Final Fantasy VIII and Tomb Raider 3 may be cutting edge games that have sold in vast numbers but they are only the latest games to transport you to another time or another land. Let me now type N to go north and we will enter the realm of the adventure.

The first adventure was written on a mainframe computer in 1978. The authors, Crowther and Woods, used up a huge 200K. Named Colossal Caves (or sometimes simply Adventure), this was a simple text only affair that rapidly spread around the mainframes of universities and large companies.

Using simple two word commands you were transported to a place where you could kill dragons, find treasure and bribe trolls. At first text adventures can be confusing and annoying as the part of the program which interprets what you type (the parser) can seem really stupid. Many commands will be returned with, "I don't know how to do that." Gradually however, you get used to the sort of words it is expecting and can begin to be involved in the story.

The same year Scott Adams encountered the game on his work's computer. After staying late for a whole week he completed it and was inspired to construct his own. Using his shiny new TRS-80 he created Adventureland in just 16K. He followed this with Pirate's Cove.

With the attention these programs gained him he formed his own company, Adventure International. Over the following six years he wrote 14 classic text adventures. In the UK the first five adventures were available on cartridges for the Commodore Vic-20 but took quite a while to become available for the C64 and Spectrum. Computer & Video Games magazine readers nominated Adventure International's Claymorgue Castle as the best adventure game of 1984. That year Adams gained the licence to write a series of games based around the heroes of Marvel comics. Unfortunately after completing just three of these his company went bankrupt.

Inspired by these games UK coders created some of their own. From 1981 Artic Computing created a series labelled Adventure A to E which sold many copies, especially when later marketed through Sinclair. Espionage Island (Adv D) was probably their best. As a secret agent observing an enemy island you were shot down and then had to discover the secret the island held.

In October 1982 a company named Automata released Pimania. The prize for solving this was the magnificent Golden Sundial of Pi (worth 6000). The prize could be claimed by being at a certain location on July 22nd (because Pi is 22/7). The prize remained unclaimed for years leading C&VG to claim it was all a con. Then in 1985 two women who had been playing the game for nearly two and a half years won it. They stood at the mouth of a horse carved in a chalk hill in the Sussex downs and a man dressed as Pi Man emerged from behind a nearby bush holding the Golden Sundial.

The Hobbit by Melbourne House is a true classic. It was based on the novel by J.R.R.Tolkien, which came packaged with it for 14.95. The game received a score of 10, 9, 9 in March 1983's C&VG. It was created in Australia by a team, headed by Philip Mitchell, of programmers, artists and even a linguistics expert.

The graphics for each scene slowly drew themselves out apparently using the Spectrum's PLOT and DRAW commands. Areas of colour then gradually filled in. The bottom third of the screen carried the description of the scene and your entries were made there. The parser was the most advanced one thus far. It could understand surprisingly long sentences and used a large vocabulary to good effect. As it was played in real time, characters could act on their own and could even wonder off and get themselves killed. It was great fun to play and sold by the bucket load. Just thinking about it makes me want to sit down and sing about gold.

Legend termed their game Valhalla the first computer movie. Despite all the hype it wasn't that good. Inevitably when you got bored you'd type in something rude. The game would then reply with the message, "Mary is not amused". A small character came in from the side of the screen and poked you. This made me spend the next 10 minutes entering in all the rude words I could think of to see how many the game recognised.

The UK company Level 9 was founded by Pete Austin and his brothers. He produced well crafted games with huge numbers of locations including the classics Colossal Adventure (his version of the original), Lords of Time, Snowball, Jewels of Darkness and Red moon (which won C&VG best adventure of 1985 and Crash magazine's Best Graphical adventure).

Infocom in America produced many disk-based games. Once again these never had much exposure in the UK (where disk drives were rarer) until the mid-eighties. Notable titles include Moonmist, Planetfall, the adult toned Leather Goddesses of Phobos and the famous Zork series.

Back in the UK Mike Singleton created Lords of Midnight. This came with a book full of background material that while not vital to play the game enhanced the experience immeasurably. It blurred the boundaries between an adventure and a strategy game with a hint of war gaming thrown in. It was superb.

You waged a massive campaign against the evil armies of Doomark over a huge playing area. Your main character, Luxor the Moonprince, had to take the citadel of Ushgarak. This would break the magic spell of cold known as the ice fear. Using nearly ever key on the keyboard you controlled many characters and co-ordinated their efforts to achieve victory. The graphics were very impressive showing all the terrain and features of the game world. Every direction you looked in had a different view. In the June 1985 edition of C&VG, Lords of Midnight won Best Strategy game in the Golden Joystick awards.

This document is copyright 1998-2001 Keith Ainsworth and can be found at http://retrogamer.merseyworld.com/

I have several adventure games for a wide variety of computer for sale here.

 
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