MDD

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Colossal Cave Adventure

An archeology of interactive role playing games leads inevitably to a small handful of innovative and influential programs developed over the decade spanning the sixties and seventies. One of the most influtential of these games was a program call the Colossal Cave Adventure. Originally written by Will Crowther, then developed further by Don Woods with Will's consent.
Ports of Adventure to newer operating platforms and language environments have enabled users to play Adventure on successive generations of computing hardware and operating system environments. However the core of the game remains the same and concept, gameplay and feel. A player running the port to Mac OS/X or the console version for Windows XP is subject to essentially the same experience as those who encountered it on University computer servers in the 70s and 80s.
While the game is no longer actively developed the concept of Advent inspired a host of related programmes in the 1980s all vying for the hearts, minds, or money, of the world's growing band of computer enthusiasts and users.

Seeing Adventure running for the first time is like walking along the beach and picking up an interesting looking shell. Someone has left the terminal logged in... It intrigues with three sentences:

YOU ARE STANDING AT THE END OF A ROAD BEFORE A SMALL BRICK
BUILDING . AROUND YOU IS A FOREST. A SMALL
STREAM FLOWS OUT OF THE BUILDING AND DOWN A GULLY.
Ahh, a game. What do I do? The blinking cursor invites me to write something.

help!
 I DON'T KNOW THAT WORD.

help
 I KNOW OF PLACES, ACTIONS, AND THINGS. MOST OF MY VOCABULARY
 DESCRIBES PLACES AND IS USED TO MOVE YOU THERE. TO MOVE TRY
 WORDS LIKE FOREST, BUILDING, DOWNSTREAM, ENTER, EAST, WEST
 NORTH, SOUTH, UP, OR DOWN.  I KNOW ABOUT A FEW SPECIAL OBJECTS,
 LIKE A BLACK ROD HIDDEN IN THE CAVE. THESE OBJECTS CAN BE
 MANIPULATED USING ONE OF THE ACTION WORDS THAT I KNOW. USUALLY
 YOU WILL NEED TO GIVE BOTH THE OBJECT AND ACTION WORDS
 (IN EITHER ORDER), BUT SOMETIMES I CAN INFER THE OBJECT FROM
 THE VERB ALONE. THE OBJECTS HAVE SIDE EFFECTS - FOR
 INSTANCE, THE ROD SCARES THE BIRD.
 USUALLY PEOPLE HAVING TROUBLE MOVING JUST NEED TO TRY A FEW
 MORE WORDS. USUALLY PEOPLE TRYING TO MANIPULATE AN
 OBJECT ARE ATTEMPTING SOMETHING BEYOND THEIR (OR MY!)
 CAPABILITIES AND SHOULD TRY A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT TACK.
 TO SPEED THE GAME YOU CAN SOMETIMES MOVE LONG DISTANCES
 WITH A SINGLE WORD. FOR EXAMPLE, 'BUILDING' USUALLY GETS
 YOU TO THE BUILDING FROM ANYWHERE ABOVE GROUND EXCEPT WHEN
 LOST IN THE FOREST. ALSO, NOTE THAT CAVE PASSAGES TURN A
 LOT, AND THAT LEAVING A ROOM TO THE NORTH DOES NOT GUARANTEE
 ENTERING THE NEXT FROM THE SOUTH. GOOD LUCK!
Right, I'm starting to get this, lets see what the 'DOWNSTREAM' command does...

downstream
YOU ARE IN A VALLEY IN THE FOREST BESIDE A STREAM TUMBLING
ALONG A ROCKY BED.

downstream
AT YOUR FEET ALL THE WATER OF THE STREAM SPLASHES INTO A
2 INCH SLIT IN THE ROCK. DOWNSTREAM THE STREAMBED IS BARE ROCK.

lift rock
YOU ARE IN A 20 FOOT DEPRESSION FLOORED WITH BARE DIRT. SET INTO
THE DIRT IS A STRONG STEEL GRATE MOUNTED IN CONCRETE. A DRY
STREAMBED LEADS INTO THE DEPRESSION.

THE GRATE IS LOCKED

downstream
YOU CAN'T GO IN THROUGH A LOCKED STEEL GRATE!

This is getting interesting, quick, grab a piece of paper and start drawing a mental map of where I was and where I'm going...

And so it goes on. Time passes, I snap back to myself for a moment, twenty minutes later! What's happening here? It's engaging, appealing, frustrating and rewarding, like getting into a good book but this one talks back to you.