Archive for the ‘plato-adventure’ Tag

PLATO Adventure (1979)   24 comments

We’ve gone through many variants of Adventure now, including the recently-unearthed Adventure 448, and one open historial question is: why were all the variants made of Adventure, and not of other games at the time, like Mystery Mansion, Zork, and Acheton?

I can at least theorize. In the case of Mystery Mansion, while it was written in portable FORTRAN, it had messy “spaghetti code” with lots of special exceptions rather than a unified and easy-to-modify setup like Crowther’s original. Zork’s MDL language was not exactly mainstream (although the Bob Supnik Fortran port surely could have been modified?) and Acheton was written for a very custom-to-Cambridge system and reached past its small original circle only when it had its commercial release.

Here to shake things up is the PLATO System, which has been written about voluminously elsewhere, because it housed the world’s earliest computer RPG games. It had graphics and networking long before anyone else did. It spawned both Wizardry and Shanghai.

It also had an adventure game remix of Zork.

Credits, as shown, are to Phil Seastrand, Dave Schoeller, and Mark Ciskey. It was typed in by hand from source about 10 years ago, and assuming the records above are correct, nobody has beaten it since.

The game is technically just called “Adventure” but I have to keep my sanity somehow, so I tossed in the PLATO.

PLATO definitely had nothing like MDL, so this is code written from scratch which has some of the rooms of Crowther/Woods Adventure mashed up with some of the rooms of Zork to form its own thing. It certainly starts feeling like it should be an Adventure clone.

Stepping inside the building cross-jumps to an entirely different universe.

Based on what I’ve seen so far we’re at about 5% Adventure, 85% Zork, and 10% the authors doing their own thing.

There has to be some difference geographically because all directions are NSEWUD — that is, none of the “diagonal directions” are in. Here’s a comparison of the outside maps, PLATO map on top, Zork map on the bottom.

Many of the PLATO Adventure locations are still original, even if they re-insert some of the Zork items, like the wrench and candle in the shed below.

I haven’t explored underground that extensively yet. The Round Room for spinning is in; Flood Control Dam #3 is in.

A riddle room is in but has an entirely different riddle than the original. (Not a terribly hard one, I’ll leave the answer for readers to work out in the comments.)

So far I’m wondering if the reason nobody has finished the game yet has to do with logistics more than difficulty. One of the NOTES attached to the game suggests extending the lantern life because it is relatively short on the number of turns. I also ran across a softlock fairly early

which suggests there might be more. I’m just going to cross my fingers that the lack of winners has more to do with lack of attention than extreme difficulty. (It tweaks the Zork puzzles where I already know how to solve them … how hard could it be? Don’t answer that.)

Two other items of note:

a.) Just like Zork, the parser is NOT two-word. If you want to push the blue button, you have to type PUSH BLUE BUTTON and not just PUSH BLUE. It can honestly be stickier than Zork about the indirect objects; I remember being able to just ATTACK TROLL in Zork but for PLATO Adventure’s equivalent you have to specify a weapon, even if you are only carrying one: ATTACK TROLL WITH KNIFE or ATTACK TROLL WITH SWORD. (Either works!)

b.) The help screens list every room and every item. I haven’t checked much in detail because I consider those slight spoilers, but on offhand glance it does really look like a jumbled Zork. Interesting from a theoretical angle is the opening text.

“The main objective of this game is to make points to gain levels” sounds quite alien to the instructions of every other adventure game I’ve played. It strikes me like the sort of thing you’d write to a group that is *only* familiar with CRPGs in an attempt to describe the adventure genre in a way they’d know. (PLATO, being a graphical terminal, could not run Crowther/Woods Adventure, so undoubtedly many players in 1979 were not familiar!)

Special thanks to commenter Louis N, who clued me in that the PLATO system had an adventure game. I knew the CRPGs well and I had checked through all the files at one point and found no adventures, but it looks like the list I checked was made before PLATO Adventure was typed in. Better late than never. If anyone else familiar with PLATO has potential adventure games to suggest, let me know (I know of one other that might count but I’ll need to test it more thoroughly first).

Posted March 4, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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PLATO Adventure: 36.5%   Leave a comment

I am, somewhat disappointingly, quite stalled. I might have to stop my traversals here until I can summon up source code or the like.

It’s hard to put a good fixed narrative on what happened, since I essentially went through multiply forays where I started getting more of the lay of the map, but according to the documentation which lists 148 rooms, I have found only a little more than a third.

Various things I found:

• A curtain of light that I wasn’t able to do anything with; one of these is in the Bank of Zork in original Zork but there’s no way to pass through the wall I could find. I may just have the syntax wrong, or there may genuinely be a change to the puzzle.

• Speaking of changes to puzzles, the four colored buttons are in at the Dam #3, but the only way to get them to work I could find was to push all of them in reverse order, causing the room to start flooding. That led to the bolt outside glowing, and then I could TURN BOLT WITH WRENCH, which for some reason opens a staircase in the ravine below the dam as opposed to (apparently) operating anything logical. I feel like the form of the puzzle was taken but not the exact sense.

• Relatedly, I found the “echo room” from Zork, but the only way to solve it is the original way: by just typing the word ECHO. The solution involving stopping the dam water from rushing by only was added later.

• I found the thief and he on one encounter stole my stuff, and on another encounter killed me. I think if you just immediately flee when you see him he doesn’t do anything, which nullifies the impact a little.

• I found a maze of rooms “all alike”. Rather evilly, if you try to drop items to map things out, they end up getting moved to a “central room” which has a set of keys. I just had to guess my way out.

• The mine area is in, kind of — the diamond is out in the open and you don’t need to do anything special to get it — but the rusty rod with a star on it from Adventure is there also. I’ve tried waving the rod in various places with no success.

You’re locked in here and have to PUSH NEXT to get out. The NEXT button is a PLATO in-joke — it gets used all of the time in navigating the network system.

• I found two riddles in addition to the SHADOW one from last time. One of them was the WELL one from original Zork, and one of them is a regular classic.

My main sticking points are a.) the fact I still haven’t been able to get back outside, to the trophy case where the treasures are stored. b.) I don’t have a bottle of water, and I can’t substitute any other container — I can get an empty gas can but the game is just confused with syntax if I try to fill it. This means the plant calling for water in a pit (like in Adventure) can’t be grown into a beanstalk. c.) Relatedly, there’s a rusty steel door, and there’s oil, but I can’t bring one to the other. Oddly, if I try to fill the gas can with oil the game just says it’s now covered with oil (??).

I do worry there might be some bug stymying my progress. Trying to open an object gives a message about opening a book (I don’t have a book in my inventory) and the wobbly parser generally makes me concerned there’s some command too messed-up to deliver. I’m still going to make honest whacks for a few days but I may shelve this game for the moment and move on with my 1981 sequence a little more.

If you’re interested in playing the game yourself, the cyber1 server has it — you have to follow the login instructions, and when it asks what program you want to run, type “adventure” all in lower case. I still don’t understand how to set it up so save games work.

Posted March 8, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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PLATO Adventure: The Incomplete Guide   5 comments

I managed to eke out a few more locations on my map from exits I had missed, but I’m going to call this one finally cooked. As a guide for future intrepid explorers who want to get farther, I’ll try to lay out in detail everything I’ve found and all my maps.

Before that…


It’s not even close. It’s clear PLATO Adventure is trying to emulate Zork’s “full sentence” mode — more words equals more power! — but I’ve seen enough oddities to say it’s only half-baked.

For example, one of the new locations I ran across was an altar with a book. If you READ BOOK the game gives a confused response; the only thing that works is READ ANCIENT BOOK.

What I’m guessing is happening — other than the game not really understanding the difference between an adjective and a noun — is that rooms with fixed items have the code specific to the location they are at. This means a command like JUMP can plunge the player in a pit where appropriate, but otherwise, the game is confused and act likes it doesn’t understand the command at all. We’ve seen this kind of half-measure with the Wander games which can lead to odd abuses, but essentially, it makes the interface feel much more inconsistent. There will always be misunderstood verbs, but having the game misunderstand a verb if the context is wrong makes the user experience as transparent as mud.

For phrases, that means it’s not really understanding there’s a “ANCIENT BOOK” or “BOOK” object in the vicinity of the Altar, but rather, it’s a hard-coded scenario where “READ ANCIENT BOOK” is grabbed as a whole phrase while in the appropriate room.


There are spots, in Zork, where connections are tangled and confused, but the really odd bits are outside (where there’s a “full circle” around the house) and in a maze. The rest makes enough sense I can visualize regions in my head.

PLATO Adventure seems on the surface to draw on identical rooms, but the configuration somehow seems much more random.

Here’s an example; this is the region that gets opened after solving the Dam #3 puzzle. The “Above Dome” part presumably goes down further but I don’t have a rope. On the right side, the various “long” and “vast” halls are vaguely described and connect more like a spreadsheet than a map. (Jumping back to parser issues again, the game doesn’t seem to understand DIG once you have the shovel. I am guessing there is some room hardcoded to understand DIG after all, but it’s frustrating testing out a command where that isn’t known for sure.)

Despite the nitpicks above, the game isn’t terrible to play … it’s just I can’t make any progress. So, here is my summary; it repeats many points I made in earlier posts, but this is meant to collect everything into a single section:

You start outside, and can go down either a trap door or a mountain passage to get into the underground. There doesn’t seem to be any difference between the two, other than you can leave the trap door open if you take the mountain passage. That still doesn’t help with escape, though, because the trap door is too high to reach if you’re under it. I still have no clue how to return upstairs after going downstairs.

What I’m calling the “central area” has a troll (easily dispatchable by KILL TROLL WITH SWORD) a riddle door (solvable either through WELL, SHADOW, or LETTER E), an echo room (just type ECHO to get out), a maze (which seems to be unmappable, just stumble until you find keys, then stumble out) and the Dam #3 clone. If you go in the maintenance room at the central area and hit all the buttons in reverse order (red, brown, yellow, blue) then you’re able to turn a bolt on the outside with a wrench, opening a secret passage to the area with the shovel I mentioned earlier.

I’m stuck on a large rusty steel door that needs oil — you can find a pool of oil, and then “cover an item” with oil, but there isn’t any way I can see to transfer the oil over to the door. There’s also a pit with a plant that needs water, but I have found no water-holding container.

Connected to some of the central rooms is the “round room” randomizer from Zork. This shuffles you to a few other areas, like the temple…

…which has an Ice Room that threatens to freeze you if you hang around, and a rainbow that I can’t get a reaction from.

Another random exit takes you to mines…

…where you can find a diamond and a rusty rod. The game does understand WAVE ROD in all places but nothing has happened anywhere I’ve tried it, even in obvious places like chasms which might spawn bridges or the rainbow which might solidify.

This is most of the items I’ve found. The diamond and rusty rod are missing.

I’m still guessing there’s some interesting material hiding in the places I’ve missed, and I like the askew-Zork-world in a sense, but raw persistence is only going to get me so far. I especially welcome it if anyone can access the source code; there is apparently a way to see it instead of playing the game on the cyber1 server but you need (I think) the author’s numerical code (?).

Posted March 9, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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