If you could write to Stuart Smith....

Chris H.'s Ultima / ACS-style game development system!

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Garth's Equipment Shop
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If you could write to Stuart Smith....

Post by Garth's Equipment Shop » Fri May 16, 2014 4:39 am

If you could write fan mail to Stuart Smith, creator of Fracas, Age of Heroes, Ali Baba and the Forty-Thieves, Rivers of Light and the Adventure Construction Set, what would you write? Pretend your post is that letter. Don't write about writing him, actually write him! This will be online for him to see it and all his fan mail will be conveniently located in one place, here! ;) Also you will then be able to simply provide a link to your specific fan mail which you can post in the comments section, pm, email, etc. wherever you happen to stumble upon the elusive Mr. Smith. I have mine just about ready to post. Have to head out to work now but I'll finish it tonight and paste it here.

PS - just noticed the time stamp on my post is wrong, it is actually 7:40 am here, not 4:40 am. :P

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Post by Garth's Equipment Shop » Sat May 17, 2014 6:09 am

Dear Stuart Smith,
I am very nervous making first contact with the legendary creator of the program which introduced me to game design and opened up a world of unlimited possibilities in which my imagination could flourish and expand to infinite horizons.

I am known as Garth's Equipment Shop to my friends (and fellow ACS fans) at Jolt Country BBS forums ( www.joltcountry.com ). Jolt Country existed as a bbs before the introduction of html and web domains and many of the pre-internet Jolt Country BBS's original members are still there on the internet forum incarnation which is their home online.

At least that is the impression I get from what little I've interacted with the rest of Jolt Country over the past 6 years. It can be a tad difficult to get the full unadulterated truth regarding it's long storied history. I'm not sure this 'historical' page on Jolt Country ( www.joltcountry.com/features/many_death ... untry.html ) can be taken as accurate, while an entertaining story, it can be a little hard to follow without an interpreter (or perhaps the correct dosage of mind altering substances...lol). Any way the whole domain is a natural setting for all things retro.

The admin and founder of Jolt Country, Robb Sherwin, or IceCreamJonesy as he is known at JoltCountry, is an author of multiple Interactive Fiction (text-adventure) games ( www.joltcountry.com/games/index.html and www.joltcountry.com/index.php/robbsherwin_videogame ) and was one of the folks interviewed on the I.F. documentary Get Lamp ( www.getlamp.com ). I have also spent a considerable amount of time over the years learning an I.F. programming language called TADS 3 (Text Adventure Development System).

One member Chris Hopkins was honing his skill at programming in Turbo Pascal 6 back in the early 1990s and decided to recreate the experience of his favorite old 80s game maker Adventure Construction Set. Thus around 1993 Adventure Creation Kit (ACK) was born ( www.80sgaming.org/ack ) It had it's 10 minutes of fame such as it was in the preinternet days when most computer users still used DOS and before computers had become user friendly enough to become a part of everyone's lives. Back when shareware was being sold in small independent computer shops on 3.5 floppies packaged in plastic ziplock bags with homemade labels.

At first Chris did the shareware demo version with option to pay for registration to unlock the full version with the trial version available for free on bbs's and on bootleg disks floating around. Sometime later he released it to the public as freeware.

Then in 2008 something inspired him to bring it out again, this time on the internet. He started up a thread on Jolt Country about it and many fans of both 80s ACS and 90s ACK got excited as Chris began talking about all the new features he was working on. He fixed many bugs, added new features, and seemed to be updating ACK on a weekly basis for about a year. Mind you, it is still programmed in Pascal 6 and requires DOSBOX to run it on modern computers, so it will never lose it's nostalgic 80's adventure CRPG game appeal.

As fate would have it I discovered Jolt Country and Chris's ACK thread in 2008 just when Chris had started work on ACK again. I guess it's not really much of a mystery as I had made a habit of regularly searching for anything ACS related ever since the advent of Google. Somehow word of ACK never reached me back in the 90s so thanks to the internet, to Chris's come back, and to the many mentions of ACS in that first ACK thread, I was given a second chance to discover it. Since then IceCreamJonsey has given us our own subforum for ACK related discussions. http://www.joltcountry.com/phpBB2/viewforum.php?f=16

At the end of his updating/revision marathon he released a full length adventure he had been working on, Ultima IV Part 2: "Dude, Where's My Avatar" ( http://www.80sgaming.org/ultima-parody/default.htm ) which has received rave reviews on Ultima fan sites and sites where old school gamers gather. It's both a hilarious parody and a true Ultima fan tribute. And it also demonstrated what Chris's new version of ACK was capable of, taking advantage of all the new features. And as a last great contribution to the ACK community he made ACK open source, and made the source available for download at 80sGaming.org.

So since then, one talented ACK fan, going by the name rld, has been producing ACK megapatches to add even more useful features. I recently began studying the source files and documenting them. I hope to eventually add comments throughout the code to identify and explain everything in it and perhaps eventually translate it to Free Pascal if I can figure out how to rewrite all DOS dependent routines as modern OS routines.


There are many ACK works-in-progress by many fans of Golden Age ACS style games. ( http://www.joltcountry.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=8964 )Every one of the adventures you created both for ACS and before ACS have been inspirational to ACK authors and are on more than one ACK author's to do list for reproduction/tribute via ACK. One that really looks promising is the Rivers of Light remake. Read all about it in this thread: http://www.joltcountry.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=5861.

I could go on and on about so much more that all started with Fracas, Age of Heroes, Ali Baba, and ACS but I have probably already pushed past the boundaries of a respectable letter. So I'll just list a few links that will hopefully tell the rest of the story.

Current ACS fan site:

http://www.adventureconstructionset.com ... ntures.asp (The creator of this site is also a member of Jolt Country and the ACK subforum which I created and maintain for Chris Hopkins).

The creator of the Windows GUI Launcher for ACK (ACK itself comes with and runs in Dosbox) "jjsonick" created the first ACK fan site at his personal domain:
http://mozomedia.com/ack/aboutack/

My HTML version of the ACK Manual with my own additions/expansions: http://tinyurl.com/adventure-creation-kit - Not as attractive as Chris's pdf manual but it goes that extra mile including ACK community contributions that the official manual lacks and I return to it periodically to proof read and correct things and streamline and format it better.

Adventure Creation Kit Facebook Page:
https://www.facebook.com/AdventureCreationKit

Adventure Creation Kit Facebook Group
https://www.facebook.com/groups/adventurecreation/

At the Adventure Creation Kit subforum of JoltCountry.com are many threads in which ACK authors discuss creating games in ACK and ACS gets quite a bit of mention in more than a few of them, as well as other great 80s gaming/programming/computer arcana. I have tried my best to organize these many threads into categories and lists found in stickied threads at the top of the ACK subforum to more easily find what your looking for.

Feel free to shoot me an email when you get in the nostalgic mood and want someone to share your 80s gaming (or other retro culture) memories, or perhaps something about one or more of your adventures you never told anyone and just have to get off your chest. I always love to hear a good idea for an adventure (or puzzles/tricks/subplots/etc), and I'm sure you've had many that never made it into a game. Now you can just share them with us and they will find their way into a game for sure since everyone naturally wants to include the great Stuart Smith in the credits of their adventure! ;)

Wishing you many more great adventures
Garth's Equipment Shop
garthsequipmentshop@gmail.com

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Post by ishtenos » Sun May 18, 2014 7:01 am

Not a letter specifically to Stuart Smith, but a little bit of info that our legend is still out there--

http://crpgaddict.blogspot.com/2013/04/ ... 980_9.html

http://crpgaddict.blogspot.com/2010/10/ ... -1987.html

He posted on CRPGaddict as recently as last year, and has a blog under the name Stig Ward. Rather cool stuff!

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Post by Garth's Equipment Shop » Fri May 30, 2014 3:54 am

What no-one? Seriously? Wow. Sad.
He posted on CRPGaddict as recently as last year, and has a blog under the name Stig Ward. Rather cool stuff!
Yep, thanks for reporting that ishtenos. The resurfacing of Stuart Smith all of a sudden online was what inspired me to start this thread. Apparently though John Romero and I are the only ones still interested in picking the brain of this pioneer and master of adventure. :P

P.S. I had already exchanged emails with Ken St. Andrew who wrote the Amiga ACS adventure Galactic Agent as well as founding Tunnels & Trolls pen and paper RPG around the same year Gary Gygax published the first D&D rules (I don't think he counts chainmail or whatever it was called before D&D) but Ken expressed no interest whatsoever in ACS or old school adventures of that sort. I mean he literally told me in email he had no interest in revisiting that era of gaming.

He mentioned a few mmos he's been playing for years. He has been working on a rerelease of Tunnels and Trolls though. Apparently he never loved those old school CRPGs like he did his pen and paper adventures, yet in spite of his love for a game that takes place entirely in the imagination he is still a sucker for fancy graphics and the latest gaming technology when it comes to computer games.

Personally I never really got into pen and paper gaming like I did interactive fiction, roguelikes, muds and the old school graphic adventures and tile based crpgs. I usually only bought a p&p book if I thought it had some good ideas or inspiration for a computer adventure, be it text only Interactive Fiction, graphical like King's Quest, or arcade styles like platformers and top down explorable maps.
Which of you is interested in my fine wares?

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Post by ishtenos » Fri May 30, 2014 5:59 pm

I remember reading Wasteland's ruleset was at least partially inspired by Tunnels and Trolls. Rather cool.

For myself, I can appreciate graphically rich games, but at the same time I still very much enjoy being able to use my imagination to fill in the blanks. I was big into pen and paper roleplaying at the same time I was spending countless hours delving into Wasteland, Legacy of the Ancients, the Gold Box series, etc. Each game stands on it's own merits for me, whether from the 80's or today.

In regards to writing Stuart Smith?

Stuart, if you happen across these forums and read this message, I think the following sums up what I'd like to say:

Thank you for making ACS, which gave non-programmers like myself the ability to create our own adventures. It still remains one of my favorite pieces of software ever, and searching for ways to make it run on more modern machines is what brought me to discover ACK.
~Ishtenos
@Roaming Cactus

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Post by Garth's Equipment Shop » Thu Nov 06, 2014 6:35 am

Jolt Country existed as a bbs before the introduction of html and web domains and many of the pre-internet Jolt Country BBS's original members are still there on the internet forum incarnation which is their home online.
I stand corrected. Robb states in an editorial note at the top of his nostalgic mythic memorial page created in memory of the original dial-up Jolt Country that virtually none of the original members from the dial up days returned for the online rebirth of Jolt Country. So being the creative fiction author he is Robb immortalized his memories of his old bbs comrades in the best way he knew how, in story form.

I'm sure it all makes perfect sense to Robb and those names mentioned in the story and probably everything in it is some kind of inside joke or reference to some trait or character flaw or event they all remember from their dial-up bbs years. I really liked how Robb explains the origin of the Jolt Country name too. :D
Which of you is interested in my fine wares?

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