Adventure is an old game and one that has been known by many names: ''Adventure'', “Colossal Cave”, and the simplistic abbreviation “Advent”. As games go, it is indeed a classic, having sparked an entirely new tangent of game development in the early days of the gaming industry. Its effects can still be felt today.
I sat down this morning to write a review of a game. At some point, I figured I'd tell about its strengths and weaknesses. In the end, I'd probably assign it a value in stars or thumbs or joysticks or some other arbitrary measurement of quality. However, assigning a letter of quality to this game is nearly as anachronistic as seeing The Illiad on Oprah's booklist; it is simply inappropriate and demeans the true quality of the work. So instead, I'm going to tell you what this game has meant to me, a little about where it came from, and how it shaped the Quake III world in which we live today. We've come a long way from the early days of text adventures—or have we?
It was 1989 and I was 10. The end of the eighties was upon us, and we all looked with trepidation to the coming decade and the closing years of our millennium. The Bangles played “Walk Like an Egyptian” to hordes of onlookers not interested in the nostalgia of the moment. The economy was in a deep recession, and with the Cold War and movies like War Games, people were naturally wary of what the coming years would bring. The Berlin Wall fell that year, and we all wondered what more the future would bring. Well, I didn't wonder. I was 10, what do you expect?
Instead, I was concentrating on my own life. Already the budding geek (before the term became a compliment), I went out and hunted my butterflies (tilted my windmills) and enjoyed life. I had a Commodore 64 at the time, and thought it was the coolest thing in the world, but it never affected me. It was fun, certainly. I knew how to program simple things in Basic. I could make balloons float around on the screen. I knew that if I typed “SYS 64738”, the whole thing would reboot. But it never grew beyond a tinker toy to me—it never awakened my inner geek.
That changed, of course. My father bought me a game package he had pulled from the bargain bin. It was a set of two 5.25-inch floppies from Broderbund (the covered wagon people) entitled “Golden Oldies Volume 1.” Loading it up, I was surprised to find a collection of four “classics” of the day: Adventure, Eliza, Life and Pong. My mother decided she liked Eliza the best and would continually attempt to convince the poor thing that she was a beach ball or something similar. I found my passion in Adventure, a little game that transported me into a world filled with scary little dwarves and myriad treasures, all for the taking, if the young spelunker was up to the challenge. Needless to say, I never beat the game. I rarely drew maps, and when I did, I routinely forgot which direction was east. I had managed to memorize a large portion of the game, but in retrospect I don't think I ever truly got it. Maybe it was because I was too busy experiencing the world to really want to win. (Or more likely, because I was young and stupid, but leave me to rose-tint my world however I want, please.) Eventually, my old copy of Adventure developed bad sectors and I put it to rest.
Several times later in life, I would rediscover these games I loved. I did eventually get to play Zork (a version of Adventure) for the Apple II, and found it richly gratifying, but too similar to the game I left behind. Other games I loved: King's Quest, Quest for Glory and the early Sierra masterpieces. Somehow, even with their fancy four-color pictures and their beeps, they never transported me to a world in the same way my first Adventure did. I rediscovered Adventure when I finally turned to the “dark side” and was given a 386 and a modem to play with. It was just as I remembered it, except free from a local BBS. I played and played and mapped it a little, but I still never beat it. Life had a tendency to intrude and I put it away again, a cherished childhood game to relive later.
I was happy to rediscover my game in the BSD Gamespack (/usr/games/) that ships with many Linux distributions, including Red Hat. It was like meeting a childhood friend again on the street. Now I'd like to introduce it to you.
The game of Adventure has a long history, dating back to the earliest days of modern computing. In the beginning (1972), there was Will Crowther. He was a programmer, caver and role-player (Dungeons and Dragons, in particular). Faced with boredom (the motivational force behind many a good program), a desire to create something for his daughter and his assorted talents, he set out to create a game based on his explorations of the Mammoth and Flint Ridge cave systems in Kentucky. This game included many of the features of the later versions and included descriptions and room names taken directly from the caves in the real world.
A couple of years later, Don Woods discovered the game and added a number of fantasy elements to the plot including pesky dwarves, a dragon and whatnot. His primary inspiration was fantasy literature (such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy), and Adventure was never to be the same again.
Many other coders added bits and pieces after that point. This may be one of the earliest examples of open-source gaming. The game Adventure could be one of a dozen or more variants, each with minor scoring differences and occasional major additions. By and large, all Adventures are created equal.