ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

North, North, Get Lamp, West, Jump —

It’s been a while since I’ve added any major amount of vintage textfiles to the main site. When people send me their own creations, I quickly add them to the uploads section; that works out to maybe one or two files a week. But I’m happy to say I added over 120 new adventure walkthrough files, most of them from an archive of files grabbed about a year ago.

I don’t know how many people really care about the process of adding new files to, so I’ll just say that I use a combination of perl and bourne shell scripts that “do the right thing” when I place new files into the directories. I haven’t hand-made a directory for the site since the first month of operation, some five years ago. The scripts let me take a swath of files, be shown them, describe or delete them, and then integrate them into the right location. Variations of the scripts maintain all the sites, and is how one single person can maintain all this information. I get accused of “having no life” because of the sea of files through the sites, but in fact it takes relatively little time to maintain.

In the case of these files, they’re all pretty much Adventure Walkthroughs, an interesting subspecies of file that began as early as the late 1970’s and has continued to the current day. The concept is both simple and intriguing: in the case of games where a complicated set of moves or choices are required to “solve” it, a person will write a file describing those exact moves. Some of the walkthroughs are literally that, a set of commands that, if you type them in exactly, will put you through an entire game until you are victorious. Others are a little more subtle and drop hints and ideas to push you towards making the final “a-ha” yourself.

What was most disconcerting about this collection of walkthroughs was how some were written as late as 2000 and 2001 and some dated back as far as 1983. So you would have examples from the late-and-lamented Mines of Moira BBS along with things obviously grabbed off someone’s web page. I try, as always, to date the files as accurately as possible, but it’s not always to be, since the pedigree can be lost over the last two decades.

If it’s not obvious, I have a weakness for text adventures, those ascii-only games that depended almost entirely on literary ability to create and abstract thought to solve. Few games can claim that, and in the modern age of the DirectX library and the DVD-ROM, I think there are games crafted with the same exquisite skill but not with the same intense result that I got internally from these games. Hit the dragon, move south.

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