Sunday, March 28, 2010

It is Pitch Black. You Are Likely To Be Eaten By a Grue

Anyone familiar with the text adventure Zork knows not to go wandering around in the dark without a lamp. I just read that "GET LAMP" - a documentary about the rise and fall of interactive fiction computer games - should be available for purchase late next month. The classic works of Infocom always held a special place in my heart so I will almost certainly be buying this 2-DVD set. Here is an excerpt from their webpage at

"In the early years of the microcomputer, a special kind of game was being played. With limited sound, simple graphics, and tiny amounts of computing power, the first games on home computers would hardly raise an eyebrow in the modern era of photorealism and surround sound. In a world of Quake, Half-Life and Halo, it is expected that a successful game must be loud, fast, and full of blazing life-like action.

But in the early 1980s, an entire industry rose over the telling of tales, the solving of intricate puzzles and the art of writing. Like living books, these games described fantastic worlds to their readers, and then invited them to live within them. They were called "computer adventure games", and they used the most powerful graphics processor in the world: the human mind.

Rising from side projects at universities and engineering companies, adventure games would describe a place, and then ask what to do next. They presented puzzles, tricks and traps to be overcome. They were filled with suspense, humor and sadness. And they offered a unique type of joy as players discovered how to negotiate the obstacles and think their way to victory. These players have carried their memories of these text adventures to the modern day, and a whole new generation of authors have taken up the torch to present a new set of places to explore.

Get Lamp is a documentary that will tell the story of the creation of these incredible games, in the words of the people who made them."

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Fallguy40 said...

Good article. I have fond memories of the Infocom games. I probably played 20 of them with Enchanter being my favorite.

They offered games in all genres from fantasy (Zork, Enchanter), action adventure (Infidel, Cutthroats), detective (The Witness, Deadline), sci-fi (Planetfall, Starcross) to comedy (Leather Goddesses, Nord and Bert).

I remember getting stuck and having to buy Infocom's clue books that used magic ink pens and a series of hints so you could get a gentle nudge in the right direction all the way to just giving you the answer.

I also liked how each game box included trinkets from the game.

MadPlanet said...

Wow - I didn't realize you had played that many. It's been a long time since I've thought of the ol' Invisiclues books = help for the stuck gamer in the pre-internet days. And trinkets - I remember Leather Goddesses of Phobos came with the scratch and sniffs that were incorporated into the game. Zork came with the letter that you found inside the mailbox (and some other knick knacks) - good stuff.

Fallguy40 said...

I looked up a list of Infocom games. I played the following:

Zork 2
Zork 3
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
A Mind Forever Voyaging
The Witness
Leather Goddesses of Phobos

Possibly bits of others.

Yeah, in the days before the internet, getting help was a little more work.

MadPlanet said...

Impressive list. A few others I played off the top of my head were Starcross, Planetfall, Border Zone, Trinity, Suspended, and Nord and Bert Couldn't Make Head or Tail of It. And you remember the point and click variety of Return to Zork don't ya - "Want some Rye? Course you do."

Fallguy40 said...

Yeah, I remember that one.