Chimaera Version c1.001
The Fortran version of the classical Colossal Cave adventure was developed
by Willie Crowther, Don Woods and Gary Palter. This game, enjoyed by many of
us in the 1970s, had about 80 locations and numerous puzzles to be solved.
If played optimally it could yield 350 points, at which stage "a cheering
band of friendly elves carry the conquering adventurer off into the
Colossal Cave was great fun but it had one major drawback - it was finite;
you could eventually achieve a perfect score, become an Adventurer
Grandmaster and that was that. It might take many months to achieve
perfection, but once you had done it what was left? You could hang around
the office enjoying the struggles of Novice Class Adventurers, perhaps
dropping the occasion hint to help them on their way or you could get on
with real life - such as it is. I decided that it would be fun to try to
write an adventure program which resembled real life in its scope and
unpredictability. The result, Chimaera, was first conceived in 1983 and
implemented in Fortran in January 1984.
A Chimaera is defined by the Concise Oxford Dictionary as:
n 1. (Gk Myth.) Monster with lion's head, goat's body, and
serpent's tail. 2. Bogy; thing of hybrid character; fanciful
conception; hence chimerical (k-) a 3. (Biol.) Organism formed
by grafting etc. from tissues of different genetic origin. 4. (Zool.)
Fish of family Chimaeridae. [f. L f. Gk khimaira she-goat, chimera]
The Chimaera is intended to be 'a thing of hybrid character and fanciful
conception'. Superficially it resembles Colossal Cave (indeed there has
been a little grafting) but it avoids many of the earlier program's
limitations and there is no easily definable maximum score. There are limits
to the number of objects and creatures to be found, but some of these are
virtual and do not even exist until certain conditions have been met.
Furthermore it appears to the user that there are an indefinite number of
locations; the descriptions and properties of these are determined
programmatically. And to add further complexity there are 11 Chimaera
adventures to choose from (see below).
For over a decade Chimaera version 1.113 [Fortran] languished in the
archives until a meeting with an old and valued friend early in 2002
stimulated me to revisit the program. I decided to recode it in ANSI C and
the present program Chimaera version c1.001 is the result.
The object of the game is to amass as much treasure and other
property as possible in the tent at your base camp - which you have
to find at some stage. There is no easily calculable maximum score
but a scores of more than 1,000 should be achievable.
There are 11 starting points (0-10), Games 1-10 are consistent in that
when they are replayed all locations and objects should appear in the
same places and sequence each time the game is played. The various
creatures encountered will depend on the actual sequence of moves made
and may not always appear in the same places or at the same times. The
starting point for Game 0 is chosen randomly and the chances that any two
such games will behave consistently are correspondingly remote.
Each game begins with the message: "You are standing on a wide grassy
plain; far off the snow clad tops of distant mountains gleam in the rays
of the rising sun. Isolated trees are dotted about the landscape and
groups of animals can dimly be seen moving about some way off."
However, your actual starting point on the plain, the nature of the local
terrain, the location and distance of your base camp, and the date and
time of day depend on the game number you have selected. You may explore
the plain, there are objects to find and various hazards to encounter but
the real adventure begins when you venture into the depths, where the
really valuable stuff and the main hazards and puzzles are to be found.
Once you move from the starting place most locations and situations are
described by computationally generated text, over 20,000 location
descriptions can be computed although not all may be accessible to you.
This is because the possibilities for moving between adjacent locations
are usually limited. Occasionally you may get into a place from which
there appears to be no exit, although you will usually be warned if this
is likely. If you do get trapped there will usually be a means of escape
but it may not be obvious and will be expensive. Objects, creatures and
puzzles to be solved will be encountered in an apparently random (though
consistent) manner. As with Colossal Cave, you may eventually be able
find short cuts between locations.
Games may be saved and subsequently restored. The geography of a restored
game will always be the same as the original but some objects may have
been moved by the elves whilst the game was in limbo. You are strongly
advised to keep maps tracking your movements, with many thousands of
possible locations it is easy to get lost completely and if you put
something down you may never be able to find it again unless you have a
A system of optionally available context-sensitive hints is being
developed but is unlikely to be fully functional before version c1.1 is
In version c1.001 simple commands are used (as in the Colossal Cave
adventure). Your input may be in lower, UPPER or MiXeD case and most
commands may be abbreviated to their first four characters. The program
uses a fairly small set of commands; some of these may only become
available once certain conditions are met and others may disappear after
they have been used. A dictionary is not provided and the best way to
find out if a word of command is recognised is to type it in and see what
happens. The primary purpose of Chimaera is to pose a set of interesting
problems, not to entertain the user with a flashy interface. Fancy input
parsing to handle 'natural language' input may be introduced in a future
version of Chimaera if I can be bothered to get round to it.
Players are graded according to their score when they leave the program. So
far very few players have progressed beyond the Apprentice grade.
This document is © Chris Newall 2002 and is freely available.
It is not for sale or general publication.