The Gamescomposer 3.02af+ (Online version)

By Andrei Ellman
Copyleft 1989 1990 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1998 2005 2006 2007 2015 2017 Wacko Software

This program glues pieces of sentences together to make a bizarre idea for a computer game (complete with made up name and authour). In this particular implementation, the authour's name is made up from a built in list of names that is randomly mixed.


The idea was taken from an article in a copy of MAD magazine (ca. 1988) in which you had to fill in blank spaces in a template for a game idea with a list of choices to make up an idea for a game. The Gamescomposer contains all of what was mentioned in MAD magazine, plus a lot of my own aditions (both to the list of choices and the template itself). The original article in MAD magazine had a total of 12^12 possibilities.


The first incarnation of The Gamescomposer appeared on the Atari ST on May 13th 1989. It was called the STOS Gamescomposer (or SGC) (sometimes also the S.T.O.S. Gamescomposer) (So called because it was written in STOS Basic). When I started out, I just kept it to myself, and wasn't even sure if I'd ever share it with anyone, but within a few weeks, a few copies were distributed to a small circle of friends, and in time, it was released in the Public Domain at the end of 1989.

The STOS Gamescomposer was reviewed In the January 1991 issue of ST Format. The review was for a disk that contained the STOS Gamescomposer, and the STOS Slideshow. The Reviewer had the following to say about the STOS Gamescomposer

"The Games idea creator [sic] comes up with some bizarre games ideas for the seriously brain dead programmer. Sort of useless really."

The disk (that also included The STOS Slideshow) was given 15% (The only disk ever in the history of ST Format reviews of Public Domain Software to recieve a mark lower than 15% was a game of Strip-Pontoon). Make of it what you want, but we luv it!!!

The first version of the program for another platform was a UNIX rc shell script implementation which ran on York University's computer-science department's machine called Student1. It was called the UNIX Gamescomposer (UGC) and released in in May 1994 (although a program called 'maxims' which only outputted a saying based on the last two parts of the idea had been around for a year beforehand). As there had been a title-change and because the program was for a different platform and written in a different language, the version number of the first release of UGC had been sent back to 1.01a+. Unlike the STOS Gamescomposer which used built-in names for the authours, the UGC used the /etc/passwd file to get it's names from. This had the added effect that anyone using the program locally could have known the person who'se name was chosen to be the authour — often resulting in unintended hillarity. In early 1995, a CGI wrapper to the UGC was produced which allowed it to be run by a web-server on Student1. This meant that the UGC could now be accessed on the web. Unfortunately, it was down more often than it was up, and when my Student1 account expired in July 1995, the online UGC was no more.

In 1996, I wrote a version in perl called the PGC. This was never released in any form (and was never given any version number other than the provisional 1.0). This was mostly because I did not have access to a web-server with CGI at the time. However, the code for the current online TGC has borrowed heavily from the PGC. It used a built-in list of names like the SGC did.

The first version to be given the standardized title TGC (short for The Gamescomposer) was written in May 1998. As it was an attempt to unify all the Gamescomposers under a single program, the version number was bumped up to 2.20c+. It was a PC-Windows implementation of the program. It had a shell called WinTGC which was at version 1.00c+. To distinguish this version from versions for other platforms, the Windows version was named after it's shell — WinTGC. This version however did not use the built in names — instead, it imported names from a text-file, and was the first version to give the names "Adjective Noun" middle-names using a list of adjectives and nouns taken from The Re-Writer. It only had a limited distribution. It was released at work and used the names of all the staff. The only comment anyone made was that it made their brain explode. The program was never released outside of work.

A decision was made for future versions of TGC to use TRW as a plugin to generate the "Adjective Noun" middle-names (as well as throw in an adverb here and there). This would involve re-writing TRW (which was still an Atari ST only program) so it could be used as a plugin as well as a standalone program. So far, this has not yet happened.

However, it wasn't until 2005 that I gained access to a web-server with CGI capabilities. To celebrate, I wrote a new online version of TGC. This version has descended from the PGC. It only uses built-in names (it runs on a server). This implementation is also the first to give the user some control over the output. Both the complexity and the offensiveness can be controlled.

This online version of The Gamescomposer was released in February 2005, and was the first time an online version has been available in nearly 10 years. Also, it was the first version to contain hyperlinks in the output (adding hyperlinks is still ongoing).

All along the way, new phrases were being thought up and added ...


The complexity can be controlled. This dictates how much of the game-idea template can be composed. A complexity of 1 re-creates the original template from MAD magazine. At complexity level 2, it adds a game-title and authour. Above that, more and more of the template gets composed, but makes less sense - hence complexity. When set to 0, it only outputs a saying based on the last two parts of the idea (this is similar to the output produced by 'maxims' which was on Student1). Be warned that setting the complexity too high to begin with can cause a cranial explosion. Start off at the defaut value and gradually work your way up.

As well as being able to control the complexity of the idea, it lets you chose how offensive the output should be (if the user wants to not be offended, they should chose 0 for the offensiveness). Originally, it was meant to be totally un-offensive, but a few things discretely snuck in over the years. Now, they can be prevented from appearing. Note that the offensiveness-setting is more of an attempt to prevent offensive things from creeping in than it is to make the output look more offensive. However, some inoffensive items when combined can sometimes produce a combination that can be considered offensive. Note that all entries from the original article in MAD magazine have an offensiveness of 0

In Context

Although this program started life as something for me to do while bored, it has greatly inspired my interest in the weird and wonderful, and led me to become the complete lunatic I am today. The unusual combinations of sentences are a good form of inspiring your hidden interest in bizarre surrealism. The spontaneous juxtapositions can present your mind with a previously unknown concept. This type of program could be given the brand A.I. (Artificial Insanity). Another A.I. Program I have made for the Atari ST was called "The STOS Re-writer". This program can take in a structure of text and fill in empty spaces with the appropriate words. One of it's best quotes was I drove, smelly as a pope (which I used in a poem called Deists). I may someday make an updated version of "The Re-writer". The Gamescomposer does tend to make more sense than the Re-writer because it glues parts of sentences, rather than individual words together. The text from this program is a mixture of popular-culture references and buzzwords of the time (along with the original choices from MAD magazine), along with some things I made up myself. Some of it reflects my thoughts and my philosophy at the time I entered the text, although you can just view this as extracts of my weird immagination dating back to 1989 (and a bit beyond too!).

Et cetera

The current version has well over 100^12 possibilities.

If you want a copy of the Atari ST version of this program, or any other program I have written for the Atari ST or for that matter, other computing platforms, then visit the Wacko Software home page.

As for the future, I plan to release a version of TGC that uses TRW as a plugin to get some additional words from. It will also use both a supplied list of names and the builtin names.

If you have any ideas for strings of text you would like to see included, then let me know, and I will consider putting them in.

(Note: The input text is a mixture of British English, American English and European English (euro-speak), so there may be a mixture of the Englishes in the output).

May you be lucky enough to discover the secret of life by using this program.


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Last update: Sun 30 Apr 2017