Archive for the ‘death-dreadnaught’ Tag

Death Dreadnaught (1980)   6 comments

I want to keep my 1980 track going, but let’s stick with space theming —

Via 80-U.S. Journal, September/October 1980.

Death Dreadnaught is the fourth game published by The Programmer’s Guild (after Lost Dutchman’s Gold, Spider Mountain Adventure, and Temple of the Sun) and was written anonymously by two brothers in Texas who went by Biff Mutt and Spud Mutt. Bob Liddil (who ran The Programmer’s Guild) said in an interview that their royalty checks were endorsed the same way.

Also from the interview: “80 Microcomputing magazine would not accept The Programmer’s Guild ad for the game as originally submitted, until Bob amended it to label the game with an MPAA-inspired R rating.” I’m not so sure on this point, or at least, that it really was a problem; the ad above was printed roughly at the same time, so The Programmer’s Guild must have decided to lean in on the marketing. (This is despite the fact the MPAA ratings are trademarked so technically can’t be used in this way, but given we just had a commercial unlicensed Star Trek game with none of the names changed, it’s keeping in line with the era.)

The EXTREME depictions of VIOLENCE are pretty much straight gross-out horror.

It’s the sort of thing I associate with a.) teenagers trying to be edgy and b.) early Peter Jackson movies.

Despite the overheated predilection for gore and questionable spelling choices, I feel like there’s something original (for 1980) going on here. You start alone in an alien ship where the only objective is to escape, and as long as you don’t push any buttons or turn any knobs on the way…

This is from the first screen of the game. There’s a lot of knobs and buttons you don’t want to push.

…it’s smooth walking over to the shuttlecraft bay, where there’s a button helpfully marked FLY. If you try to push it, you die because the shuttle bay doors are still closed.

Oops. I found a lever to open the shuttle bay doors (which required solving a small puzzle), tried launching again:

Yes, the game really likes to kill you. The gimmick is you need to find all the supplies to survive the shuttle trip, but doesn’t detail exactly what those supplies are. So far I’ve found batteries, food, and oxygen, but the shuttlecraft currently still runs out of gas when I try to launch it.

My map so far.

The thing is: despite the small puzzle I mentioned, and two spots where the way is blocked by creatures (see death screens earlier in the post), the map is essentially open. This is a game mostly about wandering and taking in the blood-soaked atmosphere. Which is relatively original! The closest comparable games I’ve played for All the Adventures I can think of are Ringen and Battlestar.

Despite feeling light on puzzles, I’m stuck. I haven’t found gas anywhere, so I suspect I need to get by the monster. I do have a weapon, but shooting the monster just results in it killing you straight up. There aren’t any other items I have other than the needed survival ones, and the parser is not cooperative with creative approaches other than the ability to SHOOT basically anything in the game.

Posted April 25, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Death Dreadnaught: Finished!   1 comment

Last time, I left off on being unable to get by a creature.

One more ad for the game, this one from Rainbow magazine March 1984, mainly because I’m about to spoil what is more or less the only puzzle.

The solution was of the I-guess-that’s-sort-of-logical? kind which really only came up because THROW was on the verb list but hadn’t become useful yet:

It turns out that was essentially the only problem left. Just past the creature was a console reading “fuel shuttle” with a lever and a knob. Don’t pull the lever! (One final deathtrap, for fun.)

Having opened shuttle bay doors, and fueled up the shuttle, winning was a matter of gathering the oxygen tanks, batteries, and food I had already found, and flying to victory.

(Oh, and that’s a torso of a body that’s screaming WASH ME somehow and you can >WASH BODY and get the reply THANKS, but nothing of importance happens. I kept the decapitated arm I found, too.)

I suppose I said most of what I wanted to say in my last post; although I am hesitant to suggest a game like this needs more death, I think the main issue (other than the massive spelling errors and bad parser) was the static feel to the creature. The creature could kill you when you entered a door, but that was just a red herring. The creature could kill you if you shot it. However, it doesn’t pursue the player or otherwise move about, so the sort of tension you can get from Zork or even one of the wackier Greg Hassett games just isn’t there. The endgame felt goofy rather than intense.

I suspect I know who the authors are. “Biff Mutt and Spud Mutt” were also known as The Dog Brothers, and based in Texas.

Also from Texas, there happened to be a company called Device Oriented Games, ran by two brothers:

If you’re not getting it yet, look at the acronym.

That’s right, Haunted House fans: I’m pretty sure we’re dealing with another Arnstein joint. In the Gaming After 40 post about Death Dreadnaught one of the comments mentions “this game is sometimes credited to Robert Arnstein”; given the three strong instances of location, company acronym, and the fact the company was run by two brothers, I’m inclined to agree with the credit.

We’ll still see Mr. Arnstein again in 1981 with Raäka-Tū and in 1982 with Xenos and Bedlam.

Posted April 30, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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