When people are asked to name their favourite games for the Apple II, Lode Runner is usually somewhere on the list. Funnily enough, I never played much of Lode Runner. For a long time I didn’t even know it existed…
My first computer was an Apple //c, bought when I was 14 or so in 1985. I already had experience of the Apple II from a friend whose dad was a Maths lecturer. We spent many an hour playing things like Wizardry, Sneakers and Snoggle.
When we got the Apple //c, it came bundled with some software that I got to choose. Naturally, I chose Wizardry 2 and Wizardry 3. But I also had a 3rd choice. So (I think on the salesman’s recommendation) I got a cool looking game called Championship Lode Runner. I had no idea it was a sequel to a previous game.
Anyway, not knowing any better, my brother and I delved in. It was quite tricky at first to say the least, and there was a real sense of accomplishment when we managed to finish level one!
One important thing to note about this game: it has save games but every time you restore you lose a life. So ultimately your save game self-destructs after too many restores and you’re back to level one. And while all the levels are hard, some are completely bonkers. The amount of trial and error is extreme.
I played it on and off over the next couple of years. It was damn hard but I wanted to get to the end. We had a legit non-pirated copy and there was the possibility of getting a certificate!
So anyway, yeah, after about 2 years, I eventually did it! I completed level 50, the most crazily fiendish level which definitely earned its right to be the last one.
After completing the last level, a screen appears asking you to type in the serial number on your registration card. With nervous fingers I typed it in and got the special password, copied it carefully to the card and mailed it off.
Some time later, I was more than excited to receive this in the mail:
Opening it up, the contents:
The thing on the left is just a piece of stiff cardboard.
Here’s the letter:
And finally, I was a proud owner of a Championship Lode Runner Certificate!
The signature of Doug Carlston on the letter is just printed but the signature on the certificate is done with a pen. Though I’m not even sure who that is. C D Toomey? Joomey? It doesn’t seem to match any name in the manual or hint book. If anyone can figure it out or knows, let me know and I’ll update this post.
Like Pirate Adventure before it, this one was pretty good in terms of it being a cohesive setting. Who you are and why you’re there isn’t given any time of day but who cares about that stuff! We’re on a mission! And it’s impossible! (Not really.)
This time I was determined to get through the game without looking at any walkthroughs.
There were only two places where I got mildly stuck. In the first instance, I eventually looked at the dead saboteur’s card again and figured out what was required.
At another point I lucked out because I just tried something random with a certain door and it worked. Later, when I looked at a walkthrough, it was interesting to note they had used a totally different verb noun combination. Nice that Scott put in enough verb noun variations to make it work.
So after about 2-3 hours I won through without resorting to cheating – not even looking at an online map! Yay me!
I wonder if maybe I’m getting used to the way Scott thinks. I’m enjoying these cheesy, small adventures.
Anyway, I could only find one map online and again, it looked kind of weird, so here are mine.
So I decided to play the next Scott Adams adventure, Pirate Adventure (also known as Pirate Cove).
This one was much more cohesive than the first. Where Adventureland was a jumble of stuff thrown together, this one pretty much stuck to its theme. I say “pretty much” because the first part where you start in a London flat is a bit odd.
Anyway, I tried my hardest this time to not cheat.
I eventually succumbed at two frustrating points after wandering around for far too long without any progress. “Where do I find a damn empty container?! And how can I unlock that door?” The answer to the second question relied on a description I’d long forgotten. The answer to the first was kind of ridiculous. Oh well, at least the rest of the game was fairly straightforward after that.
Herewith are two maps. The first one is just the locations, so it’s kind of spoiler-free in some ways.
The second one includes all the items in the rooms, which in a couple of cases is a giveaway. So if you want to try solving it yourself, look away!
I recently decided to play some classic text adventures that I tried when I was younger but never finished.
First up I had a go at Zork. Still got stuck and had to use maps and a walkthrough. Then listened to the great podcast about it by Kay Savetz and Carrington Vanston – Eaten by a Grue
Then I decided to play the first ever microcomputer text adventure – Adventureland by Scott Adams. This time I tried my hardest to finish without cheating (I had to get a few hints in the end). As part of this effort, I decided to do my own mapping – even of the maze!
To do the mapping I decided to figure out what the current state of the art is in digital mapping tools and found http://trizbort.io. It’s not a perfect tool but it’s pretty damn close. The important thing is to learn the keyboard shortcuts.
Anyway, after looking at the other maps for Adventureland online, none of them seemed to capture everything. So I thought I’d share mine. Herewith is my map:
I played the SAGA version with graphics on the Virtual II emulator.
A: Tony D’Assumpcao was a Professional Officer in the School of Biochemistry at UNSW at the time. He was a very keen Dungeons and Dragons player (which I was not!). He talked me into writing Caverns of Mordia. He also did most of the drawings in the manual/story book.
Q: How did you distribute it? Was it ever distributed outside Australia?
A: By direct sales using ads in computer magazines and by word of mouth. Some orders did come from overseas but we did not actively market it outside of Australia.
Q: I can only find one small reference to Lothlorien Farming on the internet:
Did you produce any other software? What else did LF do and how long was it in business?
A: Yes, following the Caverns of Mordia, I wrote a number of Tutorial programs for School students. These were rote learning exercises and included The Geography Tutor, The Spelling Tutor, The French Tutor, The German Tutor and The Universal Tutor. These all came with prepackaged lesson files but also included a facility to enter new lesson files. The program tracked the student performance and adjusted the probability of question selected from the list to favour the student weak areas. They did also provided feedback on nearly correct answers.
In addition library catalogue and archiving programs were produced.
These were all marketed under the Lothlorien Farming logo.
Later, I wrote a much more complicated software system for Library management. That was marketed by Lothlorien Software. It was called the Integrated Microcomputer Library System. It was very comprehensive and performed all the functions then available on Mainframe library management systems, including a financial package for library acquisitions. It provided for multiple PC terminals in a network with very rapid searching. It was more comprehensive than the Mainframe library system at Fisher library at Sydney University at that time, except that because of limitations on Hard drives available for PCs, we were limited to libraries with <100,000 books. The Integrated Microcomputer library system initially ran on both Apple IIe’s and other PCs, but later versions only ran on PCs as they offered more memory etc etc. It was installed in many Schools throughout Australia and some sites abroad.
Q: Are you perchance a fan of Lord of the Rings 😉
A: Yes indeed! Many of the characters and items in the game are named after those in The Lord of the Rings.
Q: The manual has a copyright date of 1980. How long did it take to write?
A: A few months. The original version was written for my children and friend, many of whom were into Dungeons and Dragons. It evolved and was distributed (and copied) amongst them. Only later, Tony D’Assumpcao suggested to market it and helped write the manual.
Q: Roughly how many copies did you sell?
A: Marketing was haphazard so I cannot recall but it was in the thousands.
Q: Roughly what proportion were DOS 3.2 and DOS 3.3?
A: Not sure about that but probably 50:50
Q: This post mentions a copy protection system. Can you tell me about that?
A: Yes there was a copy protection system that I devised. This became necessary because the game proved popular and pirate copies started to appear.
For the copy protection I amended the DOS. The altered DOS program would not show the game software in the Directory list if a user listed the Directory. Instead a loading program appeared that itself was not the usual loading program but contained hooks to allow the game to be loaded. In a pre-booted machine running the normal DOS, the program appeared not to be there either as the File allocation had been performed using the altered DOS and was different from what the normal DOS used. Thus it could not be loaded (or copied) from normal DOS. If the supplied diskette was booted up, the altered DOS was loaded and it could find the program although it still did not show up in the Directory and file saving was disabled. In the game, the players status is recorded and that required the file saving to be temporarily dynamically re-implemented. .
The whole disk could, of course, be copied by Bit copiers but they came later and in any case were not in possession of the large majority of potential copiers
Q: There’s a downloadable dsk version of Mordia online that seems to crash a lot – would this be due to the copy protection system? Or possibly the emulators not working properly?
(My Apple IIGS is in a box in my garage!)
A: I was unaware that there is a downloadable dsk version on-line. I would be interested in getting details.
The crashing could well be due to the copy protection because that is called within the program here and there. I have been meaning to remove the protection and re-do the whole thing to run on a PC.
Q: Someone on the whirlpool forums mentions an IBM version – was there an IBM version or is that person thinking of something else?
Q: I’ve attached an image showing the back label of the disk. Any comments?
A: The making of the recording on the diskette was somewhat laborious because it had to be initialized with the altered DOS. But that DOS had the file saving code removed and a scrambled Directory function. Because there was room for error in this many-step process, each disk was individually tested. The signature is that of my daughter who was 11 at that time and who was involved in making the disks as orders came in!
Q: At the end of the manual there is a registration card and mention of “The Caverns of Mordia Club”
Did you ever send out any news or updates to club members?
A: Yes indeed. There were some very active groups playing the game. Sometimes the game nights would go right through the night!
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: Not that I can think of at the moment, but I would be pleased to discuss it further.
working on a side project, my eBay frontend software, AuctionSieve
testing it by searching for vintage Apple II stuff
I wasn’t really expecting to find anything. I’d just fixed a bug and was doing some testing to make sure everything was working. But an auction came up. It was a ‘lot’ of old Apple II games – original disks! And the bid was still at one dollar.
Let’s see – Ultima 1, Cranston Manor, (Sierra) Online systems Hi-res adventures 1-4, stuff from Broderbund, Muse, etc – around 30 games in all – all originals (no boxes or manuals though). Wait a sec, that’s a California Pacific version of Ultima 1. Some quick googling ensues. Yep, these are worth quite a bit of money.
And some weird game I’d never heard of called Caverns of Mordia.
So I put a bid in and after several days, couldn’t believe my luck. I won the auction for $10.50!
The games arrived a week later and I did a closer examination of what I got. All in good order. Yep, this was definitely a bargain. And what on earth is this Caverns of Mordia thing?
So I did some searching. I actually found a copy of the disk online in the asimov archive. Downloaded it and played it in an emulator. Real old-school stuff but unfortunately it crashes at certain points – perhaps a bad crack?
Did some more searching and found a pdf of the manual. Looked through it and found the authors – H. G. L. Coster and A. L. D’Assumpcao – published in Sydney by Lothlorien Farming copyright 1980.
Hm, I wonder who these guys are? Searched for A L D’Assumpcao – no dice. Did a search for H G L Coster and hit pay dirt – found he’s a professor at Sydney Uni and UNSW – one Hans Coster!
Could it really be the same person? So I sent him an email.
Dear Professor Coster,
I recently bought a bunch of Apple II games off eBay.
Your game, Caverns of Mordia, was included – see attached image.
I’m interested in the digital preservation of items such as this and there’s not a lot of information on the internet about it.
What I did find was a scan of the manual with your name – and a quick google search later, you were easy to find.
I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions about it?
And the next day, he replied!
What a surprise to r of this; a real blast from the past!
I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.
Actually, I still have the source code etc.
I look forward to hearing from you,
Wow, I had made contact with an original Apple II game developer.
And then I got to meet him!
By chance, Wozfest /// (a gathering of Apple II enthusiasts in Sydney) was just around the corner and after some Q&A with Hans, I invited him along and he was very enthusiastic.
We had a great time on the night. He brought along some of his original disks, which unfortunately couldn’t be imaged.
He also brought along an original manual (printed on orangey-red paper to prevent photocopying)
and some of his notes and graphs he drew up when designing the game.
Wozfest $04 came and went and I wasn’t able to go.
But unbeknownst to me, the organiser and host of Wozfest, Sean McNamara, planned something a bit more elaborate for Wozfest 5.25” – he hinted at something big in the mailing list.
Fortunately I was able to go along to this one. And what a surprise it was – a new updated re-release of Caverns of Mordia!
Hans had a slightly updated version of the game which was never released.
He deprotected it and had his grandson type up the manual afresh. With Sean’s help they created 20 copies to give away and I was one of those lucky ones to attend in person and receive a copy! Here it is pictured below.
For more detailed info about the re-release, follow these links.