Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Strange, Commercial Eamon for the Apple II

A little more Eamon archaeology. Back in 1985, a company named "Load'N'Go," a subsidiary of "Green River Publishing," itself a subsidiary of "ShareData," released to great fanfare (or not) The Adventurer Series, a series of games for the Apple II essentially repackaging Eamon. At this time, Eamon was primarily distributed commercially through public domain houses like 3A, and this seems totally legitimate to me. What is borderline insidious about The Adventurer Series is its methodical excision of every trace of its creators.

This is the story about how Eamon literally made its way onto store shelves without Donald Brown (or any other Eamon author) making a cent.


The "authors" of The Adventurer Series didn't merely remove Brown's name and call it a day. In order to make this work "original," there are some changes and "enhancements." Care was taken to revise the weapon abilities in an unusual fashion; the "spear" becomes a "pole arm" and the "sword" category becomes "slashing." Some of the changes are inexplicable; the command "drink" becomes "quaff" and "ready" becomes "prepare." Likewise, while the Load'N'Go Beginner's Cave maintains the map of the standard one, the descriptions are methodically rewritten with the one original contribution being some odd references to a mythical "Lord Gumby" (don't ask me to explain). Playing through its Beginner's Cave feels like reading a research paper by a knucklehead freshman plagiarist.

The interface is, to be fair, significantly revamped. Like Bill Martens' modified Eamons displaying a player's stats (which works well and deserves to be checked out), The Adventure Series seeks to display relevant statistics constantly during the game. In practice, though, the execution of this feature is clunky, taking up over half of the screen, leaving the player with effectively an 18 column display. (If the jump from 40 columns to 80 columns is a significant leap, then this represents an even more significant leap backwards.)


As far as I can tell from an advertisement in the May 1986 issue of Family Computing, there were three disks released: The Beginner's Cave, Cave of the Mind, and River Adventure, a rebranded Zyphur Riverventure.


Disk images of the first are abundant; I'm unable to locate the latter two but I presume they fall into the same plagiarist tradition of the former (though there is through November 19th, 2012 an ebay auction for the third disk; I don't have the $20 to buy it but I'll buy a drink to anyone who grabs a disk image). It looks as though someone picked up the item. The offer still stands, though; I'll buy a drink to anyone who gets me a disk image.


We do have the box art for River Adventure though that for Cave of the Mind is not available. Looking at the box art further suggests that the adventure closely follows the Jim Jacobson classic.


Unlike some of the recent Apple II finds like Eamon Pro, The Adventurer wasn't "lost" (at least the main disk wasn't). It's been hiding in plain sight all along. Indeed, there's a playthrough of The Adventurer Series in the "Let's Play" style up on Youtube right now:


If the reader's thirst is whetted by this video and wants some pure Load'N'Go action for him or herself, the disk image for the first disk can be downloaded at apple2.org. The source of the art for The Beginner's Cave is the quite excellent Museum of Computer Adventure Game History at www.mocagh.org and the source for the art from River Adventure is the site www.thelegacy.de.

Updated to include River Adventure box art 11-18-12.

16 comments:

Wade said...

Oh, I'm glad someone mentioned this thing. My first physical encounter with Eamon was via Load'n'Go Beginners Cave, which a friend of mine in Newcastle (Australia) bought for his IIC. My memory of it was that it played veeeerrrryyy slooooowwwwlllly. The pause after each command was significant. I'll be interested to see it again and see how my memory matches up.

T Ferguson said...

Thanks for the encouragement. I can confirm your recollection that it is excruciatingly slow (or maybe it's my computer; I've only got 2 gigs of RAM, after all). While I don't foresee a great rush to play this game, I'd nevertheless love to learn more about it.

Its mere existence has my interest piqued, for one. I can intellectually grasp bootlegging something proprietary but that the company needed to make a sub-par knockoff of a program in the public domain just doesn't add up.

Victor Gijsbers said...

Using "quaff" for "drink" isn't as strange as you might think from the fact that nobody ever uses this word. In Rogue (1980), you drink potions using the "q" key, which stand for "quaff". The reason is that "d" is already used for "drop".

Most other games in the roguelike tradition use this same convention, and one can easily imagine this influencing other authors as well.

T Ferguson said...

Thanks for the insight! I'd never have been able to figure that out.

I wonder if this explains why "ready" is jettisoned in favor of "prepare."

Charles Hoffman said...

Tangentially related: My first exposure to Eamon had a similar split-screen approach with player stats on the right half, in 80-column. It was called The Expanded Beginners Cave and I have been hoping for years that someone ou there may still have a copy -- it retained the map of the Beginners Cave but with modified descriptions and names, then had a large addition to the map accessible as a hidden exit from the east chamber with the chest mimic. It may have been a local phenomenon to my hometown of Waterloo, Iowa, as I seem to remember one room's description depicting a record burning and one of the monsters there being a "KWLO DJ".

T Ferguson said...

Thank you for mentioning this; I'll have to put that on my list and hope that it turns up one day.

Over the past year, I've developed a suspicion that for every Eamon that was sent in to the NEUC/EAG there were two more distributed only at the local Apple II club level. I'd have thought that many such clubs would have archived their libraries and posted them publicly but this sadly doesn't seem to be the norm. Apart from the collection of the Willamette Apple Connection (hosted at Call-A.P.P.L.E. like the EAG) I haven't uncovered any such caches.

Huw Williams said...

I wanted to thank you for your work in researching and preserving Eamon -- it's fascinating! Also, not being one to pass up an offer for a drink, I purchased the "Adventure" diskette on eBay and will do my best to get an image made for you.

(I don't currently have the diskette-to-image transfer system assembled, but I still possess all the necessary components, including an "Uthernet" Apple II Ethernet card. Had it going a couple years ago and successfully imaged a bunch of my old 5.25" floppies.)

Frank - Eamon Deluxe said...

None of this surprises me much and I would wager that Tom Zuchowski had a collection of miscellaneous "junk" adventures and more Main Halls/Beginners Caves than the Eamon world really needed. See the end of this article for his opinions on such:
http://www.eamonag.org/columns/DD-columns.htm#6/93

I wholeheartedly agree with him regarding the low exchange rate of modifying the Main Hall vs. writing an original adventure. I'm not sure how much (if any) of his personal EAG 5.25" disk library made the transfer to virtual disk images. The last time I spoke with him (which was a few months ago), he was fully retired from Eamon and computers in general, so I would wager that he wouldn't be interested in digging up any hypothetical archives.

As for DRINK/DROP, I think those two are fine as is. Although far from esoteric, "QUAFF" is a word that is not in everyone's vocabulary and could also cause the same parser issues with QUIT.

While I have long praised the original source code and Eamon design written by Donald Brown, there do exists several large flaws in the system. The READY command is one of them: That it is one letter away from being READ is a parsing nightmare and something like "EQUIP" would have been more fitting. I tried changing it once (in Edgar's Adventures), but I was so used to years of using READY that I kept typing it anyway and eventually just changed it back.

These days I just consider it one of those little quirks that add to the charm that is the Eamon gaming system.

T Ferguson said...

Huw- Wow! I'm glad this item fell into hands that will use its powers for good rather than evil! (I'm tacitly associating Eamon preservation with the good, here.)

I'm grateful for the contribution. Your seat at the Midwestern Eamon Beer Summit has been reserved. And I'm buying.

With respect to research, I'll admit that I've been impressed by your own as-of-now hidden efforts. (Speaking of, some of us who've stumbled upon said efforts have had emails bounced back by the Mailer Daemon.) I'm looking forward to its going public.

Frank- I'm evidently not looking at the issue from a syntactical, programming perspective. Maybe I've been subjected to too many plagiarism excuses but I still suspect that the changes were motivated by the publisher trying to convince him- or herself that the release was now "original work" in some sense.

With respect to Zuchowski's article, do you know what became of these "half dozen" never released disks? I wonder if any of the "Glimpse Into..." Eamons found their way into this stack.


Huw Williams said...

Tom: Ah-ha, you've peeked behind the curtain. :) My plan's been to make a Christmas gift of it to the community, but given that the configuration and setup is nearing completion I may move up the opening a bit...

Frank - Eamon Deluxe said...

Thomas: As I mentioned, I don't know if Tom Z. converted the EAG diskette "reserves", or anything from the library for that matter. If memory serves, somebody else made the bulk of the DSK images that are currently available, hence the various notes on the Eamon CD to check for/apply known bug fixes before using them. Tom was the person who told me how to convert my Apple II disks to PC via null modem adapter (which makes me think of a funny story involving an arrogant, albeit under qualified Best Buy employee that I'll have to post on here some other time) and he was a huge fan of Applewin, so there is a chance he has something of interest. I'll mention it then next time I talk to him.

Huw: Yes, you have been doing some nice work, although there were a few errors I caught that I tried to email you about only to be assaulted by the Mailer Daemon Thomas mentions above.

Frank - Eamon Deluxe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Huw Williams said...

I actually now use Gmail for everything; you may have been talking to the wrong daemon.

T Ferguson said...

I was flirting with cracking a joke about "Daemon's Playground" (this being an Eamon blog and all). But I couldn't find a way to make it actually funny. Oh bother.

Frank - Eamon Deluxe said...

Matt Daemon (https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Matt_Daemon&redirect=no) doesn't answer my emails either. It must be a "deamon" thing...

Frank - Eamon Deluxe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.