“Ask me about Loom.”
February 4, 2020 8:22 AM   Subscribe

Why 'Loom' Remains the Hidden Gem of Lucasfilm Adventures [VICE]
Cobb’s advertisement gives us a hint of why it was not as commercially successful, in spite of its artistic achievements. The description of the game only talks about the technical aspects - animations, music, controls - but not what the game is about. Loom was technically impressive - the original pixel graphics depict a wonderful world in only 16 colors; the soundtrack also made a wonderful use of the sound card by including a variety of pieces from Tschaikovski’s Swan Lake. The game takes its time to establish the world, with elegance and poise, in contrast with the riotous humor of Monkey Island. Loom is not bombastic, it has funny moments but not laugh out loud. Its fantasy world will not blow you away immediately - but it will steal your heart if you persevere.

LOOM Audio Drama, a 30 minute pre-game story included on cassette or CD [youtube]

Remembering Loom, the adventure game designed to be completed [Eurogamer]
After signing up to write this retrospective, it dawned on me that I might not have time to replay Loom. I looked at my schedule and saw that I'd left myself a single evening in which to struggle through a 90s LucasArts adventure. You know, those games notorious for their fiendishly difficult puzzles and dozens of red herrings. I still have nightmares about that forest in Grim Fandango.

But it's been so long since I last played Loom I'd forgotten that Loom was designed to be completed. This phrase was written in the manual when the game released in 1990, and recently reiterated by Brian Moriarty during Loom's 25th anniversary GDC lecture . For someone struggling to fit more and more games into less and less free time, hearing those words is like a spoonful of ambrosia.

Loom was designed to be completed. Yet this isn't what makes it exceptional. That stems from how LucasArts set about implementing the idea, lacing it through the game like a thread through a tapestry. Loom took all the elements of LucasArts adventures up to that point; storytelling, humour, contextual interaction and puzzles - along with a brand new element - sound, and wove them together using a single system that even today astounds through its simple, exquisite ingenuity. Loom is not only the name of the game or the subject of the story. It's a concept that influences every facet of the design.
Loom - Remembering LucasArts [youtube] - "Kevin VanOrd takes a look back at the classic LucasArts adventure game Loom."

Loom postmortem: the history of an underappreciated gem [PCGamer]
Moriarty spoke about how he originally came up with the setting and story for Loom, which stars weaver Bobbin Threadbare making his way through a fantasy world of guilds and magic. Music plays a key role, and puzzles in Loom are solved by playing music, rather than using items. According to Moriarty, the idea for the story and the entire setting of Loom came to him when he saw an advertisement in a computer magazine for a circuit board; the ad copy at the bottom referred to the board as a loom, and the use of the word struck him. That was all it took to inspire Loom’s creation.
Classic Game Postmortem: LucasFilm Games' Loom['WARNING: The Following Lecture Is A Total Spoiler For Loom'] [youtube] - "Brian Moriarty, the trailblazing author of influential Infocom games like Trinity and Beyond Zork, delivered a Classic Game Postmortem at GDC 2015 looking at the making of LucasFilm Games' groundbreaking 1990 graphic adventure game Loom."

Weaving Simplicity: Thoughts on LOOM [Gamasutra] - "More than twenty years after its release, I finally sat down to play LOOM, a classic LucasArts adventure game designed by Brian Moriarty. In many ways LOOM is completley unlike its peers from the early 90s, or any other adventure game I’ve played. I think there’s a lot that we can learn from LOOM about designing an adventure game in the modern age, and I wanted to articulate some of those thoughts here."

Lo-Fi Let's Play 21: LOOM [youtube] - "I know I said 'no hits', but sometimes I can't help myself. We revisit a beautiful game that drew ire from traditional 'hardcore' adventure fans, but made a lot of young puzzle-solvers -- myself included -- fall in love forever with games"
posted by the man of twists and turns (33 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
O, how I loved that world and its magic.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:33 AM on February 4 [3 favorites]

That game actually made me cry, and then marvel over how it made me cry.
posted by Foosnark at 8:37 AM on February 4 [2 favorites]

LOOM™ EGA vs VGA - DOS Nostalgia [youtube] - "VGA Loom sucks."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:39 AM on February 4 [4 favorites]

Totally missed this as a thing in my youth. Just flew under my radar. Looking forward to digging into these links. Great roundup. Thanks for the post.
posted by Fizz at 8:42 AM on February 4

This was free with our first ever Windows PC, I think, along with the other overlooked LucasArts classic Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe. Great story from what I remember, and a game mechanic where the spell notes were randomised each playthrough so you couldn't cheat by looking them up in a magazine.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:43 AM on February 4 [3 favorites]

I loved Loom so much. It was really easy -- but that never bothered me at all, I just enjoyed playing it and being in the world, and appreciated getting to solve puzzles and not having to figure out the exact right (stupid) way to fix a spitting contest.
posted by jeather at 8:46 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I think maybe I missed it because that pirate guy wouldn't shut up about it
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 8:47 AM on February 4 [10 favorites]

I loved this game so much when I was a tiny child. Loom led me to King's Quest which led me to Myst which led to....pretty much every game I've enjoyed since.
posted by lazaruslong at 8:49 AM on February 4 [3 favorites]

Wow. That EGA to VGA transition the man of twists and turns linked to looks like an act of vandalism.
posted by straight at 9:01 AM on February 4

The Digital Antiquarian, who exhaustively covers the careers of Infocom imps, did a deep dive into Loom.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:03 AM on February 4 [5 favorites]

Like EndsofInvention, Loom and Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe were my fucking jam. 8th grade, I think. I loved how intuitive and beautiful Loom was.
And I loved flying the Go229/Ho IX in SWotL.
posted by rp at 9:07 AM on February 4 [2 favorites]

Is there an emulator that would let you play this game now?
posted by Mchelly at 9:29 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]

Yes, it's called ScummVM
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 9:33 AM on February 4 [9 favorites]

I never played this. I want to say this is because it was never on the Amiga but I'm apparently wrong.

Maybe I should find a copy and get SCUMMVM working.
posted by egypturnash at 9:37 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]

I remember trying to play this when all I had was a PC beeper. It doesn't hold your attention as much that way.

Then I got an AdLib FM synthesizer card for Christmas.

And it was magic.
posted by linux at 9:52 AM on February 4

Is there an emulator that would let you play this game now?

It's on steam and GOG.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:53 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]

The compatibility list of ScummVM is really staggering these days, although of course LOOM has always been a core supported game.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 9:54 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]

Eleven year old me certifies that this is the best game of all time.
posted by each day we work at 10:01 AM on February 4 [2 favorites]

It's on Steam for five bucks, though it crashes when I attempt to launch it on my Mac. Apparently it's the VGA version.

Six bucks on GOG, also the VGA version, and I seem to remember giving money to GOG is giving money to white supremacists or something?

Looks like it's been purged from retrogame download sites. I don't think I want to play this enough to go hunting for it. If anyone finds a download for the EGA version, maybe post a pointer?
posted by egypturnash at 10:04 AM on February 4

Unfortunately, I never got very far into Loom, coming to a screetching halt back in the day, at the point where it expected me to recognize/replicate musical notes.
posted by tavella at 10:44 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]

You could try running the Steam version in ScummVM. Apparently the EGA version is stuffed in there somewhere.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:50 AM on February 4

There was a way to get past recognising notes -- I think you could play at different difficulty levels and at lower ones the notes would all have associated colours, or even sometimes the letters just flew out of the pattern.
posted by jeather at 10:58 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]

LOOM™? You mean the latest masterpiece of fantasy storytelling from Lucasfilm's™ Brian Moriarty™?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:24 AM on February 4 [4 favorites]

Also, for another retrospective: the Retronauts podcast did an episode on LOOM a few months ago, as part of their irregular look-back at the whole LucasArts adventure catalog.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:26 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]

The Loom demo is available on archive.org for immediate play in your browser.
posted by namewithoutwords at 11:50 AM on February 4 [3 favorites]

¿ɹǝɥʇoɯ ʎɯ noʎ ǝɹɐ 'ǝɹɐqpɐǝɹɥʇ uᴉqqoq ɯ,I
posted by RobotHero at 12:05 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]

We got Loom because it was sort of like Myst, which we wanted but which was significantly more expensive. Despite this inauspicious backstory, I enjoyed playing it!
posted by eviemath at 12:09 PM on February 4

I'll have to spin this game up for a nostalgia play-through again. I remembered trying and needing to locate the Book of Patterns to get through the rudimentary copy protection.
posted by msbutah at 1:08 PM on February 4

Many of the songs were already listed in the manual, including blank measures for penciling in those that could only be learned in the game itself.
posted by Brocktoon at 1:23 PM on February 4 [3 favorites]

Is the difficulty level entirely about how much the game asks you to recognize musical pitches and sequences?
posted by straight at 3:21 PM on February 4

Yes. Iirc only the highest difficulty expects you to do things by ear. All the others have visual indications. I think different parts of the distaff will light up corresponding to the pitch.
posted by Television Name at 3:56 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]

"Moriarty spoke about how he originally came up with the setting and story for Loom..."

Was this before or after he went over the Reichenbach Falls?
posted by storybored at 5:51 PM on February 4 [3 favorites]

Apparently the EGA version is stuffed in there somewhere.

According to those instructions, which are 'buy the Steam version so Steam thinks you own Loom, and then download a pirated copy of the EGA Loom which we're going to pretend is legal because you gave Disney $5', this doesn't appear to be the case.
posted by Merus at 6:25 PM on February 4 [3 favorites]

« Older You are over-encumbered and cannot run.   |   Yes world, there were horses in Native culture... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments