I’ve always been a fan of a good text adventure; this probably comes from my first computer gaming experience, Myst (not a text adventure, but a good puzzler
- if you haven’t played, it’s on GOG, check it out). I’ve been entranced by Zork, but it’s rare to find a well-done text adventure like it.
Recently (within the past two weeks) a copy of “Wander” by Peter Langston was unearthed. “Wander” bills itself as a game engine rather than as a game in itself. It originally came with four worlds that could be played in. There is now a version of the source code on GitHub which makes this probably the oldest piece of software to be in Git. “Wander” was originally written in 1974, a full two years before the Collossal Cave Adventure (typically referred to as the oldest text adventure).
This version of “Wander” builds perfectly on my system (though it will require
some adjustment to
Wanddef.h in order to run other worlds than the default,
Langston also wrote Empire in 1971, which Stallman specced out as part of his plan for the GNU system (alongside a spreadsheet program, YACC, etc.) in his 1983 announcement of “Free Unix!”
In reading about this I came across a software distribution from Usenix conferences around 1980. I have mirrored it for your perusal. It contains the Wander game (with all four worlds), among many other things.
- An article detailing lost mainframe games. A commenter on this article (Doug Meritt) found the software archive I linked above.
- A blog post about the conversation with Peter Langston which resulted in these games being unearthed.
- The joyful post about finding the game. It contains a few more ways that the game has been distributed (a Windows binary, a version of Collossal Cave Adventure’s world, etc.)