This week, we're taking a look at VTHG Adventure, an odd little game I ran across while poking through the online archives -- it's credited to Calamity Software, and appears to have been written as an in-joke for members of a computer users' group in 1986.
The plot, such as it is, concerns the player's attempt to attend a TRS Users Group meeting, and the action plays out using a simple menu-driven interface. Technically, the design seems to be a hybrid of a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book and a traditional text adventure -- there seems to be a world map and an object/logic model under the hood, but the player is given limited choices at any given moment.
There's no real need to play VTHG Adventure -- it's very brief, and while there are a lot of choices available there's really only one path to a successful conclusion. I think I'm covering it pretty thoroughly in the following... so, yes, there will be...
***** SPOILERS AHEAD! *****
At the game's beginning, we're waiting for the other members of the TRS Users Group; we can keep waiting, look at our watch, leave, or look at our pocket calendar. We can end the game readily enough with repeated waiting -- eventually, You waited more than 3 hours, waisting [sic] your entire evening.
Looking at our watch repeatedly produces strange results, as the time seems frozen at 7:20 PM until we formally choose to wait. Leaving the room produces a menu of options -- we can try to use the front door, the back door, a door to the west or a small door to the east. For the sake of readability, from here on in I'll ignore the game's menu structure and try to describe the action in more traditional terms -- no reason we should all have to struggle with finding and typing the menu number for "go north" instead of typing N!
Looking at our pocket calendar reveals that the meeting was actually last week, so we might as well leave. Leaving through the front door or the back door ends the game, as we simply go home with No excitement today. Exploring inside the building, choosing the small door to the east produces a vintage 1980s gag ending -- we find ourselves in a closet, and while we can opt to "Stay in the closet" indefinitely, when we eventually "Come out of the closet"... well, at least we get a clue as to where this users' group might have been based:
Exploring to the west is more productive, as we find ourselves in a hallway with doors to the east and north and a staircase leading down. The northern door exits the building, ending the game again, while the staircase leads down to another hallway.
We can wait indefinitely here, but it's most interesting to head north into another hallway with passages in all four of the cardinal directions. To the east is a maintenance room, where we can acquire an AHUG badge from a table; we can also walk into a wall if we aren't paying attention, as the menu system cheerily provides invalid options for further exploration.
Leaving the maintenance room and traveling north leads to another section of hallway; north of this area is an empty room with a ladder leading up to a trapdoor. The ladder leads up into a closet, where the same joke ending (it's always funnier the second time, folks!) is available if we choose to "Come out of the closet" instead of going back down the ladder. We can bump into some walls in the hallway, but we're rapidly running out of new places to go.
Across from the maintenance room, on the west side of the hall, is a large room where there are people looking at a weird, ugly machine -- an Apple ][e, described as "a highly illegal machine" in this era of intense schoolyard rivalry amongst people who hadn't set foot in a schoolyard in quite some time. Examining the people in attendance reveals that they are uniformed, black armband-sporting members of AHUG -- the outlawed Apple Hackers User Group! Good thing we have that badge we picked up earlier without knowing what the AHUG was!
The plot is running out of steam here, as the only real option left to us is to "Sneak out and notify the TBI" -- our final action, it turns out, as this ends the game in the most positive way:
So was the TBI the TRS-80 Bureau of Investigation? We're never told, though it clearly has some connection to TRS-80 manufacturer Tandy / Radio Shack so that's probably a pretty good guess.
There's not a lot to VTHG Adventure, obviously, but a little post-game research suggests that it was written for the members of the Valley TRS-80 Hackers Group. So while this wasn't much of a game, its tongue-in-cheek storyline captures a little bit of early home computing history. And that's what we're all about here at Gaming After 40. Excelsior!