While the snow was still accumulating in the sidewalk clefts, and throughout the city in Akron, Ohio, I decided I wanted to create my very first text adventure game on the Commodore 64 personal computer I had. At that time I had no idea of working on a Commodore 64 Game Submission. At that moment in time it was only a dream, but dreams can come true.
This was greatly inspired in part due to exploring a countless amount of floppy disk titles from a magazine company by the name of LoadStar, managed by Softdisk Publishing. At that time, I was receiving a monthly disk subscription and enjoying many of the programs they compacted each month.
Every so often, a contributor would have a text adventure published, which inspired me. I also found these periodically in books I borrowed from the public library in that time, around January of 1993. My goal was to hopefully get this published in one of the disk issues I received in the mail. Also LoadStar would pay each contributor anywhere up to $500 for their work, and retain full rights to the program.
Early Commodore 64 Text Adventure
I have confirmed information of what occured during that time, since I was prone to writing out my thoughts daily in a diary. It was probably strange for a guy to write about his life, but I was pretty much an introvert in those years so my passion for writing propelled me to keep a record of the events happening in my life then.
When I first began construction on a text adventure, I didn’t yet have a clue of how to go about this. So after researching a ton of programs, and writing down my ‘text notes’, I began my first venture into a new style of programming.
Text Adventure Encryption
One of the first things I decided that I wanted to include in my programming was to create some type of text encryption to conceal the hidden messages in my game, so that anyone who played the game, would not be able to cheat and look at messages embedded in DATA statements scattered throughout the computer program. I had no idea at the time that this would turn out to be my biggest challenge yet beyond all of the subroutines I had already thought up while writing code deep into the night.
Somewhere along the journey, I also decided that I wanted to limit the size of my program. This was necessary since LoadStar only had so much room to accommodate for a program to fit into 662 sectors on the diskettes they distributed to their members. I realize that the editors also created some cool assembly language programs to compact their disks (contained on both sides), but I didn’t want my hard work rejected.
While keeping the program size capacity in mind, I began work on my first text encryption for my game, which was still nameless at the moment. This encryption involved some tricky techniques and kept getting more complex. I wanted to utilize some math formulas to make it harder to unravel. It is explained below.
1. An assembly language subroutine searches through variables entered in the keyboard buffer for each noun and verb that is entered at the keyboard.
2. Once a verb has been found by the computer, the first formula is created as CV = V1 * V2 – 3. (Current verb = Value 1 times Value 2 minus Value 3).
3. The noun also has its own separate encryption.
Commodore 64 LoadStar Submission
After close to a year of working hard on my latest programming masterpiece for the Commodore 64, my work was finally finished. I printed out and filled out the submission form that came packaged into a LoadStar diskette issue, trampled through clumps of snow up the street to the mailbox, and dropped my submission inside, where it would be recovered by the mail carrier soon enough.
I can vividly remember walking to the corner, waiting for the light to turn before returning home, and smiling as I felt I was finally going to make a very tiny contribution to the world. Soon hundreds of people would see my new game included in their monthly disk subscription when it arrived in their mailbox.
Much to my dismay later, after the editor Fender Tucker received my disk submission for my game, I was counseled about my work. The editor explained that if a disk subscriber is having trouble solving a game they will need the solution, which means explaining how to win the game.
That was a big awakening for me at that time as I realized that all the long hours, sleepless nights, were wasted as I now had to reveal the solution I had worked so hard on time burying deep in an encryption algorithm I had grown quite proud of.
C64 Disk Submission Approved
Eventually I trudged through the changes they requested, which also included creating a save and load subroutine to keep track of the program’s variables so a player would not be forced to start over each time they started the game.
One day I walked down to the kitchen in search of food. My mother would often leave my mail in a pile on the table. To my surprise, I saw a special letter from LoadStar. Taking a deep breath, I tore it open, and looked inside. There was a letter addressed by the editor explaining that my subscription was finally accepted. I could hardly believe it. He also mentioned that I would not be receiving the $500 I had hoped for, but $350 instead due to budget cutbacks
To be honest, in those days I was searching for a job since I was unemployed, and even with my previous work experience, employers often would pay you around $4 an hour for labor. So I was quite proud to be receiving that amount. It even topped the check I received from the Unemployment Bureau in that age since I was earning around $172 a month. Not bad.
Commodore 64 Game Submission
The next part now would be to wait to see when it would be published. I recall receiving several monthly mail disk subscriptions until due to my surprise at somewhere around the year 1995, I finally saw my game Quest for the Mad Bomber up in lights. I finally had a Commodore 64 Game Submission that was placed on a disk! Needless to say it was an amazing experience for a small time Commodore 64 fan from the east coast.
What was even more surprising was that it barely fit on side 3 even after compression. Yet it was amazing they still chose to publish it after all this time. Best time of my life! 🙂
Steve has always had a passion for computers even before he owned one. His first personal computer was an Atari 65xe purchased at Children's Palace around 1986. In later years he attended DeVry University and received a Computer Science degree and worked as a Web Developer for a short season. To this day he currently works for WordPress Live and runs a YouTube channel for the Commodore 64.