Apple II software frequently saved data onto the actual disk the program was sold on, which is a terrible practice. The side effect of this is any disk image you take of an Apple II program will have whatever old data or high score that has been stored there as well.

The only disk image of Oregon Trail for the Apple II I've found appears to have been put to actual use in a real live school or home. The game has an unusual feature, where if you die it will ask you "What do you want on your Tombstone?" Then anyone who plays the game after you and passes your grave will see your final resting place, complete with your epitaph. The disk image I played in an emulator, apparently some wise ass kid played on a real Apple II. His answer to "What do you want on your Tombstone?"

"Pepparony and chease." (misspelling is his, not mine)

A game series originating in the Apple II system. There have been four or so versions:
  • the original version (which bizarrely you can buy);
  • another version of the original one (with better graphics and stuff);
  • Oregon Trail II, the best;
  • Oregon Trail III, bad, but not horrible compaired to
  • Oregon Trail 4, see the Amazon.com reveiws.

Oregon Trail can and has been good, but The Learning Company seems to not care that the voiceovers are irritating, and you don't release a game that dosen't work on most computers. Oh well. Oregon Trail II is wonderfull, it is full of options, and is just plain cool.

In the Oregon Trail games you play a settler going to Oregon City, or in Oregon Trail II Salt Lake City and Oregon City. You had to get through various problems, and make sure everyone didn't die, from gunshot, mauling, etc. They are fun games, even if they are "educational".

Oregon Trail is an educational computer game first published by educational software producer MECC (since acquired by The Learning Company, now under the aegis of Mattel). The original version was produced for the Apple II, and through a succession of versions, editions, and platforms, Oregon Trail games have been produced ever since. If you live in the USA, there's a good chance your local elementary or middle school has a few copies.

Players would take the role of settlers following the historic Oregon Trail from Independence, Missouri to the Willammette Valley in Oregon (some later versions allowed you to choose to instead follow the Mormon Trail to Salt Lake City). A game could be played in around 45 minutes, and if it ended in success, the player was given a score based on the number and health of surviving family members, and amount of cash and other supplies on hand.

Players would begin by setting their own name and profession and naming the members of their family who would accompany them. In earlier versions there were few professions, which functioned as a difficulty setting - different professions would simply begin with different amounts of money, with the poorer options rewarded with a points multiplier at the end of the game. In some later versions, however, professions were more varied, and the choice affected some aspects of gameplay - a doctor might more easily treat injuries and infections, while a carpenter might have more success fixing a broken wagon wheel. This accomplished, players would choose a month to begin their journey (which would affect the condition of rivers and the availability of water and food for cattle), purchase supplies (including oxen, food, bullets, clothes, and spare wagon parts) and begin their journey on the trail.

Day-to-day navigation was handled automatically (although not perfectly, as players would occasionally be delayed due to "losing the trail".) Players could choose the rate at which they wanted to proceed and the amount of daily rations, and could at any time stop to rest or hunt, but would otherwise press relentlessly forward. This monotony would be broken up by landmarks, random special events, or if the player so chose, hunting.

Landmarks included forts, natural features, and the like. When a player arrived at a landmark, he would be presented with a picture and some information about the landmark, and was able to speak to other members of their wagon train (or rather, "listen" to them as they provided individual accounts of period life for your personal and educational gratification). In addition, some landmarks had special features associated with them. Many forts played host to trading posts, where players could replenish their supplies (though at a progressively higher price, the further west they got). At forks in the trail, players would choose one of two paths to continue along – a direct route or a longer trail which included fewer dangerous river crossings, a fort with a trading post, or better land for grazing. Similarly, when players came to a river, they would be given several choices of how to cross it. Options could include fording the river, caulking the wagon and attempting to float it across, taking a ferry (for a small fee), or hiring an Indian guide (in exchange for spare sets of clothing) to lead our bold settlers to the optimal crossing point. A "wrong" choice could lead to the wagon capsizing or sinking, losing vital supplies or family members. On the other hand, some landmarks had no game effects whatsoever. Oregon Trail was, after all, designed as educational software, and historical accuracy and information are goals unto themselves.

Special events, for their part, included a variety of weather- or trail-related delays, theft from your wagon, the discovery of wild fruit or spare supplies from an abandoned wagon, the breakdown of a wagon part, or what is perhaps the most memorable aspect of the game, sickness. Broken wagon parts, if they could not be repaired, would have to be replaced from inventory before you could proceed (you did buy spare wagon tongues, didn't you?). If you didn't have one handy, and couldn't work out a favorable trade with fellow wagoneers, you were pretty much screwed. Sicknesses represented a variety of period-accurate injuries and infections, although in my experience seemed to have the same effects - I've had about as many family members die of a broken leg as from measles. Sickness was less likely if your characters were kept healthy (through generous food rations, slower pace, and occasional rest), and in any case never seemed contagious. This being the 1800s, the only way to treat sickness was with a few days' worth of rest. What was most memorable about sicknesses, in my mind, at least, was the matter-of-fact manner in which they were introduced. To this day, I cannot seriously take in anything relating to America's period of western expansion without something like "Mary has cholera!" rising, non sequitur-like, to the front of my brain.

The only thing remaining to cover are the two minigames, hunting and the Columbia River. Hunting could be undertaken at any time, though it would require a day to attempt, and as such would use up food. The actual mechanics of hunting would change from version to version (I've played it no fewer than 5 different ways), but the concept would remain the same. You, the hunter, would go out into the wild, wait until animals ran in front of you, and then shoot them. The animals which would appear varied according to what part of the trail you were on, and ironically, the large, higher-yielding animals were far easier to bag than the small ones. A buffalo, yielding around half a ton of meat, was orders of magnitude easier to take down than a 2-pound rabbit. In any case, your personal carrying capacity limited you to 200 pounds on each trip. Given the relative cost of bullets and food, hunting could pay amazing dividends, and if you wanted to get the highest scores, you were essentially obligated to rely on your hunting skills.

When you got within 100 miles of the end of the game, you were given two options. One option was to take a toll road for about $20 and continue on land to your final destination. The option everybody actually took was to put your wagon on a raft and float it down the Columbia River. This would begin a brief minigame unlike anything else in the game in which you would attempt to dodge rocks as you floated down the river. Striking a rock would lead to negative repurcussions similar to an unsuccessful river crossing. Almost anyone could navigate the river perfectly by their second playthrough, however, and would survive intact to see the ending graphic and recieve their score.

This is by no means a "hardcore" game. The pace is slow, the action nonexistent, and the "story" (in the form of historical background) uninspiring. If you have anything better to do, replay value is quite low. But then again, that's not really what it's intended for. It serves admirably in its role as an amusing introduction to history for young students, and that's good enough. If you played it "back in the day", it's worth checking out for retro value alone.

In 2011 Universe published the ghoulishly-titled book 1001 Games You Must Play Before You Die1. The obvious question then follows, "Well, what's number one?" The list's ordered chronologically, but even so, it's a game called The Oregon Trail. It's from the mid 70's. Today that makes it vintage, ten years ago it was old school, and ten years before I'd guess it was old fashion or whatever people said back then.

Oregon Trail was first made c.1971 by a trio of student teachers working out of Cerleton College, wanting to make a game that would help teach kids about the Oregon Trail - a culturally emphasized trail that followed an east-west trajectory on the north American continent during the mid 19th century. The game migrated over to the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium a few years later, and was adapted various times to work on Apple II computers throughout the late 70's to early 80's. Since then it's been adapted for windows, and given a few updates. Most significantly, for contemporary readers: the game was remade for facebook earlier this year!

 

The past is a foreign country, they play games differently there. The classic Oregon Trail was played off a 5¼ disk on an Apple II.

I've seen 5¼" floppy disks, and I've got confused memories of the computers that used them. My school still hoarded a few well into the 90's, perhaps figuring that the young ones didn't need anything better. I can remember a writing program and instructions on how to use it: Put the disk with your name into the computer - the story you were writing came up on screen, ready to be continued from last week - if you want to add a picture, change the disk to the "Pictures" disk, choose a picture, and then put the first disk back in. Some computers had space for two disks, and you could add pictures without changing disks.

Skip forward to today: Go onto google and download the Apple II emulator AppleWin and the Oregon Trail ROM, then play.

I suspect something's been lost in translation.

 

The game sets the player as an ambiguously-detailed American sojourner who wishes to take their family over to Oregon. To start off, the player chooses whether to be a banker, a carpenter, or a farmer, each of which starts the game with differing amounts of cash, thus illustrating the understudied correlation between socioeconomics and rates of dysentery. 

After choosing names for his family the vagabond hero goes shopping with the currency he presumably acquired from selling his failing banking/carpeting/farming business. The player chooses how many oxen, caravan bits, food, and such, to carry and then heads off west.

The game is spent either travelling - in which case an animation of a caravan plays - or, well, not travelling. Everything is done on a keyboard, and most of that is by pressing numbers to indicate a choice. So when for instance, the nomadic family reach a fort and take a break, a series of options present themselves: Press 8 to trade, press 6 to get rest some, or press 1 to get the hell out of town before your family become accustomed to the place and start nagging you to just settle down here and forget all about the west coast, because why would you presume that life will be any better there, and aren't you just running away from yourself? 

When travelling, that is, while watching an animation of a rolling caravan, your food stocks go down, and from time to time you'll be interrupted by a message telling you (without judging you) that your wife's arm is broken, or that you're lost, or that something needs fixing. Additionally, you can stop to check out the lay of the land, during which you can chose to speed up, change your family's rations, or go hunting. Hunting, presumably, was included not only to simulate the desperate nature of those who took to the trail, but also to provide a break from the monotony of travel and mysterious injuries. Pixelated-you walks around a pixelated background and shoots pixelated animals that sprint across the screen. Obviously it's a matter of contrast, but it's actually pretty fun.

Eventually you get to the other side of America and all is finally well. There's no proper epilogue, cause apparently it really was all about the journey. Having said that, the game scores the player, attributing points to the ratio of the number of family members who leave the east coast and arrive at the west coast, or how much food you still have.

This highlights the final lesson of Oregon Trail: the difference between loss and victory is slighted by the realisation that, for those who know they could do better, success is an illusion.


 

Miscellaneous final words:

Why are Americans so interested in the Oregon Trail? Australian's, by comparison, have the Burke and Wills expedition, but don't seem to have fixated on it to the same degree. I suspect that Yanks pride themselves on their continent's early (European) frontier culture, whereas Aussies still aren't sure whether to claim settlement history for themselves (qua convicts) or the Brits.

To elaborate on the ambitiously-named-CaptainSuperBoy's node: Word on the street suggests that some guy named Andy is responsible for the peperoni and chease tombstone, making reference to an ad by Tombstone Pizza reading "What do you want on your tombstone?" Due to how well known this joke is, I suspect that either peperoni chease was a proto-meme, imitated by hundreds, or else that it's some sort of Easter Egg joke, already written into the main program. I can't tell. See especially here, but note that a few variant (mis)spellings are quoted around the net.

References: Wikipedia. But Achewood's better: 1/2/3/4.

1 Insofar as I can tell, this is in imitation, rather than in relation, to the other hoards of 1001...Before You Die books.

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