Adventure (Colossal Cave)

Will Crowther (c1975)
Don Woods (1976)

Adventure is a simulation of Mammoth Cave with bits of D&D thrown into the mix. Will Crowther created it while working at BBN. He was an avid explorer of the Mammoth Cave System, exploring it with his wife Pat, and wanted to share it with his daughters after going through a divorce.

Crowther ended up leaving a copy of Adventure at BBN when he left for Xerox PARC. Don Woods, a graduate student at Stanford, found the game on the SAIL mainframe. After contacting Crowther he ended up adding a lot of Tolkien imagery to the game. He “reworked the caves and stocked them with magical items and puzzles, liberally ignoring the original style from time to time.”* It was this version that spread across the ARPAnet.

By today’s standards the game is practically unplayable, frustrating, and unfair. But it was incredibly influential, rekindling a Stanford/MIT rivalry, which bore Zork and the whole commercial era.
“In early 1977, Adventure swept the ARPAnet. Willie Crowther was the original author, but Don Woods greatly expanded the game and unleashed it on an unsuspecting network. When Adventure arrived at MIT, the reaction was typical: after everybody spent a lot of time doing nothing but solving the game (it’s estimated that Adventure set the entire computer industry back two weeks), the true lunatics began to think about how they could do it better.” – Tim Anderson, The History of Zork – First in a Series, The New Zork Times, Winter 1985, Page 7.
* Graham Nelson, The Inform Designer’s Manual, Page 345