Anyone have information on ADL (the "Hi-Res Adventure" system)?

Hi, as the topic title says, I was wondering if anyone had any information on the details of ADL, the “Adventure Development Language” created by Ken Williams and used for the Sierra “Hi-Res Adventures”. (I know these are kind of the precursors of graphic adventures and not pure “interactive fiction” in the sense used on this site; I note, though, that the Hi-Res Adventures are listed on the Interactive Fiction Database, and the first, Mystery House, is up on the Interactive Fiction Archive, so hopefully they fall enough inside of this site’s bailiwick that my asking about them here isn’t off topic.)

Specifically, I was wondering if the details of the syntax and structure of the language were available anywhere—enough for someone to create a new game that used the same engine. ScummVM can run ADL games, so clearly someone has figured out the format, but despite fairly extensive searches online I’ve been unable to find anything useful. (It doesn’t help that “Adventure Development Language” is a generic enough name to make it hard to search for specific information on it.)

I do have a reason for asking about this; I’m starting a blog about game creation systems (well, not right away, but it should be launching some time in the next year—I’m trying to get some prep work done first). My intent is to go chronologically covering the various game creation systems and engines that have existed over the years, and trying if possible to make a game with each one. (I’m not sure how far I’ll ultimately get, but at least up through the 80s there are few enough such systems that a comprehensive approach may be doable.) ADL is one of the earliest game-creation systems/engines I’ve found (not the earliest, but within the first twenty or thirty), but of those early engines it’s one of those I’m having the most trouble finding detailed information about, second only to a really obscure system from 1979 called F. So if anyone could point me to where I might be able to find out more about ADL’s format, I’d really appreciate it.

(I’d ask about F, too, but that anyone here would know more about that is a huge long shot—right now all I know about F is what’s in this page about lost mainframe adventure games (I’ve sent an e-mail to the creator, who’s still alive and whose contact information can be found on the web, but not surprisingly I haven’t received a reply). But if anyone does know more I’d certainly be interested. I’d make a separate post about F, but, well, I’m new to this forum and though I’ve lurked a bit I’m not 100% sure of the etiquette here and I don’t want to spam the place with multiple posts.)

Thanks for any information anyone might have.


In the region in France where my parents have their vacation house (Le Morvan), archeologists have been building a medieval castle with only the tools available in the 13th century. Your plan makes me think of that project. Very very cool.

By all means, make a separate post. If you give the post an appropriate title like you did here with ADL, you’ll increase your chances that someone knowledgeable sees it. There’s a whole bunch of obscure-IF-history zombies wandering these halls. While your question distracts them, we may be able to get the Orb of Purple Canaries out of the Well of Impala’s Doom.

I have no information, but both Ken and Roberta Williams have been known to post over at the Adventure Gamers forum, most recently earlier this month, so maybe it’s possible to reach out to them for information?


Torbjörn Andersson, thanks for the advice—I have posted about this a few other places, but I hadn’t posted there.

Oh, and also, Rovarsson, thanks for the advice about making a separate post about F—I’ve just done so.

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Sounds like the castle in the Cotton Malone mystery series…

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I had to look up your reference to Cotton Malone. Any good? I’m going to the library next week.

There are at least two other systems abbreviated to ADL as well, which probably doesn’t help when it comes to research.

I began reading the Cotton Malone series by Steve Berry many years ago. The author, Steve Berry is from the area where I grew up. His novels contain content I that I am familiar with. He is an ex government agent that now owns and operates a bookstore in Europe which is the base for much of his fiction.

I find the series very enjoyable. I must warn that he has allowed his personal politics to infiltrate recent works. I don’t need politics in my pleasure reading so I have taken a hiatus from his work for a time.

Thanks. Will try one of the early books and see where it leads me.

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