For those following the list, I’ve skipped War of the Lance and Adventure for now because I need considerably more time to work through them. Because I don’t want to keep postponing them there might be a few days without posts in the following weeks, depending on how my days work out. We’ll see.
Adventure Writer is an interactive fiction authoring tool written by Graeme Yeandle and released in 1983. It is better known as The Quill. The version I have absolutely refuses to work. However, read on…
Yeah, that’s a slight lie, there is an example game included: Rescue. It’s compiled as a DOS executable and seems to work with DOSBox. It’s rubbish.
However let’s talk history. The Quill gave rise to Professional Adventure Writer (PAW), which then eventually evolved into WinPAW, latest release 2006. There it seems to have met its end, probably because better tools (I’ll guess TADS and Inform) had since long claimed most of the market. Still, The Quill was one of the earliest authoring systems and probably deserves respect for that.
So I tried PAW but the compiler refuses to work. I got the interpreter to work and started a game of Ticket on it. I don’t recommend the experience to anyone. It suffers heavily from guess the verb, the environment is not really descriptive, the puzzles are somewhat logical but the guess-the-verb problem gets you stuck too easily. Interactive fiction has evolved quite a bit and that’s all for the better.
The other side of an authoring system is the code you need to write for it. I took a quick look at the code for Ticket.
_ _ NOTSAME 13 38 ;Dog not where player is? LT 14 2 ;Still able to move? NOTAT 8 ;Player isn't up the tree? COPYFF 38 13 ;Move dog to players locno. MESSAGE 18 ;Tell them its followed...
It’s all a bit cryptic but it seems to work fairly well. It lacks some rather elemental source code niceties though. Instead of variables, there are 256 flags (registers). There is no concept of libraries so all the essentials (movement, inventory, …) have to be in the source file. On the other hand (as can be seen in the screenshot), the parser is rather flexible and goes far beyond a simple verb-object system. The system to implement new verbs is quite nifty with placeholder variables and a form of pattern matching.
Well, all in all… The system is old. I’m not sure of its legacy but I think it’s very, very small. Perhaps it was a lot of work, perhaps it was impressive at the time, but it’s painful to look at now. Strange how some games manage to age gracefully and remain fun but tools like this just become annoying when compared to modern alternatives. 3/10.