Rewriting the 1978 text-only Super Star Trek game

Rewriting the 1978 text-only Super Star Trek game

During the last two weeks, I spent all my free time working hard on one of the most ridiculous achievements of my life: dissecting, understanding, and rewriting the old 1978 Super Star Trek videogame.

During the last two weeks, I spent all my free time working hard on one of the most ridiculous achievements of my life: dissecting, understanding, and rewriting the old 1978 Super StarTrek videogame.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s an old text-only game, a sort of early example of turn-based space strategy sim, written in BASIC. In this game, you are the captain of the starship Enterprise, and your mission is to scout the federation space and eliminate all the invading Klingon ships. You will have to manage the ship energy carefully, use phasers and torpedoes to destroy the Klingons, and find starbases to repair damages and replenish your energy. All of this, rendered with a few characters on screen and a lot of imagination.

You control the Enterprise entering commands at the prompt: _NAV _to move the ship, _PHA _to fire with the phasers, _LRS _to scan the quadrants with your long-range sensors, and so on. Despite its simplicity, it’s a great example of programming and game design.

If you are curious about this game's story, how it looks, or how to play it, I wrote another article about Super Star Trek here. Otherwise, know that it was created in 1974 and became hugely popular when it was published, in an improved version written by Bob Leedom, in the 1978 book BASIC COMPUTER GAMES.

I’m not talking about a game that was distributed on a disk. The book contained the code, and people had to type it on their computers. Since BASIC was a universal language at the time, the game code could work on many different machines.

What does this have to do with me?

In 1983, I bought the Italian edition of a book called Zap! Pow! Boom! : Arcade Games for the VIC-20 by Mark Ramshaw. It contained 30 games for the VIC-20, written in BASIC. The 8th game was called Star Trek. I copied it all on my VIC-20 as soon as I arrived home and started to play it. It was simple, but I immediately fell in love with it. It was maybe the best game I have ever played on that computer.

It took me 37 years to realize that this program was actually an adaptation of Leedom’s Super Star Trek. I discovered a few months ago when I bought a copy of David Ahl’s BASIC COMPUTER GAMES on eBay — yes, a book that was released in 1978.. better late than never!

Of course, I immediately decided to try the original Super Star Trek. Thank god, this time, I didn’t have to type all the code. I just went to the Vintage Basic website, I downloaded the BASIC interpreter, the source code of the game, and I ran it.

programming coding retro-gaming game-development text-only-games retro-computing gaming hackernoon-top-story

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