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History of Colossal Cave Adventure Part 2 - The First Game Built By A Community


Collaborative Fiction refers to a work of fiction written by a group, with each writer building upon the work set down by the previous authors. A Mod is a homebrewed altering of an existing game that fans create to expand the existing experience, or to create an entirely new game. Colossal Cave Adventure is a mix of both. Not only is it the first text adventure game, but it is also the first computer game to be continually expanded upon by its fans.

Adventures in Distribution:

After creating the first text-adventure game, simply titled Adventure, Will Crowther uploaded his game and code to the PDP-10 computer's Time Sharing system, where it was downloaded by computer labs across the country. This lead to other programmers discovering the game, and after playing it, used their own imagination and programing expertise to build on the code in order to expand and enhance the game.

Don Woods - Adventure's First Modder:

The most famous of these early video game Mods began when Don Woods, a graduate student at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab discovered the game. He hunted down Crowther via the early emailing system ARPANET and was granted permission to expand the game.

Wood's version included more puzzles, treasures, hidden objects, a scoring system, and fantasy elements taken from his love of Tolkien. He also designed randomized outcomes, so the game would play slightly different each time, especially the combat. These new elements, including a troll bridge, giant's house, and even an active volcano, pulled the game away from being an accurate representation of the Bedquilt Cave area of the Mammoth Cave system in Kentucky, which Crowther had originally designed the environment after, but it made the game a lot more fun.

Don Woods' modification of Adventure was completed and shared via the computer time sharing system of 1977, and went on to become the most famous and familiar version of the game.

Further Adventures in Modding

The Crowther/Woods version of Adventure soon went international as iterations began popping up from both US labs as well as ones from the UK. Then the game also started getting ported for other operating systems.

In 1977, the same year Woods released his version of Adventure, James Gillogly of the nonprofit global policy think tank, the RAND Corporation, ported Adventure to C Language, a standardized programming language that works with nearly all computer architecture, meaning that it programs built using the C programming system could easily be adapted to most computers.

Gillogly gained permission from Crowther and Woods to include his version of Adventure as part of the BSD Operating Systems (aka Berkeley Software Distribution), which was a version of the Unix.

Another famous port of Adventure came from Dave Plant who created the first adventure game coding language called A-code. A precursor to Infocom's ZIL (Zork Implementation Language), LucasArts' SCUMM (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion), and Sierra On-Line's AGI (Adventure Game Interpreter). Plant's A-code not only made it simpler to port Adventure to different platforms, because you were porting the A-code itself instead of the specific game components, but made it easier for future text adventure games to be created for multiple systems.

Even Microsoft made a version of Adventure, which they gave away for free with the first release of DOS. They also ported Adventure to the Apple II Plus computer and the TRS-80.

Adventures in Names:

As Adventure grew in popularity, the different versions started to adopt variations of the game's name including Adventure II, Colossal Cave, Cave Adventure. Eventually the name Colossal Cave Adventure became the most often used of the titles.

Sierra On-Line and Graphical Adventure Games:

After playing though CCA on an Apple II computer, Ken and Roberta Williams became inspired to create the graphical adventure genre. Instead of just a text interface, Roberta designed a game that would include both text and graphics, with the graphics being included as part of the gameplay, and the commands the player typed in would result in a progression of both the text and graphics. Ken took Roberta's designs and illustrations and programmed the first graphical adventure game, Mystery House.

Ken and Roberta Williams became founders of Sierra On-Line, which was one of the largest and influential developers of graphical adventure games, spawning franchises such as Kings Quest, Space Quest, and Leisure Suit Larry.

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