Monster Rally - An Obscure 1983 DOS Parser Game Uploaded

I have found a zipped copy of the above game on Charles A. Crayne’s old web site and uploaded it to IFDB and ifarchive under games/pc. It is a large text only horror/fantasy epic weighing it at circa 300 locations and named monster.zip. The link is here:https://web.archive.org/web/20090217124344/http://www.pacificsites.com/~ccrayne/charles.html

It will play well under DOSBox or my personal favourite DOSBox-X. The link also contains Diane Crayne’s Castle Elsinore which is another excellent puzzle fest.

12 Likes

I’m surprised and happy to report that the 15-20 y.o. 32-bit Linux binary run fine under this 64-bit linux box.

Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.

5 Likes

Excellent news. I love archaeological digs for old games.

3 Likes

Good find. I’ve made a note to change the authorship over from Dian to Charles when things return to normal at CASA and we can start making edits to the entries again.

2 Likes

As a result of this upload, I went down a bit of a rabbit-hole about the authorship of this and the other associated games (using sources including CASA and links therefrom). And now I’ve gone a bit further.

I’m not convinced it’s right to attribute this work solely to Charles/Chuck, whatever his 2000s website and the game zip itself says. (Which is why I just added Dian on e.g. IFDB.)
But my research was patchy, I didn’t find definitive info, and I’m certainly willing to be corrected; I can see that e.g. CASA folk such as yourself and ‘Exemptus’ have spent a lot more time researching these games.

The earliest source I looked at is the article “Do-It-Yourself Adventure”, by Dian Crayne, in PC Magazine, September 1983, pp266-276. (Found via CASA, I know you’ve been all over this.)
This is very much in the first person singular, without any hint of collaboration that I’ve seen, implying all these works were Dian’s alone. Selected quotes:

Dian Crayne is the author of several adventure games published by Norell Data Systems: The Phantom’s Revenge, The Hermit’s Secret, Monster Rally, Valley of the Kings, and Elsinore. She has been a programmer/analyst for 10 years. Her science fiction writings are published under the pseudonym Dian Girard.

I have written six [sic] text adventures for the IBM PC

My own adventure games are built from two basic parts: the driver program and the text files or “script.” […] Because the games are script-driven, I can build 70 to 80 percent of a new game without ever touching the actual program source code.

Jason Dyer’s Renga in Blue blog post from 2022, ostensibly about The Hermit’s Secret, has some research into Dian and Chuck in general, as do its comments. It attributes the games to Dian, and describes the arrangement with Norell Data Systems (a Proper Publisher). One of their 1982 catalogues has some of the games, under her birth name, Dian Girard; again, no hint of Chuck. (She married Chuck long before, in 1972.)

Dian had her own page under Chuck’s webspace (~ccrayne) in the 2000s, but I haven’t seen a version of that mentioned the games.

There’s lots of records of Dian and Chuck on SFF fandom sites (some linked elsewhere in this post), but I haven’t seen any talking about the computer games.

I can see that the consensus at CASA has hitherto been very much that these games are Dian’s, including textual comparison between the games and Dian’s trad fiction (e.g.)

I’ve had a look at the copies of the games that I can find for more clues:

                        IF Archive      archive.org     ~ccrayne
The Hermit's Secret     -               1               -
The Phantom's Revenge   1               1               -
(Castle) Elsinore       1               -               2
Monster Rally           -               -               1
Valley of the Kings     -               -               -
Granny's Place          -               1               -
way too much detail on individual game copies

In all cases, the main script file (.WRK/.DAT file) is XOR’d with 0xDC bytes (argued to be Dian’s initials), and once unscrambled can easily be read with e.g. strings.

The Hermit’s Secret. 1 copy.

  1. Hermit's Secret, The : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive
    ZIP timestamps 1996. No readme file.
    Strings from running game /
    “THE HERMIT’S SECRET - Copyright (C) 1982 Temple Software, Inc.”
    “This program and script were developed by
    Temple Software, Inc.”
    “As you glance back at the rocketship you notice a number
    painted across its hull in large block letters: CAC021638
    THIS IS YOUR CERTIFICATE REGISTRATION NUMBER - COPY IT DOWN!”
    [hm, ‘registration number’ appears to be Charles A. Crayne’s initials and birthdate]

The Phantom’s Revenge. 2 copies (basically the same version).

  1. The Phantom's Revenge : Temple Software : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive
    ZIP timestamps 1983. No readme file.
    “Copyright (C) 1983 Temple Software, Inc.”
    “This program and script were developed by Temple Software, Inc.”
    “As you glance back at the motorboat, you notice its
    registration number: JDC082942
    THIS IS YOUR REGISTRATION NUMBER - COPY IT DOWN!!”
    [again, ‘registration number’ appears to be J. Dian Crayne’s initials and birthdate]
  2. if-archive/games/pc/phantom.zip
    IF Archive metadata: timestamp 1993-12-06 (I think I trust that means the Archive really has had it since 1993); “by Temple Software”.
    Different ZIP wrapper. ZIP timestamps 1983, again. Shared files identical, but also contains a very brief READ.ME:
    “This adventure is a copyrighted work. It may not be sold or modified.
    Premission is granted to post on BBS Systems and other data services.”

(Castle) Elsinore. 3 copies, of which 2 distinct.

  1. if-archive/games/pc/elsinore.zip
    IF Archive metadata: 1993-01-09, “version 1.0, by Temple Software”
    Extensive README. Talks about “copyright by the authors, doing business as Temple Software” (note plural). Invites donations in name of Charles A. Crayne at a street address in Manhattan Beach, CA. “This information is valid as of 9/19/92”
    From running game / data file:
    This game responds to the VERSION verb (others of these games don’t, except where noted):
    “Castle Elsinore Version 1.0”
    “CASTLE ELSINORE - Copyright (C) 1983, 1992 by Temple Software, Inc.”
    Similar donation request, but with singular ‘author’.
    No obvious embedded registration code, unlike the previous two.
  2. Wayback machine for ~ccrayne, for DOS. (Only one capture, 2007-06-28.)
    ZIP file identical to IF Archive version.
  3. Wayback machine for ~ccrayne, for Linux. (Only one capture, 2007-06-11.)
    Tar timestamps 2005-6. File owner “chuck/chuck”.
    Readme file still talks about “authors”. “This information is valid as of 6/23/06”.
    Different .dat/.inx to DOS version:
    “Castle Elsinore Version 2.0”
    “Copyright (C) 1983, 1992, 1997, 2005 by Charles A. Crayne”
    Street address updated to Willits, CA.
    A few new game strings (responses to new verbs?)

Monster Rally. 1 copy (as unearthed by Canalboy just now).

  1. Wayback machine for ~ccrayne, for DOS. (Only one capture, 2007-06-11.)
    ZIP timestamps 2004-6.
    Readme: still talks about “authors”; Willits, CA address; “This information is valid as of 6/22/06”.
    Running game / .DAT file:
    Understands VERSION verb:
    “Monster Rally Beta Version A.”
    “MONSTER RALLY - Copyright (C) 1983, 1992, 1997 by Charles A. Crayne.”
    “This program and script were developed by Charles A. Crayne.”

Granny’s Place. 1 copy.

  1. Granny's Place : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive
    ZIP timestamps 1996. No readme.
    “Copyright (C) 1983 by Temple Software, Inc.”
    “This program and script were developed by Temple Software, Inc.”

I’m particularly suspicious of this “Beta Version” business for Monster Rally. Presumably there was a non-beta version in the 1980s. Maybe this was some abandoned prototype of the ‘upgrade to run from a hard disk’ mentioned on Chuck’s mid-2000s web page, prodded into life in the 2000s?:

Most of the text adventure games are probably lost forever, since they were developed on 5 1/4 inch floppies, and even if those floppies are still physically readable, I no longer have any way of converting them to modern media. However, in about 1992, when I still had such capability, I did upgrade two of them to run from a hard disk, and even more recently, created a native Linux version for Castle Elsinore.

My speculations on a timeline and circumstances, based on all that:

  • 1980s: published by Norell (until Norell goes bust in ~1986 at latest?), probably trying to make money in earnest – don’t know if any of the copies we have are from this era (timestamps notwithstanding) – don’t know if “Temple Software” branding existed – promoted under Dian’s name(s), but maybe no personal name included in games?
  • 1990s: tweaked, and disseminated via BBSes and early Internet on a donation-ware basis, under “Temple Software, Inc.” name, which I assume means Chuck+Dian (seems most likely that most surviving copies are these); not marketed with named author, but Chuck handling donations
  • 2004-6: Chuck exhumes these for his own amusement; puts some on his website, with freshly-tweaked versions (understanding new verbs, including VERSION) updated to be under his own name instead of “Temple Software, Inc.” (maybe because company no longer registered?)

I don’t know why Dian isn’t credited on Chuck’s web page and newer builds, but it seems clear that Charles/Chuck being credited is a change made long after the games were written. So I think it’s probably best to credit both of them, for all these games.

I guess maybe Dian lost interest / didn’t want the hassle of dealing with registrations or Internet stuff / no longer cared to be associated with these games?
(Chuck predeceased Dian, in 2009, which is after the sources we’re looking at. Dian died in 2017.)

I mean I suppose it’s possible that the games were really Chuck’s all along, and were associated with his wife when they were trying to actually make money from them, because of her reputation as a trad author and/or programmer? But that’s not the way round that usually goes. And, as noted previously, people think the game’s writing style is Dian’s. (Also, her range of pen names might dliute reputation effects: Dian Girard, sometimes used for the games, and J. D. Crayne.)

5 Likes

One difference that I have noticed in my so far cursory glance at Monster Rally is that EXAMINE is permissible. This is the only one of the four games from the original six that I have seen where it is parsed successfully. Whether this is a cachet of authorship or just evolutionary progression I’m not sure.

2 Likes

Yeah, it’s very tricky isn’t it? I’d obviously convinced myself on that previous deep dive (that you linked to) that Dian was the sole author of Monster Rally but this newly discovered version has muddied the waters a lot. It would probably be safer to attribute the game to both Dian and Charles unless any new information turns up. They certainly collaborated on a lot of projects in both the computing and SF/fantasy world (they both had long involvements with each of those communities) and it’s often impossible to ascertain who did what; such as in their joint book Serious Assembler. Like you, I’d dispute any claim that Charles did a lot of the work on the games and Dian’s name was on things for any sort of promotional reasons.

There’s a nice pice on Dian and her work in the Code Nation book, by the way…

3 Likes

Dian Girard was born on 29 August 1942. She was raised in Los Angeles and developed an early taste for science fiction, fantasy and mystery fiction.

She was editor of the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society newsletter during 1962-63.

She married Bruce Pelz in 1964. When she was pregnant, she and Bruce attended the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society 1965 halloween party where she was injured by wood splinters when an assailant outside fired three shots through the window. Their daughter, Cecy, was born in 1966. Dian was an illustrator (as Dian Pelz) from 1968 to 1969.

Bruce and Dian divorced amicably in 1970. In fact, they threw a divorce party that helped inspire Larry Niven’s What Can You Say about Chocolate-Covered Manhole Covers? which was published in 1971.

Dian married Charles A “Chuck” Crayne on 5 March 1972.

Her first short story Eat, Drink, and Be Merry appeared in 2020 Vision, which was edited by Jerry Pournelle, in February 1974. She wrote further short stories throughout the next decade.

Dian was an early employee at Xerox and Norell Data Systems. At Norell, she worked as a programmer and game designer, contributing to Valley of the Kings, Monster Rally, The Hermit’s Secret, The Phantom’s Revenge and Elsinore. The first four of these were listed in softalk for the IBM Personal Computer, vol. 2, no. 7, December 1983, p. 174. None of the Norell Data Systems games are known to be archived.

She wrote an article on how to write adventures in ‘Do-It-Yourself Adventure’ in PC Magazine, vol. 2, no. 4, September 1983, pp. 266-269, 272, 274, 276, where she said that she’d written six adventures, but the sixth was not named. We now know that that was probably Granny’s Place.

Dian then turned to writing computer books including The Essential User’s Guide to the IBM PC, XT, and PCjr in 1984 and Serious Assembler coauthored with her husband in 1985.

When Norell Data Systems went out of business, Dian’s adventures were published as shareware by Temple Software. These are variously dated 1982, 1983, 1992 and 1997. All of these are known to be archived except for Valley of the Kings.

Dian turned to writing and had at least three novels published from 2005 to 2009 (as J.D. Crayne).

Charles A Crayne died on 16 February 2009.

Dian was discovered dead in her Northern California home on 4 October 2017 by police making a welfare check at the request of friends after she failed to show up for their book club meeting.

Dian was featured in Code Nation, Michael J Halvorson, Association for Computing Machinery, 2020, pp. 139-141.

With all that we know about Dian Girard/Pelz/Crayne, I don’t think there is any doubt that she had the writing and programming skills to have written those six adventures by herself, but we do not know Charles’ involvement, apart from the restoration of two of the games in about 1992.

4 Likes

Thans for that link. I suppose it is much more harmonious when two people can bury their egos and not worry about ownership of intellectual property. If only Townshend / Daltrey and some of those other old music bands could do the same thing.

1 Like

They seem like a fascinating couple; from everything I’ve read, very much a marriage of equals. Charles himself had plenty of kudos in the fantasy/SF world with his involvement in many major conventions (some of which he chaired with Dian’s previous husband Bruce Pelz). (Charles will often appear credited as Chuck Crayne in the SF/fantasy world… if he was deficient in any department compared to his wife, it was the pseudonym one. :wink: )

Charles had serious credentials in the tech industry, with his work at Xerox.

Each of them had a long and storied history in both computing, the sci-fi/fantasy world, the tech industry/tech journalism and even the gaming industry. You can find references of Dian playing Diplomacy from the 1960s too.

4 Likes

Here’s an interesting mention of an “Adventure” by Chuck Crayne…

Seemingly a CP/M implementation of the original mainframe game, for which Charles apparently had the source code. This is a known version (CRAY0350) but I don’t know if we’d particularly made the connection between it and Dian/Charles in the past.

Here’s a 1982 advert for it…

3 Likes

The Adventure Family Tree (is this site no longer online anywhere? :frowning: ) links to FOG061.ARC from the First Osborne Group as its type specimen for CRAY0350.

I also found a copy on the Walnut Creek CP/M CD-ROM (ADVENTUR.LBR on a random mirror).
Described in various index files (e.g.) as “by Chuck Crayne 0/0/0 36K A small version of the 350 point ADVENTURE game. Works on any terminal. Output is in upper case.”
(Descriptions of containing directories: LAMBDA is described as “David McGlone’s Collection”; SOUNDPOT as “Sound Potentials”.)

These two copies are basically the same. There’s a program ADVENTUR.COM and a data file ADVENTUR.WRK; .WRK is the same extension as some of the (earlier?) Temple Software games use, but the format clearly isn’t identical; there’s no XOR obfuscation, strings are terminated with a CP/M-ish $ rather than NUL, there’s no ?index file. I’m not familiar enough to speculate whether there might nevertheless be heritage between this program/data split and the Temple Software games.
I haven’t spotted any credits other than the “THIS VERSION IMPLEMENTED BY CHUCK CRAYNE / FEEDBACK REQUESTED” noted in the genealogy.

Differences:

  • The FOG version comes with a brief ADVENTUR.DOC (just how to run and a couple of commands, no credits).
  • There’s a single-byte difference between ADVENTUR.WRK – FOG has a double-quote character where Walnut has a space. In context, Walnut’s version looks correct. Looks like a single-bit corruption.

The innermost archive layers in both copies do not have timestamps. The FOG ARC wrapper has a 2004 timestamp, but that seems uninteresting. (The FOG archive has an index file with “FOG LIBRARY DISK - Copyright (1986) by First Osborne Group [etc]”.)

4 Likes

Posting, for my own later reference, that Charles dates the date of extraction of the original disk versions (and the tweaks to make them run from hard disk) as 1992 but credits the native Linux version as being done recently. [*edited as I misread his comments initially]

2 Likes

I had never heard of that version. I have played (and play tested) Mike Arnautov’s Adventure 770 and Adventure 701+ (written in TADS). David Long’s 751 point extension of his originally extended game is still lost. I am always on the lookout for missing games like FisK and Xerb. I managed to get Warp packaged by big Dan Hallock a few years ago and I put up on IFDB. Jim MacBrayne has been rewriting the Black Tower from his original PET version after I contacted him thanks to 8bitAG’s page.

2 Likes

I’m sorry, I’m still tickled by this. I’ve never heard of such a thing and I have to say throwing a party is marvelous. How that so screws social conventions! Do guests bring a gift (or, more appropriately, two separate gifts)? Do they congratulate the uncouple or express condolences? Did Dian toss a bouquet (or the packet of their signed divorce papers)? Is the person who caught it considered the next to get a divorce? Did they have a cake? How was it decorated?? Surely, they invited the same people who attended the wedding, which had to be socially confusing for peeps in 1970. So, so, many questions.

4 Likes

Shades of Steely Dan’s Haitian Divorce.

1 Like

I have looked at the CP/M binaries you pointed; the executable (.com) are identical (I used sha512sum, but the data set (story file in later years) differ only from the correction of a typo:

diff adventur/adventur.wrk foggy/adventur.wrk
372c372
< HE SNATCHES YOUR TREASURE AND VANISHES INTO THE GLOOM.$A SEPULCHRAL VOICE REVERBERATING THROUGH THE CAVE, SAYS,
---
> HE SNATCHES YOUR TREASURE AND VANISHES INTO THE GLOOM.$A SEPULCHRAL VOICE REVERBERATING"THROUGH THE CAVE, SAYS,

(of course, in the “foggy” subdir are the files from FOG #061)

so, tentatively, can assess that the version in “foggy061.arc” predates “adventur.lbr”, whose should be a minor bugfix release, barring a, fortunately minor case of “bit rot” (more than feasible, if we consider the binary representation of SPC (0010 0000) and " (0010 0010), that is, a single bit flipped)

Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio

1 Like

Quoting a blog post elsewhere, which mentions some of the details incorporated into the story, “Yes, there really was a cake with a little bride and groom on top facing in opposite directions.”

The story is available as an audiobook. You can hear the beginning here…

…which gives some details of the event.

The key points (you can borrow ‘All the Myriad Ways’ from the Internet Archive to read the full story, which the party only really sets the scene of the conversation for)…

It was planned the year before to celebrate the night the Decree became Final… the divorce cake was frosted in black with the two figures facing outwards… there was a fake priest with a reversed collar… and the couple kissed for the last time, to the applause of the thirty or so people gathered. In the story, “Dina” left the party early with her date.

1 Like

It seems like that web site is only available on web.archive.org now JTN. There is a wealth of information there but it’s knowing where to start. I know it was still online until quite recently as I remember seeing it.

Looking at that family tree makes The Waltons appear a compact unit.

1 Like

I’m fairly sure the Adventure Family Tree site has been offline for some time now (or at least hosted unreliably), as you and Garry were commenting about it not being available in a thread on CASA back in January 2022!

(I have mooted the idea of an organisation such as the IFTF drawing up a list of important sites related to text adventures/IF/IF history that the community feels would be important to be preserved. Then the owners could be proactively approached for permission to duplicate the sites contents in advance, should the sites ever disappear.)

2 Likes