Friday, 19 July 2013

The Valley: the first CRPG for Commodore 64?



I have spent the last months trying to list and date all the CRPGs ever produced for the Commodore 64 and I have honestly encountered a massive amount of difficulties mainly because most of the online databases report, for every single entry, copyright dates rather than the actual release year. The whole rechecking process took me months only for a partial completion of the listing; despite my efforts, anyway, I still can't see the end of the tunnel.

However, while during the listing process, I wondered which was the first CRPG ever published for the Commodore 64,  considering that Tramiel's machine was released only during the summer of the 1982. A first conclusion pointed me towards an ancient Argus Press Software title named The Valley



A pretty basic game, but still interesting for its age. The gameplay involves exploring the Valley where there are two safe points (castles) at either end of the path. Apart from the starting and ending point, there some other places to explore: the Black Tower of Zaexon, Swamps, Forests, Vounim's Lair, and the Temple of Y'Naigoth. To complete the game, you have to find the legendary Helm of Evanna. That's it.



The Valley has been released around the early eighties (1) for Commodore PET, Tandy TRS80, BBC Model B, Oric 1 and Sharp MZ80K and then ported to the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64. The original version of this game was published as a Basic language listing in a British magazine called Computing Today, around 1981; for the same reason there are around so many unofficial versions. 

Let's go back to official C64 version anyway. 

Here's how this game has been dated on the most relevant online databases:

MobyGames: 1982
Gamebase64: 1982

So when I started listing all the games, I had no doubt: The Valley was the first CRPG ever released for the C64. I was wrong

When I realized that all the games requested a double check, I ended moving The Valley from 1982 to 1983, positioning it from being the first in the list to one of the many published during the more prolific 1983. 

So why MobyGames and Gamebase64 superficially dated The Valley in 1982? 

The Valley, Title Screen, Commodore 64
Both sites probably came to a quick conclusion looking only at the main game screen, which reports as copyright date 1982 . 

When I decided to investigate a little bit more, I found the answer to my question only looking at the tape and inlay of the official ASP release. 

The Valley, Tape, Commodore 64
The Valley, Documentation, Commodore 64
Looking at the original tape and the bottom part of the documentation, the release date is clearly 1983 and not 1982,  leaving no other CPRG in my 1982 slot. 

This conclusion, unfortunately, doesn't answer to the main question: is there any CRPG produced during 1982 for the C64? 

Apparently not.  

---
(1) Probably 1981.

Images courtesy of Mocagh, World of Spectrum and Gamebase64.


7 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Your reasoning is perfectly sound about the actual release date, though I wonder if it possibly might have come out late in 1982 anyway? I realize the 1983 copyright is on the tape and paperwork, but I wonder if that was just a safety net? It's a long-shot, I know, and the only reason why I still leave a tiny possibility open that some copies might have went out in 1982 is because it seems to be a very straightforward conversion of the PET game, so I don't really see what would have caused the extended delay. Of course, on the other hand, this could have indeed been ready by 1982, like the title screen indicates, but the actual duplication and printing wasn't completed in time for a 1982 release. There's also the question of an actual Commodore 64 not being available until at least August 1982, so I suppose that makes the window for a 1982 software release rather small. Of course, in the UK, the Commodore 64 missed 1982 entirely, which probably closes the window on 1982 completely...

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    1. Hi Bill. Thanks for your comment.

      Yes, you are right, there is a discrepancy and needs more investigation. You made a good point about the UK Commodore 64 release which might open another scenario: they deposited the copyright in the 1982 and released the game late 1982 or early 1983. As you were saying the conversion from PET to C64 is straight forward and apart from copyright issues, there was no point to wait 1 year.

      I'm trying to find even just a little proof to confirm this theory.

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  3. The Valley was also released for the Commodore VIC-20 in 1982. Download here: http://www.commodore.ca/manuals/funet/cbm/vic20/games.basic/16k/The%20Valley.prg

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    1. Thanks for that. Do you know in what year has been released?

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    2. It was originally published as a type-in all-BASIC RPG in the April 1982 issue of Computing Today.
      As Bill said before, the game was written for the 32K Commodore Pet but modifying it to fit into 16K, it was ported to several other systems.
      In the following issues of 1982, the magazine published several modifications to the code, including adaptations for other computers. Then, in 1983, readers began sending additions (extra spells etc.), which were added to a final version of the listing in one issue of the same year. This is the final version we play today on the Commodore 64 and the VIC-20.
      I don't know how this ante litteram "open source" game came to be a commercial release.
      More info here:
      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/11/27/back_into_the_valley/
      Modern-day project with a Windows port of the game, docs, source code, etc:
      http://www.staff.ncl.ac.uk/fraser.charlton/otherstuff/Valley/valley_index.html

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  4. Hi, I am the coder and admin of retrocollector.org - As a collector I am still seeking some ASP Software releases like "Conquering Everest", "Detective", "Stock Market" and "The White Barrows". If anyone have any of these for sale please do contact me at jc_lonningdal.net (replace the underscore with the curly alpha). Btw, love these early CRPG's - crude, yet so innovative for their time.

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