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The Further Text Adventures of Scott Adams (madned.substack.com)
236 points by mad_ned 13 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 181 comments

Game design question:

Text adventures as a category always struck me as kind of lonely. They often take place in environments where all the people have been removed, like miniature apocalypses.

It seems technically fairly obvious why this happens: other people are too hard to model. People have goals and expectations and so someone traipsing around trying random things is not generally acceptable, and creating characters that are disinterested in their environment is its own challenge. (Writing this I realize grumpy and stubborn characters are fairly common, maybe for these same reasons!)

In all these years of advancement in games the NPC still seems either lifeless or absent. I'm afraid I haven't actually played your games, so I don't know how you've tried to address it, but I'm sure you've thought about it. I'd be curious to hear any of those thoughts, but maybe specific questions:

1. Have you had any successes you could share in making a NPC seem "alive"?

2. Any ideas you were convinced were great but failed when implemented?

3. Do you think new technology can be applied to this? For instance it sounds like you are using more advanced NLP in Escape the Gloomer. (But understanding is only half, NPC motivation and goals seem equally hard.)

4. Does a strong NPC distract from the autonomy of the player? (Sometimes I wonder if people even want a strong NPC, or if players actually prefer NPCs to be background.)

5. And separately, have you tried AI Dungeon and if so what did you think?

1) yes this has always been an issue. My early Marvel games had to deal with this as there were numerous characters to interact with. In Escape the Gloomer I mostly avoided it as Gillig is trying to stay hidden so you just get to hear conversations. In Adventureland XL I brought by my old friend the pirate. And you do get have some interactions with him as well as Robin's Merry Men. Still not very deep or rich

2) That's harder to answer. I have done a lot of things that may not have panned out commericially but I enjoyed the technical challenge and was happy with the results. I never see failure, just an oppurtunity to improve something :)

3) I am sure it could be, just not an area I have been spending much time addressing!

4) Depends on the game of course. So many of my games are more puzzle based so having an strong NPC isn't really needed there. But I did have fun with both the Pirate and the Chimpanzee in Adventureland XL !

5) AI dungeon is an interesting idea. Each iteration gets more and more promising. But still has a ways to go yet.

Play Galatea. It’s a famous, award winning parser game about a conversation with a sentient statue and has approx 70 endings. The game models your relationship along several axes as you go and the writing is superb

I'm trying it and it's _really_ hard to get any commands to work.

Maybe I thought it would be more like Facade. Stuff like "Ask galatea her favorite color" and "tell galatea her dress is pretty" aren't working. It's moving really slow (minutes between attempts) as I try to guess what keywords I can use.

I can't even "examine room" like I usually do for conversation. "You can't see any such thing".

Did you try typing "help", which gives you the following rather verbose block of text:


This is an exercise in NPC interactivity. There's no puzzle and no set solution, but a number of options with a number of different outcomes.

HINTS: Ask or tell her about things that you can see, that she mentions, or that you think of yourself. Interact with her physically. Pause to see if she does anything herself. Repeat actions. The order in which you do things is critical: the character's mood and the prior state of the conversation will determine how she reacts.

VERBS: Many standard verbs have been disabled. All the sensory ones (LOOK, LISTEN, SMELL, TOUCH, TASTE) remain, as do the NPC interaction verbs ASK, TELL, HELLO, GOODBYE, and SORRY; KISS, HUG, and ATTACK. You may also find useful THINK and its companion THINK ABOUT, which will remind you of the state of conversation on a given topic. The verb RECAP gives a summary list of topics that you've discussed so far; if she's told you that she's said all she knows on that topic, it appears in italics.

SHORTCUT: 'Ask her about' and 'tell her about' may be abbreviated to A and T. So >A CHEESE is the same as >ASK GALATEA ABOUT CHEESE.

There is an assortment of walkthroughs available at http://emshort.home.mindspring.com/cheats.htm, but I suggest not looking at them until you have already experimented somewhat.

Can I use "Say" if I'm in the same room ?

For some reason I assumed she would know I was talking to her, but she then said "you might try talking to me".

I also had a hard time moving it forward. Mostly asking about single words picked from the text worked best, but as a result it feels a bit like choose your own adventure but with hidden choices. And I'd try to ask about things that seemed important and get "You can't form your question into words" only to try with different words later and finally get some information. (But I always have this problem with IF... maybe I'm not patient enough, or have to learn the typical IF vocabulary, or maybe I just word things in funny ways, I don't know.)

I think most of the commands are of the form “talk about x” “tell about x” and “ask about x.” There are also “Galatea, come here” type commands. It definitely takes some some experimentation to figure the parser out unfortunately

Oh god. I might have just installed the wrong Galatea.

The erotic literature collection for women? That was the first program I found with that name :)

I'm never going to escape the algorithmic recommendations for this one, am I?

AI Dungeon is amusing but it's not a game, it's a toy. Text adventures are actual games with rules and objectives and (usually) a final goal. AI Dungeon is more like lucid dreaming in that you can do anything you want, there are no consequences, and reality is essentially putty in your hands. For people who want to play a game and challenge themselves to solve puzzles figure out the plot I think they will be very disappointed with AI Dungeon.

Yes, I think the lucid dreaming analogy is apt. That said, these games aren't just puzzles, they are also imaginary worlds. AI Dungeon might be approaching the sense of being in another world from another direction. Text adventures generally start with a small set of unforgiving rules, and AI Dungeon starts with inferred and easily broken rules.

But another part of games is the meta-game where you get into the game designers head, try to figure out how they would have setup the puzzle, knowing that challenges are designed to be solvable. In AI Dungeon this is also true in a sense, except you are getting in the head of an alien intelligence that has read human writing extensively.

Versu story [0] was an engine for creating interactive stories that was specifically designed for including easily lively NPCs. I never tried it though, and unfortunately, the project was abandoned [1] although it sounded very promising.

[0]: https://versu.com/

[1]: https://www.gamedeveloper.com/business/the-end-of-versu-emil...

In addition to Galatea, "Varicella" and "Alias Magpie" come to mind. In those, NPCs are not the primary focus, but there are some amusing ones and the world seemed alive to me.

Ahem. If you just played "advent", they may look empty.

Go Play Planetfall, Anchorhead or Curses!. Your little robotic friend will get you amazed.

AI Dungeon is not a game at all. Far from a text adventure.

Since Inform6 and Curses! text adventures are far more complex than the ones for the 80's microcomputers which they barely could run Zork, really slow in some extreme cases.

As I said, Infocom games for DOS/Amiga (and any new Z-Machine non-alpha adventure) are much better in that regard.

Hi all this is Scott Adams. I am open for an AMA (Ask Me Anything), awaiting your comments!

Hi Scott,

You changed my life when at 12 years old I first saw a computer and the first things I saw running on it was Voodoo Castle and The Count.

Back in 1979 it was literally like I had discovered magic was real because here in Australia computers were unknown to most ordinary people.

It's hard to convey how much this blew my 12 year old mind. I don't think I stopped thinking about Scott Adams adventures for years after that.

I LOVED all your games, so much atmosphere.

Thanks for creating that magical part of my life.


Voodoo Castle

The Count

Mystery Fun House


Savage Island (though it was too hard for me)_

I am so excited that my games were such an inspiration to you!

Have you tried any of my newer ones at all? www.Clopas.net see if anything strikes your fancy now?

Why did you cause me to have childhood nightmares about chiggers? I didn't even know what they were, growing up in New England, but they scared the heck out of me at six years old. Thanks for that! Actually, honestly, thanks for sparking my imagination enough to want to code my own text adventures, which began my life long love of programming.

I am so very sorry about the chiggers. I grew up with them in Florida and they were not a fun experience for me either.

I am though delighted to hear that my classic games were helpful in you understanding your own gifts! I appreciate you sharing that with me!

I can't imagine how many future developers were originally inspired to learn programming by playing your games. A text adventure was the first thing I wanted to make when I learned BASIC on a VIC-20. Even now, I maintain an interactive fiction SDK for Ruby (https://gamefic.com). Thanks, Scott!

That is so neat. Ruby running IF is very special! Wonderful to hear you using your gift that way!

hahahha, same here- grew up in CT but my dad is from FL and he explained. It always just sounded like an epithet to me.

Here lies Scott, bitten to death by chiggers :) LOL!

I can get many of your adventures from your old website. The readme file says that four of the later adventures are in SAGA+ format and are not included because ScottFree can't play them. Since this was written 24 years ago, is there now anything that can play them and if so will you be releasing them? (I'd think that at least it should be possible to play through emulation.)

Trying to google this is harder than it seems, and shows me graphical versions that are so different between systems that they look like they were written from scratch for each system rather than using the same data format with an engine.

All my games used either my original engine or my later SAGA engine. I have since built on that engine and created CLO+# (pronounced Clopas Sharp)

The reason the later games may not be available would also be due to licensing. The licenses for the Marvel games and Buckeroo Banzai have all expired and can't be legally used anymore.

Keep searching on the internet though. There are users and user groups still playing them :)

I was referring to this text from the 0readme.txt:

>Most of the "later" and "Marvel" games were published in SAGA+ format (with a better parser). These versions are not included because ScottFree cannot play them yet. The following games were available in SAGA+ format:

When I searched for SAGA+, I found almost no evidence (outside that readme) that "SAGA+ format" is even a thing that really exists, let alone that any particular version of the game is in that format or that anyone has written a parser that can parse it.

Also, it lists three licensed games and Sorcerer of Claymorgue Castle in SAGA+, which sounds as though it's not licensed, and should be releaseable.

I believe ScummVM supports many of Scott's games.

Gargoyle supports all engines and the text rendering it's far better.

Hi Scott. I started playing parser based IF less than a month ago. I find it so immersive that the only parallel I have for the experience is high quality VR. I love it so much that I wrote my own parser engine 2 weeks ago and I have some ideas for side projects to revive the genre.

Thanks for helping to create these!

Are you aware at the moment of any interesting developments in the “text games for people with vision problems” field?

My Return To Pirate Island 2 (turn of the century), the Inheritance (2013) were blind compatable.

I also released Escape The Gloomer on Alexa (fully audio only)

Currently working on making AdventurelandXL (www.AdventurelandXL.com) Windows screen reader compatable as well.

I tried the Gloomer last night (steam version). The audio is exceptional

I agree with similar level of immersion, I actually think a lot of parser IF would translate to VR well (at a much greater cost). I thought that Andrew Plotkin's dual transform might make for a good VR game, for example https://eblong.com/zarf/if.html

You may like using Inform6 instead of writting your own parser. Most verbs and room behaviours are already implemented:


Very neat indeed but I am partial to my own engine as I know it so well and can tweak it to do exactly what I need :)

Part of the fun is making the engine and figuring out how the games work under the hood. The world model is surprisingly simple and flexible in these games. Learning about this style of world model gave me some ideas for other projects

You can make an v3 z-machine interpreter in weeks :).

It's wonderful to see the GOOD Scott Adams here on Hacker News! I can still crisply remember the places and frames of mind I was in while walking around and solving puzzles in your worlds.

How do you think Adventure games are like the Method of Loci, or Memory Palaces, in that they can help you remember and retrieve vast amounts of information geographically?


What do you think the world be like if an Adventure-like geographical Memory Palace oriented user interface had taken over the world instead of MS-DOS and Unix and Windows?

Your adventure programs and others were monumental to my development as a programmer, and define how I think about code and programming and organizing information.

By playing adventure games, I finally reverse engineered the "Adventure Algorithm" for keeping track of rooms and connections and objects and inventory.

Then I wrote my own adventures and parsers and maps in BASIC and FORTH, and my first commercial program was a Logo implementation of Adventure for C64 Terrapin Logo.


At first I played all of your adventures as well as Microsoft Adventure on my Apple ][, and mainframe Adventure on a terminal to my mom's work, and that led me to the ARPANET to play Zork at MIT, and even MUD at Essex University, then TinyMud at CMU, and MOOs, and LambdaMOO at PARC.

I keep returning to that essential idea of a map of rooms connected by doors, and I kept reimplementing it on different platforms, each time a little different and a little better, as technology advanced.

I developed a user interface technique called "pie menus", which are menus with their items arranged in a circle around the cursor, each in a different direction, so you can select them by moving in different directions, even gesturing quickly without looking at the screen.


>The Design and Implementation of Pie Menus: They’re Fast, Easy, and Self-Revealing. Don Hopkins. Originally published in Dr. Dobb’s Journal, Dec. 1991.

Eventually I realized that 4-item and 8-item pie menus are the essential elements of an Adventure map, as long as you think of "menus" as rooms in a map with two-way links that you can move back and forth through, instead of a hierarchal tree of menus with one-way exits!

So I made series of graphical Adventure map editors that were also pie menu editors if you looked at them right, because rooms behaved just like pie menus: you can move back and forth between rooms with quick pie menu gestures: up, down, left, right, diagonal.

And you can also edit the map of rooms by simply dragging the rooms around and bumping them up against each other to make and break connections.

And an editable navigable map like that is essentially a "Memory Palace" that you can build and navigate in your imagination, to help you spatially remember anything.

It's a computerized note taking application that still works when you're away from your computer and forgot your phone, since you can remember geographical relationships easily, and memorize facts and lists with the Method of Loci.

>'the method of loci', an imaginal technique known to the ancient Greeks and Romans and described by Yates (1966) in her book The Art of Memory as well as by Luria (1969). In this technique the subject memorizes the layout of some building, or the arrangement of shops on a street, or any geographical entity which is composed of a number of discrete loci. When desiring to remember a set of items the subject 'walks' through these loci in their imagination and commits an item to each one by forming an image between the item and any feature of that locus. Retrieval of items is achieved by 'walking' through the loci, allowing the latter to activate the desired items. The efficacy of this technique has been well established (Ross and Lawrence 1968, Crovitz 1969, 1971, Briggs, Hawkins and Crovitz 1970, Lea 1975), as is the minimal interference seen with its use.

Here's the first iteration called "DreamScape", which I demonstrated in 1995 at WWDC:


>1995 Apple World Wide Developers Conference Kaleida Labs ScriptX DreamScape Demo. Apple Worldwide Developers Conference. Don Hopkins, Kaleida Labs.

The second iteration was called "MediaGraph", for making and navigating maps of music, which I implemented in Unity3D:


>MediaGraph Demo. MediaGraph Music Navigation with Pie Menus. A prototype developed for Will Wright’s Stupid Fun Club.

The most recent iteration was called "iLoci", an iPhone app:


>iPhone iLoci Memory Palace App, by Don Hopkins @ Mobile Dev Camp. A talk about iLoci, an iPhone app and server based on the Method of Loci for constructing a Memory Palace, by Don Hopkins, presented at Mobile Dev Camp in Amsterdam, on November 28, 2008.

Your Adventure games inspired me, and I hope we can inspire others to build even better ways of creating and elaborating information maps, easily navigating and editing them with gestures, capturing and communicating ideas and information, writing and telling interactive stories, and generally augmenting human memory and intelligence.

Hi Don!

Wow, I am still reading through your amazing accomplishments. I love it! Give me a few minutes to finish reading your post!

OK, I am blown away at your creativity and ideas. I am aware of Memory Palaces and you certainly make an excellent tie-in with adventure game handling.

Absolutely incredible. Thanks so much for sharing all that! It certainly helps spur my own creative juices!

Happy Adventuring!

I know Memory Palaces work for me because I can so vividly remember my times in the palaces and castles and fun houses that you built! Thanks!

The Method of Loci (aka a "Memory Palace") is not just some woo hoo pseudo-science bullshit like "Neurolinguistic Programming" or "Dianetics" -- it's the real thing, a very old, well proven idea.

It actually and measurably works, it used to be taught as a part of a classical education for thousands of years until it was banned by the Puritans in 1584 for evoking "bizarre and irrelevant" imagery, and it's still regularly and successfully used by many memory contest champions to recall faces, digits, and lists of words.

Mnemonics was seen as dangerous and magical and heretical back in the Medieval world... And they were right, fortunately: Dangerous magic that works by evoking bizarre and irrelevant imagery can be quite useful as well as entertaining!


HN discussions about it:


>juliend2 on Jan 19, 2020 | parent | context | favorite | on: Nototo – Build a unified mental map of notes

>It's called the Method of loci: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Method_of_loci

>Another term for that is the "memory palace".

>BTW, I wonder if anyone here in HN used it to learn significant things using this method?

>netsharc on Jan 19, 2020 | next [–]

>I first learned about memory palaces in the book Hannibal, named after the character in Silence of the Lambs [0], but the description there is of a lavish imaginary palace inside your mind you can wander in. I did use this technique to try to remember some physics formulae for an exam once, in my memory palace there was a room with giant equations.

>This website is a bit of a let-down for me since it's just a bird's eye view, it would be cool to create a palace using a 3d game engine, with signs that point to things like physics formulae, and then some Sims or Google-Sketchup-like tool to add objects that you want to remember.

>[0] The relevant excerpt about Hannibal's memory palace: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/illusion-chasers/hannib... , it describes a painting that he uses to remember the fictional address "3327 Tindal, Arlington VA 22308".

>todd8 on Jan 19, 2020 | prev | next [–]

>Hans-Lukas Teuber[1] was the head of the psychology department and my professor for the intro psychology class at MIT. He gave one two-hour evening lecture per week, which were delivered without notes. The lectures were riveting, they were given in MIT's largest lecture hall; it was standing room only to hear him speak--many students and faculty would attend even though not enrolled. I don't remember ever hearing a better live lecture than those that he gave (and I've heard many lectures--I spent more years at university than Belucci's character in Animal House). He used the memory palace method to remember his lecture's organization.

>[1] http://www.nasonline.org/publications/biographical-memoirs/m...

>DonHopkins on Jan 19, 2020 | prev | next [–]

>I visualize and remember code that way. For me, it's hard to forget somewhere I've been, even if I only imagined being there.

>Each function is a little building like an office or a shop, which has a sign out front telling what services or products it sells, and contains everything inside you need to solve some kind of problem or produce some kind of product or service (where equipment in the room is like references to other objects and functions and imported libraries).

>You're standing behind the front counter, just about to receive a customer though the front entrance door with the parameters you need for one particular instance of that problem.

>You go into the back room, solve the problem, then deliver the results out the exit door at the back of the building (or through any of the other earlier emergency exits, if you had to exit prematurely or throw an error and run away).

>The front/back flow is a metaphor for the top/bottom flow of control through a function.


>If you squint you can see the example Nassi-Shneiderman diagram in that article as a map of a building, with its front at the top, and exit at the bottom.

>You can have internal hallways and rooms for branches and loops, like a Nassi-Shneiderman diagram. The "Sub to Determine Wiki-Article" room is like the front entrance lobby of a theater where buy your ticket. The "Select Favourite Genre" room is like the stage of The Price is Right, and you get to pick what's behind door #1 (History), #2 (Science), or # (Geography), or else choose Other. They each have one or two rooms behind them with your rewards, and then they all finally exit out to the same back stage loading dock, where you take your wonderful prize (or consolation donkey) home.

>kruasan on Jan 19, 2020 | prev [–]

>I once memorized 200 digits of pi when I had nothing more fun to do on a long boring lecture. Sherlock popped into my mind, so I imagined a journey through my house where I chunked numbers to make them represent certain things or people, and me interacting or talking with them, like in a story of some sort. But it feels like I never applied this method to anything significant, apart from memorizing a few things from my biochemistry course. Although now I remember credit card numbers, every single phone number of my friends and family (by associating numbers with particular facial features or character traits), and some other things. I would say before that day I never fully realized just how much I actually like to memorize stuff like words and numbers. Anyway, I think everyone should give it a try, this is fun.

Thank you for sharing that. It is always wonderful to know God used my gift to uplift others! Keep creating and achieving my friend!

Teuber’s lectures were absolutely compelling. Unfortunately they dated to an era when videos of lectures were extremely rare and they were pretty much never archived in any case.

It does sound like he had an amazing gift. I am so glad you were able to hear him live!

It strikes me as kind of a bummer that I'm not aware of anybody making a shell that functions as a MUD-like text interface.

I suppose directions would get very monotonous and negate some of the implementation. . .

The file system and namespace could be like a sprawling map of rooms containing objects that could contain other objects, instead of a strictly hierarchical tree.

I just found out about containers and doors world models and it was really fun to read how you’ve used them here today. I’m going to try out that ui building approach

What's a question you've always wanted to be asked?

Oh you are an excellent interviewer! No one has ever asked that one of me.

Probably thing I love the share the most is how amazed I was to find out the Creator of the Universe and is real and that He actually cares about me.

A subject I am now always williing to share but not many inquire about it.

Thanks for sharing! Were you able to put that into any of your games in one way or another? I am a hobbyist gamedev and am struggling to find a way that doesn't come off as "in your face".

Best one I did in that area was The Inheritance. It requires you to read and show you understand some bible verses. You don't have to agree with them but you do need to comprehend what they are saying.

Wanted to say thanks for many hours of puzzling and enjoyment with my brothers growing up. I always appreciated that the puzzles you created had logical solutions, though I confess we also examined the strings embedded in the programs for clues!

And I remember being stuck and playfully trying to jump into a certain ravine and realizing that instead I had just found out how to get across it (I guess it was a smaller ravine than I had imagined). Another poster mentioned learning "flotsam & jetsam" - I also learned calliope - though not how to pronounce it.

But I think we never completed The Golden Voyage - I should see if I can convince my children raised with Minecraft and HD games to give your adventures a shot. This is good timing, as my family often plays older games over Thanksgiving.

If you want to try something special see about playing www.EscapeTheGloomer.com or wwww.AdventurelandXL.com with them as a group. They are more forgiving than my classic games and designed with more modern audiences :)

Thank you for making such wonderful adventure games!

Will your games ever be ported directly to app stores or game stores such as XBOX Live? I think you would get thousands of new fans.

Any updates on your Lyme resources?

HI! I don't have any plans of putting my classic (or new adventure games) on XBox as they don't really lend themselves to console play. You really need a keyboard to enjoy them. Though I do have one game on Alexa www.EscapeTheGloomer.com

www.lyme-resource.com is still around but I haven't updated in some time. Most folks tend to be more focused on Covid than Lyme. Yet Lyme is still a deadly killer that is often misdiagnosed.

Have you ever played a modern IF game made in Inform6/7? The modern ones from the IF Archive for the Z-Machine, I mean.


Sorry to say other than the original Zork etc I have not. In general I have stayed away from other text based adventures so as not to accidentally copy some one else's puzzle or idea in one of my own games.

Wow, your stuff looks amazing and I can't believe I've never heard of you. I can't wait to dive in.

I came of age in the Infocom era. Do you know any of those guys? (Brian Moriarty, Steve Meretzky...)

Hi! Happy to make a new friend. My classic games were fun but tiny due to the 16k limits I had to work with. Be sure and check out some of my newer games as well www.clopas.net

I don't think I have never had the pleasure to interact with Brian or Steve but I greatly respect their work!

What's it like to share a name with the comic?

It's been interesting. I have a personal sig that reads:

Not Dilbert, Adventure! Say yoho and everything spins around and suddenly I'm elsewhere...

Hi, Scott! Fun to see you here :)

Great to see you as well. From the short handle I suspect you are one of my long term Italian friends! Am I correct? If so cool!

If not, then I am happy to make a new friend!

Now I know who you are! You gave some excellent advice on a project I was working on! Nice to see you here as well!

I was really honored for a chance to talk with one of computer gaming's true pioneers, Scott Adams. His text adventure games launched an entire game genre and influenced and inspired a lot of other programmers and game developers.

If you read the interview and come away thinking, "why didn't he ask him about X?", today's your lucky day, because Scott has graciously agreed to stop by here and answer a few questions. He's new to HN, so be sure and give him a warm welcome!

Ned I really appreciate the interview you did! And this opportunity here, because of it, to connect with so many cool folks.

Thanks Scott - I'm really enjoying sitting back and reading all the great discussions you've been having here and interesting questions people have, nothing makes me happier as a writer than to be able to spark something like that.

To piggyback on MPSimmons’ question, have you played any of the interactive fiction from the 1995 revival on?

I read in your interview that you consider your company Clopas as a ‘company of Christians’, rather than a ‘Christian company’, and that you make games “[which] God can use in His glory to uplift people..”

Can you discuss more about what ‘uplift’ means to you, and how it’s reflected in your games? What’s an example of a non-uplifting game/mechanic?

I’m not a Christian, but I find this idea a fascinating one. My mind first goes to something like RDR2, which while perhaps not uplifting in the traditional sense, reminded me of the awe of natural beauty (or God’s creation, if you prefer). Or do you mean more like - the game somehow inspires the player to be a better person, for various definitions of ‘better’?

Thanks for taking the time today!

You raise execellent questions. Thanks for asking!

To me uplift means to leave the player in a better state than when they started.

To bring them closer to God's Glory and plan for their life. To see the Universe and as an incredible place to be and to see Life as an incredible gift from our most awesome and loving Creator.

I am looking forward to an eternity of exploration, discovery and insprired creation due to the agency of my savior and friend Jesus.

I did miss your first part of your questions and appologize.

In most cases I have not played most IF that is out there. Though Myst stands out as an incredible exception to that. But it of course was mostly non-verbal and delight to eyes.

Part of the reason of not playing many is a reticence to accidentally steal a puzzle idea (via absortion as it were) and the other is simply I have way more fun writing, coding and designing :)

Scott Adams wrote a simple interpreter which could be implemented in BASIC or Assembly Language for his games.


This was like the Infocom interpreter (e.g. "Zork") but more specialized to writing games.

Yes that is correct! I had a lot of fun inventing it and was able to do some interesting things with it. Every adventiure game I wrote I tried to do something different that I hadn't done before.

The Z-Machine was made for games, too. And the then new Inform6 game was basically literal OOP with rooms, objects and people, thus making an adventure can be done in really trivial ways.

If you read up Inform's Beginner Guide you'll get amazed of how the Inform6 library handles lots of stuff for you. Lots of verbs and objects types are already implemented, so you can set a game "room" for example in just four words split into two lines.

Nowadays there's also PunyInform, an Inform 6 library that replaces the standard library. Programming for it is very similar, but the resulting games are much smaller and faster, to work well on 8-bit computers. https://github.com/johanberntsson/PunyInform

There's currently a jam going on. Three PunyInform games have been released, and anyone can play and judge them at https://itch.io/jam/punyjam-2/entries . One of the games (Opportunity) comes with source code too, so you can see how it works, if you're interested.

Yeah, I know Punyinform too, I already tried some game under Vice (C64 emu).

I am curious about Tristan Island, it looks like a decent game for an v3 Z-machine.

It is! I'm about halfway through it. $4 is a bargain. Just get it.

A link for anyone who cares: https://hlabrande.itch.io/tristam-island

Just a quick note that I am off to meet family flying in for Thanksgiving. I will continue to reply to this thread later this afternoon.

I am back for a bit and trying to catch up with all the amazing comments on this thread. You folks are super!

Hi Scott! Do you have any thoughts on how hard it is to come up with original adventure game puzzles and what your process is here?

When I was looking at this once, I noticed there's a lot of puzzles that are shared between recent adventure games that you can find in older adventure games too e.g. screwdriver + screws, rusty door + oil, distract an NPC so you can steal something. Instead of this being from lack of originality, I think instead there's some limits on how many puzzle like this exist because they have to be common sense + not completely obvious + involve physical object manipulation + use common objects. I think this is one of the reasons a lot of recent adventure games and escape room games devolve into doors with abstract logic problems to unlock them. Alternatively, they need to introduce new mechanics to widen the design space, like adding time travel or magic.

My process has always been one of inspiration from a higher power.

I would place a location, think of obvious items for the locations and then pretend I was there. What would I try to do and why? Then I would sit and think about it.

I also enjoyed putting it in front of beta testers and seeing what new and unique things they might try that I would want to incorporate into the game.

A big tip of the hat to Neil Novak one of my classic game testers from whom I got a lot of great inspiration!

As far as new puzzles go I hope you try the new section I wrote for Adventureland XL. I have a large number of new puzzles and one that I am especially happy with that went in a direction I hadn't done before.

To get into the XL section of Adventureland you do first need to complete the base game and it has changed a bit with a few new puzzles of its own. You can never loose so don't ever start over. Just keep playing and let me know what you think :)

Most of IF games have puzzless very different from the ones from the graphical adventures as the text medium can set really complex interactions.

Check out All Things Devour and Vicious Cycles, both have time travel mechanics.

> Most of IF games have puzzless very different from the ones from the graphical adventures as the text medium can set really complex interactions.

I used to think this but do you think most text adventures wouldn't work as graphical adventures? Most text adventure puzzles I see are "USE X ON Y" (or the verb required is obvious), nothing complex, the same as graphical adventures. I think All Things Devours would work, except it might have to be turn based.

> Check out All Things Devour and Vicious Cycles, both have time travel mechanics.

Are there good examples without time travel, magic, cartoon logic, sci-fi etc.? My theory is something like this has to be introduced because there just aren't enough interesting "USE X ON Y" style puzzles that haven't been seen before or are too silly/obscure e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat_hair_mustache_puzzle.

How about The Edifice, which won the XYZZY Award for Best Puzzles and for Best Individual Puzzle?


The puzzle that won it the Best Individual Puzzle award in one where you need to learn enough of a foreign (invented) language to ask a person for critical information.

This seems like another one that has to include a unique mechanic on top of common object manipulation to make the latter more interesting? I'll look at it more closely though.

I know of https://ifdb.org/viewgame?id=aearuuxv83plclpl and https://ifdb.org/viewgame?id=w5s3sv43s3p98v45 that use language and wordplay as well.

Well this is far from wordplay.

I don't get what you think makes a text adventure puzzle less worthy.

A puzzle should work well in the medium that it's presented. A complicated math puzzle that you suddenly need to solve in Call of Duty is pretty useless. A puzzle where you need to recognize patterns in an image, presented in a text adventure where the image is just described in (many) words is equally bad. A puzzle in a text adventure that's about words and language seems like a great fit.

I'm probably not making myself clear. Thanks for the examples and all these text adventures are very worthy showcases of good puzzles that take advantage of the medium in a clever way, and modern IF games are really cool.

My pondering is about how far you can take text adventure design if the designer _intentionally limits themselves_ to object manipulation puzzles based in the real world. My feeling was early text adventures explored this to a limit, which is why all the interesting modern IF examples usually have some twist or layer on top. I'm not saying that's a bad thing either, I just find understanding the limits of how far you can push a certain design restriction interesting.

Specifically, I was looking into if you could get a computer to randomly generate interesting text adventure puzzles by feeding it metadata on common objects and how they interact. My feeling eventually was this was unlikely to generate something surprising as it needs more layers.

I'm really interested to see more text adventure games that push complex NPC interactions (The Edifice looks like a great example, thanks!) as most e.g. movies, TV shows and book plots are based around characters interacting and manipulating each other, over interacting with objects.

EDIT: wrong parent.

On the text adventure puzzles, most people began with Zork, so they arent used to modern IF made with Inform against the Z-Machine, were text puzzless can be far from use x on y.

I actually figured out the format for Scott Adams adventures and created a Scott Adams port of the “Cloak of Darkness” mini adventure, as well as my own small adventure game, Desert adventure, which can be played online at https://samiam.org/software/parchment/desert.html

Downloads follow.

Cloak of Darkness: https://samiam.org/software/parchment/Cloak-Scott.zip

Desert adventure: https://samiam.org/software/parchment/desert-scott.zip

So cool you were able to do that! Big congratulations on taking it to the next level and making your own games! Love it!

> desert.html

Issuing two "go north" commands causes the page to go completely blank in mobile Safari.

Works for me (Firefox, Windows).

Try this URL: https://samiam.org/software/parchment/desert-smartphone.html

(The version of Parchment I use is somewhat unusual because I had to be 100% GPL compliant)

Thanks for sharing your story Scott. Back when you wrote your early games, what were your toolchain and development process?

Really good question!

I was working on a TRS-80 Level II machine (this was a model 1 before there wer models). It was my first home appliance computer, before that I had homebrews. It came with Microsoft Basic.

I had only used tiny basic up until then and wanted to play with strings. It sounded neat to be able to manipulate language with them.

I wrote a game language, a compiler for the language, and an interpreter for the language to play the game, all in BASIC.

I also wrote Adventureland (my first game) at the same time. Adding features to the tools and the game as I was inspired.

Much later I converted the BASIC interpreter into Z80 assembler to be able to give me more memory. The entire game with interpreter had to fit in 16K bytes!

Very interesting, thanks. I wonder whether you distributed those early commercial games as BASIC source on tape.

Adventureland and Pirate Adventure were both originally done in BASIC and the interpreter with the compiled language (it reduced it to numbers) was on the tape. I did have some extremely clever folks reverse engineer my language and then write games in it! Hat tip to Alvin Files and William Demas amongst others!

Pirate Adventure was the first game I had on my Atari 800. I really loved it. I still remember coming across the terms "pieces of eight" and "flotsam and jetsam" and having to ask my mom what they meant. I seem to recall it was my first encounter with the the word "flat" meaning apartment. My vocabulary was thus improved by your work. Thanks!

Yes those were all terms I used in my game! I loved reading and had a good vocubulary that I liked to use when it seemed appropriate :)

I am happy you have such good memories of my classic games! Have you tried any of my new ones?

I have to admit I haven't, but since you're asking nicely, I will look into them. Cheers! :-)

Please let me know what you think about them feedback@clopas.net

Got it, thanks again.

Oh yeah, the TRS-80 Level II was much fancier and more powerful than the Level I, by far! Level I BASIC was pretty cheesy. Good call. ;) I bet you even had an Expansion Interface, huh?

This is giving me childhood flashbacks at this point. I did indeed have a Model I TRS-80 with an Expansion Interface, albeit LNW's third-party one. And I remember typing in the BASIC version of "Adventureland" from Captain 80's Book of Basic Adventures -- which was in the news again recently, crazily enough, due to former whiz kid TRS-80 programmer and later columnist/editor Harry McCracken finding and fixing a typo in the adventure he contributed to that.

And, yes, I wrote one or two text adventures which had the split screen interface -- current room, objects, and exits on the top, while commands and their responses scrolled on the bottom -- that I'm pretty sure Scott Adams pioneered. (Mine were very bad.)

Yes the Bob Lidil book was very special. I also saw the conversation on Harry's old game. That was a fascinating story. Amazing after all these years.

I did indeed. I had one of the earliest expansion interfaces and disk drive. It had severe noise on the bus cable which caused no end of problems! They finally came out with a field service repair for it.

Did you have an office in Longwood FL, near Sabal Point in the 80s?

If so, I fondly remember dumpster diving into your trash dumpster w other neighborhood kids in search of games or whatever.


Yes I did! It was one of 3 in the greater orlando area. AI Computer Center.

I have since heard from other new friends that were also kids back then dumpster diving at the store. Apparently a lof treasures found new homes in the local area. Very neat!

Did you know a Brian, Jonathan, Rob or Kevin perhaps?

One of my partners in crime was named John Taylor.

Lol yes I chatted today with him :)


Cool indeed!

For new folks like myself, Scott Adams is a prolific game designer: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Adams_(game_designer)

Thanks for putting up the link! Great to make a new friend btw!

Happy Adventuring!

Scott, what was the thinking behind publishing the source code to some of your early games in magazines (at a time when you could still sell them profitably)? It obviously worked out well, but it sounds like a bold step to take.

I was approached by Byte Magazine to do a feature article for them. I included my game source code in it as I wanted to share the technology I had developed with others.

Sadly there were a number of typos when they transcribed it into the magazine. Yet many people were able to press through and debug it to get it work which was pretty amazing.

My thought was we are all standing on the shoulder's of those who went before us. By helping each other we build towards a better future.

I have received a load of fan mail over the years from folks who have now gone from being fans to being friends. One of the major threads in most of the emails was how my games or gaming systems made a big impact on their life.

There are literally a number of very well known gaming companies now, who's founders have written me about how my early games were an ispiration for them.

I had no idea at the time, but God was using me through the gift He gave me to inpsire others. It is wonderful to be able to see that happen!

> My thought was we are all standing on the shoulder's of those who went before us. By helping each other we build towards a better future.

Inspired by this comment, just wanted to share this with you:


Still in development (first time sharing the site!) — in any case, thought it might resonate!

Oh that is really cool! Thanks for sharing it. I signed up!

Hey folks take a look!

Thank you so much, deeply appreciated! Feel free to pass on / use as you like!

Scott, I am curious about the genesis of your game language interpreter. Did you have a background in building interpreters / compilers before going in this direction?

I always looked at a computer issue as a challenge. How can I best handle it.

My brother built a 32 bit computer from bit slice chips, my other brother made a tv typewriter IO for it. I was the one who was going to program it. So I made a game.

I had no compiler, not even an assembler or linker. I had to write it in psuedo assembler and then hand assemble and link the code.

One issue I discovered early on was I made mistakes and it made lots of branch statements invalid if things moved. Not having a linker I devised a system where i put a jump table at the top of every module and then all other modules accesed that module via it's jump table. Just an example of approaching a problem.

I had the first ever Sphere computer (look them up! Amazing machine) It was a text only screen and I wanted to write a graphic game for it. So I designed an built my own graphics card, designed and built tank controllers for 2 players and wrote a tank war game for 2 players.

I never saw problems as a wall to walk away from, I saw them as an incredible chance to do something different to be able to scale it.

So when it came to writing a text adventure on a machine with tiny memory I had to get creative. I had not done anything like this before and i was just insprired to do the game, the language, the compiler and the interpreter all at the same time. It just felt right :)

I continue to push myself over walls and today I use Unity, C# and continue to do things that aren't supposed ot be possible.

For example www.finalPilot.com has an underlying network communication package I derived because I couldnot find a current solution that would totally fit the problem domain. It had to work on both UDP and WebGL with the same code base. It was a lot of fun coming up with a working system. WE are in the process of soon starting a new game with some new challenges and its network system will be much different from what Final Pilot uses.

Sorry if I rambled a bit and happy to fill in more details if needed.

I read or heard you talk about Mike Wise's Sphere before. I wish there was more information about it available online. I know there was a BASIC for it before Microsoft or Tiny BASIC came along. Did you have BASIC on the Sphere? How did it compare to other BASICs?

Any other info about the Sphere would be appreciated. I know BYTE magazine called it the first true personal computer.

Yes I had a version of tiny Basic I loaded from cassette for Z80. The sphere was first advertised in back of Radio Electronics in a small box ad. I think it was around June in mid 70s.

It cost if I remember correctly $850 or so. For that it would come with cassette IO, 512 bytes of ROM, a video monitor and case. The boards were on a backplane (inside) with room for expansion. There was also of course a power supply.

This was a kit and not assembled.

At the time Mike did NOT have any inventory and was winging it! I found out later I was his very first order. Also they did a "what do you use your Sphere for" annual contest which I won with my Tank War game and my design for a graphics card. I even sent them a super 8 video of the game play. Sadly lost as I sent my only copy.

That price got you an unassmbled kit. Also at

Hi Scott, for the TI-99/4A versions of your games, did you handle the development of the ROM cartridge? What was that like? Did you have to split up any of your code to separate the game engine from the adventures themselves?


I did the entire programming of obth of the TI cartrige games, the text adventure cartridge (read in the games from cassette) and the special made-for-TI graphical text adventure in a cartridge: Return to Pirates Island.

My game language interpreter was already separate from games written in my adventure language. So putting the interpreter on the cartridge was not very difficult. See one of the other threads on this AMA for more information about that!

I acutally have a TI/99 still today. It is the only classic machine I have. :)

You were using good software engineering principles way back then!

Now my obligitory fanboying: Those text adventures were an important part of my formative years. They inspired me to learn how to write more advanced programs, because I desperately wanted to create my own text adventures. My first one was a gigantic, unwieldy tree of if/then/else statements, and that painful experience led me to more learn advanced data structures and concepts.

I am so glad my classic games were such a great inspiration for you!

To Mr. Adams - what sort of games would you make today if you were starting from scratch?

Hi! Please feel free to call me Scott!

Well I am still making games and some from scratch :)

See www.FinalPilot.com it is something I did for another company who had a vision and I and my team have a had a great deal of fun creating it. Still a work in progress with a major update coming out shortly.

In terms of adventure type games I am really fond of www.EscapeTheGloomer.com it tells a parallel story to book 2 of the Redwall series Mossflower. I did a lot of new things in this game. One of which is that the player is actually writing their own story as they play. The game reads as a novel as the player explores, discovers and creates.

And lastly I am currently working on www.AdventurelandXL.com which stands for Roman numeral 40 for the 40th anniversary of Adventureland and also for Extra Large.

It includes the entire base game along with an entire new section with saluates to some of the cultural myths and fantasys that I did not get to include in Advenutreland originally. It also includes what is now one of my favorite puzzle sequences (deals with the chimp in the jungle).

It is currently in early access on Steam for Windows, everyone playing it is helping make the game better for eventual final release. It is like ET and phones home after each play sesssion with the player's trace file.

The entire game is in there except for the very final scene.

I love to hear get email from folks playing it too with their impressions.

I wonder if I have played one of his games. When I was a preteen the adults in the house I lived in took a three week computer course. For the period of the course, my friend and I had access to a Commodore Pet. There was a text adventure that was kind of DnDish. A game we had recently started to play. We went through the text adventure then started to look at and play with the code changing all text to something much more juvenile...

It is possible. Adventureland was available for the Pet as was Pirate Adventure.

I still remember enjoying the TRS-80 games Scott made - I probably played 5 or 6 of them. Is there a (reasonable) way to play these games today?


Good question. My clasic games are available on a number of places on the web. You can find links to some of them on my personal web page at www.msadams.com

If you want to have a really fun experience check out www.AdventurelandXL.com which is the full original game and then something really special :)

Scott, are there any “modern” games that you feel capture the same spirit of exploration and discovery that your games embraced?

I do love exploration and discovery games. Especially with a good story line.

Some of the games that I have greatly enjoyed are (in no particular order)

Myst, Everquest (1 and 2), Dark Age of Camelot, Age of Empires, Fable, Guild Wars 2, Baldurs Gate, Half Life, Valheim (currently playing), Descent (played with two joysticks, one in each hand to give full 3D controls), Star Wars Galaxy, Sims, Call of Heroes, Ultima Online

Those adventures had been converted to the Z-Machine long ago. Get them from IF archive and you can play them anywhere.


Very cool! Thanks for the link.

Just wanted to say thanks for all the memory's. Took me weeks to get all the treasures in Return To Pirates Isle on my old TI 99/4A. Without any spoilers, finding the alarm clock took forever...

Yes the alarm clock was basically but an annoying and hopefully rewarding puzzle. It was designed to remind you that something was still unknown and also to get a great moment of AHA when solved.

Big congratulations on staying with it and solving that puzzle! By the way the alarm clock makes a return visit in my 2013 game The Inheritance.

I loved questprobe spider-man on the Commodore 64, but I didn't finish it.

Sorry you didn't get to finish it. I had a lot of fun writing that one and working with the incredible folks at Marvel!

Stupid question, how do I play these games? They sound great.

Hi check out the downloads and links section of my personal site www.msadams.com for the classic games or www.clopas.net for new ones.

(Not the Dilbert one)

Which is a good point.

Back when the internet was starting to bloom I got a nice email from Scott Adams of Dilbert.

Seems he had gotten a number of fan mails meant for me and was trying to find who to send it to. I also had a number of fan mails meant for him! We exchanged the mails and had a nice chat about it!

In the completely random department, your picture was (I think) on the cover of some Apple magazine back in the 80s (maybe SoftTalk?) and my geometry class got a great deal of enjoyment out of the fact that you and our geometry teacher could have been twins.

I could indeed been on the cover. I hope he was a good teacher. I loved geometry and it was my first exposure to solving things logical. I remember it came naturally and I aced the course. QED

> Which is a good point.

Especially as he seems to have kind of gone off the proverbial deep end with his political fanaticism in recent years...

Please don't take HN threads on generic tangents, and especially not generic flamewar tangents. They have a way of taking over and drowning out actually-interesting discussion with repetitive, nasty stuff. Therefore the site guidelines ask everyone to try to avoid them here:


Yeah, that's fair... Thanks for the feedback (and for all you do for the HN community)

If you read his books, it’s obvious he’s doing that on purpose in order to get more attention (which eventually is converted to fatter bottom line for him).

Essentially, the dude is a professional troll.

Eh... He's always had... peculiar ideas. It's just that previously his detachment from reality was mostly in relatively harmless directions ("The Secret" type stuff, lack of belief in gravity, etc). I would buy that his current delusions might be genuine.

Totally agree, but it really felt like he had drunk his own kool-aid at times.

First rule of drugs and propaganda: Don't get high on your own supply.

If this is true (I honestly don't know) then he's a master of the craft.

And also unbelievably cynical, but looking at his work it's obvious that this is the case.

Are you implying that makes it better? Because I couldn't disagree more. It's one thing if someone just holds different political opinions, it's another to see problems in the world, acknowledge their cause, and fan the flames anyway. Things like posting that Republicans are likely to be hunted [1] if Biden wins are the sort of thing that led to a literal coup attempt.

[1] https://twitter.com/ScottAdamsSays/status/127830983545328435...

If you examine the news he covers he’s pretty balanced with slightly more left than right (both hover around 40%).

Ground news has a tool for breaking down Twitter news users interact with called Blindspotter. Kinda neat seeing how much independent media and bias is consumed. Not affiliated just a happy user.

I think he'll probably recover. Satirists are among the best equipped of us to get out of these kinds of holes.


Posting like this to HN will get you banned here, even if you hadn't gotten your Scott Adamses mixed up.

You may not feel you owe someone better, but you owe this community far better if you're participating in it. If you'd please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and stick to the rules in the future, we'd appreciate it.

Edit: turns out I had to warn you about posting personal attacks just a couple days ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=29311314. No more of this, please, or we'll have to ban you. Please don't post any more flamewar comments, either—for example like https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=29259077. All this is emphatically not what the site is for, and is not welcome here.

Edit 2: I've detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=29335724 and hope that Scott hasn't seen how rude you were, so we can all feel slightly less ashamed of this.

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