You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike.
October 5, 2005 2:07 PM   Subscribe

You see a large shipping crate. It has been wrapped in chains and secured with a stout padlock. Curiously, each link is engraved with the letters "BSA." (more inside)
posted by Malor (24 comments total)
> unlock crate
[unlocking the padlock instead.]
[using the key embossed with "EA".]

The mechanism turns with difficulty, but eventually the padlock springs open.

> open crate
[removing the chains first, which fall to the concrete floor in an enormous clatter.]

The top of the crate slides off easily. Something gleams inside. Treasure, perhaps?

> examine treasure

Dozens of brightly colored, shiny boxes fill the crate, reflecting the harsh warehouse lighting. A piece of parchment, covered with writing, sits on top.

> read parchment
[Taking the parchment first.]

"Welcome, adventure seeker! The Interactive Fiction Gnomes have been slaving away, preparing this year's competition, and you are one of the many lucky recipients of their largesse. These are entirely free games, modeled after the Infocom classics of yesteryear. You should be able to run these on nearly any machine. NOTE: certain commercial software interests would prefer that you remain ignorant of these products. Should last year's shipment have mysteriously gone astray, be sure to request a new one. This year's polls close November 15. Enjoy!"

> take treasure


Sorry for the large amount of real estate used on this post. Even short pseudo-transcripts take a lot of space. Hopefully the entertainment value will be an adequate payoff.

Haven't played any of the games yet, looking forward to it very much. Last year's entries were really cool.
posted by Malor at 2:09 PM on October 5, 2005

posted by matteo at 2:12 PM on October 5, 2005

The formatting was awesome, Malor. I can't wait to explore the link.
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:16 PM on October 5, 2005

Long or not, that post formatting is awesome.
posted by unreason at 2:16 PM on October 5, 2005

/me get nostalgic
posted by vilius at 2:22 PM on October 5, 2005

Hmm, if I'd realized I could do a two-part post without needing to use a comment, I would probably have done it that way to begin with. Can anyone give me a pointer to how it was done?
posted by Malor at 2:24 PM on October 5, 2005

the formatting has been changed. (for those who are wondering, the entire post was on the front page)
posted by delmoi at 2:24 PM on October 5, 2005

Malor, I cut and pasted the teletype section into your first comment.
posted by mathowie at 2:32 PM on October 5, 2005

I love it.

As a young geek I dreamt of working for Infocom. Sadly, by the time I finally did get to work on videogames (LucasArts, 1990) Infocom had pretty much died, and the text adventure era was over.

Hope this isn't too much of a shill, but die-hard fans will definitely want to pick themselves up an INFOCOM t-shirt from Jinx. [no affiliation] Wear it proudly as you mutter arcane commands like:

> frotz lantern
> exex turtle


Now if Activision (or whoever is the current rightsholder on all those old Infocom titles) was really clever, they'd immediately license the entire library to Motorola or Nokia or somesuch to be used as built-in-ROM games for mobile phones. Probably not much money in the proposition, at least at first, but given how much kids these days seem to love their texting, is it too far-fetched to imagine that a handheld text adventure Rennaissance could be around the corner?

You are standing on an open canvas. The future, rife with possibilities, surrounds you on all sides. There are ideas visible to the north, south, east and west.

> ???
posted by sfslim at 2:37 PM on October 5, 2005

After playing Scotts Adams text adventures for hours and hours as a wee tad, I often myself speaking in two-word sentences.

>preview comment

I'm not sure how to do that.

>post comment

Beg pardon?


You took 13 turns and collected 0 treasures. Better luck next time!
posted by ToasT at 2:41 PM on October 5, 2005

Dang, and I was looking forward to a motorcycle.

Good stuff Malor
posted by Mitheral at 2:51 PM on October 5, 2005

Now if Activision ... was really clever, they'd immediately license the entire library

I have mail from an Activision producer dated November 23, 2004, asking me to discontinue the service I was providing at the time where anybody could telnet to my server and play any of the original Infocom games. In that mail, he says:
We have a "signed" deal with a very BIG publisher for Online rights.
Activision hasn't announced it yet. That's true. It's another party that will be handling it.

BUT.. it will be big.

I myself, am hoping that we can possibly re-issue all of the originals with remakes of the original packaging, but... I sorta' doubt that will happen.
It's been almost a year. I'm still waiting.
posted by hades at 2:59 PM on October 5, 2005

Great post Malor. Can't wait to get off work and try them.

oldie but goodie: best 404 page ever.
posted by eyeballkid at 3:12 PM on October 5, 2005

Man, this induced a seriously powerful Mountain Dew flashback. I think I saw Max Headroom.

Nice post!
posted by fenriq at 3:23 PM on October 5, 2005

Excellent post! -- it reminded me that I have to go back and work on this one. The java in the original link is gone, but the BBC's site features a spiffed-up version with illustrations and -- at last! -- the ability to save.
posted by Marit at 3:30 PM on October 5, 2005

this reminds me of "Adventure!" which came packaged with my Apple ][+ back in 1980. oh, take me back to the days of BASIC.

nice post. thanx for the flashback, and new games
posted by slogger at 3:30 PM on October 5, 2005

Beside text-based adventure games, do you also miss some of the later ones, like LucasArts' gems? Would you be excited about a cocktail of irony, creative anachronism and Red Army soundtracks?

Then, check out Soviet Unterzögersdorf (free download, Windows/Mac/Linux, 110-120 MB), an adventure game based in the only USSR republic still in existence — an enclave in Austria. It's very funny and stunningly professional in its niche.

And whether you want to play or not, don't forget to check the Party Convention documentation!
posted by at 3:52 PM on October 5, 2005

is it too far-fetched to imagine that a handheld text adventure Rennaissance could be around the corner?

It's not far-fetched. But you can bet your sweet ass the game will be hosted on their server and you'll have to pay SMS rates for every command you send. And there will be a naked frog involved somehow.
posted by Jimbob at 6:48 PM on October 5, 2005

How cool, Checking it out now!
posted by Malor at 7:45 PM on October 5, 2005

Funny you should say that, SFslim - as a young geek I dreamed of working for Lucasarts. By the time I worked for an adventure game company ( Revolution, 2001 ), the era of the 2D point and click adventure was over...
posted by Jon Mitchell at 9:21 PM on October 5, 2005

Thanks, Hades, for the 411 on the possible "big" deal for the online rights. Like you, I won't be holding my breath.

Sadly, Jimbob is probably right. It sounds like any such deal is likely to involve sending your moves via SMS or somesuch (with an associated fee of course) to a central server as you play, an approach so clearly wrong-headed as to pretty much nix any possibility of a widespread resurgence of the genre, at least as far as mobile devices are concerned. (Mobile MUDs and MOOs might find some success with this approach, but I doubt it.) Activision is on crack if they think people will pay for this content, or wait 5-30 seconds every time they want to make a move.

Consider: most modern mobile devices have more than enough RAM or ROM to carry around a text adventure in its entirety. Local storage equals no turn delay. (The SD card on my current phone is large enough to hold the complete Infocom catalog, with many megs left over.) Said catalog has been availble on teh int0rnet forever, as have the multi-platform ZMachine emulators needed to utilize it.

Given that, why would any consumer pay for something that they can already access quickly (no waiting for your SMS to be received every time you make a move) and freely?

My hope was that Activision would simply sell the mobile rights to a device manufacturer for use as a ROM-based freebie for the consumer, much like the existing (albeit crappy) ROM games than many mobiles already ship with. The only way that something as archaic and as niche as (single-player) text adventures will find a contemporary audience is if they are given away. LOL. Producers and rights-holders. Buncha n00bz.

Now, multi-player text adventures... that might just fly. Better still, an SMS-driven, text-based client for popular MMO's like World of Warcraft. Stuck in a meeting but still want to level up your cooking skill? Miss PvP'ing while on the train to work? Can't install videogames on the office computer?


You are standing below the massive gates of Orgrimmar, the Orcish capitol city. Far overhead, tattered horde banners fly from the ramparts and dozens of torches stain the sky with their foul, black smoke. Two large Orgrimmar grunts are standing watch here, armed with worn, heavy axes.

A trail leads to the east, where you can see a zeppelin docked atop a wooden tower. Behind you, to the south, a broad road stretches off into the rocky, rust-colored plains of Durotar.

From somewhere nearby you hear the squeal of a wild boar.

> ???
posted by sfslim at 9:23 PM on October 5, 2005

I'm not opening that thing it's probably full of Boy Scouts.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:51 AM on October 6, 2005

Malor and Pollomacho are tied for "you win". :)
posted by keptwench at 6:43 AM on October 6, 2005

As far as Infocom goes, they are still good games, and have the nostalgia value, but frankly there are a ton of free works of interactive fiction that have been written in the last 10 years that are as good as or better (a few are much better) than any thing Infocom ever did.

Better writing, better parsers, more variety and innovation, more genres, wider range of difficulty (from sadistically hard to works that have no puzzles), wider range of length (from longer than any Infocom game to those that can be finished in an hour). Here's a page of recommendations that does a good job of highlighting the sheer variety available.
posted by straight at 12:31 PM on October 6, 2005 [1 favorite]

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