Historically Significant Computer Games

Why and How I Got Started at This

Background Information

A few years ago, my grandson set himself the goal of becoming a computer games developer. Well, that was after giving up his childhood goal of becoming super hero. Anyway, as he was about to enter college for pursuing that goal, I happened across an old printed copy of the source code for the Startrek computer game. I decided it would be good for him to have a copy of one of the early computer games. It would be of little use toward creating modern games but at least it would give him a little understanding of where it all got started.

Like most computer stuff in the early 70s, games in general and this one specifically were not graphical. In fact, most were played by typing at a keyboard and receiving the response in a printed form. Most of our UCS customers accessed time-sharing via a Teletype model 33 at 10 characters per second over the phone lines. That is painfully true but hard to imagine today.

Most computer games of the time were written in Basic and I made the decision to write exclusively in Java after retiring. So, I converted the Basic code to Java, making a few enhancements along the way. I wanted to leave the feel and play of the game as much as practical as it was originally. This primarily meant staying as text based rather than a more modern graphical experience. In the case of Startrek, I did put it in a graphical display but left it as essentially text based. The user types a command or request in response to a printed prompt.

After finishing Startrek, I found it to be and interesting endeavor and decided to do some more. I also found some old printed Basic code for Hunt the Wumpus, a game from our first micro computer. I converted it to Java, along the same lines as Startrek although I did add several enhancements to it, unlike Startrek that I left as found.

After Wumpus, I was "on a roll", so to speak. So, I next tackled the old game of Nim. This predates computers by a long way. It cost me more beers than I like to admit learning how to play it. The game looks exceptionally simple but can be deceptively difficult until you learn how to win. I was first introduced to Nim while in the Army in 1958 by a young second lieutenant, usually using match sticks torn from a matchbook. We played, with him always winning, many times, usually costing me beer. Fortunately for me, we could get Budweiser for $0.10 at the PX. This one was done from scratch, again in Java. Since it was not converted from an old computer game, I never intended it to look or feel text based.

With those behind me, I guess I got a little too confident. I also remembered from the UCS days, a game called Adventure. It dealt with exploring Colossal Cave where there are treasures as well as hazards. It too was a text based game and was quite difficult. You did not respond to prompts from the game. Instead, the game simply waited for you to try to do something then it responded, usually with an accurate answer or otherwise. This was a major undertaking that I will leave to the associated section to describe. But again I converted then rewrote it entirely in Java.

Since completing these, I have started on the old Battleship game but so far have made little progress. Sometimes important things interrupt frivolous endeavors. Maybe someday.

There is one more development. My grandson had another change of plans. No he is not going back the the super hero option. Instead, he decided to pursue a lifelong interest. He went to chef school and he is darn good at it. It will take time to get established but I am confident he will eventually make it to the top.