An Adventure Tournament

Posted: January 20th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Interactive Fiction, Text Adventure History | 4 Comments »

compuserve_bird_babe_dude_troll_snake

As mentioned in a previous entry, the original adventure game, “Adventure” (or “Colossal Cave” depending on who transferred the game to what system) was a feature on the old (now-gone) time-sharing and information service Compuserve.  Like a bunch of the games at Compuserve, really wonderful illustrations and posters were created to promote them, even though they had no actual graphics. Such as it was for the advertisement I got from a posted item at a site called Daily WTF, the main admin of which I interviewed for GET LAMP.  (He’d done some unrelated-to-the-site work in interactive fiction.) The actual article this came from on there was not up to standards, mostly showing the ads for this and other adventure games, and then making fun of them.

Concentrating on this advertisement alone, there’s a lot being said here that’s really interesting to me.

First of all, this is in the 1982-1984 era, considering several factors of promotion and how they chose to spend their advertising dollars. (I might be off by a year, but 1982-1984 had some amazing ads made.) The poster on the left is by a man named Gray Morrow, who was a legendary illustrator whose work spanned decades and covered everything from comic books to science fiction covers, pin-up art and all manner of stylish graphic work.  Notably, he’s tried to incorporate aspects of the game Adventure into the painting, including the dragon, the dwarf with axe, the jeweled trident, and even the bird in a cage. Not bad.

The event itself is rather interesting; a nationwide “Adventure Tournament”. I have not the slightest idea how this would be conducted. (New rooms added to the games? There were expanded versions of Adventure available on Compuserve and perhaps this was one of the opening days for a new version.) What I do know is that compuserve was expensive, costing you upwards of $10 an hour to be on. Assuming this tournament cost you regular fees, then you were spending $10/hr or thereabouts to have the chance of winning a poster and two free hours. Pretty bogue. As an additional bit, you would even be charged for postage and handling of the poster being offered for “free”!

This whole event smacks of the sort of experimentation happening at Compuserve at the time.  Trying new events, making people revisit the games, or other properties, and always that huge hurdle of explaining these games and the experience of being online. It’s quite a piece.

If someone played in this tournament, I wouldn’t mind chatting with you, just to have the history of it. 


The Legends of Zork

Posted: January 16th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Interactive Fiction | 3 Comments »

It’s natural that someone who knows I’m working on this documentary would want me to know the latest of any sort of news related to text adventures or Infocom or Adventure International and so on. As a result, probably a dozen people have brought to my attention that there’s an announcement for a Massively-Multiplayer-Online version of Zork out there.

I don’t have any insider knowledge on this, or how it will go. I don’t even have any opinion of it, positive or negative. I know that if you want to play the original Zork online, you can do so.  And the current gold standard for browser-based MMOs (which this new Zork is intended to be) is Kingdom of Loathing, which comes highly recommended by many people (I haven’t played it myself).

If there’s anything I can be non-neutral about, it’s two different things:

  • I am very happy to hear that Activision, whose relationship to Zork and the Infocom properties has ranged from silly to cruel, is allowing someone to develop the property further in some way. While it may or may not be all that accurate to the original works, it will certainly be interesting to see how the Zork name resonates with folks or gathers new ones.
  • And speaking of accuracy, the character portrayed on the splash screen walks around with a torch. Someone should really have made it a battery powered brass lantern, because that’s what’s in the original. But this sort of nit-pickery is offputting, so good luck to those guys.

Another weird side-effect is that it has caused a rash of links and views to the music video shot with MC Frontalot in relation to GET LAMP, which has gotten released a good amount of time before the documentary will.  If you haven’t seen it yet, go ahead and check it out; I’ll talk more about it in the future.