rabbit holes of adventure

Dinner table conversation tonight ended up chatting about Mystery House, that my partner played occasionally when she was younger. Mystery House is known as the first graphical adventure game. That of course led the conversation into interactive fiction, referencing the top shelf of my bookcase which contains pretty much all of Infocom‘s text adventures. I remember Zork II was my first text adventure and fiendish it was. I relied on adventure columns in computer game magazines of the time for clues on how to solve difficult puzzles including the horrible baseball diamond puzzle, also known as the Oddly Angled Room.

In those days, I couldn’t google answers and would spend months stuck on a problem. Sometimes that could be a good thing but mostly it was bloody frustrating. While there was a certain sense of achievement in solving puzzles, it meant I couldn’t advance the story. Solving puzzles was essential to accessing further parts of the game. These days I think I prefer story telling and plot development though solving puzzles is nice too. Happily most games provide decent hint mechanisms and if I get desperate I can google for answers.

Much to the shock of my partner, I commented that I usually have my text adventure collection stored on all my active machines as they are part of my central core of files that migrate across my various computing environments. This sounds substantial until you realise that text adventures, having little graphics and don’t take up a lot of space. My entire interactive fiction archive is a little over 100MB, of which the complete works of infocom account for 95%. Come to think of it, they were the only ones I was able to buy as a box set later, the Lost Treasures of Infocom, and load in a system independent format.

interactive fiction games

The other key adventure game company of the time was Level 9. Infocom were American based, while Level 9 were from the UK and I had several of their games. Regrettably, while I still have the boxes, I no longer have the equipment to read the discs. Later on, graphic adventures developed further with Magnetic Scrolls commencing with their first game, the fantastic The Pawn. I have several titles of their titles on my shelf too. Methinks I need to investigate further as to whether I can get these on my current machines. Come to think of it, I’ve barely mentioned Sierra Online who were responsible for Mystery House and later developed the King’s Quest and SpaceQuest series. Oh, and then there was Ultima…yet another rabbit hole…

five in a while

It’s a been a long, long while since I last blogged five things:

another 5

The downside of leaving it too long is that I end up with too many to cull to get it down to 5. No particular pattern to my selection, other than vague interest and curiosity.

5 bits

Having started with 5 articles a week or so back, I thought it might be worth aiming for 5 articles each time. Was tempted to go with 7 but whittled it down to 5. This is a bunch of articles I’ve read and tweeted in the last week.

That’ll do.

all the lolz

So like, I’ve discovered recently that people actually say “lolz” and not spell out the acronym…and they’ve been doing it for years. I joked about this on twitter and immediately thought of a counter example as I’ve always worded BOFH (as in “bof” with a silent “h”) myself. Other acronyms are difficult to word eg HTH or RTFM. At the same time, I continue to be amused that acronym speak is still a thing.

Acronym speak was really common back in the earlier days of the internetz (pre webz – all the zzzz) and usenet. I have little doubt that was because the early net was largely IT type folk who loved using, and abusing, acronyms. You could craft entire sentences with acronyms. Then SMS happened, then twitter happened and there continues to be a need for character economy ie reducing everything to as few characters as possible, while remaining vaguely readable.

Even ASCII art has staged a minor comeback!

BTW. HTH. HAND.

what’s in a name?

I’ve become very fond of my moniker over the years. “snail” has been my self chosen nickname for over 20 years. Initially, it was online only in those days, these days I tend to wear it as my name everywhere and more folk know me face to face as snail than by my real name. I have occasionally considered changing my name officially however that would get a little expensive as I would need to get a bunch of legal documents changed including my mortgage contract. Perhaps I can revisit if I ever pay off my mortgage. The other issue with name changes, is that I would have to retain my surname as too many online forms require both a first name and a second. I think having a single name would simply create too many headaches for too many people.

One of the reasons I chose the moniker initially was to distinguish myself in online forums, such as usenet, by having a name that was unique and that others were unlikely to use. This was fine for many years, though these days it’s a different story. I’m generally finding it hard to get “snail” as a username on many systems. Sometimes, it’s because others have beaten me to it, occasionally there’s a 6 character minimum. I am reluctant however, to sign up to every system that comes along simply to preserve access to my preferred name. I have a few backups including vvsnail (some email) and snailx (twitter, wordpress). I have a personal domain, snail.ws, and even then I had to go through several domains before finding one with “snail” available.

With much thanks to a good friend, I do at least have a unique avatar which has proven useful for some folk who find me in other forums. Though it must be said that I have a lot less hair these days, nor do I dress entirely in black anymore. The glasses and coffee cup remain constant.

As to why I chose “snail” – when I first got online via electronic bulletin boards in 1984, I’d just read Lord of The Rings and chose the nickname, Gandalf the Grey. Needless to say, as many folk online in those days were ITish and into SF, it was a rather common nickname. A few years later, when I got to uni and discovered usenet, I decided to start again with a new name. I have a vague recollection from school days of doodling snails in the margins of my school exercise books. I doodled snails because they were easy and my drawing skills were, and remain, poor.

another day

This is a tricky time of year for me with sad anniversaries on Dec 31 (4 years) and Jan 8 (6 years – can’t believe it’s been 6 years) and I suspect that I hate Christmas too…which is doubly sad as I am a christian. I find no joy in the day. The last few weeks have been busier than usual, though for good reasons, but it has meant I didn’t quite get the downtime I needed. Consequently, I’ve needed to shut out the world a little longer than usual. Thanks to those that expressed concern; I take the time I need.

I need to rethink things somewhat to avoid going down a dead-end. For example, I’ve spent 6 years blocking out the Sydney Festival as dad died near the start of it. It’s always hard to look January in the face. I avoid all things festival-y though I used to go to lots of stuff…I remember enjoying the ACO at the $10 Proms (with dad and his partner if I recall correctly), not to mention the Taikoz drummers and other acts. Indeed, I got the news of dad’s passing just as I was about to bolt out, hoping to get a ticket at the door for some concert or other.

I need to work through this, as the festival is a bloody good thing; full of interesting pieces. Due to my reticience for the period, I’ve only discovered in recent days that one of my favourite composers will be in town, Philip Glass. The downside is that his big show has sold out. Oh well, hope remains for a better show, that being Dracula, the 1931 movie, with music performed live by Glass and the Kronos Quartet. Oh my, be still my beating heart. The only choice, though it’s not really a choice, is whether to see the 7.30pm session or the session at midnight. Will book my seat shortly.

While locking yourself away from the world is a good thing to do, it remains important to keep up with the world and somehow seek a way to find happy moments around sad times.