may be thinking I’m talking about Hunt the Wumpus.

But: I’m talking about a different game that came before it, also at the PCC, that seems to have been entirely forgotten in the annals of computer game history.

Posted March 15, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Before Adventure, Part 1: Hide and Seek (1972)   11 comments

I’ve always liked seeing the starts of things.

The earliest known fossils. The earliest known poet. The earliest known trees. The earliest existing piece of film. The earliest known melody.

Note the word “known” repeated above; for each category, even film, there’s a vast amount of unknown. We can surmise and hypothesize about predecessors and successors that may exist etherially, but each snapshot is necessarily incomplete.

Part of the fun of the All the Adventures project is, with a few exceptions, we have access to everything. It’s possible to see all the evolutionary steps, all the false starts, all the connections, all the broken ideas.

This is the first in a series I might call pre-steps. I wouldn’t necessarily consider anything I’m going to talk about an adventure game, but there’s clear evidence some early works had direct influence. I do have to draw the line somewhere, so I’m not just including “all narratives”, because once you start tracing that back you’d need to study every book that was ever written (less exaggeratedly: every choose-your-own-adventure and gamebook, which sounds like a good project but isn’t mine). [1] [2]

Project SOLO was started in 1970 by Thomas A. Dwyer as an experimental program in “exploring the potential of computers in the hands of high school teachers and students.” The name was meant to reference the transition of a pilot learning to fly, from “dual” flying with an instructor to “solo” flying alone.

The program included many “modules” written in BASIC, mostly on mathematics, but with a little of every subject. For our story, the relevant bit of material is the June 1972 Project SOLO newsletter. It includes

  • “A module on computer graphing with an x-y plotter”
  • “Several student-written programs in elementary and advanced mathematics, French, and U.S. history to show how peer teaching can be accomplished with a computer”
  • “Four simulations–lunar landing module, crazy eights, rectangular billiards, and elliptical billiards.”

and most importantly

  • “four computer games: hide-and-seek, NIM, MODULO, and space war.”

Hide and Seek, also known as “Project Solo module #0201” was written by “the students of mathematics teacher, Bud Valenti.”

The goal is to “FIND THE FOUR PLAYERS WHO ARE HIDDEN ON A 10 BY 10 GRID.” You are given 10 guesses; each guess you pick a point on the grid, and are told the distances to each of the hidden players. (If your guess is right where a player is located, then you get credit for finding that person.)

The grid is the first quadrant of the Cartesian coordinate system, with (0,0) in the lower left of the grid. More sample points are below:

Image made using Desmos.

As far as I am aware the source code hasn’t seen sunlight since the early 1970s, so I typed the source from the newsletter by hand.

Link to original source code

Link to the modified source code that works well in QBASIC for DOS

As the second link implies, rather than trying to recreate an old mainframe environment, I made a version of the game that could run under DOSBox. (More modern versions of BASIC diverge quite a bit from the original, whereas QBASIC is pretty forgiving of 1972 code.) And since I am here to play games, I then proceeded to play:

ARE YOU READY TO BEGIN? YES

? YES

TURN NUMBER 1 , WHAT IS YOUR GUESS?
? 4, 3
YOUR DISTANCE FROM PLAYER 1 IS 6.4 UNIT(S).
YOUR DISTANCE FROM PLAYER 2 IS 6.4 UNIT(S).
YOUR DISTANCE FROM PLAYER 3 IS 2.8 UNIT(S).
YOUR DISTANCE FROM PLAYER 4 IS 1 UNIT(S).

TURN NUMBER 2 , WHAT IS YOUR GUESS?
? 5, 3
YOUR DISTANCE FROM PLAYER 1 IS 7 UNIT(S).
YOUR DISTANCE FROM PLAYER 2 IS 5.8 UNIT(S).
YOUR DISTANCE FROM PLAYER 3 IS 3.6 UNIT(S).
YOUR DISTANCE FROM PLAYER 4 IS 2 UNIT(S).

TURN NUMBER 3 , WHAT IS YOUR GUESS?
? 3, 9
YOUR DISTANCE FROM PLAYER 1 IS 3.1 UNIT(S).
YOUR DISTANCE FROM PLAYER 2 IS 5 UNIT(S).
YOUR DISTANCE FROM PLAYER 3 IS 4.1 UNIT(S).
YOUR DISTANCE FROM PLAYER 4 IS 6 UNIT(S).

TURN NUMBER 4 , WHAT IS YOUR GUESS?
? 3, 3
YOUR DISTANCE FROM PLAYER 1 IS 5.8 UNIT(S).
YOUR DISTANCE FROM PLAYER 2 IS 7 UNIT(S).
YOUR DISTANCE FROM PLAYER 3 IS 2.2 UNIT(S).
YOU HAVE FOUND PLAYER 4

My first runs just had me picking points by instinct. I noticed, generally, that when the distance didn’t have a decimal point involved, the hidden player was on the same row or column as my guess. I say “generally” because there is a little wrinkle: the system rounds to the tenth, but always rounds down. For instance, the points (0,0) and (5,1) are approximately 5.099 units apart (just using the Pythagorean Theorem) if you are 5-and-1 away from a target the game will say you’re a distance of 5.

What’s a good strategy for winning in the fewest turns? The Project SOLO newsletter suggests the method of triangulation. If you pick a point at, say, (7,3), and find out a hidden is a radius of 2.1 away, draw a circle of radius 2.1 with a center at (7,3). Repeat for two more points. The place where the three circles intersect must be where that player is hidden.

This turns out to be overkill, because when two circles intersect, they can intersect at most two points. If the points you test (that is, the centers of the circles) are both at the “0 row”, then one of those two circle intersections must fall outside the play zone.

One intersection is at (2, 1). The other would be at (2, -1) but it is “off-grid” so doesn’t count.

Since each guess gives us information about all four players, winning is simply a matter of

1.) testing the point at (0,0)
2.) testing the point at (9,0)
3.) drawing arcs from (0,0) with four different distances that were given
4.) drawing arcs from (9,0) with the four different distances that were given
5.) using four more turns to locate all the hidden players.

Step 1, 2, and 5 cumulatively mean the win can generally happen in 6 moves. (Of course, it’s possible to get lucky, but I’m talking a general strategy here.)

A complete playthrough is below, with my notes; given high school students in 1972 probably wouldn’t have calculator access, I tried to play “authentically” with pencil and paper.

TURN NUMBER 1 , WHAT IS YOUR GUESS?
? 0, 0
YOUR DISTANCE FROM PLAYER 1 IS 2 UNIT(S).
YOUR DISTANCE FROM PLAYER 2 IS 8.2 UNIT(S).
YOUR DISTANCE FROM PLAYER 3 IS 7.8 UNIT(S).
YOUR DISTANCE FROM PLAYER 4 IS 8 UNIT(S).

TURN NUMBER 2 , WHAT IS YOUR GUESS?
? 9, 0
YOUR DISTANCE FROM PLAYER 1 IS 9.2 UNIT(S).
YOUR DISTANCE FROM PLAYER 2 IS 2.2 UNIT(S).
YOUR DISTANCE FROM PLAYER 3 IS 5.8 UNIT(S).
YOUR DISTANCE FROM PLAYER 4 IS 1 UNIT(S).

TURN NUMBER 3 , WHAT IS YOUR GUESS?
? 8, 0
YOUR DISTANCE FROM PLAYER 1 IS 8.2 UNIT(S).
YOUR DISTANCE FROM PLAYER 2 IS 2 UNIT(S).
YOUR DISTANCE FROM PLAYER 3 IS 5.3 UNIT(S).
YOU HAVE FOUND PLAYER 4

TURN NUMBER 4 , WHAT IS YOUR GUESS?
? 8, 2
YOUR DISTANCE FROM PLAYER 1 IS 8 UNIT(S).
YOU HAVE FOUND PLAYER 2
YOUR DISTANCE FROM PLAYER 3 IS 3.6 UNIT(S).

TURN NUMBER 5 , WHAT IS YOUR GUESS?
? 0, 2
YOU HAVE FOUND PLAYER 1
YOUR DISTANCE FROM PLAYER 3 IS 6.7 UNIT(S).6, 5

TURN NUMBER 6 , WHAT IS YOUR GUESS?
? 6, 5
YOU HAVE FOUND PLAYER 3

YOU HAVE FOUND ALL THE PLAYERS IN 6 TURNS!

DO YOU WANT TO PLAY AGAIN?

If the above summation started to make you pine for the days of unsolvable mazes at this blog, I want to reassure you we’ll be back to things resembling adventures before long. But first, notice a strange detail: the game has a narrative. Mind you, a very crude one, but the program could have just said “find four points hidden on the grid” — instead, it said there were “four players”; that is, there are characters who are actively playing with you as part of the game. Also, the instructions to the game suggest carrying on the “playing a game with others” conceit on if you “lose”:

IF AFTER 10 TRIES YOU ARE UNABLE TO CARRY OUT THIS TASK YOU MAY CONTINUE TO BE ‘IT’, BUT THE PLAYERS WILL BE PERMITTED TO MOVE TO NEW LOCATIONS.

This glimpse of narrative is just a spark, but it will get much bigger.

[1] Demian’s Gamebook Web Page currently lists over 11,000 titles dating back to 1927 all the way up through the present day. 2018 saw the release of Therapy Quest: An Interactive Quest through Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, a combination self-help book and fantasy story which involves fairies somehow.

[2] You might naturally ask “what is an adventure game?” at which point I will pretend I just received a phone call, throw my phone at the wall, and slip out the back door while you’re confused and distracted. [3]

[3] Fine, there is some purpose to thinking about the question. For an all-encompassing review like All the Adventures it sets limits on what to collect, and while the interlocking web of influences in creating game ideas doesn’t technically know any bounds, it’s much easier to see the threads of ideas when sticking with one genre.

There are also clusters of elements that “mesh” with particular genres, and visible clashes when two gameplay genres are used at the same time. (Quarterstaff is a strong example of this.) [4]

[4] I guess I still didn’t answer the question, huh. I’m going to punt this one to the end of the Before Adventure series, for Reasons.

Posted March 14, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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