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Archive-name: games/interactive-fiction/part3
Maintainer: Stephen van Egmond <>
Version: 1.6 - December 2000

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
Now, let's take a look here... Well, you probably deserve another chance.
I can't quite fi-

     You go dizzy for a few seconds

          then your head clears again.

  (3.1) Beyond Infocom
  This is part 3 of the Frequently Asked Questions list for the group, a Usenet newsgroup for the discussion of
  Interactive Fiction games and related topics. To read a specific
  question, use your newsreader's search function on the string "(n)",
  where n is the question number.

  Contents of this file:
  (3.1) Beyond Infocom
  (3.2) Infocom wasn't the only adventure game company, you know.
  (3.3) Level 9 Software
  (3.4) Topologika Software
  (3.5) 'Who is Scott Adams?'
  (3.6) Want some games for that ZX Spectrum?
  (3.7) The ongoing development of interactive fiction.

  The current maintainer is Stephen van Egmond. Questions and information
  should be mailed to The most recent
  version is at

  Part 1 covers the elements of Part 2 covers

You are in an amphitheater. The sound of the crowd comes from all around.
There is a gladiator here, holding a weapon and advancing toward you. The
gladiator says:

  (3.2) Infocom wasn't the only adventure game company, you know.
  There were (and are) numerous other companies dedicated to the
  production of interactive fiction games.

  Level 9, Adventure International ("Scott Adams"), Topologika, Magnetic
  Scrolls, and Penguin software seem to have a noticeable following on If you have a personal favourite, ask about it,
  and someone will probably know. Feel free to contribute some FAQ
  questions to the maintainer:

The gladiator advances menacingly.


  (3.3) Level 9 Software
  Level 9 was formed by three brothers (Pete, Mike and Nick Austin) in
  1982. Their first product was a port of Adventure to the 8-bit computers
  that dominated the English market at the time. Until they left the text
  adventure business in 1990, they produced over a dozen adventure games
  for the 8-bit computers (the Spectrum, C64, BBC B and Atari 800
  machines). From 1986 their games also appeared for the Amiga, Atari ST
  and IBM PC computers.

  Level 9 used a custom adventure writing system referred to as "A-Code".
  This allowed a high degree of compression: a typical game of 210
  locations, 70 objects, and lots of text could fit into 32K. The
  adventure engine had 5 major versions:
    * Basic Text: black on white with noun/verb parser
    * Advanced Text: yellow on black with faster display
    * Basic Graphics: simple line drawings for each location, at a cost to
      the amount of text in the game
    * Advanced Graphics: dramatically improved parser and the usual amount
      of text.
    * Interactive Characters: grid-like maps, digitized graphics, and
      improved parser with interactive, independent characters.
  Each game was available in three versions for the Sinclair Spectrum: 48K
  all-text, 48K graphics with reduced text, and 128K graphics with full
  text, multiple UNDO and save/restore in RAM. For the final games the
  digitized graphics were only available on the Amiga, Atari ST, PC and
  C64 disk versions.

  Several of Level 9's games formed trilogies, and were repackaged as such
  in the late 1980s. In approximate chronological order, then:

  These three were later packaged into a Middle Earth Trilogy (renamed by
  the lawyers to Colossal Trilogy). In 1986 the package was released
  again, this time with graphics, a nicer parser and some text tweaks, and
  renamed The Jewels of Darkness.
    * Colossal Adventure, Essentially a conversion of Crowther and Woods'
      classic mainframe text adventure. The Austins expanded the end game
    * Adventure Quest, A game very much in the mould of the original
      Adventure. The ultimate object is to defeat the Demon Lord.
    * Dungeon Adventure, This game follows on directly from Adventure
      Quest. After defeating the Demon Lord you must now loot his tower.
  The following three were packaged as the Silicon Dreams Trilogy:
    * Snowball (1982?), Considered by many as Level 9's best game. As Kim
      Kimberley, colonist on the spaceship Snowball 9, you must defeat the
      hijacker who has taken control of the ship. Famous for advertising
      itself as having 2 million locations (though rather a large number
      of these were very similar).
    * Return to Eden (1984), The direct sequel to Snowball. After rescuing
      Snowball 9, you are accused of being the hijacker and are sentenced
      to death. You must escape the authorities and stop the robots on
      Eden destroying the Snowball.
    * Worm in Paradise (1986), A rather darker game, set 100 years after
      Snowball and Return to Eden. The colony of Eden has become a corrupt
      dystopia, in which you are a lowly worker.
  The following three games were re-released as the Time and Magik
    * Lords of Time (1982?), A time-travel adventure, set in nine separate
      time zones. The Timelords have meddled with history, and can only be
      stopped if a specific item is recovered from each zone.
    * Red Moon (1985), Level 9's first use of magic in their games. In a
      parallel universe, the Red Moon crystal, the sole source of magic,
      has been stolen. You must recover it...
    * The Price of Magik (1986) The Red Moon crystal has again been
      stolen, and must be recovered from the mansion of the magician
      Myglar. A gothic horror story.
  The following games were not part of a trilogy:
    * Eric the Viking (1984), A comedy adventure based on the film of the
      same name.
    * Emerald Isle (1985), You are a paratrooper stranded on an enemy
      island from which you must escape.
  Level 9 (in association with Mandarin) also produced several multiple
  choice adventure games. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole was based on the
  Adrian Mole children's books popular in England in the 1980s, and The
  Archers was based on the English radio show of the same name.

  In 1986, Level 9 upgraded their adventure writing system to allow
  independent non-player characters in their stories, and bitmapped
  graphics. These games were first released for the Atari ST, Amiga and
  PC, with later conversions to the C64 and Spectrum. Due to the size of
  these games they were all split into 3 parts, each one only playable
  after completing the previous section.
    * Knight Orc (1987), For a change the player gets to be an Orc, who
      has to avoid bloodthirsty humans. Notable for a particularly good
      parody of inane MUD players.
    * Gnome Ranger (1987), Another Level 9 game with the player as a
      non-human protagonist. This time the player is Ingrid, a not very
      likeable gnome. Ingrid must find her way back home. Contains a large
      number of enjoyably bad "gnome" jokes, as in "Exits lead gnorth,
    * Lancelot (1988), As its name and subtitle "The Quest for the Holy
      Grail" implies, this is an adventure set in the world of Arthurian
    * Ingrid's Back: Gnome Ranger 2 (1988), The sequel to Gnome Ranger,
      with the player once again being Ingrid. This time Ingrid must same
      her village of Little Moaning from being demolished by evil property
    * Scapeghost (1989), A game with an unusual premise, as it begins at
      your funeral. You were a police officer, betrayed by one of your
      colleagues to the drugs gang you and your partner were infiltrating.
      Now your partner is the gang's hostage and the police believe that
      it was all your fault. The aim is to rescue your partner and clear
      your name. A rather sombre game, as befits Level 9's final text

The gladiator advances menacingly!


  (3.4) Topologika Software
  Perhaps the first adventure game written outside the U.S. was "Acheton"
  (c. 1979), by Jon Thackray and David Seal, with contributions by
  Jonathan Partington, working in the mathematics department of Cambridge
  University, England. "Acheton" is an enormous cave game, whose name is a
  confection of "Acheron" (the river that dead used to cross in order to
  get to Hades) and "Achates" (minor character in Virgil's "Aeneid"),
  based around exploration and collecting treasures.

  Thackray and Seal devised one of the earliest adventure-design systems
  (which although basically an assembler was influential on for instance
  the modern design system "Inform") and it was publically used on the
  Cambridge IBM mainframe ("Phoenix") until the mid-1990s.

  Acornsoft, then the software arm of Acorn Computers Ltd., also based in
  Cambridge and with strong links to the university, published a
  conversion of "Acheton" to the BBC Micro, on two 100K floppy discs (one
  containing the game, one containing hints). "Kingdom of Hamil" and other
  games followed.

  The rights in these games are now held by Topologika Software (Waterside
  House, Falmouth Road, Penryn, Cornwall TR10 8BE; email:, now better known as an educational software
  house. They are not being sold anymore, but are freely available from
  the if-archive, thanks to the work of Adam Atkinson, P. David Doherty
  and Gunther Schmidl. See
    * Acheton (JT, DS) fantasy
    * Countdown to Doom (PK) SF
    * Return to Doom (PK) SF
    * Last Days of Doom (PK) SF
    * Hezarin (ST, AS, JT) fantasy
    * Avon (JT, JP) Shakespearian satire
    * Murdac (JT, JP) fantasy
    * Philosopher's Quest (PK) puzzle
    * SpySnatcher (JP, JT, PK) espionage satire
  JT = Jon Thackray; DS = David Seal; PK = Peter Killworth; JP = Jonathan
  Partington; ST = Steve Tinney; AS = Alex Shipp

  These all sell for 15 pounds sterling regardless of format, plus 1 pound
  P&P, except that Last Days of Doom/Hezarin and Avon/Murdac are sold as
  double-packs at 20 pounds; under RISC OS only, so is Acheton/Hamil; and,
  under RISC OS only, Countdown to Doom/Return to Doom/Phil. Quest as a
  triple at 30.

The gladiator advances menacingly!


  (3.5) 'Who is Scott Adams?'

  "Mr. Adams was never in the business of writing the Scott Adams          
  adventure games."                                                        
                                              - The Dilbert FAQ by Dogbert 

  Adventure International is a company founded by Scott Adams, whose games
  used a datafile and interpreter system similar to that of Infocom. There
  is a freely distributable interpreter, Scottfree, on
  There were interpreters released for a large number of 8-bit machines,
  like the TRS-80, Apple II, Atari 400/800, and Commodore's 8-bit lineup.

  The adventures were written using a noun/verb parser, but are considered
  to have exciting story lines. I still remember playing the cartridge
  version of "Impossible Mission" on my friend's VIC-20.

  Adventure International released several lines of games using the same
  datafile format and various interpreter revisions.

  The Scott Adams Classic Adventure Series:
    * Adventure Land: Ordinary treasure hunting.
    * Pirate Adventure / Pirate's Cove: Search an island.
    * Mission Impossible / Secret Mission / Impossible Mission: Stop the
      reactor from going kaboom.
    * There was also Voodoo Castle, The Count, Strange Odyssey, Fun House
      Mystery, Pyramid of Doom, Ghost Town, Savage Island parts 1 and 2,
      Golden Voyage, Sorcerer of Claymorgue Castle, and Adventures of
      Buckaroo Bonzai.
  Questprobe Series: The adventures in this series feature characters from
  Marvel Comics. The adventures were named The Hulk, Spiderman, and
  Fantastic Four. The latter used a different adventure engine to allow
  control of two different characters.

  There was a separate line of games sold by Adventure International using
  a different datafile format: Curse of Crowley Manor, Escape from Traam,
  San Francisco 1906, and Saigon: The Final Days.

  Other games include Labyrinth of Crete, Return to Pirate's Island, Stone
  of Sisyphus, and Morton's fork.

  In the UK, there were many companies related to Adventure International,
  such as Horrorsoft, Tynesoft, Adventure Soft UK, and Adventure
  International UK. More information can be found in Adventure Game
  History, by Hans Persson, from whose work all of the above comes.

  Scott Adams is on the Net and passes through rec.*.int-fiction from time
  to time. In August 2000, he completed, after a multi-year effort, a new
  Windows 95 text adventure called _Return to Pirate's Isle 2_. His home
  page -- including a facility for ordering the game -- is at

The gladiator's weapon swishes through the air, narrowly missing you!


  (3.6) Want some games for that ZX Spectrum?
  There is an ftp archive of many of the games that were released by Level
  9, Adventure Software, Brian Howarth, and some others of unclear origin.

  The only common format in which Level 9 games are available is as images
  (snapshots) for Sinclair Spectrum emulators. There are many Level 9
  games available from the main Spectrum archive in Slovenia, in the
  snapshots directory The filenames
  (e.g. "") should adequately explain which games are
  which, and for what size of machine they are intended.

  There are also several Level 9 snapshots on the IF Archive, in

  These games can be played with a Spectrum emulator. Emulators for PCs
  and Macs can be found at

  These games can also be played with the Level 9 interpreter, written by
  Glen Summers. Versions are available for DOS, Windows, Amiga and Acorn
  Archimedes. The interpreter is available at and has
  also been integrated into the Mac program MultiAdventures

  The interpreter can play all Level 9 games from Colossal Adventure to
  Scapeghost, in any data format, provided that it is not compressed. The
  interpreter has been tested with Level 9 games taken from Spectrum, C64,
  BBC, Atari, Amiga and PC platforms. The only restriction is that the
  very earliest format (v1) games do not work. However, all v1 games are
  also available in later formats.

  In general, Paul David Doherty's "Adventure Page" is the best resource
  for information (and copies of) the more obscure adventure games. Refer
  to for more information on Polarware,
  Magnetic Scrolls, Penguin, Level 9, Adventure International, and more.
  In fact, the entire site is a great resource
  for Interactive Fiction history.

The gladiator swings his sword, remo-

  You go dizzy for a few seconds

    then your head clears again.

It is pitch dark, and you can't see a thing.

What do you want to light?

You switch the brass lantern on.

In Debris Room
You are in a debris room filled with stuff washed in from the surface. A
low wide passage with cobbles becomes plugged with mud and debris here,
but an awkward canyon leads upward and west.

A note on the wall says, "Magic word XYZZY."

A three foot black rod with a rusty star on one end lies nearby.

A cheerful little bird is sitting here singing.


  (3.7) The ongoing development of interactive fiction.
  The interactive fiction genre is by no means dead! There is ongoing,
  high-quality development efforts taking place right now.

  The majority of the public-domain and shareware efforts are in text
  adventures, for a number of reasons: the production costs of text are
  extremely low, compared to graphical, raytraced, and/or animated
  offerings; the authoring tools for text are fairly sophisticated,
  accessible, and next to (or precisely) free; and they can usually be
  done in a much shorter time.

  Games generally are developed around one of either TADS or Inform
  development systems, and lately Hugo has been gaining prominence. As
  mentioned in part 2, Inform outputs Z-code which can be played by a ZIP,
  many of which have source code. TADS and Inform can be played on just
  about the same types of computers and operating systems, though Inform's
  games may have a slight edge in that they can be played on handheld
  devices like Apple Newtons or Psion palmtops. Hugo has not been ported
  as widely but is available for the major operating systems (Windows,
  Amiga, DOS, Linux), and source is available.

  Games like Legend, Curses, the Unnkulia Series, Enhanced, Shades of
  Grey, Jigsaw, Christminster, and many more are available, whose quality
  rivals that of games released in the 'Golden Age' of text adventures.
  These can be found under "games" in the if-archive; some of the busier
  games directories, in terms of new arrivals, are
  The annual text adventure competition is a reliable source of
  interesting and well-crafted games (there's some lemons, too). These can
  be found at
    * finally, seems to be the current home
      for the competition.

  Commercial companies continue to produce adventure-type software;
  products like Myst, The Seventh Guest, The 11th Hour, and Return To Zork
  are the closest conceptually to IF of the past. Many don't consider
  these to be real interactive fiction -- or, consider them inferior IF
  works -- since the games don't offer the same richness in details,
  variety in actions, or challenge in puzzles as is expected of text IF
  today. As a point of note (but by no means policy), Activision's
  graphical releases in the "Infocom Universe" like Zork:Nemesis and
  Planetfall 2:The Search For Floyd are often discussed on, and Myst and "other" graphical IF on the relevant
  comp.sys.*.games newsgroups.

  There is research going on in areas that could move interactive fiction
  forward considerably, in terms of dramatic impact and sophistication.
  The Oz Project at Carnegie-Mellon University is researching areas such
  as computer simulation of character emotional dynamics, realistic
  interactions with the "universe" of the actor, and much more.

  Further theory can be found in the FAQ, at

Your lantern flickers slightly, brightens, then suddenly goes out!

Oh, no! A lurking grue slithered into the room and devoured you!

  **** You have died ****

Press any key to continue


                                                        Stephen van Egmond

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