Since the age of about 11, I’ve been a fan of Interactive Fiction—also known as “Adventure Games”. If you were using computers in the 80s, you’ll probably remember them: text on a screen, words describing where you were and what you could see. You typed commands, and if you were lucky the computer understood you and said something appropriate.

Then graphics came along, and the text adventure disappeared from the computer games market.

The best text adventures were those written by Infocom. Almost as good were those written by Level 9. I spent many hours writing parsers and text compression code—first for Z80, then 6502, then 68000. I usually got as far as implementing full sentence input and 40% text compression before selling the computer and upgrading to something completely different. So I only ever finished writing one actual game; that was on the TRS-80, and is long lost.

These days the tools for writing professional quality adventures are available for free download. You can play the games on almost anything; even a Palm handheld has more CPU power and RAM than the computers Infocom’s games ran on in the 80s. (Screen size is a bit of a bitch, but so it goes.) There’s been something of a renaissance in the genre as a result; enthusiastic amateurs have written dozens of excellent games.

So, nothing now stands in the way of my completing my second epic adventure game. Well, nothing except… puzzles.

Puzzles are the glue which holds an adventure together. They’re what makes it a game, rather than an extended essay. And while I’ve come up with at least half a dozen viable ideas for an adventure, I can’t seem to flesh out enough puzzles to make it all hang together.