If we ever find the HP Basic version, that should tell us more about the actual 1974 content ... I'm not expecting _that_ much difference though -- for instance, what were you expecting other than compass directions?
It seems plausible that both Crowther and Langston could have come up with the concept of navigation-by-compass-directions independently. Crowther was a caver, and mapping cave systems with a compass was something he actually did in real life, as I understand it.
But what inspired the idea of a text-based exploration game in the first place? Do we know if Crowther and/or Woods had any specific influences in this respect? Might Wander have been one of those influences?! Would that even have been possible? Was Wander distributed widely enough pre-ADVENT for Crowther/Woods to have had access to it? If so, and if they did have access, then what inspired Peter Langston to create Wander?!
These are all tantalising questions (to me at least), but unfortunately I can only answer one of them at the moment (and that only partly) because I'm reluctant to keep pestering the parties involved for more information. I think Peter's probably had enough of me now! (And I don't blame him because if you look back through USENET archives, you'll see repeated complaints from people trying to contact him to get hold of the source code to Empire, or a copy of the PSL Games tape, etc.! I don't want to be the one to bring back the bad old days.)
The one question I did manage to sneak in and get an answer to was about the inspiration for Wander:
Peter Langston wrote:
As to Wander's inspiration, as I was writing other games, I got to thinking about the non-deterministic non-linear story experiments I had heard of the French doing in the 1920s, where the reader made choices that determined how the story went. I figured that fairytales like Rapunzel or science fiction like the Retief stories would be a good basis for such stories and computers would be the perfect way to present them, but it would require a great deal of programming skills along with the storytelling skills. So Wander was an experiment to see if the programming part could be made easier by pre-coding the common kinds of actions and consequences. I had the vague idea that I could make it easy to use and then coax some real authors like Robert Sheckley into writing some wanders. I never got that far, of course.
I don't know exactly which French writers Peter's referring to here, but his answer does seem to suggest that Wander was an idea that he got without having seen ADVENT first, as also does the date 1973-4, of course. But obviously we'd still need to see earlier releases of the code to have a clearer picture of what the first versions of Wander were really like. Or perhaps Jason's forthcoming blogposts will dig up some interesting artefacts from the code we already have.
(And btw, how much do you wish that Robert Sheckley had written a wander?! Ah, what might have been...)
Perhaps the Castle world is the closest we can currently get to the 1974 state of Wander? As Jason said
, it's the oldest of the surviving worlds. Plus, in his READ_ME in the 1985 Usenix conference distro, Peter wrote, of Castle:
Peter Langston wrote:
This was the first world I put together; as a result it uses very few of the new "features" and does a few things by incredibly Rube Golberg-like contortions...
Btw, although Castle doesn't recognise the get
command, the Library world does.
Peter Piers wrote:
when the game even recognised XYZZY... well, I was surprised.
Yes, so it seems pretty clear that some changes that were made to Wander were influenced by ADVENT. It might be interesting to note that Peter Langston was apparently a member of the "UNIX Adventure Tastefulness Committee
", which was convened to sort out "Various design questions" during the conversion of ADVENT to UNIX.