The Ebony Castle is a 1983 graphic adventure game written in BASIC for the Apple II computer. In the game, the player must explore the castle, find items, slay two dragons and turn off a magic lamp that curses a medieval village.
The game is very similar to Sierra On-Line adventure games of the era, but uses only low-resolution graphics and a simple command parser. The reason for these simplifications is that that the author, Marney Kliever, was then 13-year-old girl working alone.
Her work on the game meant that her work won a computer programming contest and the game was later sold on floppy disk! This article in K-Power Magazine (September-October 1984 issue) recognizes her accomplishment and includes quotes from her about her programming process.
The game is largely self-explanatory if you have the map, which also reveals where the game objects are hidden. The player can only carry one item at a time and dropping an item returns it to its original location.
There is no save game command, so death means starting the game over from the beginning. As a spoiler to save you frustration in the endgame:
In the 5th and 6th grade, I was a part of REACH, the "gifted and talented" program for the Richardson, Texas school district. This meant that every week on Wednesday, we were bused to RISE Academy (5th grade) or Bowie Elementary School (6th grade) for REACH curriculum. Without going into detail, there was plenty of opportunity for independent and group study with the other kids in the program.
For me, these grade levels were the years of 1989-1991. This meant that every classroom had one or two Apple II computers in the corner with a box of floppy disks for students to explore. One of those disks had a game on it called Ebony Castle. This was about the only actual, non-educational game available to us in this pre-internet era. I was hooked.
Any chance I had, I was exploring the low-resolution castle. After a little time, my friends and I realized the program was written in BASIC. This revelation meant that we knew how to read the source code! We could see how the game worked, how it drew graphics and how it understood our commands. At least once, we printed out the about 15 pages of the BASIC code on the Apple II's dot matrix printer.
We would pore over the code, trying to understand what Marney Kliever had written. Following the GOTO commands, we tried to figure out which weapons would kill which of the dragons and how to win the game. We took it as inspiration for making our own games, drawing our own maps and telling our own stories.
After the sixth grade, I left the REACH program and never saw that disk or that game again. I remembered a lot about the game, its puzzles and graphics, for decades after that 1989-era encounter. I would search the Apple II disk archives online to see if anyone else had copied the game, but it never surfaced as it was just too obscure. I assumed that I would just not see it again.
Happily, in February 2021, Antoine Vignau sent me a Twitter message that he found a copy of the disk and bought it! He made an image of the floppy disk, scanned the disk label and also extracted the original BASIC source code. Since this game had not much seen the light of day since 1991, I am happy to host on this page.