|Author:||Anderson, Dalio, McBeath (USA)|
|Latest release:||1.02 (1990-12-10)|
|Genre:||Early Minesweeper Games|
XMines is an advanced clone of Relentless Logic written in 1987 that introduced many features later found in Windows Minesweeper. It was written by Tom Anderson and modified by Brian Dalio and Jim McBeath. Not to be confused with the identically named XMines, a popular Minesweeper clone for Mac computers.
Tom Anderson (WA, USA) wrote Mines after seeing colleagues playing RLogic at work1. This inspired him to make a clone for SunTools, an early operating system by Sun Microsystems. He had already written a version of Chess for Suntools and he used this code as his starting point2.
The original Mines version expanded the grid size to 16x16 and doubled the number of mines a user could choose. Important new features included using a Mouse instead of a keyboard to navigate. Sun mouses had three buttons: Tom used the left button to open adjacent squares, the middle button to mark squares as dangerous, and the right button to mark squares as safe. If you marked a square as dangerous you could not step on that square. As in RLogic, the goal was getting to the bottom right corner safely. He posted his code to a Usenet games group (comp.sources.games) on 19 November 1987.
Mines was then discovered by Brian Dalio of Silicon Compiler Systems who added several more features3 during November and December 1987. If you moved to a new cell, the previous cell was marked with a number to remind you how many mines it touched. If a cell was marked incorrectly by the user, an ‘X’ was placed on the cell after the game ended. (It did not matter if you found a mine, it only mattered if you found a safe path). If you had already stepped on a square, you could return to that square at any time during the game. He also added a Hint feature to tell you a safe square next to your position.
Jim McBeath, who also worked at Silicon Compilers, further modified the program in February 1988. Instead of typing ‘Hint’ the user could now click the right mouse button on the occupied square. He also made it possible to move to squares adjacent to any previously opened square. Around this time, Sun Microsystems upgraded their operating system from SunTools to SunView and then to X-Windows. In January 1990, Jim converted Mines for X11 and renamed the program ‘XMines’. He toyed around with XMines until finally publishing it to Usenet (comp.sources.x) in September 1990. A patch was posted in December.
Features in the final version of the game (probably added by McBeath) included being able to customise the grid size and change the width of cells. The game kept track of the number of cells marked safe and the number of hints given. You were warned if the game was impossible to solve. Your player was represented as a stick-man.
You can still download XMines 1.02 thanks to McBeath, who uploaded it to the HPUX online archive in April 2000. Several websites offer X11 emulators if you want to play a game. Jim also wrote a detailed history of the game, included in the files for download.
 Place in History
XMines was the first clone of RLogic to use a Mouse. It was also the first to mark mine locations and the first to use numbers in the grid. Essentially, XMines was more than half way to Minesweeper as we know it.
- 1. Tom Anderson, 17 October 2006, comment on Wikipedia discussion page for ‘Minesweeper Computer Game’.
- 2. Sourcecode was posted to Usenet group comp.sources.games, Volume 2, Issue 90 on 19 November 1987.
- 3. Most of this history comes from Jim McBeath’s history file in XMines 1.02.