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Lost Infocom Games Discovered 112 112

I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "Archivists at Waxy.org have gotten a copy of the backup of Infocom's shared network drive from 1989 and are piecing together information about games that were never released. In particular, there is the sequel to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy called Milliways: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, and there are two playable prototypes of it. And yes, they have playable downloads available."
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Lost Infocom Games Discovered

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  • by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday April 19, 2008 @01:50AM (#23125624) Homepage Journal

    It is almost like they lost the will to make games.

    That is more or less what happened. In 1984, InfoCom tried to "serious up" with the Cornerstone database. Unfortunately, it was not well received and kind of dragged the company down:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infocom#Cornerstone [wikipedia.org]

    Also by 1986, gamers were fascinated with cool graphics and sounds that pushed the envelope of their C64s, as well as this interesting new console called the "Nintendo Entertainment System" with its distinctly unique brand of games. There wasn't a whole lot of room in the market for text adventures anymore. With their resources spread out and depleted, "loosing their will" was probably an apt description.
  • Educational value: (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jerry Smith (806480) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @01:55AM (#23125634) Homepage Journal
    I'll use this in class to point out the importance of good backup strategies. And security: this data should not have left the company.
  • by jd (1658) <imipak@yah[ ]com ['oo.' in gap]> on Saturday April 19, 2008 @01:57AM (#23125638) Homepage Journal
    They botched up on the database, letting themselves be bought out was suicidal, and the "graphics" on Beyond Zork constituted intellectual genocide, but the quality of their imagination was staggeringly good. The descriptions bested anything Level 9 could do and the puzzles were supremely elegant. Scott Adams' adventures - the third major series of the time - paled into insignificance. And if Infocom was the Manchester United of computer games at the time, competitors like Acorn and Melbourne House were the Subbutio.

    With this discovery and restoration of such ancient treasures, it would be nice to think that the interest would spur some sort of reunion and one last game "for memory's sake". Actually, although I rank them second, I'd love to see that with Level 9 as well. It won't happen, although I guess Infocom fans ("Infocommies" according to the New Zork Times) could have a crack at writing an Infocom-like game for their interpreter.

  • by Shandalar (1152907) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @02:23AM (#23125700)
    So, 20 years from now, do you think *your* code for a half-finished project is going to have value to hard disk archaeologists of the future? Would you want them to even boot up your .exe?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 19, 2008 @02:31AM (#23125718)
    From an email in TFA:

    The endgame itself consists of a number of elements which are solved by assembling the consequences of solving eight other puzzles within the planetary workshop. To solve these puzzles you have to travel in space around the workshop visiting various locations which turn out to be planets, all of which are in the solar system and all of which are subtly wrong (Saturn has no rings, etc). To do this, you have a Solar System Bug-tester's report as part of the packaging. When you have solved these eight puzzles, you effectively (eight planets plus Slartibartfast's "Sun" puzzle) have all the solar system except Earth, and can then tie all the pieces together to make the adjustment to the fjords.

    [ ... ]

    These notes should be read in conjunction with the earlier synopsis in H2... no, they shouldn't. To hell with the earlier synopsis. What a cartload of pinwheel horse-shit. Screw the earlier synopsis altogether. Okay? Okay.

    "Cartload of pinwheel horseshit" my ass!

    First, that sounds like fun.

    Second, that sounds an awful lot like a Klein Bottle I once played with. Michael, if you or your former co-workers read this, was that email the seed that ultimately brought forth the genius that was Trinity?

    I'm barely a third of the way through TFA and I think I've already learned more about some of my favorite games in the past hour than I have in the past 20 years.

  • by jd (1658) <imipak@yah[ ]com ['oo.' in gap]> on Saturday April 19, 2008 @03:30AM (#23125880) Homepage Journal
    Actually, that would appear to be an apt way to describe them. The article talks about there being a crater next to The Heart Of Gold and how the information concerning it (it involves sperm whales so isn't suitable for a family website) was visible in the code but was not reachable within the game. There was also a whole lot of planned material that got scripted out (again, discussed in the article) that never got coded at all but could more-or-less be dropped into place as-is. If the source was available and if the parties concerned agreed to play nicely and allow a community effort to finish the game, I think the master vision could be done.
  • by KGIII (973947) <uninvolved@outlook.com> on Saturday April 19, 2008 @03:48AM (#23125952) Journal
    That is an absolutely brilliant idea. I've tried a few of the opensource games out and haven't really found anything that made me happy. I don't know if this project would be any better but there is a large following of Adam's work and, with that, a ready made community of (probably) geek-types who'd be willing, e.g. excited and committed, to create a work of art. Maybe someone, someone better than I, should approach them with this idea and see where things go.
  • by WWWWolf (2428) <wwwwolf@iki.fi> on Saturday April 19, 2008 @04:48AM (#23126142) Homepage

    I'll use this in class to point out the importance of good backup strategies.

    Yep, it's amazing that the stuff still survives... as compared to source material that has now been lost forever.

    I wish Origin had had a Massive Unix Server for source control and whatnot. But they didn't have one.

    And security: this data should not have left the company.

    Agreed on a general principle - but if the company's IP has long since ceased to be profitable and its material is mostly just of great historical interest, the situation is quite different. It's a typical human reaction - It's easy to say "you can't have this", only thinking at the usual every-day rules, not thinking of the historical significance, condemning a lot of researchers, years hence, to look for scraps of information and hunt for hazy recollections... Yeah, it'd easy to be in Activision's pants and say "Yes, there is a chance this property is profitable and we'll get to making the Hitchhiker sequel eventually" without batting an eye, but let's face it, IF is dead as a commercial art form =)

  • by johannesg (664142) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @05:00AM (#23126172)
    Do I want people seeing code I wrote that long ago? Well, not too long ago I found the complete source code for fMSX Amiga, which occupied my time for about 6 years, starting around 1994 - so that's 14 years ago now.

    Browsing through that code, I find it to be far more readable, and far more elegant than anything I have done since (quite surprising really, since this is a mixture of C, C++, and 68K assembly). It helps that it is a relatively small project (only 44K lines in the final version), and that I was doing it for myself, so I could spend the time to make it right. Everything since then was for work (and thus under a deadline), and involved much larger bodies of code.

    So would I mind people seeing it today? Hell no, I'm proud of my work.

    There is of course the separate question of seeing private emails from that time published. That is something I wouldn't appreciate, and unfortunately something that seems to have happened here.

  • Re:Nostalgia! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @08:03AM (#23126760) Journal
    In the early '90s, I bought The Lost Treasures of Infocom, a box with four floppy disks and a huge amount of paper, including the hints books, maps and so on for all of the games. I didn't play many of them on my PC - I'd just got a Psion Series 3 and an Infocom interpreter. With the 128KB flash disk I bought with it, I could store one of the games at a time (although not H2G2 - it was 150KB, sadly). The games were very variable in quality. Some were totally addictive and stayed on the flash drive until I'd completed them and then gone back and played them again with the hints book to get all of the secret bits I'd missed first time. Others were so dull they only lasted a couple of days. Given the quality of H2G2, I wouldn't be surprised if a sequel fell into the former category, although the original had a lot of input from DNA (who was a huge fan of the text adventure concept) and I don't know how much the sequel did.
  • by Dogtanian (588974) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @09:24AM (#23127090) Homepage

    Also by 1986, gamers were fascinated with cool graphics and sounds that pushed the envelope of their C64s, as well as this interesting new console called the "Nintendo Entertainment System" with its distinctly unique brand of games. There wasn't a whole lot of room in the market for text adventures anymore.
    In the UK at least, Magnetic Scrolls' first text adventure, "The Pawn" was still a big deal at that time. Sure, the pretty graphics (at least on the 16-bit versions) were a selling point, but the parser was the other major aspect that got peoples' attention. (Though I read at least one dissenting review attacking it for trying to be clever at the expense of usability/predictability, as well as calling the game generally overhyped and illogical.)

    But my point is that- at least here- there was still a notable market (and public attention) for text adventures at the time, arguably revitalised by Magnetic Scrolls' success and innovations deriving from their games' origins on the newer 16/32-bit machines. Perhaps Infocom were on the back foot in the face of this newcomer, or perhaps the US market lost its appetite for adventures faster than the UK did.

    I'd say that the genre finally lost steam here around the turn of the decade. Coincidentally(?) that's around the same time that Infocom's then-owners Activision finally pulled the plug on the company (the name and IP were reused during the 1990s, but the "true" Infocom effectively died then).
  • Boxes. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bigattichouse (527527) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @09:48AM (#23127214) Homepage
    Was visiting the parents a few weeks ago, and found the original boxes (and most of the little extras) for H2G2, Spellbringer, Wishmaker (?), and one that only payed on the 128 where you build spells from components, even my introduction Zork II. It was a nice little moment.
  • by Jim in Buffalo (939861) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @11:06AM (#23127604)
    Just reading that a sequel to the HHG2G game was found got me choked up a little. Guess that makes me weird.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 19, 2008 @05:13PM (#23129892)
    I agree. Of course the said examination would most likely be with the knowledge, if not blessing, of the parties involved.

    I'd also be slightly less concerned about employee emails from 2008 than from two decades ago. People still expected their correspondence to remain private back then. Even if by modern standards we consider it polite to wave up at the Google Earth satellite when getting the morning paper, back then there remained a basic expectation of privacy.

    Then again, for all the fond memories of Infocom this brought up, and all the knowledge of unimagined games that never were that presumably exist on the drive, the article spotlighted the "lost" Restaurant At The End Of The Universe game because that would no doubt have the broadest appeal to both Infocom and Douglas Adams/Hitchhiker's Guide fans. The emails selected (and given the years of development hell that game sat through, there had to be volumes more) were no doubt chosen for their jabs at one another to create a more exciting narrative.

Those who claim the dead never return to life haven't ever been around here at quitting time.