Sunday, April 13, 2008

It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by the internet.

It's time for more embarrassing admissions. About twelve years ago, out of sheer boredom, I wrote an "Interactive Fiction" game. If you’ve never heard of the term "interactive fiction", it’s a game that's text-based and involves you reading and responding to gripping sequences like the following:

Darkness

It is very dark in this non-descript room. You are probably going to fall down and hurt yourself if you're not careful.

> TURN FLASHLIGHT ON

You don't have a flashlight.

> INVENTORY

You are carrying a pack of gum, a weighted companion cube, a MacBook Air, and a match.

> LIGHT MACBOOK AIR WITH MATCH

The MacBook Air, surprisingly, catches on fire immediately and quickly burns into ash.

> SCREAM "ARHG"

Your yelling attracts Steve Jobs out of the darkness. Steve notices the remains of the MacBook Air, and berates you mercilessly until you keel over.

YOU HAVE DIED.

The game I wrote was an homage to the Infocom-written "Zork" games that were popular long ago, so it was filled with in-jokes, meaningless references to other Zork games, and the like. If you want to embarrass me further, you can now actually play it in your web-browser here (Java required, and the page is a bit flakey -- I had to type in "RESTART" at the prompt):

http://library.thinkquest.org/19837/cgi-bin/playing.cgi?adv=spirit.z5

but be warned, it's really cheesy. Seriously.

Anyway, at the time I wrote the game, there was a small but thriving online community of people writing and critiquing each others' games. I'm not certain this community even exists anymore. I released my game into said community with little fanfare, and got a handful of emails pointing out the various spelling errors, bugs, and logic flaws in my game puzzles. I gave up my dream of winning the Interactive Fiction Pulitzer, and turned my boredom towards other pursuits.

Recently, for some reason, I did a Google(tm) search for the game, and uncovered a bunch of relevant links, including (to my amusement) a set of maps someone had drawn for my game. The maps are remarkably good. Here’s an example:



Compare this to the actual maps I drew in a notebook when I was actually writing the game:



No, the picture isn't out of focus. My writing really is that illegible.

The point to take away from all of this is that the guy who did these great maps apparently made them last year. I had to search through piles of archived stuff to even find the notebook for that last picture (and was honestly surprised when I found it). Stuff that happens on the Internet apparently stays on the Internet. Forever.

6 comments:

Drew Olbrich said...

Hey Dan. BTW, speaking of Interactive Fiction, your ex-coworker Kurt, back in college, roomed with Andy Plotkin. If you don't know who that is, within the IF community, Andy might as well be the Pope or Elvis or Super Grover.

Hector Yee said...

Dan your notebook is too blurry surely you can put up a better picture, darken it or photoshop it or heck OCR it :)

Dan said...

For those not familiar with Hector Yee, here is a starter:

http://knol.google.com/k/dan-yu/hector-yee/1wq1jk3b58k9/2#

Dan said...

Arhg, link again, with tags:

Hector Yee

Dan said...

Random note: Here's Andrew Plotkin's original usenet "preview" of Spiritwrak:

Daniel said...

Hey, Dan - I just read this for the first time. I love Zork. We got it with our first IBM PC, back in 1983. I rediscovered the game online a few years ago and still enjoy playing it now and then. Your post was very amusing.

Dan