Thursday, January 22, 2015

Anyone able to help solve a few mysteries?


One of the reasons I started this blog was to document the history of gaming, and adventure games have come to be my primary focus.  While I tend to focus on detailed discussions of specific works, I'm always interested in the people and history behind them, and I'm grateful for all those who have taken time to comment here, sharing stories and setting the record straight.

I've recently been talking with Sean Murphy, the gentleman behind www.figmentfly.com, an invaluable resource for documentation and information about several text adventures published by Radio Shack for the TRS-80 Model I/III and Color Computers back in the day.  We're trying to resolve a few mysteries about those games, and I'm throwing a post out here in case any of my readers might have some new information.  Feel free to chime in with ideas in the comments, or if you'd prefer a more private forum please send me an email.

Most puzzling is the authorship of the Spectral Associates/Radio Shack Color Computer adventure, Madness and the Minotaur -- it's a maddeningly difficult adventure due to some randomized elements, which is why I've yet to cover it here.  But the game's authorship is also a conundrum -- it's consistently credited only to Spectral Associates.  My best guess, though only a guess, is that it might have been written by John Gabbard, who wrote the earlier Spectral Associates adventure Keys of the Wizard, or his frequent collaborator David Figge.  Does anyone have any clues about who might have written this game?

We're also trying to track down contact information for Robert Arnstein, author of most of the Tandy-published adventures -- Haunted House, Pyramid 2000, Raaka-Tu, Bedlam, and Xenos.  (Clearly I need to update my index page to group his games together!)  We have reason to believe he's in his late 50's and living in the Dallas, Texas area, but the confirmed trail ends around 2000.  Anyone know Mr. Arnstein?  (Please try to reply privately on this one -- I do vet all comments before publishing them, though, so if you contact me that way I'll still be able to get the information to Mr. Murphy without publishing it here.)

Finally, Roger M. Wilcox asked a very good question I was unable to answer.  Many articles and websites mention publication of Scott Adams' source code for Adventureland in BYTE magazine circa 1980 -- almost certainly an influence on the many text adventures published in the early 1980s.  But in trying to find that actual article, all I've been able to come up with is his BASIC engine code and data files for Pirate Adventure, published in BYTE in December 1980.  I suspect this information has just gotten confused and propagated, and that the December 1980 article is the only one that was actually published and everyone's just assumed that the featured game was Adams' first effort, Adventureland.  I've had the same "fact" in my head based on secondhand sources, but in trying to locate the primary source I'm coming up empty.  Is anyone able to confirm such a BYTE article published earlier, perhaps in 1979 or 1980?  Scott?



4 comments:

  1. I suspect this information has just gotten confused and propagated, and that the December 1980 article is the only one that was actually published and everyone's just assumed that the featured game was Adams' first effort, Adventureland. I've had the same "fact" in my head based on secondhand sources, but in trying to locate the primary source I'm coming up empty.

    I had the same fact in my head, but when I went over to Mobygames to see if I'd enshrined falsehood, I found that the note I made about the inspirational source code publication did in fact pertain to Pirate Adventure. So either I had a more accurate source than you or you and I came to the same conclusion.

    Good luck with Madness and the Minotaur! It was my first home text parser experience, and it's remarkable to find that it continues to befuddle haunted minds now much as it did back in the day.

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  2. The database for "Adventureland", together with the adventure engine, was published as a Basic listing in the "Captain 80 book of Basic adventures".

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    1. Ah! You're absolutely right, there it is in Chapter 18! I had completely forgotten that. The first printing of the Captain 80 book was in November 1981, though, so it would postdate the BYTE printing of Pirate Adventure. This might account for some of the confusion though.

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    2. Back in 1980 or early 1981, I submitted my 7th TRS-80 Adventure game, "The Vial of Doom", to the Programmer's Guild for possible publication. I was told that I missed the deadline for the publication of "the book" by two days (!). In retrospect, I think the book he was talking about was the one you're discussing (Captain 80 book of BASIC Adventures).

      Just think -- if I'd been two days quicker, fame and fortune might have thrown themselves at my feet! C'est la vie.

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