ADVENTURE TRENDSby MICHAEL CIRAOLO
Antic Staff Writer
You started out by blasting endless attack waves of zombie-like space
attackers. Then you mapped your way through a colossal cave and fought
trolls in the great underground empire of Zork. You carefully adjusted
fuel rates to land yourself on the moon.
Your taste in mind-challenging computer recreation is a lot more sophisticated now. You demand innovation from the marketplace.
It's true that software designers still haven't come up with a totally new kind of adventure game to stand alongside the established standard formats such as - all-text puzzle explorations, visuals plus text, graphics scrolling displays, fantasy role-playing (computerized dungeons & dragons), space wars...even simulations and computerized strategy board games.
Even so, there are many exciting developments in the current generation of adventure games that will bring you new worlds to explore on your Atari.
Today the barriers between different types of games are blurring. You'll find role playing games with puzzles worthy of text adventures, and interactive adventures featuring arcade-type graphics.
JUPITER MISSION 1999
This blurring of genres is evident in Avalon Hill's Jupiter Mission 1999. Contained within the game's four disks are elements of graphics/text adventure, space war role-playing and arcade joystick games.
The varied elements in Jupiter Mission are tied together by a story line. Government agents drag you from your home early on a cold January morning and put you in charge of a solo mission to Jupiter.
This concept of a large-scale multiple element adventure package holds a lot of potential, even if some sections of Jupiter Mission 1999 are perhaps overly reminiscent of classics such as Lunar Landing and Missile Command.
Another interesting new development is the arrival of easier adventure games for young people or younger beginners.
DRAGONS & TROLLS
There are even adventure games for children who have just learned to read. Sierra On-Line's Dragon's Keep and Troll's Tale are graphics/text adventures intended for kids as young as seven.
Young players locate a series of objects hidden by the troll or dragon-with help from warm graphics, suggestions by the computer, and a map that comes with the package.
On a typical Troll's Tale screen, you'll find the top 80 percent of the display filled with a picture of a room or a field. Below will be lines of text:
"You are facing the cave." A menu of options follows. "Go into cave," or "Turn on flashlight," or "Turn around and go into the field."
If you were to select, say, "Go into cave," without turning on the light, the next screen would show the colorful, impressive troll and warn you. "You are in the dark. Turn on light or leave the cave."
By the time you read this, possibly the Windham Classics line of interactive fiction for children will be available from Spinnaker Software. This series of graphics/text adventures is to be based on classic literature. The first Atari release will be Swiss Family Robinson.
By the way, you may have heard about Spinnaker's other new line, Trillium, which will feature adaptations of novels by big-name science fiction writers. Unfortunately, at this writing Spinnaker has no plans to produce these games for the Atari-a mistake that will hopefully be corrected by the time this is in print.
A game like Infocom's Seastalker can be enjoyed by both adult and older children who are beginning adventurers. This text adventure was scripted by Jim Lawrence, an experienced writer of books in the Tom Swift, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys vein.
Seastalker enlists you in the Aquatic Discovery Squad. You must save the undersea Aquadome from a sea monster and saboteurs.
Seastalker is very forgiving on the beginning adventurer, offering several types of clues and extensive background information. It is a good introduction to the all-text world of Infocom for players who would be quite lost if dropped into a game like Suspended with absolutely no adventure experience.
But don't get the idea you can simply walk through this game. Seastalker is tough enough to keep a relatively experienced adventurer occupied for six to eight hours before the Aquadome is rescued.
In some more last-minute news, Infocom just announced Cutthroats, the latest game in the Tales of Adventure series. Cutthroat puts you on Hardscrabble Island, where you're a deep-sea diver on a treasure hunt with an untrustworthy crew. The game is written by Michael Berlyn, author of Infidel and Suspended.
Just as some companies have turned to noted books and authors for adaptations to interactive fiction, so has Datasoft turned to television. In The Dallas Quest, a not too inspiring graphics/text adventure, you become a detective trying to uncover a missing oil field map. The game contains several puzzles based on peculiar logic or inconsistent with the mood of the TV show.
The Ultima series, created by Lord British, combined the puzzling text adventures with scrolling map graphics and fantasy role-playing elements.
Strategic Simulation's Questron is a perfect warm-up for the Ultima games. Even though Questron's scrolling map contains 57,000 squares, it's a simpler game than the classic Ultimas. Still, you'll find plenty of challenge as you move about in a strange land, encountering powerful beings who may be either good or evil. You must survive and also complete specific quests.
When you feel confident in the world of fantasy quests, step up to Ultima III, Lord British's latest adventure. In Ultima III you can go questing with a team of four characters simultaneously. Create your fantasy A-Team from five races and 11 professions, equip them from a menu of 16 weapons and 32 magic spells.
Ultima 111, published by Lord British's own company, Origin Systems, upgrades the graphics, combat options, navigational strategies, and dungeon scenes from the game's two predecessors. Your adventure in this fantasy world is more realistic because of the increased detail and interaction possibilitites.
Antic received a special Lord British communique for this issue. (His Lordship is actually Richard Garriott, who's in his early 20s and the son of a space shuttle astronaut.)
"As Lord British thought of the future again and touched the silver snake around his neck, he saw Ultima IV laid out beautifully before him. A new age had come upon the land of Sosaria. Evil still existed, but many had discovered the virtues of friendship and trust. All of Lord British's subjects would need the power of good in order to complete eight quests and become an Avatar. Life would be lived in a world 16 times larger than its predecessor.
"Lord British wondered how much longer the quests would continue. He looked out at the hardware surrounding himself and realized that he had just begun to explore the capabilities of the computer. He knew that his journeys were far from over . . ."
And Infocom also predicts major advances for its all-text adventure games. Product manager Michael Dornbrook says, "There will be effectively no limit on the number of people or rooms in a game. Think of all the limitations in current games and knock them down. Imagine many current restraints on game play eliminated."
Thus ... adventure games have emerged from the caves as the quest for more reality continues ...
The Dallas Quest
19808 Nordhoff Place
Chatsworth, CA 91311
48K disk, $34.95
Sierra On-Line Bldg.
Coarsegoid, CA 93614
48K disk with BASIC, $29.95 each.
Jupiter Mission 1999
Avalon Hill Games
4517 Harford Rd
Baltimore, MD 21214
48K disk, $50.00
Strategic Simulations, Inc.
883 Stierlin Rd., Bldg. A-200
Mountain View, CA 94043
40K disk with BASIC, $39.95
55 Wheeler St.
Cambridge, MA 02138
48K disk, $49.95
Origin Systems, Inc.
P.O. Box 99
1545 Isgood St. #7
North Andover, MA 08125
48K disk, $59.95
One Kendall Sq.
Cambridge, MA 02139
48K disk, $26.95