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Something about Interactive Fiction


In 1972, Will and Pat Crowther explored the Flint portion of the Mammoth Cave chain. Not far from the Colossal Cavern entrance, they found the connection between Flint and Mammoth Cave, verifying that the two caves were part of one longer chain. While they later divorced, Will Crowther went on to create Adventure. Called ADVENT due to name size limitations, Adventure was a textual reconstruction of his Flint Mammoth spelunking expedition. Crowther’s audience was his two daughters, but this game caught the interest of fellow programmers. Adventure provided the player with descriptions of a cave, and included some puzzles and a goal of collecting five treasures hidden within.

Adventure was the first interactive fiction game. Players moved through the caverns by typing two-word commands into the parser, collected inventory -- and died at an alarming rate, considering the game’s intended audience. Adventure was arguably not well-written and offered a primitive interface, especially considering other programs at the time which simulated conversations to such a convincing level that the designer of one (ELIZA) felt compelled to reassure its users that it was a parody of the psychological interview and not a substitution for one.

Adventure, in its present form, is the result of a hacker’s frustration with the original game’s bugs and incompleteness. The hacker was Don Woods, who like many players, discovered Adventure on a time-sharing system at his job (in 1976-77). “Games were usually ported as source code and compiled on the destination system. Machine architectures and operating systems varied a lot, so it was pretty rare for an executable file from one machine to work on another,” said Woods. Woods saw areas for improvement and sent an electronic mail message to crowther @ every possible domain. Crowther soon responded with an okay.

“I think part of what attracted me to Adventure was the same thing that attracted many people to it: it was fun to play. I just got frustrated with parts of it being incomplete or buggy, so I wanted to fix that, and while I was at it I had lots of ideas for more interesting puzzles than just the ‘explore and find stuff’ which made up most of Will's version. The fact that I'm a hacker meant that I also found pleasure in the challenge of coming up with interesting puzzles that could be implemented using the relatively limited set of features in the game: two-word commands, a small set of rules controlling movement and actions, and so forth,” said Don Woods.

Continued: Zork

Table of Contents: Something about Interactive Fiction