Developer Returns to Fix a 40-Year-Old Gaming Bug!

There is something of a joke in the coding community. It goes: “99 little bugs in the code, 99 little bugs in the code. Take one down, patch it around, 117 little bugs in the code.” – For those of you who don’t understand this, what it essentially means is that when it comes to writing software, one seemingly innocuous typo can often lead to masses of problems. The more complex the code, the harder it (usually) is for the developer to fix!

While we now thankfully live in a day and age where such problems can often usually be overcome, what do you do when the error exists in a game that’s over 40-years-old? Well, if you’re Harry McCracken, you apparently come back and fix it!

Developer Fixes His 40-Year-Old Text Adventure

Back in the 1980s, it was a very common practice for budding developers to create games and submit them to publishers. It’s no exaggeration to say that when it came to Microcomputers, most titles released for the systems were literally created by one person sitting in front of a system. Manchester-based US Gold, for example, regularly outsourced their licensed arcade ports to individual teenagers to create or port.

The story of Harry McCracken’s ‘Arctic Adventure’, however, is a little different. You see, this game was never technically released. It was published in a computer magazine, and, through this, it allowed readers to manually program/write out the code themselves and play the game. Yes, it was painstaking, but for those of you not old enough to remember these days, this was honestly how many ‘homebrew games’ were shared. Well, unless you were lucky enough to know someone who had a double-deck cassette player *cough* Piracy is a Crime and my copy of Chuckie Egg on the Acorn Electron was entirely legitimate *cough*.

You might be wondering though, why this trip down memory lane? Well, it turns out that the code printed in this magazine was wrong. The exclusion of one singular ‘0’ essentially made the game completely unplayable. Well, more technically, unbeatable. – After 40-years since it was originally printed though, former developer Harry McCracken (who has since moved onto other things outside the gaming world) has returned to fix the code and make his game finally work correctly!

“After five or six tedious typing sessions on my iPad, I had Arctic Adventure restored to digital form. That was when I made an alarming discovery: As printed in the Captain ‘80 book, the game wasn’t just unwinnable but unplayable. It turned out that it had a 1981 typo that consisted of a single missing “0″ in a character string. It was so fundamental a glitch that it rendered the game’s command of the English language inoperable. You couldn’t GET SHOVEL, let alone complete the adventure (The object is to get back to your base).”

You Can Play It?

With the game successfully fixed, ‘Artic Adventure’ has been uploaded to the internet and is now available to play (for free) through your browser. Incidentally, you can also download it and play it on an actual TRS-80 console or emulator if you wish.

If you don’t feel like going to all that trouble to replicate the original hardware feeling, however, and all the associated load times, then you can check out this classic text-based adventure goodness (through your browser) via the link here!

What do you think? – Let us know in the comments!

Mike Sanders

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