Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Murder in the Monastery

This was my programming masterpiece. I had done Murder in the Museum as a warm-up and this was the mys-adventure game that would put me on the map. I used every one of the 38911 bytes available to me (plus all the memory under the ROMs) to make what I thought was the computer equivalent of a novel that was big at the time, Umberto Eco's THE NAME OF THE ROSE.

  Well, it's doubtful the game has actually been solved by anyone, but luckily I got inspired back in 1993 and wrote out the possible actions of the game in novelette format. More on that later.

 As you can see, it looks like a typical LOADSTAR text adventure, except for the font being more illegible than usual. Instead of going north, east, south or west, you are given a map and you just say "go stables" or wherever you want to go. You're given a map of the abbey right away.

  The Read It from 1988 was short and sweet.  

  Last night when you, Claude La Mort of the Surete, went to sleep, you were looking forward to the next night, Hallowe’en 1963, when scores of cheerful youngsters would knock at your door demanding “Le trique ou la treat!” How could you have known that you would be spending the next night (and perhaps the rest of your life) mired in the dark recesses of the Abbey of St. Isosceles, vainly looking for clues to the murder of the saintly leader of the Abbey, Abbot Costello?
  That’s right! That master of sleuths, Inspector La Mort, is back, and you are he! You’d think that after the Museum debacle, evildoers would have the sense to mend their ways, but nooooo. They are still out there and only La Mort stands between their heinous skullduggery and the righteous lives of us average joes.
Can you find the Abbot’s murderer before the Five Bells of St. Dapiacle ring in the new morn? Will there even be a new morn?

Only you, Inspector La Mort, can say.
  All of the conventions you learned in MURDER IN THE MUSEUM (on LOADSTAR #44) apply, and a few more are added. You can enter HELP at any time to see the commands available to you. There are only a few commands necessary to get around the Abbey. The emphasis is on deciphering the knowledge you gain rather than coming up with a particular verb or noun to enter. There is now a brief/verbose option. After you’ve seen all of the room descriptions enough to feel comfortable, you can enter BRIEF and the game will be super-fast.
  Make sure you make a map of the Library, if you can. The map of the Abbey proper is given to you. MURDER IN THE MONASTERY is a mys-adventure for intermediate-level adventurers. The plot involves a dark secret that threatens to demolish western civilization as we know it. Parents may wish to keep tabs on their impressionable, young detectives to insure that they understand that it’s only a game.
  The designer of the MURDER IN THE MONASTERY is a certifiable fiend, so if you find yourself stuck with a particular problem, simply BOJY FQKT AONY, SQDYT EQDC, HCBYTU BHEY 1 OCE VGOE OCE TKC “NQCO”. That’s all there is to it! By the way, the fiend says that O equals A.
  NOTE: Since there is only one block free on Side 3 of LOADSTAR, it is recommended that you copy MURDER in THE MONASTERY onto another disk before saving a game.
EDITOR’s DISK CLAIMER: The author, when questioned about the subject matter of the mys-adventure, replied, “I was merely following the age-old writer’s dictum, ‘Write about what you know’. As a veteran of eight years under the iron thumbs of various nuns and priests, I know the horrors of parochialism as practiced in the 50’s. To be fair, though, the school I attended was nothing like the ABBEY OF ST ISOSCELES. There were no Sister Debbies.

Back to 2015. I can't believe I made my hint to the user in the form of a cryptogram. A cryptogram that I can't solve. Here's today's hint: don't bother with this version of the game, wait for the annotated versions of Museum and Monastery when they're done for LOADSTAR 128.

  Indeed, why not just read the game? Here are three versions of it. One of them should be readable on some device you have.


  I just found a newspaper clipping from the Las Cruces Sun-News, March 28, 1984 and it reconfigures my timeline quite a bit. It shows that I had programmed Monastery as early as 1984, and I did it all with a Datasette! Apparently I didn't buy my first disk drive (a 1541 5.25in drive) until later. The Datasette used audio-cassete tapes (remember them?) to store the data and it took up to 20 minutes to save, or load, a program the size of Monastery. Can you imagine waiting 20 minutes every time you wanted to load or save your work? There was no "multi-tasking".

  I had given a book review of THE NAME OF THE ROSE at the Thomas Brannigan Library and mentioned that I had written a computer game sort of based on it. I guess the word got round to the Sun-News.
  The first six programs in this LOADSTAR project were published in the first issues I was in charge of, #44 through 48. Then a couple of years went by without my writing any new programs. Why the hiatus? I think part of it was due to LOADSTAR 128 starting up during that period. It was a brand new magazine, published 4 times a year for the Commodore 128 computer. Mike Maynard and Jim Row were the Commodore programmers when I began and I believe Mike started the 128 magazine's "operating system". Later, Jeff Jones and Scott Resh joined the team as Mike and Jim left.
  Here's the deal. At the very first meeting I went to at Softdisk (the first business meeting I'd ever attended) Al Vekovius, the CEO, named all of the branches and gave a short resume of how they were doing. When he got to the LOADSTAR (Commodore) branch he said, "In general, the Commodore field is failing, and LOADSTAR will be a smaller part of Softdisk in the future." It was quite a peptalk for the new kid. But ironically all the other magazines were gone by 1994 and Judi and I kept LOADSTAR going until 2000.
  So I think tomorrow night I'll take a break from the LOADSTAR project, and instead have an old song by The Band. I'll return Friday with more than you'll ever want to know about MAGIC SQUARES. Did you know that Benjamin Franklin could write down a new 7x7 magic square anytime he wanted?