Mike Dornbrook’s Desk

Posted: February 21st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Interactive Fiction, Text Adventure History | No Comments »

Mike Dornbrook, who was one of my favorite interviewees for GET LAMP, was recently profiled on the website for one of the products made by his company, Harmonix. Called “Mike Dornbrook’s Desk”, it shows how great his office is, and how much respect he affords his days with Infocom.

Click on the image of his office to read further. It’s well worth it, and not that long.

Subtitle Files Will be on the DVD-ROM

Posted: February 20th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Interactive Fiction, production | 4 Comments »

The whole GET LAMP movie has subtitles, as well as all the bonus features and episodes on it. It’s actually pretty simple to do, and after my team of transcribers has completed the work, it’s almost a realtime process to say “this goes here at this time, this goes there at that time”. I do it using a program called Subtitle Workshop. It really is the greatest thing.

I just wanted to let people know that I will be including the .sub files generated for my software in the DVD-ROM section of GET LAMP, so that others who want to translate or use the subtitles for their own purposes can do so. I would include translations on the DVD but it’s quite an involved process to work in translation, so I’m going to just stick with making it easy for folks to do their own translation/modification work and share them. If people do translations and want to send them to me, I’ll make sure the site has them. The timings should work with any ripped DVD stuff, and of course any high-resolution versions that come out in the future.

When I pop in an independent documentary and there’s no subtitles, I’m immediately suspicious about the creators’ dedication and interest in their work. Subtitles are easy as pie, and they make life so much easier for the deaf, for people who are having trouble catching everything going by, or even (as I’ve heard) parents who want to watch a film but have to keep the volume down low so as not to bother/wake the kids. And come on, Subtitle Workshop is world-class software and absolutely free. No excuses!


Posted: February 19th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Interactive Fiction, production | 9 Comments »

You’re probably wondering why so many postings are coming in at this time, after periods where no posts came for months. Mostly, it’s because as I near the end of production, all the little loose ends I’ve had are being wrapped up as fast as I can, and the machine is mostly being used to render out final versions of various extras. There’s still some editing and other work to do, but I can breathe now. More critically, I am able to work on the other stuff required of the DVD set: the packaging, the artwork, and the coin.

The coin?

If you ever played the old Infocom games at the time, and by “played” I mean “bought the package”, they always included all sorts of tie-ins. ┬áMarketing at Infocom called them “feelies”, that is, an additional layer of interaction with the game letting you feel that you’d not just bought a game but an experience. Infocom had tons of feelies over the years, be they peril-sensitive sunglasses, a glowing rock, a swizzle stick, or a business card. In interviews with people, among the best memories they have are of the feelies, some keeping the items long after everyone else was lost. I found people who, for 20 years have kept the little glowing rock from Wishbringer. It wakes something up in the player, something special.

So naturally I knew that GET LAMP needed something like this. This was planned years ago.

The original plan was to include Invisiclues, the invisible-ink printed text that a stroke of a special pen would reveal. The idea was to put spoilers related to the movie in this booklet and have a fun little way of revealing them. After research (and some very kind people found places I could contact to even have this done), the numbers were just staggering: I needed to buy 10,000 sheets of paper, they’d be a significant amount apiece (something like $.50) and the little discussed fact is, after a while, the revealed clues will fade away. The marker will get old and you can’t just buy replacements, and we’re talking a single folded sheet, not a booklet. And so on. Just not enough value for the money, basically.

So then I decided, how about something styling, something that will be memorable, something that will last. And so I decided on having a coin done.

I’m working on the artwork and am submitting it to the vendor tomorrow. This will set a few things in motion, and we can all hope it won’t be too difficult to pull off. I’ve worked with DVD duplication before, but never coin creation. It should be exciting, and I’ll talk about it, whether it goes well, or goes off the rails.

There is a notable precedent for coins in packages related to interactive fiction, by the way. The Zorkmid.

Some people sigh in happiness when they hear the word Zorkmid. Some have no idea of what I’m talking about.

Here is what a Zorkmid looked like:

(This zorkmid and photograph of same is from http://lostlevel.wordpress.com/)


The Zorkmid came with a specific repackaging of Zork, called The Zork Trilogy. It was one of the most popular “feelies” of all, and it is highly sought after. It’s so sought after, there’s a project that’s been around for 10 years called The Zorkmid Project.

Reading the Zorkmid project page always drives me nuts, because it’s classic Big Company Driving Minor Projects Into The Ground. The conditions put on the project leader are, in a word, stupid. I’m sure the person approving it and providing the conditions is not stupid, it’s just him having to follow what someone on the legal staff says, and people on the legal staff are required to come up with work that completely protects the company. Sounds almost… reasonable. Except there is no way Activision is ever going to make Zorkmids. Come on, they’re never, ever, ever going to, and if they do, it’s 2010, and they’re going to be big stupid dumb Zorkmids, completely unlike the original Zorkmids. That someone would even be so touched and entranced by a wrap-in from nearly 15 years previously (at the time; now it’s 23 and counting) should be a place for joy, not a place to suddenly halt the Zorkmid market in its tracks. At most, probably 500 people were going to want Zorkmids, maybe a few apiece, but good ol’ Activision, Keepers Of The Flame, couldn’t be bothered to let this person put the project together without making it sound like one wrong step would blacken the sky with lawyers.

Where was I? Oh yes, Coin.

So I’m working on this coin, and if you ordered a copy of GET LAMP you are getting a coin, and if you order one now, you get a coin, and I am ordering enough coins to cover the entire run of 4,000 copies of GET LAMP. It is not likely there will be a second run of the coins. The coins will also be individually numbered – collect them all!

So congratulations, people who already pre-ordered… your package is going to have a little more than you expected.

I’m very happy to include something a little extra into this. It eats into profit, of course, but it’s not about profit – it’s about giving people something special when they order using the old school way of physical media, and something which I hope to see in photos and on people’s shelves for some time to come.

Locking in Extras

Posted: February 18th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: production | 3 Comments »

I’m in the process of locking in extras. This means that I’m doing final edits and renders on what I think are the final versions of all the extra bits of footage on the DVDs. This actually constitutes hours of content, so it’s pretty significant. I don’t have the exact numbers yet, but it’s in the dozens of extras ranging from under a minute to up to 15, and with all sorts of subjects thrown in there.

Some are sequences I liked but which just didn’t let the movie breathe, while others are planned sequences meant to cover something I always knew would never make it in. For example, I have a 10 minute meditation on the Z machine that Infocom implemented. Trust me; if you don’t know much about interactive fiction and the creation of it, this sequence would murder you. If you are, you will enjoy watching Andrew “Zarf” Plotkin, creator of the Blorb format, happily trounce over the history of the creation of the Z machine, backed up by… the co-creator of the Z machine, Marc Blank.

I’ve used markers to ensure the items can be re-rendered over and over if need be. It will be going to a small group of people who will inspect the final work and let me know if something needs repair. This will take some time, but it’s worth it. And so begins the big run towards filling the DVDs with final pieces.

Original Artwork Arrives

Posted: February 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: production | 3 Comments »

When you pay an artist to do artwork, at least, a full-on professional, you often buy the rights to artwork but not the original artwork itself. It’s cheaper, and if you run through a lot of contractual artwork and don’t feel like building a gallery, then you don’t really need it. In my case, this painting obviously has special meaning to me, so I bought it from Lukas.

He shipped it to me and it arrived today:

A Package Arrives With Cool Stickers No, thank YOU Lukas Tweetie Investigates The Artwork Why Hello Marc

It’s even more beautiful in person. It’s different than the final artwork in a few ways (mostly missing details added in Photoshop) and to me that makes it even more unique. I intend to be one of Lukas’ more insistent and positive references, should he ever need a reference. (Who needs references when you have a portfolio like he does?)

The original is not for sale, in case anyone’s wondering. Not anymore.

I’ll be researching doing a poster soon. The big issue is finding out the minimums and what the costs would be. If it’s crazy or if there’s not enough pre-orders, then I won’t do it, so let me know if you’re interested….

Disc Artwork

Posted: February 16th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Interactive Fiction, production | 2 Comments »

For the disc artwork, I wanted something relatively simple. ┬áSo I purchased reprint rights from Lukas Ketner for the sketches of his artwork. (I don’t believe that purchasing the rights to the final artwork automatically means process artwork, and anyway Lukas’ price for reprint rights was very generous.)

Here are the two images, as they appear on the template:



Simple, evocative and easy to put together. I love it.

This represents the last bit of my side for the packaging. Now there will be an iteration or two while working with the duper for making sure everything looks good.

Packaging Done

Posted: February 4th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Interactive Fiction, production | 5 Comments »

I finished the designs of the packaging. Here’s the inside fanfold:

And the outside slipcover:

This is going out to the printer and we’ll be doing the proofs and all that fun now. Once it’s all approved, they will make 4,000 copies of it.

First-Through Renders

Posted: February 1st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: production | 7 Comments »

I’ve been rendering out 1.0 versions of the movie pieces to disk.

This takes a while – one 20 minute sequence takes about two hours, and that ratio seems to hold up with a few other sections. The machine can be used for other things while this goes on, so it’s not a complete paperweight, but editing on the same machine is pushing it a bit. Doubling the editing machine’s ram from 2GB to 4GB made a huge difference – crashes were happening previously and the machine kept running out of memory. All that’s gone.

After I know all the assets list (the amount of ‘items’ on the DVD) I’ll list it here, in general terms, just so you know. There’s a DVD-ROM section with games, photos, speeches and other material – that’s a different deal. This is just all the different stuff you can watch. It looks like it’ll be upwards of 4 hours of “stuff”.

Still trying to have stuff ready for PAX, but it’s coming down to the wire, and again, quality wins. I have many hundreds of orders, and obviously they get this stuff first – it’s going to be quite a few days of mailing for me.