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April 18, 2008 6:18 AM   Subscribe


 
Holy shit, I'm geeking out. I must have wasted half my childhood on that game.
posted by fungible at 6:22 AM on April 18, 2008


I wasted a good couple hours failing to get out of the first room a few years ago.
posted by DU at 6:26 AM on April 18, 2008


You beat me to the posting button by seconds! Still, it's severely cool. I actually wrote a few rooms for a sequel while putzing around with a Inform 6 IDE I wrote the english instructions for, but never continued with it as it seemed a lot of work to go through for something I could probably never release on account of copyright - plus I'm not that good of a puzzle designer. It's interesting to see the design directions Infocom went compared to the ones I contemplated (which were mostly time travel puzzles that hurt my head and broke my code).
posted by Sparx at 6:33 AM on April 18, 2008


In the context of nerd culture, this is akin to finding a lost Beatles album, with attached production memos and signed notes from John, Paul and George calling each other names. I could only be more ecstatic if I could have ever gotten tea in the first Hitchhiker's game.
posted by ardgedee at 6:38 AM on April 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


SPOILER ALERT:








Get satchel and towel. Take off gown. Hang gown on hook. Put towel over drain. Put satchel in front of panel. Put mail on satchel. Press dispenser button.

END SPOILER.
posted by 2or3whiskeysodas at 6:46 AM on April 18, 2008 [6 favorites]


I loved reading those memos.
posted by grouse at 6:51 AM on April 18, 2008


I don't recall getting very far into it before getting blocked. And I had made short work of most of the other Infocom opera. Of course, that was LOOO-OONG before I could go online and get a walk-thru or watch a 12 year-old Korean kid solve it on YouTube.
posted by RavinDave at 6:54 AM on April 18, 2008


I did too, until I realised that he'd just whapped them up online without even attempting to ask permission from any of their authors, one of whom denies ever writing it in the comments.

That's an incredibly shoddy thing to do, regardless of how interesting he (and we) find them. I bet Matt could find lots of interesting MeMails too.
posted by bonaldi at 6:54 AM on April 18, 2008


that was to grouse, btw
posted by bonaldi at 6:55 AM on April 18, 2008


Wow! it's like another Salmon of Doubt! How many other old hard drives with Douglas' works are there lying around?
posted by TechnoLustLuddite at 7:00 AM on April 18, 2008


2or3whiskeysodas, don't give it away! They're supposed to go through the 25-lines-deep Invisiclues entry and get to the line that says "At this point, brave men have been known to break down and cry."
posted by suckerpunch at 7:03 AM on April 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


...one of whom denies ever writing it in the comments.

Well, later on in the comments, you'll see that he did fix that problem (it was simple misattribution). The guy doesn't even seem upset.

That said, I do feel a bit uneasy about it, regardless of how cool it is.
posted by danb at 7:04 AM on April 18, 2008


Eh. That's what historians, biographers, and journalists do. Not asking permission before writing about or quoting someone isn't the end of the world. (And if writers let it stop them when people refused permission, that would be a real loss.)

On the other hand, if you don't contact the sources before going live, you wind up making mistakes like thinking that "M.B." is Marc Blank when it turns out to be Michael Bywater.

The games themselves are, well, a bit underwhelming; I learned a lot more about what the game could have been and would have been from reading the design-doc emails.
posted by grimmelm at 7:08 AM on April 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Eh. That's what historians, biographers, and journalists do. Not asking permission before writing about or quoting someone isn't the end of the world.
No, that's not what they do. This wasn't "writing about or quoting someone", it was reprinting, verbatim, emails where the authors had a reasonable expectation (especially at the time) of privacy and where both parties are still, in most cases, alive.

There's a public interest defence for journalists to do that, and that doesn't mean things that the public will find interesting. Even then, they'll contact the people first to see what they say!
posted by bonaldi at 7:11 AM on April 18, 2008


Thanks, everyone!

bonaldi: Yes, I should have contacted the original authors. I published with the hope that the material was of enough historical interest and distance (it's 20 years later) that they wouldn't mind. Marc Blank and Steve Meretzky left positive comments in my blog, which is promising. But others may feel differently, so I may be need to remove this article or pieces of it if someone's upset. We'll see.
posted by waxpancake at 8:04 AM on April 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


Well, the damage will be done by then, won't it? You don't even need to have actually got in touch with them all -- just a good faith effort would have been enough, and would hopefully have led to even better stories. I really like the page, and was going to link it here myself, but now it leaves a really skeezy aftertaste, which is sad.

The world waited 20 years ... couldn't it wait another week or two?
posted by bonaldi at 8:14 AM on April 18, 2008


Oh, to think how much I wanted a sequel to the Hitchhikers' game back in the day! I played it before I read the books, and even now that I have the books nearly memorized I'm struck by how much new material is in the game. Who wrote what, whether Meretzky or Adams, it's hard to say, but lots of it is just so excellent.

Reading this is indescribably depressing, both from thinking about what never was and never shall be, and because it's another indication of Adams' temperament and how he grew away from Hitchhikers'. (I'm still quite upset about Mostly Harmless....)
posted by JHarris at 8:40 AM on April 18, 2008


Great link! I hope you leave everything up waxpancake - it's such an illuminating look at Douglas Adams and the way that he worked, as well as some truly great pioneers in gaming at Infocom.

I think I'm going to play HH again this weekend.
posted by longdaysjourney at 8:47 AM on April 18, 2008


I was very slightly disappointed with the original game, because although it was thoroughly enjoyable, it was essentially just a test of how well I'd memorized the book.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:51 AM on April 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


The verb 'MEANWHILE' is an awesome way to transition perspective from one character to another.
posted by lyam at 9:06 AM on April 18, 2008


Adverb.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:24 AM on April 18, 2008


I only scanned the thread and thought this was a new BOOK!!!!

*weeps openly*
posted by Space Kitty at 9:43 AM on April 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Adverb.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:24 PM on April 18 [+] [!]

True, but in the context of the game, operators that indicate an action to be taken are generally referred to as verbs. At least in that article.

:P
posted by lyam at 9:46 AM on April 18, 2008


Hmm. I see Michael Bywater's not too happy in the comments, either.
There's a lot more where that came from but not for you, Mr Baio. You should have asked nicely.
Seriously, waxpancake, this could have been truly great if you'd done a modicum of legwork on it. Instead, it's half-baked and invasive. Dammit.
posted by bonaldi at 9:54 AM on April 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Update: Don't miss the comments section. Infocom alumni Dave Lebling, Steve Meretzky, Amy Briggs, and Tim Anderson all comment on the story, Zork co-author Marc Blank helps correct an error, and writer Michael Bywater provides an alternative view of the events.
posted by matthewr at 10:00 AM on April 18, 2008


This is so awesome. It's like finding some lost book of the Bible for Infocom geeks, of which I am one. I'd love to get my hands on that "Infocom Drive".

As far as people upset that it was posted without permission from the original authors: well, all of them are right there responding in the comments, and none of them seem to mind. Except Michael Bywater, who was portrayed as a bit of a prick in the original emails, and judging by his comments, is still a bit of a prick and is more just still pissed off about something that happened 20 years ago than irked that the emails were posted without permission. Jesus, get over it, dude.
posted by DecemberBoy at 3:22 PM on April 18, 2008


Why does everyone still go on about how hard the babelfish puzzle was? It isn't hard. It was never hard. The endgame has some pretty hard stuff. Spellbreaker is hard. Beaureaucracy is ridiculously hard. But getting the fish was never hard. Yet it somehow persists as the iconic puzzle from HHGG if not the entire Infocom output.
posted by Wolfdog at 3:30 PM on April 18, 2008


none of them seem to mind.
I don't get that at all, I read at least another two of them being pretty dubious about it as well. I'm not surprised there are loads of buccaneers there who think the whole lot should be uploaded; this is the internets. The real deal is like the j-school professor said in that thread: by following basic principles, something great could have been created.

You think it is "so awesome"? So do lots of people in the comments there, especially those shouting down Bywater. But how much more fucking awesome could it have been with all the same material, plus up-to-date reflections and the whole backstory that didn't make it on to the disk? It's the difference between a scan of some old Apple emails and folklore.org.
posted by bonaldi at 3:30 PM on April 18, 2008


(aside from it still being morally skeezy to publish some emails what you done did find because they're just SO COOL, I mean)
posted by bonaldi at 3:32 PM on April 18, 2008


There's a lot more where that came from but not for you, Mr Baio. You should have asked nicely.

That's pretty twisted, unfortunate, and immature, frankly.
posted by mek at 3:44 PM on April 18, 2008


I'm not a fan of the way HGTG works. It's basically a guessing game with a time limit, with the solutions being fairly arbitary and the penalty for not dragging along some obscure item being death.

The prose is nice though.
posted by Artw at 3:47 PM on April 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


You think it is "so awesome"? So do lots of people in the comments there, especially those shouting down Bywater. But how much more fucking awesome could it have been with all the same material, plus up-to-date reflections and the whole backstory that didn't make it on to the disk? It's the difference between a scan of some old Apple emails and folklore.org.

Yeah, it could have been that, or Bywater could have said "you can't publish it at all!" and we'd have had nothing. Given his attitude in the comments, that seems more likely. It's not like this is personal correspondence. It's corporate email about a product. It reveals nothing except information about what Infocom was doing in its dying days. It's not damaging to anyone, except maybe Michael Bywater, who did far more damage to himself with his own comments. The entire Atari coin-op division email archive from the 1980s is also available online, and I'm sure nobody asked every single person who wrote them for permission. I wouldn't care if someone published old email I wrote at work, I don't think most people would. Personal email would be different, but this isn't personal email.
posted by DecemberBoy at 3:58 PM on April 18, 2008


That's pretty twisted, unfortunate, and immature, frankly.
WTF is it with this topic? I'm clearly way off base, but I don't understand the thinking here, beyond:
1. I like the results.
2. If I like the results, who gives a fuck?
I mean everybody throws a total wobbler if a MeMail gets c-and-p'd into a MetaTalk thread, but it's ok to dig somebody's email archives up and splat them on the net, because they're juicy? And then the victim is a dick for being upset?

Hey, mek, send me a backup of all your email, would you? Of course, I won't be able to put all of it on my blog, but there might be some that's too good not to. If that's so, and any of your friends get pissed off about what you were saying, I'll need you to go and tell them to be more mature and to come help me fill in the background.
posted by bonaldi at 3:58 PM on April 18, 2008


There's a lot more where that came from but not for you, Mr Baio. You should have asked nicely.

That's pretty twisted, unfortunate, and immature, frankly.


No kidding. He should have added "SO NYAH-NYAH-NYAH!!" at the end.
posted by DecemberBoy at 3:59 PM on April 18, 2008


Bywater could have said "you can't publish it at all!" and we'd have had nothing.
Or Andy could have ignored the request, and published it anyway. Asking people for comment isn't the same as asking them for permission. You can just as easily say "Bywater declined to comment on this story". This is everyday stuff in journalism, and there are procedures for a reason -- not only for fairness and ethics, but because they make for better reporting.

Personal email would be different, but this isn't personal email.
This is splitting hairs, nothing more. Early 1980s email was a wholly different place from the multi-account work/private era we're in now. I'd say even if it's work, there was a reasonable expectation of privacy.
posted by bonaldi at 4:02 PM on April 18, 2008


Bywater again:
'What would it take to share your thoughts on the history of 'Restaurant'?'

It wouldn't have taken much at all. An email from Andy Baio saying "What do you make of this?" and I'd have told him, even though there are bits -- lots -- of it which don't do me much credit. After all, I failed, in the end, to do the job.

This is nothing to do with my allegedly galactic ego. It's to do with Andy Baio uploading a bunch of stuff which is closely to do with me, without bothering to ask my opinion. I really don't see how that's so hard to understand.

The tone of some of the comments on this blog, too, are kind of disheartening. Normally one ignores criticism, publicly at least; that's one of the rules of the game. I'm not sure I agree with that; I think it's more transparent to say "Actually, I find this upsetting and misrepresentative". And then follows the sort of abuse most people would rather not get.
posted by bonaldi at 4:07 PM on April 18, 2008


I pretty much got pissed at InfoCom when I discovered it was impossible to win one of their advanced games ... that I had spent several weeks playing. (Arrrghhh!!)
posted by RavinDave at 4:38 PM on April 18, 2008


I pretty much got pissed at InfoCom when I discovered it was impossible to win one of their advanced games ... that I had spent several weeks playing. (Arrrghhh!!)

Which one was that? I can't think of any of their games that are impossible to finish.
posted by DecemberBoy at 5:21 PM on April 18, 2008


DecemberBoy ... oh, you can finish it, you just can't win.
posted by RavinDave at 5:26 PM on April 18, 2008


Inifidel was "Advanced"? Really? That ending was pretty diasppointing, though, especially since it's "punishment" for something the player doesn't have any role in.
posted by Wolfdog at 5:36 PM on April 18, 2008


You think the Infocom Drive is a treasure trove? Well, maybe.

But this...this is a treasure trove.

(I still have all my DUNGEO maps. The executable too, I think...)
posted by Lazlo at 12:09 AM on April 19, 2008


I used to love the "fake" hints in the Invisiclues books.

"THERE ARE NO BASEMENTS IN CLEVELAND."
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:42 AM on April 19, 2008


Kinda wish they'd do an adult version of "Leather Goddesses of Phobos".

Not that *I'd* play it, of course. Just wanna see'em stick it to the man.


er ...
posted by RavinDave at 7:02 AM on April 19, 2008


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