Thursday, July 31, 2003

Adventure Construction Set

This was the game-creating toolkit that was used for some of "Great Quest" games mentioned in the post about Robertson's Planet.

ACS also had some of my favorite computer/video game music of all time. I've found MIDI versions online, and even C64 "sid" files. But none of them sound quite as good as the original. I recommend getting a C64 emulator just to hear this music the way its supposed to sound, even if you have no interest in actually making games for it.

Like I said, ACS was only used for some of the games.

The first game was written in BASIC, and used only character-cell graphics. Each "room" was stored in 40-column, 25-line text file. I don't remember how many rooms there were, but it was enough that I had to use both sides of two flippy disks. It never occurred to me to come up with some kind of compression. It was just so much simpler to have one cell on the screen go to one byte in the file. To make up for the primitive graphics, the game had some pretty strange computer-generated music. Some of the music can be heard as part of the Flvxxvm Florvm song "Itch".

After "Great Quest" was a hit with its intended audience (which consisted entirely of my friends, especially Brandon Downey), I decided to make a sequel. This time I used a copy ACS of that someone had given me when they got rid of their C64 (I did mention that all of this was for the C64, right?).

"Great Quest II" was also quite successful. Unfortunately, I don't think I ever finished "Great Quest III". I believe I finally jumped on the x86 bandwagon while I was still working on it.

In addition to Knarr, the Great Quest games were also the origin of the "Evil Grinn". The Grinn was one of the most feared monsters in the game. It appeared as a glowing fire-red smiley face in the dark. It only appeared in dark places, so you could never see if it actually had a body or even a head, you could only see two eyes and a mouth. It had two modes of attack. Firstly, it could attack with lightning or fire or some similar energy weapon. Secondly, it had the power to summon arbitrary numbers of "little evils", which were creatures somewhat like the Zols and Gels from Legend of Zelda. It could fill a room with them if you let it. (In turn, the main bad-guy Othor had the power to summon arbitrary numbers of Evil Grinns!)

In the original Great Quest, of course, the Grinn was never actually seen. All of the enemies were represented by letters, like in Rogue or something. In the ACS versions, the Grinn was represented by a graphic very similar to that used in the much-later Evil Grinn game for DOS.

I later named my BBS "The Evil Grinn", and from there the name has gone on to be used for various purposes like the "record company" for Flvxxvm Florvm.