9 Phoenix conversions

David Kinder has improved Graham Nelson’s TSAL-to-zcode conversion script
to the extent that he, Richard Bos and I can now complete 9 of the 12 Phoenix games
for which source is still known to exist. For all we know the other 3 may be fine too,
but we haven’t finished playing them yet.

ifarchive.org/indexes/if-arc … zcode.html

The 3 games Graham released in 1999 have been rebuilt as the new conversion
script has various improvements. Acheton, released by David in Febuary, is also
being re-released to get the latest fixes, and the new games are Hamil, Murdac,
Spycatcher, BrandX (aka Philosopher’s Quest in its commercial release in the 80s) and Avon.

Feedback should probably come to me, ghira@mistral.co.uk, in the first instance
and I’ll pass things on to David Kinder if it seems necessary. I’ll certainly field requests
for hints.

The most “significant” Phoenix game is Acheton, originally released in c. 1978, probably
making it the third mainframe text adventure (Colossal Cave and Zork being 1 and 2).

Anyone wanting an “introductory” Phoenix game should probably try Sangraal or Crobe,
which were two of the games Graham did in 1999.

If people want to see the current builds of the remaining three games they
are on ghira.mistral.co.uk/ at the link “file for g4g9”.

If you happen to be able to get your hands on the source for the 3 missing Phoenix games, please send it along!

Adam Atkinson, ghira@mistral.co.uk


New builds of the previously released games (that is, Acheton, Avon, BrandX, Crobe, Fyleet, Hamil, Murdac, Sangraal and Spycatcher) have been uploaded to the IF-Archive. These new versions fix a number of minor bugs in the conversions.

Also uploaded are two Phoenix games that have not been seen in Z-code form before: Parc (by John Rennie, 1983) and Xeno (by Jonathan Mestel, 1989).

All the Z-code versions are here: http://ifarchive.org/indexes/if-archiveXphoenixXgamesXzcode.html

A new set of builds of these games have been uploaded to the IF-Archive. These new versions fix a cosmetic issue relating to blank lines, and more importantly, fix a problem with Crobe that could, depending on luck, lead to the player being trapped in the Mithril Mines.

All the Z-code versions are here: ifarchive.org/indexes/if-archive … zcode.html

I was recently reading through an old version of the raif newsgroup from summer '99 discussing the merits / unfairness of the old Phoenix / Topologika / Acornsoft games from Acheton to Xerb.

The only really unfair element to these games for me is the fact that a typographical error counted as a turn.

In games with tight lamp timers and puzzles which sometimes require exact move solutions (viz. the snake maze in Acheton) I found this unfair. The other tropes that irritated dare I say the “nouvelle vague” IF player at the turn of the century (disabled saves at certain points to avoid brute forcing solutions, no examine command) never irked me at all.

Does anyone know if all the JRP1 and other games from this stable had the “typo as a move” issue built into them. And was it endemic in the original T/SAL code?

I never played them, but the Acheton writeup on Blue Renga (https://bluerenga.blog/tag/acheton/?order=ASC) describes some shenanigans that were well past the Adventure/Zork tideline for player abuse. Tighter lamp limit, more “funny” surprise deaths, more puzzles that involved putting together every possible combination of noun, verb, and circumstance in hopes of triggering a positive outcome.

In some sense this was a natural outcome of every new IF game trying to top the previous ones. But even the oldvelle vague of the 80s rapidly realized that they should be trying to top each other on story and player satisfaction, not viciousness.

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A fair point. An ex girlfriend of mine once opined that all black and white films were rubbish. A friend of mine won’t watch any film made after 1979 (seriously). Maybe I have kept strange company but the older I get the more I stick to my comfort zone too. And perhaps oddly my comfort zone comprises some of the most uncomfortable IF in terms of user friendliness. Mea Culpa.

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I suppose that one man’s viciousness can be another man’s cool intellectualism. One suspects that the instant gratification and nanny state societies we have created can be seen in modern IF. The disciplines required to sit down and work a puzzle out on pen and paper and to learn from “sudden death” are perhaps too disdained these days. If you spoon-feed people too much maybe they forget how to feed themselves.

Having said that there are a few puzzles I would consider unfair in the Phoenix canon. If IF truly is a crossword at war with a narrative then the Phoenix crossword would certainly be a cryptic one from The Times or The Listener and not one from a red top.

I am not aware of Richard Bos’s email address but he has a page dedicated to the statistics of the Phoenix games at https://www.ifarchive.org/if-archive/phoenix/info/Phoenix_stats.txt. The statstics for Hezarin are missing some information but having finally completed it after many years it seems to be 402 rooms (including mazes) and 86 objects. I have my completed Trizbort and .pdf maps if confirmation is needed.