Category Archives: zx spectrum

The Graphic Adventure Creator (aka GAC) (1985)

Adventure Games

In the nascent Computer Gaming scene of the early 1980s, Text based adventures were a formidable presence on the shelves of game stores. The likes of ‘The Hobbit‘ and ‘The Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy‘ were fine examples of interactive computer-based fiction, taking the limitations of the Hardware and operating Systems they were written for and immersing players in new worlds. If you want to play any of them, have a look here;

http://www.ifiction.org/games/

For more information on Adventure Games, check out these links;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interactive_fiction

http://www.mobygames.com/featured_article/feature,27/

http://www.gooddealgames.com/articles/Beyond_the_Balrog.html

Within a few years of Adventure Games becoming a staple of home computer gaming, an affordable utility was released on several formats that gave the average gamer the opportunity to become a producer of Adventure Games. That utility was The Graphic Adventure Creator, aka GAC:

The Graphic Adventure Creator

The Graphic Adventure Creator (aka GAC) was a game creation system/programming language for text and static picture adventure games, published by Incentive Software, and retailing for around 20 pounds (sterling) at the time of its release (1985 / 1986). It was unusual in that it was originally written on the Amstrad CPC by Sean Ellis, and then it was ported to other platforms (such as the Sinclair Spectrum, Commodore 64 and BBC Electron). There were other adventure writing utilities available, most notably The Quill, but GAC was multi-format.

In a bid to try and stop the copying of the utility, GAC had a unique security device called the lenslok, which was essentially a plastic viewing receptacle that allowed the user to decode scrambled pixels into ascii characters. However, the lenslok, that shipped with very few games, was not without its problems, as reported in Crash

Lenslok Instruction page (included with GAC)

Once you got past the security, you were into the utility itself, and could begin creating your very own text adventure. The TUI (text user interface) was fairly intuitive for its time, and you could quite quickly create an adventure with several scenes and actions to undertake;

GAC Screenshots

I tried to create a post-apocalyptic epic. I say ‘tried’ because to create a truly worthy adventure you needed the time, planning and patience that I obviously didn’t have. GAC was duly abandoned by me within a few months of several aborted attempts in favour of the likes of indie music, girls and eventually, when i returned to gaming, the Sega Master System as I abandoned my CPC464 and home computer gaming forever.

GAC was a unique and brave attempt to put the power of producing games in the hands of the average user. The aptly names Incentive Software also gave fans an….incentive by offering to publish those games produced with GAC that were, in their opinion commercially viable. I seem to recall some of the computer gaming magazines at the time running GAC competitions, but no hard evidence. Can anyone out there who reads this remember if there were such competitions, what the prizes were etc?

At the World of Spectrum site entry for GAC, there is a list of all the adventures created and published with the tool;

http://www.worldofspectrum.org/infoseekid.cgi?id=0006391

LINKS!!!

http://retro.ign.com/articles/922/922505p1.html – Great article from IGN on Incentive Software, a small piece about GAC and more on what they did next, including their graphic engine ‘Freescape’.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graphic_Adventure_Creator – Wiki entry for GAC
http://www.crashonline.org.uk/32/gac.htm – Review of GAC from the Crash magazine archives
http://www.mobygames.com/game-group/graphic-adventure-creator-gac-games – Entry for GAC, some detail and some screenshots of games created with the utility
http://www.cpczone.net/game/3222 – Great CPC464 site, with its GAC entry
http://www.ysrnry.co.uk/articles/gac.htm Review of GAC from the ‘Your Sinclair’ magazine archive
http://www.stuartwhyte.btinternet.co.uk/BALROG/gac.htm – A GAC quickstart and How-to guide
http://gac.interface1.net/ – GAC writing clinic for the Spectrum version.
http://torrentfreak.com/crazy-video-game-drm-prism-1980s-style-080617/ – All about the lenslok (all you will ever need…)

Dan Dare and the Mystery of the Money Men (1981)

In prog 206 of the British science fiction weekly 2000AD (dated 4th of April, 1981) there was a curious news item that made an appearance just above an advert for ‘Tiger and Speed’ comic;

Well, I knew the following – that in 1975, Elton John released the album ‘Rock of the Westies’, and this included the track ‘Dan Dare (Pilot of the Future)’. I also knew that in 1979, David Bowie referenced Dan Dare in his song ‘DJ(song)’, taken from the ‘Lodger’ album. What I didn’t have was any information on the proposed TV series and its subsequent collapse. However, all has been made clear in an excellent article at downthetubes.net;

http://www.downthetubes.net/features/comics_characters/dan_dare/the_lost_dan_dare.html

where you get a detailed account of what happened, including fascinating trivia such as James Fox was set to play Dan Dare, and Phil Redmond was mooted as the writer of the show. It all makes perfect sense with hindsight, and would have probably been brilliant, regardless of the technical / special effects budget constraints on TV at the time (when relatively cheap CGI was still a long way off).

A series did eventually make it to television in the early noughties, and was broadcast by Five in the UK. It lasted for one series. This was a CGI re imagining, and the return of Captain Scarlet a few years later also went the same way, but lasted for 2 series. Here is the trailer for the Dan Dare series;

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