Sunday, August 16, 2009

Announcing the Great Scott Project

I went to see Julie & Julia over the weekend -- I'm not normally a big fan of writer/director Nora Ephron's movies, but I really liked this one, perhaps because it's based on a couple of intertwined works of non-fiction. It's also not a "chick flick" in the pejorative sense -- it manages to be positive and appealing without being sappy, and it's not about the pursuit of stereotypical Hollywood female happiness; it is about smaller, yet bigger things. It was interesting to learn more about Julia Childs than I had known -- Meryl Streep is great in the role -- but the real appeal was the geeky fellowship I felt with blogger Julie Powell as played by Amy Adams. Her interest in, nay, obsession with Ms. Childs' work and personality felt very familiar to me, and it was easy to relate to her story, translating from the foodie world to my own. And her mission to cook every recipe in Childs' classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year's time is inspirational.

By inspirational, of course, I mean that I intend to steal Ms. Powell's idea (the Julie/Julia Project) and start my own Great Scott Project, in which I plan to revisit the oeuvre of Scott Adams, the text adventure pioneer who was a role model of sorts in my adolescent years. Adams was the first to release commercially credible text adventure games for microcomputers, cramming puzzles and stories into the tape-based 16K TRS-80 Model I and its peers at a time when the classic mainframe Adventure was too big to fit. His games are technically simple by modern standards, and space constrained the games' descriptive text and vocabulary, but the puzzles still hold up well and no one game takes too long to play through. And there's a certain "radio" quality to these early games -- the player's imagination tends to to fill in the gaps, making the experience richer than one might expect at first glance.

My goal is to play through and write about the twelve games in the classic core series published by Adams' Adventure International in the late 70's and early 80's. I'm actually going to start with Adventure #0, the "Special Sampler" version of #1, Adventureland, just because it's a good warmup, and starting the count at 0 seems nice and computerish to me. And I'm not setting a specific deadline -- I will write about each game as I finish it, and may take some detours into the Scott Adams Graphic Adventures or the British Mysterious Adventures series written by Brian Howarth using Scott's interpreters and data format. I may even touch on the Kid-Ventures and other interactive fiction titles also published by Adams. Part of my goal here is to venture into some new territory, as I only bought and played through the first 7 adventures back in the day on my paper route budget. But the classics are the classics, and I will at a minimum cover the 12-game canon.

I'm checking in with Mr. Adams first, to make sure he has no objections to the project. And for those who would like to join me, the classic Scott Adams adventures are available from his website, as shareware, here.


A voice BOOOOMS out...

Updates as we go:

Adventure #0 - Special Sampler
Adventure #1 - Adventureland
Adventure #2 - Pirate Adventure
Adventure #3 - Mission Impossible
Adventure #4 - Voodoo Castle
Adventure #5 - The Count
Adventure #6 - Strange Odyssey
Adventure #7 - Mystery Fun House
Adventure #8 - Pyramid of Doom
Adventure #9 - Ghost Town
Adventure #10 - Savage Island (Part I)
Adventure #11 - Savage Island (Part II)
Adventure #12 - Golden Voyage
Adventure #13 - The Sorcerer of Claymorgue Castle
Adventure #14A - Return to Pirate's Isle
QuestProbe #1 Featuring The Hulk
QuestProbe #2 Featuring Spider-Man
QuestProbe #3 Featuring The Human Torch and The Thing
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai
Return to Pirate's Island 2 

Also, this project has led me to start a regular Adventure of the Week series, covering a variety of games in the genre.


  1. Sure! It looks like a fun project. I look forward to reading it!

    Happy Adventuring

    Scott Adams

  2. I thank thee kindly, sir! Thank you for stopping by.

    Everything spins around me, and suddenly I'm elsewhere...

  3. Hi there,

    Just a quick note to say Yoho. I follow Scotts computergaming list on Yahoo which is where I picked this blog link up from.

    I too grew up as a kid on Scott's adventures (on a VIC 20) and am now 'going retro' back to these games. I find myself out and about a bit and as such, developed an engine to play Scotts games on Windows mobiles (based on the Open Source from 'ScottFree' and 'Another...' amongst others).

    I have completed Adventureland, Pirate Adventure and Ghost Town so far via my engine and also the first one of Brian Howarths set. I am currently in a desert next to a pyramid (in a game, not real life!).

    It looks like we are on parallels here :)

    If you have a Windows Mobile PDA (or a PC) you can use my engine if so wished, its freeware (of course, Scott's game files are still copyright - donationware so to speak if so wished). Just click my link or search for Adventure PDA on the internet.

    I'm 40 next year btw :)

  4. Hey there, young whippersnapper!

    Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. I may indeed use your engine for one of these efforts. I'm trying to run the games on a variety of platforms, and the VIC-20 is definitely on my list.

  5. Wikked project...Have you ever come across the cancelled but partially-coded -
    Questprobe #4 - X-Men

    It seems to not be hosted anywhere on the internet at the moment but i would love a copy to archive....:)

  6. I haven't run across it in my travels -- Mr. Adams visits on occasion, perhaps he can shed some light on the matter. I believe the comic book story written for the game was later published by Marvel in one of the X-Men titles, so at least that part of the project survives.

  7. Once upon a time, long long ago, I lived in a tangle of ribbon cables with a TI-99 4A. There were hand-scribbled "maps" litering my office where the TI resided. Colleagues at my old Bell Labs workplace assisted me in making games for my then 2 year old son. That same child would sit patiently and voice opinions as I wended my way through ghost towns, dug on beaches for treasures, and even played the first of the Scott Adams games with graphics. That same child grew up to take a masters degree at MSU in games development. He's currently finishing "Ironman 2" at the studio where he's employed. He blames me and Scott Adams for his career choice. Ohhhh to have access to those games again! It would make a fabulous 30th birthday gift for that same child of mine!

  8. Check my website. Most of my classic games are available as a free download! The only graphic on on the TI was Return to Pirates Island and I have re-written it as a longer full sentence parser game.

    Happy Adventuring!

  9. Thanks for visiting and for sharing your memories -- adventure games are often fun to play in teams, with someone managing the typing and everyone else kibitzing and sharing the experience.

    The physical, original Adventure International games have become pricey collectibles, but Mr. Adams has graciously made his classic Adventures available for download online, and there are a number of interpreters available that allow the games to be played on many platforms. Your son is probably aware of that, but you might both enjoy tracking them down and revisiting them (there's a link at the end of this post). These early text adventures often hold up very well -- the player's imagination, fired by the sparest of details, has yet to be outdone by snazzy audiovisuals.