Weird Wood (1981)
Early British text adventure Weird Wood dates from 1981 and was a disk-only title available for the Commodore PET. The game was written by Derby-based programmer Rob Watts and was published by Supersoft, a venture set up in 1978 by Peter Calver and Pearl Wellard.
Sadly Weird Wood isn't currently archived online but at least one copy of the software does exist in the hands of a collector...
This review from TV Gamer magazine gives an idea what the game was like...
In a letter to Micro Adventurer magazine, fellow programmer Jim MacBrayne mentions that Weird Wood 2 was in development. Was it ever released or even completed?
Thanks to Mark J Cox, we know the answer to those questions. Mark got in contact with us about Weird Wood II after coming across the article we wrote about The Adventure Games of Jim MacBrayne earlier this year. Mark not only had some more information about Weird Wood II... but he also had a copy of the source code for the game!
How did you come to have the source to Weird Wood II?
"Back in the mid 1980s I was a member of the Derby Microcomputer Society. More than a dozen of us would meet every couple of weeks and take our computers to show and tell. There was a varied collection of machines owned including BBC, Spectrum, Amiga, Atari, Commodore 64, and PC machines, as well as PET, and Sharp machines with their inbuilt displays."
"That's where I met Rob Watts. Rob wrote the puzzles for the society magazine and showed me his adventure game Weird Wood II with its devious and complex puzzles.
As a fan of text adventures I really wanted to continue playing the game after the meeting ended that night. So at a later meet Rob made me a print out of the BASIC source code from a line printer, many many pages long, and I proceeded to convert it to run on my Sharp MZ-80K. A few years later I converted it again to GWBASIC to run on my Amstrad PC1512. I made a few changes, adding a help system and more graphics and fixed a couple of bugs, but never released it. I do remember spending a very long time typing everything in by hand from the printouts!"
"Your article with Jim MacBrayne got me thinking about that game again and it was mentioned there was no known copy of the source code for Weird Wood II. I knew I still had it! With your help I was able to get in touch with both Jim and Rob and it seemed there was interest in getting Weird Wood II running again. It would be great to preserve this game for the future, or just provide some memories for people that have played it before."
So does it work?
"Yes! I worked to update my port to QBasic (QB64) and fix some of the bugs. The original adventure was written for a 40 column display with hardcoded spaces at the ends of lines, but looking at Jims' recent adventures they looked so much better running in 80 columns.
I wanted to strike a balance to preserve as much of the feel of the original game while making it still appealing to have people play it. So while it benefits from a new font and width, I've left the parser alone. It was tempting to convert it from basic to use a modern IF engine, but maybe that's a future project. Jim has been awesome. We've been in daily contact while he play-tested the game, patiently trying to solve the puzzles and reporting bugs and suggestions for improvements. We've now got a fairly complete map (trizbort.io was awesome for this) and a solution. It's actually been great fun. It turns out we're both near Glasgow so hopefully can meet up when we're allowed to."
Is it solvable?
"Weird Wood II isn't an easy text adventure. Actually that's a total understatement. So I added a few extra clues where I think people will get very stuck. Even so I still think it's going to be really tricky to solve, there are some fiendish puzzles and more than a few mazes. There are over 500 locations (and that doesn't count another 300 or so inside goblin houses). I guess we'll have to publish a walkthrough. Or at least the map. I'd rate it as "Tough" on the IF rating system!"
Do you have a favourite adventure or publisher?
"Pretty much anything by Infocom. Leather Goddess of Phobos II has a special space still on my shelves as Infocom bundled some PC sound libraries I wrote with the game and credited me! After that I got into Sierra games, and I loved the humour in the Space Quest series. A while later I started playing IF games written by Zarf (Andrew Plotkin) and in a bizarre coincidence I actually ended up working with Andrew as we were both at Red Hat in North Carolina for a while."
Anything else you'd like to add?
"I can't thank Rob Watts enough for sharing the source code with me all those years ago. Those values of openness and sharing seemed so natural at the time and really resonated. It led to me producing lots of freeware software over the years and eventually working on many open source projects. I'm not sure if we'll release the code for this, maybe later, as it is a huge spoiler."
Okay, so how do we play Weird Wood II?
"The beta version with executables for Windows and Linux are below. The game starts out full-screen but you can use "ALT+Enter" to swap to a window if you prefer. It uses the new 80 column mode, but if you'd like to see it as Rob originally intended you can use the command "40" to switch mode ("80" to switch back)"
Please give the game a go... you can send any feedback to Mark at mark(AT)awe.com
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