Lets make a Commodore 64 Text Adventure Game!

A simple tutorial by John Christian Lonningdal

Part 7 - Let's play!

Download the chaos.d64 file and you can try it. Here is a screenshot of the amazing graphics:

So there is our complete adventure! Not a very big one but still it demonstrates many common concepts found in text adventures. But its also clear that the whole structure of the code does not make it very easy to expand on the adventure so we will try to improve a number of things in the next parts of this tutorial. As we go along we will also expand our adventure to cointain more rooms, objects, NPCs and puzzles to make the journey a more interesting one.

Generally I feel a lot of adventure games were only hard to play because the programmer added some strange verb that you had to find in order to achieve something. I feel this kind of challenge is partially the reason for the demise of adventure games, as it really is no fun to play them. Also many adventures had too many ways for the player to suddenly die, in some cases just by walking into a room. I call these "crocodile in the bathtub" designs based upon a funny adventure game a friend made back in the 80s. It is generally wise to give the player a chance to sense the danger of his presence before killing him. And if you do die easily in the games you should also provide a quick-save feature that saves the game state to memory for quick retrieval, or at least have "checkpoints" or chapters that when you die you start over at that point. Some adventure games by Activision, like Mindshadow, had this with great success.

Also, it became more common for adventure games to become large text-filled things with long elaborate descriptions of locations and when examining objects. Generally this would enhance the atmosphere of a game much like a well written book, but it is difficult to fit a lot of text in the C64. You will have to consider text compression at minimum since you can easily replace common words with a token to save space. For disk based games you could of course load the text as you needed it, and indeed, Infocom did this for all of their games. They became somewhat slow to play then but could provide large amounts of text. Some people didnt like the long descriptions since they really only had value the first time you read them, and often short descriptions were provided the second time you visited a location.

Naturally, some games used graphics to give a more visual representation of the locations, and while some players felt this was totally unecessary it also drew other people to the genre which found pure text games to be booring in a world of colorful pixels. Generally there were two common ways this was done on the C64, either by using multicolor bitmap mode or character mode. Some early games used the standard PETSCII charmap to draw the scene but more commonly a custom charmap was created. Naturally since the C64 doesnt have a very large amount of memory, one have find optimal ways to store this information if you wanted the game to be a single load. Disk based games had the advantage that they could load the picture data as needed. Common for the single load games was that in bitmap mode they used simple line drawings and flood fills to add color. Some disk based games used this as well but could provide more detailed drawings. Later, disk based games loaded full bitmap drawings that provided the best graphical display, but was also quite a bit slower than the other games.

In the end, you will have to provde a good and compelling story and atmosphere for the game for it to have any lasting value. If you conjure up some good but challenging puzzles, sprinkle some humour here and there - and you have a winner on your hand. :)

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