If you’re interested in game design, you’ve probably made a few side projects or prototypes. If you were lucky, you might have had the means to start early in life and made a few games as a kid. These usually end up deleted or lost on rotting hard drives. You definitely don’t expect them to show up twenty years later on a random live stream.
Rick Brewster is a programmer and the author of Paint.NET, a free replacement for Microsoft Paint that’s expanded to have features similar to image creation programs like Photoshop and GIMP. In 1994, at the age of 12, Brewster made The Golden Flute IV: The Flute of Immortality, a DOS-based roleplaying game inspired by a text adventure from a 1984 instructional book on how to write adventure games. He wrote The Golden Flute IV on a Tandy 1000 TL/2, an IBM clone computer.
The game plays like a traditional role-playing game. You select a character class, explore a world map with random encounters, and buy supplies in nearby towns. There’s a randomly placed final boss that you can defeat to end the game. It’s a neat experiment from a young player learning to program games.
“I made ONE installable copy onto 3.5" 720K disks that I packaged up and mailed to my cousin on the east coast, and that’s it,” Brewster explained in a Twitter thread. That copy was seemingly lost, with no playable copy surviving.
Apparently, that’s not what happened. Somehow, a version of that game found its way into the hands of a streamer name Macaw, who specialises in old and obscure games. He played The Golden Flute IV on December 23rd, exploring it for a short time before moving on to other games.
“This is not very well balanced,” Macaw said while playing. “This is just some friggin’ RPG attempt this dude made.”
Brewster replied via Twitter DM to Kotaku, offering more specifics about the game’s discovery. Although his cousin cannot remember uploading the game, it seems to have been collected part of a “Cream of the Crop 5" shareware compilation that was put together in 1994. That version of the game was also found on FidoNet.
When asked whether or not he would release The Golden Flute I, II, and III, Brewster said yes.
“Yeah, I don’t see why not,” Brewster said. “I looked around for it yesterday but I couldn’t find it. The disks may be at my parents house somewhere, I’ll have to ask them.” Hopefully, the whole series will find its way to the web.
Brewster speculated on Twitter that his cousin possibly uploaded the game to a BBS, because it somehow ended up in the “Frostbyte” archive, a collection of old games that was uploaded to the Internet Archive. If you’re curious how it plays, you can check it out using this in-browser DOSbox emulator.