back to article Seminal game 'Colossal Cave Adventure' released onto GitLab

The classics never die – or so we hope. One classic, Colossal Cave Adventure, is getting a new lease of life on GitLab. Regarded the first text adventure game, Colossal Cave Adventure was first given life in the 1970s on a Digital PDP-10, by ARPANET pioneer William Crowther, and expanded on by Don Woods, then a Stanford …

  1. Dwarf


    Magic news !

    Drop stick

    Pick up bird

    Pick up stick.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Xyzzy

      PLUGGH to you too!

      1. steamnut

        Re: Xyzzy

        I thought is was plough? Was that before or after the plovers egg?

        I tried a map but the mazes were a problem....

        1. Paul Westerman

          Re: Xyzzy

          I believe it was 'PLUGH'.

          I was a latecomer though, I played the Level 9 version on the Beeb :)

        2. Mud5hark

          Re: Xyzzy

          A friend mapped it all. The mazes were particularly pretty when mapped. Such symmetry. I'll have to ask him if he kept the map!

    2. TheVogon

      Re: Xyzzy

      Is there any such walk through (or code dump) for the original Richard Bartle MUD or subsequent versions of it?

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Xyzzy

        Ask him yourself: (Lots of good stuff in there, poke around).

        Or just enter the MUD ...

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: Xyzzy

        My Nephew (an ElReg lurker) just sent me this:

        Have fun! :-)

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Oh hell, digging out the compiler!

  3. Anonymous Coward

    PC World

    Sales staff already instructed to tell everyone they need the latest i7 based PC to play this.

    A Joke.

    Or is it?

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: PC World

      You forgot the GTX-1080...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: PC World

      Microsoft has confirmed the Xbox One port requires a 14GB update to run.

      1. d3vy

        Re: PC World

        "Microsoft has confirmed the Xbox One port requires a 14GB update to run."

        I'd laugh but I'm waiting for a 60GB halo5 update at the moment... Every time I try the bloody thing!

  4. jake Silver badge

    Still included in the BSD games on Slackware.

    My nieces & nephews love the old stuff :-)

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Still included in the BSD games on Slackware.

      I should add that the source (in C) states:

      NetBSD: main.c,v 1.16 2000/07/03 03:57:39


      NetBSD: adventure.6,v 1.3 1997/10/10 11:59:33


      NetBSD: Makefile,v 1.8 2000/04/24 15:15:05

      A hodge-podge, to be sure. As it should be:-)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'll wait for the Bethesda remake.

  6. Warm Braw

    A cheerful little nerd...

    ... is sitting here singing...

  7. Harry the Bastard

    still have all the maps i drew in the '80s

    when i was in r&d i had a mini that had the sole function of running adventure, happy days

    1. Andy france

      Re: still have all the maps i drew in the '80s

      I played this in spring 1979 on a Xerox Sigma 6 mainframe and it change my life.

      No exaggeration, it really did, mainly because I was playing this game rather than revising for my degree finals.

      In retrospect I would do it again, but keep the maps.

  8. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge


    now, courtesy of Internet luminary and software-preservation enthusiast Eric Raymond, it's back.

    It never went away. I still have a paper tape copy from the late 70's somwehere, there's even an Android app. There are useful pages (out of tens of thousands) at and

    1. Martin

      Re: Back?

      It's actually in all the linux repositories that I've ever used. So it's hardly gone away.


      sudo apt-get install bsdgames


      works on my raspberry pi !

      1. TheVogon

        Re: Back?


        sudo apt-get install bsdgames


        works on my raspberry pi !"

        Works on Windows 10 with Ubuntu installed from the Windows Store too!

  9. RyokuMas
    Thumb Up

    Wow, flashback

    Oh man, this takes me back... text adventures were where I cut my programming and game development teeth; looking back, it was such a blissful time when if you needed a new "scene" added, you just needed a few lines of description and not a honk-load of time and effort to model/texture/animate it.

    Simpler times... kids these days don't know what they are missing!

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      Re: Wow, flashback

      Inspired me to write a text adventure on a BBC using 6502 Assembler. I even wrote my own compression routine to cram the text into RAM (just a dictionary lookup, nothing clever).

      Seemed so fast after using BASIC. Dread to think what a modern OS would make of my writing JMP locations into the code ahead of it executing.

      Not enough to impress anyone though - couldn't sell it.

  10. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Always wondered if these were inspired by the trips through big sofware menu systems.

    On some of the systems I've worked on getting them to do the right, or set up some test data to test a new feature, often felt like a quest.

    Sadly not a very epic one for me.

    1. Anonymous C0ward

      Re: Always wondered if these were inspired by the trips through big sofware menu systems.

      You are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike.

      1. Jedit Silver badge

        "You are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike."

        It is dank. You may get memed by a grue.

    2. Down not across

      Re: Always wondered if these were inspired by the trips through big sofware menu systems.

      On some of the systems I've worked on getting them to do the right, or set up some test data to test a new feature, often felt like a quest.

      Hmm. Speaking of menus gave me an idea.. Colossal Cave + Festival + Asterisk. Now I now where to send telemarketers/scammers/

  11. richardcox13

    Where Is It?

    > released onto GitHub

    But is on GitLabs.

  12. Richard Gray 1

    Re-purposed code

    I thought that this was used as the basis for *insert telco here* phone menu system..

    for sales press 1

    for accounts press 2

    for support press 3


    for home support press 1

    for business support press 2


    for leased line press 1

    for other network press 2


    you have encountered a Basilisk... you have died ...

    for sales press 1

    for accounts press 2

    for support press 3

  13. M7S

    For those liking this kind of thing, and wanting an update....

    may I recommend attending any performance by John Robertson of his "Dark Room" shows.

    Australian performer I saw in the UK (Pwllheli, no that's not Elvish) a couple of months ago so probably accessible to readers of Vultures North and South. or Duckduckgo "you awake to find yourself in a dark room"

  14. Steve Crook


    You are in a maze of twisty turny passages all alike.

    > right

    You are in a maze of twisty turny passages all alike.

    > right

    You are in a maze of twisty turny passages all alike.

    > right

    At which point I decided to spend more time with my life and have no intention of going back, north, east or west...

    1. Martin

      Re: Left

      It's actually

      "You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike."

      I can't believe that (a) I know that and (b) I know the game well enough to be able to quickly check to ensure I got it right and (c) I'm sad enough to bother to correct you.

      1. Steve Crook

        Re: Left

        I was left sufficiently scarred that I've never wanted to go back and check. It was a long time ago 30 years I'd imagine, the detail fades, the scars remain. PI Mania (or whatever it was called) on the BBC Micro produced similar feelings of disgust (for being a waste of my time) and inadequacy (for not being able to get it right) and I put that down fairly rapidly too.

        I admire your desire for accuracy (even if it verges on pedantic) and am envious that you had both the time *and* inclination to go and check your facts.

      2. Steve Hersey

        Re: Left -- right?

        In the variant I encountered, the message randomly cycled through a set of slight variants, such as, IIRC:

        You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike.

        You are in a maze of little twisty passages, all alike.

        You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all different.

        The sneaky bit being that the exact message text had no relationship to your actual location in the maze, and would change even if you went nowhere. I have a grudging admiration for the person who thought THAT part up.

        1. Kubla Cant

          Re: Left -- right?

          IIRC, there were two mazes of twisty little passages.

          One had subtly different descriptions for each location ("...twisty little passages, no two the same", "...passages, all different", etc) so you could map it using the descriptions. The other had the same description everywhere ("twisty little passages, all the same"). The way to map this maze was to drop things, so you could identify passages by their contents.

          1. Martin

            Re: Left -- right?


            But in a later variant of the game (which was in a labyrinth under a house - can't remember the name of it) you'd find yourself in a "twisty little passages all alike" maze. So you dropped items so that you could map it - say, a box.

            And then, a couple of moves later, you heard a voice saying "A nice box! How useful!" - and you discovered that someone else in the maze was (a) picking up your items and (b) dropping them elsewhere. Infuriating. I never did successfully complete that maze.

        2. jimbo60

          Re: Left -- right?

          You are in a twisty little maze of passages, all different.

          You are in a twisty maze of little passages, all different.

          You are in a maze of little twisty passages, all different.


          You know where you are by tracking the wording variations. Unlike the "all alike" maze, where you have to drop things to figure out the map.

  15. Anonymous South African Coward Bronze badge

    I was introduced to this specific adventure in the book "Spectrum Adventures - a guide to playing and writing adventures" by Tony Bridge and Roy Carnell (yep, that Roy Carnell) with the "Eye of the Star Warrior" as a type-in listing.

    Spent a couple of days typing the listing in... but it was fun.

    I'm still addicted to playing adventure games, pity the programmers' a sadistic lot :p

    Maybe I should introduce my wife to Zork? :)

    1. MrT

      Typing listings in - blimey, that dates us all... That book used to be available on World of Spectrum, but can now be found here. I had a copy ages ago - the cover art was just bizarre.

      I've a boxset of the old Infocom text adventures - I'll raise your Zork with a Leather Goddesses of Phobos (nice to see that one sneak into a scene on The Martian)

  16. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    jrst @.

    'ADVENT' in FORTRAN, on a DECsystem-10, back in 1977, was the first computer game I was ever introduced to. I still have my maps which were lovingly drawn on the back of 15" fan-fold paper.

    I vaguely remember later versions, but, like Star Wars; nothing beats 'the original'.

    1. Down not across

      Re: jrst @.

      For some reason that reminded me of Dec Wars.

      Couple more years (and a bit) and ucbvax has been gone for 25 years. Now that makes me feel old.

    2. swm

      Re: jrst @.

      As I understand it the authors of adventure were spelunkers and fellow spelunkers recognize the cave we were roaming around in. The text descriptions were marvelous and the game cost industry millions when it first hit. I believe the original was in FORTRAN but was ported all over the place.

      I lost a couple of days sleep when this game hit our college.

  17. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    I cheated... [SPOILER ALERT: Look away now]

    Happy Memories*. The version we had was installed on an Intel 8080 Development System which had 8" floppy disks, and lots of fancy add-ons such as ICE and a Coral Compiler.

    My work colleague was having trouble getting past the snake.

    "No problem" I said, typing in: "Kill snake".

    On screen response: "What! With your bare hands?" to which I replied yes.

    (I'd been looking through the data files and had stumbled across "congratulations, you killed the snake with your bare hands.")

    * Measured in kilobytes.

    1. Andy france

      Re: I cheated... [SPOILER ALERT: Look away now]

      I had much the same system as you with an IDS 8080 plus Coral compiler and a pair of 8 inch drives. My IDS though was on the rather more spiffy 8085 IDS.

      Yeah we all cheated by looking at the binary. It wasn't as if you could find a walkthrough on the internet back in 1980. However I recall actually not needing to cheat to kill the snake as I was at the try everthing stage of desperation.

      A year or two later someone at work got a copy of the source code. It was only then that I found out that the final point missing in my otherwise maximum score was obtained by leaving the Spelunker Today magazine in Witts End.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I remember adding a new 'room' with a sleeping tiger to our copy; there were a few complaints about the second tiger on the ledge above the room entrance, but then some people are never happy.

  19. John Gamble

    How To Test Your New Computer

    And of course it makes critical appearances in The Soul of a New Machine, by Tracy Kidder.

    1. Down not across

      Re: How To Test Your New Computer

      Excellent book. Highly recommended reading. I did have a MV/4000 and AOS/VS did indeed contain an easter egg with regards to Colossal Cave. Even more amusing is the difference of the easter egg between 16-bit AOS/VS and 32-bit AOS/VS II.

  20. Robert Carnegie Silver badge


    "A small stream flows out of the building"

    Is that a sign of bathroom plumbing gone wrong, or something else? Curious.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Pardon?

      It's called a "spring house". A structure built over a spring to keep critters & detritus out of the/a source of fresh water. Often used to keep dairy, fresh meat and/or some varieties of fruit cool back in the old days (whenever that was ... I still use mine as a larder/beer cooler occasionally).

  21. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    This is proper gaming.

    I played this extensively on the school RM 380Z under CP/M in about 1979/80.

    Two years later my brother then played it during his time there too - despite there being options like Galaxians on the few Speccys they had.

    How many games have actually stood the test of time?

    How many people were sad enough to watch the entire video walk through in the article and note the differences in his version?

  22. jimbo60

    Beautiful programming

    Ah, yes, good memories. I played the FORTRAN version in college on an IBM mainframe timesharing add-on, I think ORVYL? I hacked it so that it could store and load state so I could save and resume playing later.

    The original is a jewel of programming too. All state machine and state table driven, it's a real beauty. Still some of the best and cleanest programming I've seen, even in the original FORTRAN.

    Somewhere I still have the map I drew for it. On fanfold line printer paper, no less.

  23. Mike 16

    Random wandering

    The version that most impressed me was a cassette-loaded version for the Atari personal computers, which used compression to fit "in core" :-), perhaps as low as 16K.

    My own professional development was aided by my work on a mad scheme to adapt the PDP-11 version to run on a 6502, by studying the RT-11 linker and the FORTRAN runtime library. The RT-11 FORTRAN compiler used threaded code, so it was not _entirely_ mad to link the "object" file with a native-6502 replica of the PDP-11 runtime. My manager got wind of it and forecefully expressed his opinion of this use of my time, although the knowledge of compiler and linker internals gained was "relevant to business".

    Then a friend who knew of this endeavor asked if I could help porting to COBOL for the Data General "Eagle", as their (engineering) management was distressed that the productivity in the "engineering" side of the house was lagging that in the "business" side, for some reason. That project was even more quickly squashed when _his_ manager got wind of it. SIgh.

    Now, if someone wants to contribute a restorable IBM 1407 to the Computer History Museum, maybe my next attempt should be 1401 assembly.

  24. Nick Pettefar

    Intel 8080SDK on a teletype. Very useful for recording your progress!

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon