Original Text Adventure Source Code Examined

You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike.

The original text adventure game, ADVENT, was written in the mid-1970s by Stanford student Will Crowther. This game begat Zork, then King’s Quest, then any number of other adventure games on various computer platforms until the present day, when Second Life and World of Warcraft are scarcely recognisable as its descendants.

ADVENT is still around and has been ported to pretty much every machine in use today. But this is a late version of the game, expanded and beefed up by Don Woods. Crowther’s original version has long been considered lost. Yet now it has risen from the vaults, resurrected from 197670s backup tapes containing Crowther’s Woods’s student account!

Dennis G. Jerz has now published a long, thorough, well-illustrated study of the ur-version of ADVENT, comparing it both to the Woods version of the game and to the Colossal Cave in Kentucky that inspired Crowther’s game world. Seriously cool stuff!

Via Du är vad du läser.

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7 thoughts on “Original Text Adventure Source Code Examined

  1. Archeology on “ancient” source code? wow… great!

    What struck me most was that it was only 30 years ago, and that it was almost lost (and for so log). How will we be remembered in a thousand years? Maybe by our nuclear power plants, but not much else. (tip: the book “World without us” from Weisman is an interesting and sobering read).


  2. Yes, I knew. I was just trying to plug it again (both your review and the book itself), because it was … awesome.

    For those interested, Scientific American ran an article with some nice artist renditions in their July issue, and they interviewed the author on their “Science Talk” weekly podcast (http://www.sciam.com), somewhere in July.


  3. I agree – this is cool stuff. I thought the article made great reading. And seeing the remains of the well house and some of the caves in the game… Powerful!

    BTW: The student account which was on the backup tape belonged to Don Woods. That’s why it also featured Woods’ earliest efforts in adding to the game.


  4. Thanks, Martin, for your kind words. Crowther was actually an employee at Bolt Beranek and Newman when he wrote the game, not a Stanford student. Crowther had attended MIT in the 50s.


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