Taking Inventory

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Suspended in Hot Mustard

by Jason Scott on Feb.17, 2009, under Uncategorized

Obviously, many of the people I interviewed have gone on to do other projects, other jobs, and other realms of creativity. When I can, I’ll link to some of these new projects. 

Mike Berlyn, who created Suspended, Infidel and other works for Infocom, and also went on to co-design Tass Times in Tonetown, recently completed an album of smooth jazz! From the mailing he sent out about it:

Dear Family and Friends,

[Here is a] link to an album of light jazz of mine.  I’ve written, performed and recorded this album under the band name “Hot Mustard.” The album is called “All Spiced Up.” As some of you may know, I composed symphonic, contemporary music for several years and managed to complete two symphonies.  I decided to try my hand at a more popular, accessible form, and so I created Hot Mustard. I enjoyed the entire process so much, I am working on a second Hot Mustard album, which is not yet finished.

Here is a link to the Amazon page, which has preview tracks.

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Another Map of Adventure

by Jason Scott on Feb.10, 2009, under Uncategorized

When the original Crowther and Woods adventure ended up on Compuserve back in the early 1980s, the players would go through the same puzzles, traps and effort that many before them (and countless after them) had to. But when they were done, they were done; the replay value wasn’t all that great. So Compuserve, being a money-making entity, did what a number of people did: they extended the dungeon.

The original adventure was 350 points, which you gained by performing different actions or acquiring treasures. The New Expanded adventure added more puzzles, and more points, inviting people back in again (for additional hourly fees).

It was pointed out to me by James L. Dean that this weblog entry has another pen and ink drawing like the one I previously mentioned, but for this expanded adventure:

collossal_cave_lfull

Now, granted that this is not what you would exactly call “Like New” condition, but you can see the difference from the previous map that I referenced, and especially how they had to struggle, again, to get all the crazy pieces in.

Something about these artistic portrayals of (mostly) made up spaces seems to set something off in me internally, in a good way. I like the idea of an artist having to both know the game, and the descriptions, and somehow reconcile it all into a functional space.

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“Computer Games Have No Respect for you”

by Jason Scott on Feb.02, 2009, under Uncategorized

I love this article. While scanning in a bunch of artifacts, I found this newspaper column written in January of 1985. It was acquired by a clipping service for Infocom during the cycle of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (hence the paragraph that is outlined in yellow) and is nearly 25 years old.

Called “Computer Games, and Players, have no respect for you”, this article tells the travails of playing Interactive Fiction in 1985. Specifically, playing Infocom games, because the author mentions Zork, Suspect, and Hitchhiker’s Guide as the games she tried to play. In all cases, she hates the format and hates the tone of the games. It’s an enjoyable counterpoint to the rah-rah approach most articles (and, really, a lot of the documentary) find themselves promoting. People who normally didn’t engage with computers as game machines found themselves doing so for Infocom games and adventure games, and the process wasn’t always for their enlightenment or enjoyment.

Computer Games Have No Respect

You can see the full-size scan here. I went and tracked down the author, Gayle Gertler, and she’s still living in Providence, selling Southwestern-themed items (which she was interviewed about in the paper). It looks like she was an editor when she left in the 2000s, meaning she had a nice long run in the newspaper business. Maybe I should ask her what she thinks of these games now…

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The Legends of Zork

by Jason Scott on Jan.16, 2009, under Uncategorized

It’s natural that someone who knows I’m working on this documentary would want me to know the latest of any sort of news related to text adventures or Infocom or Adventure International and so on. As a result, probably a dozen people have brought to my attention that there’s an announcement for a Massively-Multiplayer-Online version of Zork out there.

I don’t have any insider knowledge on this, or how it will go. I don’t even have any opinion of it, positive or negative. I know that if you want to play the original Zork online, you can do so.  And the current gold standard for browser-based MMOs (which this new Zork is intended to be) is Kingdom of Loathing, which comes highly recommended by many people (I haven’t played it myself).

If there’s anything I can be non-neutral about, it’s two different things:

  • I am very happy to hear that Activision, whose relationship to Zork and the Infocom properties has ranged from silly to cruel, is allowing someone to develop the property further in some way. While it may or may not be all that accurate to the original works, it will certainly be interesting to see how the Zork name resonates with folks or gathers new ones.
  • And speaking of accuracy, the character portrayed on the splash screen walks around with a torch. Someone should really have made it a battery powered brass lantern, because that’s what’s in the original. But this sort of nit-pickery is offputting, so good luck to those guys.

Another weird side-effect is that it has caused a rash of links and views to the music video shot with MC Frontalot in relation to GET LAMP, which has gotten released a good amount of time before the documentary will.  If you haven’t seen it yet, go ahead and check it out; I’ll talk more about it in the future.

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