Inform - ZMachine - CrossCompiling

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Phoenix (Cambridge University) Games

The central computer of Cambridge University, England, an IBM mainframe usually called Phoenix after its operating system, was one of those to receive Advent (a.k.a. Colossal Cave) and Zork (a.k.a. Dungeon) in the late 1970s. Two graduate students, Jon Thackray and David Seal, began a game called Acheton in 1978-9: with the aid of Jonathan Partington it expanded for another two years. Possibly the first game written outside America, by 1981 it seems likely that it was also the largest in the world (it has 403 locations). Acheton was written with a game assembler contemporary with Infocom's proprietory ZIL: unlike ZIL, Seal and Thackray's game assembler was available for public use, the public in question being all users of Phoenix c. 1980-95. Acheton and a number of other titles migrated to commercial releases: some by Acornsoft for the BBC Micro, the local Cambridge-built microcomputer; some later by Topologika for a wide range of systems, so that these games are often called the Topologika games. However, not all the Phoenix games had a Topologika release, nor vice versa.

Under the long shadow of Acheton, the Phoenix games tend to be large cave exploration games with treasures in the traditional style, with well over 100 rooms each (Sangraal has 170 and Fyleet is not far behind). As was normal in games of the period, they have a two-word parser, but it is a good one, supporting take all and drop all.

Rather than re-implementing the design in a modern system, we used a translator (a Perl script called Phoenix) to compile these games directly from their original source code into Z-machine assembly language, which (supplemented with a small routine library) was then compiled by Inform into story files. They do not include the Inform library, and so don't have the Inform world model or parser -- instead they have the original, two-word parser and include their own implementations of standard actions. If our restorations work properly, all responses and messages are identical to the originals (with only tiny exceptions, e.g., the arrangements for saving and restoring games are more modern and not specific to Phoenix).

Graham Nelson (who wrote the translator program)
Adam Atkinson (who tested and restored source code)
Gunther Schmidl (who sought and cleared rights to the code)

Fyleet.z5  (1985)  Jonathan R. Partington Download  
The first of a loose trilogy of cave games (which can be played in any order) by Jonathan R. Partington, now Professor of Mathematical Analysis at Leeds University, UK.

You are in the ruins of the ancient fortress of Fyleet. Around you lies a thick pine forest, which appears to have been cleared a bit to your west; there are also paths to the east and north, while to the south some steps lead down into the ground.

> down

You proceed down the steps, which twist and turn as they descend several hundred feet into the ground. Eventually you come out into a small room.

You are in a small square room. Light streams in from an archway to the south. There are steps leading up to the north, and a closed door to the east.

There is a bullseye lantern here, which is off.

There is a piano-accordion here.

There is an empty bottle here.

Crobe.z5  (1986)  Jonathan R. Partington Download  
Beneath the cliffs of the seaport of Crobe are caves presided over by the cordial, if not directly helpful, Warden of Crobe, and home also to Karg, king of a band of trolls. But it's far from easy even to find your way in.
Sangraal.z5  (1987)  Jonathan R. Partington Download  
A cheering crowd urges you to go out to certain death on a quest for the Sangraal (the Holy Grail), as have many knights before you. A game making much greater use of landscape, memorable for its wry puzzles on goodness versus sin.
IF-Archive directory for Phoenix format     Link  
A variety of source code, object code and documentation can be found here.


Last updated 10 June 2003. This web site has not been fully supported since April 2008. Information may be out of date. This page was originally managed by Graham Nelson, assisted by C Knight.