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Lost Infocom Games Discovered

ScuttleMonkey posted about 6 years ago | from the retro-hotness dept.

PC Games (Games) 112

I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "Archivists at Waxy.org have gotten a copy of the backup of Infocom's shared network drive from 1989 and are piecing together information about games that were never released. In particular, there is the sequel to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy called Milliways: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, and there are two playable prototypes of it. And yes, they have playable downloads available."

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112 comments

Infocom was never the same (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23125572)

after they published Leather Goddesses of Phobos. It is almost like they lost the will to make games.

Re:Infocom was never the same (4, Interesting)

AKAImBatman (238306) | about 6 years ago | (#23125624)

It is almost like they lost the will to make games.

That is more or less what happened. In 1984, InfoCom tried to "serious up" with the Cornerstone database. Unfortunately, it was not well received and kind of dragged the company down:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infocom#Cornerstone [wikipedia.org]

Also by 1986, gamers were fascinated with cool graphics and sounds that pushed the envelope of their C64s, as well as this interesting new console called the "Nintendo Entertainment System" with its distinctly unique brand of games. There wasn't a whole lot of room in the market for text adventures anymore. With their resources spread out and depleted, "loosing their will" was probably an apt description.

Re:Infocom was never the same (4, Interesting)

Dogtanian (588974) | about 6 years ago | (#23127090)

Also by 1986, gamers were fascinated with cool graphics and sounds that pushed the envelope of their C64s, as well as this interesting new console called the "Nintendo Entertainment System" with its distinctly unique brand of games. There wasn't a whole lot of room in the market for text adventures anymore.
In the UK at least, Magnetic Scrolls' first text adventure, "The Pawn" was still a big deal at that time. Sure, the pretty graphics (at least on the 16-bit versions) were a selling point, but the parser was the other major aspect that got peoples' attention. (Though I read at least one dissenting review attacking it for trying to be clever at the expense of usability/predictability, as well as calling the game generally overhyped and illogical.)

But my point is that- at least here- there was still a notable market (and public attention) for text adventures at the time, arguably revitalised by Magnetic Scrolls' success and innovations deriving from their games' origins on the newer 16/32-bit machines. Perhaps Infocom were on the back foot in the face of this newcomer, or perhaps the US market lost its appetite for adventures faster than the UK did.

I'd say that the genre finally lost steam here around the turn of the decade. Coincidentally(?) that's around the same time that Infocom's then-owners Activision finally pulled the plug on the company (the name and IP were reused during the 1990s, but the "true" Infocom effectively died then).

Re:Infocom was never the same (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23130788)

"loosing their will"

Oh, come on! Do people not even make the attempt write correctly any more?

Have you heard about this? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23125584)

Researchers from the University of Manchester have created some of the smallest transistors ever, measuring only one atom by 10 atoms.
In other words, researchers have created a microscopic transistor that is still 100 times the size of Rob Malda's penis.

hard drive archeology (4, Insightful)

Lon (37445) | about 6 years ago | (#23125586)

what I liked about reading this, was the "archeology" of piecing together the behind the scenes - and comments from some of the actual persons involved - reads like a USENET thread - be sure to put on your flame retardant eyewear ;)

Re:hard drive archeology (2, Funny)

urcreepyneighbor (1171755) | about 6 years ago | (#23126866)

There is no such thing as "USENET". It's only a rumor.

Now, time to go back to trolling alt. .... Um. Er.

LOOK! A pony!

Re:hard drive archeology (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23127320)

After being exposed to enough years of Slashdot's hagiography of Douglas Adams, it's interesting to get an unvarnished view of the great man from Way Back When.

The submitter says it all... (4, Funny)

Red Jesus (962106) | about 6 years ago | (#23125592)

Submitter's name: "I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property"

Summary of summary: Some people got ahold of someone's hard drive and published the contents online.

Yeah.

Re:The submitter says it all... (5, Funny)

MrHanky (141717) | about 6 years ago | (#23127182)

Dude. The data was in a dark place. It was likely to be eaten by a grue.

Just don't! (5, Funny)

kickmyassman (1199237) | about 6 years ago | (#23125608)

Now all you have to do is not panic if these pages get slashdotted... just... DON'T... PANIC.

Re:Just don't! (2, Insightful)

Scannerman (1136265) | about 6 years ago | (#23125982)

If you have trouble getting onto the site, just take a break, and have a nice refreshing cup of Not Tea

Nostalgia! (3, Insightful)

Raineer (1002750) | about 6 years ago | (#23125616)

I think this is pretty cool, whether the games are good or not it is always interesting to see the ones that didn't make it to market for one reason or another.

Re:Nostalgia! (4, Insightful)

NoobixCube (1133473) | about 6 years ago | (#23125646)

I'd certainly rather see a game that never made it to market, than buy one that shouldn't have. Not talking specifically about the Infocom ones, of course, just games in general.

Re:Nostalgia! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23125782)

Yep, just like Daikat- whoops, almost said it.

Hmm. Anyone else smell Aqua Net? Oh sweet Jesus, HIDE.

Re:Nostalgia! (3, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 6 years ago | (#23126760)

In the early '90s, I bought The Lost Treasures of Infocom, a box with four floppy disks and a huge amount of paper, including the hints books, maps and so on for all of the games. I didn't play many of them on my PC - I'd just got a Psion Series 3 and an Infocom interpreter. With the 128KB flash disk I bought with it, I could store one of the games at a time (although not H2G2 - it was 150KB, sadly). The games were very variable in quality. Some were totally addictive and stayed on the flash drive until I'd completed them and then gone back and played them again with the hints book to get all of the secret bits I'd missed first time. Others were so dull they only lasted a couple of days. Given the quality of H2G2, I wouldn't be surprised if a sequel fell into the former category, although the original had a lot of input from DNA (who was a huge fan of the text adventure concept) and I don't know how much the sequel did.

Password (0)

cleatsupkeep (1132585) | about 6 years ago | (#23125626)

At least when they found the server the password wasn't hard to guess... It was forty-two (42 is too short a password)

Re:Password (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23126816)

Ah, yes, 42 as in the book! Nice pop-culture reference, keep the good work up!

Re:Password (1)

cleatsupkeep (1132585) | about 6 years ago | (#23127972)

I do what I can - maybe next time I'll be edgy and make a joke about Steve Ballmer throwing a chair. That one isn't done on slashdot too much.

Re:Password (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23128396)

I see that you are being sarcastic. Too bad you don't realize how pathetic you are.

Educational value: (3, Interesting)

Jerry Smith (806480) | about 6 years ago | (#23125634)

I'll use this in class to point out the importance of good backup strategies. And security: this data should not have left the company.

Re:Educational value: (5, Interesting)

WWWWolf (2428) | about 6 years ago | (#23126142)

I'll use this in class to point out the importance of good backup strategies.

Yep, it's amazing that the stuff still survives... as compared to source material that has now been lost forever.

I wish Origin had had a Massive Unix Server for source control and whatnot. But they didn't have one.

And security: this data should not have left the company.

Agreed on a general principle - but if the company's IP has long since ceased to be profitable and its material is mostly just of great historical interest, the situation is quite different. It's a typical human reaction - It's easy to say "you can't have this", only thinking at the usual every-day rules, not thinking of the historical significance, condemning a lot of researchers, years hence, to look for scraps of information and hunt for hazy recollections... Yeah, it'd easy to be in Activision's pants and say "Yes, there is a chance this property is profitable and we'll get to making the Hitchhiker sequel eventually" without batting an eye, but let's face it, IF is dead as a commercial art form =)

Re:Educational value: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23128142)

I don't think employee emails constitute IP, and I don't think the characters, places and ideas from Douglas Adams' books are at present considered unprofitable.

Re:Educational value: (1)

WWWWolf (2428) | about 6 years ago | (#23129064)

I don't think employee emails constitute IP, and I don't think the characters, places and ideas from Douglas Adams' books are at present considered unprofitable.

Another typical human trait: Getting caught in tiny little details like this and not thinking of the big picture at all. I rest my case. Why should we get terribly caught in little details about licensed properties when - you know - Infocom was best known for their original titles. Source code for the dozens of Infocom titles! Plans for other projects they had been working on! Imagine those possibilities!

As for employee e-mail, I don't think it should be disseminated at whim - but I believe it could be examined by a trusted researcher, with resulting published research focusing strictly on the functions of the company and the game development, not on the private matters of the people involved.

Re:Educational value: (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23129892)

I agree. Of course the said examination would most likely be with the knowledge, if not blessing, of the parties involved.

I'd also be slightly less concerned about employee emails from 2008 than from two decades ago. People still expected their correspondence to remain private back then. Even if by modern standards we consider it polite to wave up at the Google Earth satellite when getting the morning paper, back then there remained a basic expectation of privacy.

Then again, for all the fond memories of Infocom this brought up, and all the knowledge of unimagined games that never were that presumably exist on the drive, the article spotlighted the "lost" Restaurant At The End Of The Universe game because that would no doubt have the broadest appeal to both Infocom and Douglas Adams/Hitchhiker's Guide fans. The emails selected (and given the years of development hell that game sat through, there had to be volumes more) were no doubt chosen for their jabs at one another to create a more exciting narrative.

Re:Educational value: (5, Funny)

arb phd slp (1144717) | about 6 years ago | (#23126768)

It wasn't really a backup drive. They actually put the file in the Thing That Your Aunt Gave You That You Don't Know What It Is and lost it, but it just turned up again.

Re:Educational value: (5, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 6 years ago | (#23126782)

I disagree. Security can always be broken. Good corporate security means keeping data safe until its release can no longer cause financial loss to the company. Since this data has remained private until two decades after the company died, I think it is a good example of adequate data security.

Re:Educational value: (4, Insightful)

pla (258480) | about 6 years ago | (#23127132)

I'll use this in class to point out the importance of good backup strategies. And security: this data should not have left the company.

Riiiight... Because this doesn't make a perfect example of why such information can do the world good, long after a company has ceased to exist as a viable market presence.

You might want to gloss that bit over in class. "Remember, protect everything, because your company will always sit at the top of the niche-X market, will never go bankrupt, and no one will ever care about your work long after the fact".


Personally, I consider the rarity of amazing find like this, further proof of the absurdity of existing copyright law. Copyright exists to grant a limited monopoly on creative works, rather than making them vanish into obscurity (deliberately, as with the BBC's pre-1970 archive purge, or not, as with all nitrate and acetate film ever made).

We need copyright to expire early enough that society can preseve both the released form and any historically-interesting raw materials (ie, source code). Not only that, I would go further, to say that we need to require the eventual release of such raw materials, for the grant of copyright in the first place.

Re:Educational value: (0)

.Bruce Perens (150539) | about 6 years ago | (#23127620)

I'll use this in class to point out the importance of good backup strategies. And security: this data should not have left the company. Imaass
I'll assume you mean physical security and not network security. Because I was on the IT team at Infocom (then it was called Data Processing), and I can vouch that all security measures were followed. How those drives physically left their control, I don't know as I had moved on to bigger and better things by then. But remember the year - 1989. Our primary server (yes, there was only one) was a NetWare 3.2 server. The security on that drive was primarily handled through the NetWare Bindery. Secure at the time, but now a few minutes with Google and a base knowledge of IPX/SPX can get you the data off of that drive. But that was then, not now. So please don't be so condescending and start criticizing our secrity via 2008 standards. You did and excellent job with the materials we had.

Re:Educational value: (1)

drerwk (695572) | about 6 years ago | (#23131286)

I worked at Infocom. The backup strategy included making backup tapes of the Dec20 and taking them home. It's not like anyone was going to start selling the games on the side.
That has also been the backup strategy at half a dozen small companies where I've worked. You do want an offsite backup.

Infocom was a damn good company (5, Interesting)

jd (1658) | about 6 years ago | (#23125638)

They botched up on the database, letting themselves be bought out was suicidal, and the "graphics" on Beyond Zork constituted intellectual genocide, but the quality of their imagination was staggeringly good. The descriptions bested anything Level 9 could do and the puzzles were supremely elegant. Scott Adams' adventures - the third major series of the time - paled into insignificance. And if Infocom was the Manchester United of computer games at the time, competitors like Acorn and Melbourne House were the Subbutio.

With this discovery and restoration of such ancient treasures, it would be nice to think that the interest would spur some sort of reunion and one last game "for memory's sake". Actually, although I rank them second, I'd love to see that with Level 9 as well. It won't happen, although I guess Infocom fans ("Infocommies" according to the New Zork Times) could have a crack at writing an Infocom-like game for their interpreter.

Re:Infocom was a damn good company (5, Informative)

Mr.Radar (764753) | about 6 years ago | (#23125736)

That's actually already happened, in a way. After Infocom went out of business the fan community reverse-engineered their VM (the Z-Machine [wikipedia.org]) and Graham Nelson designed a new language and compiler for it (Inform [inform-fiction.org]). That, along with other interactive fiction languages/toolkits that compile to their own VMs (TADS [tads.org], Hugo [generalcoffee.com], AGT, ALAN, and many more) and a small but dedicated community has ensured that interactive fiction hasn't died out.

Every year dozens of new games come out, usually for the two major annual competitions (the IF Comp [ifcomp.org] and the Spring Thing [springthing.net]). Most of them are shorter than "commercial-era" games, mainly because they're written by hobbyists who don't have the time and resources to commit to building large games. They run the gamut from puzzle-focused games in the style of Infocom to story-focused games that eschew large numbers of elaborate puzzles to focus on story, and there are also more experimental and artistic games that try to push the medium in new directions. The IF Archive [ifarchive.org] has an extensive collection of these games, and there are several [tads.org] review [wurb.com] sites [ifreviews.org] that attempt to catalog and organize the archive. The IF community has long had rec.arts.int-fiction [google.com] and rec.games.int-fiction [google.com] at their center, though with the rise of blogs and web forums it has started to fragment some.

Re:Infocom was a damn good company (4, Informative)

wrook (134116) | about 6 years ago | (#23125822)

I just want to add a small detail to this. If you are *at all* interested in literate programming, you have to check out Inform 7. To say they've pushed some boundaries is an understatement. It's one of the most innovative things I've seen in years. So even if IF isn't your bag, take a look.

And now writing the games is a game... (5, Informative)

Mr2001 (90979) | about 6 years ago | (#23125866)

After Infocom went out of business the fan community reverse-engineered their VM (the Z-Machine) and Graham Nelson designed a new language and compiler for it (Inform).
This is fascinating not just for Infocom fans, but also for programmers. For example:

The Deathbot Assembly Line is a room. "Here is the heart of the whole operation, where your opponents are assembled fresh from scrap metal and bits of old car." The dangerous robot is a thing in the Assembly Line. "One dangerous robot looks ready to take you on!" A robotic head, a drill arm, a needle arm, a crushing leg and a kicking leg are parts of the dangerous robot.

That's source code. Inform 7 has been out for a couple years, and I've been working intimately with it for most of that time, but I'm still impressed.

Re:And now writing the games is a game... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23125888)

Honestly? I preferred the Inform 6 way.

Inform 7 is maybe more accessible at first glance, but programming languages seem to me to be the way they are for a reason: computers and natural language is tough.

Think about it--Inform 7 code has just as much arbitrary grammar as Inform 6 (or any 'classic' programming language) did, and is only marginally faster to read if you're not familiar with Inform 6 code.

Or maybe it's just that I never put the effort into learning Inform 7 well.

Re:And now writing the games is a game... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23125966)

Honestly? I preferred the Inform 6 way.

Inform 7 is maybe more accessible at first glance, but programming languages seem to me to be the way they are for a reason: computers and natural language is tough.

As a non-implementor, I did a double-take when I saw the Inform 7. Yeah, that really is source code. You write English with a little bit of structure.

(Back in the day, I was an assembly geek. Natural language parsing would have thrown me for a loop, even reading between the lines and figuring out the BNF of Inform 7. Seems to me the genius of something like the Inform 7 example was that a language like that would have enabled people who were writers, not programmers, to do IF -- and that sort of thing was the distinction between Infocom over Everyone Else when it came to quality of the finished product.)

Now, obviously Infocom did some pretty amazing things with Inform (1-5?) and Inform 6, before Inform 7 came out. But now I'm curious (as a programmer unfamiliar with either environment outside of this /. thread!), what would have been the "Inform 6" way of constructing the "source code"? Would it have been as accessible to a writer-not-programmer? Or was Inform 7 more about putting syntactic sugar around the same constructs as earlier versions, so as to increase the productivity of the writers? (Neither approach sounds immediately right or wrong to me, I'm just friggin' curious :)

Or -- in terms of your "tough" comment -- were there concepts more readily expressible in Inform 6 than in 7? (Perhaps the I7 example was so "accessible" that it took me a couple of readings to understand just why it was source code. For what it's worth to any I7 Imps out there, Cornerstone was way before my time, but I can see why people in suits would have wanted something like that. Even if they'd never have been sufficiently self-disciplined to use the right sorts of natural language sentence constructions that would have lent themselves towards building databases out of it...)

Re:And now writing the games is a game... (4, Informative)

Mr2001 (90979) | about 6 years ago | (#23126050)

Now, obviously Infocom did some pretty amazing things with Inform (1-5?) and Inform 6, before Inform 7 came out.
Actually, Infocom used their own language called ZIL, which looked a lot like LISP with angle brackets. Inform was created in the 90s after Infocom's virtual machine had been reverse engineered.

But now I'm curious (as a programmer unfamiliar with either environment outside of this /. thread!), what would have been the "Inform 6" way of constructing the "source code"?
Something like this:

Object assembly_line "Deathbot Assembly Line"
    with description "Here is the heart of the whole operation, where your opponents are assembled fresh from scrap metal and bits of old car.",
    has light;

Object -> dangerous_robot "dangerous robot"
    with name 'dangerous' 'robot',
              description "One dangerous robot looks ready to take you on!";

Object -> -> robot_head "robotic head" with name 'robotic' 'head';
Object -> -> drill_arm "drill arm" with name 'drill' 'arm';
Object -> -> needle_arm "needle arm" with name 'needle' 'arm';
Object -> -> crushing_leg "crushing leg" with name 'crushing' 'leg';
Object -> -> kicking_leg "kicking leg" with name 'kicking' 'leg';

Re:And now writing the games is a game... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23127488)

I'll admit to very much preferring the notation, as opposed to the arrows. .

--AC that preferred I6 in the first place

Re:And now writing the games is a game... (4, Informative)

Mr2001 (90979) | about 6 years ago | (#23126136)

Think about it--Inform 7 code has just as much arbitrary grammar as Inform 6 (or any 'classic' programming language) did, and is only marginally faster to read if you're not familiar with Inform 6 code.
True, the syntax is arbitrary either way, but what really sets I7 apart is how you can express certain concepts, which tend to show up over and over again in interactive fiction, in a way that's more natural than writing loops and conditions. Those concepts are rules governing behavior, relationships between objects, and descriptions of sets of objects.

Here's an example of all three:

After printing the name of a person who attends an accredited university, say ", Ph.D".
This is a rule about what to do in a certain situation: aspect-oriented programming, essentially. Here the situation involves an activity (printing the name) and the object which is the subject of the activity (any person who matches the description).

"A person who attends an accredited university" is an object description, which can be used in various ways as a condition -- does object X match the description? -- or as an iterator: show me all the matching objects. Here, "person" and "university" are kinds of object (classes) and "accredited" is an either-or property (a boolean flag).

"Attends" is a relation that expresses the link between a student and his school. Here it's being used as part of a description, but it can also be used in a condition ("if the player attends Harvard") or changed at runtime ("now the player attends MIT;").

These concepts can all be expressed in Inform 6 or any other OOP language, using properties, methods, loops, etc. But making them fundamental parts of the language gives them a whole new life.

Re:And now writing the games is a game... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23126210)

That's xyzzy!

Re:And now writing the games is a game... (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | about 6 years ago | (#23127010)

The Deathbot Assembly Line is a room. "Here is the heart of the whole operation, where your opponents are assembled fresh from scrap metal and bits of old car." The dangerous robot is a thing in the Assembly Line. "One dangerous robot looks ready to take you on!" A robotic head, a drill arm, a needle arm, a crushing leg and a kicking leg are parts of the dangerous robot.
That's source code. Inform 7 has been out for a couple years, and I've been working intimately with it for most of that time, but I'm still impressed.
How boxed in is this? Are they having to make a lot of assumptions about the environment here or is it completely open-ended?

Wow.

Re:And now writing the games is a game... (1)

Mr2001 (90979) | about 6 years ago | (#23130230)

The compiler does make a lot of assumptions, but it's also open-ended enough that you can duplicate most of that for your own code.

For example, the one sentence "Peter wears a hat" sets up a wearing relation between Peter and the hat, but since that relation is implicitly defined as something like "Wearing relates one person to various things", Inform can also conclude that Peter is a person. Likewise, if you say "The lamp is on the table", it concludes that the table is a supporter. If you say "The chest is closed", it concludes that the chest can be opened.

Most of the assumptions that are built into I7 can be harnessed in your own code: you can define your own relations, rulebooks, actions, etc. and they'll mostly be treated the same as the built in ones. You can define a new property and say that objects with this property usually also have some other property (like closed -> openable).

It does, however, assume that you're using it to make a text game. Inform 7 works by translating your code into Inform 6, and although you have a lot of control over that translation process (in your own code, or by hacking the library files), you're still going to end up with Inform 6 code that can only really be compiled into a game.

Also, the code I've posted so far has almost all been declarative code that sets up the world model. The imperative code that goes in the bodies of rules is, in a sense, much less flexible: instead of analyzing each line as a sentence, Inform just matches them against a list of "phrases" -- basically multi-dispatch [wikipedia.org] functions. However, you can define your own phrases, and since you can define phrases that translate into specific Inform 6 code templates, you can do some pretty wacky things with them.

Re:And now writing the games is a game... (3, Insightful)

Wordplay (54438) | about 6 years ago | (#23128848)

OK, disclaimer, I'm not an implementor, and I haven't gotten deeply into Inform 6 or 7. I did go through the Inform 6 tutorials, and have read the Inform 7 docs.

I think Inform 7 comes way too close to falling into an "uncanny valley" of natural language.

Traditional structured computer languages have the advantage of being distinctly unlike other languages, so they're a separate learning path. This makes them easy to identify, and easy to 'switch gears' mentally into, with the downside that multiple languages mean more to learn.

When you're this close to natural language, the distinctive and necessary bits are pretty subtle, and the chance for confusion is much higher, IMO. At this point, you're not learning a language so much as a new dialect.

Re:And now writing the games is a game... (1)

Mr2001 (90979) | about 6 years ago | (#23130312)

I think Inform 7 comes way too close to falling into an "uncanny valley" of natural language. [...] When you're this close to natural language, the distinctive and necessary bits are pretty subtle, and the chance for confusion is much higher, IMO. At this point, you're not learning a language so much as a new dialect.
That's very true, and people have been lamenting it since Inform 7 first came out. To successfully grok I7 code, you have to avoid the temptation to think of it as English -- it looks like English, but it's still a programming language, albeit one with a complicated, context-dependent syntax that's hard to describe in BNF [wikipedia.org].

It's a lot like legalese, actually.

Re:And now writing the games is a game... (2, Insightful)

Mr2001 (90979) | about 6 years ago | (#23130374)

[submitted too soon...]

When you're this close to natural language, the distinctive and necessary bits are pretty subtle, and the chance for confusion is much higher, IMO.
On the other hand, you have to do the same thing when you play one of these games. The game's parser only understands a subset of English: "ROBOT, FETCH ME THE COG" is OK, but "ASK JIM IF HE WAS KIDDING ABOUT GRANDMA FALLING DOWN THE STAIRS" is not. That's what I was hinting at with the subject line: in I7, authors end up having to deal with the compiler in the same way that players eventually have to deal with the actual games.

Re:Infocom was a damn good company (1)

jd (1658) | about 6 years ago | (#23126180)

Hugo hasn't been touched in a couple of years. There are 2 independent TADS implementations on Freshmeat in addition to the original. Inform looks good, but the natives are restless on Slashdot over whether to use Inform 6 or 7. I'll probably take a look at some tomorrow, but suggestions/advice is never amis.

Re:Infocom was a damn good company (1)

YourExperiment (1081089) | about 6 years ago | (#23126636)

TADS 3 has just had a major release, the main addition being a nice new IDE (though I think that may be Windows only at present?) A few people still use TADS 2, but I can't think of any real reason to do so any more.

As for Inform, Inform 7 actually writes Inform 6 code under the hood, so Inform 6 is unlikely to ever die out entirely. However, the buzz on the newsgroups has been all about Inform 7 since its release. It has a great IDE too (Windows & OS X, with a Linux version rapidly catching up).

So if you're going to check anything out, I'd recommend Inform 7 if you fancy trying out the intriguing "natural language" programming paradigm, or TADS 3 if you want to use a rather more traditional object-oriented approach.

There's always a remarkable number of helpful people around on the newsgroup rec.arts.int-fiction to answer questions from newbies, with regard to either of these development platforms.

Re:Infocom was a damn good company (1)

HadouKen24 (989446) | about 6 years ago | (#23125742)

>and the "graphics" on Beyond Zork constituted >intellectual genocide Beyond Zork didn't have graphics. At all. It was white text on a blue background, if you went with the default ANSI scheme. Perhaps you're thinking of Zork Zero?

Re:Infocom was a damn good company (1)

jd (1658) | about 6 years ago | (#23125830)

There was a graphics mode in Beyond Zork where you could see the map displayed as a vector diagram on the top right of the screen. It caused the colours to break, though, so you ended up with a white background and black text.

Re:Infocom was a damn good company (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23126056)

The descriptions bested anything Level 9 could do and the puzzles were supremely elegant. Scott Adams' adventures - the third major series of the time - paled into insignificance.
I'm Bruce Banner, tied hand & foot to a chair.

Some obvious exists are:

What shall I do now?

Re:Infocom was a damn good company (1)

jd (1658) | about 6 years ago | (#23126156)

That one bugged me. Particularly the ants problem. Most of the problems were logical, but that one seemed more like a Laural and Hardy sketch. The more parts I solved, the less logical it became. Secret Agent was better - the puzzles made sense - but it was too simple.

Re:Infocom was a damn good company (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | about 6 years ago | (#23127134)

The descriptions bested anything Level 9 could do
That's not entirely fair. As Level 9's releases were available on tape as well as disk (they were a British company, and the UK market was primarily tape driven), they were restricted to what they could fit into the computer's memory. Infocom games only came out on disk, so they could load things as required.

Meet Steve Meretzky... (1)

freeze128 (544774) | about 6 years ago | (#23125670)

I met him at Applefest in 1987. Coming from Boston or thereabouts, he had a lot of jet lag, and wasn't as much fun as you would think.

It just reminds me of the bug in HHGTTG where you could get 425 out of a possible 400 points.

Re:Meet Steve Meretzky... (2, Informative)

StaticEngine (135635) | about 6 years ago | (#23130838)

I too met Meretzsky, although this was at the Game Developers Conference in 2006 (or '05, I can't remember). He was talking to a Valve employee, and I had been drinking. I slurringly interrupted, and thanked him for inspiring me to become a games developer, then gushed about Planetfall and asked if he'd gotten my email to him about Splashdown [staticengine.com], my IFComp entry that was a blatent Planetfall ripoff.

I learned three things from this encounter:
1) Don't talk to your idols when you're drunk.
2) People have generally heard enough about things they worked on two decades earlier, and don't want to hear about it anymore.
3) Steve is really, really tall.

It's not going to have any value. (2, Interesting)

Shandalar (1152907) | about 6 years ago | (#23125700)

So, 20 years from now, do you think *your* code for a half-finished project is going to have value to hard disk archaeologists of the future? Would you want them to even boot up your .exe?

Re:It's not going to have any value. (1)

jd (1658) | about 6 years ago | (#23125924)

Of all the comercial programs I've written, there are two that I would have no problem with being examined or run. One is 10 years old, the other is getting on for 20. My O- and A-Level projects, written much earlier, would also be on that list. My O-Level project was actually used by the school district as an example of how to write good software. More recent analysis, design and specification notes would also be fine, but I wouldn't call the code that came from them my best work.

Re:It's not going to have any value. (4, Interesting)

johannesg (664142) | about 6 years ago | (#23126172)

Do I want people seeing code I wrote that long ago? Well, not too long ago I found the complete source code for fMSX Amiga, which occupied my time for about 6 years, starting around 1994 - so that's 14 years ago now.

Browsing through that code, I find it to be far more readable, and far more elegant than anything I have done since (quite surprising really, since this is a mixture of C, C++, and 68K assembly). It helps that it is a relatively small project (only 44K lines in the final version), and that I was doing it for myself, so I could spend the time to make it right. Everything since then was for work (and thus under a deadline), and involved much larger bodies of code.

So would I mind people seeing it today? Hell no, I'm proud of my work.

There is of course the separate question of seeing private emails from that time published. That is something I wouldn't appreciate, and unfortunately something that seems to have happened here.

Re:It's not going to have any value. (1)

NotmyNick (1089709) | about 6 years ago | (#23127702)

There is of course the separate question of seeing private emails from that time published. That is something I wouldn't appreciate, and unfortunately something that seems to have happened here.
The truly interesting part of that is that Bywater is the only one who complained yet his email was not published. He gets petulant about the notion that his story wasn't told, but then uses that as the basis for an excuse to withhold his story. A serious WTF moment.

Awww, just prototypes? (1)

Valdrax (32670) | about 6 years ago | (#23125712)

In particular, there is the sequel to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy called Milliways: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, and there are two playable prototypes of it.
Unfinished games? So you're saying that they have content and no content at the same time?

Re:Awww, just prototypes? (3, Interesting)

jd (1658) | about 6 years ago | (#23125880)

Actually, that would appear to be an apt way to describe them. The article talks about there being a crater next to The Heart Of Gold and how the information concerning it (it involves sperm whales so isn't suitable for a family website) was visible in the code but was not reachable within the game. There was also a whole lot of planned material that got scripted out (again, discussed in the article) that never got coded at all but could more-or-less be dropped into place as-is. If the source was available and if the parties concerned agreed to play nicely and allow a community effort to finish the game, I think the master vision could be done.

Re:Awww, just prototypes? (2, Interesting)

KGIII (973947) | about 6 years ago | (#23125952)

That is an absolutely brilliant idea. I've tried a few of the opensource games out and haven't really found anything that made me happy. I don't know if this project would be any better but there is a large following of Adam's work and, with that, a ready made community of (probably) geek-types who'd be willing, e.g. excited and committed, to create a work of art. Maybe someone, someone better than I, should approach them with this idea and see where things go.

Re:Awww, just prototypes? And really... playable? (1)

grikdog (697841) | about 6 years ago | (#23127934)

Yeah, there's a couple of zcode fragments you can download. Neither are IMHO remotely "playable" -- more like sketches, or short drafts, or like thousands of 1/17th-finished Inform 6 games mouldering untouched in underwear drawers in college dorms from Gnome to Gnovosibirsk.

ATT: Michael Bywater. Was that Trinity? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23125718)

From an email in TFA:

The endgame itself consists of a number of elements which are solved by assembling the consequences of solving eight other puzzles within the planetary workshop. To solve these puzzles you have to travel in space around the workshop visiting various locations which turn out to be planets, all of which are in the solar system and all of which are subtly wrong (Saturn has no rings, etc). To do this, you have a Solar System Bug-tester's report as part of the packaging. When you have solved these eight puzzles, you effectively (eight planets plus Slartibartfast's "Sun" puzzle) have all the solar system except Earth, and can then tie all the pieces together to make the adjustment to the fjords.

[ ... ]

These notes should be read in conjunction with the earlier synopsis in H2... no, they shouldn't. To hell with the earlier synopsis. What a cartload of pinwheel horse-shit. Screw the earlier synopsis altogether. Okay? Okay.

"Cartload of pinwheel horseshit" my ass!

First, that sounds like fun.

Second, that sounds an awful lot like a Klein Bottle I once played with. Michael, if you or your former co-workers read this, was that email the seed that ultimately brought forth the genius that was Trinity?

I'm barely a third of the way through TFA and I think I've already learned more about some of my favorite games in the past hour than I have in the past 20 years.

Re:ATT: Michael Bywater. Was that Trinity? (3, Informative)

mbywater (1276088) | about 6 years ago | (#23130836)

Michael, if you or your former co-workers read this, was that email the seed that ultimately brought forth the genius that was Trinity?

I wish I could say it was, but I don't think so. I agree about Trinity; and the remarkable thing about Brian Moriarty was that he could do that, at (if you like) the top end of the genre, while also writing "Wishbringer" which was theoretically for youngsters but managed to be really captivating for adults, too. The opening scene of Trinity, in Kensington Gardens, is still for me one of the most perfectly realised of all IF episodes. (Then he went on to do Loom, genuinely a kids' game, and even that was atmospheric and memorable. A remarkable man, Moriarty.)

Nostalgia (5, Funny)

quokkapox (847798) | about 6 years ago | (#23125770)

I was in fourth grade when I first played with the Zork triology of text-adventure games on the C-64. An innocent kid and budding geek, I tried feeding novel combinations of nouns and verbs to the primitive parser.

I tried "EAT LAMP"... got back "You can't eat the lamp."
"EAT BREAD"... "That was delicious."... Etc.

I tried "EAT ME". I couldn't comprehend why my dad, who had just bought the game for me and was supervising over my shoulder, started laughing so hard.

Several years later I finally understood why he laughed even harder when the computer responded:

"Auto-cannibalism is not the answer."

You can mod this offtopic, but those 1983 game designers had a real sense of humor and subtly implemented it in 64KB.

... Oh, you don't like it when I recycle old jokes [slashdot.org]!? You must be new here...

Re:Nostalgia (1)

ozbird (127571) | about 6 years ago | (#23126838)

You can mod this offtopic, but those 1983 game designers had a real sense of humor and subtly implemented it in 64KB.

Luxury... I don't think Infocom games made it to the cassette-based 16k TRS-80 platform, but we still had classic adventure games like the Scott Adams series (e.g. "The Count"), and maze adventures (e.g. Asylum.) They don't make them like they used to. :-/

Not 64K games - full 128K virtual machine (2, Informative)

drerwk (695572) | about 6 years ago | (#23128604)

in 64K
The Zork interpreter was a full virtual memory machine running in a 128K address space. Even the 32K Apple was able to run full 128K games swapping in from disk. No data was written back to disk, other than game saves. In 1985 the X-ZIP was written - I implemented the Apple IIc version. It was a full 256K virtual machine which was needed for AMFV. I was even able to keep users from having to flip the disk by writting a custom RT (Read Track) as opposed to the standard RWTS. This let the 5.25 in Apple floppy hold 164K per side.

In many ways the Z-Machine was similar to the JVM - cross platform in the day when there were still 30 platforms. The same day the code ran on the Dec20 it compiled for all of the micros.

Re:Nostalgia (1)

argent (18001) | about 6 years ago | (#23128612)

Zork was originally written on a Digital mainframe, and later ported to the 8-bit world. The biggest problem getting it to fit wasn't the 64k memory, it was getting the data files to fit on a floppy that (for some platforms) was as small as 320k.

Strange Description... (2, Informative)

wdr1 (31310) | about 6 years ago | (#23125804)

"Archivists?"

Last I checked, Andy was just one guy.

-Bill

Re:Strange Description... (4, Funny)

jd (1658) | about 6 years ago | (#23125868)

He cloned himself in a tragic accident involving an improbability generator, an elastic band and a Rezrov scroll.

Its just not the same without the props... (2, Insightful)

Kenja (541830) | about 6 years ago | (#23125870)

I miss the baggy with the microscopic star fleet in it as well as the extra fluff. Don't need the glasses however, kept bumping into things. Seemed I was constantly in danger.

Boss key... (1)

fortunato (106228) | about 6 years ago | (#23125902)

What I'd like to know is, did anyone ever really use the "boss" key for its legitimate purpose? :) I think it showed up first in Leather Goddesses of Phobos.

hope this isnt a dupe note but (1)

mgabrys_sf (951552) | about 6 years ago | (#23126254)

The comments to that blog have turned into a reunion of the former members of the IF culture. It's a fine read into itself - as well as rather heated in places.

Zork knows me better than I do (4, Funny)

Psychotria (953670) | about 6 years ago | (#23126260)

>look
West of House
You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door.
There is a small mailbox here.

>kill mailbox with hands
I've known strange people, but fighting a small mailbox?

>

Re:Zork knows me better than I do (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23129582)

That sounds like Wishbringer... :-)

Here's an idea (1)

ChameleonDave (1041178) | about 6 years ago | (#23126330)

What someone should do is grab a good gamebook from the 1980s and convert it to Inform 7. It would be excellent to play, and yet essentially be abandonware.

P.S. If anyone knows where I can get a copy of Suspended (I bought it for the Commodore 64, so I feel I have a right to play it!), I'd be very grateful!

Re:Here's an idea (3, Insightful)

ChameleonDave (1041178) | about 6 years ago | (#23126480)

When I click to download the game, it asks me for money. I paid for it in the 1980s; I'm not going to pay again, especially since the money won't go to the creators!

He shouldn't have done that (5, Insightful)

Huntr (951770) | about 6 years ago | (#23126374)

IMO, he shouldn't have published the emails, particularly without attempting to contact the authors. That's rude and, as can be seen from the comments on his blog, dredges up hard feelings that would best remain private.

In fact, he probably shouldn't have published the code and game files, either. Those data are not his. He has no right to do with it as he sees fit. Someone "gave" that drive to him, but that may not have been theirs to give. Truthfully, I have less of a problem with that, as no one likely really cares about the games themselves. But, its still an issue.

At any rate, I think he's hiding behind "journalism" to simply publish some juicy talk associated with a formerly popular defunct games publisher.

Re:He shouldn't have done that (2, Insightful)

Dogtanian (588974) | about 6 years ago | (#23127208)

I agree; legally, uploading the unpublished games may be the worse of the two, but morally (even after twenty years), I'd say that publishing the emails was more questionable.

You can argue legalities, and expectations of privacy *with the benefit of hindsight*, but at the time it probably would have been reasonable to assume that these emails would not have been published in public; for professional reasons if nothing else.

Sidney Sheldon eat your heart out! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23126382)

This is an awesome post. Made my... month... Who knows? Year? I'm so tired of seeing PR puff astroturfed into press releases released on Buinesswire chirping some PR copywriters fiction.

But this: warts and all emails, the shock that all Douglas Adams touched didn't turn to gold, that "Futurist" Michael Bywater was a fake... I love it! Sidney Sheldon eat your heart out!

RTFA - you wont regret it! (4, Informative)

Black Sabbath (118110) | about 6 years ago | (#23126514)

Wow. What a blast from the past! Sometimes, good things can result from wrongs (which arguably Baio's publishing of the emails was). The historical value of this stuff is undisputed. However the truly brilliant bits are the responses to the blog itself, especially from those actually involved.

There has never been a Slashdot submission where reading TFA was a greater pleasure.

get some of the infocom guys to talk abou this (2, Insightful)

Danathar (267989) | about 6 years ago | (#23126858)

With a lot of the principals more or less still around the BEST thing to do would be to have a REAL story asking about stuff on the hard drive.

I mean, email is NOT that hard.

Boxes. (2, Interesting)

bigattichouse (527527) | about 6 years ago | (#23127214)

Was visiting the parents a few weeks ago, and found the original boxes (and most of the little extras) for H2G2, Spellbringer, Wishmaker (?), and one that only payed on the 128 where you build spells from components, even my introduction Zork II. It was a nice little moment.

The Original Hitchhiker's Game Online (5, Informative)

boot_img (610085) | about 6 years ago | (#23127542)

... can be found here [bbc.co.uk]. I never did get through that sulky door. Now I can relive the aggravation all over again.

Is it weird to get choked up about this? (2, Interesting)

Jim in Buffalo (939861) | about 6 years ago | (#23127604)

Just reading that a sequel to the HHG2G game was found got me choked up a little. Guess that makes me weird.
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