Some 20 Christmases ago, my grandparents gave me a program for my Commodore 64 called Adventure Writer. Unlike the rest of the games I owned, this one actually allowed you to create games – specifically, text-based adventure games such as Zork.
For all practical purposes, the genre – known these days among enthusiasts as Interactive Fiction – died in the early 90s. At least in the commercial sense. But my first memory of using an actual computer was playing the original Adventure on the mainframe at the local community college with my dad when I was 7 or 8 years old.
So anyway – back to Adventure Writer. Like most kids interested in computers and videogames, I imagined myself being able to make games for a living when I grew up. With Adventure Writer, I had a way to make my own games without having to know one of the advanced programming languages (you can only do so much with BASIC).
I worked for weeks on my magnum opus, the creatively-named “Star Diamond”. I sent it in to Compute!’s Gazette for possible publication, but a few weeks later, I received a rejection letter – I was one devastated 11 year old. And so died my dreams of being a famous video game designer.
But thanks to the magics of the interweb, Star Diamond shall finally see the light of day! I usually dust off my Commodore 64 around this time every year, and last year I found a copy of the game on one of my ancient floppy disks. So, I’ve repackaged it and made it available for download here [1.8 MB] – it’s Windows-only for the time-being. After playing through it a while and trying to remember how to win the game, I realize how *bad* it actually is 🙂 At any rate, the unwashed masses may now be witness to my game design genius.
Here are some brief directions, for those unfamiliar with text adventures:
The basic idea of the user interface is command and response. The program gives you a command prompt, then you type in some command and press Enter/Return. The computer chews on your input for a bit, then tells you the results and gives you a new prompt.
The most important question now is: “What do I type?”
Most of the commands you use will be simple and direct. Typing OPEN THE DESK causes your character to (you guessed it) open the desk. Type GET THE PENCIL, and you will pick it up. The process is simple. When faced with the command prompt, just think “I want to…” or “What happens if I…” and let your mind work from there. INVENTORY (abbreviated I) displays a list of items you are carrying.
EXAMINE (sometimes abbreviated X and/or EXA) gives you a closer look at things. It’s used hundreds of times in the course of a typical game.
LOOK (abbreviated L) by itself gives you a detailed description of your location. I always type L just to be doing something while I’m thinking of what to do next.
This is one of the most versatile commands. You can LOOK AT THE CHEST, LOOK ON THE CHEST, LOOK IN THE CHEST, LOOK UNDER THE CHEST, LOOK BEHIND THE CHEST. All of these could give different, unique responses.
GO is a very important command, even if you may never actually type it. Even though GO NORTH, for example, is a command you need to move around, you can abbreviate it to NORTH or even just N.
GET, TAKE, and PICK UP are synonyms. You’ll find many objects you can pick up and carry around with you. If you can’t pick something up, the game will give you a reason, which you may be able to rectify.
DROP and PUT are how you put objects down. DROP is quick and easy, but it just puts the objects on the ground. PUT can be more specific,though, allowing you to PUT THE BOOK ON THE TABLE, for instance.
WAIT tells the computer you want to do nothing for a turn. In almost all games, no game time actually passes while the computer is waiting for your input. Use WAIT to force time to pass.
So… that’s about it. Have fun!