You've probably never heard of a bare-bones text game called Time Streamer. That's because Time Streamer isn't really much of a game at all; it's more of a memory. I found it when I was a senior in high school, while doing a random Google search, a few pages into the results. At the time I'd been killing time in class by writing little bits of interactive fiction using batch files, so I decided to run a search and see what kinds of games other people had made that way. To my surprise, batch file games that actually tried to be anything resembling a real game were extremely rare, and ones that were actually enjoyable seemed to be nonexistent.

That is, until I found Time Streamer.

Time Streamer is an extremely simple game consisting of a few batch files linked together and some classic Windows applications, which combine to form something resembling a classic door game. You play as... well, you play as yourself, but your goals and motivation are identical to the famous time traveller John Titor: you are from the year 2036 and the future is about to be screwed up majorly by the Year 2038 problem. All knowledge of old operating systems has been lost, so you need to collect some old computers for your future scientists to reverse engineer. Now in 1977, your ultimate goal is to locate the IBM 5100, but the game also has a few other computers scattered throughout the map for you to find.

Along the way, you'll find yourself battling Angry Mutants, CP/M-99 Androids, and even Time Zombies (don't let them infect you!). The combat, like the rest of the game, is fairly simple, but still incorporates some weapons and abilities that you will discover as you gain experience points. For a game written in spaghetti code, it's impressive that it even works; the fact that it's genuinely fun to play is an awesome bonus.

The good thing about the game being a batch file is that the source code is freely editable in Notepad, and is extremely simple to understand. For example, finding the IBM 5100 is simply this:


IF "%IBM5100%"=="IBM 5100" (
ECHO You've already secured the %IBM5100%!
SNDREC32 /PLAY /CLOSE /EMBEDDING .\SOUND\na_ssec.wav
GOTO SECTOR11 )
ECHO.
ECHO You move swiftly to your objective.
SET IBM5100=IBM 5100
CTEXT {0C}
ECHO.
ECHO YOU'VE SECURED THE IBM 5100!! THIS WAS YOUR PRIMARY OBJECTIVE!!
SNDREC32 /PLAY /CLOSE /EMBEDDING .\SOUND\computerfound.wav
SNDREC32 /PLAY /CLOSE /EMBEDDING .\SOUND\na_ssec.wav
SET /A EXPERIENCE=%EXPERIENCE%+300
ECHO YOU GAIN 300 EXP
CALL :EXPERIENCE

As much as I've heard people moan about the illogic of Windows batch scripting, I owe a big part of myself to it. Simple code like this, which could be quickly jotted down in Notepad and run on a school computer, was a role model to my burgeoning interests in programming. Once I could bring batch files to their limits, I started to realize that all languages could be learnt and used in that manner if I just put my mind to it, and I started learning PHP, C++, Java, etc. Without Time Streamer to inspire me, I probably would have stuck with writing programs that existed solely to annoy my teachers.

While writing this, I tried to find that old post that led me to Time Streamer in the first place, but I couldn't. It still comes up in Google results, but the one forum it was posted in has long since vanished into the internet ether, replaced with some childhood-killing adware. Life is cruel to nostalgia.

The good news is, the game seems to have a new home on another website nowadays. It's not compatible with a lot of computers, but if you can get it working, you should download Time Streamer for yourself. It's not a masterpiece, but it is an enjoyable waste of time. And what else could you ask from a batch file?

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