​One of the first computer games is born again in open source

Going all the way back to 1976, Colossal Cave Adventure, one of the first computer games, has been reborn in an open-source incarnation.

In 1976, Gerald Ford was president, the average house cost $43,000, and a pair of guys named Steve started selling computers under the name Apple. Oh, and for those lucky enough to have access to a DEC PDP-10 mainframe, you could play one of the first computer games: ADVENT, better known to most as Colossal Cave Adventure. Now, decades later, the well-known developer Eric S Raymond has brought Adventure back from the dead as an open-source program.

Adventure is a text-based game. Some have described it as the first interactive literature game. While it's a long, long way from Adventure's "You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike," on a VT-102 terminal screen to the spectacular World of Warcraft gameplay of today's massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), there's a direct line between them.

Raymond explained, "Colossal Cave Adventure was the origin of many things: The text adventure game, the dungeon-crawling D&D (computer) game, the MOO, the roguelike genre. Computer gaming as we know it would not exist without ADVENT (as it was known in its original PDP-10 incarnation)."

He's correct. I started gaming in the 70s with D&D and ADVENT. While the systems were stone-knives and bearskins primitive compared to today's game, the excitement was the same.

So, why bring it back? Raymond said, "This is code that fully deserves to be in any museum of the great artifacts of hacker history. But there's a very basic question about an artifact like this: Should a museum preserve it in a static form as close to the original as possible, or is it more in the right spirit to encourage the folk process to continue improving the code?"

The answer: "Modern version control makes this question easier; you can have it both ways, keeping a pristine archival version in the history and improving it. Anyway, I think the answer to the general question is clear; if heritage code like this is relevant at all, it's as a living and functional artifact. We respect our history and the hackers of the past best by carrying on their work and their playfulness."

In the new release "The game is fully playable. It would be astonishing if it were otherwise, since it has been stable since 1995. One minor cosmetic change a lot of people used to the non-mainline variants will appreciate is that there's a command prompt."

Adventure is ready to compile and will run on any system with a C compiler. The code is also available on GitHub for your hacking pleasure.

Enjoy your trip back to computer gaming's past, and remember, "Xyzzy" can be helpful.

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