When I was about fourteen my parents bought a PC to replace our ageing BBC Micro. There was an adventure game called Leisure Suit Larry which I had heard a lot about and was quite anxious to play. Once I had figured out how to win it, I set about cloning it, and in two years, with the help of my brother Mark who drew all the graphics, I produced a vaguely similar game about a Roman trying to escape Pompeii. It was released eighteen years ago next month. I’m not very proud of the code, though if I find a way of reading 5¼” disks I may open-source it. I’m not very proud of the story, either: I based the story around Roman farces, and though I thought it was quite funny when I was fifteen, the humour strikes me as juvenile and sexist now.

When I had done with that game, I wrote something better. This was Avalot, released sixteen years ago, where approximately the same cast of characters found themselves in the Middle Ages. I had no computer science training at the time, and was unaware of the concept of a virtual machine, but Avalot took several steps towards being a game program written on a general-purpose engine (the engine was called Avalanche). If I had had the opportunity to produce the planned third game of the series, it would presumably have been entirely abstracted. Avalot featured actual puzzles worthy of the name: I’m rather proud of the one about the onion. And I made some attempt to patch up the problems with the story which had been introduced in the first game, as well; Avalot’s wife had a little more to her personality than simply the nagging character from farce. It wasn’t perfect in the least, but it was light years ahead of the original game. Of course, by that time the standard of professional games had moved on, and Avalot looked dated even when it was released.

Both games were released as shareware, and neither made any appreciable amount of money. I think we all had dinner out once on the takings from the first game, and the second game didn’t even make that. But occasionally I still get fanmail.

Sometimes I wonder whether I should resurrect the Avvy franchise as Z-machine games, and whether that would give me a chance to finally fix the immaturity of the original code and of the original humour. I’m not sure, really.

Published by

Thomas Thurman

Mostly themes, triaging, and patch review.

2 thoughts on “Avvy”


    I had a copy of that years ago (never found the time to figure out how to finish it, sadly) and I’ve been looking for it off and on for the past four or five years on abandonware sites, hoping to find it (and maybe finish the game one day), but with no luck.

    Although following your link for Avalot shows me that abandonia has it now – I could have sworn it didn’t last time I checked, but it’s possible that forgetting the proper name of the game just made it tough to find (I was searching “pompeii” and the like).

    Although I thought I remembered the graphics being a bit better than the screenshots – on par with Sierra’s Quest For Glory 1 and 2. I guess things look better in the memory. :P

    I was younger than 15 last time I played it, so I guess I’ll see how the juvenile and sexist humor stands up. :P
    On the other hand, The Canterbury Tales is considered a classic, and it’s nothing but flatulence and sex jokes.

    Rather than Z-machine, have you considered SCUMM?

  2. SCUMM or AGI or SCI if you want to make a graphical adventure game. TADS if you want to make a text adventure.

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