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Mainframe adventures

Under this heading are found adventures that have originated on mainframe computers. In some cases they have then been converted to various other machines as well.

ADVENT / Adventure (aka Colossal Cave)

Text only Written 1972-1977 by Will Crowther and Don Woods.
Runs on:
Notes: The Original adventure game. Never commercially released in this version, although a lot of commercial adaptions of this game exists. The first version was written in Fortran which made it easy to convert it to new systems.

The PDP-10 version only has six-bit character storage and thus is all uppercase. It took advantage of the full 36-bit architecture of the PDP-10 which made porting more difficult. It packed six six-bit "bytes" into a single word (and did comparisons on them!). The PDP-11 version (which required a new parser and rule-base in the porting) has upper/lower case and, reflecting the PDP-11's typical usage patterns, dispenses with the "hours of operation" notion of the cave being "closed".

The port to the Altair 8800 was done by Jay R. Jaeger. This was probably the first post of Adventure to a microcomputer and some of the code from this effort seems to live on in modern ports. The port was done with the BDS C compiler.

Zork (aka Dungeon)

Text only Written 1977-1979 by Tim Anderson, Marc Blank, Bruce Daniels and Dave Lebling in MDL.
Runs on:
  • PDP-10 [For ITS, TENEX, TOPS-20]

Notes: All the programmers are from the Dynamic Modelling Group in the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab. Zork has been converted to most computer systems. It was later split up in three parts and released commercially by Infocom. All ports (C, TADS, ...) are based on the Fortran port ("Dungeon") written by Bob Supnik around 1980.

"Zork" was originally just a name that was given to any unfinished project around MIT. When the implementors gave Zork an official name for the first time, they called it "Dungeon", but for some reason people kept on calling it "Zork" anyway so that name stuck.

In 1983, a presentation of Dungeon and Mystery Mansion was given in Montreal at the Internex conference. For more information, see Personal Software and Infocom

Mystery Mansion

Text only Written 1977 or something like that (reports vary from 1976 to 1980) in Fortran.
Runs on:
Notes: It was also known as "Mansion".

Mystery Mansion is available in more than one version. At least revision 17 and revision 16 have been publicly available.

Different people have reported about when Mystery Mansion was available. The game originated on the earlier HP1000 and was then also available for the HP3000. The HP3000 was launched in 1976, but whether the game was available then is not known. The reports from people paying the games are probably from the later revisions (there might have been more publicly available versions than the above, of course).

Mystery Mansion, like Adventure, has a "twisty maze of passages, all alike". This would seem to indicate that Mystery Mansion is influenced by Adventure since it seems unlikely that two game authors would come up with the same idea independently of each other. However, if one carefully distills the map of the mansion used in the game, it is clear that there is a very clean 3x3x3 grid used in it. The location numbers for each room are incrementing: 1-9 for the basement, 10-18 for the first floor, 19-27 for the upper floor. They are also laid out in a very regular fashion. However, the twisty maze of passages is not part of this neat arrangement: it was clearly added after the fact, as were several other parts of the map. It is also clear that provision was made to add more, and there are two roomnames for locations which do not even exist; apparently the author either had them in earlier versions and removed all but the names, or meant to add them later. Since the source code for the later revisions of Mystery Mansion (where the maze is added) were available for the HP3000, possibly from the launch of the machine in 1976, the author might have been influenced by the original version of Adventure created by Will Crowther in 1972, before it was expanded by Don Woods in 1976-1977.

The Fortran source code for Mystery Mansion was available on the CSL tapes (Contributed Software Library) for the HP 3000 in 1984. It is not known for how long it was there. It was also available for the earlier model HP 1000.

In 1983, a presentation of Mystery Mansion and Dungeon was given in Montreal at the Internex conference.


James Garnett has created a port of Mystery Mansion (revision 17) in C and has uploaded the finished game in January 2000 to The Interactive Fiction Archive. The original Fortran IV source code is also included in the package.

Comments: It was vaguely a detective story, although solving the murder was done by simply finding the body, the weapon, and getting the murderer to enter the crime scene...

There were other puzzles to solve, also: a Vampire to destroy, a Werewolf to dispatch, lots of NPCs wandering around vaguely and when the clock struck midnight the house blew up and you had to escape, which was pretty difficult.

It begins with you at the end of the "Hideous Highway" before the mansion's gate (which you can only open if an NPC is there to help you).

It was quite a convoluted game with lots of magic words (you may remember XIMOW or WIMOH) and objects like a crystal ball that helped you find NPCs.

Cambridge University


Text only Written 1979 by John Laird (laird@umich.edu) in OPS4.
Runs on:
Notes: HAUNT was written by John Laird while he was a gratuate student at Carnegie Mellon University in the 1970s. He's now (1998) a professor at the University of Michigan.

HAUNT was written in OPS4, which only ever existed on DEC-10 and DEC-20. John doesn't have any copies of it, and says the only copies he knows of would be buried deep in the tape archives at CMU, and he has no desire to go looking for it unless "it's an emergency or something". At one time, John was planning to rewrite it in OPS5 or possible in SOAR, but he got bogged down in "real work". The rewrite only got halfway, but the source for this (in OPS5) has been located.

When the source to a version of Haunt resurfaced, I mailed John Laird and asked him if it was OK if I sent the source to the Interactive Fiction Archive. This is his answer:

Date: Mon, 28 Sep 98 14:44:30 -0400
From: John E Laird (laird@owl.eecs.umich.edu)

Great. I have no problem with you posting the source. It is exactly what you said. At one point I started to rewrite Haunt from Ops4 to Ops5 (different rule-based systems). I never finished. It was used for testing some production system interpreters.

I wrote Haunt after playing Adventure (or Advent as it was called on the KA-10 at Carnegie Mellon - only 6 characters). I hadn't seen Zork, and I don't think it was written when I did Haunt.

I have a small write up on it at: http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/laird/gamesresearch.html

Given the interest, I'll contact cmu and see if they can find it on tape somewhere.

It was available at USC around 1984.

Comments: It was similar to the original Adventure but set in a haunted house. The fun of the game was in the great, weird writing. It was like horror-movie cliches and this amazing sense of humor. The rampaging moose... the cube of LSD... the monster on a slab... the elevator... the bus... the wine cellar that went on forever...

University of Waterloo (Canada)

The University of Waterloo games were written in a language called F (for Fantasy) which was locally created by Mark Niemiec. The F language is based on B (the ancestor of C) and is completely non-portable.

Archive tapes for this mainframe exist and it might prove possible to get at the source code for these games.


Text only/Character graphics Written 1979 by David Riggle.
Notes: Unix based. This may be part of the standard System V games distribution. There are some brief character graphics after launching a Viper ship.


Written 1982 by two undergraduates at Stanford University (Richard Beigel?).
Runs on:

Notes: The capitalization of the name of the game is a clue to a puzzle in the game.

Comments: A really big, Zork-like game that started at an innocuous house like Zork and led to a big complex of rooms with treasures and bad guys.


Text only Written 1981 by Olli J. Paavola.
Runs on:
Notes: Published by the Helsinki University of Technology. Based on many of J.R.R. Tolkien's books, including The Lord of the Rings. Non-commercial. It is extremely large.


Runs on:

Notes: Written on a TOPS-20 called LOTS at Stanford University, California.


Text only
Runs on:

Comments: It had a very advanced interpreter, and the interpreter was probably the main interest of the implementor.


Text only Written around 1983 by Barry Wilks in Fortran.
Runs on:
Notes: This game was not entirely complete, but it was available on a VAX/VMS system at the university of Western Ontario around 1983. For more information, see Software Customization

Adventureland was created by Hans Persson and is now maintained by Stefan Meier.

If you find any errors or have information that is missing, please let me know