By Alpine
BBC Model B

Published in Beebug #56


Disraeli is quoted as having said, "When I want to read a novel, I write one!" This could be your solution to the current dearth of adventures for the BBC Micro. But how to go about it, "Aye, there's the rub."

Re-inventing the wheel is never a good idea, so perhaps you should take a leaf out of the professional's book and use a custom-built package to help you. Wherever possible, programmers draw suitable chunks of pre-written code from libraries of useful routines, and when these have been built into a simple language, things are made much easier. This month sees the release of just such a piece of software called ALPS (Adventure Language Programming System).

Using such a program to create adventures is not a new development. Previous examples available for the BBC Micro include The Quill and The Graphic Adventure Creator, both extremely successful and widely used by amateur and professional alike. The software house Delta 4 has produced a number of commercial games using The Quill, and these were generally well received. GRaphics adventures on the Beeb have not been very successful - maybe because of the lack of memory. Perhaps that is the reason why the ALPS package has chosen to concentrate on text only adventures.

The package is supplied on a 16K ROM with a floppy disc containing extra tools. The games compiled under this system may be freely run by other machines not containing the ALPS ROM, so you are free to give copies of your masterpiece to your friends (or customers). The program permits players to use complex sentences such as "PRESS THW SWITCH AND THROW THE BOMB EAST". Two adventure games are provided on the accompanying disc, 'Tiny' and 'Mysterious Mission'. 'Tiny' has been included as a simple exercise piece to help you understand the production of a small game. 'Mysterious Mission' is a full length adventure written by the author to demonstrate the capabilities of the system.

The ALPS language provides simple Basic-like structures using IF-THEN-ELSE plus procedures. While writing games using a custom-built language is much easier than by other methods, it still requires a basic knowledge of the logic of programming to produce anything worthwhile. Understanding the concepts of 'flags', procedure calls and 'switches' is relatively simple, but essential when writing even the smallest game. As proof of how easy it is to get it wrong, let me cite the case of the game supplied, 'Mysterious Mission'.

This is a full-sized adventure, involving your travels through 120 locations. Beginning in a hotel room, you are soon besieged by assassins and surrounded by corpses. Early in the game you will be found languishing in a cell containing a locked door and a bed. In answer to my command 'STAND ON BED' the game responded: "You don't have a battery lamp, which is off", I then decided to blast my way out with the command 'THROW BOMB EAST'. As nothing appeared to happen, I attempted to retrieve the bomb, only to find it had inexplicably disappeared from the locked room. Not with a bang or even a whimper. Feeling desperate, I decided to 'KNOCK ON THE DOOR'. Again I was informed, "You don't have the battery lamp". True, I didnt... but that was hardly relevant! This does serve to demonstrate that logic can be devlishly difficult even for the professionals.

The supplied manual is adequate, and the various tools and error messages should ensure that with dedication you could create a pretty good game. Its main advantage, however, will be the use of a ROM, which ensures that more memory is available for program development. The Quill has many devotees who have written little extra routines to enhance the original, and these are available through specialist adventure groups. Whilst ALPS is perfectly suitable, it presents no great advantage over existing systems.


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