It was 1978 and Warren Robinette would create one of the most underrated, complex, and hilariously addictive titles for the Atari Video Computer System, later known as the 2600 - Adventure. He was inspired by the hobbyist computer adventure game for BASIC known as "Colassal Cave" (later released for the IBM PC as "Adventure" by Microsoft in 1981) - a text adventure that had you exploring a cave for treasures aand fighing bad guys, and solving puzzles. So just how is one inspired to basically create the first GRAPHICAL "Action RPG" from a "nerd game" that has no graphics and leaves you commanding it around by typing things like "Get Keys" or "Get Lamp" and using mystery words like "Plugh" or "XYZZY". Well...
See, the internet DID exist back then, but as the "Arpanet" - a then a tiny worldwide network tying large mainframes and "minis" from various Universities and STEM hubs together - originally called the DARPANET - as the Department of Defense created it during their DARPA Project in the late sixties - yes - go google it, interesting read....
But what does internet history have to do with the creation of an Atari game? Well, Atari was staffed mostly by 70's computer "nerds". These people were doing things we consider ho-hum now, but were incredible in the early 90's, but EXTRORDINARILY incredible in the 70's! See, that's how Warren got bespoke Colassal Cave game that inspired his project.
So what did he do, he managed to cram an entire world into 4 Kilobytes! And have enough left over to add the first "Easter Egg" - a hidden "something" within the game that players could find if they were particularly clever, skillful, and/or attentive.
The legend starts with how Atari treated their programmers. These artisans of ancient technology were not given individual credit or royalties for their work. They were seen as just another "warm body putting in the screws" just like the people in the plant making the cartridges. Many Atari employees were disgruntled or at least somewhat bothered by this and this would be one of the first to lead a wave of programmers inserting their identification in their games. In Adventure there's a puzzle that allows you to access a hidden room used to use up the extra bits left over after the finished game, and that room provides credit to the creator. It was not discovered until another two to four years by someone in that game, and was the very thing that inspired Atari to let programmers put that into ALL of their new games.
There used to be an article on the internet sometime around 1997 with Warren online talking about the development, including talking about how the graphics are so hilariously primitive, well this WAS 1978 after all, but he attributes it to him being an accountant. Turns out it was the only game he made for Atari Corp before leaving, well before anyone discovered his little "Easter Egg".
DRAGON WARRIOR 0 - My Experiences
I got into Adventure as a little kid at age 8 with my first console which was obvously, an Atari VCS. I don't know where the cart came from or what thrift shop or garage sale mom got it from, nor when as we had had a steady stream of Ataris going back to before I was born.
I remember it being on a weekend and I decided to pop the cart in and mess around, and I must have spent at least three to four hours messing with this game. I also remember it being the first Atari 2600 game I was actually quite good at.
It's one of those games that now, in hindsight, could probably be a good subject of a Creepypasta or a backrooms level to be honest. It literally is "liminal spaces, the game". When I fired it up I was greeted to a silent pink room, with a gray floor with a green number in the middle. So I tried variation one, and was greeted to possibly the worst low-res rendering of a castle I've ever seen, with a nicely rendered portcullis, a little block, and a key.
Despite the graphics, the gameplay is smooth, the premise is solid, the puzzles are clever and well executed, the "Easter Egg" makes it one of the most influential games of all time, but unintentionally, due to no background music and the graphics, particularly vague pixel rendered things either trying to steal from you or eat you, gives it a similar "eerie" vibe similar to say, Five Nights at Freddy's (which I swear Cawthon was thinking of this gamae for the earlier death minigames). That eerie vibe can make even something as goofey looking as this quite immersive. It's kind of like how Nirvana songs, despite their simplicity, are masterpieces - because it has what it takes in all the right areas to make it great, and all the "right areas" are not necessarily the ones we are expecting.
I mean, your character is literally a "square". The Dragons look like a cross between a duck and a seahorse with a weather baloon for a stomach, the bat looks like a flying moustache, and the chalice looks like an 8-bit rendered holographic dickie once worn by Dale Bozzio of Missing Persons (actually Mental Hopscotch IS a good listen while playing this game, that or Edge of the Blade by Journey). But that's all bolstering an eerie vibe created by empty rooms in bright colors. The vibe almost makes it a New Wave Medevil Fantasy Backrooms crossover.
But the graphical execution + the fact this thing is truly pushing the limits of the hardware leads to a lot of comedy. Part of that 3-4 hour initial run was just flying around the game in a dragons stomach while being carried around by a bat.....I can hear the "script" now.....Oh lord hath mercy on our poor boxman who now flyeth in the skies above in the gizzard of a seahorse by wings of moustache! May the lord restith thy soul as thou gets an eternal tour of our not-so-logically laid out lands.
Reviews, Walkthroughs, and Maps (GameFAQs)
My Review From 2015 (GameFAQs)