Adventure (1979 video game)
Adventure is a 1979 video game for the Atari 2600 video game console. As the first action-adventure game released, it went on to sell more than a million copies and essentially created the genre. In this game, creator Warren Robinett introduced the first widely known video game Easter egg.
In Adventure, the player controls a square avatar whose quest is to hunt an open world environment for a hidden magical chalice, returning it to the yellow castle. The game world is also populated by roaming enemies: dragons, which can eat the player; and a bat, which randomly steals and hides items around the game world.
History and design
Adventure was published by the console's developer, Atari, Inc. It was inspired by a computer text game, Colossal Cave Adventure, created by Will Crowther and later modified by Don Woods. Despite discouragement from his boss at Atari who said it could not be done, game designer Warren Robinett began designing a graphic game loosely based on the text game in June 1978.
The Atari 2600 had a number of technical limitations, and Robinett devised techniques to get around them. The system had five memory-mapped registers available to represent moving objects. Only two were capable of represent more complex sprite. Robinett used those for objects and creatures within the game. He used the register originally designated for the ball in games such as Pong to represent the player's avatar. Finally, he used the registers assigned for missiles, such as the bullets in Combat, for additional walls in the playing field.
Because of a limitation in the Atari 2600's hardware, the left and right sides of nearly every screen are mirror images of each other, which fostered the creation of the game's confusing mazes. The notable exceptions are two screens in the black castle catacombs and two in the main hallway beneath the Yellow Castle. These two hallway screens are mirrored, but contain a vertical "wall" object in the room in order to achieve a non-symmetrical shape, as well as act as a secret door for an Easter egg, a "message, trick, or unusual behavior hidden inside a computer program by its creator."
At the time of the game's creation, Atari did not credit any of its authors for their work. Robinett included a hidden message in the game identifying himself as the creator, thus creating one of the earliest known Easter eggs in a video game. It occupies 5% of the storage space on the cartridge. Atari found out about the Easter egg when it received a letter from a fifteen-year-old player, but left it in the game, partially due to the expense of creating a new read-only memory (ROM) mask, or memory chip, which was $10,000 US in the early years after the game's release.
Robinett handed over the code for Adventure in June 1979; he left Atari soon afterward. The game was released by Atari some time later. In a 2003 interview, Robinett recalled the release date as being Christmas 1979. The 1979 date is also listed in many other sources.
Inside the black castle catacombs (on difficulty level 2 or 3), embedded in the south wall of a sealed chamber (accessible only with the bridge), is an "invisible" 1-pixel object referred to as the Gray Dot. One must "bounce" the player cursor along the bottom wall to "grab" the dot. The dot is not actually invisible, but is simply the same color as the wall and is easily seen when placed in a catacombs passage or over a normal wall. The dot is not attracted to the magnet, unlike most other objects in Adventure.
Bringing this dot to the east end of the corridor below the Yellow Castle while other differently colored objects are present causes the wall object to also become 'invisible', allowing the player to pass into a room displaying the words "Created by Warren Robinett".
Robinett had to keep the Gray Dot a secret for over a year. He was unsure of whether or not it would be discovered; the dot was not mentioned in the game's manual, as the manual's author was unaware of the dot's existence. After the game was release, a fifteen-year-old from Salt Lake City discovered the Dot, and sent a letter to Atari explaining how to retrieve it. Robinett had already quit the company by this point, so Atari tasked designers with finding the code responsible. The one who found it said that if he were to fix it, he would change the message in the game to say "Fixed by Brad Stewart". Atari eventually decided to leave the Dot in-game, and dubbed such hidden features Easter eggs.
According to the game's instructions, an evil magician has stolen the Enchanted Chalice and hidden it somewhere in the kingdom. The player's goal is to find the Chalice and return it to the Golden Castle. The player character, represented by a square cursor, explores a multi-screen landscape containing castles, mazes, and various rooms, with thirty rooms in all. Hidden throughout the world are a sword, keys that unlock each of the three castles (golden, black, and white), a magic bridge that allows the player to travel through barriers, and a magnet that attracts the other items toward it. While Robinett originally intended for all rooms to be connected in both directions, a few such connections, such as one inside the White Castle, were one way, which he considered to be bugs. Such problems were explained away as "bad magic" in the game's manual.
Roaming the world are three dragons:
- Yorgle, the yellow dragon, is afraid of the gold key and will run from it. He roams the game freely, but can guard the Chalice or help the other dragons guard items.
- Grundle, the green dragon, guards the magnet, the bridge, the black key, and the chalice.
- Rhindle, the red dragon, is the fastest and most aggressive. He guards the white key and chalice.
The dragons have four possible states, all indicated with different sprites: chasing the player, biting, having swallowed the player, and dead. Initially, an encountered dragon is in the chase state. When a dragon collides with the cursor, it will enter the bite state, freezing in place. After a fraction of the second, the dragon completes the bite. If the dragon has a second collision with the player at that moment, it swallows the player, who becomes trapped in the dragon's belly. The delay between biting and swallowing is shorter if the console's left difficulty switch is in the "A" position. While biting, a dragon cannot be killed.
When a player is eaten by a dragon, he does not have to start a new game. Hitting the game reset switch reincarnates the player back at the Yellow Castle. As a penalty any dead dragons are reincarnated as well; the objects all remain where they were at the time of the player's death, including whatever the player was carrying, if anything. This is one of the earliest usages of the "continue game" feature, now common in video games. Hitting the game select switch after death returns the game to the game select screen, losing the current game's state.
The sword is used to kill dragons. Later video games use the concept of bounding boxes—if invisible rectangles surrounding objects overlap, it counts as a hit—to determine if an attack succeeds; the sword in Adventure only registers a kill if one of its individual pixels overlaps with one of the pixels of the dragon being attacked. While this method is more accurate, it is more processing intensive and makes successfully attacking more difficult. The arrow-shaped end of the sword was designed to improve the chances of scoring such a hit. If the console's right difficulty switch is in the "A" position, the dragons will run away when they see the sword.
A black bat flies around randomly carrying any single object, including live or dead dragons, which it occasionally swaps with another object along its flight path. The bat was the first video game character to have two possible states: agitated and non-agitated. In the agitated state, the bat is ready to swap items. In the non-agitated, or ignore state, the bat is content wit hits current item. This ignore state lasts for about ten seconds, to prevent the bat from getting stuck in a single room swapping back between two items endlessly. The bat can swap items even in areas where the player is not present. The bat was added to the game with the intention of adding unpredictability and confusion to the game.
The player can catch the bat and carry it around. The bat continues to fly even after the player has been killed, and occasionally the bat will pick up the dragon whose stomach contains the player, giving the player a whirlwind tour of the Adventure universe. The player can sometimes trap the bat inside castles. The bat's name was intended to be Knubberrub, but that name was not included in the manual.
There are three different games available via the game select switch:
- Game 1 is a simplified version of the game and does not have the red dragon, the bat, the catacombs, the white castle, or the maze inside the black castle. The objects in game 1 are always in the same starting locations.
- Game 2 is the full version, having all the features described. The locations of the objects at the start of a new game are always the same.
- Game 3 is similar to Game 2, but the initial locations of the objects are randomized, providing a different game each time, though the location of the dot is consistent. The randomization of Game 3 makes its difficulty highly variable, and it is occasionally unsolvable.
Ports and re-releases
Adventure has been ported to or re-released on several platforms:
- Jakks Atari Classics 10 In 1 TV Games (2002)
- Atari Flashback (2004)
- Atari Anthology (November 22, 2004) for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox
- Atari Flashback 2 (2005)
- Atari: 80 Classic Games in One (September 20, 2005) for Windows
- Game Room for Xbox Live Arcade and Games for Windows Live (March 24, 2010)
- Atari's Greatest Hits for iOS, released in April 2011 for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.
Atari's Adventure sold one million copies, making it the seventh best selling Atari 2600 game. As the first action-adventure video game, Adventure established the genre on video game consoles. In addition to being the first graphical adventure game on the Atari 2600 console, it was the first video game to contain a widely known Easter egg, and the first to allow a player to use multiple, portable, on-screen items. The game was also the first to use a fog of war effect in its catacombs, which obscures most of the playing area except for the player's immediate surroundings. The game has been voted the best Atari 2600 cartridge in numerous polls.
A sequel to Adventure was first announced in early 1982. The planned sequel eventually evolved into the Swordquest series of games. In 2005, a sequel written by Curt Vendel was released by Atari on the Atari Flashback 2. In 2007, AtariAge released a self-published sequel heavily inspired by the original, called Adventure II. For the Atari 5200, it was used with permission from Atari Interactive.
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- Official Version of "Adventure" at Atari Arcade
- Adventure at MobyGames
- Adventure (1979 video game) at GameFAQs
- Warren Robinett's Adventure page including game map and software design presentation (PowerPoint)
- Adventure at AtariAge
- Quake 3: Adventure
- Of Dragons and Easter Eggs: A Chat With Warren Robinett at The Jaded Gamer