Saturday, April 9, 2011

I Smell a Wumpus!

Before I begin the second post of my blog, I must apologize for having been so remiss as to have not even introduced myself in my inaugural post.

I am castiglione.

Thank you for reading my blog.

A while back, I found the contents of More BASIC Computer Games on the internet.

I actually owned this book when I was a child and spent many hours typing in and playing these games on my old Apple II+. Looking at some of these games now, I'm left wondering what I ever saw in them. To be honest, there are some real dogs in there. For example, I played (and enjoyed) Camel a lot but looking at the game and its source code now, I have to ask myself “where's the game?” Where's the meaningful decision making? Frankly, Camel, Safe and Warfish leave me wondering if the “gee whiz” factor of playing a game on an honest-to-goodness computer was enough to distract players from the fact that there wasn't much there in the way of actual gameplay when you got past the beguiling flashing lights. I suppose things haven't changed that much since the days of Camel except that the beguiling flashing lights have been replaced by better graphics.

Anyway, for some reason, I never got around to typing in and playing the classic game, Wumpus, on my Apple II+ and searching around on the internet, I couldn't find any downloadable versions of the game that resembled Gregory Yob's original program. I found browser based versions of Wumpus as well as the TI-99/4A graphical version and its descendents but nothing that I could download and play except for a version available for Linux users called wump that's bundled with a bunch of other classic text games in bsdgames but it's a little bit different from the original version.

So, after a flurry of coding, I present to you Gregory Yob's hit game of 1972 “Hunt the Wumpus”. Versions for Linux and Windows are available. These are fairly faithful recreations of the original game except I did away with the all-caps format as it is a little bit hard on the eyes.

Give it a try.

Overall, I think it's pretty fun, sort of like a precursor to Minesweeper. The object of the game is to pinpoint the location of the evil Wumpus in a network of caves and tunnels using various clues and then shoot it to death with a magically guided arrow. For me, much of the joy of the game comes from mapping out the Wumpus's lair.

Which results in a bit of a problem. As I've stated, mapping out the caves and tunnels is, at least for me, one of the more enjoyable aspects of playing the game. However, there is only one cave network and once you've mapped it out, there's no need to do so again. No more mapping, no more fun. What to do? The sequel to Wumpus presented more maps to play in but all that does is delay the end of the need for (and the joy of) mapping.

Another flaw in the game is that it could hypothetically begin with the player in a position where he could die on his first move without having received enough clues to make an informed decision to attempt to avoid his doom. Fortunately, it's pretty easy to just start another game but it's a little bit annoying.

The final flaw of Wumpus is that because the game begins with the the eponymous monster being “asleep”, the hunt for this scourge of the land, this ferocious beast, ends up feeling more like a canned hunt rather than a valiant quest. Frankly, that doesn't sit well with me.

Fortunately, I think Wumpus could easily be “fixed” with some changes. My proposed fixes are:

  1. Randomly generate a new map with each game. The version of Wumpus available in bsdgames actually does this.
  2. Toss out starting conditions which result in the player being next to one of the three hazards (bats, pits and the Wumpus) in the game.
  3. Not only is the player hunting the Wumpus but the Wumpus should also be hunting him. Or at least not sitting there dozing waiting to get shot.

No comments:

Post a Comment