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8:00pm on Wednesday, 4th May, 2011:

The Solo Dungeon


My first published game was The Solo Dungeon. It was what would now be called a hypertext game, but back in 1977 they didn't really have a name; in the USA they were choose-your-own-adventure games, mainly because the main company that made them called them that. A bunch were made by the Tunnels & Trolls people, too, then they really kicked off in the 1980s with the Fighting Fantasy books.

The Solo Dungeon was at a finer granularity than most of these kind of games, and you really could use it with Dungeons & Dragons (although we couldn't make it too specific to D&D as back then TSR sued when unauthorised products were released to be compatible with their system). I printed off about 25 copies myself and sold them to readers of my postal games magazine; I was then approached by a publisher to produce it professionally, so I agreed. They sold quite a few and I did get some royalties, but then they went bust from cash flow problems arising from investing too much in other games before they had a steady enough income stream.

My original version of the game was error-free, but there were some transcription mistakes that meant some of the paragraphs in the published version were wrong (just a handful, though — it's still emninently playable). Looking back on it, I quite like what I did as a 17-year-old, although I made a big mistake by putting in a Deck of Many Things, which allowed the player to escape the controlled envronment (eg. by levelling up 6 levels from pulling out the right card). I did do a second level for it, but it was never published because the publishers had gone under by then. They were also going to publish my gesture-based game, Spellbinder, but couldn't (so I put it in my zine instead).

I scanned the pages of The Solo Dungeon a few years ago, with a view to putting it through OCR software and converting it into an HTML game. The OCR didn't work well, though, so I abandoned the idea. Recently, though, someone asked me for a copy of it so I uploaded it to my web site. You can see it here.

Yes, all those years ago, paragraph numbers were the closest thing to hypertext links as we had...

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Copyright © 2011 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).