West of House >Call all text adventure fans


You are in a dark room; there is a small gathering of relics here.

>X relics

These look like “Text Adventure Fans”, a dwindling breed of gamer from days when computers had the memory of today’s watches.

>Relics, XYZZY

You speak the magic incantation, and the relics look vaguely in your direction. You begin to speak.

Hello, Sailors!

I can’t be the only 80s throwback who still loves a good text adventure game. Zork, Enchanter, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Leather Goddesses of Phobos, Starcross… and so on. For a dedicated nerd such as myself, it was the best of both worlds - storytelling combined with video gaming. Early on, I developed a very judgmental sense about these things. IMHO, the Scott Adams games, with their two word parser and one-line descriptions, sucked. Almost as a rule, if it wasn’t Infocom, it probably wasn’t good. I wanted big, imaginative descriptions. Challenging, yet integrated, puzzles. Humorous but serious plots. I wanted a lot. Infocom almost always delivered.

Then of course, video gaming really started to take off, and it was all about the graphics. Bigger, brighter, faster. 3 dimensions, ferchrissakes. And commercial text adventures went the way of the dodo, and promptly vanished without so much as a “Plugh”.

A hollow voice sighs in weary disgust.

But then, out of the ashes rose the phoenices of dedicated fans who wouldn’t turn their backs on a beloved genre, and began writing their own games. Some of them, naturally, suckethed very greatly. Some of them, dare I say it, even approached Zork in greatness.

The problem is, figuring out which games are dreck and which rule the world. Every year I download the entries to the Interactive Fiction [oh how I despise that term] Competition, and try to play through at least the winning entries. But as is often the case with me and judges, I don’t always agree with the choices. Some of the best games were left without so much as an honorable mention, while some of the worse were bringing home the gold. But I have played some phenomenal ones (such as The Edifice, by Lucian Smith) that left me stunned and thrilled that give me the motivation to keep weeding through them.

Then it occured to me that maybe some fellow Dopers have their own favorites that they’d like to share. Or better yet, have written some that they’d be willing to offer for our enjoyment. So what say you? Share your own text adventure memories, favorites, recommendations, pans, jeers, what ever…

C’mon, man;


Nothing happens.

(Try that command at the OS prompt on a 32-bit Data General some time.)
A good friend of mine in college had a TRS-80, and we worked through all the Scott Adams adventures. They weren’t great, but they were a necessary step on the way to better things. Infocom really were the masters.

And there were two others that I still remember. There was Asylum, where the object of the game was to escape from an asylum (and whatever you do, don’t look up). And when you escaped, you were catapulted, literally, into Asylum 2. Which we never finished and remains a mystery to this day.

I think we got as far as the point where you have plastic surgery to look like Alfred Hitchcock.

I loved Infocom’s “Deadline.” It was tough to solve, and when I got to the end I felt as if I had accomplished something, even though all I’d actually done was sit on my butt staring at a computer monitor while typing things.

My favorite thing in “Deadline”: if you (as the Inspector) stick your head into the toilet bowl to look for clues, the game responds with “Do you think the murderer could be the Ti-D-Bowl Man?” (For those too young to know this, the Ti-D-Bowl Man was a character from a TV commercial who floated around in a little rowboat in toilets.)

I spent a bunch of time playing a couple games for my TRS-80 called Pyramid and Raaka-Tu. It always pissed me off that I never solved them. 25ish years later TMINC starts this thread and 5 minutes of Googling tells me that I was very close on both. A great weight has been lifted from my soul. I wonder what my mom ever did with the casettes.

Were these games well regarded? They were the only ones I ever tried.

I’m such a text adventure geek that I’ve got a Z-Machine interpreter and a few Infocom games(*) loaded up. Now if only I can get the time to actually play The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy or Deadline again…

(* = All legal, natch – I bought the entire Infocom collection when Activision repackaged them a few years back)

I had the Zork trilogy on my Palm Pilot for a while at one point. Those games are harder to play without a keyboard or map…

I wrote a game and submitted it to the 2002 IFcomp and placed ninth out of a field of thirty-eight. Not too bad for a first game, but looking back on it, there is an egregious number of design errors and flat-out bugs that a more experienced author would have caught. I ended up getting a $25 gift certificate to Amazon.

You can download Jane from the IF archive. You need a Z-code interpreter to play it.

I meant to create a game for SwashComp in summer 2003, and the sequel for the 2003 IFcomp, but never got around to it. Same for 2004. If I follow my previous pattern (intend to enter 2000, miss it, miss 2001, and put something together for 2002) I very well may have my second title done by September.

I recently downloaded and played through Planetfall and Starcross again, but everything ground to a halt after I was rudely reminded how freaking difficult Suspended is!

Hey there!!

I’ve actually been learning how to write my own text adventures over the past year or so. (Whever I can scrape away a little spare time from all the other stuff I’m trying to do.)

Downloaded some stuff from the inform 6 compiler and been learning more about it. My new project is a space relic chaser saga, something a little along the lines of a cross between ‘starcross’ and star trek TNG maybe. :wink: It can be really hard to figure out the commands for everything you want the player to be able to do though.


And yes, I have to admit, rather than bust my brain on a difficult game, I will often just find a walkthrough and go along with it, which kinda takes away a lot of the point about it being an interactive game in the first place, doesn’t it? :smiley:

There’s a version of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy up at the BBC here.

I had the old version that I played on the IBM PC Junior. (Anybody remember those???) I didn’t get very far on it, alas. But I did work out the babel fish eventually.

Anyone remember those Infocom hint booklets? The ones that came with the special marker to highlight the answers and make them visible?

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I’ve never actually seen a physical hint booklet – the version of zork 1 that I bought in a store, had the invisiclues integrated as part of the game environment… if you typed in ‘hint’ at the regular prompt it took you to a hint sections menu.

Can the mad hatter be cured??

I wrote text adventures. Years and years ago. The proper way, not using any engines that give everything the same look an feel. Those were the days.

Market forces made us add graphics, which were nice, but never really added much IMHO. The standard we aspired to was set by Level 9 . Now those were text adventures! It was always amazing how much they’d manage to cram into the available memory, and excellent writing.

What I hated most in some text adventures was solutions to puzzles that relied more in a lexical work-out than in any kind of problem solving. So you’d spend ages knowing the answer, but failing to find what words and syntax the interpreter would accept. And the writers did this deliberately! They didn’t understand that the command interpreter wasn’t part of the fun, it was actually a limitation a good adventure did its best to make invisible.

You know, every year I intend to enter the Interactive Fiction competition and every year I just don’t quite get around to it. Maybe this year I’ll finally do it. Ino, if you enter this year so will I. :slight_smile:

If you like the Infocom games the definitive collections are The Lost Treasures of Infocom Volumes 1 and 2. It’s long out of print, but its easier to get than the originals (though I have a couple of them as well) and because all you need is the data file and to download a z-machine interpreter they work just fine today. They came with maps and the Invisiclues books. The hint book for the Hitchhikers Guide may have been written by Adams since they certainly show some of his style. From the very lengthy entry for the infamous babel fish puzzle:

I always liked the Enchanter series, though they were definitely more puzzle based than story based.

Hey, text adventure games are 3-d! In addition to N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, and NW, you could also (sometimes) go U or D!

And Futile, I know what you mean about the lexical challenges. I was stuck in the Riddle Room of Zork II for six months (playing only sporadically, admittedly) before I realized I had the answer and just wasn’t saying it right. I’m still stuck in Zork II, admittedly, but a little bit past that point now.

And over Christmas break, I attacked the original Zork again and managed to get through it in only 180 moves (which was only possible by virtue of being robbed at a lucky time).

What would be really cool would be a collaborative Doper effort for this year’s competition.

One of my favorite games was Nord and Bert Couldn’t Make Heads or Tails of It. One of the few games where I truly laughed out loud, and was just plain fun. Word play, text adventures, and me - a more perfect combination I could never ask for.

So does anyone have any recommendations for some IF Comp type games? I’m about to go download Jane - 9th place is certainly very cool, I’d be seriously chuffed with myself if I ever managed to accomplish that (of course, I’d be kinda chuffed with myself if I could ever actually write a game!).

I already mentioned The Edifice. There was one called Anchorhead (Michael Somebodyorother) that I really enjoyed - excellent NPCs in that game - and another favorite was Jigsaw (I want to say it was written by Graham Nelson, also the author of Curses!) - very well written, a lot of fun, and definitely hard. Excellent stuff.

As for commercial games, one of my favorites aside from those already mentioned was Bureaucracy. I was younger then, and had absolutely no true concept of Bureaucracy, but playing it again a couple of years ago, it hit a lot closer to home.
And one game that I just never could beat was Infidel. I just kept wandering around in the desert, dying of thirst.

Pyramid was apparently a “Truly awful game.” Unless you mean Scott Adams’ Pyramid of Doom, which I liked. It was one of the first text adventures I ever played (on my TI-99/4A) along with Pirate Adventure (>Say Yoho). I later discovered Infocom and found out how text adventures were supposed to be done.

I’m always so mindlessly pleased when a poster of 5 years with a post count of 13 chooses to post in my threads :slight_smile:

You caught me on a busy night. As of yesterday, my post count was 9.

I played and solved Scott Adams’ Pirate’s Cove and Voodoo Castle cartridge ROMS for the Commodore VIC-20.

Great Games! Still got an image of the island in Pirate’s Cove that I developed from the hours I spent mapping that son of a gun.

I believe these type of games will come into vogue and be popular again within the event horizon of virtual reality gaming. I believe someday it is very likely they will be able to decode and simulate your inner vision-- get your algo and translate your idea dimensionally. I’m not talkin’ Holodeck-- Probably something a bit more primitive. Your very imagination will become immersive in the physical. There will be authors that will write to stimulate this inner vision. Every Adventure will be personalized… Who knows?