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Joined: 25 Sep 2000
Posts: 23379
Location: Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Mon Oct 12, 2009 5:13 pm   

XYZZY - Ode to Text Games

And thus my computer gaming experience began 33 years ago in 1976.

I was visiting the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley. I found an old teletype connected to a PHP-10 "mainframe" (makes me laugh just to say that). It was running a game called Adventure. I only had 30 minutes to play and I was addicted. I remember taking home the roll of teletype paper so I could study the game and make maps and instructions for my next visit.

Later in college in the early 1980's, I had unlimited time on the mainframe at UC Irvine and was able to finally play Adventure to completion. Along with another addictive game called Rogue. Of course, the combination of the text-based room descriptions in Adventure (and later Zork) along with the "kill monster/get treasure" gameplay of Rogue were combined to create the first "MUD" game which would eventually led me to write zMUD, one of the first MUD Clients for the PC.

33 years. Seems like just yesterday. I started thinking about this history over the weekend when I saw kids posting inaccuracies such as "WoW did this first!". "No, EQ came before WoW". "No, UO was first". "Without Meridian there wouldn't have been UO".

Well kids, before *any* graphical MMOs, there were TEXT games called MUDs. And before MUDs, there was Adventure.

All of this nostalgia about the old Infocom text games, such as Zork, brought back all of these great memories. I played every one of those Infocom text games. I still have visual images in my head just from the great text descriptions and stories. They are still some of the greatest computer games ever created.

Other than Zork, I have fond memories of Floyd the robot in Planetfall. I had nightmares about the Lurking Horror. Bureaucracy was one of the funniest stories written by Douglas Adams (the recent HitchHiker's movie even had an homage to this game). I had memories of Trinity when I eventually started working at Los Alamos National Lab. And the Leather Goddess of Phobos was just hilarious.

What were your favorite Infocom games? What was your memorable moment in text games? How many of you have never even played or heard of these classic games?

If you've never played them, I was happy to find this Infocom Java page that has many of the old Infocom classics that you can play within your web browser. It's probably not the same playing them today when we have all been spoiled by fancy graphics. But I still think they are fun.

These were the computer games of the 80's. Many people (including me) still listen to 80's classic rock music on the radio. But few people play the computer games of the 80's. Think about this the next time you are playing a MUD, or even a graphical MMO. And set those kids straight about their gaming history!
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Joined: 10 Oct 2000
Posts: 1551
Location: Australia

PostPosted: Wed Oct 14, 2009 2:47 am   
I never managed to finish an Infocom game... but I loved them to death. My first Infocom game was Ballyhoo - aimed at kids I think, but even so I didn't manage to complete it. Planetfall and Trinity were probalby my favorites.

I bought the entire Infocom collection a while back for a whopping $9.95 or something. Never did get around to installing them again. I probably should pop them on the laptop so I can play them when travelling for business. Hmm. Or maybe on the mobile phone instead of Sudoku! I'll have to do some digging to see if there's some source code that I could port to the world of touch-screen phones.

Edit: Oooh! PocketZax for Windows Mobile based phones!
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Joined: 21 Oct 2008
Posts: 147
Location: Olympia, WA

PostPosted: Wed Oct 14, 2009 4:34 am   
They have Wishbringer on the Infocom Java Page. If you've never played an Infocom game I'd recommend giving Wishbringer a try. It was made as an introductory game into the world of infocom games (which can get pretty devious) and a good one to start with imo.

Might be fun to hook up a zcode interpretor to a telnet proxy so I can play them with all the nice cmud features like mapping. ;)
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Joined: 25 Sep 2000
Posts: 23379
Location: Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Wed Oct 14, 2009 9:22 pm   
I don't know where the Java web site got access to the story files, but if Activision would DO THE RIGHT THING and release all of the old Infocom games, or at least provide a way for us to buy them again, I know that I'd buy them.

Heck, if I was allowed to charge a small amount for a Z-machine interpreter that added something like the CMUD/zMUD mapper and other nice features (keypad movement, buttons, etc) AND IF Activision would make the Infocom story files available somehow, I would do this in an instant! I would absolutely LOVE to develop something like this.

But alas, many many people have wished for Activision to release the Infocom games, and it has never happened. Just another example of a company killing a product that could still be making some money for them with little or no effort on their part. You can find the Masterpiece and various collections on eBay, but they are now typically at collector prices (>$100). Too bad I didn't buy the full collection back when it was $20 when I had the chance. I wonder when their copyright expires?

I think I could sell enough advanced Z-machine interpreter/mapper clients to make it worth while for my time, but without the game files to play on it, I don't think many people would be interested. Of course a lot of people would probably complain that I was charging money for the client, so maybe it wouldn't be worth the grief. Can't do this stuff for free now though...have bills to pay.

A real shame. Take advantage of the above Java-based site while you can before Activision kills it.
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Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 2320

PostPosted: Mon Nov 16, 2009 8:10 pm   
Wow, flashback. I remember playing the original Zork on the MULTICS mainframe at MIT. This was years before it was rewritten and launched Infocom. I knew the three guys who founded Infocom, too. I completed that original Zork (and worked on finding the most efficient route to complete it), but I never got through Chapter 3 of the Infocom game--that was all new material.

Adventure was fun, too.


[edit]I might note, as an aside, that Zork was called 'dungeon' in those days...and the origin of the word MUD.
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