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A History of Early Text Adventure Games

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the still-waiting-on-mod-10 dept.

Classic Games (Games) 130

HFKap writes "The earliest computer games were pure text and were passed around freely on the ARPANET, culminating in the 'cave crawls' Adventure and Dungeon. The advent of the home computer opened up a commercial market for text adventure games, though the limited resources of these machines presented significant technical problems. Many companies vied for success in this market, but the best-remembered today is Infocom, founded by a group from MIT. Infocom's virtual memory and virtual machine innovations enabled them to design extremely ambitious and creative games, which they dubbed Interactive Fiction (IF). Ultimately the text game lost its paying customers to the lure of graphical games, such as those produced by Sierra On-Line. This article is a dialogue between Harry Kaplan and Jimmy Maher, editor of the modern IF community's pre-eminent e-zine SPAG."

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130 comments

It is very dark. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28726073)

You are likely to be eaten by a grue.

Re:It is very dark. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28726151)

TUCKER LOSES A FILM REEL HILARITY ENSUES PART II

(In part one Tucker was telling a sold out IHTSBIH crowd in San Diego about how the Rudius crew and his Navy Seal buddies were raising hell and accidentally destroyed a reel of the film. In his "true story" it's 3:00am and Tucker has just pulled the tour bus into the parking lot of the San Diego Zoo)

"So I pull the fucking bus into the zoo's parking lot. The bus has all these fucking gears and I'm just beating the shit out of the engine. Since we were Tucker Max drunk at that point I decided to park the bus across 15 handicap spots. Who the fuck brings retards to a zoo anyway? (mocks retard voice) 'I wannaz dee munkeee!!!!"

THE CROWD ROLLS WITH LAUGHTER

"Fuck. Note to self. San Diego is full of sick motherfuckers!"

THE CROWD CLAPS AND STOMPS FEET

"Hold on, you're going make me lose my place. Ok, right, so we're fucking in the parking lot of the San Diego zoo at 3am. We get off the bus to stretch our legs and I look over at Nils. He is in shock and pointing at something. Was he looking at a copy of USA today announcing Pizza Hut Chapter 11? Who the fuck knows. So I turn around to see what the fuck and there underneath the bus are a set of legs. Holy shit, I fucking ran over somebody. Not HIT someone. Not drove NEAR someone. But actually fucking DROVE OVER THEM WITH A 8000 POUND TOUR BUS!"

THE CROWD LAUGHS

"I went over and started kicking the legs and shit. Nothing. Finally Terror and Mondo went over and dragged the body our from under the bus by its feet. Holy shit. It's like a fifteen year old kid. I almost felt bad. He was toast."

THE CROWD SIGHS, AWWWWW

"Hold your awwwws you fucking pussies. The kid was Mexican!"

THE CROWD EXPLODES WITH RELIEF LAUGHTER

"Terror looked down at the body and says; swear to God, he says 'Looks like someone was trying to steal your axle, Max!' I fell to the ground laughing, tears rolling down my face. After a few minutes we tried to collect our thoughts. Being Green Berets and shit Terror, BroHawk and Mondo did the only natural thing they are trained to do in these situations. They took camera-phone pictures of themselves resting their nutsacks across the dead kid's forehead. It was a fucking Kodak moment."

THE CROWD BELLY LAUGHS

"You should see the photos. Fuck. I'll try to get them on the blog tomorrow or some shit. Terror has perfect fucking nuts, man, shit. Like two hardboiled eggs wrapped in fucking panty hose."

THE CROWD MURMURS

"What? I'm a stickler for detail and shit."

MORE LAUGHTER

"So now here we are. Drunk and at the zoo. I want to go fuck with some animals but we have a fucking wetback body we need to deal with. I forced Tando and Ryan Holiday to bring it inside the tour bus. Terror and Mondo propped the fucking body in a chair and rigged its jaw with string and tape so that as they watched ESPN playbacks on TIVO they could make the dead Tonk mouth the words. Like I said, I'm not even the coolest one of my friendses."

GUY IN CROWD YELLS "I FUCKING HOPE SO"

"Excuse me; are you a fucking dude or a chick?"

THE CROWD EXPLODES WITH LAUGHS. TWO PARAMEDICS WHEEL IN A STRETCHER JUST IN CASE

"I decided I had enough ESPN and set out for the zoo. As I made my way to the zoo gates I was approached by a security guard. Only it wasn't a security guard, it was a hot chick. She was in her forties with a nice round ass and big tits. She had tears in her eyes. 'Are you like fucking okay and shit?' I said to her. She said 'no.' From her accent and skin color I could tell she was Mexican. I had two obvious choices. Do I fuck her in the pussy of the ass?"

THE CROWD CHANTS "ASS ASS ASS ASS"

"Calm down you SD motherfuckers. Last chick I fucked in the ass was Bob Gosse. ..ahh---oooohhh.."

(Tucker does an Andrew Dice Clay rim shot "ah-ooohhh" but it's so high-pitched that is sounds more like an eleven year old girl's reaction to seeing a spider)

"Then she said the magic words. 'Can you help me find my son?' "

(TO BE CONTINUED)

Re:It is very dark. (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#28726429)

I remember text adventure games from my early teenage years. No, they weren't roleplaying games, but instead textbased sex games just made by someone with qbasic. You would have a basic scenario and along the way you got to choose what you did and how to continue from there. Damn it was hot in '95.

IF is not dead! (5, Funny)

santax (1541065) | more than 4 years ago | (#28726083)

Whenever I go to foxnews I am happy to see there are still many, many very creative people releasing this interactive fiction, complete with hyperlinks to make it interactive leading you to even more fiction. I would say if there is one genre that really stood the test of time. It is IF. Horay!

Re:IF is not dead! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28726431)

Fiction is better than propaganda and deliberate lies found elsewhere (ABCCBSNBAMSNBACNNNYTWAPO). At least fiction is entertaining.

Re:IF is not dead! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28726459)

Really? Informative? Whoever modded this needs to be metamoderated into oblivion.

Re:IF is not dead! (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#28726751)

How is that fiction interactive? I can't go and punch some corrupt politician into the mid of next week (and if I do, all I accomplish is that I need a new TV).

Re:IF is not dead! (1)

Sandbags (964742) | more than 4 years ago | (#28727977)

Thank you for brightening my day! That is one of the funniest true statements I've heard in weeks!

Re:IF is not dead! (1)

Elbowgeek (633324) | more than 4 years ago | (#28728669)

I think the most entertaining and creative IF, for me, was Leather Goddesses of Phobos. Just like reading a book, one made the scene in one's head, which was far more vivid than any of the best graphics cards of today. Also, every player would have his or her own vision of the scene, completely different from anyone else's.

I distinctly recall it had a "boss key" (whatever happened to those?) which would bring up a Lotus 123-style spreadsheet. But on that sheet were a list of kinky sex objects - hilarious.

Re:IF is not dead! (1)

BlueKitties (1541613) | more than 4 years ago | (#28729443)

Foxnew's fair and balanced coverage may seem like fiction my friends, but I can assure you it's 100% facts. In fact, today only, our pals are offering free implants to boost cognitive function. Join us, friends, and help stop the secular liberal progressive homosexual socialist object oriented movement!

Best of Memories (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28726161)

I must be getting old. I remember "flashbulb" memories and genuine excitement about Adventure whenever a huge block of text would scroll into the screen, indicating a new area or a puzzle solved. We used a rotary dial phone into a 300 baud acoustic coupled modem on a dumb terminal in 1977. Ah, fond memories of my first exposure to computers.

Long Live Plugh!!!

Proof Graphics != Good Game (4, Interesting)

bertoelcon (1557907) | more than 4 years ago | (#28726173)

This should stand as proof that graphics should not be in the forefront of the entire gaming industry, they had graphics then and did much better giving a fully descriptive story as was needed. I really want to see some level of text based gaming come back. Hell it might be a great way to market a Wii Keyboard.

Yes and no... (5, Informative)

Bragador (1036480) | more than 4 years ago | (#28726351)

Back in the days, and I don't speak from experience, computers were not for everyone so the market was different. Today, most gamers don't have the patience to read a book, even less to think while doing so like you do in an interactive fiction game. Actually, the whole society is like that. So, shiny graphics ARE important today. I showed some Infocom games to some friends since I thought text adventures were a nice idea and when they saw there was no graphics they simply shrugged them off. Well, one did try Zork, and after a few minutes, he thanked me for showing him something he didn't know and never touched these kind of games after that.

Like Roberta Williams said in 1999:

Back when I got started, which sounds like ancient history, back then the demographics of people who were into computer games, was totally different, in my opinion, than they are today. Back then, computers were more expensive, which made them more exclusive to people who were maybe at a certain income level, or education level. So the people that played computer games 15 years ago were that type of person. They probably didn't watch television as much, and the instant gratification era hadn't quite grown the way it has lately. I think in the last 5 or 6 years, the demographics have really changed, now this is my opinion, because computers are less expensive so more people can afford them. More "average" people now feel they should own one.

Re:Yes and no... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28726403)

It's quite amazing that in a world where more information is available than ever before, that it actually feels like we're going backwards.

For example, log in to any game that supports text chat. I guarantee the conversations going on at any given point in time will make you want to stab your monitor.

Re:Yes and no... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28727193)

But the 3am Trade Chat on World of Warcraft is so intriguing, its like slashdot commentary in real time.

Re:Yes and no... (1)

bertoelcon (1557907) | more than 4 years ago | (#28726425)

I would give you that graphics are important now, and it would be as hard to sell a text game as it would to have sell a pure CLI OS. but I really see no reason that should define major gaming. However, I also still think HD video is not half as good as people think it is.

Re:Yes and no... (1)

Bragador (1036480) | more than 4 years ago | (#28726451)

Oh, I do agree that the graphics are not necessary, but people need them for some strange reason. It's the same thing with movies. People will want to watch the movie version of a book instead of reading it, even though the book has more details. Also, people will rent the latest remake instead of watching the old black and white classics.

Re:Yes and no... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28727215)

graphics are not necessary, but people need them for some strange reason.

Are you being sarcastic?

The reason people prefer graphics over text is because the human visual system is adapted to making sense of scenes full of colorful objects. That's natural. Reading, on the other hand, is not something we're adapted to doing: It's unnatural. We can learn to do it, but it takes far more effort to make sense of a wall of text than it does to make sense of a scene full of people and things. Were we able to look at a page of text and understand it in under a second--just as we can when looking at a scene--reading would be far more popular.

Another reason IF fell out of favor is that computers are stupid. There may be 1001 ways I could tell you my character does something, but the game will only understand at most one of those ways (maybe two or three if the parser is particularly "advanced"). In contrast, with graphical games, it's far more obvious what parts of the scene can be interacted with, and what one's character is capable of doing, so there's much less guesswork. (Put another way, IF games tend to degenerate into "read the developers mind" puzzles, even though that's rarely what they're going for.)

Re:Yes and no... (1)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 4 years ago | (#28730377)

Yeah, unless the game author is one of those pixel-pointer types that drives the player nuts. I remember playing one of the Myst games and going nuts because I couldn't get past a part that apparently required you to look in a very particular direction and click on a particular point that wasn't terribly obvious.

I disagree (3, Insightful)

aepervius (535155) | more than 4 years ago | (#28726619)

I used to belong to that demographic long long ago. But with age I simply lost patience and reading too much from a computer screen is tiring. We were young. Now we are at best middle aged, at worst seniors. Most of us do not want or cannot waste as much time on tiring task. Even if the new demographic of young people was coming in, we a bit older would not want to go through that again and again. The myth that now people only accept instant gratification is just a myth. Many of those I.F. were simply cumbersome and unforgivable but since this is all we had, we accepted it. Most people would not willingly eat stale moldy rotten bread if fresh bread is available. You do it only when there is no fresh bread available and you are starving. Same for the first graphic+novel type of adventure like KQ's. We will not willingly go again in that especially eating the cake right off the start breaking down the game.

Maybe they can revive I.F. as type of ebook. But I doubt it.

Re:I disagree (1)

hattig (47930) | more than 4 years ago | (#28727811)

Are there interactive eBooks yet of the old Ian Livingstone (and others) pick your own adventure books?

That might be a nice project actually. The choices are limited, there's no parser hassle, but it's interactive within a story thread.

Re:I disagree (2, Insightful)

Gulthek (12570) | more than 4 years ago | (#28728207)

Who said it needs reviving? The best IF games have come out in the last few years! Playable on anything digital that even remotely makes sense: from a computer (any reasonable OS) to an iPhone.

Re:I disagree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28728323)

Like Limbo of the Lost!

Re:I disagree (2, Insightful)

Beetle B. (516615) | more than 4 years ago | (#28728515)

Many of those I.F. were simply cumbersome and unforgivable but since this is all we had, we accepted it.

You may not know this, but by today's IF standards, the Infocom games are considered to be quite poor in quality (although few will utter such blasphemy without a lot of modifiers...).

Everyone agrees that they did have great prose and suspension of disbelief was not at all difficult. That's to their credit.

But game design? Mediocre at best (again, by today's standards). Each Infocom game I played had a dungeon/maze element that was quite tedious. I suppose it's because I never had the manuals.

Each Infocom game I played suffered from "I forgot to pick up an item a hundred moves ago and now I can't finish the game, and I don't even know that I can't!". Today, this is just considered poor design. A well designed game will not allow the game to progress, and will provide proper clues to help you figure out what you may be doing wrong.

Each Infocom game I played had ways to die that a real person in the world of the game has no way of knowing would kill him. That's considered poor design today. There should always be some clue that what you're about to do is dangerous, and dying and restoring shouldn't be the only way to know.

Some Infocom games I played had this whole "starving to death" notion that thankfully has been deprecated today. They were hard enough already, damn it!

Re:I disagree (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#28728939)

reading too much from a computer screen is tiring

And yet people will read forums for hours.

Re:I disagree (1)

GMFTatsujin (239569) | more than 4 years ago | (#28731109)

To my delight, I recently discovered that the iLiad series of e-book readers will run Gargoyle, which plays many popular IF formats. So you can finally play your interactive fiction on your ebook reader, and the circle is complete.

Little synchronicities like that are making are harder for me to resist laying out the cash for one of those things. Even if they are cripplingly expensive.

Re:Yes and no... (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#28728891)

But the literate gamer has not gone away. Yes there are fewer of them in proportion to mainstream gamers, but in reality the numbers are the same, or even greater. The market is out there for these games, someone just needs to take advantage of it.

Re:Proof Graphics != Good Game (5, Informative)

John Miles (108215) | more than 4 years ago | (#28726781)

I really want to see some level of text based gaming come back.

Text gaming didn't leave, it just went indie. Some of the best works since the Infocom days have appeared in the annual rec.arts.int-fiction competition [ifcomp.org], the 15th of which is in progress now.

Someone below mentioned Photopia, and that's a good place to start (it took first place in the IF competition nine or ten years ago).

Re:Proof Graphics != Good Game (1)

crazybit (918023) | more than 4 years ago | (#28726941)

"Have you ever wanted to jump into a book and live inside that world? Here is your chance."

medievia.com [medievia.com] is still up and running, you might like that community.

Re:Proof Graphics != Good Game (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28730343)

Don't support that game.

The developer stole the DikuMUD code and started "accepting donations" for it, which is not allowed under the Diku license.

Everything about that game is a farce. Illegal and unjust.

google medthievia for more information.

Re:Proof Graphics != Good Game (2, Insightful)

westlake (615356) | more than 4 years ago | (#28727497)

This should stand as proof that graphics should not be in the forefront of the entire gaming industry, they had graphics then and did much better giving a fully descriptive story as was needed

The dialog and descriptions were not always as good as you remember them.

The more important lesson to be learned from Infocom - and the best graphical adventures - is that they were willing to explore and exploit any environment and any popular fictional genre.

Detective story, police procedural. Lovecraftian horror. Traditional, hard core Sci-Fi...

 

Re:Proof Graphics != Good Game (2, Interesting)

Quirkz (1206400) | more than 4 years ago | (#28729583)

This should stand as proof that graphics should not be in the forefront of the entire gaming industry, they had graphics then and did much better giving a fully descriptive story as was needed. I really want to see some level of text based gaming come back.

Text-based gaming isn't completely dead. There are niche markets, particularly with browser-based games.

One of my favorites, and one I've been playing for more than three years, is Kingdom of Loathing (http://www.kingdomofloathing.com). Yes, they do have images, but they're stick figures, static GIFs, so it's essentially text-based with a little accent. Humorous writing, complicated puzzles ... all that stuff is alive and well in this fantasy RPG. They're maybe halfway between pure text and an RPG like Bard's Tale - more interface than the former, much more writing than the latter. Heck, they even have a grue familiar as an homage to some of the classic games. (It's free to play, too. There's a donation model, but non-donators don't miss out on anything.)

I'd be remiss if I didn't take this opportunity to plug my own game (also free to play, no penalty for non-donators, I assume it's okay to mention here), which is was inspired by Kingdom of Loathing but is a superhero-themed RPG. Twilight Heroes, at http://www.twilightheroes.com./ [www.twilightheroes.com]

how i remember text adventures (4, Funny)

keeboo (724305) | more than 4 years ago | (#28726217)

I was a kid and I had a bare knowledge of English language as 2nd language, so it went like:

"You start off with your parachute snagged on a branch of a mangrove tree, leaving you helplessly dangling high above the jungle floor."
> north
> go north
> down
> go down
> climb tree
> look tree
> look at tree
> look parachute
> objects
> inventory
> help
> shit
...
> untie parachute

Yeah, sorry if I don't share the same enthusiasm for such games.

Re:how i remember text adventures (1, Redundant)

Niris (1443675) | more than 4 years ago | (#28726299)

In the immortal words of many MUDs that are still played today,

> What?

Re:how i remember text adventures (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28726323)

I shared your pain with some games, even though English is allegedly my first language. I particularly remember one game where you had to use a vacuum cleaner to get rid of a ghost that was blocking a doorway... I was about 11 at the time, had never even heard of ghostbusters, and didn't realise that people in the US called vacuum cleaners "vacuums" which, according to my dictionary, was something with no air in it. I eventually got past that particular hurdle by pausing the game (it was in basic), reading over the code (I was a nerd) in search of relevant keywords and guessing combinations involving everything I could pick up.

On reflection I suspect reverse engineering this game was more fun than the game itself...

Re:how i remember text adventures (1)

Puff_Of_Hot_Air (995689) | more than 4 years ago | (#28727551)

I had similiar pain with a game called Hugo's House of Horrors (not text based, but the same text input pain). In one of the rooms in the mansion, you open a cupboard to find a funny looking sprite on the ground. I must have tried a 100 different things to figure out what that sprite was. Eventually I looked in the game directory to see a file called "mask.gif". Pick Up Mask. It was a wonderful thing when the click based adventure game (such as lucas arts games), was introduced.

Re:how i remember text adventures (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 4 years ago | (#28728845)

What's the literal translation for your country's term for "vacuum cleaner"? Just curious.

Re:how i remember text adventures (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28730459)

I'm not the OP but I'm replying just for fun. In Sweden it's called "dammsugare", the literal translation would be "dust sucker".

Re:how i remember text adventures (1)

omglolbah (731566) | more than 4 years ago | (#28727167)

The game sucked if it was that specific on how to get the hell down.

Knowing the language is quite important when it comes to playing a MUD but most get by fine.

I would attribute some of my knowledge of the language (English is my second language, Norwegian my first) to my use of computers and especially text games. I've clocked close to 18000 hours on a particular mud (lensmoor.org 3500) and enjoy it just as much as I enjoy some graphic intensive games.

It is all about what you are looking for. Text lends itself to roleplaying games quite well as you can define anything without having to worry about how it will be done graphically.

*heads back to work to be productive *cough* *

Re:how i remember text adventures (2, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 4 years ago | (#28727289)

> shit ... > untie parachute

At least you landed into something soft and didn't break your legs, right?

Re:how i remember text adventures (3, Funny)

hattig (47930) | more than 4 years ago | (#28727845)

Most adventure games I played would let you survive the parachute fall, but you would then die whatever you did due to a proliferation of lions, tigers, grues, pits with spikes, native savages and ghosts in the immediate vicinity. Naturally the next 23 times you played the game, you'd try and avoid these, instead of "weave parachute into hangglider using tree branches" "glide to remote golden beach that I missed the description of because I didn't 'look into distance'", etc.

Others would give you immediate roaming access to 1048823 locations, and no discernible clue as to what you were meant to be doing. Ooh, I've crashed in my spaceship (had no control over that), and now I'm being pestered by a robot. I've picked up everything loose on the planet, but to no avail. ARGH. KILL ROBOT WITH BANANA PICKER.

Re:how i remember text adventures (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28727751)

I'm sure you learned a lot of the language like that. I always had high marks, thanks to MUD's.

Re:how i remember text adventures (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 4 years ago | (#28728211)

Well, you'd have to compare these games to the most primitive sort of graphical games to be perfectly fair.

It may well be that the end of commercial text game development meant that better formulas and design principles appropriate to the medium were never developed. There's no way the limits of language as a game medium have ever been approached by software. What are tabletop RPGs such as Dungeons and Dragons but language based adventure games with a few visual aids?

I think the problem with text games was that you'd run into a dead end where the designer wanted you to do some particular thing, and if you didn't do it, there was nothing else you could do. Adventure games need to give the player alternatives when he is frustrated. My kids play the Legend of Zelda games, and to my eye they have a lot in common with those early text games. The big difference is that when you get tired of figuring out the puzzle you are working on, you can set it aside and do something else.

If people continued to pour development money into text games, they'd probably be a lot more open ended and flexible than they were twenty five years ago.

Re:how i remember text adventures (2, Interesting)

shippo (166521) | more than 4 years ago | (#28729383)

That looks like Espionage Island from Artic Computing. It was released initially for the ZX81, then ported to the larger memory ZX Spectrum with no changes - same limited text descriptions in upper case text, limited vocabulary, white text on a black background and so on. Their whole series of games were fairly limited plot-wise, and extremely linear - i.e. just one puzzle to solve at a time for most of the game. So if you got stuck on one puzzle there was no point exploring the rest of the game.

The only advantage that Artic's games had is that they were quick, having been coded entirely in assembly language. Many other games of that era were written in BASIC, and therefore suffered from having slow parsers and logic engines, with some games taking almost a minute to respond to commands. One software publisher went half-way - they coded the vocabulary parser in assembly, but still had the logic in BASIC.

Re:how about a nice . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28729509)

Chat with Lisa

Hello
What is your name?

Documentary (5, Informative)

Pilferer (311795) | more than 4 years ago | (#28726277)

I am looking forward to this upcoming documentary:

http://www.getlamp.com/ [getlamp.com]

by the guy who did "BBS: The Documentary"

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (5, Insightful)

beatbox32 (325106) | more than 4 years ago | (#28726293)

That's the one I remember playing a lot on my C64.. "You wake up. The room is spinning very gently round your head. Or at least it would be if you could see it which you can't." For those interested, you can play it online here: http://www.heavygames.com/hitchhikersguidetothegalaxy/gameframe.asp [heavygames.com]

Re:Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1)

smchris (464899) | more than 4 years ago | (#28727831)

The one I remember _not_ playing a lot because I never got anywhere. Finished Planetfall.

Re:Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#28729249)

H2G2 was a game that you had to play with the hint book in your hand. There were a few places where you ended up in the dark and it would say something like 'you can not see, hear, smell, taste or feel anything'. I have no idea how you were meant to work out that you were meant to keep looking until it changed to something like 'you can not see, hear, smell, or feel anything' at which point you had to 'taste dark' and then continue (or use some other sense, if that was the one that disappeared from the list of things you can't do). Similarly, the Babel fish puzzle was crazy; you had to do so many things to get it that it seems crazy to expect people to work them out. You also had to make sure you remembered to feed the dog at the start, or you'd get near the end and be eaten by it.

I can't help wondering if it was a primitive version of copy protection. Most people who pirated the game didn't have access to the hint book, so they got stuck easily. Unfortunately, I played most of these games on my Psion Series 3 (not H2G2, because it was 150KB and I only had a 128KB flash card), and didn't carry the hint book around with me.

Let's see... from memory.... (2, Interesting)

mark-t (151149) | more than 4 years ago | (#28726321)

south. east. open window. in. west. get lamp and sword. east. up. light lamp. get all. douse lamp. down. west. move rug. open trapdoor. down. light lamp. north. attack troll with sword. again. again. again. again. get axe.

Re:Let's see... from memory.... (4, Funny)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 4 years ago | (#28726623)

south. east. open window. in. west. get lamp and sword. east. up. light lamp. get all. douse lamp. down. west. move rug. open trapdoor. down. light lamp. north. attack troll with sword. again. again. again. again. get axe

Damn you! I've been trying to do this for 20 years and now you've shown me how. You could at least have mentioned "Spoiler Alert".

And this describes most games today (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 4 years ago | (#28727011)

pretty much all the first person shooting games have this at their core.

The basics of gaming hasn't changed in over 30 years. Shortcuts, Mindless violence and the feeling of victory when you eventually "win" - which lasts all of 20 seconds until it gives way to the hollow feeling of "well, what now?"

Yes, there are graphics - which, like any addiction is never enough, is a total money sink and means you're always searching for the next high-point. And sound and vibration feedback and networks. Although these are all just peipheral to the storyline, which sadly has not progressed past new and grosser versions of a gore-fest.

Back arounf 1981, my boss at the time described the "new" rounds of video games that were coming out as "just another version of 'stomp the spider'". That observation still holds true for the vast majority of titles today. Progress?

Re:And this describes most games today (4, Insightful)

Elrond, Duke of URL (2657) | more than 4 years ago | (#28727361)

pretty much all the first person shooting games have this at their core.

The basics of gaming hasn't changed in over 30 years. Shortcuts, Mindless violence and the feeling of victory when you eventually "win" - which lasts all of 20 seconds until it gives way to the hollow feeling of "well, what now?"

You really should have picked a better example for your rant, I'm afraid. Just because somebody can do a speed run of Zork doesn't mean that's how you play. First off, Zork is by no means a violent gorefest. It's a game of exploration and treasure hunting. If you play using this minimal set of moves, you've neither truly played the game nor have you achieved a remotely good score.

The truth is that games have changed considerably in the past 30 years. Sure, there were lousy games back then, just as there are now, but they were an entirely different kind of lousy. Usually they were, in my opinion, of the insanely difficult and un-fun type of lousy. There's a lot less of those these days since insane levels of difficulty cause most gamers to do a 180 right quick.

Re:And this describes most games today (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 4 years ago | (#28729093)

They're still (mostly) about killing things, destroying things, shooting things. in that respect they have not developed past the basic premise. You vs. things that are out to kill you, unless you kill them first. Sure, there are games like The Sims and sports games which I agree are different and are popular - but the overwhelming majority (not all, just most) of the best-sellers are shoot, chop, kill, gore, weapons, enemies, destruction, targets, fire, explosions ..... and so it goes on. The only thing that differentiates most of these is the level of violence, the quality of the graphics and the amount of hardware you have to throw at them to get them to work acceptably.

Re:Let's see... from memory.... (1)

josh61980 (1025498) | more than 4 years ago | (#28728833)

I've been playing that on my iPhone recently. Now I know how to scare of the grue that ate me, thank.

Is the an English major in the house? (2, Interesting)

adolf (21054) | more than 4 years ago | (#28726335)

If there's an English major in the house: What is it called when an interview consists of one small question, followed by many paragraphs of detailed answer, followed by an unrelated question?

In other words: Is there any sort of descriptive term for "interview by email" which I can learn, so that I can more aptly describe these non-conversations in the future?

They have about as much interaction as an interview might if it were conducted by parcel post. While the monologues contained therein may (or may not be) interesting, the whole thing lacks so much spontaneity and fluidity that I might as well be reading a book.

Re:Is the an English major in the house? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#28726777)

What is it called when an interview consists of one small question, followed by many paragraphs of detailed answer, followed by an unrelated question?

Scripted.

Play old textadventures online (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28726523)

If you want to try any of the old textadventures, there are several pages that allow you playing the games only with javascript e.g.

http://z-machine.appspot.com (which was written by me - I admit, this is a shameless plug) or http://parchment.toolness.com/ .

Sysadmining with Infocom (2, Insightful)

Dare (18856) | more than 4 years ago | (#28727023)

As a newbie sysadmin, I feel I'm living in an Infocom adventure for some reason. Here's [users.utu.fi] a write-up of my work day about a week ago.

Play IF games in your browser with Parchment (5, Interesting)

Robmonster (158873) | more than 4 years ago | (#28727313)

I'd urge everyone to give Parchment a try :-http://code.google.com/p/parchment/

Parchment is a project dedicated to running IF games in your browser, and it does so wonderfully. You can even SAVE your progress, and it gives you a bookmarkable URL you can use to resume your game at a later date. That page tells you how to get any Zcode game playable on Parchment, and the page below has links to loads of IF games that have already been made available.

I'd recommend giving Curses a go, although maybe not if you are completely new to IF.

http://parchment.toolness.com/ [toolness.com]

Not a single mention of MUDs??? (3, Insightful)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 4 years ago | (#28727483)

All that discussion and not a single mention of MUDs, MOOs or any online multiuser text based adventures! Does the fact that they're running on a remote server and have multiple users somehow exclude them from being designated as text based IF? I think not. If anything they're far more imaginative and far longer player commitment than most single user adventures running on the local machine.

Re:Not a single mention of MUDs??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28727865)

I really developed my interest in programming thanks to LPmud/MudOS programming. It was a great experience, with lots of feedback from other programmers and players. I just wish I could find the sourcecode to my MUD. I think it died in the great hdd crash of '05.

Re:Not a single mention of MUDs??? (1)

Swampcritter (1165207) | more than 4 years ago | (#28727969)

<quote><p>I really developed my interest in programming thanks to LPmud/MudOS programming. It was a great experience, with lots of feedback from other programmers and players.</p></quote>

I still have an old LPmud actually still running...

Realm of the Magi -- http://rotm.murpe.com _or_ telnet rotm.murpe.com 1501

Here in the UK. (4, Informative)

shippo (166521) | more than 4 years ago | (#28727513)

Here in the UK there were a good number of such games published during the 8-bit micro boom of the early 1980s.

The first game to really start things going was Melbourne House's The Hobbit which, on some platforms, included crude graphics for some of the locations. The parser for this game was quite complex, allowing the player to pass instructions on to other characters. The other characters in the game also had some form of artificial intelligence, granting them the ability to wader around at random and move things around. Consequentially no two games were ever the same.

Another significant developer was Level 9 who created huge games using text compression. These were sold for a huge range of platforms.

Another major development was when Gilsoft developed The Quill, a an adventure game construction kit. This allowed virtually anyone to create a game based around a standard runtime environment. Many games were then released to the market, some so cleverly constructed that major software publishers could pass them on at full price. Later add-ons were created that allowed in-game graphics, basic sound effects and other features. Text compression was eventually added, too.

Re:Here in the UK. (1)

hattig (47930) | more than 4 years ago | (#28727885)

Graphic Adventure Creator was my text adventure creator drug of choice. Quite a few commercial games were made using it as well.

Lots of people preferred PAW though, when that came out.

Re:Here in the UK. (1)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 4 years ago | (#28728195)

I remember Level 9, they made some great games. I remember Knight Orc quite well. It came with a novella that filled in the background to the story.

Re:Here in the UK. (1)

ZipR (584654) | more than 4 years ago | (#28728495)

Level 9 was great. The Snowball series was one of the most vivid/memorable games I've played -- ever. I'm still trying to run away from those Nightingales. I used to order them direct from the UK for my Atari 8-bit, and they'd come in a DVD-type case, though they were on cassette.

Just telling my girlfriend about text adventures (1)

QuatermassX (808146) | more than 4 years ago | (#28727803)

I'm now in the latter half of my thirties and my girlfriend is in her mid-twenties and I was just rambling on about text adventure games. She looked at me like I had three heads and never heard of such a thing.

I distinctly remember a trip to a business with computers (and data stored on punch cards) when I was 10-ish and seeing the opening lines from Zork

A year or two later we bought a TRS-80 Colour Computer (with Extended Basic!) and I learnt to type by spending days and days and days with Pyramid 2000, Madness and the Minotaur, Raaka-Tu, Bedlam ... and went on to enjoy those early "graphical" adventures like the Dallas Quest. I didn't actually play Zork until much, much later.

It's a shame these sort of interactive fictions passed away after the advent of the CD-ROM and Myst.

Here's a link to my favourite, Pyramid 2000: http://www.figmentfly.com/pyramid2000/pyramid.html [figmentfly.com]

Re:Just telling my girlfriend about text adventure (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 4 years ago | (#28729011)

It's a shame these sort of interactive fictions passed away after the advent of the CD-ROM and Myst.

Not true, I bought most of the infocom selection on CD.

Re:Just telling my girlfriend about text adventure (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#28729335)

The Lost Treasures of Infocomm boxed sets were great. A big box with a few disks (later CDs), a big printed book of all of the manuals, another big book of all of the hint books, and fold-out maps for all of the games. Unfortunately, the one I bought was on floppy disk, and I haven't owned a floppy drive for several years, so I can't get at them anymore. I should probably get a USB floppy drive and see how many of my old floppies still work.

Now I vaguely remember that box set (1)

QuatermassX (808146) | more than 4 years ago | (#28729465)

I do remember that box set, though I'm not sure it was ever released for System 7 or OS 8 on the Mac. One of the marvellous things about emulators is playing all these games in the browser and recapturing a little bit of how we used to interact with computers.

Re:Just telling my girlfriend about text adventure (1)

grub (11606) | more than 4 years ago | (#28729149)


I'm now in the latter half of my thirties and my girlfriend is in her mid-twenties and I was just rambling on about text adventure games. She looked at me like I had three heads and never heard of such a thing.

I guess you have to fill the time when waiting for the Viagra to kick in. :)

.

3-Kingdoms (1)

Ferret96 (1293480) | more than 4 years ago | (#28728043)

Anyone every play the MUD 3-Kingdoms? For it's time it was a great game, had seperate Sci-Fi, Chaos, and Fantasy areas for variety. I used to play a Necromancer.

L.O.R.D (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28728105)

LORD will never die!
    http://lord.lordlegacy.com/
Greatest of all BBS games!

OT: Can someone ID this game? (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 4 years ago | (#28728123)

Circa 1991, a friend of mine would sit at the same computer and take turns controlling the UI for a game that must have been the one of first to add a UI to the text adventure format as it was such a simple wrapper for an obvious text adventure engine. It's DnD-ish in storyline allowing you to roll up characters with a handful of classes. The UI memorably showed a representation of your direction options like a mouse maze. I can't recall much about details, but you start out with your party in a slave pen and slowly fight your way out where you find a kingdom with continents and cities. As I recall, there was an element of free will rather than scripted adventure as you could wander the map as you saw fit. To me, the game is still a benchmark by which I measure what a leap modern MMOs like WoW made.

The stuff in the box was cool too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28728185)

I always liked how infocom would stuff your game box with all kinds of fun things(besides the game), planet fall had postcards from all the major areas and a bunch of other stuff in there...

Zyll (1)

AdmiralAl (1136661) | more than 4 years ago | (#28728279)

Zyll was my first foray into text adventure games. I remember spending hours at my dad's IBM Sr. Partner staring at the black and green screen trying to figure out where the three items were. I still keep a copy of DOSBox around just in case I want to fire up Zyll again. Such a great game.

point and click killed adventure games (1)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 4 years ago | (#28728295)

I do believe that point and click is what really killed adventure games. They simplified the game play down to a handful of verbs (get, look at, push, pull, use) which meant that if you got stuck all you had to do is try every verb on every object you could click on (including inventory) until something happened. As a result the games became way too easy. Some games don't even bother with a handful of verbs and instead you just click on stuff and something happens or not.

I mean, I loved the new Sam & Max adventures from Telltale, but each episode is at most 3-4 hours long!

Of course, I don't know that struggling with an obtuse parser was necessarily better, because it's frustrating when you're not sure if what you just tried didn't work because it's wrong, or because you just phrased it incorrectly. Example:

Tie rope to whatsit

- You can't do that

Attach rope to whatsit

- I don't know how to "attach" something

Use rope with whatsit

- You can't use the rope that way

Tie whatsit to rope

-You tie the whatsit with the rope

ARRRRGGGGG!!!!!

Inform (2, Informative)

PegamooseG (991448) | more than 4 years ago | (#28730147)

There is an excellent tool for writing IF that a friend brought to my attention a while back. It's called Inform 7 [inform-fiction.org].

I have tinkered with it a little bit, and it makes writing IF much easier. It takes out most of the programming skills, and focuses on a pseudo-natrual English way of writing the game.

CoCo! (1)

whitroth (9367) | more than 4 years ago | (#28730689)

Nobody ever remembers the RadShack CoCo. I had one that I bought around '80 or '81, and found a text adventure game - I don't remember the name - where one started out in a town at a market. The best thing to buy there was a shovel: you could dig for treasure... and beat off bandits on the road, lions in the jungle, sharks and pirates in the ocean, and, if you got to the end, meteors in outer space....

            mark

Talengard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28731193)

I could never slay the dragon though. I had hacked the game and given myself armor and a sword and shield with ungodly high hit points, but alas,

"You find a dragon, dragon breathes fire, you are dead. "

Or something along those lines, damn dragons.

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