Arduino Hunts (and Sees) The Wumpus

For anyone who’s been fiddling around with computers since the days before VGA, “Hunt the Wumpus” probably brings back fond memories. Developed in 1973, this text game has you move around a system of caves searching for the foul-smelling Wumpus, a vile creature which you must dispatch with your trusty bow and arrow. Some consider it to be one of the very first survival horror games ever developed, a predecessor to the Resident Evil franchise as well as the video game version of Hannah Montana: The Movie.

If the concept of “Hunt the Wumpus” sounds interesting to you, but you just can’t get over the whole text adventure thing, you may be in luck. [Benjamin Faure] has developed a semi-graphical version of the classic horror title which might better appeal to your 21st century tastes. Running on an Arduino Mega 2560 with graphics displayed on a 8 x 8 LED matrix, it’s not exactly DOOM; but at least you won’t have to type everything out.

You are winner!

For his handheld version of “Hunt the Wumpus”, [Benjamin] 3D printed a nice enclosure and adorned it with labels and instructions that look like tiny scrolls, a neat touch for a game that’s so old contemporary players would have called Zork a “next gen” game. While playing you can see where you’ve been and where you are currently thanks to illuminated dots on the MAX7219 display, and there are LEDs to warn you of your proximity to bottomless pits and the Wumpus itself. There’s even a piezo speaker that will chirp when a bat is nearby, which is important as they have a tendency to ruin your day by carrying you away to a random location in the cave.

Most of the game looks like an advanced version of Snake, but [Benjamin] did go through the trouble of adding some rudimentary animations and sound effects that play during specific parts of the game. When you shoot your arrow or get carried away by a bat, you’ll see a “cutscene” of sorts on the LED display. It’s a fairly simple effect, but helps break up the otherwise fairly spartan graphics and might just be enough to keep a youngins’ attention.

If you subtract a dimension, this project is reminiscent of the 1D dungeon crawler we covered last year. But if even one dimension is too many, you could always run the text version of “Hunt the Wumpus on your trusty Arduino.

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Put An ItsyBitsy Zork In Your Pocket

Before computer games had all these fancy graphics, text based games were a very popular genre. Rather than move a character on the screen, you’d type out commands for your player in sentence form which the game would interpret; decades before the “cloud” language processing technology that the likes of Amazon and Google currently use to power their virtual assistants. In some ways the genre was ahead of its time, but it didn’t survive the graphical revolution for home computers. Of course, these games still have some diehard fans out there.

[Dan The Geek] is one such fan. He loves text based adventure games like Zork so much that he wanted to create his own implementation of the core technology that made these games possible all those years ago. But he didn’t want to just do it on this desktop computer, there’s already projects that let you run these classic games on modern hardware. He wanted to see if he could run these classic games on a modern microcontroller, and create a authentic retro experience on a handy portable device.

[Dan] starts by explaining the technology used to make titles like these possible in the days when the wide array of home computer types required a nuanced approach. By separating the story files from the actual interpreter, developers could more easily port the games to various computers. In theory these interpreters, known as “Z-machines”, could be written for any computer that could compile C code, had enough RAM to hold the story, and had a terminal and keyboard. Not exactly the kind of system requirements we’re used to seeing for modern PC games, but it was the 1980’s.

In theory a modern microcontroller will meet these requirements, so [Dan] wanted to create his own Z-machine for one. But rather than “cheat” by using an SD card like previous Arduino Z-machines have, he wanted to see if there was a development board out there that could do it all internally. The answer came in the form of the  Adafruit ItsyBitsy M4 Express, with its 192 kB of RAM and 2 MB of SPI flash.

The Z-machine created by [Dan], which he’s calling A2Z, allows users to run Zork and other compatible interactive text games on the ItsyBitsy without any additional hardware. Just plug the board into your computer and you’ll be able to play the games over the the serial connection. He’s even implemented some retro color schemes to make the experience more authentic, like the blue of the Amiga or Compaq green.

We’ve covered previous projects that brought Zork and friends to the Arduino, your web browser via a virtual Altair 8800, and even some more exotic targets like custom FPGAs. You can play cave adventure, the game that inspired Zork, on the Supercon Badge.