14th December 2002
Some bits and pieces that you may not notice as you play the game:
As The Causes of Chaos loaded from tape, a rather spiffy loading screen was displayed. At the time, I thought it was the best use of C64 graphics I'd seen, and I was dead chuffed that CRL (CoC's publisher) had commisioned something so neat.
The loading image was adapted from the picture on the cassette inlay, which in turn was lifted from the cover of an old Dungeons and Dragons magazine. Unfortunately, I can't even remember what the magazine was called (something to do with dragons?), let alone which issue the picture was in. Please let me know if you recognise it.
On the introductory screen, before the game starts and as the music plays, a message scrolls past describing the background to the game. Here's what it says:
Welcome to "The Causes of Chaos",[about 47 spaces]... For many years, the land of Ix has prospered under the benevolent reign of King Arnid the seventh, who is respected by the peasants, and who has their interests at heart. King Arnid's powers of rulership derive from the crown jewels, (consisting of a silver chain, a goblet, a huge ruby, a medallion, the crown, and the great sceptre), and as long as the crown jewels are in the King's posession, Ix will always prosper. But all is not well ... The Evil Count Vladimir, from the nearby island of Ognid, has stolen the Crown Jewels! In an attempt to further the Causes of Chaos, he has hidden them around the land of Ix, and is rumoured to have taken the sceptre back to his native Ognid. Now the land of Ix suffers a terrible blight, and only one thing can save the land. You must reunite the crown jewels!
Why the 47 (or so) spaces? It was not always thus: the game as it was published has some text here - presumably authorship and copyright information. But the people who cracked the game, in their wisdom, decided to blank it out with spaces - and that's the only version of the game that I have access to now that my old C64's tape deck has stoppped working.
I just can't understand why they'd do that. Replacing my credit with one to their own cleverness I could understand (though I'd still resent it). But just taking my credit out and throwing it away? That's weird. Ho hum.
There's graffiti on the well north of the main maze, which says ``Thanks to Myles for the Well Routine''. The logic associated with the well - mending and using it to obtain the sausage, throwing the coin in and saying the magic word to get the crown - was designed by Myles Kelvin, my best friend at the time that I wrote CoC, with whom I collaborated on a sprawling disk-based adventure for the TRS-80 called SARG.
There's a mildly amusing bug in the game: once you've made it inside the cave guarded by the Dentrassi, you have to SEARCH to find the silver chain; but if you search in the cave again, you'll find the chain again, wherever it is. You can do this as many times as you like.
This gives you a nice, easy way to steal the chain from another player.
However, there's a subtle but nasty corollary associated with this. the game's idea of how much weight you're carrying is adjusted when you get or drop an item, but not when it vanishes from your grasp. So if you're holding the chain, the SEARCH for it again, it will disappear from your inventory and re-appear in the cave, but you will still be carrying just as much weight as before, and therefore (if you were heavily loaded before) unable to pick the chain up.
I'm aware of three typos in The Causes of Chaos:
So far as I'm aware, that's all the typos in the game (though do let me know if you find any others.)
I don't understand how these mistakes made it through the numerous revisions I sent to CRL before we arrived at a version that both they and I were happy with. How could I and they both be so unobservant?
At the bottom of the bell-tower in Count Vladimir's castle stands an aloof, mysterious wise man called Abwahsi. Where does his name come from? He's my headmaster!
When I wrote CoC, I was a pupil at Bishop's Stortford Boys' High School, where the headmaster was a real character called Ian Shaw. He always signed things as ``I. Shaw, B.A.'', and the name stuck: we was generally known around the school by that name. ``Abwahsi'' is, of course, ``IShawBA'' backwards.
That's also why when you examine Abwahsi, you're told ``He is wearing a long black cloak!'' Mr Shaw used to wear his academic cloak at all times around the school.
There are six crown jewels. The scores of the individual items are, shall we say, somewhat idiosyncratic:
|an immensely valuable jewelled Crown||100|
|a fine silver Chain||75|
|a huge hollow Ruby||100|
|a valuable gold Medallion||106|
|a delicate crystal Goblet||130|
|a jewel-encrusted Sceptre||250|
The way to win the game is to type score while holding all six crown jewels - you don't actually take them to King Arnid, which in retrospect is a missed opportunity to have put together an ``end-game''.
Because the weights of the crown jewels sum to slightly less than the maximum load, it's possible to carry the short iron Rod (worth 5 points) for a total of 766. I think that's maximum possible score, though it's possible that there's something in the game worth more than the rod, and no heavier.
When you win the game, the word ``predestination'' is printed. Why? The idea was to offer a prize for the first person to complete the game, and the winner was supposed to prove his having completed it by quoting the word. But CRL never got around to arranging it, so the Winning Word looks a bit stupid stuck there on its own.
I remember that I was very slightly clever about this: I thought that sneaky players might grep through memory and look for a suspicious word, so I encrypted the word ``predestination'' (I can't remember how - I'm sure it wasn't very sophisticated) and planted the unused word ``circumnavigate'' in the code.
Can you imagine a game that doesn't let you save its state? Nope, neither can I - but I don't need to. The Causes of Chaos did not have a ``save game'' facility.
Even now, I find that absolutely astonishing. How is it possible that an game of this complexity - and, for that matter, a game so willing to kill the player without warning - was allowed to make it onto the market without the ability to save and restore state. How did I let it happen? How did CRL not insist on my fixing it? I just don't know. To everyone who bought the game back in the 80s, I offer my sincere apologies.
What makes it even less forgivable is that my very first commerical adventure game, Magic Mirror, did support save and restore. So it's not as though I didn't know how to implement it or anything. Inexcusable.
The good news is that in these enlightened days when we play our C64 games on emulators, we can just use the emulator's snapshot facility for saving state. (It's bound to Alt-S in vice, which is what I use.)