It’s time at last to get around to the first post of 2017. I’d like to say I’ll be posting more regularly this year but realistically that is unlikely to happen. When I do get round to it, there are still old games to play so lets start with a handful of Origin games I forgot about when I was originally blogging through them all.
Probably the most significant Easter eggs ever to make their way into Origin products were 3 text adventure games hidden away in the files for Privateer, Privateer – Righteous Fire and Wings Of Glory. These were all created by Arthur DiBianca, a coder at Origin during the 90’s.
To find these hidden games, you need to search through the files for each game and look for the one starting with tab. The filename is actually reversed and in this case should be advent.bat, so it simply needs renaming and copying into an otherwise empty directory.
You then type advent setup to start, except I discovered at this point that with all this batch file trickery going on, DOS ran out of environment space.
To fix this, you just need to edit your config.sys file and reboot. The relevant line is shell=c:\dos\command.com /P /E:1024. This maxes out the environment space in DOS and will fix the errors running these games.
Running the setup generates a load of little batch files for all the commands in the game. These text adventures play entirely from a tweaked command prompt so there is a look.bat and n, s, e and w.bat files, etc. Each command in the game is actually a call to run the relevant batch file.
These files pass along their calls to the main advent script which does the heavy lifting. If you supply a second word, i.e. look lamp, then lamp is passed as a parameter into the batch file. Presumably all the variables for the game are stored in the DOS environment. It’s kind of ingenious really and shows how much you can do with batch scripting. I would imagine it’s not the most practical language for the job but it clearly works.
Of course with the whole game being played from a DOS prompt, you don’t want to be typing any unwarranted DOS commands while playing this (other than dir which gives a verb list).
Having spent a while getting it running, the first game took all of a couple of minutes to beat. I won’t give away too much but it essentially revolves around learning a few magic words to teleport around the world. There isn’t a plot to describe in any of these games, it’s along the lines of Zork with somewhat random locations and puzzles to conquer. At the end of the game, I’m rewarded with a magic word to carry into the next game which was included with Righteous Fire.
The second and third game are substantially larger with maybe 10-20 locations each and a good deal more puzzles. That isn’t to say they will last more than 5 minutes a piece but they did make me think. I’m glad to say there was no resorting to that staple of text adventures, large mazes with identical locations. Did anyone ever actually enjoy those things?
I can’t say I’m any the wiser having got to the end of these as to what exactly is going on. There is some mention of a crowned man apparently obsessed with breadsticks. This has to be Lord British but don’t ask me where the breadstick interest comes from.
Unfathomable as they may be, all 3 games are a fun little diversion and if you want to try them out without using the original files, they can be played through a browser at https://archive.org/details/wcadvent