Where in the world is Gold Machine?
On Heady Distractions
I apologize for leaving everyone in suspense the past few weeks. Yes, the A Mind Forever Voyaging posts will continue! I have been distracted with another project that has occupied nearly all of my time: I, Drew Cook, have been writing my own Infocom-style text adventure! For those of you who don’t follow the contemporary interactive fiction scene, you may or may not know that there is a programming language called Inform 7 that was built from the ground up to reproduce the feature set of Infocom’s own Zork Implementation Language. That was over twenty years ago, and in the time since it has become far more capable and feature-rich than that original 1980s technology.
I’ve been working on Repeat the Ending for over a year, learning Inform 7 all the while. I’m not a programmer, so this has been a rough ride at times, but that makes the progress feel quite satisfying. The reason for the unprecedented weeks of intensity is that the game reached “feature complete” status a month or so ago. All that means is that, as the name implies, every mechanic, location, thing, and so forth is in the game and more or less working. It can be played, at long last, from beginning to end. While I have done some preliminary playtesting, my game is now ready for beta testing. I’ve spent the past month or so chasing down bugs, polishing prose, cutting and adding when things just don’t feel right.
This is all in preparation for testing that begins December 1st. I’ll be sending it off in just 72 hours or so!
What kind of game is it, and will it be to your liking? I think it will interest some and irritate others. I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from various IF sources: Infidel, A Mind Forever Voyaging, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It is dark, grim, even, but perhaps it is an earned darkness. Wait for some reviews and see what you think.
This should be the last time that I get pulled away from my Infocom work for a while, but there will likely be another big push before the Spring Thing Festival, where my game will hopefully debut. Thanks, then and now, for your patience.
I was so busy with my A Mind Forever Voyaging Work that I forgot to mention that the one-year anniversary of Gold Machine was October 1st. Some facts:
- 82 Posts
- 181,765 words
- Most-read series: A Mind Forever Voyaging (so far)
- Least-read series: Deadline (we had a very small readership in those days.
- Most controversial post: I received many messages about “What is a Zork? What Has It Got? Last Thoughts on Sorcerer.” Most respondents thought that I overemphasized its place in the six-game Zork saga, while failing to acknowledge its humor and puzzles.
- My personal favorites:
- “Deadline‘s Connecticut of the Mind: Nostalgia, Privilege, and Mental Illness.” While I’m happy with my writing about Zork I and Zork II, I think that the Gold Machine “voice” really solidified with this piece. I remember that I had just discovered Art Maybury’s page Arcade Idea, and I was really blown away. It made me want to up my game, so I did (hopefully). I think this was my second piece to get mentioned at Critical Distance, and that recognition was very meaningful to me.
- “Game Shows Touch Our Lives: Final Thoughts on Suspended.” I decided to write about epistemology and the crushing effects of authoritarianism on the individual. Even if it doesn’t completely work, I really like its ambitions. Another early piece where I tried to push myself.
- “Intentionality and the Gamification of Tedium: Planetfall.” Over the years, there have been efforts to make the old Infocom games more “palatable” for new players, which I suppose I have disagreed with. Here, I make a case—if you can believe it—for the drudgery of sleeping and eating in this game specifically (I thought eating was pointless in Enchanter). I was surprised that the piece received zero negative feedback.
- “Material Histories: Infocom’s Gray Box.” Even though many authors have talked about Infocom’s iconic middle period packaging, the aesthetic implications of the shift away from folio releases has not received a lot (much? any?) attention. I enjoyed looking at this transformation from a new and hopefully interesting angle.
- “On Naive Readings of A Mind Forever Voyaging“ is my first effort to combine memoir and critique, and it has received lots of positive feedback.
I’m happy with almost all of them. I can only think of a few disappointments or missed opportunities? Do you have a favorite? Let me know!
REfresher: Valuable Resources
How do I play these great games? With Microsoft (possibly) acquiring Activision, the current abandonware status of Infocom games may change in the future. Probably not, but it’s possible! That being so, it’s a good time to grab whatever materials you may wish to have for preservation, criticism, or even educational purposes. To play Infocom games locally, you will need three things: a story file, documentation, and an interpreter. The interpreter is an application that plays story files, just as a word processor opens document files. The documentation is often needed for copy protection. Besides, it’s fun to look at.
Interpreters. There are a few available. All will play Infocom games (though the ones with graphics are a special case. Feel free to message me about those). For both ease of use and simple configuration options, I think I will recommend Lectrote. Parchment is also very easy to use, but less configurable. Many people like Gargoyle. I use Frotz to play graphical games like Journey and Zork Zero. Links:
- Lectrote IF Interpreter
- Parchment IF Interpreter
- Gargoyle IF Interpreter
- Frotz IF Interpreter (scroll down for the downloads)
If you are hesitant to download executables (totally understandable), Parchment is your best bet. It seems to work fine on my iPhone, too. You can additionally play many modern Interactive Fiction games (like my work in progress) on Lectote, Parchment, and Gargoyle. There’s an incredible amount of excellent community-created content out there!
Story files and documentation. Note that the first post for every game covered so far has included links to documentation and story files. Take the links in this Zork I writeup, for instance. These links are live now and have been live for a long time, but again, the future is always uncertain. If you wish to preserve an archive of these materials, now is a good time to begin working towards that goal. Feel free to reach out with questions!
Getting in Touch
I’m sure many of you have noted the strange and undesirable state of Twitter. I have decided to relocate my daily microblogging activities to Mastodon. It is currently a time of transition, but I will completely stop using it soon. I have looked at it once in the past seven days. Right now, I can be found here. If an Interactive Fiction instance opens up—there’s been some talk about that—I’ll move and update links as needed. I am still working to build my community there, so let’s follow each-other! You can also find me at the Interactive Fiction Community Forum, which I always check once a day. There’s always the contact form too, which forwards messages to my Gold Machine email account (golmac @ golmac . org). I enjoy hearing from readers and IF fans of all sorts, provided you don’t want to argue about the ending of Infidel, because I’ve done enough of that already.
The final three posts of nine re: A Mind Forever Voyaging will resume next week. Promise! I just need to get this beta test off the ground first. Thanks for coming along with me on this adventure. We’re halfway through the canon now, more or less.
See you soon.
4 thoughts on “Project Update 11/28/22”
Congrats on writing an IF game!! I have always been intrigued by the Inform 7 natural language syntax, and there’s even been more general interest in it lately since the announcement it would be open sourced. So I think we’d all enjoy an article about your experiences with that (especially coming from someone without a programming background, which is what I think they were trying to make more accessible for people).
Thanks Michael. That’s not a bad idea! I’ll try to collect some thoughts for a post-AMFV writeup.
Is that the right date?
How embarrassing! No