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Q: Tymnet time-travel adventure game from early 80s ( No Answer,   3 Comments )
Subject: Tymnet time-travel adventure game from early 80s
Category: Computers > Games
Asked by: koreth-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 05 May 2004 00:11 PDT
Expires: 04 Jun 2004 00:11 PDT
Question ID: 341315
I knew someone who worked for Tymnet in the early 80s, and I spent
hours at her terminal playing a text adventure game. I don't remember
a lot of detail about it, but it involved time travel and took place
near a wadi. I remember there being colored potions that had something
to do with the time travel aspect of the game, and there was a monster
called a "barrow wight."

What was the name of this game? Does it still exist anywhere? I'd like
to play it again for nostalgia's sake, if that's even possible.

Request for Question Clarification by rainbow-ga on 05 May 2004 06:19 PDT
Hi koreth,

I have located quite a few text adventure games which involve time
travel and potions.

Is there anything else you can tell us about this game? Any details
you remember will help in this search.

Many of the games I have found which were released in the 1980's are
still available for download.


Clarification of Question by koreth-ga on 05 May 2004 07:40 PDT
This text adventure wasn't a personal computer game; it ran on
Tymnet's time-sharing system (probably a PDP-10 or something like
that.) Probably written in FORTRAN but I don't know that for sure. I
believe you started out in a nearly-abandoned town. Wish I could
remember more, but I last played it 20 years ago!

Request for Question Clarification by rainbow-ga on 05 May 2004 12:06 PDT
Hi koreth,

Does this ring a bell?

"Travelling through time and space, you must escape from several
atomic explosions, to eventually land at the New Mexico desert moments
before the first A bomb explodes. Can you change the course of
history? An extraordinarily large and thought-provoking game, blending
whimsical fantasy, humor, history, and classic puzzle-solving."

Game solution:
"Go northwest. This is the Black Lion Gate. Some irresponsible nanny has
forgotten her perambulator. (Don't worry, you can call it a pram.) OPEN PRAM."
"OPEN THE BACK DOOR. Go east to the Herb Garden. You'll see some
mushrooms, one with a door, and a refuse pile. SEARCH PILE. TAKE
GARLIC. You now have one of the necessary ingredients."
"Go north to the Cemetery, noticing the crypt, and then north again
into the Barrow. You'll see a barrow wight here, but he'll not bother
you so long as you have a light source."
"You now have the last ingredient for the potion the bird described. Go
northeast, east, northeast, and east to get back into the Cottage.
Open the cage door and let the bird go. PUT SKINK IN CAULDRON."


Clarification of Question by koreth-ga on 05 May 2004 12:39 PDT
Hmm, that sounds like Infocom's "Trinity." Hadn't really considered
its similarity to the game I'm thinking of, but nope, not the same
thing. The Tymnet game didn't involve any nuclear explosions.
There is no answer at this time.

Subject: Re: Tymnet time-travel adventure game from early 80s
From: xeno555-ga on 05 May 2004 08:37 PDT

Does this jog the memory a bit?


Roy Trubshaw begins MUD1 development. In the fall, he and Richard
Bartle complete the first version, which runs on a PDP-10. The name,
"multi user dungeon" refers to a variant of ADVENT known as DUNGEN.

"I promised to get in touch with Roy Trubshaw and nail this "how did
the D in MUD come to be there?" question once and for all. I've now
done so, and having exchanged a few emails and jogged each other's
memories, here's the Authorised Version:
   The D came first. 
   As Roy says, "We wanted to call it something and DUNGEN was the
best adventure game that we had played up until then. (I was never
really very keen on Haunt!)". The D has always stood for "Dungeon" and
the fact that the acronym was also a word was a secondary (though not
unimportant) consideration. He didn't start with an acronym and work
backwards; he wanted to write something that was like a multi-user
   It wasn't the case that Roy thought Adventure games would be called
"Dungeons", because even then they were being referred to in the
context of ADVENTure. He might have named it after that program if it
had been better than DUNGEoN, but it wasn't.
   The "MUDD" title in the listing I have from 1979 was because
someone else (Keith Rautenbach, an undergraduate in the year above
Roy) went through commenting the code and put in two Ds, probably
because he thought it was a reference to Dungeons & Dragons. It never
was, and the file that refers to "MUDD" is itself called MUD.MAC (.MAC
for the MACRO-10 assembly language).
   My recollection of a gathering in Roy's flat where we discussed the
name was false. We did have such a meeting, but we were talking about
the map for the BCPL version of the game. Roy wasn't staying on campus
in his second year, and another person at the meeting (Brian Mallett)
didn't come to Essex University until Roy was in his 3rd year and I
was in my second.
   Roy also mentioned that he'd recently written something on this
subject to Jerry Pournelle, who in a small part of a longer report on
2001's AAAS meeting ( had
put "multi-user 'dungeons'" as an expansion of MUDs. Here's what Roy
wrote to him:
   "A totally minor quibble in a very interesting and succinct report
on the AAAS meeting: MUD does stand for Multi-User Dungeon. There is
no need to stick quotes around Dungeon.
   I might have named it MUA after ADVENT(ure) [a text adventure
popular on DEC-10s around the world] but a game called Dungeon
appeared and saved me from trying to find a way to say MUA without
sounding silly. There was also some slight influence from TSR's
Dungeons and Dragons."
   Dr Pournelle replied: 
   "Well, clearly you have a right to say it, but I used the quote
marks because the guys at the conference clearly implied them after I
asked. For some odd reason science people looking for grants aren't
interested in being associated with dungeons with or without quote
   Some things never change (sigh)."- Richard Bartle 

Alan Klietz writes Sceptre of Goth, also a mud system. These two
developments were completely independent. Lauren Burka puts this date
at 1979. Sceptre of Goth was also known as Empire for a while but is
not generally referred to that way because of the numerous other games
with the same name.

AD&D Player Handbook published. 

Interestingly, according to Lauren Burka, early mud developers never
played the game.

Richard Bartle clarifies, "In my case, that's only true because AD&D
wasn't out yet; I had played D&D quite a bit in 1976-8. The only real
impact it made on MUD1 was the "levels" system, though, which I
thought was a neat way to give players short-to-medium term goals. Roy
Trubshaw knew about D&D and may have tried it once or twice, but I
don't think he ever dived in deeply; he certainly never designed his
own dungeons."

Walter Bright's version of Empire makes it to the DEC-10. 

Somewhere in here, Oubliette on Plato. 

"Oubliette had a 3D wizardry style view of the dungeons (line
drawings). Might have been the first on Plato to have that - Moria
might have been but I'm not sure what the display style was." - Dr

"When I was a little boy, I went and played in the basement of the
Lawrence Hall of Science where they had a small number of primitive
terminals (I can still remember the sound of the teletypes!). On those
machines, you could (if I remember correctly) login to the "Plato"
network. On that system was a primitive D&D-like game whose original
name I can't remember, but it was renamed "Adventure" for a short
while. The game was taken off of the Plato network, and I moved onto
other things, as little boys are wont to do. I know it wasn't the
classic text adventure, "Adventure," because it had Ultima I-like
vector-based graphics for going into a dungeon, finding a Vampire or
Balrog, and seeing its representation on screen. I remember some
details about the game, like being ranked with other players based
upon the success of your character." - Paul Forbes. I don't know which
game this refers to. I have seen a graphical title screen for Moria.

""oubliette", the first group-oriented dungeon on Plato, was the model
the early "Wizardry" series ripped off, and also predates Avatar.
Spells were cast by typing their names (i.e. alito, fieminamor), and
you had to type them as fast as possible to beat the monster. 1977?" -
Eric Hagstrom

"1974 is far too early for "Oubliette." Oubliette beta (e.g. very
limited access list) was early spring, 1978 -- with unlimited access
list that summer. Oubliette definitely predated Avatar; in fact,
Avatar was supposed to be the "Oubliette buster." I'm thinking version
1 of Avatar was finished late 1978 or sometime in 1979 -- maybe even
later." - Andy Zaffron

Zork released as a standalone game by Infocom. 

The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide is published. 

"Swarthmore summer" of specification and design amongst Ted, Roger
Gregory, Mark Miller, Stuart Greene, Eric Hill, Roland King. Mark and
Stuart develop General Enfilade Theory* from Model T; from this the
88.1 architecture* of Granfilade*, Spanfilade* and Poomfilade*.
Between now and 1992 the XOC team (Roger Gregory, Mark Miller) build
two major designs (neither productized): Udanax Green (formerly Xanadu
88.1, for its time of near-completion and shelving), Udanax Gold
(formerly Xanadu 92.1, for the intended delivery date).

S, the multiplayer space combat and colonization game by Kelton Flinn
and John Taylor, is coded over the summer at the University of

MegaWars III was based on S. 

"'S' was written in BASIC and supported eight users on the HP-2000." -
Kelton Flinn

S used ASCII graphics. 

"Basic Dungeons & Dragons" and "Expert Dungeons & Dragons" are published. 

"This publication marks a split between "Dungeons & Dragons" and
"Advanced Dungeons & Dragons", as TSR modifies the rules of BD&D to be
less like AD&D. The split was made for legal reasons -- David Arneson,
the co-creator of D&D, had left TSR and sued for royalties from D&D.
TSR maintained that AD&D was a different game, and they therefore
should not have to pay royalties to Arneson on it or its products.
Maintaining this, however, required that they not replace D&D with
AD&D, as had been their original intent. For this reason, TSR
continued to produce both D&D and AD&D, and to change the two game
lines to be different from each other, into the early '90's." - Travis
S. Casey

"Nsorcery was another cool Plato fantasy game, it existed by 1980 when
I played it. It was 2D, tile based, and single player." - Dr Cat

Empire introduces annual tournaments. 

Final version of MUD1 completed by Richard Bartle--Essex goes on the
ARPANet, resulting in Internet muds!

Steve Jackson releases Advanced Melee and Advanced Wizard, along with
In The Labyrinth. The changes made from previous versions make the
games into a roleplaying system.

drygulch exists on PLATO by now. 

"Drygulch on Plato had a gold mine that served as the dungeon, it had
a 3D line-drawing display like oubliette and avatar but I think it was
fancier and would display more squares of the dungeon if walls were
open to reveal them. The town had multiple shops that had 2D line art
illustrating the inside of the shop. Among them were the sherrif's
office and the jail. The sherrif could assign rewards for the capture
of players that broke the law and administer the jail in some way. He
was chosen by election, and easily removed by the "veto" of any one
player - you could go into his office when he was logged off and shoot
him dead, and not being online there was no way he could defend
himself from that! It was all a cowboys and gold miners in the old
west theme, if I didn't make that evident from the preceeding. No orcs
or magic, there were some kinda varmints in the gold mines. Snakes and
spiders and rats I think." - Dr Cat.

"You list under 1984 that drygulch "exists on PLATO by now." While
that is technically correct, it actually certainly earlier than that
(IIRC by 1980 on CDC PLATO anyway [as opposed to CERL PLATO]). I
played with w/ others in a friend's parent's basement on a PLATO
terminal brought home by his father, who was a CDC employee. It was
mentioned in a 1984 article by Antic magazine (though no dates of
origination were given there)." - Mike Lindeland

"Another PLATO game existing at that time (around 1980) was
Panzerkrieg (sp?). You and an opponent would carry out extended
campaigns against each other in a WWII simulation. Another was
Wolfpack (German, American, and British multiplayer subs vs.
destroyers)." - Mike Lindeland

labyrinth also exists, but I know nothing about it. 

Kelton Flinn and John Taylor write Dungeons of Kesmai. It used ASCII graphics. 

"The summer of 1980 we wrote the game that became Dungeons of Kesmai,
which supported six users on a souped-up Z-80." - Kelton Flinn

They didn't know about MUD at the time. "No. The fantasy lineage
started with the single player fantasy game written for the HP-2000 in
BASIC during 1979-1980, basically extending a maze combat program I
wrote earlier in 1979, to see if I could capture some of the essence
of D&D. That game was rewritten in UCSD Pascal for the Z-80 running
CPM, and as I mentioned, as that point became 6 user multi-player.
Dungeons was the cut down single-player version of that game, still
Pascal because CompuServe had a compiler. There was a TRS-80 Model 1
BASIC version in there also. At that time I hadn't even heard of
Adventure yet. Of course by the time we were doing the Island late in
1980, I had seen Adventure and Zork, but we were heading off in our
own direction by that time, a lot more action-oriented and very little
puzzle-solving." - Kelton Flinn

Atari starts trying to put PLATO on their eight-bits. But negotiations break down. 

"Plato was put on IBM PCs (as Plato Homelink?), with an emulator that
reprogrammed the CGA card to do 512*256, which gave a passable
scrunched reproduction of a 512*512 Plato screen. There was also an
Apple II+ emulator made, but it was decided the quality was so poor it
shouldn't be released as a product. A CDC employee who remembered me
from the old days gave me a copy and I briefly used it to access Plato
over my modem at 300 baud with a 280*192 display, the font scrunched
to 3*5 pixels or so and barely legible. " - Dr Cat.

Island of Kesmai is written by Kelton Flinn and John Taylor. 

"Island of Kesmai was written in 1980 and 1981, the goal being to soak
up every bit of performance in the the CS department's new VAX. We
succeeded." - Kelton Flinn

"The look and feel of Dungeons actually did not change much, same
basic screen layout and ASCII graphics from the first HP-2000 version
through to the Island, but the addition of a quasi-natural-language
parser in place of cryptic single character commands was done in the
Island, and back-fitted when we did the Dungeons port to CompuServe,
so that Dungeons would serve as a intro for the Island. The Island
also introduced copious textual descriptions of things, whereas the
earlier games relied on the ASCII graphics and terse combat results
messages." - Kelton Flinn

William Gibson publishes "Johnny Mnemonic" in Omni. 

Vernor Vinge publishes True Names. 

Kesmai is founded by Kelton Flinn & John Taylor. 

"In November 1981, John saw an ad for CompuServe, namely a MegaWars ad
("if you had written this, you'd be making $30,000 a month in
royalties!" I think the ad said. Bill was actually trolling for new
games!) That kinda got our interest, so we sent a copy of The Island
of Kesmai manual to Bill Louden and also to The Source. Even though
the game already ran on the Prime computers that the Source used, they
never responded intelligibly. Louden on the other hand was interested.
We tried to bring the original UNIX version of the Island of Kesmai up
on CompuServe's DEC 20's, and chewed up $100,000 of CPU time (at the
then commercial rate) in 3 days. We got it working, but as Bill said,
the lights dimmed in Columbus when it was running. So we headed back
to Charlottesville to retrench. The first step was porting the old
Z-80 code, that became Dungeons of Kesmai, which was cut back to
single-player (probably the only time in history a multi-player game
was made into a single player game!)" - Kelton Flinn

Teletel is created. 

"Minitel was the outgrowth of a French Government telecom project in
the early 80's called the "Teletel" network. This went live in 1982.
It wasn't until early 1984 that the Minitel service - "phone top
boxes" in many french telephone customers homes, etc - went live." -
Josh Kirkpatrick


Subject: Re: Tymnet time-travel adventure game from early 80s
From: koreth-ga on 05 May 2004 09:32 PDT
I played a couple of those games too, but they aren't what I'm
thinking of. This wasn't a multi-player game as far as I remember.
Subject: Re: Tymnet time-travel adventure game from early 80s
From: nfldrodger-ga on 23 Nov 2004 09:41 PST
The name of the game is  Oubliette. There were 10 levels(dungeons). The
object of the game was to slay creatures, find magical items in chests,
watch out for those exploding boxes. And for your characters (up to 6) 
to increase experience and to increase hit points. I played this game in
1986. The lined background for each level started with black (level
1)and as you went deeper into the dungeon the graphics turned blue
then green and then red. Red was the toughest Level 10. You wouldrun
into Hell Spawns and Titans. You would use magic spells like etishef
and fehalito(the finger of death). The graphics were bad but that
didn't matter, the picture of the creatures looked like a square box. 
It was a game I really enjoyed playing but I haven't seen It in 15

If you know where I could download this game Oubliette could you 
please let me know.

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