InsideADRIFT ISSN 1743-0577
Issue 17 July 2004
News and announcements.
1. Main news (Mystery steers
OARS in new direction)
1. Competition news
(Summer Minicomp; 3 Hour
Game Competition; IF Art Comp;
Intro Comp)
2. Forum news.
Regular features
2. Editorial
2. Drifters birthdays
3. Events diary
2. Drifters toolbox: Ad-aware
Standard Edition
6. ADRIFT recent releases
6. Interview: Mystery
The (big) idea by KF
: Will there
ever be a successful ADRIFT
collaborative project.
3. “Storytelling In ADRIFT” by
Daniel Hiebert (Tech)
Failed game intro: none!
9. The Hobbit & Tower of Despair
(for Spectrum); “A day at the
office” by David Whyld (Reviewed
by Erik)
17. Manual: Synonyms
Issue Details: July 2004
Issue 17 (Vol 2 no 8)
Editor KF
Issue 18 due out 31 Jul 04
News and announcements
Mystery steers O.A.R.S. in new direction
Mystery has spent a lot of her time lately working on a revival of
NickyDude’s old Online ADRIFT Reference site (O.A.R.S). After
spending a bit of time on a standard type of website, she has now
begun to work on a website based within a message board.
The new site has the advantage of being fairly straightforward to
create as the structure of the board is already there (although it
has been modelled to give a fun adventure style to it). I hope this
style works as I had something to do with the decision and am
working on a similar development for the InsideADRIFT site.
One of the major pluses of working like this is that users can
become part of the community and can easily add their
comments on the site and their own contributions. To take a look
at the impressive amount of information that is already available,
go to
Competition news roundup
InsideADRIFT Summer Minicomp 2004
Although the competition judging is still several weeks away, I
hope that the early announcement of the competition format has
stimulated people to think about their entries.
The Three-Hour Game Competition
This basically follows the rules of the previous one-hour
competitions, but this time, you must make your game in THREE
HOURS or less (give or take ten minutes). Brief planning on
paper is allowed - writing it in over three hours then copying it into
the Generator in two minutes is not; Game must be made in
three hours or less; A minimum of two entries is required;
Entries can be made with either v3.90 or v4; Anyone can donate
a prize!; You may enter as many entries as you wish.
The deadline for entries is 30th June 2004. Entries must be sent
InsideADRIFT Issue 17 July 2004
My thanks to those DavidW,
Mystery, Tech and Erik, who
have contributed to this
newsletter. I had thought
InsideADRIFT would be a little
bit thin this issue, but there
support has produced another
bumper issue.
Is it me or has it been a really
quiet period in the ADRIFT
I don’t think it is me, there has
been very little activity in the
community. Game releases
have been minimal, although
hopefully work is going on for
the various competitions to
conclude in the next few
Send any suggestions,
requests or comments
concerning InsideADRIFT to
Find the newsletter at:
InsideADRIFT merchandise
You can now purchase an
exciting InsideADRIFT mug,
if you so desire.
The store is really not fully
operational, if you are
interested look at
Wider IF community events
IF Art Show 2004
Results of the various sections is as follows: Best of Show: Fire Tower
- Jacqueline A. Lott; Best of Still Life: Flametop - Dave Malaguti; Best
of Landscape: Swanglass - Yoon Ha Lee; Honorable Mention: The
Battle of Walcot Keep - Steve Breslin
You can download the entries and read the judges comments from:
Third IntroComp
The IntroComp is an IF competition where the aim is to write the start of
a new work of interactive fiction. The entries, which can range from a
title up to a full game, must be in by the 18
of July this year, the catch
being that to claim your prize a complete version must be release within
one year.
For complete details of the competition you should go to
Forum news
Another not overly exciting period on the forum, though there was one
of our little spats over moderation of the Adventures pages,
Drifters toolbox
Ad-aware Standard Edition reviewed by KF
This is a piece of software that we should all have and use
regularly to help or Internet connected computers run smoothly.
Here I am just referring to the freeware version, but there are also
Pro and Plus versions that you can purchase.
InsideADRIFT Issue 17 July 2004
Drifters birthdays
July 2004
2 30otsix (34)
8 syke39 (32)
9 The Mad Monk (15); mammoth
15 Tonyg (16)
17 Mel S (18)
18 ejl0007 (30)
22 nick (20); driftingon (24)
29 jonrock (51)
Events Diary
May 15, 2004
InsideADRIFT Issue 16 out
The May/June Issue of
InsideADRIFT should be out
22-29 August 2004
InsideADRIFT Summer
Minicomp 2004
There will be a Summer Minicomp
in August. Entries in 22 Aug,
judging ending 29 Aug.
So what does it do. It is a program that, when run, scans your
registry and any specified drives for any of those lovely programs
put on your computer to help the advertisers (normally without
telling you).
When you run it you will be asked if you want to check for
updates, say yes and it will normally download a new reference
file that knows about the latest sneakware.
I suspect most people will find at least 30 objects that Adaware
doesn’t like. These can be quarantined in an archive, just to
ensure there is nothing essential, then they can be removed
It would be a wise move for everyone to have a piece of software
like this around, it really is an eye opener when you see how
much it spots.
For more information, and to download Ad-Aware, go to the Lavasoft
site at
“Storytelling In ADRIFT” by Daniel Hiebert (Tech)
[The opinions in this article are those only of the author and not
necessarily of Campbell Wild (ADRIFT Author), Ken Franklin
(InsideADRIFT Editor) or anybody else in the world!]
Like a few other authors on the ADRIFT forums, I've started quite
a few more pieces of IF than I've finished. Of the couple of
pieces that I have released, I've received a few pieces of
precious feedback. Most of the critical feedback received has
been that my games have been "too hard". Many times this is
attributed to "guess-the-verb" problems and "guess-what's-in-
the-author's-mind" problems. "Guess-the-verb" problems can be
overcome with judicious use of synonyms, beta-testing and a
comprehensive task structure. Other authors have put forth their
best ideas on the "guess-the- verb" subject. What hasn't
always been talked about is how to overcome the "guess-what's-
in-the-author's mind" issue. Now, if it is your intention to be
obscure; then so be it. That's your authoring prerogative. Surely
there is someone out there that will enjoy your point of view.
However, if you find yourself producing game after game where
players continually result to your walkthrough, then you might
want to rethink your writing strategy.
Object puzzles often lend themselves to present a solution to the
player spontaneously. Experienced players get into the habit of
picking up and toting around everything not nailed down. They
do this in the off-chance that when a puzzle presents itself, they
will see a connection between what needs to be done and what
InsideADRIFT Issue 17 July 2004
The (big) idea by KF
Will there ever be a
successful ADRIFT
collaborative project.
Over the years there have
been many efforts at
bringing the strengths of
Drifters together to
collaborate on a game
project. The most
successful has probably
been the current pass
around, at least that seems
to have some life in it.
The trouble with
collaboration over distance
online is that there is no real
incentive to push on, and it
is easier to do some work
on a personal project. It
gives no real sense of
working together, as it tends
to be a loose grouping
rather than a team. Indeed
a big problem can come
where people do not
understand their role in the
team and waste effort in
someone else’s area.
In the modern games world
team working tends to have
leaders, writers, artists and
musicians, with a tightly
written specification, and a
clear knowledge of what
each is doing. DavidW did
start work on a project with
this more organized
approach in mind, but as
normally happens inertia
dragged it down.
I suspect that the fact that
most got into ADRIFT as a
role each object can be used in to solve the puzzle. If a
connection doesn't present itself, players will often attempt use of
each object in some logical way against the puzzle. There are
many tried and true copied examples of puzzles that IF players
understand how to solve. Authors do a great service to provide
at least subtle hints in the response of these actions. Many
authors do. This is a great way to guide but not push the player
towards the right answer(s).
Situational, plot or character-driven puzzles often don't present
the same natural method of trial-by-error discovery of the
answer. It is important as authors that we cover character
interaction tasks such as, "talk to <character>", "ask <character>
about <character /object /subject>"and "give/show <character>
the <object>". Given the character's knowledge, new information
can be presented to the player. Again, this can be done subtly in
order to guide the player to the answer.
Additionally, IF players are not always inclined to initially
understand that the game will be advanced by talking to a
character. Often the character might need to be written such that
the character actually prompts the player periodically to interact
with them. Default responses to movement and/or general
actions might need to remind the player what is at stake and
suggest what the player might need to do next to resolve the
current crisis/puzzle.
Finally, if your game tells a story more often than requires a
player to solve a puzzle, do not overdue the stories' detail.
Descriptive detail is really informative if you back up every noun
in your descriptions with a static object. However, the detail that
I am talking about here is story detail. Only require those tasks
that advance the plot of the story. Don't require the player to
perform every minor task in your story to keep it going. If every
minor task is required, then several issues could arise. The first
is that the flow of the story is too slow for the player. Performing
each minor task becomes annoying to the player who already
has envisioned the end result of his next three commands.
Many players may have an idea how to solve the bigger
puzzle/situation facing them. However, they may not have the
knowledge or insight on how to perform each minor step in order
to get there.
Second, Story detail has the power to complicate the
programming of your game. An example of this is a situation
where your player is an off-duty fire fighter first on the scene
responding to calls of help against a fire that just started.
If you require the player to talk to a character standing outside
the burning building to learn that there is a possible victim lost
InsideADRIFT Issue 17 July 2004
way of putting their own
ideas into an IF world
means that collaboration
isn’t a real practicality. Even
if you are good at the
graphical side of things, few
will be happy to concentrate
on the art at the expense of
writing themselves.
inside, then you've set yourself up for complications. Now add
the fact that the player has the ability to enter a call for support
from the local fire department. However, they won't arrive for
several turns. Now the player decides to enter the building to
rescue the victim on his/her own. In this situation, you may find
yourself programming multiple tasks in order to cover the cases
where the player waits for the on-duty firemen, where the
firemen show up while the player is in the burning building, or
even that the firemen show up of their own accord but the player
still doesn't know about the victim! After all, why would a silent
character outside a burning building set off any additional alerts
to the player.
Rethinking how important each command is to the plot and flow
of the story is the answer. In the case above, ensure that the
player is greeted excitedly by the character and told the
important information about the victim. This cuts down the
number of optional ways that the story can play out. Making the
secondary decision that the firemen always arrive some number
of turns after the player enters the building cuts back even more
plot branches that you may have to program for.
Another alternative to this last suggestion is to write a premature
ending to the game that cuts the player completely out of the loop
when the firefighters arrive. Couple this ending with the
undesirable outcome that the fire fighters could not reach the
victim in time and watch how fast your player jumps into the
burning building on the very next play of the game. Overuse of
this suggestion; however, can lead to the player feeling like
he/she is killed every few turns for no reason.
Critical thinkers to this approach will rightly point out that
rethinking how important each command is and incorporating
some commands automatically into player actions might lead to
more games that "run on rails". To this I say, I didn't say you
have to do this for all situations in your game. Just some of the
situations that might unnecessarily complicate your story writing
need to be changed. Nearly anything is possible in ADRIFT. It is
just a question of how long it takes you to do it and how good you
are at covering all eventualities. An author sometimes reorders,
edits and deletes scenes to improve flow and prevent confusion
in his stories. Why don't we as ADRIFT authors use the same
InsideADRIFT Issue 17 July 2004
ADRIFT recent
This will hopefully be a new
regular feature, bringing you
the details of recently
released games, as
described by their authors
on release. The details listed
here are as posted on the
ADRIFT adventures page on
Campbell’s site.
The Curse of Dragon Shrine
( 479 Kb)
By Mystery, released 10-06-04
With the weight of two worlds on
your shoulders, will you become a
hero, or just another victim of the
Curse of Dragon Shrine. *
Contains Mutimedia *
Shards Of Memory
(shardsofmemory.taf 116 Kb)
By Davidw, released 02-05-04
You awak en with no memory of
who you are or where you are yet
slowly but surely your story will
unfold. An ancient evil has
returned to the world and only
YOU have the power to stand in
its way... [winner of the ADRIFT
Spring C omp 2004] [genre: dark
fantas y]
From the Demos Page
Tracking Device
(workingtrackingdevice.taf 1
Kb) B y Mystery, released 21-
This is a demonstration of a
tracking device using a
transmitter and receiver. When all
restriction are met, it will still give
a false reading the first time
around. You can get around this
by a simple mention of a random
malfunction of the device.
Interview: Mystery questioned by KF
Mystery, I thought with all that has happened over the past year, it
was high time to interview you again.
Q1. Currently you are extremely busy both online and offline, how
are things going with the music lessons for your sons. Are you
regretting including drums in the project yet.
I don’t think they had a clue that it would actually take lots of
practice, hard work, commitment, and more practice. For now,
they are continuing with the basics, but enjoy their free time with
it more. During their free time they both have taken a liking to the
drums and are listening closely to their favorite music and trying
to learn by listening. I was a little shocked to discover they were
actually picking it up rather quickly.
I don’t regret for a second getting drums. They must have a
natural knack for it because they both can actually play a few
different beats rather than just making obnoxious noise. They are
having a great time with it, which makes me very, very happy.
Q2. O.A.R.S. has proved to be a massive project for you. Has it
been harder than you were expecting. The new integrated forum
format was something we discussed at the time, is it working out
as you had hoped.
Now I really know how NickyDude felt doing this, and have to
give him loads of credit, because without him O.A.R.S. wouldn’t
be possible. It has been a massive project, and at times very
overwhelming. I can’t even begin to tell you how much time and
frustration that has gone into getting O.A.R.S. off the ground
again. After being halfway through coding O.A.R.S. in HTML, the
forum format was a God send. It has spared me the hassle of
having to code everything by hand and is very organized. I
thought it would be best to do it this way because it would allow
ADRIFT users to share with one another the things they learn,
neat tricks, and distribute technical demonstrations of techniques.
I thought it would be more interactive.
I am hoping that people will make contributions as well as use it
as a resource. Lack of contributions is the main reason O.A.R.S.
went offline in the first place. I was hoping that people will
contribute this time, but am trying to realistic enough to know that
if they don’t, I will have build it up by myself. It wasn’t meant as a
replacement to the ADRIFT forum and site, but rather a one stop
resource. It is also very handy to have alternative downloading
locations in case one of the sites went down.
InsideADRIFT Issue 17 July 2004
Battle Zone III compendium
( 10 Kb) By
Funky Monkey, released 08-06-
Battle zone 3 compendium
features 3 games though this is
only the demo. This features 2
games, Soviets and Americans!
Room Group NPC Walk
(npcgroupwalk.taf 0 Kb) B y
Mystery, released 02-06-04
This is a small demo that
demonstrates how to get a
character to move to a random
group of rooms for a specified
amount of turns.
Q3. Your role as fount of all testing knowledge in the ADRIFT role
has landed you (in it) as main tester of the new releases of
ADRIFT. Do you believe that the need is for more testers to cover
all aspects of game testing or does a methodical approcah cover
them better. With that in mind, how is work on the testing lab
project going.
I don’t know if I’m a main tester. I think there are others that test it
too and definitely deserve credit. I would love it if there were
more testers. It would certainly take some of the work load off.
Testing is a very thorough process. Sometimes you can go days
without finding any problems, then you can get three or four in a
row and can't figure out what the problem is. You get quite
frustrated when you’ve spent hours, days, or weeks trying to
solve an issue, just to find out you made a simple mistake. I think
more testers would cut down on things like that and we could
help each other verify problems when they arise, and double
check to make sure it isn't something we created ourselves.
As you know I have started again on a file to test ADRIFT. The
problems with testing areas individually is that they don’t have a
chance to interact with other aspects of ADRIFT, as it would if it
were a complete game. So I am trying to do a complete game
that tests everything possible that can be tested in one sitting.
For some things, they will just have to be tested separately. You
also run into problems while creating a testing file in game form.
When one thing doesn’t work right, it affects several other areas
as well, regarding maintaining a plot and how you may have
intended on testing certain events, tasks, and character walks. It
can be extremely stressful and frustrating while very fun and
exciting at the same time. But when a bug does come up, it can
halt your progress completely until it is fixed. Then the testing
starts all over again.
Q4. Despite your lament about not writing games much, you have
still managed to create entries for most competitions we have
held. In conversation recently you talked about not writing games
for a while, but suggested you really wanted to do some more
graphical work
I feel terrible about entering small, rushed pieces of work, that I
normally wouldn’t even consider releasing. To be honest, I
usually do it because I hope that it will encourage more
participation from other users, (Or certain people just ask so
nicely for a contribution and I just don't want to disappoint
anyone.) I just don’t have the time to spend on writing games
while taking on O.A.R.S. and beta-testing. I do sometimes do it
because I just need a break from everything else, but the work
InsideADRIFT Issue 17 July 2004
Failed game intros
Nothing for you this issue, I
can’t share all of my game
ideas with you!
Do you have a game that has hit
the rails, but you would like to
share with the community. If so,
send it in to me.
never turns out good. It is rushed, unpolished, an my favorite
critics have a field day with it. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t
thought about quitting testing, tossing O.A.R.S. out, and just
focus on writing. But something tells me there would be
something else that would get in my way.
Graphics are something that I have always enjoyed. Even before
ADRIFT. I find it much more rewarding to create something
visual. I have seriously considered creating graphical libraries for
ADRIFT. This too would take a considerable amount of time, and
would also keep me from writing. (It almost sounds like I’m
making excuses). Truthfully, I love making my own graphics
using a variety of imaging programs and 3d utilities. To me, it
doesn’t matter if other people think they are good or not. I enjoy
it, and will continue to enjoy it even if nobody were to ever see my
Q5. If you could wave a magic wand, and bring five
improvements to ADRIFT and the ADRIFT community, what
would they be.
For me, that is an easy question. First, I would want all areas of
ADRIFT to have drag and drop reordering. Especially with NPC
Conversation subjects that rely on specific topic ordering. I think
having a built in help, like most Windows programs, would be a
must- even if it does boost the program file a bit, I think the
benefits would outweigh the file-size. Being able to create stand
alone games would be a huge leap, that I think we all want.
Conversation Trees or an overhaul of the conversation system to
allow multiple responses based on tasks, events, object states,
and other aspects- and allowing an NPC to initiate a
conversation. And last, since I can only pick five, would be to
allow full HTML capabilities for text formatting, links, images,
sound to be inserted wherever the author specified.
Q6. Actually, as I know how busy you are with other things, I
won't ask you about new games projects as I normally would. I'll
just ask if you have anything for the future that you would like to
Nope. Talking about them openly doesn’t make them a reality.
Besides, you already know about all the games I have...and have
not finished. I think I could give Mile a run for his money on
projects on the shelf.
Many thanks for answering my numpty questions for the
newsletter, Ken.
You’re very welcome. I hope I wasn’t too boring.
InsideADRIFT Issue 17 July 2004
Game reviews
Last month Jason Guest concluded his reminiscences of the
adventure games of yesteryear. In keeping with that spirit David
Whyld has provided a couple of reviews of games for the old
Sinclair Spectrum computer of the 1980s.
The Hobbit
(For Sinclair Spectrum)reviewed by David Whyld
“The Hobbit” – available from^Hobbit%2c
The storyline of the “The Hobbit” is based only loosely on the
novel of the same name by J. R. R. Tolkien. Gandalf and Thorin
act as your companions (you play the part of Bilbo the hobbit) but
none of the other dwarves show up. A fair few of the locations
from the book have made it into the game, although a number
haven’t. There is also a different ending in the game: here the
emphasis is on finding the dragon’s treasure and getting home in
one piece. There is no big battle between the dwarves and the
goblins – probably just as well because big battles are a hard
thing to handle well in a text adventure. The gold ring shows up in
the goblin caverns but isn’t necessary to the completion of the
game, although having it with you makes things considerably
Back in the days when interactive fiction (or text adventures as
they were known as in those days of yore) sold in vast quantities
and it was actually possible to make a living out of writing them,
“The Hobbit” was king. It was a very detailed game packed with
puzzles (some incredibly hard and quite a few incredibly unfair)
and featured several of the characters – Gandalf and Thorin in
particular – from the book. It regularly made an appearance in
text adventure fans lists of their top ten games and was light
years ahead of its competition in terms of complexity. In fact, it’d
be a difficult game to produce in ADRIFT today, some 20+ years
after it first came out.
So what *is* so good about it.
On the face of things, “The Hobbit” seems dated. Several
locations come with graphics that were considered reasonable at
the time yet these days are the sort of thing that a pre-teenager
with a Paint application on his computer could improve on in the
space of five minutes. It lacks several things that have become
standard in interactive fiction these days: no repeatable
InsideADRIFT Issue 17 July 2004
commands by pressing the Up arrow key; examine cannot be
abbreviated as “x”; no way of scrolling back up the screen to see
what you typed a while ago; very little in the way of descriptive
text (the game originally came out on the ZX Spectrum and had
to fit inside its limited memory of 48KB so descriptive text had to
be sacrificed in order to get the full game inside the size restraints
– a common problem with games from that era). Multiple
commands on a single line are possible though, something few
text adventures at the time could manage.
But bad points aside, what about the good points.
For one of the first times in a text adventure, the NPCs have a
mind of their own. Thorin and Gandalf will wander back and forth,
often completely independent of the player’s actions. They will
pick items up, wander off with them, open and close doors, etc.
Thorin will even pick fights with goblins he encounters as well as
occasionally sitting down and singing about gold (as every good
dwarf does).
It’s possible to order the NPCs around as well, although they
don’t always do what you want. Thorin, in particular, will often
ignore what you say unless you have the persistence to keep
repeating yourself. I was in two minds about this as a feature. On
one hand it’s a nice touch as there's no reason to assume free-
thinking NPCs will obey your every utterance. On the other hand,
it’s a pain typing in the same command three or four times. The
NPCs can be ordered to do pretty any task the PC himself can do
(open and close doors, pick up and drop items, fight enemies,
etc) but as they often ignore you, it’s generally easier to just do
them yourself.
Intelligent NPCs are one of the best things in “The Hobbit”,
although they can also be aggravating. I once had to open the
main door of my house four times because Thorin, for reasons
best known to him, kept closing it. At another time, Gandalf took
the map I was trying to get Elrond to examine and dropped it
somewhere. Where. I don’t know. I never did find it and this
rendered the game unfinishable. There is only one place in the
game – the goblins’ dungeon – where the aid of another NPC is
vital. In this case it’s Thorin but Thorin, due to his habit of
wandering off from time to time, may not with you when you
reach the dungeon and you might need to wait for an age for him
to show up. Worse still, he might never show up. As said before,
Thorin will start fights with goblins when he encounters them and
it’s perfectly possible for him to take on too many and get himself
killed. If this happens before you’ve escaped from the dungeon…
well, you're finished.
InsideADRIFT Issue 17 July 2004
The game also boasts a combat system, although one that is
often awkward and confusing to use. Encounters with the same
enemies can lead to the PC dying whereas at other times he will
breeze through them without a scratch. Combat generally
includes all the NPCs in the current area, so pick a fight with one
goblin and all the others will join in. It’s also possible for combats
to last several turns and for other combatants to show up in the
meantime, meaning that fighting a single goblin could actually
lead to a fight with half a dozen of them.
Bugs. Whether there are bugs in “The Hobbit” depend pretty
much on your definition of just what a bug is. For certain, there
are more than a few instances that seem like bugs but which
could equally be the game designers deciding to throw comedy
elements into the mix. For example: hunger plays a large part in
the game. Go for too long without eating and you die. Logical, but
a pain when you find yourself a long way from food and without
the time to get back. There is also the added problem that there
are only a limited amount of food items in the game, so take too
long and you will exhaust what food there is and starve. The only
exception to this is the elf Elrond who will give you food if you
wait with him for long enough. Of course, the problem which
arises is that Elrond is in a set location near the start of the game
and it’s quite an inconvenience to come close to the end and then
have to return to the start to pick up some more food. Which is
where one of the bugs creeps in. The game allows you to carry
around other characters and Elrond is one you can carry, thus
exploiting the game system into allowing him to give you food
every few moves. Food problem solved. Is this a bug or just
something the game designers included to see if anyone would
stumble across is.
The carrying option can also be used to allow you to haul around
more items than you would normally be able to carry (yes, “The
Hobbit” is one of those games with a limit on carryable items). But
here you can load up an NPC with items till he reaches his limit
and then carry him. The NPC himself counts as a single item so
no matter how many items he’s carrying, it only counts as a single
item for encumberance purposes. If you fancy doing things
another way, load yourself up with items and then have one of the
NPCs carry *you* around.
There are several other notable ‘may be/may not be’ bugs:
Smaug the dragon can be carried in pretty much the same way
that Elrond can (a dragon carried by a hobbit.!..!!) and you can
order him to kill your enemies. Which he does. I once carried him
around the entire game and got him to kill every single enemy I
faced. He even killed a few allies that I decided to set him on.
InsideADRIFT Issue 17 July 2004
The only definite bug I've found is a strange one where I am told I
cannot the building because it is too full. This happens on a
mountain path without a building in sight!
“The Hobbit” isn’t a game that is likely to appeal to many of the IF
writers and players of today. It has its failings which are all too
obvious when compared to the games written nowadays,
although I'm sure that a major rewrite of it – bringing it into the
modern age so to speak – would be a great idea. However, as far
as 80’s nostalgia goes “The Hobbit” still reigns supreme.
Rating: 9 out of 10
“Tower Of Despair”
– available from^Tower+of+
Another classic of yesteryear – at least in my humble opinion –
“Tower of Despair” is an epic fantasy game, vividly written, which
follows the adventures of the warrior-mage of Castle Argent on
his quest to destroy Malnor, Demonlord of Darkness. If that
sounds a little corny, well… it *is* corny. But in a good way. And
corny doesn’t necessarily mean bad. After all, “Lord of the Rings”
involves the destroying of a piece of jewellery by some furry-
footed midgets to save the world from an evil dark lord. And that
was anything but bad.
One aspect of the game you'll notice right from the start is the
font. It’s freakishly big and, if that wasn’t bad enough, not very
easy to read. The letters often seem to flow into one another; a
nice thing to see in handwriting but not on a computer screen. As
such, a lot of the text is difficult to read and sometimes I found
myself having to reread the same bit of text a couple of times
before I could understand what it said. As this is a game written
for the ZX Spectrum, the font is unadjustable and therefore one of
those things you have to put up with.
But on with game itself…
“Tower of Despair” is generic fantasy handled well. The part of the
warrior-mage, however, is not as developed as it could have
been. Indeed, considering that you are a warrior it seems a little
strange that you begin the game without a single hand-to-hand
weapon to your name. As for the mage side of things, you have a
staff which can emit a bolt of lightning and nothing else. No spells
are available to you no matter which path through the game you
take. Memory restrictions were probably the cause of this as
“Tower of Despair” first appeared for the ZX Spectrum with its
maximum memory of 48KB. So in the interests of providing a
InsideADRIFT Issue 17 July 2004
fairly large game and a sizeable amount of depth, certain aspects
had to be sacrificed. The magic system, alas, was one of them.
The original game came with a detailed booklet which gave a
recent history of the land in which “Tower of Despair” takes place
as well as a Guide Book that contains illustrations for various
locations. But the Guide Book was more than just mere eye
candy as it often revealed things that were missing from the room
description and could not be discovered in the game at all without
prior notice of the Guide Book. I can think of several reasons for
doing this – it means the game doesn’t require graphics, however
basic (and when you're restricted to 48KB of memory you need to
cut as many corners as you can); lengthy descriptions can be left
out because the player will be able to *see* what is in the location
without reading through a few dozen lines of text; also it cuts
down on game piracy as the pirates would have to copy the
Guide Book as well as the game – hardly an issue these days
with thousands of old games being readily available for free on
the internet but a major issue back when this game was first
The obvious problems arise when trying to play “Tower of
Despair” without the Guide Book. Head into a tavern about
midway through the first part of the game. It looks a fairly average
place. Examine a few things. That’s it. There's nothing else to do
or see. Or is there. Look at the drawing for the tavern in the
Guide Book and you notice several barrels stacked near the back
of the room. Moving these leads to a secret passage which you
need to progress along in order to avoid getting killed by an
enemy. Playing the game with the Guide Book in your lap, it’s
easy to see the barrels and guess they might need moving. Play
it without and you're well and truly stuck. Unfortunately while the
game has survived the years pretty much intact – or as intact as
any 80’s text adventure can be in the world of today – the Guide
Book has not, leaving anyone lacking prior knowledge of the
game with a great struggle to get anywhere.
In a couple of other instances the Guide Book is necessary to
make any progress. In one you find yourself facing several doors
which are unmarked in the game yet given descriptions in the
Guide Book – the descriptions are the key to figuring your way
past them and you are never likely to guess them without it. In
another location quite a bit further on in the game, you find four
rooms which bear illustrations in the Guide Book yet nothing in
the game itself. Lacking knowledge of these illustrations means
the game cannot be finished, although I guess it’s altogether
possible, though highly unlikely, that you could stumble on the
solution through sheer persistence.
InsideADRIFT Issue 17 July 2004
While this idea is certainly an interesting one, and even a very
good one provided you can find an artist to illustrate a booklet for
your games, it makes “Tower of Despair” a frustrating game to
play without the booklet. If the in-game text gave indications as to
what was there this might not be a problem. But it doesn’t. When
you’ve torn your hair out in frustration over trying to figure out just
what the game writers were thinking at such-and-such a time,
you'll really wish at least of the descriptive text had made its way
into the game, even if this was at the expense of extra locations
and gameplay.
The land of Aleandor, the main setting for “Tower of Despair”, is a
vividly written set of locations. Most are empty of little more than
a few lines of text, but as these are often immensely detailed they
give you a definite feeling for them all the same. Puzzles are
exceptionally difficult at times and it would be true to say that
most of them will require a *lot* of thought to get anywhere with,
although in hindsight you might find that you kick yourself in
frustration for not figuring them out sooner. Communicating with
your manservant is a good example of a puzzle that seems
obvious once you figure it out, but which took me several hours to
solve. And most of that time was probably spent in typing one
command after another on the off chance I hit upon the correct
Only one part of the game has ever really annoyed me and this
involves the Angel of Death, a demonic assassin you encounter
at the end of the first part of this two part game. I'm sure there's a
bug regarding the timing of the Angel’s appearance as sometimes
he seems to show up when you reach the ruined town whereas
other times he shows up quite a bit earlier. The problem with this
is that nothing you have with you is effective against him and if
you fail to reach a certain point in the game before encountering
him you have no way of surviving in one piece. This wouldn’t be
as much of a problem if the Angel only showed up after you had
reached the town but he has a nasty habit of showing up earlier.
Sometimes a lot earlier. A couple of times he showed up before I
had even left the starting locations at Castle Argent which meant
killing him was impossible, yet other times I could leave Castle
Argent and wander around the game to my heart’s content before
I caught sight of him. As there's no way of predicting just when
the Angel will show up and no way of avoiding him once he’s
there, and the timing of his appearance is purely random, this is
one aspect of the game that could really have done with some
tweaking. As the game moves straight into part two as soon as
the Angel is defeated, this requires you to complete everything in
part one that needs completing before you encounter him. While
InsideADRIFT Issue 17 July 2004
this is by no means impossible (provided the Angel doesn’t show
up too easily), it’s frustratingly hard to say the least. A single mis-
typed command can ruin everything for you and as “Tower of
Despair” counts mis-typed commands as actual turns each one
used is one wasted. Hit the wrong key enough time and the game
will be over before you know it.
Part two of the game is just a continuation of the first part. In a
way I preferred the first part more. It seemed to have more depth
and while the encounter with Angel of Death was an unfair one, it
was considerably more evocative than anything in part two
(although the fight with Malnor’s henchman at the bridge is a
memorable one).
Alas the climax of the game is disappointing and confusing with
little explained and even less understood. Maybe the writers ran
out of game memory and just had to leave the ending in the
rushed state it is in but it’s a real pity such a good game had to
end in such a poor way.
Rating: 8 out of 10
“A day at the office” by David Whyld (Reviewed by Erik)
As I'm sure you'll all agree none of us have the spare time to play
as many text adventures as we would like, especially when there
are so many epic games around. I decided to pack some short IF
Games onto my laptop in the hope of making a long journey a bit
less tedious. The first game I chose was 'A day at the office' by
David Whyld. If you are a new convert to Adrift you will probably
play a game by David sooner rather than later as he is one of the
most prolific writers around.
Although ‘A day at the office’ appears to be one of David’s earlier
efforts it’s still a great game and one that would be good for
beginners. The game begins with your boss, Stigers waiting for
you as you arrive at work. The companies best employee has
been hurt in a car accident and as the most expendable
employee in the company, you have been chosen to complete the
reports he has been working on before a group of Japanese
businessmen come to view them.
This to me is a wonderful setting as I find games that involve
hunting out dragons and fighting off trolls difficult to relate to as
it's not something that I often encounter on a day to day basis.
Having reports dumped on my desk to finish is something I can
however relate to.
As I began my life within the game trying to finish the reports, I
found that although the puzzles had been well implemented, one
of the puzzles caused great problems. Without the benefit of a
InsideADRIFT Issue 17 July 2004
walkthrough I struggled along, eventually coming across the
solution. It was at this point that I felt the problem had not been
my problem solving skills, but that the puzzle had not been very
well implemented. Without trying to spoil the game for others,
one of the puzzles requires the same action to be performed
twice to produce different results. This may have been fine if for
instance you were turning a wheel. The first turn may not yield
the desired result, however a second turn may have. When this
is implemented into a verb such as look, you would expect to see
everything you could see when you first typed 'look'. You would
not have expected to see a different object on the second visit.
Anyway, the troublesome puzzle solved, I was easily able to carry
on and complete the game. I found that although the game only
contained 2 NPC's they were fun and well written and they felt
far from static.
In conclusion David has written a very good short game that is
very entertaining, even novice players should have no problems
completing the game within an hour. I can't wait to move onto the
next game of David’s that I play. My next review should be the
second game that I played on my travels, 'James Bond and the
Agents of F.A.R.T'
Logic: 7 out of 10
Apart from the one puzzle that I didn't find very logical 'A day at
the Office' was logical and most of the actions to puzzles made
Problems: 9 out of 10 (10 = no problems)
No problems occurred when playing the game
Story: 7 out of 10
David's stories are well known for their humour and 'A day at the
Office' is no different. The story made sense and the comedy
elements were great and had me smirking at my screen. If the
BBC are ever looking for a writer to help out with the 13th
episode of Faulty Towers then having a writer like David on board
would be no bad thing
Characters: 6 out of 10
I feel I have to mark this score down as there were not many
NPC's for the protagonist to interact with. The 2 that I was able to
talk to were very well implemented and made a great addition to
the story
InsideADRIFT Issue 17 July 2004
Continuing with what the manual calls
Advanced techniques
come to synonyms, a way to tell ADRIFT to treat a word (or
phrase) that is input as if it is another one. This is a very useful
technique for reducing the number of options to be covered when
creating tasks.
Synonyms are alternatives for commands entered in Runner. By
adding a synonym for a command, any time you enter your
alternative, it will be treated as though it was the original
For example, if you added a synonym of “put” to be “hang”, then
every time you typed “hang” in the game, it would treat it as
though you typed “put”. So the command “hang cloak on hook”
would execute the system command “put cloak on hook”.
To add a new synonym, select Adventure > Advanced… from the
menus, and select the Synonyms tab, or click on the button. This
will bring up the following dialog box:
Clicking on the Add button brings up the following dialog box,
where you can enter the word you want to add an alternative for,
and you can enter your new word.
InsideADRIFT Issue 17 July 2004
NB. One thing to note – if you have a synonym for a word, then
use that word in a task command, the command will not match
because the word will have been changed to its synonym. So, for
the above example, if you had a task “hang * cloak * hook”, and
this was the only command, the task would not execute as it
would be trying to match “put * cloak * hook”.
© Campbell Wild, Oct 2003
Information is copied and pasted from the manual and while every
effort is made to be accurate, there are no guarantees that it is
error free
© 2004 Edited by KF.
Please send any contributions or suggestions to