The Sierra Network / ImagiNation Network
July 9, 2011 7:21 AM   Subscribe

The Sierra Network - later the ImagiNation Network - was a gaming and chat service for PCs started by Sierra On-Line in 1991 and shut down by AOL in 1998.

You can check out most of the network by using DOSbox (OSX users should use Boxer) via the INNRevival project (working software link here; OSX users should run it through an unarchiver to unpack it, then drop the whole folder into Boxer, and you might need to change some config files via the "Getting Started" link at the main project page). Most games work just fine, including Red Baron and everything in the Volcano, but message boards and mail do not (nor do accounts; when it asks for a password, just put in any 6+ characters). The server occasionally goes down, and usually a post to the Google group will see it back up shortly, but there seem to be problems with the group right now and an email to the project manager is probably your best bet in that case.

Bonus: you can read a short two page article/advertisement on pages 38-39 in this issue of The Sierra Magazine (technically said issue is the only issue of "The Sierra/Dynamix Magazine", as in the very next issue the magazine changes its name to InterAction which remains until the end of the magazine's run).
posted by curious nu (16 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Ah, such fond memories of getting up early in the morning, sneaking to the computer room, desperately trying to muffle the sound of the modem dialing, and racking up frankly obscene telephone bills and subscription charges in order to play Shadows of Yserbius.
posted by jedicus at 7:31 AM on July 9, 2011 [12 favorites]

You could have put L0 in your modem initialization string--on a well-behaved modem, it turned the speaker off. Man, I kind of miss the dialup BBS days.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 7:47 AM on July 9, 2011 [7 favorites]

I miss TSN/INN! It was always a fun place to hang out. I'm on vacation as of tonight... my wife will not like this new twist.
posted by speeb at 7:50 AM on July 9, 2011

LOL at the Sierra magazine link ("this issue"), mainly because of the IBM PS/2 educational ad on page 2, immediately followed by the Ken Williams editorial in which he vents about how the PS/2 is an expensive, only marginally upgradable piece of trash. Those were the days.
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:08 AM on July 9, 2011

I was a beta tester for TSN although I could have sworn back then they called it WON (at least during beta). I remember having a ball playing Red Baron online.
posted by linux at 8:25 AM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

This was my first taste of online gaming. I can remember dogfighting in Red Baron and doing the dungeon crawl thing in Shadows of Yserbius. It was thrilling to be playing against real people elsewhere in the world--until our free trial ran out and my dad saw the phone bill.

That was my first exposure to the hack-and-slash RPG, and I never seriously went back to it except, briefly, for Diablo 2. Dad's tight budget probably saved me from a life of true geekdom. On the other hand, since I lacked athletic skill or popularity, I suppose it doomed me to the shallows of armchair geekery, never quite fitting in with the true believers.

Kind of afraid to go back and see how it has aged.
posted by DeWalt_Russ at 8:46 AM on July 9, 2011

According to pg. 13 of the Sierra mag, Jan Hammer scored the soundtrack to Police Quest 3. I'm really excited to learn that, for some reason.
posted by Chichibio at 8:49 AM on July 9, 2011

I'm not sure whether I encountered TSN, Prodigy, or local BBSes first, but my use of all of them had one thing in common: only the free stuff! No long-distance charges or subscription fees here, or I would not be alive to tell y'all about it. I'm pretty sure that for TSN, that meant I only had access to the Clubhouse, and only for a limited number of hours per month. Good times.
posted by asperity at 8:55 AM on July 9, 2011

TSN/INN kept me sane during the long housebound recovery from an illness, before the Internet reached my household. I don't think I should let myself get sucked in again though...
posted by Soliloquy at 9:44 AM on July 9, 2011

Maybe finally someone will tell me how to beat Afterlife.
posted by The Whelk at 9:48 AM on July 9, 2011

I was introduced to the awesomeness of the Imagination Network by my grandmother, was always close to the forefront of consumer computing through the late 80's and 90's. She spoiled my brothers and I with quite a few Sierra Entertainment titles like The Incredible Machine and Red Baron, and would even foot the phone bills for when we called in to get tips on advancing in Kings Quest VI.

I thoroughly support a revival of the Imagination Network, but I'd rather not spoil something that I remember as nothing less than epic.
posted by clearly at 1:03 PM on July 9, 2011

Oh wow, this takes me back. Shadows of Yserbius was my first real taste of online gaming. And they had a newsletter and everything!
posted by NathanBoy at 1:39 PM on July 9, 2011

True story...
My mother got engaged through TSN/INN.
In 1994.
He lived in a trailer.
It ended badly.

That pretty framed my expectations of online dating for the rest of my life.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 1:40 PM on July 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

That cries out for elaboration.
posted by silby at 3:23 PM on July 9, 2011

Wow, I spent many hours on TSN and INN, and I remember being very excited when we extended the service so that I could play Shadows of Yserbius. Also, I loved playing Boogers!

I must say, after using such an intricate and beautiful VGA graphical interface, AOL was a HUGE letdown. I remember getting 3.5" disks in the mail containing the "winter" overhaul of the main map, which was pretty cool.
posted by Poegar Tryden at 3:30 PM on July 9, 2011

I never got on the network but I loved the King's Quest series and I run a Sierra-related website. (No, it's not in my profile.) Thanks for sharing this. :)
posted by IndigoRain at 11:32 PM on July 9, 2011

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