A piece of interactive fiction that was created for a 16-bit minicomputer in the early 1980s has finally been completed, four decades later. Ferret, a Zork-like text adventure, began development in 1982 for the Data General Nova 2. The game was put together by a group of software engineers from Data General’s UK-based Systems Division. Ferret only received a final functional release complete with an endgame in August this year, according to a post on the game’s Facebook community.
Ferret was brought to our attention by a tweet from blogger Jason Dyer, a.k.a. Renga In Blue. Dyer delves into the history of Ferret in some depth, and provides some interesting snippets of the game’s text. Ferret’s a chunky adventure, with 1,785 rooms, thousands of objects to interact with, and nearly 400 verbs to try. Among these, Dyer notes, is the unusual ‘test’ verb, which runs every other verb on your object of choice. Handy, maybe? You can read more about the Ferret project on the Interactive Fiction Wiki here.
I haven’t given Ferret a go myself, but one player commented to Dyer that it was “big on vivid deaths”. “The camera-like object is now pointing directly at you. Now visible on its face is a badge upon which is written: Ferret security systems (laser division) and a dial which is set to Multi-zap mega-death,” they said, quoting the game. “Just as you take in these details the laser energizes and burns out both of your eyes. The laser however is not content with just blinding you, and continues burning into your skull, vaporizing your brain.” Classic text adventure scenes.
Ferret is freely downloadable, but Dyer warns that it triggers anti-virus software due to copying files into protected directories. He’s made a bare-bones version with the install elements removed, though, which you can find here.