AGT revisited

Bah. Grepped for <SYNONYM EXAMINE X>, but in the V6 parser it was <VERB-SYNONYM EXAMINE X> so I missed it. Sorry about that.


I’ve definitely been using X in Trinity. Is that just an interpreter convenience?


Afraid so. A Gargoyle addition, looks like.

Now that I am searching for the right thing: Arthur, Beyond Zork, Border Zone, Bureaucracy, Lurking Horror, Moonmist, Nord and Bert, Plundered Hearts, Sherlock, Shogun, Zork Zero. All the Solid Gold releases.


Thaaat would explain why TAKE COIN THEN X IT breaks. I’d chalked that up to a bug in the game’s parser.

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This almost needs to be split into a separate “the origin of X” thread, or one for a general discussion about parser abbreviations.

In the UK I’d always presumed we took the X for examine from some of the more popular commercial games; such as those from Level 9 or Magnetic Scrolls.

But Magnetic Scrolls don’t really seemed to have used it despite their earliest title The Pawn (1985) having a ton of abbreviations…DR for drop, IN for inventory, WI for with, G for GET, O for out, PN for pronouns (!) and F for from. (Z for wait came on a bit later I think; it’s certainly there in Fish! but I haven’t checked when they introduced it)

There’s no X for examine in The Pawn as L for LOOK can be used instead.

Level 9 do use X for EXAMINE, but looking very (very) quickly that doesn’t seem to have appeared until Ingrid’s Back (1988). Lancelot, from the same year, doesn’t accept it.

Early uses of X is certainly something I’ll be keeping an eye out for now, anyway. It seems to start becoming more commonplace in homegrown games in 1988. A review of Monster in CRASH! magazine in 1988 reads: “One of the most useful abbreviations is X for EXAMINE. It’s surprising that hardly anyone else seems to have thought of it.”

There is plenty of evidence it was around earlier, though. X was an obvious choice for some games; for example the key-controlled graphical/text hybrid Heavy on Magick (1986) assigned the key X to examine. Infocom still seems the most likely inspiration for the use of the abbreviation in Ingrid’s Back, although the use of X for EXAMINE could just have been a natural, obvious thing that developed independently.

Analog magazine from October 1987 says: “The standard Infocom program is superb and features a large vocabulary, as well as allowing abbreviations of the most often used commands, such as X for examine and I for inventory.”

Page 6’s review of Hijinx from July 1987 points out Infocom “…haven’t implemented the abbreviation X for eXamine which they introduced in Moonmist, a great shame…”

Moonmist was 1986. So is there any game out there from 1986 or earlier that also uses X for EXAMINE?


As some sort of data point, I wondered if Professional Adventure Writer (the Amstrad PCW version; manuals and programs/examples have various copyright dates 1986-88) offered X as an abbreviation out of the box.
It doesn’t; LOOK and EXAMINE are synonyms (as is EXAMI, due to PAW’s five-character word length limit). It also had a separate verb REDESCRIBE, and an abbreviation R, to redisplay the room description. I was the only other abbreviation in its example code, other than directions. (Nothing stopping authors adding abbreviations in their games, of course.)

(I don’t know that PAW was super influential / widely used; I get the impression that its predecessor The Quill was more so; I assume that doesn’t use the X convention either, but I haven’t actually checked.)

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No, Quill doesn’t default to X either; although you’ll see authors adding it as a synonym in the late 1980s. The original Spectrum PAWs was from 1987. It was fairly well used on the Amstrad, but was CP/M & disk only there so never quite had the same reach as the Quill and GAC on that system. The PAW was popular though with Spectrum users, quickly becoming the system of choice. We have 842 games currently listed under the Quill on CASA and 622 games listed with the PAW… which given the PAW only came in ZX Spectrum & CP/M versions (compared to the nine platforms that Quill/Adventure Writer released on) is fairly impressive.


5 posts were split to a new topic: Quill [split on request]

If you refer to AdventureWriter documentation, Yeandle was given “only” special thanks on page 2, whose acknowledge the actual collective autorship, both documentation and technical.

Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.


I was just browsing through Jimmy Maher’s Hall of Fame and noted that three of the 137 games listed are AGT games, specifically A Dudley Dilemma, Son of Stagefright and Cosmoserve. Given that a large proportion of the games are not text adventures, that’s not a bad showing.


My first introduction to interactive fiction was through AGT. I remember downloading it and, while I never published anything, I was able to establish a basic understanding of the overall language. Sure, it may be simple by today’s standards, but for some reason I enjoyed it a lot.

I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who remembers it.