Ad-Des (Unique) Review | A&B Computing - Everygamegoing

A&B Computing

By Unique
BBC Model B

Published in A&B Computing 2.07

This is an adventure designer program for disc users only. The program is copy-protected which means that you must swap program and data discs frequently if you are working with a single disc drive. All data entered are kept in random access files which means that game size is limited only by disc capacity. The disadvantage is that, when the game is run, the disc is accessed after every input which makes for slow running.

The program was written as part of a Youth Training Scheme project and one must give the authors full marks for programming effort even though the end product leaves something to be desired.

The first problem is that the documentation is of much poorer standard than the program coding. One is not told what style of adventure game the program runs, nor which functions are supplied by the standard program (surprisingly few it turns out) and which you have to write yourself. There is also no sample adventure provided, so the only way you can find out how it works is by writing a small sample game of your own. A blank disc must be dedicated to each game which must be initialised. You must commit yourself at the very start to the number of locations, objects etc when this is done. You then find that you must define people who can be friends or enemies and have varying strength. When objects are defined they are given strength, weight and volumne. A standard list of verbs is provided but you can make additions. When the locations are defined you must indicate where exits lead (i.e. to what other numbered location) and what type they are: e.g. locked door.

Each stage involves elaborate interactive programming with well-designed screens, and decisions are automatically saved to disc. There is an error detecting routine which can be run before you design the puzzles. Once you start writing puzzles then you cannot change any objects, locations, etc. The puzzle writer involves a complex series of menus and options. For example, you can specify that only objects under a certain weight can be carried and that people over a given strength will kill you, etc.

Enormous efforts have been expended to prevent the user needing to write a line of Basic. Unfortunately, this carries a heavy toll of inflexibility. You must effectively design the game entirely on paper before entering it - later changes of mind are difficult or impossible to implement. My own experience of writing adventures suggests that one can only get a real feel for an adventure by running it and that the puzzle quality must be checked by field testing on friends, so I feel this is a serious limitation.

In summary, a well-written program but one which is very complicated to use and provides little flexibility for changes of mind or correction of mistakes. The package would be greatly improved by superior documentation and supply of a second disc with a good sample adventure demonstrating the facilities available. The package is priced low at present so the market should be able to bear the additional cost.

Jonathan Evans

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