I omitted a couple of things from my latest Edge Cases topic, text adventure games (“A Programmer and a Puzzler”), due to time constraints, forgetfulness, etc., so I wanted to talk about them here.
First, I wanted to mention the very first text adventure game I played as a kid, Mission Impossible by Scott Adams. It was on a big, bulky cartridge that I plugged into my home computer. I remember getting hopelessly stuck at one point, and thinking, well, that’s it. There was no Internet to consult. In hindsight, I could’ve dialed up some sort of electronic bulletin board for hints, but that wasn’t something I knew how to find back then.
I played it again after recording the podcast, since now it’s available for free online (see above link), and…got completely stuck again. I had to turn to a walk-through, which made it entirely unenjoyable for me to continue playing. Still not any good at puzzles, it seems.
Second, I mentioned in the podcast that the TADS syntax I used to write my games was very similar to C language syntax. Now, that’s true of the TADS language. But the vastly more popular IF programming language Inform (which I also mentioned) has a syntax based on natural language. That syntax looks quite different and can be quite a bit easier to write. Check out this link for a screencast that introduces that syntax and the Inform development application, which has a lot of neat features. If you’re going to start writing a new IF game, try Inform first.
Third, I made it sound in the podcast like there were no graphical adventure games before Myst, which is wrong. While Myst heralded an era of CD-based games with much more rich multimedia content, there were plenty of graphical games distributed on floppies beforehand. I even played one of them: Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, which I enjoyed because its puzzles were exceptionally easy.
And finally, I mentioned on the podcast that I liked how the free games published by authors using languages like Inform were much more likely to survive platform transitions, like the PowerPC to Intel transition of OS X, because they were data files, not full executables. This was in contrast to commercial games like the ones from Infocom, which had been reissued for the Mac, but many years ago, and were no longer runnable.
These days, however, if you search on Infocom on the iOS App Store on iTunes, you’ll find an entry Lost Treasures of Infocom, including many (but not all) of the games from the 80s, available to download for free. (Though you’ll have to pay $10 to actually unlock all the games.)
The way these games were updated for iOS deserves its own blog post, so I’ll be doing that at some point. As a preview, I’ll say: I wish they’d done it better.