Hunter for the Amiga was a pioneering open world game

Which open world game developer gave this summary of their creation? “You get to take various vehicles, travel round and blow things up with various weapons, in 3D.”

The game in question also involves travelling as a soldier between various islands. Missions include assassinating the enemy general and destroying their headquarters.

Far Cry screenshot

No, it’s not Far Cry!

The quote above is from Paul Holmes, about his 1991 creation, Hunter for the Commodore Amiga.

Hunter screenshot

Hunter was surely one of the earliest open world games in the sense that many of us would think of the genre. I was blown away at the time by the level of freedom it afforded you. If you wanted to, you could ride on a bicycle to reach the sea, swim to another island, find yourself a boat, then travel to the other side of the map to explore while ignoring your main mission. You could look around buildings for loot, gather intelligence from civilians and take pop shots at enemy soldiers.

Hunter wasn’t the first open world game in the broader sense of the term, which you could take to mean any game that gives you a large open terrain to explore freely. Apparently that honour arguably (and argued about it is) goes way back to SEGA’s 1970 flight simulator Jet Rocket, which had a ‘free to explore’ mode.

Neither is Hunter the most influential open world game. Classics like Elite and Legend of Zelda probably have greater claim to that position.

There doesn’t actually seem to be any evidence online of Hunter having a direct influence on games like Far Cry, Grand Theft Auto 3 or No Man’s Sky. I would guess that there may not be a direct line of influence – and that Hunter was simply an early incarnation of the kind of experience that gaming evolution was building towards.

But it is certainly a spiritual predecessor to those games, and some of the parallels between them are uncanny.

On top of that, Hunter also inspired the Tesla Cyber Truck. Possibly.

Hunter truck screenshot

What are the most valuable Amiga games in 2021?

I recently found a receipt showing how much my Dad paid for an Amiga 600 and various accessories back in the early 90s. The prices aren’t too far off how much you would pay today.

Amiga receipt

After years without one, I really started to miss the little grey rectangle of joy last year. So I brought a recapped and refurbished A600 from Retro Passion and set about dusting off my favourite games from where they had been resting in my parent’s attic. They still worked!

Amiga 600

I also ventured onto eBay and various Amiga Facebook groups to start hunting down other games, and learned from extensive buying, selling and monitoring of prices that it’s not only Amiga hardware that goes for premium prices these days. Here’s a non-extensive list of some of the more expensive Amiga games around, judged on the range of sold prices on eBay at the point when I checked. It’s very much worth noting that prices can vary hugely depending on the condition or size of the box, whether the game has been tested and a host of other factors.

Moonstone: A Hard Day’s Knight

Moonstone

My main memory of this game is seeing the cover art advertised in Amiga magazines along with its pun-tastic tag line: “So much fun – you’ll die!” It’s a gore-fest with a cult following and I’m not sure any other Amiga game is more sought after. The eBay sold prices at the time of writing range from £130 (for an untested copy with wear and tear) to a whopping £1,046 for a never-opened sealed version, which must be about as rare as you can get.

Apidya

Apidya

Your chance to be a wasp! This Team 17 side-scrolling shoot ‘em up sees you traversing gardens fending off butterflies and a praying mantis among other bug life.

Big box copies seem to have gone for £80–150 recently. Small box versions are a lot more reasonable at £25–40.

Agony

Agony screenshot

Did for owls what Apidya did for wasps. The artwork, music and atmosphere left a lasting impression on Amiga gamers and copies have recently gone for £75–200.

Lionheart

Lionheart Amiga

I remember playing a One Amiga demo of this game over and over, partly because I was getting into doom metal at the time and loved the gothic soundtrack. Sold prices at the moment range from £53–140.

Ruff n’ Tumble

Ruff N Tumble Amiga

I’ve seen this colourful run-and-gun platformer described as being more impressive graphically than most AGA Amiga games, and that feels about right. Possibly the closest thing to the pace and vibe of Sonic on the platform. It’s gone recently for between £45–140.

Dynablaster

Dynablaster Amiga

The official Amiga version of Bomberman came with an adapter allowing you to plug in four joysticks, making it even more collectible. Recent sold prices are £54-81 but I’m sure I’ve seen it go for even more.

Turrican

Turrican Amiga

All three of the classic Turrican games from Rainbow Arts are highly sought after. The original for example has fetched between £28 (untested) and £68 in the last few months. The prices listed for sale suggest that these games can sometimes go for a lot more.

Walker

Walker Amiga

Another Psygnosis classic, along with Agony, albeit a very different game. The way it combined mouse and joystick controls as a means to operate your mech was really innovative at the time and loads of fun. Copies seem to consistently go for about £50.

Maniac Mansion

Maniac Mansion

Prices for this seminal LucasArts point-and-click really seem to vary. Rarer copies with 3D glasses and a poster included have fetched £110, £150 and £250 in the last few months.

Lost Dutchman Mine

Lost Dutchman Mine

Decades before Red Dead took the world by storm, Lost Dutchman Mine was giving gamers a quality cowboy experience back in 1989. Thanks Redditor dritspel for pointing out that it’s a very hard to find game. A copy in good condition recent sold for £101.87.

Worms – The Directors Cut

Worms The Directors Cut screenshot

Thanks to Redditor gazchap for pointing out how much this one can sell for. The Directors Cut of everyone’s favourite insect game (sorry Apidya) includes lots of extras such as graphical improvements, a level creator and new weapons. Sold prices lately have ranged from £27 (for a slightly battered copy) to £50.

Ambermoon

Ambermoon Amiga

Redditor SchuylerHaussman alerted me to this one: “Impossible to find, and when it’s for sale it’s usually >£200.” I can confirm from a look around online that copies seem extremely rare. There aren’t even any eBay sold prices to go on, although a sealed boxed copy is up for sale for £927.69 right now. Published in 1993, Ambermoon is an RPG created by the German developer Thalion, who also created Lionheart on this same list.

Shadow of the Beast 3

Shadow of the Beast 3 screenshot

Like Turrican, the whole Shadow of the Beast series is collectible on Amiga – although the small plastic case copies significantly less so. There are some long box editions which fetch particularly high prices. Standard big box copies of Shadow of the Beast 3 have gone for £20, £55 and £125 – a confusing range which brings us back to the point that Amiga game prices are unpredictable and constantly fluctuating. And that sometimes, if you’re lucky, you might be able to pick up a relative bargain.

What have I missed or misrepresented? Comments appreciated!

Dotting the lines between Kentucky Route Zero and Colossal Cave Adventure

Widely regarded to be one of the most important computer games of all time, Colossal Cave Adventure was inspired by programmer Will Crowther’s explorations through caves and caverns in his home state of Kentucky. Decades later, the same environment formed the setting for the haunting modern classic Kentucky Route Zero.

With time on his hands after finishing a contract with a defence firm in 1975, Will Crowther applied his skills to creating a programme that he hoped his two daughters might enjoy while visiting him.

“I decided I would fool around and write a programme that was a re-creation in fantasy of my caving, and also would be a game for the kids, and perhaps some aspects of the Dungeons and Dragons that I had been playing.” 1

Crowther’s daughters had a blast, as did students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from which he had graduated. MIT student Don Woods helped Crowther expand the initial game design into one that would earn its place in gaming history.

Entirely text-based, Colossal Cave Adventure hinges on two-word phrases such as ‘go south’ and ‘get keys’. Typing these allows you to navigate a (you guessed it) colossal cave. The cave is filled with high-fantasy creatures and characters, from cheeky dwarves to a giant snake. Once the game became available to play on the giant PDP-10 computer at MIT, whether or not you had made it past the snake was apparently a hot topic in the university corridors. You can see for yourself whether you can beat the fiendish beast by trying Colossal Cave Adventure in your internet browser.

Colossal Cave Adventure sparked an industry of text adventures for home computers. Online Systems (which would later become Sierra) moved things forward in 1980 by adding graphics to the mix in Mystery House.

Mystery House

Adventure on the Atari – famed for having gaming’s first hidden message or ‘Easter egg’, as celebrated in Ready Player One by Ernst Cline – was conceived as a graphics-based build on Colossal Cave Adventure.

Later came LucasArts and its classic point-and-click titles such as The Secret of Monkey Island. The link from that legendary era of games to Colossal Cave Adventure was made by Monkey Island creator Ron Gilbert in an interview with Bitmap Books.

“When I was in college they had a big mainframe computer and all of us played Adventure, the original. I guess it wasn’t Colossal Cave, so it wasn’t the original original, but you know. We played that all the time, so I was very aware of text adventures.” 2

The popularity of the point-and-click genre waned from the late 1990s, but its influence can be traced to many recent adventure games. One of these is a game that Polygon and Wired labelled “game of the decade” – Kentucky Route Zero.

Kentucky Route Zero

Kentucky Route Zero has elements of a modern text adventure. Beautifully illustrated graphics and a lush ambient and bluegrass soundtrack wash over every scene. But descriptive prose and dialogue choices are front and centre of the gameplay.

A magic-realist road trip set across five episodes, Kentucky Route Zero takes you through desolate scenes of atmospheric Americana. Some locations in the game are inspired by Mammoth Cave – the same cave on which Crowther had based Colossal Cave Adventure.

You begin Kentucky Route Zero as a delivery driver searching for an address, but soon find yourself swapping perspectives with other characters. A journey across a mysterious highway (‘The Zero’) unfolds. What follows is a slow-paced, idiosyncratic ride with surreal turns of which Haruki Murakami would probably approve, along with poignant reflections on the soul-crushing power of financial debt and bureaucracy. Like Murakami, Kentucky Route Zero spends time dwelling on the beauty and humour that can be found in everyday minutiae and mundanity.

A scene in act three of the game (Xanadu) directly pays homage to Colossal Cave with an in-game text adventure featuring a forest, a cabin and a cave. Jake Elliot, part of the three-man team at Cardboard Computer responsible for Kentucky Route Zero, told EGM in an interview taking place in Mammoth Cave that he had played the text adventure since the age of five and that it had been an influence on the game’s design.

A scene from Kentucky Route Zero

About his 2013 game The Cave, Ron Gilbert said: “People have really dark secrets, and going into a cave which is really dark and deep… that metaphor really resonated with me.” I imagine Crowther and Elliot would relate to that.

You can play Kentucky Route Zero on PC, PlayStation and XBox. The superb soundtrack is also available on Spotify.

If you’re interested in hearing more about text adventures, there’s a great episode of The Retro Hour podcast exploring their history and some recent creations in the genre.


Sources

1. Dale Peterson. Genesis II: Creation and Recreation with Computers.

2. Bitmap Books. The Art of Point and Click Games.

3. EGM. As Above, So Below: Touring Mammoth Cave with Kentucky Route Zero’s Jake Elliot.