I don’t know how to F*** off!

Gamers of a certain age will be very familiar with the title of this post, a certain age would probably be over thirty, but that’s not to say that if you are younger that you won’t have got to this point in a game.  This only applies to a certain type of game though and will bring many a tear to us old timers, but not because we are sad at the passing of time, no! It’s because the TEXT BASED ADVENTURE games of old were the work of the devil (sometimes also called Scott Adams).

Let me explain to those of you not in the know, back in the day we had no Oblivion, no RPG or JRPG we had the text based adventure and at their most basic level they were indeed just text, no graphics or anything, just text.  The ZX Spectrum was the computer I had and you could get hundreds of this type of game for it, most people would start with the Hobbit and move on, unfortunately I started with an entry in the Questprobe series – The Incredible Hulk.  The Hulk had both graphics and text so it was top of the range, indeed the graphics were quite good for the Speccy, but the game was infuriating to the max, I can’t quote the game exactly but it went something like this (as did most text games):

This should be easy

I am in a room tied to a chair what should I do?

> Escape

I don’t know how to “escape” what should I do?

> Break chair.

How do I break chair?

> Get angry.

How do I “Get angry”?

> Hit self.

I can’t “Hit self” I’m tied to a chair.  What should I do?

> F**k off!

Don’t know how to “F**k Off” What should I do?

And so it went on, sometimes for hours on end until you accidentally put something in and it worked, then you could move on to the next screen.  Some games had under twenty screens some had hundreds and of course some had none, but there was a perverse need to continue and see how far you could get, more often than not you would just loop around for hours on end.  All of the information in game could be accessed by inputting commands, there were no visual clues as to where you were or what you were carrying, this would go something like.

> Inventory

You are carrying a torch, some food and three blue orbs.

If you wanted to know where you were, there were a few options which could go,

> Look

You are in a forest, in front of you is a stream and in the distance there are some mountains, you can exit East, West or North.

Or you could type in “Where am I?” and it would throw up the same descriptions.  You really had to think about things, sometimes it helped to attempt to draw a map as you went along because it was so easy to get lost.  I had many a bit of paper laid out in a grid formation with all the possible exits and the like. Yes it was a bit geeky but entirely necessary.  The thing is when you were playing a text game you had a feeling of superiority over playing other games as they made you think you were smart, you felt that you were using your brain more than say, Manic Miner; maybe you were but I must confess I never completed any of them.

Just go out the door!

This style of game was hugely popular and went on for years but like most games an evolution was needed, this in some way came in the form of a game called “Heavy on the Magick”.  At its heart this was a text based adventure but it had moving characters on the screen also, if you inputted your directions you would see your character (Axel the Able, if I remember correctly) moving on the main screen or doing magic or whatever he did.  The input method was also greatly simplified where instead of typing in a full word just one letter would do, for example where previously “West” would have been the command, here you could get away with “W”.  It made a huge difference being able to see where you were and what was going on but it could still be as frustrating as the adventures of old with its mind bending puzzles.  The one which springs to mind saw Axel enter a room with a fountain in it, you could not progress until you had dispatched the fountain.  For days I inputted hundreds of commands, use magic, pull plug, freeze etc. none of them worked until in an astonishing moment of clarity I typed in “Water Fall”, the water fell and I could progress.

This was new school

So all you modern RPG players you can now thank all of us old school players that got this out the way for you.  The modern RPG is a direct descendant of the text based adventure and without us playing them you would still be on them, that is not really a bad thing though, like everything it’s natural progression and sometimes to understand the present you have to appreciate the past.  I do feel sorry for you all though because at no point in Blue Dragon or Oblivion can you tell the game to “F**k Off!”.  We were hardcore!







14 responses to “I don’t know how to F*** off!”

  1. Ben avatar

    Ahh, the memories of telling the character to perform silly but often routine acts only to hear them say “I don’t know how to do that” – fun times.

    My personal favourite was “breath,” the resulting “I don’t know how to breath” was hilarious at aged6 or 7 for some reason.

  2. Tony avatar

    It took me forever to hit upon “tilt chair”, I think it was. Might have been “rock chair”.

    Text adventure games were so frustrating, but I did used to enjoy them…

    Would never go back though!

  3. Martin avatar

    I think you had to “bite lip” and he turned into the hulk, then you went into a gas filled room and became Bruce again, and that was how the game rotated. It was sooooooooo annoying!

  4. Kirsten avatar

    I remember being stuck in a jail and I had this Tinderbox. I tried to do everything with the goddamn thing. Eventually I typed ‘F*ck tinderbox’ and the reply was “That is not biologically possible”.

  5. Lorna avatar

    I used to adore text adventures and still think fondly of them. I have a stack on my computer for my speccy emulator and still have a mint-ish copy of Time And Magik in my games bookcase. Level 9 were responsible for some great games, one of which, Red Moon is still on my unfinished list – great memories of trading maps with my dad over this one. Still have all my notes for it and I mapped Lords of Time completely, even using red biro for the asterisks to mark in the items etc…yes, I’m a bloody geek! (pictures can be supplied on demand)

    Some of my best early memories are of text adventures – either playing them or helping my dad or pouring over hints in the Crash or Your Sinclair mags.

    I remember spending much fun time typing in all the swear words I could think of and then sniggering like a ten year old and his first glimpse of boobs. Althogh it didn’t always return such a confused response…one game whose name is forever lost in the mists of time gave you a finger wagging telling off and ended your game! Shame on us 😉

  6. Lorna avatar

    I should add, the Lords of Time maping was recently – only a few years ago *blush* I did finish it finally htough, and **** was I disappointed at the ending! talk about decades of waiting for nothing! Grrr (and arg).

  7. Tony avatar

    “Bite lip”, eh? Obviously there were some different solutions then, as I know I made Brucie* mad by making the chair fall over and hitting his head.

    (*This Brucie really was genetically different)

  8. Chris avatar

    I dont remember this particular game, but the one that caused me great frustration was “Twin Kingdom Valley” on the BBC B. You’re right though, the modern gamers have no concept of how the gaming industry was developed back in the day.

    Now we’ve swapped long nights on a text based rpg for days at a time playing beautifully crafted graphical adventures, sleep depravation and starving ourselves in the name of achievement…!

  9. Razgate avatar

    After Much net digging i have found some info on the most annoying text adventure I’ve ever played, but it was only annoying because you couldn’t advance past a certain point without reading the novel which came with the game and i quite frankly couldn’t be arsed and probably went back to playing Vindicator or something like that. 😀
    here’s the URL to the page on the annoying game MINDFIGHTER


  10. Scott avatar

    I feel confident that If I say, “I got the Babel fish!”, most of you will know what I’m referencing. 😉

  11. TequilaClint avatar

    H.G.T.T.G. on the ol C64 was a pain in the arse.

  12. Anthony avatar

    I only ever completed one on the BBC B and sadly I cannot remember what it was called. I do remember having to wear gloves before breaking some glass otherwise you bled to death!

  13. Dave avatar

    Okay, if nothing else you’ve brought back from great memories of playing The Hobbit and Heavy on the Magick. I’d forgotten the latter!

  14. Power Up avatar
    Power Up

    God, this brings back memories. The first game I had like that was Pirates Cove on the Commodore Vic 20, ha ha. On the Spectrum I had Spider-Man, Hulk, The Hobbit, Never Ending Story and Heavy on the Magik. They always ended in much anger.

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