My name is Roberta Williams and to date, I have written three adventure games. These are: THE WIZARD AND THE PRINCESS, MYSTERY HOUSE, and MISSION ASTEROID. I am currently working on a fourth, (tentatively called, "THE TIME ZONE"), which will be on the market this fall. So far, these games run only on the APPLE, but will be available for the ATARI by the end of the summer.
I love adventure games because they take me away from the real world and make me feel as if I really were on an adventure in a strange land. I have always had a vivid imagination, which was a drawback as a little girl; day-dreaming instead of doing my schoolwork. I have played quite a few adventure games, notably: "ADVENTURE" by Willie Crowther and Don Woods, "THE COUNT"; "ADVENTURELAND", "STRANGE ODYSSEY"; by Scott Adams, "JOURNEY"; by Softscape and "ZORK" by Personal Software. I know there are many of you who have played more adventure games than that, but since I have started writing my own, I don't have time to play them anymore.
As a writer and player of adventure games, I feel qualified to give some helpful hints on solving them. Before I get started, however, let me explain what an adventure game is. This is for the benefit of those who have never heard of an adventure game, there are plenty. When people ask me what I do for a living, I hate to tell them. They just don't know what I'm talking about.
Adventure games are also known as "Fantasy Role Playing" games. They usually revolve around a certain story or theme. For instance: "ADVENTURE" is about traveling through a cave. "THE COUNT" is about Count Dracula and his castle. "MYSTERY HOUSE" is like a "whodoneit" in a spooky old house. No matter what the theme, they all have a goal, or goals, that the player has to accomplish. The goal may be to find treasure that is hidden in a mythical land and get out alive, rescuing a princess from an evil wizard, or saving the Earth from an asteroid that is about to smash into it. The trouble is, these goals you are to accomplish are always hampered by puzzles to solve, or monsters who are trying to stop you.
One of the most common and perturbing puzzles in adventure games, is the inevitable maze. Mazes can be anything from three places that seem alike, to forty places exactly alike that interchange and mingle among each other. Sometimes, a maze can be random (meaning that you don't get out, no matter what you do, until the computer decides you can). The confusing thing about most mazes is that all places look or seem alike. So, no matter what direction you go, you don't know where you are, where you've been, or where you are going. That makes mazes impossible to map, unless you can make each place look different. The answer to this problem is really quite simple: drop objects along the way. When you first enter a maze, drop an object there, right away. Then you will know that is the place to exit from the maze. Get as many objects as you can and drop one each place you go. Then try going all directions from each place and soon you will start seeing objects that you have dropped. Draw a map marking down what you dropped, the direction you went, what you dropped at the next place and what direction you went from there. After awhile, when you start running into previously dropped items, you should be able to look on your map and see how you got there. Sometimes treasures or items that you need are hidden in the maze and you have to find them using your map. There is a desert maze right at the beginning of "THE WIZARD AND THE PRINCES", with fourteen different places that all look alike. Unfortunately, there are only four objects that you are able to carry at that time, which are not enough objects to enable you to map the maze. There is something different about each of the places though. Half of the desert maze has a rock in the picture, and the other half doesn't. Each rock is drawn in a slightly different position, so the idea is to drop objects where there are no rocks, then where there there are rocks. Mark the positions where they are drawn. (HINT: There is one rock in the desert maze that you can get. Look at each rock before trying to get it).
The most important thing to remember is to always map your way through this mythical land right from the very beginning. If you don't, you will get lost right away, or miss out on some important places to go. Try every direction that is possible everywhere. Don't be afraid of trying ideas. Try everything, say everything. You won't hurt the computer if you type in something it doesn't understand. Sometimes the most outlandish things will solve a puzzle, sometimes only the most logical. That is why you need to try everything. Most adventure games have provisions for saving and storing your games along the way. Save your game often. Especially right before you try to solve a puzzle or fight a monster. If you get killed, or lose an object in your endeavor, you can restore your game to right before the incident and try again. Objects almost always have a use somewhere. Sometimes a sneaky author will throw in something that you can carry around, that does absolutely nothing, but basically, objects have a use. Usually objects are used only once or only at one place, but not always. Weapons seem to have a higher percentage of being used more than once.
In some adventures, you are limited by the number of objects you can carry at one time. When it comes to a decision as to whether you should keep carrying an object that you already used, or drop it so you can get a new one, I would be inclined to drop it in order to be able to carry a new one.
Be aware of anything in the game that the author is trying to point out to you, however subtle. For instance, if the game says there is a tree here larger than the rest, that probably means that you should do something about that tree. Climb it perhaps. Or if the game says that the book is covered with dirt, that could mean if you remove the dirt, you might be able to read the book. Look for everything, items that are more prominent than others, or just somehow different. Examine all items, unless you examine it more closely, or open it to look inside.
I believe these are the most important hints to solving an adventure game. The rest is up to you. Be creative, use your imagination, don't overlook anything, and most of all … HAVE FUN!!!
- Issue 1: June 1981
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