Sunday 30 July 2017

The Golden Wombat Of Destiny (the game, the musical and me)

Little did I know when I wrote my first big computer program that it would end up as possibly the most enduring thing I’ve ever done. This was back in the early 1980s. Having decided to learn how to program, I bought myself a copy of Turbo Pascal and within weeks I’d embarked on writing a text-based adventure game of vast complexity (it’s more normal for a beginner programmer to begin by learning how to print “Hello world” but I obviously had ambitions well above my talents). Anyway, it took me a year to write that game, The Golden Wombat Of Destiny, and it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. Also one of the most enjoyable. It taught me more about programming that I could ever have learnt if I’d followed a more traditional route.

You can still download a copy of the game from THIS PAGE should you be interested.

When it was finished, I sent it away to a distributor of public domain (free) software. And pretty soon it was being played by people all over the world. I know this for a fact, because in subsequent years many of them wrote to me…

I’ve kept a stack of old letters. Here are some extracts…

“I am writing from the padded cell into which I was flung after being driven completely loopy by your dreadfully devious game…”
(A Wombat Fan from Nottingham, UK)

“I’m stumped. I’ve been trying to crack (your game) for a few months now…”
 (A Wombat Fan from Ballajura, Australia)

“Have you thought of developing a visual version of ‘Wombat’? … Can’t imagine what a potto looks like.”
(A Wombat Fan from Honolulu, Hawaii)

“I was really frustrated when I played your game because I couldn’t get into the Forbidden City…. Then my dad found the trapdoor. Your game gave me a great many laughs.”
(A Wombat Fan from a town whose name includes letters that don’t even appear on my keyboard, Finland)

I also occasionally get letters saying something like “I really enjoyed playing your game when I was little. Now I’m playing it with my grand-daughter” (which makes my heart sink somewhat – it doesn’t really seem so long ago).

Over the years I’ve also been approached by several people who wanted to turn The Wombat into a play or a film. None of these ventures has ever come to fruition. So I was, to say the least, surprised when Peter Theophilus-Bevis not only asked me if he could create a film musical about the Wombat but then went ahead and actually did it!

Um, but before you watch it, here is the obligatory “author’s introduction” which will no doubt feature among the Extras on the DVD when the Director’s Cut is eventually released….

And here is The Golden Wombat Of Destiny epic musical movie itself….