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Linux & Gaming: HLA Adventure - An Adventure in Learning a New Programming Language

Linux & Gaming: HLA Adventure - An Adventure in Learning a New Programming Language

I originally wrote HLA Adventure to learn assembly language programming. Years ago, I started out on a Commodore 64 (programming in BASIC). Since then, I have moved on to both Windows and Linux programming. I discovered Randall Hyde's High Level Assembly (HLA) while searching for a freeware BASIC interpreter. That's how I learned about HLA and assembly language.

I have been writing for most of my free time, and adventure games have always been a pastime of mine. Ever since I played Zork in 1982, I have loved solving adventure games. I began writing them starting in 1994, and since then have written well over 30 adventure games on a variety of computing platforms.

"HLA Adventure" evolved out of an idea of mine to create an open source text adventure game. I had played MUDs previously, and loved the interface and writing style of LP-MUDs. When I wrote my first large adventure game (Westfront PC: The Trials of Guilder), I learned that writing a good adventure takes more patience than actually playing one.

In May of 2003, I began working on HLA Adventure after learning of HLA on Mr. Hyde's website. Both Frank Kotler and Mr. Hyde really helped me put together the parser and data routines used in HLA Adventure. Since my previous programming experience was Qbasic, I had to learn how to program in a distinctly different style unique to that language. But the blessing was that I learned a useful programming language in the process.

The benefit of writing in a new programming language is in increasing programming skills over time. The more languages learned, the more a person learns about programming efficiently. For instance, when I first learned to program (in 1982), I was learning a programming language that required line numbers. Today, however, most programming languages seldom require line numbers (although some do require labels).

HLA Adventure is a game that will work under either Windows or Linux (thanks to HLA). The game itself is not complete, but it is moving ahead in a direction that suggests well of the project. There are bugs to work out, of course, but anyone may contribute to the project because it is open source.

My journey into the world of Linux began last summer, although I really didn't get started fullbore until April 2004. I learned of Fedora Core from the Red Hat Linux web site, and installed it on my second hard drive. Since then, I have purchased a large book on learning Linux. I am slowly getting accustomed to "xterm" and GNOME, which I consider vastly superior to other applications running under Windows. The stability of Linux is far and away the most impressive that I have ever seen.

I think Linux and HLA are two very positive influences in my work right now. I can't imagine not working with either.

[Editor's note: HLA Adventure's home page is here.]

More Stories By Paul Panks

Paul Panks is the author of "HLA Adventure," an adventure game written in Randall Hyde's HLA (High Level Assembly) language. His ultimate intention was for others to eventually contribute to this project, so in May 2003 he released it into public domain, including the source
code, so others could add to the game over time. Paul is a native of Phoenix, Arizona, an avid fan of pro football and creative writing, and became
interested in Linux programming through Red Hat Linux and Fedora Core.

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Most Recent Comments
Zoue 12/19/04 10:40:39 AM EST

Best Wishes!

Paul Panks 06/20/04 08:17:12 PM EDT

I believe Konsole (via Gnome) has a transparent console ability, but I'm not 100% certain.


Eric 06/20/04 07:05:37 PM EDT

I know some people flame you because they don't like your games. I think they are interesting and funny and I like the "old-fashion" in them. It's good you turned to linux.

About the critics, I think you should add more synonyms in your game (for ex. take = get etc.)
I found the blue colour of the console too aggressive for my eyes, but I managed to change this in the source code and recompile it. Do you know if it's possible to get a transparent console for your game (on linux) ?

Paul Panks 06/12/04 06:17:50 PM EDT

As of June 12, 2004, "HLA Adventure" is released into the Public Domain.

The Creative Commons License for "HLA Adventure" is listed on the HLA Adventure website below:


This means that:

1) "HLA Adventure" is free to distribute, modify, make derivative works thereof, and otherwise use.

2) "Mippy the Dragon" is also free to distribute, modify, make derivative works thereof, and otherwise use.

3) "HLA Adventure" and "Mippy the Dragon" are no longer Copyrighted works, as of June 12, 2004.

I, Paul Allen Panks, being the author ("The Author of HLA Adventure and Mippy the Dragon") hereby grant "HLA Adventure" and "Mippy the Dragon" into the collective works of the Public ("Public Domain").

Additionally, I, Paul Allen Panks, being the author ("The author of HLA Adventure and Mippy the Dragon") grant a royalty-free permission of distribution, modification, copying and otherwise use of "HLA Adventure" and "Mippy the Dragon". This includes all "HLA Adventure" source code, derivative works of "HLA Adventure", and any and all images or works relating to or derivative of "Mippy the Dragon".


Paul Allen Panks
[email protected]
ICQ# 12234336

Paul Panks 06/11/04 07:26:04 PM EDT

I chose HLA because it was a relatively new programming experience for me. I wrote adventure games in BASIC for so long, that I grew tired of the language.

HLA -- on the other hand -- seems like a very interesting programming language. BASIC teaches somewhat backward fundamentals, but those have carried over into a plethora of BASIC interpreters and compilers over the years.

Just look at PowerBASIC and Liberty BASIC, to name a few. Despite flaws, non-Dartmouth BASIC has thrived for a long time. Now it is on the wane.

Basically, HLA is at once the most curious and most interesting language I have ever come across. Is it the best for writing text adventures? No. Inform or TADS, in my opinion, fit the bill better. But does HLA serve a useful purpose? Absolutely.

It was a challenge to write HLA Adventure because I was (and still am) so new to the language. But I love challenges. I wrote a few text adventures in Sylvain Bizorre's Mini-BASIC. I even tried one in HLA Basic. In fact, I squeezed a version of my game "Westfront PC: The Trials of Guilder" into a 24K version for the Commodore 64, Commodore Plus/4 and Vic-20:


Text adventures are great fun, even if they don't usually display graphics (Magnetic Scrolls "The Pawn" is a good exception to this). I believe adventure games (especially text adventures) allow users to explore inner worlds within the mind. Infocom and Zork used a similar ad in the early 1980's when discussing the "power" of the brain in generating graphics.

So, to recap, I believe HLA was a challenge to write an adventure game in and so I picked that challenge instead of using another language (such as BASIC, which I have used so often that I can code an adventure game the size of HLA Adventure in under two weeks).

I have a lot to learn about programming. I am a novice at C/C++, I don't know Python, and I am still very inexperienced at HLA. BASIC is about the only language I know by heart.


Paul Panks
[email protected]

Paul Panks 06/10/04 09:21:22 PM EDT

Randy has always worked hard improving HLA. A professor at NAU (in computer science) taught C++, and always taught us to debug our own code (including code he produced sometimes). This taught us how to debug code, but while I don't always agree with some teaching methods, I do agree that learning to debug code is essential to good programming.


Bill Mason 06/10/04 09:12:26 PM EDT

High Level Assembly? Isn't that an oxymoron?

Hyde was the teacher for one of my classes. I was shocked by how bad he was both at teaching and coding. He spent most of class time talking about himself. He forced us to write our projects using his "RatC," which is basically C converted to Pascal using macros. It was bad. Really bad. I spent more debugging RatC than writing my projects. Never was I more offended when he actually said once in class: "I don't debug my code. That's what my students are for."

Paul Panks 06/10/04 03:24:23 PM EDT

It has everything to do with Linux. The game works on Linux, after all. Have a nice day. :)

Thomas Stearnes 06/10/04 02:55:13 PM EDT

What is this self-aggrandizing crap (which has nothing to do with Linux) doing in the pages of a respectable publication? Bad enough that we get this stuff on USENET; do we really need Panks's ego-grooming to be legitimized this way?

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