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October 27th, 2006

Construction Sets

Back in the 1980s, there were a number of “Construction Set” programs that were available for home computers. The first was Pinball Construction Set, a surprisingly strong little game that let you build your own virtual pinball machine and then make it available to friends on a bootable floppy.

A few years later came the two that I remember best: Music Construction Set and, my favorite, Adventure Construction Set. MCS let you compose complex pieces of MIDI music by dragging and dropping notes onto a staff. I enjoyed this a lot because at the time, I wrote a few simple pieces for trumpet and this let me see how they were supposed to sound. But ACS was the one I really enjoyed. It allowed you to build Ultima III-like adventures (holy crap, I remember playing that game for hours and hours in my friend’s house down the street). There was even a pretty cool game built with ACS included as an example.

All of these products really allowed home users to make original games that were remarkably similar to what the big software companies were putting out. Sure, none would win any awards for amazing graphics or sound today, but they really were cutting edge for the time. I’m pretty sure I still have ACS for the Apple sitting around somewhere… and I think I bought it from the kid down the street.

Posted in Childhood Memories, Technology

Aanen October 27, 2006, 3:04 pm

I found an old game once that my brother had made using ACS for our Tandy 1000.

I also remember my neighbor and his friend designing a game for ZZT.

Merle October 27, 2006, 9:45 pm

Wow. I had forgotten about all of those. Thanks!

I recall being disappointed by Pinball Construction Set, just because the machines you could make seemed.. primitive. ACS seemed cool, but right when it came out and I got it for the Apple, I moved onto a PC, so I never got much of a chance to play with it. Sigh…

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