About outspaced

outspaced on

It was sometime in about 1991 that I owned my first computer. I had borrowed my cousin's grey Spectrum +2 machine, and I loved it (except for the R: Tape Loading Error messages that appeared all too frequently). Prompted by this, I purchased a black Spectrum +2A and that was my first machine. What I particularly liked about the Spectrum was the fact that it came with BASIC as standard--one couldn't help but learn to use it to some extent. Add to this the comprehensive manual that detailed every BASIC command and its syntax, and you have a fertile grounding for an aspiring programmer. I was never interested in writing games with sprites as I am artistically inept, so I found myself writing text adventures instead. My first taste of text adventures came with the classic The Hobbit from Melbourne House. I played it through many times, although I never managed to score more than about 55%. Inspired, I set to work and wrote, in Spectrum +3 BASIC, The Wishing Well. This was a +2A/+2B/+3/+3A enhanced game that made use of the extra memory as a primitive RAM disk. To supplement the rather boring yellow-text-on-black-screen, I enlisted the use of those HEX programs that proliferated in the computer magazines at the time. Several programs and about 100 hours of typing in hex codes later, I had a rather polished (if rather basic) text game. I would like to provide it here as a download, but, unfortunately, it is languishing on a 3" disk somewhere. Perhaps I will dig out my +3 sometime, although how I will transfer the data to my PC and into a recognised format I have no idea.

The game started with a randomly generated pattern, which was saved to the RAM disk. Then, a SCREEN$ with the name of the game and my name appeared, which, too, was saved to the RAM disk. Then, as the game began, a scrolling message, as tall as the screen flew by with lots of text. At various intervals, the text would cease and one of the pictures saved to the RAM disk would be displayed for a few seconds. Any key would start the game, which would then print some text and allow the user to input some commands. The parser was very limited; the game I had written was hardly "The Pawn" or a similar masterpiece. If the player quit the game, the scroller would come back, except that the text would be made up of randomly shaped blocks instead of the standard ones that came with the code. . . . I was rather pleased with myself that I had achieved that!

My only other game of note on the Spectrum was my interpretation of Hangman, which was rather sophisticated. It allowed two-player contests, but also had the function of randomly selecting from 100+ words of varying lengths for lone players. It had some poorly-designed blocks for the hangman itself, but the rest of the game was rather slick, considering the medium it was conceived in.

My next machine was my Amiga 1200, which I had for many years. It was whilst reading some articles in an Amiga magazine that I came across Public Domain, which I thought was a great idea. I sent off a letter and a postal order and bought myself about 15 disks' worth of PD from Online PD which used to be in Liverpool (I don't know if it still exists). One of the programs I got was called CAG (Create Adventure Games), written by a Portuguese chap called Marco A Pinto. The idea of the program was that it allowed novice programmers like myself to design and write rather professional text adventures, with pictures, music, even a reasonably advanced parser. After a few hours getting to grips with the program, I decided to try to write an adventure game based on the Paul Mason / Steve Williams Fighting Fantasy book entitled The Riddling Reaver, which was an attempt to introduce gamebook readers into simple role-playing techniques. I had got the first section fleshed out when disaster struck! My disk corrupted and I lost my saved data files. Disheartened, I began another project, this time keeping back-up files, based on the Dragon Warriors book, The Elven Crystals, by Oliver Johnson. This was more of a success . . . I actually completed writing it! Then I left it for a while. Then I revised it. Then I left it again. Then I returned to it, extensively revised it again and gave it to a friend of mine who uploaded it to the Aminet. It was banned because I had screen-grabbed some pictures from existing games, and there was a lot of snotty-nosed whingers whining on about piracy. So, for those of you online with Amigas, or who have access to a 'miggy and like text adventures, I have placed an LHA archive of The Elven Crystals on my Downloads page. I hope you enjoy my humble work.

By the time of this final revision and uploading, I was at college, learning the basics of programming in proper languages, like PASCAL (yuk!) and Borland C. I was quite good at the practice of programming, and by the end of the second year, there were three of us in the class who were widely-regarded as the best programmers, Duncan Strand, Carl McPherson, and myself. Under the moniker of 'Lion Software' we wrote a trilogy of dodgy text adventure games in C called "The Chronicles of Aarbron". Carl was the graphics man, I designed the engine (in about 30 minutes whilst I was listening to the lecturer, bored out of my brains), and we gave Dunc the job of creating the user-input subroutines. I also wrote the area descriptions, because I'm quite good at being verbose about nothing! The first game was, in déjà-vu style, based loosely on the book The Riddling Reaver, which would have been my first ever CAG game, had I not lost all my hard work. Both the Amiga and PC versions are available from my Downloads page.

Favourite Music

Bands and their songs that helped make me what I am:
The Stone Roses
Super Furry Animals
Gorky's Zygotic Mynci
The Smiths
The Webb Brothers
Belle and Sebastian
Urusei Yatsura
New Order

Songs that outspaced has listened to far too many times:
Elephant Stone (Original Mix) (Stone Roses)
Blue Monday (12" Original Mix) (New Order)
Chupacabras (Super Furry Animals)
This Charming Man (The Smiths)
I'm Over And I Know It (Full version) (Webb Brothers)
Age of Consent (New Order)
Sea Shandy (Tiger)

Favourite Films

Films that have influenced outspaced:
Blade Runner (25th Anniversary Edition)
Conan The Barbarian (Extended 20th Anniversary DVD)
Indiana Jones Trilogy (Digitally Remastered DVD Edition)
Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn
Evil Dead 3: Army of Darkness
The Fellowship of the Ring (Extended version)
The Return of the King (Extended version)
Withnail and I
A Chinese Ghost Story I and II

TV Recommendations

TV Shows that have entertained outspaced:
The IT Crowd
Jeeves and Wooster
The Day Today
Father Ted
Monty Python's Flying Circus
Big Train
The League of gentlemen
Ranma ½

Favourite Books

Books that outspaced particularly enjoyed:
The Lord Of The Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien)
On The Road (Jack Kerouac)
The Darke Crusade / Dawn Of The Dragons (Joe Dever)
The Wind In The Willows (Kenneth Graham)
Chronicles of Amber (Roger Zelazny)
Mort (Terry Pratchett)
The Day of the Triffids (John Wyndham)

Authors that outspaced recommends:
J. R. R. Tolkien
P. G. Wodehouse
Joe Dever
Roger Zelazny
Dave Morris
Jamie Thomson

Recommended Computer Games

Computer Games that outspaced has wiled away his time playing:
Planescape: Torment
The Secret of Monkey Island 1 and 2
Baldur's Gate / Tales Of The Sword Coast
Neverwinter Nights + Shadows of Undrentide + Hordes of the Underdark
Baldur's Gate 2 / Throne of Bhaal
Icewind Dale + Heart of Winter + Trials of the Luremaster
Eye of the Beholder I and II
The Hobbit (Text Adventure)