Madness and the MinotaurApr 21, 2016 · peterb · 2 minute read
Many years ago I wrote a paean to an obscure text adventure called Madness and the Minotaur. It’s a strange game, for several reasons:
- Hardly anyone has heard of it. It was on a comparatively unpopular platform, the TRS-80 Color Computer.
- It was brutally difficult. Although solved today, I do not believe that anyone actually solved it in the 1980s.
- It has real-time and randomized elements, both rare traits in the text adventure genre in 1981.
- Among the few of us who have heard of the game, it seems to exert a strange influence.
Sean Murphy has maintained a fairly comprehensive web page about the game, pointing to walkthroughs, maps, and the like. And more recently, Chris Cantrell of Computer Archeology disassembled the game and annotated the source code. This is more than a typical amount of effort for a mostly-forgotten adventure game.
Now, John Layman of frijid.net, in what can only be described as a sisyphean effort, has ported the game from 6809 assembler to x86 assembler. So today, without emulation, you can play the game on Linux, OS X, or Windows. You can get binaries, or source (in both 6809 and x86 assembler) here. Truly, we live in miraculous times.
All of that said - although the code is now open to all, it’s the unknown story of how this game came to be that mystifies me. There are, as near as I can tell, no author credits on it. The game is copyright Spectral Associates, a Tacoma company owned by Thomas L. Rosenberg. Did Rosenberg write the game himself? Did he subcontract it out to someone else? I can’t find any documentation on this, and my attempts to reach out to Rosenberg have not panned out. I guess this is an obscure topic, so I shouldn’t be too surprised that that history is lost. But I’d still love to know the story of how the product came together. If you have a piece of the mystery, drop me a line on Twitter.