TFW a Twitter bot solves a video game mystery
February 8, 2018 8:26 AM   Subscribe

"Something pretty fun happened yesterday that I wanted to share with you all: a bot on Twitter accidentally provided the clue that finally solved a 28-year-old mystery about a DOS game that never shipped." posted by griphus (10 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Very cool. Although I have some memory of this time before JPEG compression, when GIF images were the norm, I was momentarily confused by the use of a non-animated GIF.
posted by exogenous at 9:40 AM on February 8, 2018 [6 favorites]

What, they gave up there? Now is the time to dig into the old contacts and credits for Spinnaker, or old BBS logs to see who might have more information on StarTribes. Or better yet, does The Learning Company (who bought Spinnaker in 1994) have an archive of old software? If so, some archivist there might be able to unearth an alpha or beta version of the game.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:55 AM on February 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

The internet coughs everything up eventually!
posted by Calzephyr at 11:10 AM on February 8, 2018 [4 favorites]

The best old contact would probably be Dale deSharone. He passed away in 2008, so there's no asking him anything now, but he developed Laser Lords (as well as the C64 Below the Root and Alice in Wonderland games, and two of the CD-I Zelda titles). There's an article here about all of that. This is the first I've heard of a DOS prototype of Laser Lords, though, and I'd be fascinated to know more about it.
posted by wanderingmind at 11:28 AM on February 8, 2018

Found fond memories of playing Below The Root. That's been a while and then some.
posted by Samizdata at 12:25 PM on February 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Disk from 1992 apparently settles the "gif(t)" "jiff" argument years before it's first articulated.

Way to bury the lead.
posted by humboldt32 at 1:56 PM on February 8, 2018 [6 favorites]

Thanks wandering mind. Below the Root and Alice in Wonderland on the Apple II were essential experiences for me in my overmedicated preteens. They are fever dreams and hallucinations to me now. This game is built on a similar engine for sure.
posted by n9 at 1:59 PM on February 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

One more Below the Root player here: I played obsessively on a Tandy when I was 12ish - I had that whole game drawn out on notebook paper, taped into a giant mess of a map. There was one jump I could not make no matter what I did.

Robot Odyssey was the other game I got halfway through on that machine and never finished. That damn air shaft.
posted by buildmyworld at 2:15 PM on February 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

I stumbled onto Laser Lords quite by accident (the same LP by supergreatfriend as mentioned in the article's comments) and it's really something unique.
posted by entity447b at 6:47 AM on February 9, 2018

Another Below The Root fan here. I had a very personal connection to that series, as I got the books and read through them. I was in fourth grade at the time, and two very notable things happened:
  1. I turned the page near the end of the third book, and read a single sentence that shocked me so much I actually jolted in my seat. I mean that. My heart raced and my hands shook and I couldn't calm down for half an hour. I marvelled at that level of engagement and immersion for decades after.
  2. I started telling a friend of mine about these books, and occasionally she'd kind of look up and say things like "Oh, huh. Well in German 'Erdling' just means like a worm?" The more I talked about the weird root-barrier on Green sky keeping the two societies separate the more moody and detached she got, but she kept listening. She'd moved to Seattle from East Berlin not two years before this.
I also loved the Alice in Wonderland game. I found every single reference from that game in my copy of The Annotated Alice except one:
It is a marzipan dreadnought that appears to have melted and stuck.
To this day the phrase "marzipan dreadnought" is something I pull out and use as metasyntactic text wherever I need it. It's just such a Cellar Door!
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 9:39 AM on February 9, 2018 [8 favorites]

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