Level 9 adverts

discuss classic text/graphic adventures for the bbc micro & electron
fuzzel
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Level 9 adverts

Post by fuzzel » Thu Jan 16, 2020 8:42 pm

Because I'm such a huge fan of Level 9 I thought I'd try to find the oldest advert they did for computer magazines. The oldest one I can find so far is from the September 1982 Acorn User featuring Colossal Adventure and Adventure Quest. Is there an older one out there?
Level 9 Advert Acorn User Sep82.pdf
(415.81 KiB) Downloaded 64 times

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Pernod
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Re: Level 9 adverts

Post by Pernod » Thu Jan 16, 2020 9:23 pm

Interesting to see they offered both 16K and 32K versions at different prices, instead of distributing both versions on the same tape. Are the 16K versions archived?

Are you looking specifically for BBC adverts or for other machines too? I'm sure there are earlier adverts for the likes of Nascom.
- Nigel

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Re: Level 9 adverts

Post by leenew » Thu Jan 16, 2020 9:25 pm

I have seen this, and similar adverts.
Notice it says 16K.
I have never, ever seen a 16K version of these games.
Printing error? Or did they really make Model A versions?

Lee.

*EDIT* to say SNAP to Pernod.....

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Re: Level 9 adverts

Post by fuzzel » Thu Jan 16, 2020 9:30 pm

Well spotted, I hadn't actually noticed mention of the 16k versions in the advert. I'd certainly love to play these versions if they can be found - I'll have to check later Micro User adverts to see if any of their other games were advertised as 16k. Perhaps we should add these to the missing games thread?
Are there 16k versions out there for other micros?

In answer to your question about whether I'm interested in BBC adverts only, I'm interested of course in the first BBC advert but also any earlier adverts for other micros too.

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leenew
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Re: Level 9 adverts

Post by leenew » Thu Jan 16, 2020 9:49 pm

Added Colossal adventure and Adventure quest 16K versions to the missing games thread.
Can you spot an advert for a 16K Dungeon adventure?

Lee.

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Re: Level 9 adverts

Post by 8bitAG » Fri Jan 17, 2020 6:56 am

There are similar BBC/Spectrum/ZX81/Nascom adverts in the multiformat magazines from around the same time...
https://spectrumcomputing.co.uk/mag.php ... 54&page=92
(Your Computer, September 1982)

I hadn't expected to see an advert so early, given that many sites list their publication dates as 1983... this would bring things to at least August 1982, if not earlier (with the lead in dates), making most of the dates on the archive sites incorrect.

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Re: Level 9 adverts

Post by 8bitAG » Fri Jan 17, 2020 7:08 am

The requirement seems to be for 32K by the time Dungeon Adventure was released...
https://spectrumcomputing.co.uk/mag.php ... 99&page=40
https://spectrumcomputing.co.uk/mag.php ... 8&page=125

The latter advert is from a January 1983 issue... sort of hinting that Dungeon Adventure was pretty much complete at the end of 1982, too.

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Re: Level 9 adverts

Post by fuzzel » Fri Jan 17, 2020 8:07 am

The Your Computer September '82 advert is identical to the Acorn User September '82 advert except that the Acorn User one is specifically for the BBC Micro whilst the Your Computer one is for Spectrum, ZX81 (16k enhanced I guess!), BBC and Nascom. Which begs the question, did they create the Your Computer ad and put in 16k to cover the ZX81, and when they copied and pasted to produce the BBC ad they forgot to take out the 16k bit OR did they use the ZX81 version as a basis for creating the BBC 16k version. This could go either way. Can anyone recommend a decent ZX81 emulator so I can try out its Colossal Adventure version?

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Re: Level 9 adverts

Post by fuzzel » Fri Jan 17, 2020 8:09 am

Further note: By the time of the March 1983 advert the ZX81 has been dropped and so has the reference to the 16k version.

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Re: Level 9 adverts

Post by fuzzel » Fri Jan 17, 2020 8:53 am

I've found possibly the first advert for Colossal Cave from Computing Today, August 1982. This one's for the Nascom only and is a 16k version.
PersonalComputingToday-v1-01_Aug1982_0096.jpg

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Re: Level 9 adverts

Post by Pernod » Fri Jan 17, 2020 12:24 pm

fuzzel wrote:
Fri Jan 17, 2020 8:07 am
Can anyone recommend a decent ZX81 emulator so I can try out its Colossal Adventure version?
MAME should run it, or EightyOne https://sourceforge.net/projects/eighty ... -emulator/

I don't think any of the Level 9 adventures for the ZX81 have been archived though.
- Nigel

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8bitAG
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Re: Level 9 adverts

Post by 8bitAG » Fri Jan 17, 2020 6:00 pm

Mike Austin said, in Classic Adventurer: "We targeted computers down to about 8K. I have a feeling we may have done a 4K version [of Colossal Adventure] at some point. The text usually compressed to about 25% of its original size."

There are multiple early 16K/32K adverts for Level 9, so I don't think that advert was printed in error. The early TDK versions I've seen often are clearly labelled "32K Colossal Adventure" etc. so presumably there were also ones labelled "16K Colossal Adventure". I'll make some enquiries with some of the Level 9 fanatics.

(Link to Mocagh "32K" TDK tape... https://www.mocagh.org/loadpage.php?get ... saladv-alt )

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Re: Level 9 adverts

Post by 8bitAG » Sat Jan 18, 2020 7:28 pm

Just adding a note here to say that Mark Hardisty, of the Classic Adventurer, contacted Mike & Pete on our behalf to ask about the Level 9 games...

Mike answered...
Yes, there were quite a few 16K versions in the early days. The main difference was usually that the text was precised down to a very small size. I don't have a comprehensive list unfortunately.
So, yes, 16K versions existed, so I guess we can assume that they existed for the formats mentioned in those adverts; namely BBC, Nascom (which is confirmed anyway), Spectrum, and... ZX81!

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Re: Level 9 adverts

Post by fuzzel » Sun Jan 19, 2020 10:54 am

Thanks 8bitAG, it looks like it's game on then regarding 16k versions of Colossal Adventure and Adventure Quest for the BBC. We'll have to set off the hounds to hunt for these lost versions. I'll see if I can find a 16k version for one of the other 8 bit machines to see how far reduced the text descriptions are. A rough idea could probably be done by looking at the 32k version of the BBC's Colossal Adventure, seeing how much of the program is code and then calculating the percentage decrease in compressed text would be required to fit it into 16k. Of course it probably isn't that simple, Level 9 could have compressed their text more with further iterations of their compression (there would be a trade-off in terms of decompression speed of course). It's also very handy to have a hotline to the Austins if required (we don't want to bother them too much of course!)

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8bitAG
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Re: Level 9 adverts

Post by 8bitAG » Sun Jan 19, 2020 11:07 am

fuzzel wrote:
Sun Jan 19, 2020 10:54 am
Thanks 8bitAG, it looks like it's game on then regarding 16k versions of Colossal Adventure and Adventure Quest for the BBC. We'll have to set off the hounds to hunt for these lost versions. I'll see if I can find a 16k version for one of the other 8 bit machines to see how far reduced the text descriptions are. A rough idea could probably be done by looking at the 32k version of the BBC's Colossal Adventure, seeing how much of the program is code and then calculating the percentage decrease in compressed text would be required to fit it into 16k. Of course it probably isn't that simple, Level 9 could have compressed their text more with further iterations of their compression (there would be a trade-off in terms of decompression speed of course). It's also very handy to have a hotline to the Austins if required (we don't want to bother them too much of course!)
Well, I'm guessing that the 16K versions were very "text-light" and might not even have had the whole new extra 70 location end-sequence of the 32K versions.

It should be relatively easy to see from the Nascom version, which is archived in both its 16K and 32K forms.

See...
http://www.nascomhomepage.com/

With a direct link, here...
http://www.nascomhomepage.com/games/cave.zip

I was hoping for a slightly clearer response from Mike, but we did send him the relevant adverts, which he looked at and said brought back memories.

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Re: Level 9 adverts

Post by fuzzel » Mon Mar 02, 2020 6:13 pm

I'm probably clutching at straws here but does anyone have a very early copy of Colossal Adventure ? I'm thinking it may possibly have had the 16k and 32k versions on one tape..

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Re: Level 9 adverts

Post by leenew » Wed Mar 04, 2020 9:30 am

^^
Ooh I never thought of that...
As you say, it's probably a long shot as Level 9 were charging different prices for the 16K version and the 32K version :-k

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Re: Level 9 adverts

Post by 8bitAG » Mon Mar 23, 2020 7:13 pm

Just to add some more firm evidence for the 16K BBC version of Colossal Adventure [even though we have the Austin's confirmation that 16K versions existed], here's the review of both the 16K and 32K BBC versions from Acorn User magazine (issue 5, December 1982)...
https://archive.org/details/AcornUser00 ... 1/mode/1up

Also, as posted in another thread, here's the current earliest advert for Level 9... November 1981...
level-9-november-1981.PNG

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Re: Level 9 adverts

Post by leenew » Mon Mar 23, 2020 8:03 pm

Good spot!
It's always re-assuring to know the thing you are searching for actually existed...

Lee

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Re: Level 9 adverts

Post by 8bitAG » Mon Mar 23, 2020 8:44 pm

Here's the Laserbug (issue 9) review of the 32K and 16K versions of 'Adventure'...
level-9-laserbug-9-review.PNG
https://archive.org/details/laserbug-ma ... /mode/2up/

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Re: Level 9 adverts

Post by 8bitAG » Sat Jun 06, 2020 10:34 am

I've found an October 1981 advert for Level 9, so that takes us a month earlier...
Image

(I've archived all the Level 9 adverts & references to the 16K games here...
http://8bitag.com/info/level-9.html )

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Re: Level 9 adverts

Post by fuzzel » Sat Jun 06, 2020 2:18 pm

Excellent work 8bitAG. I like the web page you've created. I'm still desperate to play the 16k BBC version of Colossal Adventure, such a pity we can't get a hold of one. I keep checking ebay to see if one comes up for sale but no luck so far. There was a cassette for sale a week ago which looked old but sadly it was the 32k version. My best bet would be if the Austins kept versions of their old games in storage somewhere. Imagine if they had meticulously archived their old stuff and then released it all online, what an event that would be! I don't suppose they could be contacted to find out what they do still have?

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Re: Level 9 adverts

Post by 8bitAG » Sat Jun 06, 2020 4:12 pm

fuzzel wrote:
Sat Jun 06, 2020 2:18 pm
Excellent work 8bitAG. I like the web page you've created. I'm still desperate to play the 16k BBC version of Colossal Adventure, such a pity we can't get a hold of one. I keep checking ebay to see if one comes up for sale but no luck so far. There was a cassette for sale a week ago which looked old but sadly it was the 32k version. My best bet would be if the Austins kept versions of their old games in storage somewhere. Imagine if they had meticulously archived their old stuff and then released it all online, what an event that would be! I don't suppose they could be contacted to find out what they do still have?
I think Mark Hardisty has tried... they seem very fuzzy on the details of the past. They don't even recall the game Fantasy that well!

I've just split that page into two, by the way, as I've just found a chunk of new advertising for the Nascom Level 9 games (including some more details on Fantasy). One page has the early Level 9 adverts on (which I'm still adding to) and the other has the 16K material on.

http://8bitag.com/info/early-level-9.html
http://8bitag.com/info/level-9.html

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Re: Level 9 adverts

Post by 8bitAG » Fri Jun 19, 2020 9:25 am

Bad news... well, good news for preserving some lost games but bad news for others...

There are some issues with the Nascom games labelled "Colossal Adventure by Level 9" on the Nascom Homepage http://www.nascomhomepage.com/

The file that's labelled a 32K version of Level 9's Colossal Adventure, is actually the 32K version of this game...
http://8bitag.com/info/syrtis-adventure.html
...which I call Syrtis Adventure, as it's a much earlier port of the mainframe adventure by Syrtis Software.

This puts a slight doubt as to what the 16K file the Nascom site labels as Colossal Adventure actually is.

I'm hoping it's still the 16K version of Level 9's Colossal Adventure, as it would mean we at least have one surviving version that reflects what could've been contained in the lost BBC Micro 16K version. http://8bitag.com/info/level-9.html

It could, however, be the 16K version of Syrtis Adventure instead. I've emailed the site owners... hopefully they will be able to track back the source of the 16K file.

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Re: Level 9 adverts

Post by Pernod » Fri Jun 19, 2020 8:16 pm

8bitAG wrote:
Fri Jun 19, 2020 9:25 am
There are some issues with the Nascom games labelled "Colossal Adventure by Level 9" on the Nascom Homepage http://www.nascomhomepage.com/

The file that's labelled a 32K version of Level 9's Colossal Adventure, is actually the 32K version of this game...
http://8bitag.com/info/syrtis-adventure.html
...which I call Syrtis Adventure, as it's a much earlier port of the mainframe adventure by Syrtis Software.

This puts a slight doubt as to what the 16K file the Nascom site labels as Colossal Adventure actually is.
Both of the 16K and 32K versions start with identical screens:
0000.png
0000.png (2.93 KiB) Viewed 266 times
0001.png
0001.png (10.01 KiB) Viewed 266 times
They both say 'Welcome to Adventure!' so I'd say they're both either Syrtis or Level 9, not one of each. Why do you think they're Syrtis Adventure and not Level 9's Colossal?
- Nigel

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Re: Level 9 adverts

Post by 8bitAG » Fri Jun 19, 2020 9:09 pm

Pernod wrote:
Fri Jun 19, 2020 8:16 pm
They both say 'Welcome to Adventure!' so I'd say they're both either Syrtis or Level 9, not one of each. Why do you think they're Syrtis Adventure and not Level 9's Colossal?
They're both ports of the mainframe game. You'd expect them to both start with 'Welcome to Adventure!' in some form*

On the Nascom repository, there is this comment from a user, Morten Loehre, about the 32K file...
In particular, I noticed the entry "Colossal Adventure 16K and 32K version (Level 9)." and the files therein. I knew very well the Level 9 Colossal Adventure, but I was not that familiar with Level 9's early work on the Nascom. Assuming that the "32K" version was something Level 9 did early on, predating the work on other micros, I started to disassemble the file to understand how this differed from what I had seen on C64, the BBC etc. After hacking together a z80 trace tool I managed to re-engineer the text compression routines in C (the text compression is based on Huffman variable bit-encoding) and I could list the various texts in the game. Only to find the text "Adventure 32k copyright (c) 1982 Michael J. Evis" (message #200 of the message texts). A further look revealed that you can provoke this text in-game by entering "AUTH" for Author.
If the source code, and the response to AUTH, says Michael J. Evis then the game is "Syrtis" Adventure not Level 9's adventure. Michael J. Evis was Syrtis Software. The history of that version is extensively documented on the link I posted.

So the 32K version is the Syrtis game, according to that investigation of the file. But we don't know what the 16K file is. I don't know if it has been investigated in the same way.



*Later versions of Level 9's port started with "Welcome to Colossal Adventure, the original classic mainframe adventure, from Level 9 computing." but we don't know for sure that the original Nascom 16K port from 1982 didn't actually start with "Welcome to Adventure!"... because none of those early versions survive... aside from this 16K one which is presumed to be the Level 9 version... but *could* by the 16K Syrtis one.

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Re: Level 9 adverts

Post by Pernod » Fri Jun 19, 2020 10:20 pm

Thanks for the explanation, I'd not seen that comment before.
0002.png
32K
0002.png (6.39 KiB) Viewed 237 times
0003.png
16K
0003.png (5.82 KiB) Viewed 237 times
Considering both versions look identical I'm tempted to say they're both Syrtis. I wouldn't expect a Level 9 version to ask for instructions either.
- Nigel

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Re: Level 9 adverts

Post by 8bitAG » Fri Jun 19, 2020 10:29 pm

Pernod wrote:
Fri Jun 19, 2020 10:20 pm
Considering both versions look identical I'm tempted to say they're both Syrtis. I wouldn't expect a Level 9 version to ask for instructions either.
I'd agree with the fact they look pretty much identical and are probably both Syrtis.

It's great to have both versions of that preserved, if that's the case.

But that means that the Nascom version of Colossal Adventure isn't preserved!

(By the way, may I use your screenshot(s) on my webapage? I'm still attempting to get a Nascom emulator working! Can't figure out how to coax the dos version to actually load the .nas images!)

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Re: Level 9 adverts

Post by Pernod » Fri Jun 19, 2020 10:38 pm

8bitAG wrote:
Fri Jun 19, 2020 10:29 pm
(By the way, may I use your screenshot(s) on my webapage? I'm still attempting to get a Nascom emulator working! Can't figure out how to coax the dos version to actually load the .nas images!)
Go ahead, no need to credit. They're created with MAME, very easy to use :)

Is it possible that Level 9 released the original Syrtis versions, rather than develop their own?
- Nigel

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Re: Level 9 adverts

Post by 8bitAG » Fri Jun 19, 2020 10:42 pm

Pernod wrote:
Fri Jun 19, 2020 10:38 pm
Go ahead, no need to credit. They're created with MAME, very easy to use :)
I need to get around to installing MAME. The last time I used it was over twenty years ago!

EDIT:

There is a way to tell if the 16K file is Colossal Adventure by Level 9, rather than the more faithful port by Syrtis Software.

The Level 9 game has a whole unique, extra 70 location sequence at the end of the adventure. If that's in the 16K file, then it's Level 9. If it's not, then it's the 16K Syrtis Adventure.

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