Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Day 52 - words on a page

Well, I had two e-books from Gordon Houghton to give away, and I had two entries.  Everybody wins!  So, Steve Johansson and dai_bonehead... if you're reading, e-mail me at the address at the side of this page, and I'll e-mail you your ebook (Steve wins Another World and dai wins Game Boy).  Congratulations, and thanks for your support.  Enjoy the books, and let me know what you think!

It would have been more fun if there had been more interest... oh well, if you missed out, check out Gordon's books on Smashwords.  He's a good bloke and a fine wordsmith, as you will know if you read ZZAP! 64.  I recommend starting at the beginning with The Dinner Party or maybe The Apprentice.  Read!  It's good for you!

Bah.  At least I've got some awesome Rob Hubbard music to listen to.
Back in the day, there were games that involved a lot of reading, too... text adventures.  Now, I struggled with text adventures, I have to be honest.  They required a specific type of logic, one that my brain doesn't seem to reason with at all well.  That doesn't mean I didn't try a few... Mastertronic's Kentilla and Melbourne House's The Hobbit were two that I particularly remember.

Of course, the Grand Masters of the text adventure were Infocom.  I didn't have a disk drive for years, so I never tried any of their games at the time.  Which makes writing about them a bit difficult.  On the other hand, as they were based in America, I don't have to!  But we had our own giants of the adventure world here in the UK, and they were Level 9 Computing.

Level 9 released a decent amount of accessible adventure games, which originally featured reasonably simplistic graphics, but this meant that many of their games could be released on cassette.  I'm sure that several of you, much like me, received a Commodore 64 pack at Christmas which contained a cassette version of their Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 game.  I actually gave that one a fair crack; having read the book, I thought I might stand a chance of finishing it, or at least copping off with Pandora.  I did neither.

I would have had a picture of The Pawn here, but I couldn't get it to work.
Later, there came a company called Magnetic Scrolls, who released more ambitious titles which intended to take on Infocom at their own game and featured some stunning graphics.  Their games were generally regarded as superior to Level 9's but there were a lot fewer of them.  Both companies filled a niche in the UK market quite nicely.

I've been mulling over whether or not to include any of these games or their programmers... but why not?  Just because they weren't my Gods, doesn't mean they weren't Gods for many people out there.  And because of that, and the specialist nature of their work, they're deserving of a space, don't you agree?


  1. Actually my first computer game on the C64 was a level 9 game -Colossal Adventure and this started a love affair with text adventures which lasted until they stoppped making them altogether years later. So yes I agree. Adb actually like Infocom the first level 9 games had no text at all. I belive it was Melbourne House's the Hobbit that started all that!

    1. Ishould of course say 'nothing but text and no graphics'

  2. Magnetic Scrolls put out Guild of Thieves on the Amiga which was a lot of fun. I very much enjoyed one of the "goodies" to come with the game - which was a contract written in comical legalese - someone has reproduced the contract here (http://computer.freepage.de/cgi-bin/feets/freepage_ext/41030x030A/rewrite/magnetic/guild-contract.html) which many years after release still gets a chuckle from me. Chad would hate it. :)

  3. CRL did a fair job with their classic monsters, Dracula, Frankenstein and Wolfman, earning an 18 cetificate - not bad at all for text and a few C64 pictures.

  4. I couldn't stand text adventures until I came across "Subsunk" by Firebird. It wasn't too hard, had a nice style to the writing with a fair bit of humour. I took note of who wrote the game and kept an eye out for more titles. In the end I bought every text adventure that Peter Torrance did for the 8-bit machines and loved them all (even Robo-City!). Here is a link to his Speccy games:


    If you could get an interview with him, I'd purchase your book in a nano-second. But who am I kidding? I'm going to buy it anyway - I've been lurking here since 1st June when I read about your project on WoS. :)

  5. You can play the Magnetic Scrolls games online at that link I included, although the graphics are very small.

    CRL... yeah, those adventures were quite impressive. With the exception of Tau Ceti, they were about the only things they released that were even worth looking at!

    Peter Torrance... I've been looking into him since you posted that link, and I think he might be American, which would disqualify him! But should it? There are probably a fair number of Americans that have never had any kind of publicity, or certainly none on the level of the big guns. Is there any merit in having an American appendix?

    1. A real shame if he is American, and therefore disqualified. Not that I have anything against Americans (I'm married to one!), but I doubt he's had any publicity for his excellent adventure games. I can't be the only one who didn't "get" that genre until playing one of his easier, and funnier, creations.

      But I understand you need to focus your attentions for the book, and trying to cover too broad of a field would probably hinder rather than help you.

      I personally wouldn't include an American appendix, as otherwise you would need an appendix for other countries (like Australia (Melbourne House) and Spain (Dinamic Software). I'd stick with your original vision.

  6. Well, to be honest I've already considered Melbourne House, the main reason being that books tend to be focused more on America or Japan, and I'd like to give credit to the people who made the games we loved but were not from those places. Then I wondered whether or not to just include any lesser-known names, wherever they're from.

    At this point, I don't have to make that decision... I'll concentrate on getting the UK guys first where possible and see where I go from there.

    Oh... and I'm married to an American too!