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video game awards: new category

Before we move onto consoles, I will be presenting a lifetime achievement award to the the old text adventures and graphic text adventures, from the days of the Commodore 64 and Vic 20 (those are the machines I used, you may have used others).

You can make suggestions here as to which specific games should be honored. This is not a poll like the others were, just a love letter to my favorite computer games of all time.


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oh man. you are diggging DEEP into the attic of geekdom.

Raid over Moscow! Watch the tiny rice-sized figures go SPLAT! in a cloud of red as they're shelled.

Text-only: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Bureaucracy, all 3 Zorks (natch). And probably about a dozen I can't remember now.

Graphics and text: Leisure Suit Larry (entire series), Space Quest (entire series).

Zork I

While I no longer have the rest of my old C-64 system, I still have my Commodore 1701 (not 1702, though I'm not clear on what the difference was) color monitor. I use it with my VCR and dvd player, still going strong after 20 years.

I'm going to nominate one that is soooooooooo osbscure that I'll bet no one here has even heard of it, let alone played it (with the exception of Michele herself), but it was one of my favorite Vic 20 games ever and came on a cartridge the size of a modern day PDA:

Pirate's Cove

Loved that game.

One of my all-time favorites. I never really got into text based games (beyond some old day text-based internet games) but this game was one of my favorite games and I still remember it fondly...


Zork II (I think it was a little better than the first)

Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy


Ultima I-III. You ruled the world once you got your hands on the 'reflect' armor! Plus it was survival of the fittest. You could steal, lie and even kill innocents to keep going.

I thought everyone knew about Pirate's Cove. Apparently, I was a bigger geek than I thought!

I've never heard anyone ever mention that game...

"You're in a flat in London..."

Oh what a game :-)

C64 games

For graphics Paradroid. However, for one that even got my relatives interested Hunchback - played that game for hours!

Games I liked Were a little less popular:

Text: Zork

Graphic (C-64):

Bard's Tale (D & D game)
Summer Olympics (1984 version)
Hard Ball (Baseball)
M.U.L.E (Game based on supply and demand)

Hey Michele, how about a most obscure game category? You know the crazy game you thought you were the only one who played?

I loved Pirates Cove, and the other one, Adventure Island?! My brother had one of those cassette tape type computers, and that was one of the first games we bought. I remember arguing with him over putting the swamp gas into the drinking skin to blow up the cave wall. He said I was stupid, but I was right :)

Hands down:

Squish'Em and Snake Byte.

If, as Vinny suggests, we have a "most obscure game" category today, here's my thoughts.

My nomination is a game that was a hit before desktop computers were released. That's right, this game was popular before the Apple ][, the Vic-20, the PET, and so on. The game was originally sold as either a BASIC program listing or on punch cards!

The game is Gregory Yob's text-based "Hunt the Wumpus"! The Wumpus was a vague, non-descript creature who lived in a maze-like cavern of 20 caves, each connected to 3 other caves, and populated with bottomless pits and superbats (who could pick you up and drop you off in another random cave). Using your supply of crooked arrows (crooked so that they could fly through up to 3 rooms in whatever direction), you had to find which cave the Wumpus was in ("You hear breathing"), avoid the superbats ("You hear flapping wings") and the bottomless pits ("You feel a draft"), and shoot him from the next cave. You, of course, had to avoid the room with the Wumpus itself, because it would eat you up!

If you went into any time-sharing computer room, from about 1972 to 1980, odds are you would be guaranteed to find lots of pieces of paper covered with dots and lines, from dedicated Wumpus hunters trying to map out the caves.

The game even spawned a sequel, "Hunt the Wumpus II," which offered your choice of several caves, and even the ability to build your own caves!

The last time I saw any version of this game was back on the Amiga, around 1992. I still have a BASIC listing for anyone who is curious.

I didn't play a lot of text games on my old Tandy 1000 (128K of ram, no hard drive, one 5.25" drive), but I did get a few discs of BASIC and BASICA games from my aunt's old fiancee Gary. One included "Dracula's Castle" and "Madam Fifi's Whorehouse Adventure".

I was eight. I had no idea what a whorehouse was.

I remember they were exactly the same game, just with different text colors, different descriptions, different items, etc... so long as you always entered the house, went west west north and picked up the candlestick (or flashlight) or somesuch, you could win.

There was a bug in the game -- maybe it was just me; I don't know -- that you had to ctrl-c out of it, type in a line of BASIC, and then rejoin the game in progress or you couldn't move aside the tapestry/shower curtain and progress across the moat/river.

Ooh, Bard's Tale and Hardball - two classics. The memories...sigh...

Zork, of course (first one especially).
Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Bard's Tale, All the Ultima games.

Little Computer People

All anyone needs to say is one word: Infocom.

Jesus, why would anyone think Wumpus, or any of the mainframe games was "obscure" when eight jillion people were playing them on mainframes? Hell, computer gaming started on mainframes, and that's all there were for years. Space War, anyone? ASCII? Like, before 1974? Being lost in a maze of twisty passages, all alike?

Ah, wot the hell. Most of my friends were also posting to ARPANET (SF-LOVERS) by 1978, and had been writing in fanzines for decades before (1939 on), so I'm prone to knowing early adopters, I guess. I will go enjoy more snow now.


:-) I loved how you could make a pitch practically twist into oblivion. It looked more like Looney Tunes baseball than baseball... But man, what a great game. For its time it was simply untouchable as far as graphics and gameplay.

Hey, we can't forget Impossible Mission (for the Amiga, C128 or C64)...

Come... Stay awhile... Stay FOREVER mwahaahahahahaah...

How about Alpiner? I used to play that on an old Texas Instrument computer. You were this guy climbing mountains. you had to avoid these obstacles, like falling rocks and various wildlife.

Ah, yes, the old adventure games. First, I'm surprised that nobody yet has mentioned the best of the Infocoms, story-wise: Planetfall. (Spellbreaker was probably the best of them as far as the puzzle-solving aspect went. And Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was a bizarre lesson in how one could violate every possible rule of good game design [puzzles like the babelfish, which cannot possibly be solved without going through huge numbers of save/restores. And then, 2/3s of the way through the game, make them start over again from the beginning, this time remembering to feed a dog a sandwich...] and still, somehow, manage to be great fun.)

Pirates Cove was a great Game. And so was Zork.

I think I played my suggestion on my Tandy 1000, but I could be mistaken... I had a Commodore 64 as well.

Anyway, does anyone remember Bards Tale?

God did I ever spend hours playing that game.

Anyone remember the PCXT game Sopwith?

Cyan Magenta White and Black. You were a sopwith camel pilot and you flew over targets and dropped bombs (which made the most irritating sounds through the pc speaker)...

That was the big treat in my computer classes: Getting to play sopwith after you finished your work.

Ooh, server games? Wumpus was cool. How about Snipes that used to be included with Novell Netware?

My intro to computer games was with a printer terminal at our high school that was hooked via acoustic coupler modem to the University mainframe. Trek anyone?

(Yeah, I know. "Old fart" anyone?)

On the PC, I'd go with Hitchhikers, Leather Goddesses of Phobos and A Mind Forever Voyaging.

Leather Goddesses of Phobos. I was so perverted as a teenager that I macked on everyone in the game.

Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy!

Zork, by far. Light the candles. Read the book. Ring the bell. Welcome to Hades.

I was a huge Bard's Tale fan, but only after cutting my teeth on Wizardry. (Of course, you could import characters from Wizardry into the Bard's Tale, which made it easy to cheat. Go to the stables in Wizardry, stay overnight, insert a blank disc (instead of disc 2), go up a level, repeat.) Either way, both games were conquered once you learned to teleport.

I played a lot of Below the Root: be careful not to tear your shuba or you'll never be able to pense that monkey on Temple Grund.

As for sports, I liked Winter Games better than Summer Games (for some reason, I actually liked that damn biathalon). And no discussion of sports would be complete without Larry Bird & Dr. J Go One-on-One. Way ahead of its time.

M.U.L.E. Dan [Dani] Bunten's masterwork.

Advent/Zork. You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike. Xyzzy!

The Prisoner. An old [copyright-violating] game from the Apple II days, based on the 60's television show, though they assuredly did not pay royalties.

Rogue. And Rogue begat Hack. And Hack begat NetHack.

Pinball Construction Set. Build your own machine, play it, share it.

Yes for Below the Root! I am in the midst of writing a entry about that game and other Windham Classics games.

Ah, Bard's Tale. The genesis of my best friendship ever. I never owned a C-64, but I had a PC-XT with a lot of the same games- some of my favorites were Airborne Ranger, Ancient Art of War, and Jumpman (all were also on the C-64).

I always felt that Below the Root was far superior to Alice in Wonderland.

Text-adventure aficionado/geek that I am, I still have all the Infocom games in their original packaging, and I do mean all of 'em. The Zorks, the Enchanter trilogy, the mysteries (Deadline, Suspect, Witness, Hollywood Hijinx, Ballyhoo, Sherlock), the sci-fi stuff (A Mind Forever Voyaging, Starcross, Suspended, Planetfall, Stationfall, Hitchhikers, LG of Phobos), the other sundry tales (Infidel, Lurking Horror, Bureaucracy, Wishbringer, Cutthroats, etc. etc.) Even crap like Plundered Hearts, for pete's sake. I would definitely pay retail prices for a spiffy new text-adventure.

Best puzzle? Maybe the time-travel mine shaft in Sorcerer.

Eureka moments: Deadline: George after the will, Suspect: Alicia on the steps AFTER the rainstorm, Hitchhikers: Putting the mail on the satchel (Instant babel fish!) Enchanter: Turtle, get scroll.

My favorite TRS-80 text adventures were Scott Adams' Adventure and Sword of Zedek. Does Deathmaze 5000 count?

Apple II: They weren't text, but I really liked Transylvania and Robin Hood. Most of the time, I was playing Old Ironsides, Lode Runner, Ultima, or Wizardry.

Commodore: My friend had a C64, but it was a little later on. So we played Maniac Mansion and Zak McKracker, stuff like that. Those shouldn't really count, since (a) they weren't text and (b) they were well after the Sierra/Roberta Williams games, which I played on my old school IBM.

"Unfortunately, there's a radio connected to my brain..."

Wishbringer. Didn't that come with a rock in the packaging?

I never did finish Alice in Wonderland. There was something at the end that I was never able to find.

Not just a rock, but a glow-in-the-dark rock to boot. Wishbringer was pretty easy...it was one of the intro-level games.

I forgot all about that game. I think I still have the booklet up in the attic somewhere.

One more thing: I played Zork again for the first time about five years ago, and I kept coming up about 5 points short. Is there some sort of quirk to the game?

C64, previously mentioned: Bard's Tale, Hardball, Archon, Lode Runner.

Also like to add Frantic Freddy and Spelunker. Frantic Freddy's background music (Kodachrome, Crazy Little Thing Called Love - a different song for each level) was the coolest thing I had ever heard on a computer at the time.

Zork and Hitchhiker's Guide.

Riyadh delenda est!

What, no King's Quest? What about Legend of the Red Dragon (LORD)?

All of these games are great, and some bring a tear of nostalgia to my eye. Hours spent Infocomming. But what about the best free game that almost everybody had sitting on their hard drives? Gorilla.bas? Monkeys in cities, throwing explosive bananas. Woo-hoo!

And Vinny -- you ever play the Ace of Aces? Old school, probably early 80's. Two books (no batteries or squinting outdoor eyes), with different views from the cockpit, calling out a page number for your buddy to turn to depending on your maneuver. Awesome.

Text: Lurking Fear

Graphics: Ultima III: Exodus

Obscure: Deja Vu

I still have the glow in the dark rock from Wishbringer... those were the days... like crackerjacks....

The previous anon post was me, btw. I goofed.

Some more 'sophisticated' games were Autoduel and Pirates. I actually wrote a term paper on college based almost solely on the manual from Pirates.

Zork, Hitchhiker's Guide, the Enchanter series, Planetfall/Stationfall, The Lurking Horror!, ah, memories...

I remember a game for the c64 called House of Usher (was that the title). For some reason that game just stuck with me, vaguely remember what the screens look like.

Funny after playing c64 games for years I can't remember but 2 of them......

What was that dungeon-crawl game you could play that had letters for the names of monsters? I spent hours chasing down "O's" and "A's" (orcs and giant ants) and killing them.

I hated all the text games. Zork sucked, its successors suck, and I bought Myst and discovered that even though the graphics are much nicer, I still hate those stupid "Find the X and use it to Y" games.

Give me a game with noticeable progress or give it to someone else.

I remember playing Pirates! (the name had the exclamation point on it, as I recall), with no instruction manual. My buddy Nate and I wound up using a real map of the Carribean out of an atlas to get around.

When Pirates Gold came out, you could click something to show a map with your current location on it. That took some of the fun out of it somehow.

Here's a question - which of the old Infocom games was the hardest? I never got ANYWHERE in Starcross. Took me over a month to get inside the station.

The hardest of the Infocoms? Suspended, hands down.

Oh, in my original voting bit, I forgot all about A Mind Forever Voyaging. Now that was a fun bit of interactive fiction...

Yeah, no offense to Sparcvark, but I thought Suspended was much harder than Starcross, although it took me a long time to figure out those two disks were teleporters - I kept getting killed by the ant leader guy. As for Suspended, I did beat it, eventually...always dug Poet.

A few years ago, you could buy all the games online for $15. Best money I ever spent...I'm getting the sense that deal's done, though: http://www.infocom-if.org/buy/buy.html

RKB; Now that's a game :-) lol I never heard of it, but man what a concept!

Bard's Tale kicked major ass. I loved the screen you got if your whole party got killed: an angel saying, "Sorry, bud."

Phantasie was a great game, too. And I still can't find a game today that's anywhere near as fun as Airborne Ranger.

Hands down, Hitchiker's. Get the fluff!

No one remember's Synapse's text adventures/ "electronic novels"?

"Essex", "Mindwheel", "Breakers", "Brimstone", and "Ronin".

Except for the first one "Essex", they were all written by actual writers (or poets in the case of Robert Pinsky's "Mindwheel").

Since I always get permanently stuck on a puzzle whenever I play text adventures (happens every single time!), I can't list any text adventure as a personal favorite game.

But I do admit that playing electronic novels written by real writers is much better than the programmer created stuff.

I remember that one write was taking a poetry class and created a poem made of things he heard programmers say. It was good, with stuff like

"A door is just a room you never stop in [deep sounding but true in our game system]"

His class was hostile to every computer/technology reference. Back in the day, technology was considered EVIL by all good humanities types. How things have changed. I think these days the vacuous "evil" for humanities students is the United States.

Yeah, everybody likes the Zorks. They were good, but not my favorite. I think I liked Infidel the best. The puzzles were good (no stupid mazes if I recall) and they fit the theme (like having to actually decipher heiroglyphics). Besides, how can you not like a game that kills you as a reward for winning the game? Beauracracy was great just because of the humor. And Starcross. Good puzzles, but sort of lame, anticlimactic ending.

I didn't care for most of the graphic adventures. Some of the earlier ones I solved in a couple hours. But of those I liked Dark Crystal, which the whole family got involved in, and some of the later games like Sam & Max.

Oh, and I still have my glow-in-the-dark plastic rock also.

Hello, Sailor!

I can't believe I overlooked this post.

Zork, hands down, far and away. Man. I first played Zork in the early '80s, as an undergrad. The entire physics department was infected with it. The professors complained that they couldn't get anything done because all the grad students were playing "that damned game".

Hey, AB. Did you remember to let the thief steal your egg so he can fix it? That's worth a few extra points.

In Zork III, I think it is, you run around unarmed. I felt naked. There's also a "Beyond Zork" and a "Zork Zero". If I recall correctly I hated the latter and liked the former. It's the one where you get to meet the Implementers, I believe they're called.

We keep an old DOS computer around just to play those games.

Besides Zork, I'll put in a good word for Trinity. I actually felt moved after I'd finished playing it, as if I'd really experienced something---more so than almost any movie I've seen.

At the end of Zork III there's a contraption of colored wooden rods at one end of a big room. Years after I'd played it I saw something on TV and I thought, "Now, I've seen something like that before. Where was it? Oh yeah, it was that thing at the end of Zork." It took me a few moments to realize that I'd never seen that thing at the end of Zork, only imagined it. Let yer modren fancy-schmancy video games beat that.

Oh, man, Trinity. How could I forget Trinity? Probably the most novelistic and darkly beautiful Infocom game...I love the historical time-traveling vignettes, and how the Nagasaki-Origami puzzle plays out.

Like I said, I bought all the Infocoms a few years ago, and Trinity is the one I play through the most consistently. Just an expertly created game.

Bring back the text adventure, dammit!

As for the graphic games:

"Mutant space camels"
"The revenge of the mutant space camels"

As for text-adventure's:"Sillicon dreams"
Waisted way to much of my youth playing that one.

I know that everyone else has said it, but I'm going to add my two cents anyway: Zork. Hands down. Period. 'Nuff said. Zork.

I hope I'm not too late to nominate "Leather Goddesses of Phobos" (http://www.mobygames.com/game/sheet/gameId,31) The first text adventure game where I managed to wet myself within five minutes of starting to play (your first objective is to find the men's room)

I have to nominate an old TRS-80 game. It was a "graphical" Star Trek game where all of the images were ASCII text. The space station looked something like this: Or maybe that was the Romulan warbirds.
Adventure/Colossal Cave is still the ultimate only because it was the one that I played first. 25 years ago.

Unbelievable, I can't believe I played so many of these games, but I had totally forgot about them... Ah such great memories.

A bit of a jump into the future, but I remember when I got an Ad Lib card for my Tandy 1000, the greatest thing ever!

From then on my two favorite games, and possibly still my two all-time favorite games are Star Control and Prince Of Persia soon to be bought for my Game Cube.

Prince of Persia was so ahead of its time, realistic movements, and an extremely tough game to beat.

Starfight! I used to spend hours just exploring the galaxy in that game... Star Control 2 was good for the same reason. They don't make anything like those two anymore...


Ooh! Pirate's cove! Yo ho!

Ultima II and IV were amazing. (Too bad they didn't stay that good...!)

Bard's Tale was excellent, too. And Summer Games! I hated the relay race where you had to move the joystick back and forth. I'd always get a headache, and still lose... And I never could figure out the swimming. I was better at Winter Games, too.

I also played Little Computer People. People act like The Sims invented the idea. HAH! I could never get mine to go to sleep, though. I rarely got him to take a shower.

Impossible Mission! Oh, all the memories... :)

The name "Snipes" sounds familiar, but I can't place it...

Pinball Construction Set! oooh! :)

Archon!! :)

Oh my god!~ Someone else had Ace of Aces???? THis is scaring me! :) I think I've found my home. sniff

Teehee. I remember revenge of the mutant space camels.

Ooh! Pirate's cove! Yo ho!

Ultima II and IV were amazing. (Too bad they didn't stay that good...!)

Bard's Tale was excellent, too. And Summer Games! I hated the relay race where you had to move the joystick back and forth. I'd always get a headache, and still lose... And I never could figure out the swimming. I was better at Winter Games, too.

I also played Little Computer People. People act like The Sims invented the idea. HAH! I could never get mine to go to sleep, though. I rarely got him to take a shower.

Impossible Mission! Oh, all the memories... :)

The name "Snipes" sounds familiar, but I can't place it...

Pinball Construction Set! oooh! :)

Archon!! :)

Oh my god!~ Someone else had Ace of Aces???? THis is scaring me! :) I think I've found my home. sniff

Teehee. I remember revenge of the mutant space camels.