Monday, February 22, 2016

Game 212: The Adventure - Only the Fittest Shall Survive (1985)

 

The Adventure: Only the Fittest Shall Survive
Green Valley Publishing (developer and publisher)
Released 1985 for Apple II
Date Started: 9 February 2016
Date Ended: 9 February 2016
Total Hours: 3
Reload Count: 0
Difficulty: Easy (2/5), at least for the first scenario
Final Rating: 21
Ranking at Time of Posting: 72/223 (32%)

Green Valley Publishing only seems to have been around for about two years between 1985 and 1987, but during that time they managed to produce at least half a dozen games, including A PACAaLIPS Now, a ripoff of Pac-Man; Atomic Handball, a ripoff of Breakout; a C64 adaptation of a chess game that someone else made; a re-release of Sierra's The Wizard and the Princess; and The Adventure: Only the Fittest Shall Survive, a breathtakingly blatant ripoff of Eamon (1980). This was not a publisher with a lot of ambition towards originality.
   
I feel like we've seen this dragon before...
   
As you may recall from my March 2013 review, Eamon is an open-source adventure construction set from Donald Brown. Any number of adventures spin off from a central adventurer's hall where you start and end each quest. There, you can buy weapons, armor, and spells and perform a few other aspects of character management. The adventurers are all text, but unlike the Infocom adventures of the time, they are proper RPGs, with a complex set of statistics to determine accuracy and damage in combat, including a system of critical hits and fumbles. Skills for weapon, armor, and spell use increase as you successfully use them, which I think is the first time this method of character development appears in RPG history.

Different weapon types adjust accuracy and damage formulas but are mitigated by developing skill.

Donald Brown wrote half a dozen adventures to go with the core program, then made it available to the world. Today, the Eamon Adventurer's Guild Online has cataloged 255 Eamon adventures, including several made within the last few years.

Brown apparently has a chip on his shoulder about his game, and he has refused to respond to requests for interviews, including mine. But he did try to commercialize Eamon as SwordThrust (1981), a variant I liked so much that I wrote my first walkthrough based on it. The engine has also been adapted to graphic platforms several times.

Unless Brown had some relationship with Green Valley Publishing that history has yet uncovered, The Adventure is a staggeringly unethical commercialization, in express violation of the Eamon license. It adopts the Eamon engine in its entirety and makes only the most superficial changes. The Hall of the Guild of Free Adventurers becomes the Guildhall of the Free Adventurers. The primary attributes of hardiness, agility, and charisma become strength, dexterity, and charisma. The skills of spear, bow, and axe become blunt, distance, and slashing. Idiotic word substitutions like this, fooling no one, permeate the game.
  
Chester fights a priest.
   
In almost all of its changes, The Adventure makes for blander text. For instance, when you first enter the guildhall and give the guildmaster your name (to load an old character or retrieve a new one), Eamon calls him a "burly Irishman," while The Adventure just calls him "a guard." When he can't find your name and wants to confirm that you want to create a new character, Eamon has him say, "Yer name's na in here. Have ye given it to me aright?" while The Adventure just notes, "the guard eyes you suspiciously and says he can't find you listed." Eamon's weapon shop owner is named Marcos Cavielli and says "well, as I live and breathe, if it isn't my old pal Chester!" when you enter. The Adventure just has a generic "weaponmaster" who "greets you warmly." I could go on for multiple paragraphs.

But the underlying engine--as well as major things like the main screen graphics--are entirely unchanged. This includes your amount of starting gold, weapon and armor prices, and spell names ("Blast," "Heal," "Speed," and "Power"). This also includes the name of the first adventure: "The Beginner's Cave." 

Beginning the first adventure in The Adventure...
...and in Eamon. Changing "entrance" to "mouth" really shows the former's originality.
  
Once you start the adventure, some changes in The Adventure interface become clear. The text is mostly the same--superficial replacements, I suspect designed to counter the most obvious charges of plagiarism--but The Adventure splits its screen so that the text occupies the right half and information about the character (which in Eamon you would need to return to the guildhall to see) occupies the left.

As with Eamon, exploring the adventure is done with simple commands, including the cardinal directions (unlike Eamon, The Adventure doesn't support abbreviations, so you have to type out NORTH and SOUTH), ATTTACK, LOOK, TAKE, QUAFF, SAY, and ATTACK. The Adventure gets rid of some of the less-used but fun Eamon verbs, including SMILE and WAVE. Again, there are dumb substitutions: Eamon's GET, DRINK, and READY become TAKE, QUAFF, and PREPARE here.

Another comparison. This is Eamon...
...and this is The Adventure. Same rates, same treasure. By making its chamber "large" instead of "small," The Adventure corrected a glaring problem with the original.

I played a little of the game side-by-side with the Eamon version, and it appears that the map is identical, including the placement of monsters and treasures. The cave is basically just a long hall with rooms off to the side where you can fight monsters and pick up treasures. Charisma determines whether certain NPCs are enemies or allies. Again, the encounters are less interesting than in Eamon: a "grizzled old hermit who smells as if he hasn't taken a bath in forty years" is just "a hermit"; "a bottle with a strange potion inside" is just "a bottle."

Some of the changes make no sense. In Eamon, when the adventurer gets to the end of the hallway, the text says, "to your great shock are two doors on the east and west." This is a joke about the fact that the three preceding squares in the hallway have all had east-west doors, thus you are shocked--shocked!--to find the same configuration yet again. In its efforts to avoid tripping the alarms at TurnItIn.com or something, The Adventure missed the joke and changed the text to read, "you are mortified to see two sinister looking doors to the east and west."

The only thing The Adventure really adds is some nonsensical names. What was just a large chamber in Eamon is "The Hall of the Great Lord Gumby" in The Adventure. A jail cell has "Gumby hath no mercy" scrawled on the wall. A passage not found in Eamon leads down a hallway to the Temple of the Great Lord Galootie.

"Sir, we must put our own stamp on this adventure!" "Agreed! Just make sure it's stupid!"
   
There is one instant death if you read a book in a library: a giant fist crushes you. (In Eamon, you get turned into a fish.) If you can avoid that, the adventure culminates when the cave emerges onto a beach and you fight a pirate for some jewels. After that, you make your way back to the entrance, where the guildmaster converts your accumulated treasure to cash that you can spend on equipment and goods for the next adventure.

The final confrontation of the scenario.
   
Two other adventures were apparently released for The Adventure: Cave of the Mind and River Adventure, both "adapted" from Eamon adventures (Jim Jacobson's Cave of the Mind and The Zyphur Riverventure, respectively). I didn't find either, but I wasn't looking terribly hard.

The game poses a challenge for the GIMLET, because I ought to rank it almost the same as Eamon. The text changes don't make a huge difference. The interface is arguably a little better by having the "character sheet" on the left, although what it gains it loses via the inability to delete previously typed text, so if you accidentally type ATTAKC, you have no option but to hit ENTER, accept the error message, and try again.

Thusfar, I've avoided making adjustments to the GIMLET based on originality or moral judgments on the game development process (distinguished from moral judgements about content, I hasten to add), so I guess The Adventure gets a 21. But where Eamon has 252 more adventures to its name, there aren't many reasons to play this game over that one.

****

For more information on Green Valley and the potential authorship of The Adventure, see my later posting on The Realm of Angbar: Elfhelm's Bane.

40 comments:

  1. I wonder who made more money: Donald Brown selling SwordThrust or Green Valley Publishing selling its Eamon rip-off? Sadly, I bet it is the latter, rather than the former.

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    1. I doubt either made very much money. I suspect both relied on ignorance of the existence of the free Eamon in the first place, or inability to find it.

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  2. Last year, I reviewed "Wizard and the Princess" for TAG and I recall there was a strange one-off version of that game where the backstory had changed such that you had previously beaten the game, but at the last minute the wizard did something and reset time so you had to defeat him again. And this SOUNDS like an awesome opportunity for a remix-- maybe the wizard does something different this time because he knows how you defeated him-- but no, it was just a stupid way to capitalize on a re-release and wink at the audience that we know you are playing it again.

    I wonder if that was the Green Valley edition? I'll have to check.

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    1. Hey, Joe! Would you mind helping me ask the TAG Council Of Ye Old Adventurers to... uh... change the background of the screen to white?

      I used to read the blog (and this one) during my office hours and um... due to the black background, it seems that my partially skiving antics had not gone unnoticed.

      But if it's not possible or too inconvenient, no worries. I'll just drop by to comment once in a blue moon. XD

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    2. Kenny!

      You want us to redesign so that you can read the blog at work without being caught? Well... as reasons go, that is certainly one!

      I brought your issues to the admins. We'll see what they say and/or how long they laugh and laugh and laugh...

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    3. ... You could always use a browser that doesn't pay attention to background color or images, like the one I use for horror research.

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  3. You meticulously detailed the differences between the two versions. I think a Gimlet would be redundant. Seeing the word "Adventure" made me think it was going to homage the old Atari cartridge. Dragon Fire remains my favourite of these older text only titles.

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    1. Yeah, being overly derivative could just be another reason for disqualification from your play list.

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  4. Perhaps it shouldn't get a GIMLET? First, it would add legitimacy to the idea that it's a different game in the first place. Second, I think people who review your GIMLETs want to assess the strengths of a title to decide whether they want to play it themselves or at least to place it in its historical context. And since the main takeaway is that "This is a blatant rip-off of Eamon to make money," for the purposes of the GIMLET all one really needs to know is "Refer to Eamon."

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    1. Yeah, towards the end of my review, it occurred to me that I should have just punted it. But I'd already written all that stuff, so...

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    2. Oh, I meant giving it the full GIMLET treatment. This is still a fun and insightful look into "another" game, as unoriginal as it may be.

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  5. Wow, such a shameless rip-off. If I still was an academic, I'd be really furious now.

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  6. Am I right in thinking you won't cover games like Oregon Trail? I won't be upset if you don't. I only ask because this ripoff o a game reminds me of a very good ripoff of Oregon Trail. It put the player in charge of an expedition down the St. Lawrence river during the French Colonial period of Canada. We played it in school alongside O.T. because we lived on the Quebec portion of the border with Canada. You used canoes for transport, collected animal pelts to trade an sell an ate pemmican with the locals. And you got to kill the locals if you made them angry.
    I haven't been able to find any reference to the game at all. It was on the Apple II. Has anyone else heard of something like that?

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    1. @Kenny: No, but that's one of my favorite games to play on Android! I always laugh when it says I lose an hour bickering with my wife (or even better, my dog) over which way to drive.

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    2. One currently on going let's play from the Organ trail https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkJxtBSCpLs

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    3. I haven't played Oregon Trail, believe it or not, but I can't believe it qualifies as an RPG. If it meets my three criteria, though, let me know.

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    4. Oregon Trail completely fails your litmus test. Character generation is limited to your career previous to hitting the trail and really never changes. Your choice affectsvthe amount of money you start the game with. Events are overcome by manual dexterity or by a simple decision skewed by chance. You have a very flexible inventory but the game is really about management of that inventory.
      So no, Oregon Trail is not going to be on your list but thousands of people can legitimately suggest you play it as an example of a good educational game.

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    5. If there were a "Must Play" list for games generally, Oregon Trail would definitely be on it, probably sandwiched between pong and space invaders.

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    6. Tricky covered Oregon Trail over at the Adventure Gamer, and held a short contest to see who could get the highest score. It's actually a fairly easy, and short, game when optimized for min/maxing. It's not more than an hour to complete with a full attempt lasting about 20 minutes.

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    7. I only bring up Oregon Trail and the knock-off game I'm looking for given the number of retro gamers here.

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    8. I was really looking forward to the zombie-themed homage 'Organ Trail' but it was too arcadey.

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    9. Most of the OT games either tried to copy the original but missed the point or they were too ironic and gonzo for my tastes.

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    10. Okay, I think I found it.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3wlaAz4j3A

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    11. Nope, the one I'm thinking of took place in the pre-colonial days of North America. Im beginning tothink the game is a knock-off like the game in this post. Someone must have rebranded an existing game.

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    12. Sorry. I went to school in Canada in the 90s, spent ages playing the Windows version of Oregon Trail and the Apple version of Cross Country Canada and still have not heard of this one.

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  7. The whole thing is rather baffling, I wonder how many people fell to the fact that they were putting a different coat of paint over a 5 year old game and reselling it.

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    1. Yeah, re-sprited Mario knockoffs from Taiwanese video game "developers" took more effort than this. http://bootleggames.wikia.com/wiki/BootlegGames_Wiki

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    2. What's baffling is that Garriot won a lawsuit against a mostly original title, while these guys seem to have gotten away with their rip-offs.

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    3. Frankly, if this game sold more than a handful of copies, I'd be surprised. They weren't counting on the Internet to come along and eliminate any possibility of anonymity.

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  8. I've got to back the 'don't bother with a GIMLET' crowd. Such a blatant ripoff would have a highly similar score at best anyway.

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  9. Too bad the Gimlet doesn't reward innovations and creativity (since it might not translate well into good game-play design).

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    1. Right. Innovation doesn't mean "good," and in fact some of the best games plagiarize elements from their predecessors. The GIMLET is supposed to reflect how much I enjoyed a game, not how much I admired it.

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  10. I actually bought these back in the late 80's. It was on a turnstile rack in some discount store. They were so close that I assumed they were official. The one thing that you might not have noticed since you were playing in an emulator is that they were crushingly slow. This was IIRC owed to two things - I believe that it used a hires text generator - yet used the identical font to the native Apple II character generator - but because of the small size of the right hand screen. It was constantly trying to avoid splitting a word across two lines. Which meant the text rendered at a snails pace.

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    1. I love hearing from people who played these games new. When you bought it, had you ever heard of Eamon?

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    2. Yes, many of my friends and my high-school had Apple II's and I played all sorts of Eamon games on them. I distinctly recall playing Assault on the mole man - which had a number of allies which were clearly the Fantastic Four as well as a battle where you fight an army where the size of the army is effectively the hitpoints of the creature. So when you struck it (them?) you got a message telling you how many fell.

      I had my own Apple //c when I found these games on a rack. IIRC they were sold with an adventure on each side.

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  11. I downloaded Eamon Deluxe and played the beginners cave. In that long hallway there was a door missing in one spot but if you searched a secret door appeared. Going through it led down a passageway to a room that seemed sort of temple-like as it had two altars, a hostile priest, and a woman that might join you (if she survives you get a reward for rescuing her). Would that be the Galootie temple in this one?

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    1. I guess it might be. I never found that secret door in the original.

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  12. You've still got (to come later) at the top. Just fyi.

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