Archive for the ‘medieval-adventure’ Tag

Medieval Adventure (1980/1981)   12 comments

First, an apology: I had somehow, in my scan of 1980 games last year, looked at this game and decided there was no 1980 copyright date in the BASIC source code so kicked it up a year. Then, I went back recently to play it, and found the 1980 copyright after all. Oops. No matter: this was written in 1980 and published in the April 1981 issue of CLOAD (previously seen with: Frankenstein Adventure, Troll’s Treasure, Elephant Graveyard), so it’s a perfectly fine moment to play it.

Whether I’m able to play as intended is another story.

Heralding the 2-player Medieval Adventure! You and another adventurer race around a palace looking for all the goodies, then bring them back to your home base. The one that gets ALL of the treasures to his/her base wins. But finding them is not easy, and keeping them safe from your opponent is even harder! A thief in the night…

The gimmick (courtesy the authors Hugh Lampert and Mike Greenholz) is that, while a treasure hunt, two players are using the same TRS-80, and in between “turns” they switch off. Doing movement between rooms counts as a turn. It’s perhaps clearest if I give screenshots:

It seems to be essentially impossible logistically to have information be “hidden” between the players. For one thing, there isn’t a “prompt” to switch players, and you can’t assume that just having the screen “clear” is a prompt (for example, picking up an item will clear it from the room description but it will stay the same player’s turn). Nor can you even assume that movement is the only way for a turn to end (for example, there are opportunities to fall unconscious; the game then switches and announces the last player’s command).

While one player is unconscious there’s also screens like this one, where the “switch” all happens within one screen. Having one player be unconscious is the easier way to play single-player, as I’ll discuss later.

So I’m assuming both players are watching each other player and swapping accordingly, but then how can it be a competition? The only way I can see stealthily scarfing treasures from an opponent’s base is by the opponent not knowing of the intruder. There’s additional what seems like should be hidden information — like a revealed magic word — which could technically help the player who didn’t find the word if they are closer to where it gets used.

Zyll (a 1984 game) handled this by having all info displayed on screen halves, so a crude “divider” of sorts could be devised, but even with weird contortions here I’m just not sure an elegant solution. Also, wrestling up a friend to play a dodgy TRS-80 text adventure is not as easy as you’d think, so I just tackled this one solo, controlling both players.

The players start on opposite sides of the map, in a “red alcove” and “blue alcove”, in what is essentially a symmetrical layout, kind of like a board game. The alcoves are where the treasures go. Heading south, west, and south from the red alcove leads to a terrace; so does heading north, east, and north from the blue alcove.

While the rooms are symmetrical, the puzzles and objects are not. There is some sense of trying to make sure elements from both the red and blue sides are required for certain things. For example, there’s a “metal mold” and some “clay” that can combine to MAKE KEY. I’ve marked them on the map below; in this case they are positioned symmetrically.

Here’s another, more elaborate sequence marked in order:

There’s a magic word BOO that gets found on the north side of the map (marked 1 below) that can be used to defeat a sorcerer on the south side (marked 2, he runs away). The sorcerer’s room has some “magic cream” that can be used on a symmetrical room on the north side (3) with a witch to defeat the witch. The witch has a “magic book” with the word ALAKAZAM which can be used on an entirely random room near the center to get a treasure (at 4). I checked the source code to find where ALAKAZAM gets used but a fully “honest” playthrough would have required laboriously checking each room.

At random intervals, a “dragon” will appear. If the current player has a weapon (like a sword) they can KILL DRAGON, otherwise they will get knocked unconscious. Once the mechanic here is realized the dragon is mostly just an annoyance.

The two players can meet each other and fight.

This is where various types of weapons and armor come into play. If someone has a shield, as shown above, they defend against a sword. If someone has armor, they defend against against a blunderbuss shot.

521 IF R=1 AND N(2)=-2 THEN PRINT”The sword bounces off his shield!”:GOTO 40
522 IF R=3 AND N(4)=-2 PRINT”The ball bounces off his armor!”:GOTO 40

If I’m understanding things correctly, there are two weapons (an axe and a dagger) that are not defendable against. Both are a little trickier to reach than the sword or the blunderbuss; one requires falling down a trapdoor (and going unconscious for a set of moves while the opponent is allowed to run around) and one requires having made a key (with the mold and clay mentioned earlier).

Axe and dagger locations marked, in their symmetrical positions.

It’s interesting insofar as it isn’t RPG combat — there’s a bit of puzzle-light offense/defense going on but the usual multiplayer competitive schtick of pitting stats against each other isn’t here.

In actual practice, of course, I was really going for a “cooperative” win, or something like a “helpmate” in chess puzzles (where both sides cooperate to get checkmate, even though they are on “opposing” sides). I really only saw one moment where the split-character aspect was interesting; there was a handle that pulling it made a sound and indicated something changed elsewhere, but not exactly where.

This “somewhere else” turned out to be diagonally across on the map, at a crocodile moat with a drawbridge; the drawbridge was lowered by the handle, and it was much faster nothing this because I had one character pull and the other character see the drawbridge.

The whole pit/drawbridge setup was useful for another reason, shown above: it was a quick and reliable way to go unconscious. After I had done enough experimentation I put JASON permanently on ice (only typing GO PIT when he woke up) and having his doppelganger NOSAJ collect all the objects to win the game. Most of the puzzles are relatively straightforward…

…and after a fair amount of annoyance I finally managed to collect everything for NOSAJ.

I can say I sincerely doubt this game was ever finished in a “proper” way, that is, in a competitive setting, not even for the weird setup, but because there is no ending to the game unless one person gets all the treasures. It would seem more logical for when all treasures are distributed the final scores are compared, but no, this is the only way the game stops:

6040 IF SC(1)=210 PRINTNA$(1);”, you have 210 points! You win!”:PRINT”Sorry “;NA$(2);”.”:STOP
6045 IF SC(2)=210 PRINTNA$(2);”, you have 210 points! You win!”:PRINT”Sorry “;NA$(1);”.”:STOP

It’s still fascinating as a look at a genre, the competitive multiplayer adventure game, which, much like the adventure-roguelike, never took off. CASA lists seven other multi-player games out of its entire database; there’s likely the odd BBS door game not listed, and some MUDs might have reduced enough RPG elements to qualify, but we’re still talking about something rare. Even in more modern settings (like the Seltani system) the default for multi-player adventures is cooperative.

Perhaps that’s simply because the idea is broken, but it’s still interesting to see someone try.

Posted November 15, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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