Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Get Lamp

I want to make sure I get Jason Scott in here right at the beginning. He's the guy who directed BBS: The Documentary (that's Bulletin Board System, not British Broadcasting Service), and he is currently working on a new show that should be of great interest to computer gamers:
Get Lamp: The Text Adventure Documentary. Take a look at his website and keep an eye on this guy.

When I first ran across his website, it reminded me of one of the first computer games I ever played -- Infocom's Leather Goddesses of Phobos. It was a great game, especially for a 13-year old who knew enough to lie when the 'Lewd Mode' age-authentication came up. Ahhh, lewd mode... what memories. ~sigh~

Actually, it was my brother's game, and it tended to lose my interest after a while. The text parser was great (at least, for those days), but I would get frustrated at not being able to fully explore the world. I didn't mind the lack of graphics one bit, I just hated being told, "Sorry, you can't do that." I understand that even with current technology, programmers can't acount for every single thing the player could want to do, but it still bugged the crap out of me to feel like my hands were tied.

Have you ever been to Disneyland? I went once, as a child. They had a ride where you could drive a car around a track, but in order to keep you where they wanted you, there was a metal rail running the length of the road, and each vehicle straddled it. Being five years old, I nearly gave my dad whiplash by slamming the car back and forth against the rail. That's how the early adventure games made me feel. The designers seemed to have a track in mind that they wanted the player to follow, and nothing you tried would allow you to bump over that rail and explore freely. Every time you got the message, 'You can't do that here,' it jolted you out of the game, making you realize that it was just a story, not a true adventure.

Still, it's amazing to go back and look at some of those games. My wife recently bought me a bundled copy of some of Infocom's early text adventures, and I loaded them on her PC. You see, she started playing games with Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale, and she has no idea what we used to do for fun. While I may have quickly grown irritated at the limits imposed by those old games, I still have some fond memories of working away at them, trying to find just the right combination of phrases to keep the car on the track. I keep telling her she needs to try them out, if only to gain a little sense of history.

As for me, it sure is fun being a kid again for a few moments. Even if I do keep hitting the rail.


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