Category Archives: Text Adventures

Adventures in Text Adventure Game writing Part 1

It has been a write since I tried my hand at Text Adventure writing, so I thought I’d have a bash.

Because I’m a creature of habit (even if that habit hasn’t bitten me since the early ’90s), I decided you use the Professional Adventure Writer software by Graeme Yeandle (available from http://graemeyeandle.atwebpages.com/advent/). This is the PC version of the CP/M version I used back in the long, long ago, the before time (circa 1989-1991). This was originally released for the Amstrad (and other machines), and was an updated successor to the highly popular Quill software for the 8-Bit computers of the ’80s.

So, armed with a compiler and interpreter, what else would I need? Well, for a start, some mapping software. I chose Trizbort, as it is easy to use.

I’d also need some ideas. But what sort of lunatic keeps old scraps of paper and exercise books containing puzzle ideas for games dating back to the ’80s? Well, me for a start.

So, armed with the right software, and a stack of puzzles, I set off on my long adventure to create an adventure.

Having no idea what the overall plot would be, I started by setting these rules:

  1. No sudden deaths. Nothing is more annoying that dying for no reason.
  2. At least two ways to solve any puzzle. Although I messed this up on the very first one. But it didn’t matter as I wrote myself out of it.
  3. No mazes that aren’t logical!
  4. A way out of every seemingly impossible trap.
  5. No pointless in-jokes that have a reference pool of 5 people I went to college with.

So, setting off, I decided on a vague fantasy setting (just so I could use my hanging dwarf puzzle from an old WFRG scenario, along with the Troll Booth bit from an old TinyMUD).

So, being a big fan of AberMUD, we’ll start with at Temple and a Pit. But not the sacrficial pit of AberMUD, as that would be too much of a cliche. It’s just a good starting point.

So now we need a plot…

Star Bores – an old Text Adventure from the early ’90s

A long time a go, in a city far far away (ok, it was a town then and it’s only 92 miles up the road from me now) I wrote a computer game. It wasn’t good, it didn’t sell more than a few copies.

The game was Star Bores, a Star Wars parody that originally pre-dated Spaceballs by two years. But, as you will see, it suffered massive schedule slip, a lot of delays, massive apathy and eventual consignment to the shitbin of computing history.

It all started back in 1985, when I got hold of a copy of Gilsoft’s The Quill adventure writing software for the ZX Spectrum. I’d played a good few games written with it, including some excellent ones by Delta 4. Thinking “I can do that, how hard can it be?” I launched half-heartedly into games design.

The first version was a simple 20-ish room affair which just involved getting Luke on the bus to get off the planet Tattoo.  I hawked it around school on cheap C15 cassettes for a while, until everyone told me to sod off. It was utterly awful, and I’m thankful that the likelyhood of any copies remaining is very very slight.

Version 2 (late ’85-early ’86) included graphics using The Illustrator add-on to The Quill. The text was cleaned up, the puzzles were made more logical, and it made more sense. I remember being particulary proud of the drawing of a Mercedes Minibus for the final end screen.

Sadly, in April ’86 my mother died, orphaning us. In the follwing upheaval I lost all my data tapes and notes, as they “weren’t considered to be important”. Neither was my self-designed ZX81 controlled Logo Turtle, but that another story that goes on and on and on…

Early 1987 brings us to the Amstrad CPC6218,  the Graphic Adventure Creator, and a re-write from scratch.  Once again it was awful. And thus swiftly abandoned.

Shortly afterwards, I managed to scrape up the money (by selling brushes door-to-door) to get a copy of The Professional Adventure Writer! It ran uder CP/M on the Amstrad 6128/PCW8258. It was great. Sadly, my game writing skills were still not.

But, Keeping calm and carrying on (before that was a thing), I reached a final release in early 1988. Two years after Spaceballs came out. It was still rubbish.

Still, I spent a fortune sending 3″ (yes) disks out to those magazines that might be interested. Nothing, except for a letter from Amstrad Action along the lines of “Thanks, but no thanks”. Some more copies were done for a local games shop, but more cases were stolen than games bought (Amstrad 3″ disk cases being rare as rocking horse shit at the time).

By 1990 I’d moved south and the CPC had packed up. By now the sorry saga whould have been over, but in about 1997 I heard about getting data from old Amstrad disks onto PC disks.  So I did. And I got it running on a PC!

Since then it has been available on a number of retro download sites, and in total has had over 1000 downloads (he says, making numbers up like a British Politician).

Anyway, you’ve come this far so you need some sort of reward.

Here is a zip of the CPM version: starbore.zip