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I'm trying to locate a game that I played on a computer at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) in the 1980s. It was like the classing BASIC game Hunt the Wumpus, but it was much more elaborate. The basis of the scenario was the same. You were traveling through a cave system, and each turn you could either move to an adjacent room or try to shoot the monster, called a "balrog" in this case.

However, unlike Hunt the Wumpus, there were RPG-like encounters you could have in the rooms. There were many occupants of the caverns, beside the monster and the bats, who could be either helpful or dangerous to you along the way. In addition to being your ammunition, your arrows (of which you started with four) served as a form of currency for bartering with the inhabitants.

Each room that you visited had a graphic that showed its contents, and as you moved about, the computer kept a map of where you had been. The map was not actually useful that I recall, though, because it was never possible to go back to a room you had already been to.

Here are the rooms that I can recall:

  • The gate, with a keeper who (for the price of two arrows) could start you off in a safe room
  • Empty room
  • Bottomless pit, which killed you, and could be sensed by a draft from one room away
  • Roomful of bats, which could also be heard squeaking one room away; the bats, as in Hunt the Wumpus, would pick you up and deposit you in another random room
  • Room with the corpse of former hunter, with one arrow left for you to collect
  • Forge of a magical blacksmith, who would trade you a sword that would glow if you were within two rooms of the balrog, in exchange for two arrows
  • An evil wizard who demanded one of your arrows, then after you paid him, double-crossed you by breaking down the walls to the adjacent rooms; if the balrog was adjacent, it would come and kill you
  • A fairy realm where you could stay for many years to study, at the cost of the rooms you had previously mapped possible changing their contents (although it seemed like you could never go back to an already visited room, so it hardly mattered)

There were others as well, which I have forgotten.

If you shot and missed, the arrow would almost always come back around and kill you. This was displayed with an image of the broken arrow embedded in the ground. It was theoretically possible to miss and not hit yourself instead, but it was rare. Most misses led to the player's death.

If you shot the balrog or moved into the cave that it occupied, the screen would go black, and its head would rise up, filling the entire screen. I don't remember that much about its appearance, except that it had ugly, twisted-looking teeth. If you fired at it, an arrow would then pass through its head, and you won. If not, it ate you.

There wasn't much strategy to the game, really. Each turn was essentially a random guess, and apart from the danger of blundering into the balrog, its location didn't seem that important; you seemed to haveha reasonable chance of killing it wherever you were when you fired. Still, I found it rather entertaining.

Finally, it is important to note that this was not the only game that you could play on this computer. In fact, you could select from about six different games. Besides the balrog-hunting game, it could also play Mastermind and Nim, plus more I have forgotten. In the multiplayer games, it would ask if it could join as a player, and when it did join, I believe it appeared in the player list as "C C Computer." If it beat you at Mastermind, it would show you how it had beaten you and explain its strategy. I don't remember whether it would do the same for Nim or any of the other games.

I have no idea what kind of hardware the program was running on. The computer was encased in a box, with the screen visible (although behind transparent plexiglass, I think) and a handful of buttons on the tray in front (not a full keyboard) accessible to the user.

  • Could you be thinking of the TI99 version? It doesn't match all of the RPG elements you mention, but if you are crossing it with a few others in your head.. There was also a D&D Version done on a tiny hand-held console.. or, to be honest, it could easily be a local home-brew variation of Hunt-the-wumpus; many of us aspiring programmers made versions of it... – K-H-W Dec 18 '17 at 1:02
  • @K-H-W I remember the game very clearly. It certainly had the RPG elements. – Buzz Dec 18 '17 at 1:05
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    I'm betting it's going to be a homebrew version local to the museum, but I look forward to the result. (I used to modify games like that in AppleBasic a lot; it was fun to add elements to them, and we used to share them over BBS'es.) In the mean time, if you want a trip down Memory Lane, a port of the TI99 version is available for your Smartphone :) – K-H-W Dec 18 '17 at 1:09
  • @K-H-W There's just a lot of digital ephemera from the days before computer architecture became relatively standardized. Many things are probably lost for good. In this case, I suspect you are right that this was a custom creation, because I remember now that the control buttons actually had lights; the buttons lit up to indicate which ones you could press (which directions you could exit from the cave you were in). – Buzz Dec 18 '17 at 23:40
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"C C Computer" is a bit reminiscent of the Color Computer aka CoCo, a TRS-80 variant. This featured a Wumpus II game but it was still text based.

The TI-99/4A (my first computer, sniffle) had a graphic version of Hunt the Wumpus but lacks many of the features you describe.

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Back in those days, there was nothing preventing someone at the institution from hacking out his own version, of course. I taught myself programming by learning to hack the BASIC games at a nearby college.

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    That might be the right hardware, but I'm definitely looking for a game with graphics. – Buzz Dec 18 '17 at 1:09

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